The True Nature of Sacrifice

by Azeemah Mustafa 2022-06-23 • 8 min read
2022-06-23 • 8 min read

“Sacrifice anything ... (Berkorban apa saja...)

Property or life ... (harta atau pun nyawa...)

That is love ... (itulah kasih mesra...)

True and noble ... (sejati dan mulia...)”


When asked to explain the true meaning of sacrifice, these lyrics to P. Ramlee's "Sacrifice Anything (Berkorban Apa Saja)" lingered in my mind.

Sacrifice is often associated with deep love and affection. It is in times of difficulty, trials and tribulations, that a person bounded by love become more than willing to make a sacrifice.

The same applies to religion. If one strives to have the highest degree of love for Allah s.w.t, what sacrifice are we willing to make for the Creator?

Sacrifice in Islam

The word Korban or “sacrifice” in Arabic, is derived from the root word qarraba, meaning “near”. Terminologically, it implies the slaughtering of livestock as a means to draw closer to Allah s.w.t.

In Islam, sacrifice is also referred to as al-udhhiyyah and adh-dhahiyyah, which refers to the slaughtering of animals such as camels, cows, buffaloes and goats during Aidiladha as a form of taqarrub or getting closer to Allah s.w.t.

Sacrifice as Embodied by our Prophets

Sacrifice has been a part of Islamic law since Prophet Adam a.s. The sacrifice of a believer to Allah s.w.t is a symbol of obedience and a deep sense of gratitude for the blessings of life that He has bestowed upon us. Allah s.w.t mentions in the Quran:

“And for every ummah, we have prescribed slaughter (sacrifice) so that they mention the name of Allah s.w.t for the sustenance that Allah has bestowed on them in the form of livestock. So your God is the One God, so put your trust in Him and give (Muhammad) good news to those who are obedient (to Allah).

(Surah Al-Hajj, 22:34)

Quoted from Surah Al-Ma’idah, Allah s.w.t tells the story of the two sons of Adam a.s who was ordered to sacrifice:

“And tell them (Muhammad) the true story of the two sons of Adam (Habil and Qabil), when they both offered sacrifices then it was accepted from one of them (Habil) and not accepted from the other (Qabil). He (Qabil) said: ‘I will surely kill you!’ Habil said: ‘Verily, Allah only accepts (sacrifices) from those who guard (against evil).’”

(Surah Al-Maidah, 5:27)

This story teaches us that:

  • The slaughtering of livestock is a law that has been prescribed since the beginning of mankind.
  • Sacrifice is only accepted by those who are truly sincere in carrying it out. It is not the type or size of the animal sacrificed but the sincerity in committing the act.
  • Sacrifice is an act of worship required to get closer to Allah s.w.t (in addition to fasting). It is a way to attain piety.


The Quran also mentioned the great sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim a.s.

As a father, Prophet Ibrahim a.s was very fond of his son, Prophet Ismail a.s. There are several narrations of Prophet Ibrahim spending time with his son Ismail. Even the birth of Prophet Ismail was long-awaited.

Allah s.w.t wanted to test Prophet Ibrahim as mentioned in Surah As-Saffat:

“And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said, ‘O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think.’ He said, ‘O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allāh wills, of the steadfast.’”

(Surah As-Saffat, 37:102)

Although the test given to Prophet Ibrahim a.s. was truly heavy, he sincerely fulfilled Allah’s command. Thus, his sincerity and earnestness was accepted by Allah s.w.t and his sacrifice, Prophet Ismail, was replaced to an animal as mentioned in the following verse:

And We ransomed his son with a great sacrifice.

(Surah As-Saffat, 37:107)

Sacrifice As an Act of Worship

Sacrifice is the most beloved worship of Allah s.w.t. As narrated in a hadith by Sayyidatina Asiyah r.a, the Messenger of Allah said:

“There is not a single deed performed by human beings on Eid Adha that is more loved by Allah s.w.t than slaughtering sacrificial animals. Indeed, the sacrificial animal will come on the Day of Resurrection with its horns, feathers and nails. And indeed, before the blood of the victim touches the ground, he (his reward) will be accepted by Allah s.w.t. So good luck to you all with (the reward) of the victim.”


The majority of Islamic scholars concluded that the law of sacrifice is Sunnah Muakkadah, which is the sunnah closest to obligatory, while Imam Abu Hanifah r.h.m made it obligatory based on the words of Allah s.w.t in Surah Al-Kawthar:

“Then establish prayer for your god and make sacrifice.”

(Surah Al-Kawthar, 108:2)

It is also evident in the words of the Prophet s.a.w:

“Anyone who has the means but does not sacrifice, then do not approach our place of prayer.”

(Ahmad, Ibn Majah and Al Hakimi)

Let us all seize the opportunity during Eid Adha to perform the act of worship that Allah s.w.t loves most – the act of sacrifice.

In essence, sacrifice is an act of worship that allows us to draw closer to Allah s.w.t with full obedience, sincerity, piety and love. It is also an opportunity to strengthen the bond within the community by sacrificing and distributing sacrificial meat.

May we all meet the month of Zulhijjah this year and for every year to come with determination to constantly improve our standing with Allah s.w.t and the rest of mankind.


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