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Sacrifice in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam$
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David L. Weddle

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780814764916

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814764916.001.0001

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Sacrifice in Islamic Tradition

Sacrifice in Islamic Tradition

(p.155) 5 Sacrifice in Islamic Tradition
Sacrifice in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

David L. Weddle

NYU Press

In Islam animal sacrifice is a religious duty during the pilgrimage to Mecca. The ritual slaughter recalls Abraham’s offering of his son and expresses thanks for God’s merciful substitution of an animal. The meat is distributed as an act of charity. The Qur’an represents Abraham and his son, identified by most Muslims as Ishmael, submitting to God’s command and thus ranked with true prophets. Islamic interpretive tradition, however, indicates some reservations about Abraham’s act. In wars during the formation of the Islamic community in Medina, sacrifices were required of Muslims and their enemies. Muhammad set the precedent for armed struggle (jihad) in defense of Islam, as well as establishing the ritual procedures for animal sacrifice. Like Jews and Christians, Muslims apply the term sacrifice to acts of self-denial such as almsgiving and fasting during Ramadan. Martyrdom lies at the foundation of Shi’a Islam and inspires imitative suffering in Ashura rituals. Sufis seek union with God so complete that it constitutes annihilation (fana’) of individual consciousness. Contemporary jihadists employ sacrificial imagery to describe their deaths in the “cause of God” and the destruction of their victims. But Islam also teaches that promoting the welfare of others reflects the beauty of God.

Keywords:   animal sacrifice, Muhammad, jihad, Medina, Ashura, fana’, martyrdom

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