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Why did the Almighty ask for Ishmael’s Sacrifice?
Question asked by admin.
Posted on: Thursday, November 01, 2012 - Hits: 1713


Question:
Why did God ask Abraham (sws) to sacrifice his son? This seems pretty cruel on the face of it. True the sacrifice never took place but my question is: Why was it asked for?

Answer:
The Almighty never commanded Abraham (sws) to sacrifice his son. It was Abraham (sws) who took this step thinking that the Almighty wanted this to happen. In this regard, the following points must remain in consideration:

1. Firstly, Abraham (sws) thought that he was directed to sacrifice his son by the Almighty in a dream shown to him. For the Prophets of Allah, such dreams are a source of contact with the Almighty, and in them they are shown certain images by Him for the purpose of their education and instruction. However, as a principle, they are not to be interpreted literally; they contain realities which are depicted in symbolic form. Symbolic representation is a very subtle and powerful way of expression: facts seem veiled, yet for one who pauses to ponder, they are most evident. So what needs to be understood is that dreams of the Prophets of Allah are symbolic too. They portray a fact in figurative form in order to make it more effective to understand. Let me give you an example. You must have read the dream of the Prophet Joseph (sws) mentioned in the Qur’an. It says that he saw the sun, the moon and eleven stars bowing down to him. The interpretation of the dream offered by the Qur’an itself at the end of Surah Yusuf shows that this bowing down was a symbolism to show that his eleven brothers and father and mother would submit to his authority as the king (12:100). Similarly, more examples can be given from the Qur’an.

2. The next point which arises is about the symbolism found in ‘human sacrifice’. In other words: ‘What does human sacrifice stand for?’ A knowledge of the ancient scriptures reveals that human sacrifice offered to God symbolizes consecrating a person in the service of Allah:

You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hand on them. Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord. After the Levites lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, use the one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine. After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the Tent of Meeting. They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. Every firstborn male in Israel, whether man or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. (Numbers 8:10-18)

As is evident from the underlined portion, the symbolism found in ‘human sacrifice’ is dedication of a person to the service of Allah. In other words, the Almighty actually wanted Abraham (sws) to devote Ishmael (sws) for special tasks assigned by the Almighty.

3. Abraham (sws) in his spirit of submission to the will of God started to follow his dream in the literal sense instead of interpreting the dream; consequently, the Almighty told him that he had ‘made the dream a reality’, which of course was not required. However, this willingness to submit to a command of Allah as perceived by Abraham (sws) greatly pleased the Almighty since it was based on sincerity and a great will to do what he thought was Allah’s will.

Wassalam


Dr Shehzad Saleem


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