Muhammad and the Formation of Sacrifice

by Gerd Marie Adna (Author)
Monographs XIII, 279 Pages

Table Of Content

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Note on Transliteration, Dates and Technical Standards

The transliteration follows in general the Encyclopaedia of Islam system with the two modifications customary in works in English (i.e., q instead of and j instead of dj). Also in quotations taken from the Encyclopaedia of Islam I have made this modification. Still, due to varying transliteration customs prevailing in different languages and to changes during the last two centuries, there will be some deviating transliterations.

Sometimes, the a of the definite article al- is omitted in a continuous Arabictranscription. I have chosen to write all nouns ending with a aʾmarbūṭa without the h at the end of the word.

Arabic names are predominantly written in full, in the transcribed way, as, e.g., Mūsā (Moses). However, some of the often mentioned city names are written in their regular Anglicized version: Mecca (Makka), Medina (Madīna), Mina (Minā). I have chosen to use “God” and “Allāh” interchangeably.

Dates are usually given according to both the Islamic calendar, viz. Hijrī = “AH”, and to the Christian calendar, viz. Anno Domini = “AD”, e.g., “Ibn Ishāq (d. 150/767)”.

The numbering of Qurʾānic verses differs in some Qurʾān editions and in some translations. Therefore, sometimes there will be written two numbers, like “14 (15)”.

Only few abbreviations are used throughout the text; in the bibliography, the Encyclopedia of Islam is called EI.

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Chapter 1

Sacrifice in Islam?

A festival of sacrifice, ʿīd al-aḍḥā, takes up a prominent position in Islam, celebrated annually in the month of pilgrimage, dhū l-ijja. At the same time as the ajj and the sacrificial ritual take place in Mecca, sheep, goats, camels and cows are slaughtered all over the Muslim world. The performance of this sacrificial ritual in a religion that regards God as totally omnipotent and in no need of offerings, gives cause to many questions, some of which will be discussed in this study.

There are many possibilities for anyone who intends to study sacrifice in Islam. My approach has been delimited by a chosen theme (the formation of sacrificial rituals in early Islam), a certain body of texts (the Qurʾān and some early Muslim writers), and a clearly defined analytical perspective (ritual theory as it has been formulated by Roy A. Rappaport). On the following pages, I will introduce my points of departure: the theme, the texts, and the perspective.

I would like to begin by presenting some of the questions related to the development of the ʿumra, the ajj (including the Farewell-ajj of Muammad some months before he died in 10/632), and ʿīd al-aḍḥā that I will pose, and try to answer, in this study. First, does the Islamic offering really contain a sacrifice in the sense the concept is usually used in the history of religions, like Widengren defines it, for example?

As a sacrifice one designates the religious act, the ritual, which through the consecration of a living creature or a species of plant, or a liquid substance or an object to a deity – in case of a living creature, with or without killing – establishes a connection between this deity and the person who performs the ritual. It is thereby assumed that the ritual is able to influence the deity in a way hoped for by the sacrificer.1

Alternatively, are the aspects of fellowship among the believers, loyalty towards Muammad’s example and the idea of charity the essential base and goals? ← 1 | 2 → What reasons are there for obeying Allāh through sacrificial rituals similar to those Muammad performed during his first and only ajj in Islamic times? Further, why does a sacrificial ritual take place in Islam at all? How important is this sacrificial part of the pilgrimage ritual, which is to be undertaken to fulfil the ihrām-status of the Muslim? What obstacles might affect or even hinder the practice of sacrifice? Why is a sacrifice required in the Islamic ritual when a bloody sacrifice seems to have no ability to change God and his actions? Does early Islam see the sacrifice as something more than an isolated ritual slaughtering? Has the sacrificial ritual become an empty ritual or is it a ritual that expresses something else, for instance, something different from a regular slaughtering in Allāh’s name?

How did the pre-Islamic sacrifices that were undertaken in Mecca and Mina, influence the idea of the Islamic sacrifice during ajj and ʿīd al-aḍḥā? Why is any ritually clean animal a valid victim in the feast’s sacrificial ritual when Allāh found a ram for Ibrāhīm’s son in the first place? What is Muammad’s role in this and the later sacrificial act during ajj? Is his life to be compared to Ibrāhīm’s life – or to Ibrāhīm’s son’s life? Is there an idea of a sacrificial prototype behind the immolation and the rituals connected to it?

My assumption is that the early Islamic sacrifice2 is related to the complexity of ajj and its model narratives – where the biography of Muammad and his family and friends is immensely important. These texts and narratives are developed through the rituals (ʿibadāt) and through the regulations (manāsik) for the pilgrimage and the sacrificial rituals in Mecca and Mina, but also more and more in connection with the rituals of ʿīd al-aḍḥā all over the Muslim world.

In early Islamic literature, there are several narratives and smaller texts, which tell about sacrificial rituals or comment on sacrificial matters. The story about Ibrāhim almost sacrificing his son (Qurʾān 37) and the attributed interpretations, which during the early years of Islam were divided on the question whether Ishaq or Ismā’il was the intended sacrifice, are significant.

Another sacrifice to which I refer, is found in the narrative of the Prophet Muammad’s father, ʿAbd Allāh, who was nearly sacrificed by his father ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hishām. Admittedly of less significance than Ibrāhīm’s sacrifice, it is still important for the later evaluation of Muammad’s status. But it is ← 2 | 3 → relevant to ask why the symbolic narrative of the near sacrifice of Muammad’s father is seldom taken into consideration regarding the ajj and ʿīd al-aḍḥā even though it has many similarities with the Abrahamic sacrifice.

Al-Tabari (d. 310/923) is – as far as I know – the oldest source3 for the following sentence addressed to Muammad, "O son of the two sacrifices (yā ibn al-dhabīhayni)!”4 Later, al-Shahrastāni (d. 548/1153) takes up the same idea and says, "The Prophet is glorious, peace be upon him, and he said: ‘I am the son of the two sacrifices (anā ibnu al-dhabīḥayni)’.”5 In the late 19th century, the often quoted historian, al-Ālūsī, refers that Muammad said about himself, “I am the son of the two sacrifices (anā ibnu al-dhablayni).”6 Most often these two sacrifices seem to be understood as the near sacrifices of Ibrāhim and ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib. Consequently, I want to examine these narratives that are found in different early Islamic sources.

Additionally, other texts that interact with these texts, either thematically or symbolically, will be considered. The Qurʾān (suwar 2, 22, 108 and more) will contribute to the understanding of the two sacrifices and the sacrificial activity during ʿīd al-aḍḥā?7 One last relevant question linked to these sacrifices is what sort of sanctity, hierarchy and understanding of time is defined in these sacrificial rituals. Here, the sources are in addition to those mentioned above, al-Wāqidi’s (d. 207/822) important work about the challenger Muammad.8 This study aims at answering these and other questions, and these answers will hopefully enlighten my main subject of inquiry: Is there one ultimate concern behind the two sacrifices?

Moreover, Islamic texts from the five first centuries AH will be subjects of my investigation, in particular the above mentioned narratives from al-abari’s History of the Messengers and the Kings from the beginning of the 10th century AD, but also other texts, for instance by the early hadīth collector and jurist ← 3 | 4 → Mālik ibn Anas (d. 179/795),9 the historian al-Yaʿqūbī (d. ca. 293/905),10 and the historian Ibn al-Kalbī (d. 206/821) with his exciting text about pre-Islam, The Book of the Idols.11 The literature in the genre of the Histories of the Prophets (Qiā al-anbiyā)12 put down in writing in the 10th and 11th centuries AD is also interesting regarding the development of the reception of the tradition of the sacrificial rituals. In a few cases Ibn Rushd (d. 595/1198),13 Ibn Kathīr (d. 774/1373),14 and others are consulted to see whether the views of Mālik ibn Anas in particular, are still taken into consideration in the 6th/14th Century. All this literature will contribute to a new comprehension of the formation of sacrifice in early Islam.

This work is based on studies of Arabic texts and the application of ritual and sacrificial theories, especially with the help of some major analytical concepts found in the monograph Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity by the late Roy A. Rappaport.15 During the 20th century, the research on ritual and sacrifice has looked upon the sacrificial rituals within the Abrahamic and other religions in different ways. Recent contributions (e.g. J. Drexler, B. Gladigow and H. Seiwert) are especially pointing at the complexity of sacrificial rituals. Rappaport goes even further and combines anthropological and religious ritual theories into a meaningful whole, which will be used to illuminate the Muslim sacrificial praxis as found in early Islamic writings.

1 My translation; German: “Unter einem Opfer versteht man die religiöse Handlung, den Ritus, der durch die Weihung eines lebenden Wesens, einer Pflanzenart, einer Flüssigkeit oder eines Gegenstandes an eine Gottheit – wenn es sich um ein lebendes Wesen handelt, mit oder ohne Tötung – eine Verbindung schafft zwischen dieser Gottheit und dem Menschen, der den Ritus ausführt, von welchem man annimmt, daß er die Gottheit in einer vom Opfernden gewünschten Richtung beeinflussen kann” (Widengren 1969: 280).

2 I have chosen to use the term “Islamic sacrifice” and not the more extensive “Arabic sacrifice” that Chelhod (1955) uses already in the title, Le sacrifice chez les arabes, of his book. Even if I draw examples from pre-Islamic sacrifices, they are described by Muslims in an Islamic context. The majority of examples Chelhod brings are Islamic, and he emphasises that “libations” and “funeral traditions” among “the Arabs” are “Arabic sacrifices” and not solely “Islamic” (Chelhod 1955: 140–143).

3 Rubin (1990: 105) points to an early source al-Azraqī, Akbār Makka. However, the last Arabic edition that Wüstenfeld uses for his edition (1861) is from the transmitter Abū assan Muammad ibn Nūfiʿī al-Khuzāʿī who died after 350/961 according to Fück (1960: 826–827). Hence, al-abarī is earlier even if they partly use the same sources.

4 Al-abarī (d. 310/923) 1987 vol. 2: 83 [Arabic vol. 1: 291].

5 Al-Shahrastānī (d. 548/1153), Jolivet and Monnot 1993: 506: “Je suis le fils des deux victimes sacrificielles”. Cf. Badrān Arabic: 1240; Kaylānī: 239.

6 Al-Ālūsī (d. 1924) 1896 (1883?): vol. 3: 46–49. S.P. Stetkevych (1993: 38) only mentions the al-Ālūsī-source when she refers to the saying of the Prophet.

7 Even if the ʿīd is never mentioned in the Qurʾān.

8 Al-Wāqidī (d. 207/822) 1966. Cf. Leder 2002: 102–103. The Life of Muammad: Al-Wāqidī’s Kitāb al-Maghāzl. 2011. Rizwi F. Faizer (ed.) Translated by R.F. Faizer, Amal Ismail and AbdulKader Tayob. Milton Park / New York: Routledge.

9 Mālik ibn Anas (d. 179/795) 1951.

10 Al-Yaʿqūbī (d. ca 293/905) 1960.

11 Ibn al-Kalbī (d. 206/821) (1914 and 1924) 1965 and 1952.

12 Al-Thaʿlabi (d. 427/1035) 1991 and al-Kisāʾī (3rd-4th/10th century) 1922 and 1978.

13 Ibn Rushd (d. 595/1198) (1994 and 1996) 2000.

14 Ibn Kathīr (d. 774/1373) 1996.

15 Rappaport 1999.

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Chapter 2

Theoretical and Research Historical Perspectives

2.1 Islamic sacrificial rituals seen in the light of Roy A. Rappaport’s Religion and Rituals in the Making of Humanity

Islam is not one of the main religions dealt with in Roy A. Rappaport’s Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity. He hardly mentions early Islam, and does not comment on Islam’s sacrificial practices at all. Instead, his main examples are taken from his research among the Maring people of Papua New Guinea, from the rituals and related activities of Jews, American Indians and a variety of other ethnic and religious groups, and from rituals associated with secular institutions such as the Olympic Games and certain theatrical traditions.1

Rappaport compares various elements of both religious and social rituals. The connections that he identifies promise to be a useful tool in my description and analysis of the Islamic material. Although his discussion is in some respects unfinished, due to the fact that his monograph was published posthumously in 1999,2 it is nevertheless of broad scope and considerable interest, and I shall therefore use it to throw some light on the Islamic rituals connected to pilgrimage and sacrifice.

Viewed in the light of the broader academic discussion about ritual, I have chosen some of Rappaport’s terms that are likely to enrich my discussion about sacrifice in Islam. These fall into various groups of concepts: firstly, ritual order, self-referential and canonical messages, secondly, Ultimate Sacred Postulates and sanctified expressions, and thirdly, the contrasted ideas of analogue and digital time, eternity and mundane time, hierarchy and simultaneity. ← 5 | 6 →

2.1.1 Ritual orders and self-referential and canonical messages

Let me begin with a quotation that presents Rappaport’s perspective on liturgical order, since this might serve as a suitable and valid theoretical starting point for the discussion of sacrifices in early Islam. “It is simple, that liturgical orders can and do organize, or even construct socially, the temporal orders of at least some societies, and that ‘temporal’ orders, when organized by ritual, make a place for eternity as well as for mundane time.”3

This perspective offers an approach to many aspects of sacred and mundane time and the rituals that cover both these aspects of religious and worldly life. The development of the rituals of sacrifice relating to the Islamic ajj seems to demonstrate an increasingly settled, prescribed order. The ajj became a far more complex affair than ever the rituals of Ibrāhīm and ʿAbd al Muṭṭalib had been. In this context it is legitimate to ask whether early Islamic teaching actively transformed pre-Islamic texts to account for this complexity.

Rappaport has defined ritual as “the performance of more or less invariant sequences of formal acts and utterances not entirely encoded by the performers”.4 Evidently, this is a rather open definition that leaves the performer facing an intricate task, namely, to discover the profounder significance of his or her ritual. Rappaport “privileges ritual over belief, form over content, and general, abstract argument over the interpretation of the historically particular”.5 This illustrates an important aspect of his research, which allows for the ritual of the Islamic pilgrimage to be as important as the theologically formed teaching about it, although the aspect of dogma will not be overlooked in this study.

Rappaport’s theory of liturgical orders provides a background for an analysis of the Islamic pilgrimage (ajj and manāsik) and of sacrificial rituals,6 in terms of the system that constitutes this liturgical order. In Rappaport’s terminology “liturgical order” does not refer to individual rituals in isolation, but to “the more or less invariant sequences of rituals that make up cycles and other series as well”.7

In keeping with Rappaport’s definition, I will call the ajj rituals of early Islam “liturgical orders”, since the elements of the ajj constitute a complete ← 6 | 7 → liturgy with essential religious and liturgical signs. In this system, time (the month of dhū l-ijja), and place (Mecca and Mina, or wherever Muslims happen to be celebrating the festival of īd al-aḍḥā) are essential. This will be discussed with the help of Rappaport’s idea of placing “ritual over belief, form over content”.8 He states that “liturgical orders, even those performed in solitude, are public orders and participation in them constitutes an acceptance of a public order regardless of the private state of the belief of the performer”.9

This raises a question with regard to the intention (niyya) that the Muslim is supposed to utter, even if only silently, before and often during the pilgrimage ritual (despite receiving no mention in the Qurʾān and my other main sources). Is participation in the pilgrimage and sacrificial ritual a public Muslim act even when the pilgrim does not understand the content of the rituals and does not anticipate the consequences of what he or she is doing? What sort of attitude is required according to our texts? Rappaport says that “acceptance is not a private state, but a public act, visible both to witnesses and to performers themselves”.10

To describe the double stream of messages that rituals involve, Rappaport uses the terms self-referential and canonical messages.11 These he compares respectively with doing and saying. Self-referential messages are shown through actions, while canonical messages are realised through utterances.12 Self-referential messages express something about the participants, and can be classified according to three levels, which are characterised as orders of meaning: “low” (referring to distinction), “middle” (referring to similarities) and “high” (referring to identity). These orders can be distinguished but not separated.13 There is not just a hierarchy of subjectivity but also one of integration. Self-referential messages are transmitted through participation.14 “Self-referential messages are sanctified, which is to say certified, through their association with the highly invariant canonical stream.”15

Concerning “canon”16 and “canonical messages”, which carry the self-referential messages through the rituals to the public and to the participants themselves, Rappaport says, ← 7 | 8 →

Without canon, self-referential messages would be meaningless or even non-existent as such. [...] The canonical guides, limits and indeed, defines the self-referential. But this does not mean that the self-referential is unambiguously subordinated to the canonical.17

When words are uttered in a ritual, they “bring conventional states of affairs, or ‘institutional facts’ into being, and having been brought into being they are real as ‘brute facts’”.18 The canon that underlies the ritual and the words actually spoken are intertwined, and the “‘magical power of words’ may be related to their illocutionary force or performativeness”.19

2.1.2 Ultimate Sacred Postulates

“Cosmological axioms are manifested in social and physical phenomena”; they “can be changed” and they “serve as the logical basis from which both specific rules of conduct and the proprieties of social life can be derived”.20 Cosmological axioms, like mathematical or other scientific axioms, are different from what Rappaport calls “Ultimate Sacred Postulates”. In Islam this postulate is the shahāda, the credo that says that Allāh is the only God and that Muammad is his messenger.21 Such postulates are “deeper than logic and beyond logic’s reach, upon which cosmological structures can change—expand, contract, or even be radically altered structurally”.22 Ultimate Sacred Postulates are characterised as “more vague” with regard to their social content.23 They do not stipulate the actions to be undertaken in particular circumstances, nor under particular categories of circumstances, nor do they even specify the general principles to be used in the rituals in which these actions should be undertaken. They do, however, provide the ground for those principles.24 The Ultimate Sacred Postulates are “not fully of this world and can be regarded as eternal verities”;25 they are “beyond empirical verification”26 and can be “falsified neither logically nor empirically”.27 ← 8 | 9 →

Does this correspond to the religious rituals of prayer and physical activities in the Muslim ajj rituals? It can be asked whether people can be participants in the rituals if they are unwilling to be followers and lack the right to question and change the actual rituals. Can they be believers and followers if they are merely silent marionettes? Rituals might be changed even if they are said not to be! Those who participate in the rituals have a varying ability to perceive the various elements they involve. However, Rappaport states that participation in a ritual underlines the performer’s acceptance of it.28

2.1.3 Sanctified expressions and logos

Rappaport does not flinch from using terms such as “sacred”, “holy”,29 “divine”30 and “sanctified”, which some scholars avoid.31 “Sacred” we have already encountered above, in the expression “Ultimate Sacred Postulates”. When it comes to the term “sanctified” and its cognates, they are closely related to Rappaport’s thesis about how rituals change their object. “Ritual [...] sanctifies whatever it encodes” and “sanctity is a product of ritual”.32 He also explicitly states that “there is, first, the sacred, a category composed entirely of Ultimate Sacred Postulates. Secondly, there is the sanctified, a category of expressions associated with Ultimate Sacred Postulates but not themselves ultimately sacred”.33 Interestingly, he explains, “The concept of the sacred may be as old as language, which is a way of saying as old as humanity itself.”34 Sanctity is also a “quality of religious discourse rather than of objects of that discourse”.35

Rituals almost always involve words and utterances. Rappaport divides these uses of language into fourteen different groups, which I take to be groups that belong among the concerns characterised as “ultimately sacred”. He calls ← 9 | 10 → these utterances not sacred, but sanctified expressions, and orders them in the following way:

1) myths; 2) cosmological axioms; 3) rules ordaining ritual performances and constituting taboos; 4) socially transforming fictive acts and utterances (e.g. rites of passage); 5) privileged exegeses; 6) prophecies, auguries, divinations and oracles; 7) acts and utterances mobilising occult efficacy to achieve physical effects; 8) social directives; 9) taxonomies; 10) expressions establishing authorities; 11) directives of sanctified authorities; 12) testimony; 13) commissives; 14) ritually transmitted self-referential information (which may also be indexically signalled).36

Rappaport explains that this listing does not mean that the various modes of expression, for instance myths, are always sanctified or sacred. “It is clear that although ritual may be the locus of the sacred and, as such, the font of sanctity, sanctity escapes from ritual and may flow to all of the expressions through which a society is regulated.”37 He continually emphasises that there are different levels in language and employs the Greek term logos in his theory to refer “generally to the cosmic orders represented by liturgical orders”.38 Liturgical orders are thus sanctified by the Ultimate Sacred Postulates, and they “re-present themselves”; they are also “meta-orders”.39 Hence, the use of the expression logos is Rappaport’s attempt to co-ordinate all aspects of rituals, and it completes the central idea of Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity.40

2.1.4 Analogue and digital time

A further interesting aspect of Rappaport’s work is his remarks on the themes of time and of hierarchy and simultaneity, which are also very relevant to the study of Islamic sacrifice and ritual. These concepts serve to digitalise continuously running time, or analogue time.41 Rappaport writes: “Analogic processes can be, and often are, represented digitally. Although time is continuous, and may even ← 10 | 11 → be conceived as such, it can be represented digitally, and is on many watches; so can distance.”42

It is, however, “unfortunate” to speak about “punctual” time, Rappaport argues.43 All time is durational time, but there are two temporal conditions, mundane or profane time on the one hand, and extraordinary or sacred time on the other.44 There is a change from one time to the other.45 Rappaport’s ideas help to clarify certain aspects of the īd al-aḍḥā. In the feast profane and sacred time in Islam come together and merge. Its digital time becomes sacred time. Through the rituals time is digitalised. Thereby, a difference between sacred and non-sacred is created.

Rappaport says that there is no “time between times”, in contrast to van Gennep and Turner, who talk about liminal, marginal or infinitesimal periods.46 What is time more than continuous time? There is no time without duration; there is in effect no punctual time. However, rituals are different. They “stop” time and create what tend to be precise boundaries; they are distinctive and repetitive. They are sharply formed, and different from natural forms and processes.47 Liturgy divides time into periods (natural ones according to year, age etc.). They may succeed each other and become part of a greater whole. Thus time is constructed.48 When time is constituted in the heavens (and not in the mundane world), the distinction between time itself and significant changes in the world is clearer. We might talk of either cyclical or progressive (continuous) time, the latter being illusory.49

When I intend to analyse the Islamic pilgrimage rituals, especially the sacrificial elements, in the light of Rappaport’s ideas of continuity and process, of analogic and digital time, I do it knowing that time and the lunar calendar are of extreme importance in Islam. Muslims’ anxiety ahead of the fasting or the pilgrimage month, not knowing when – today or tomorrow –it will begin, is adequate to consider here illuminated from the perspective of intention (niyya).

Time in Mecca and Mina is continuous, but can be represented digitally by the rituals that interpose sharp boundaries between beginnings and ends. What is ← 11 | 12 → time outside these two places, one might ask. Rappaport says that there are digital aspects of ritual communication, but ritual communication is not only digital.50 This world’s “changeability” is compared with the lack of change in the sacred world, which is “neither coming nor passing away”.51

When I try to understand the Islamic rituals (˓ibadāt) according to the system that constructs its liturgical order, I shall include therein the aspects of time (the month of dhū l-ijja) and place (Mecca and all the places where Muslims celebrate the festival). This means that a celebration of the festival in Cairo is conducted with the same matter of course as in Mecca. This involves ethical regulations of many kinds. In all places people meet face to face and are confronted with the regulations contained in the written and oral law. Traditions and unspoken expectations are an especially important part of the less centralised rituals, i.e., those rituals that in Mecca are performed outside the Kaʿba area.

2.2 From the history of the study of sacrifice

2.2.1 Sacrificial terms and schemes Sacrifice and terminology

Whereas rituals and liturgical orders have been defined above according to Rappaport’s proposals, the rite of sacrifice needs further theoretical discussion. A number of standard works have been written about sacrificial rites. My intention is not to present a new extensive survey of these theories, but to pick out those elements that I think will illuminate the analysis of Islamic sacrifice. Even where these elements are taken from Greek sacrifices,52 the Nuer,53 or others, they will be used to help in the analysis of Islamic sacrifice.

For Tylor54, sacrifice is tribute; for Robertson Smith55, it is a communal meal with the gods. Frazer56 sees the death of the priest / king as the destruction of an envelope ← 12 | 13 → of power, in order to release that power. Hubert and Mauss57 portray sacrifice as the knife’s edge that balances the sacred and the profane. Evans-Pritchard58 stresses rather the banishment of the divine by sacrificial means, while de Heusch59 understands sacrifice as a mimesis of death and rebirth.60

This is how Bruce Chilton sums up the most important sacrificial theories from the end of the 19th century onwards. The theme could be dismissed with this quotation. But of course, there are relevant and important topics that remain to be discussed. The terms “sacrifice”, “offering”, “victim”, “immolation” and “slaughtering”

The word sacrifice is derived from the Latin sacrificium, which can be divided into sacer, ‘dedicated’ or ‘consecrated to a divinity, holy, sacred’,61 and facere from facio, ‘to create’ or, in the context of ritual, ‘to perform a religious rite; to offer sacrifice; make an offering; to sacrifice’.62 The combined meaning then becomes ‘to bring something into the sphere of the sacred’.63 The word is, however, used in two ways, either to denote the sacrificial act, or to denote the victim, the person, animal or thing to be sacrificed. The words offer and offering, and the German words for sacrifice, Opfer, derived from the Old German opfarn, may have been borrowed from Latin operari, originally from operatio, ‘performing’ or ‘bringing of offerings’. One of the Christian meanings that developed is ‘beneficence’ or ‘charity’.64 However, also the Latin offere, ‘to bring before and to present’,65 contributes to the sense of the English ‘offer’, which is more suggestive of ‘bringing a gift’. In scholarly discourse, however, the use of both offer and sacrifice as terms has obscured the discussion.66 In the English and French tradition, sacrifice has often been understood as ‘the immolated victim’, while offer and offering have been understood as ‘the gift that is given to the gods or God’.67 Henri Hubert (1872–1927) and Marcel ← 13 | 14 → Mauss (1872–1950) explicitly designate sacrifice as “destroyed” victims and rituals “where blood is shed”.68 Nevertheless, they admit that in many cases the two meanings are intertwined.69

The word victim has been used both in a ritual sense, as in the context of sacrifice, but more often to describe someone who has been involuntarily subjected to any negative influence or illness. When I use victim here, I use it exclusively about the ritual object or about an animal that is sacrificed. This is in fact the original Latin meaning of the word.70

Two words that are important in the scholarly discussion and for this study of Islamic sacrifice are the nouns immolation and slaughter. Immolation is derived from Latin immolatio (noun) and immolo (verb), meaning respectively ‘a sacrificing; a sacrifice; an offering’ and ‘to bring as an offering, to sacrifice’,71 while “slaughter” comes from Old Norse slátr, meaning ‘to slay’ (verb).72 There might, however, be ritual slayings or slaughterings that are not part of a sacrifice.73 Today, both words can be used to describe acts that may be part of either a religious ritual or an ordinary everyday act in an official slaughterhouse or in a private courtyard.

Regardless of the Latin background of the word, Hubert and Mauss defined sacrifice as “a religious act which, through the consecration of a victim, modifies the condition of the moral person who accomplishes it or that of certain objects with which he is concerned”.74 With regard to the “objects of sacrifice”, Hubert and Mauss defined them as “those things for whose sake the sacrifice takes place”.75 The Encyclopaedia Britannica defined in 1977 sacrifice as “a cultic act in which objects were set apart or consecrated and offered to a god or ← 14 | 15 → some other supernatural power”.76 Geo Widengren’s already quoted definition is interesting in this context (see p. 1). He emphasises the possible influence a sacrifice may have on the deity. In the chapter on “earlier sacrifices”, Widengren calls the Islamic sacrifice a “survival” from pre-Islamic religion.77 In the quoted statement, however, he seems to underline the intentional part of the sacrificer(s) offering the sacrifice. Sacrificial schemes

Hubert and Mauss (1898) categorised the same four elements as Augustine had done, these are 1) To whom was the sacrifice given? 2) By whom? 3) What was handed over? 4) For whom was the sacrifice made?78, and added three major aspects, namely the place, the instruments, and the sequential rituals that transfer the “religious agents” from a profane to a sacred status.79 Important for later research is also the fact that Hubert and Mauss stressed the role of the sacrifier, who is not the person who performs the offering or slaughtering (the sacrificer), but “the subject to whom the benefits of sacrifice thus accrue, or who undergoes its effects”.80 The sacrifier and the sacrificer might be one and the same person, but this need not always be the case.

Hubert and Mauss also described sacrifices in terms of three further phases according to their idea of sacred and non-sacred elements.81 Firstly, preliminary rites sanctified the involved persons, places, victims, objects or periods of time. Secondly, immolation brought the victim into closer contact with the sacred sphere, enabling energy to circulate between the sacred and non-sacred spheres. Thirdly, what had been sanctified, hence made dangerous, must be de-sanctified before the return to everyday life.82 In other words, Hubert and Mauss emphasised the complex character of the rituals into which sacrifices were ← 15 | 16 → integrated. Thus, none of the elements could be isolated from the others.83 Even if they were opposed to the evolutionist view of sacrifice that William Robertson Smith advocated,84 they wrote that this structure of interdependence was common to most sacrificial rituals.

Burkhard Gladigow and Hubert Seiwert emphasise that sacrifices should be regarded as complex rituals.85 Following Josef Drexler, Gladigow writes that no sacrifice can be seen without its ritual framework. These complex rituals are not comparable from religion to religion, and there are as many schemes as there are rituals.86 Additionally, he maintains that the term Opfer is “misleading, unsuitable and insufficient”.87 At least, the “focus of interpretation is not some implicitly clear conception of sacrifice – obviously there is no such conception – but rather the ability of the element ‘sacrifice’88 to be assimilated into complex rituals, and about complex rituals in ‘culture’.”89 Gladigow chooses to look at sacrifice from another angle. Thus he also considers elements such as catharsis,90 economy and “economy of prestige”,91 but even more important, he underlines the element of divination or seeking knowledge by supernatural means.92

The most general scheme of the actors and components of the sacrificial ritual consists of a division into six parts: the sacrificer, the material of the offering, the time and place of the rite,93 the method of the sacrifice, the recipient of the sacrifice, and the motive or intention of the rite. Compared to former studies of sacrificial rituals that tried to find what was common to and valid for all sacrificial rituals, a rather impossible but useful task, one has to admit that there is a tendency for “sacrifices” to be defined as “dozens of ← 16 | 17 → practised rituals”.94 In this sense, several local anthropological studies of rituals have been published, also about sacrifices in the Muslim world.95

Another categorisation has been proposed by Raymund Firth, who distinguishes between seven groups of sacrifices: 1) sacrifices of propitiation and expiation, a category that includes sacrifices of substitute, the sin offerings in the Hebrew Bible, and the sacrifice of Christ; 2) the so-called gift sacrifices, which are often combined with the making of vows; 3) thanksgiving offerings, which are made especially in agricultural societies when the first fruits are harvested so as to de-sanctify the food that was considered sacred prior to the making of the offering; 4) sacrifices of fertility, which are often connected to first fruit offerings; 5) building sacrifices, which take place when new buildings are constructed; 6) mortuary sacrifices, which are offered to the dead and to ancestors, who are deemed worthy of respect and honour, but which also serve to supplicate the deities of the particular patch of ground to give long life to those still living; and 7) the communion sacrifice96 that needs to be discussed in greater detail. For our purpose, it seems that especially the second and the last of Firth’s categories that will be relevant and assist the analysis. In spite of a simplification, such categories enable us to present, summarise and extend this topic. Sacrifice, communion and communication

The two terms communion and communication belong together and point in the direction of a common origin – the communio – the fellowship of beings, whether they be gods or human beings, that communicate in prayer and sacrifice. As this study will demonstrate, it is not always easy to know whether the receiver is a god or the one who performs the ritual here on earth. However, both parties seem to participate in the fellowship, as most beings do when they participate in celebrations or events involving shared emotions, such as trust and anxiety, as the example taken from Robertson Smith in the next section will show.

Communication is neither unknown in literature on religion and theology in general, nor is it a novelty in the study of sacrifice in particular. As early as 1871, Edward Burnett Tylor (1832–1917) published Primitive Culture and Religion in Primitive Culture,97 both of which influenced later research on sacrifice. Even if Tylor’s main thesis was that sacrifices of humans must be seen ← 17 | 18 → as an example of “primitive” beliefs in the ancestral journey of souls,98 he also emphasised how closely sacrifice and prayer were related. He held that they have a common origin in the early period of culture. When a person prays or sacrifices to a god, he bows to an anthropomorphic model.99 The sacrifice was seen as the offering of a gift to the deity in a situation similar to the offering of a gift to a human being. Tylor discussed sacrifices of tribute and homage and sacrifices where a person divests himself of or breaks off his relationship with the god(s). This model of sacrifice might be called a “gift model”. It means that human beings make offerings and sacrifices to their forefathers (ancestors and spirits) in order to receive blessings from them.100 This model is also called the do-ut-des model, i.e., “I give so that you will give in return.”101

To a certain extent, this sharing, even with a god or the gods, is one fundamental part of the communicative model that I want to emphasise in connection with Islamic sacrifice, especially the role of receiving blessings, even though Islam involves few ideas about ancestors and even fewer about ancestral journeys. Even so, the idea of respect and of paying tribute to the elderly and to those who have passed away is clearly present in the pre-Islamic material. Hence, I can defend an overall assumption of communicative elements, also those taken from Tylor.

However, there is one major problem with Tylor’s view concerning the gods or God. Wilhelm Schmidt (1868–1954) has rightly pointed out the difficulty in making humans equal to the gods or to God.102 The mere mentioning of a similarity between God and man in Islam might represent an offence against the unity of Allāh. Instead, Schmidt proposed the idea that sacrifice was intended as a gift of homage to the gods or to God. In other words, he regarded the sacrifice as a ritual recognition of God’s power. He showed that the firstlings sacrifice ← 18 | 19 → was given to the “supreme being to whom everything belongs and who therefore cannot be enriched by gifts”.103

The idea of communication is also present in the important work of the English theologian, William Robertson Smith (1846–1894), even though he was primarily interested in the meal and the communion. In his Lectures on the Religion of the Semites, published in 1889,104 he followed Tylor’s work on the Old Testament and linguistics, while at the same time arguing “for the primacy of the rituals” over the role of the soul in the forming of the religion.105 He never stressed the aspect of myth as strongly as Tylor did, nor followed him in viewing sacrifice as a gift to the god(s).106 The gift sacrifice was in Robertson Smith’s opinion a later development.107 He recognised a fellowship and communion between the sacrificer and the deity in the sacrifice. Indeed, he took this interpretation to the extreme in imputing identity between the recipient, the victim and the sacrificer. These three had a blood relationship, and “the sacrifice was thus originally a meal in which the offerers entered into communion with the totem”.108 This was the oldest form of sacrifice, he maintained, and it was from this that the Semitic sacrifice derived, the latter being a sacrifice of atonement. He thus depicted the sacrificial meal as something that expressed a fellowship between the participants, but also between them and their deity. The meal could have either a harmful or a useful effect on the fellowship. Robertson Smith’s communicative ideas about rituals had “the effect of sacralizing the social unity and solidarity of the group”.109 ← 19 | 20 →

Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) writes a whole chapter about sacrifice in his The Elementary Forms of Religious Life of 1912110 , “The Positive Cult: The Elements of the Sacrifice”. The term “positive” is opposed to the term “negative”, which describes different systems of prohibitions, magic and religious, sacred and profane.111 Hence, the positive cult is the context in which the sacrificial ritual is analysed and explained as life-giving112 and promoting the young man’s transition to maturity.113

Durkheim describes the sacrificial rituals – or we may say, the sacrificial scheme – in terms of the following elements: different forms of exhibits, visits to sacred places, spreading of sacred dust or shedding blood114 with the aim of bringing about the reproduction of the totemic species; ritual eating of the totemic plant or animal, the communion meal; the alleged absurdity of the sacrificial offerings. When Durkheim comments on these rites, he identifies the same elements as in the sacrificial rituals of the “higher religions”.115 He also approves of the idea of Robertson Smith that one element of the sacrifice is food,116 thus acknowledging that the sacrifice consists of “a meal of which the faithful who offers it partakes at the same time as the god to whom it is offered. Certain parts of the victim are reserved for the deity; others are conferred on the celebrants, who consume them.”117

Durkheim’s general idea is that the role of the whole group (society with its cyclical rituals and the collective) is in opposition to individual actions.118 Religion is formed through people’s experiences, witnessed as something which makes the community stronger. This has consequences also for the individual because the society “develops and […] awakens that feeling of support, safety, ← 20 | 21 → and protective guidance which binds the man of faith to his cult”.119 Durkheim is opposed to Robertson Smith’s idea that the meal is exclusive,120 although he still thinks that the communion was one of two focal elements in all sacrificial rituals, and it balances the idea of the gift to the gods.

Hubert and Mauss maintain that communion was one function of sacrifice; this is a refinement of Robertson Smith’s ideas and in accordance with Durkheim’s views.121 When the victim was destroyed or killed, strong powers, originally connected to the consecration, were set free. The settled communication between the holy and the profane changed the attitude and status of those who were sacrificing.

In the chapter “The Logic of Sacrifice” in his book Culture and Communication, Edmund Leach (1910–1989) applied theories of communication to the sacrificial rituals in Leviticus.122 Generally, he compared religious rituals to the alphabet and how different words and syllables were made by putting different letters together. “The elements of the ritual (‘the letters of the alphabet’) do not mean anything in themselves; they come to have meaning by virtue of contrast with other elements.”123 Similar to the point ← 21 | 22 → Rappaport would later make in his Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity, Leach stated that “the rite is prior to the explanatory belief”.124

Here also Jan van Baal’s contribution to sacrifice theory must be mentioned. He defines an offering to be “any act of presenting something to a supernatural being”, and a sacrifice to be “an offering accompanied by the ritual killing of the object of the offering”.125 Contrary to Hubert and Mauss, van Baal does not consider the offering or sacrifice to be held sacred by the performers, but instead he regards both as gifts.126 Further van Baal considers killing of animals to be a ceremony of wealth more than of religious devotion.127 Like Leach, he underlines the communication between the sacrificer and the recipient that includes an “exchange of messages”. Together with belief they “lend meaning to human existence”.128 van Baal divides between “low-intensity rites” and “high-intensity rites”. The first group consists of rituals connected to “routine expressions of belief and worship, and the ‘high-intensity’, the more occasional responses to misfortune and disaster”.129 Hence, “gifts” and “sacrifice” belong to the first group, and “sacrifice” and “holocausts” made to avoid something bad or to re-establish a broken relation, belong to the last group.130 Moreover, van Baal emphasises the link between communication and the idea of sacrifice as a gift.

J.M.H. Beattie joins Durkheim in stressing that sacrifice is a process of communication between the sacred and the non-sacred spheres involving the ceremonial destruction of a victim.131 If the idea is that the sacrificer contracts an exchange without giving himself, yet while trying to receive life force, then it may be a useful tool and symbol in the study of Islamic sacrifice. ← 22 | 23 →

Communication is a key word in Josef Drexler’s and Burkhard Gladigow’s analysis of Greek sacrifice. Gladigow emphasises the idea of interactive solidarity among the participants and refers to “the regular sacrifices as an indicator of a ‘consensus about norms within the group of sacrificers and deities’”.132 Further, he underlines that “the sacrifice protects against the social decline or the physical extermination of the people”.133 The dividing of the sacrificial meat to which Gladigow also draws attention is part of this solidarity agreement.134 The participants are challenged by this united effort. Adapted to an Islamic sacrificial practice – if we analyse the Islamic dividing of the meat in this way – it has far-reaching consequences.

2.2.3 Sacrifice, community and gender

Ivan Strenski introduces topics such as community, purity and gender into his examination of sacrificial theories. He praises the work of Hubert and Mauss and refers to the development of the idea of community.135 Further, Strenski bridges the topics of social boundaries and gender when he reviews Nancy Jay’s work of 1992.136 Hence, we can say that community or disconnection between the sexes is strongly emphasised. Jay and Strenski both underscore the gender aspect of the sacrificial ritual itself, and even more how the rituals have been described and analysed by men in Western scholarly work.137

According to Strenski, Jay intends to “point out a de facto exclusion of women in traditional societies, and to argue that sacrificial rituals have something to d o with maintaining this exclusion”.138 Strenski admits that sacrificial rituals, where “men are initiated, ‘born’, into his extra-familial order of obligations and behaviours”, will necessarily exclude women.139 However, he criticizes Jay’s emphasis on the “counter-reformation spirituality of sacrificial annihilation”, in connection with which she analyses the Tridentine mass and the sacrificial conception of the Eucharist.140 ← 23 | 24 →

Strenski remarks that Jay has avoided the topic of the biblical aqedā, where he considers the topic of the relationship between father and son and between male and male to be so obviously present that it should be treated as part of “her” gender topic. This is, however, not quite true. Jay discusses parts of the various biblical versions about the Abrahamic family and offspring. She is especially concerned with the similarities, but also the differences, between Abraham and Isaac: the father was about to complete the near sacrifice of his son; the latter was without sacrifice.141 Additionally, Jay analyses Abraham’s later relatives, Laban and Jacob, in their sacrificial activities with regard to descent, sacrificial meal. Hence, patriliny was restored, she convincingly claims.142 In spite of his criticisms, Strenski by and large supports Joy’s critical analysis of the gender-based sacrificial culture in Hawaii, among the Ashanti and within the early and contemporary Catholic Church, and the consequences she draws from her research.

M.E. Combs-Schilling has examined human and economic as well as gender aspects of certain Islamic sacrificial rituals connected to the Great Ritual, ˓īd al-kabīr or ˓īd al-aḍḥā, in certain parts of the Maghreb. In what appears both as a work of anthropology and an original theory of sacrifice, she explains that the celebration has been “an important part of collective experience […] for nearly three hundred years”.143 Further, she relates that every household uses almost twenty percent of its annual income on this festival. For our study her consideration of sacrifice and offspring is especially interesting.144

Just one year before Combs-Schilling, Abduallah Hammoudi examined the Great Ritual in the Maghreb region in terms of concepts of the victim, which he describes in his book The Victim and Its Masks.145 He addresses the gender aspects, which he illustrates by describing the different roles of men and women. Men perform female work during the festival and women are allowed to participate more in religious rituals that correspond to everyday male activities. The woman may dye different parts of animals and human bodies with henna, ← 24 | 25 → and she offers “the victim a false meal composed of grain, henna, salt, and water”.146 Hence, she is linked to symbols like kohl for the eyes, and henna and salt, which are used as signs of beauty and attraction.147 In accordance with different parts of the rituals, both sexes may slaughter the victim. Other duties are entrusted exclusively to the men.148 She “offers the gift of ornament while the victim provides a substance (blood) that is forbidden to eat”.149 Hammoudi claims, almost as forcefully as Combs-Schilling, that sacrificial rituals tend to be symbols of a fruitful future for the whole community in terms of crops and children, although Hammoudi stresses the element of gift more strongly than Combs-Schilling did.150 Hammoudi further states, “From the outset Muslim sacrifice undertakes these determinations of ritual activities that underscore sociological boundaries and roots them [...] in a mythology of the birth of civilization as an ideal Abrahamic community.”151

2.2.4 Sacred and profane

Durkheim adds aspects other than communication linked to the meal, for instance, matters concerning the sacredness of the animal, the food and the sacrificer.152 Concerning the change from the animal’s profane status, Durkheim maintains that it becomes completely transformed into sacredness. “A whole series of preliminary steps in the sacrifice (washings, anointings, prayers, and so on) transform the animal to be immolated into a sacred thing, the sacredness of which is thereafter communicated to the faithful who partake of it.”153 Additionally, profane beings eat sacred food. He calls this a contradiction that exists in all “positive” cults. “Man can have no dealings with the sacred beings without crossing the barrier that must ordinarily keep him separate from them.”154 ← 25 | 26 →

Hubert and Mauss make a distinction between the rites of sacralisation and those of desacralisation.155 Luc de Heusch uses the terms “conjunctive” and “disjunctive” to express the same distinction.156 Within this perspective, Beattie goes on to define four classes or categories of sacrifice: 1) sacrifice to obtain or maintain closer contact with God or with other individual spirits; 2) sacrifice to achieve some degree of separation from such spirits; 3) sacrifice to acquire for the sacrificer (or for the person sacrificed for, i.e. the sacrifier) an increase, or input, of non-personalised ‘power’; and 4) sacrifice to achieve separation from, or the removal of, such diffuse force or power. These elements or categories are, according to Beattie, not mutually exclusive, but might appear in the same sacrificial complex.157

In his work of 1924, Essai sur le don: forme et raison de l’échange les sociétés archaïques, Mauss emphasised the element of the gift and the reciprocal exchange of gifts that the sacrifice often involves. This creates an interdependence that is in accordance with the power of the sacrificial material, and not so much with the material itself.158 In his introduction to the English edition of Mauss’ work, Evans-Pritchard comments on the author’s respect for sacrificial complexity.159

Gerardus van der Leeuw160 (1890–1950) uses an idea similar to that of the later Mauss, but lays greater emphasis on the fact that the sacrificer gives the gift away and does not necessarily know about or is not necessarily conscious of the receiver of the sacrifice. van der Leeuw underlines that the power of life (mana) is channelled through the sacrifice.161 The elements of gift and mutual dependence are connected not only to the sacrifice itself but to the influential powers to which the sacrifice is given. It could probably be argued that van der ← 26 | 27 → Leeuw’s perspective would also fit into a communicative model. Other elements of sacredness, sanctity and power involved in Islamic sacrifice, connected to blessings and other ritual elements, will be further analysed in due course.

2.2.5 Complementary ideas about sacrifice

Edmund Leach refers to the metaphor of death as the central “puzzle about sacrifice”. “What has the killing of animals got to do with communication between Man and Deity or with changing the social status of individuals?”162 This is not, however, his main concern. As an anthropologist he feels challenged by the complexity of the sacrificial ritual. “At the very least, any ritual activity has visual, verbal, spatial and temporal dimensions; in addition, noise, smell, taste, touch may all be relevant.”163 He discusses the distinctions the observer is bound to make between all parts of the sacrificial ritual and the impressions made by the process; and how the observer might, during the process, distinguish between “the significant, the accidental and the redundant”.164

René Girard’s name is associated with topics such as “desire” and “violence”.165 A professor of literature in the USA, Girard has analysed several phenomena involving killing and destruction in various fields of research, including religion, in the light of the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), whereby the father-son relationship, fratricide and taboos combine to form one complex idea.166

It is interesting to note that Chilton, who is fascinated by Girard, disagrees with him and refers to an alternative understanding of “sacrifice”: “[I]n sacrifice, consumption is probably a better metaphor to describe what is happening than death.”167 Further, Chilton thinks, “Sacrifice is a feast with the gods, in which life as it should be—chosen and prepared correctly—is taken in order to produce life as it ought to be.”168

The social dimension and consequences of sacrifice have been emphasised by several scholars, but I shall conclude by drawing attention to another point made by Hubert and Mauss, opposed to Girard’s later idea about desire as the source of violence. “The act of abnegation implicit in every sacrifice, by ← 27 | 28 → recalling frequently to the consciousness of the individual the presence of collective forces, in fact sustains their ideal existence.”169 The same idea was emphasised by Durkheim, who says that through religious ritual “the group periodically renews the sentiment which it has of itself and of its unity”.170 This statement would seem to differ in some ways from the characterisations of Hammoudi and Combs-Schilling of the gender-divided Maghrebi society and its emphasis on sacrificial rituals intended on the one hand to show this division and on the other to preserve the continuity of their society. The Maghrebi seem to show abnegation and desire at the same time, that is slaughtering and intercourse. As mentioned earlier, it is not necessarily inconsistent to claim that sacrifice aims “to achieve separation from, or the removal of, such diffuse force or power”.171 These aspects of sacrificial practices are put forward by the mentioned scholars based on evidence much later than the texts from early Islam that I shall analyse. Still, they represent a sign of recognition across both the centuries and mountain ranges.

In order to illuminate the double aspect of sacrifice and ritual I find the views of Josef Drexler, presented in his book Die Illusion des Opfers from 1993, useful, even though they do not completely satisfy our needs in relation to Islamic practice. Drexler is unwilling to continue to use the term “Opfer”.172 Like Drexler, Strenski insistently questions whether the term “sacrifice” is more than a label for “ritual killing”, “offering”, “cooking”, and “consecrating”. He goes on to say that, when we “see all these things as intimately related to each other, and believe that this unity persists over periods of time”, and if “we still wanted to apply the term sacrifice to such a syndrome, then we would really have something to talk about”.173 Here I follow Strenski’s view, and I find it useful not to give up the terms “sacrifice”, respectively “Opfer”. In other words, in formulating his “total perspective”, Drexler thinks that all existing theories of ← 28 | 29 → sacrifice are inappropriate when it comes to the reality of “sacrifice”.174 He builds his “total perspective” notion of Burkert, who says, “In the sacrificial rituals of the ancient civilizations the different categories of sacrifices are already intertwined in multiple ways.”175

At the same time, Drexler asserts that it is necessary to discuss the religious and philosophical aspects of sacrifice.176 He reflects upon the consequences of the context and the aspects relating to the position of the sacrificer. Secondly, he considers theories that describe the “ritual”, or rather “the complex ritual process”, as a means of “communication with the sacred area”, to be more convincing than theories that regard those processes merely as “sacrifice”.177 Even so, Drexler does not completely abandon theories of sacrifice but considers that these theories of sacrifice reciprocally complement one another.178 He combines Victor Turner’s definition of ritual as a “prescribed formal behaviour for occasions not given over to technological routine, having reference to belief in mystical beings or powers”179 with Horst Reimann’s definition of communication, saying that communication must be understood as “the established relation between two subjects as the result of a communication process”.180

For Drexler it is important to see the whole context of a sacrificial rite. He claims that it is impossible to separate “sacrifice” and “culture”, because the religious phenomena are not independent of the rest of the culture.181 He proposes “sacred rituals of communication”182 as the most appropriate phrase to ← 29 | 30 → describe his theory. This fits better to the original definition of sacrificium, which was “sacred performance”.183 In the process of communication Drexler is mainly interested in the communicative encounter between man and his gods, and less in the communication between the different persons who perform the rites, which is one of the most important elements in the Islamic sacrificial ritual.184

Drexler lists the actors in the sacrificial ritual as follows:185 the senders (sacred beings who communicate in the manner of spiritual beings such as gods, spirits, and forefathers) and the receivers (profane and either connected to or divided from the senders, including the ritual makers and religious experts such as priests, soothsayers, slaughterers, cooks and others).186 He also mentions a group of participants who may be passive believers or “bystanders”.187 In addition to these figures, the communicative process involves various actions and utterances such as declarations, petitions, admonitions, requests and demands, recitation of the sacral codes (myths), trance, dance, music, killing, dividing the food, cooking, eating. Drexler admits that his own categorization has one major defect, namely that it does not take into account the aspect of time, the “fourth dimension”.188 A ritual of sacrifice and communication consists of elements of ritual processes and, hence, of time. Further, when he describes everyday communication and rituals, he adds the emotional, visual, chronological dimensions, as well as aesthetic aspects such as sound, smell, sense of beauty and ugliness, and taste to the ritual processes.189 He maintains that everyday rituals are less emotional than for instance sacrificial rituals.190 For this reason, like many other scholars, he differentiates between communication that takes place during religious rituals and communication that occurs during ← 30 | 31 → everyday rituals and routines.191 Evans-Pritchard and Rappaport, however, make a smoother gradation between different stages of ritual, and thus of time.192

One main aspect of all rituals is the performer’s intention. Does the ritual participant first need to establish the communication, or does he make use of a pre-established basis of communication? Drexler objects to Seiwert’s definition of sacrifice as “a religious act, which consists of the ritual relinquishment of material sacrifice”.193

Drexler’s and Seiwert’s theories emphasise that rituals cause a change in reality for those who participate in them.194 The ritual is not only symbolic. It also involves genuinely functional elements and can lead to real change. Even more distinctively, Rappaport emphasises the close link between the act, which may or may not involve a physical transformation, and the context and utterances surrounding the act.195 This act may include a sacrificial practice as well. This type of efficacy is closely related to the complexity at all stages of the sacrificial process.

Seiwert’s texts about sacrifice help us to recognise which elements are essential in the total process. Indicative of the complexity of both sacrificial rituals and of the theories that have been put forward to explain them over the past 150 years is his summary, in which he suggests that we should view sacrificial rituals in terms of five aspects instead of complete theories. 1) Sacrifice is a gift (Tylor and Mauss); 2) sacrifice is a ritual of perfection of the relationship between man and divinity (Robertson Smith); 3) sacrifice is a ritual means of communication between the sacred and the profane spheres (Hubert and Mauss); 4) sacrifice is a ritual means of perpetuating life (van der Leeuw and the later Mauss); and 5) sacrifice is a ritual recognition and acceptance of God’s power over life and also an expression of dependence on the divine.196 Seiwert’s structure coincides to a great extent with Chilton’s,197 and helps us analyse the Islamic sacrificial rituals in the following chapters, especially in chapter 9. These aspects will in various ways throw light on Islamic practices. ← 31 | 32 →

2.3 Primary sources of the Islamic reception of sacrifice

In my reading of Islamic texts I have had to choose among quite a high number of sources. Originally, I intended to embrace texts ranging from the years soon after 622 AD until as late as the 15th century AD. Of course, this search soon proved to be too broad, and I had to realise that early texts were difficult to trace due to the fact that there are probably no written Islamic texts preserved from before the end of the 7th century AD, and these texts were not collected or published before almost one hundred years later (i.e., from 750 AD onwards).198

A major source has been al-abarīTaʾrīkh, now available in an English multi-volume translation. For some topics, like that of Muammad’s Farewell Pilgrimage, I have used Ibn Hishām’s Sīra and al-Wāqidī’s al-Maghāzī. Some of these texts have a history of being more or less dependent on or related to other texts, e.g. al-abarī using Ibn Isḥāq’s work. More information about the genres of literature, the authors (when they are known to us) and the contexts of these pieces of work can be found in different lexica and scholarly presentations.199

2.4 The Islamic sacrifice in scholarly discussions

Over the past 150 years the topic “sacrifice in Islam” has been illuminated in a number of works by different scholars. The literature that I am aware of can be divided into four groups. First, there are historical and religious analyses of the pilgrimage to Mecca; secondly, there are studies about the pre-Islamic and Islamic sacrifices, which also include exegetical discussions about the narratives in the Qurʾān and in adīth Thirdly, there are discussions of and reports on the narratives concerning the intended sacrifices of ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hishām and Ibrāhīm and the Feast of Sacrifice, ʿīd al-aḍḥā; and, finally, there are some judicial analyses of the role of sacrifice and slaughtering in Islam. All these sorts of works I will refer to during my discussion of sacrifice in early Islam. ← 32 | 33 →

2.4.1 Historical and religious analyses of the pilgrimage to Mecca

In the first group, I count C. Brooke’s200 excellent socio-geographical review about the pilgrimage to Mecca and Mina in the 20th century to be an eye-opening article. Brooke uses statistical material that was formerly known to the Meccan pilgrimage administration only. To some degree, he sheds light on today’s practice by quotations from the Qurʾān, adīth and various historical sources. J. Hjärpe201 has analysed the symbolic meaning of Mecca and the ʿīd al-aḍḥā from the perspective of the phenomenology of religion. F.E. Peters202 is one scholar who has examined the Meccan pilgrimage and explained it extensively to a wider English speaking audience. In spite of his wide approach he has touched upon the role of the sacrificial ritual. J.E. Campo203 has attributed to the discussion about pilgrimage and time especially in the light of Victor Turner’s theory of rites of passage. Likewise, M. Gaudefroy-Demombynes,204 C. Rathjens,205 J. Jomier,206 A.J. Wensinck and B. Lewis207 have all made important contributions concerning the economic and religious aspects of pilgrimage. ← 33 | 34 → M.M. Bravmann’s studies on early Islam have often been referred to with high appreciation.208 S. Faroqhi209 has combined historical and cultural studies in her thorough description of the pilgrimage under Ottoman rule. I.R. Netton210 has edited a volume called “Golden Roads”, which deals with the pilgrimage in mediaeval and modern Islam but hardly touches upon the sacrificial ritual at all. M.N. Pearson211 is another scholar who has contributed to the history of pilgrimage, focusing especially on pilgrims from Asia.

All these writers are more or less indebted to the great work by C. Snouck Hurgronje, who managed to enter Mecca and stay there for several months.212 His books are still mentioned in every second scholarly work about Mecca. Additionally, there are several well-known reports about the pilgrimage in primary sources from 287/900 and onwards, but unfortunately only a few of them focus on the sacrificial ritual and the Feast of Sacrifice. Many of these sources, narratives and illustrations have been collected, reprinted and published by a German team213 and by A. Rush in an American pilgrimage project.214 Some scholars compare pilgrimage and sacrifice in several religions or with other rituals within the same religion.215 ← 34 | 35 →

2.4.2 Studies of pre-Islamic and Islamic sacrifice in the Qurʾān and hadīth

The Islamic sacrifice must be discussed and defined in relation to sacrificial practices in pre-Islam and also customs in popular Islam. These offerings are discussed first and foremost by I. Goldzieher,216 J. Wellhausen,217 W. Robertson Smith,218 R. Bell,219 J. Henninger,220 C. Pellat,221 Th. Juynboll,222 D. Müller,223 J. Pirenne,224 A.J. Wensinck,225 T. Fahd,226 and G.R. Hawting.227 ← 35 | 36 → Henninger’s, Fahd’s and Hawting’s investigations of sacrificial rituals in pre-Islamic Arabia and the deities venerated there are especially interesting in this connection. P. Crone and M. Cook228 roused the academic world to discussion in 1977 with some ideas about the Samaritan influence on the Islamic sacrifice. Later, Crone and A. Silverstein,229 R.G. Hoyland,230 and J.E. Montgomery231 have written influential articles and books about early Islam. No less important are the articles by various authors in The Encyclopedia of Islam.232

One of the most important attempts to understand Islamic sacrifice within the frame of the Islamic festival calendar was made in a small but very useful book by G.E. von Grunebaum.233 His work was continued and expanded by H. Lazarus-Yafeh,234 who wrote quite critically about Islamic sacrifices.235 A ← 36 | 37 → colleague of the latter at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, M.J. Kister, has written more extensively on pre-Islam, the Qurʾān and other topics from early Islam; I shall only mention a few articles from his production.236 For my study, his commentary on the labbayka (talbiya) is of special interest.237 S.M. usain238 and T. Fahd239 are two other scholars who have discussed the pre-Islamic talbiya. Islamic popular sacrifices have been dealt with by E. Doutté240 and R. Kriss and H. Kriss-Heinrich.241 In 1955 J. Chelhod242 contributed extensively to the study of sacrifice in Islam. With its extensive material and profound discussion, his main book, Le sacrifice chez les arabes, marked a turning point in the discussion of Islamic sacrifice. W.A. Graham has also an ← 37 | 38 → interesting discussion on Islamic rituals.243 N. Grandin244 has undertaken a shorter, but nevertheless, thorough analysis of the topic. E. Platti245 is among those who continued the discussion in the 1990s. U. Rubin’s246 work about pre-Islam and early Islam must also be mentioned. His book entitled The Eye of the Beholder is not a work about sacrifice; yet it contains among other things an interesting analysis of the role that sacrifice played in forming Muammad’s life. In the field of Arabic poetry, S.P. Stetkevych247 has made some interesting anthropological and linguistic points about sacrificial ideas in pre-Islam and Islam. B.M. Wheeler248 has convincingly showed that the sacrifices during ajj belong to the inner kernel of Islam. He has also exposed how conceptions about Mecca and Eden may contribute to a better understanding of the pilgrimage rituals.249

Neither are T. Khalidi250 and F.M. Donner251 primarily concerned with the topic of sacrifice, nevertheless, their historical analyses provide important ← 38 | 39 → foundations for my study. To this duo I should add U. Mårtensson252 whose doctoral thesis and article about al-abarī and his historical writings have greatly inspired my analysis of Islamic sacrifice.

2.4.3 Discussions of the two sons and the Feast of Sacrifice, ʿīd al-aḍḥā

Within the Qurʾān the most important narrative about sacrifice is the story of Ibrāhīm in Q 37. This text has been discussed in several articles and monographs. With his immense knowledge in Qurʾānic exegesis, S. Bashear253 has thrown light on this sura, especially on the debate about Ibrāhīm’s sons, Isḥāq and Ismāʿīl. N. Calder254 has brought material from the Jewish tradition into the discussion. Likewise, N. Sinai255 has showed how Ibrāhīm and his sons are interpreted in the larger Qurʾānic context. The duo M.M. Caspi and S.B. Cohen256 have written about the tradition and history of the narrative of the aqedā (‘binding of Isaac’), in Genesis 22, its reception in ancient Judaism, and ← 39 | 40 → even the possible influence it had on the Arabian peninsula before and during the life of the prophet Muammad, and eventually its influence on the Islamic narrative. This topic is extensively analysed in theological literature.257 Comparisons between the Jewish, Christian and Islamic versions, a theme I will leave aside, are presented in many books and articles.258 R. Firestone259 and F. ← 40 | 41 → Leemhuis260 have dedicated a lot of work to the Islamic version and perception of Ibrāhīm’s near sacrifice.

Concerning other parts of the Qurʾānic texts that involve sacrificial ideas, H. Birkeland261 has contributed immensely to our understanding of Q 108. J. van Ess262 has translated many early Islamic texts into German. Although he has not written specifically about sacrifice and pilgrimage, he has nevertheless commented on some texts that are important for the Islamic and muʿtazila concept of sacrifice. His work therefore definitely deserves inclusion in this overview.

In her study of the feast of sacrifice as celebrated in France, A.-M. Brisbarre263 has contributed to the discussion not just with anthropological aspects, but also with important exegetical aspects. Additionally, she and others have edited a volume on sacrificial rituals in Islam.264 Also worthy of mention in the anthropological field are A. Hammoudi265 and M.E. Combs-Schilling,266 whose research on Islam in Maghrib has its emphasis on the Feast of Sacrifice and gender roles. M. Rashed267 has written an interesting monograph about the celebration of īd al-aḍḥā in Egypt, which also touches upon the early sources for this practice. Y. Sherwood268 has written a fascinating article about the role of Abraham’s near sacrifice viewed in the three Abrahamic religions after September 11, 2001. She emphasises for instance the understanding of self-sacrifice ← 41 | 42 → related to the terms jihād and aslama in the frame of many Islamic texts; something that is not found in my material.

2.4.4 Judicial analyses of the role of sacrifice and slaughtering in Islam

The idea of making a vow has always been important in connection with pre-Islamic and Islamic sacrifices. W. Gottschalk269 has shed considerable light on the pre-Islamic material. This is a topic which later sacrificial practice had to consider, since vows belong to the judicial aspect of both Islamic pilgrimage and sacrifice. P.R. Powers270 has analysed the connection between intention (niyya) and practice in the legal and religious ritual (ʿibadāt). The hunting and slaughtering of animals in pre-Islam and Islam is focused on in E. Graef’s study271 from 1959. In the same field, B. Andelshauser272 has written an excellent study, which, despite its subtitle “modern conditions”, contains much material about Islamic fiqh relevant to the study of ritual slaughtering in early Islam. F. Viré273 has also written extensively on the slaughtering of animals. Finally, I must mention Y. Dutton274 who has shed new light on the sacrifice as it is presented in the Mālik ibn Anas tradition.

Also literature, such as translations and commentaries, used in my text analyses, often throw light on my main topic. There is also research made on related topics that I will take into consideration. Even more extensively, I will use books of reference and encyclopaedic works in the History of religions and other related and useful areas. Some of these handle Islamic sacrifice as well, some in a provoking way such as A. Schimmel (1960) when she writes: “Even if Islam does not at all know the real term of sacrifice, there is a hint of the idea of ← 42 | 43 → merits touched to it.”275 Likewise, Robert L. Faherty in The Encyclopedia Britannica writes about Islamic sacrifice in a provoking way,

Sacrifice has little place in orthodox Islam. Faint shadows of sacrifice as it was practiced by the pre-Islamic Arabs have influenced Muslims, so that they consider every slaughter of an animal an act of religion. They also celebrate feasts in fulfillment of a vow or in thanksgiving for good fortune, but there is no sacrificial ritual connected with these festive meals. On the last day of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, animals are sacrificed; nevertheless, it is not the sacrificial rite that is important to the Muslims but rather their visit to the sacred city.276

Apparently, Faherty seems to be almost ignorant about the long and intertwined story of Pre-Islamic and Islamic sacrificial rituals that preceed the contemporary practice, and about how it has influenced our knowledge about it. When he writes that, “it is not the sacrificial rite that is important to the Muslims”, I am also wondering what his definition of ‘sacrificial rite’ is. Whereas L. Berger in his article in Religion Past and Present (2012) has a more respectful attitude to contemporary Islamic sacrificial rituals,277 R. Firestone (2004) utters his views about early Islamic sacrifice in the Encyclopedia of the Qurʾān and describes it with vast knowledge and respect.278 This is the attitude and manner I hope to exhibit in the following.

1 Rappaport 1999: 25; 259–260.

2 Rappaport died from cancer in 1997.

3 Rappaport 1999: 175.

4 Rappaport 1999: 24.

5 Lambek 2001: 248.

6 Dhib is one of the main Arabic words for ‘sacrifice’, while ʿibadāt means ‘Islamic religious rituals’.

7 Rappaport 1999: 169. This opinion is opposed to van Gennep, who uses this term of liturgical order in a more precise sense. See van Gennep (1909) 1960.

8 Lambek 2001: 248.

9 Rappaport 1999: 121.

10 Rappaport 1999: 120.

11 Rappaport 1999: inter alia 52, 107–109, 328.

12 Rappaport 1999: 107.

13 Rappaport 1999: 72–73.

14 Rappaport 1999: 83.

15 Rappaport 1999: 329.

16 Rappaport 1999: 224: “Canon – the punctiliously recurring and therefore apparently unchanging spine of liturgical order.”

17 Rappaport 1999: 106.

18 Rappaport 1999: 117.

19 Rappaport 1999: 117.

20 Rappaport 1999: 288.

21 See Qurʾān 112.

22 Rappaport 1999: 265.

23 Rappaport 1999: 265.

24 Rappaport 1999: 273.

25 Rappaport 1999: 265.

26 Rappaport 1999: 280.

27 Rappaport 1999: 281.

28 Rappaport 1999: 119.

29 Rappaport 1999: 405: “In the Holy – the union of the sacred and the numinous – the most abstract of conceptions are bound to the most immediate and substantial of experiences.”

30 Rappaport 1999: 304: “The God of Word may have first been created in the ritual that first established the truth of the Word of God. This is to suggest that the notion of the divine, like the idea of the sacred, is as old as language.” See also Rappaport 1999: 378 (on Durkheim and divinity).

31 For example Flood (1999: 5, 71, 112), who uses “sacred” and “sacredness” only when discussing Otto and Eliade, scholars to whom Rappaport (1999: 371–373) also refers.

32 Rappaport 1999: 323.

33 Rappaport 1999: 314. Italics by the author.

34 Rappaport 1999: 286. Italics by the author.

35 Rappaport 1999: 345; see also 281–282.

36 Rappaport 1999: 320–321.

37 Rappaport 1999: 321.

38 Rappaport 1999: 346–348, 353.

39 Rappaport 1999: 345.

40 Rappaport 1999: 351.

41 Rappaport 1999: 86. He (1999: 87) says further: “The term ‘analogic’ refers to entities and processes in which values can change through continuous imperceptible gradations in, for instance, temperature, distance, velocity, influence, maturation, mood, prestige and worthiness. Signals, like other phenomena, may be analogic. [...] The term ‘digital’, in contrast, refers to entities or processes whose values change not through continuous infinitesimal gradations but by discontinuous laps.”

42 Rappaport 1999: 87.

43 Rappaport 1999: 181.

44 Rappaport 1999: 225: “‘Liturgical time,’ ‘sacred time,’ ‘extraordinary time,’ is literally time out of ordinary social time, for the temporal region characteristic of mundane social interaction is vacated.”

45 Rappaport 1999: 181.

46 Rappaport 1999: 97. Van Gennep (1908) 1960; Turner 1964.

47 Rappaport 1999: 178.

48 Rappaport 1999: 179.

49 Rappaport 1999: 183.

50 Rappaport 1999: 89.

51 Rappaport 1999: 176: see also 203.

52 Among the most important works on Greek sacrifice are those by Burkert 1972 and 1983. Cavallin (2003: 49) points out that Burkert’s idea of sacrifice is implicit in the title of his book, the Killing Man (Homo Necans). “He deduces from this axiom the conclusion that violence is therefore also at the core of religious traditions, and more specifically that the sacred is derived from sacrificial killing.”

53 Evans-Pritchard 1954 and 1956.

54 Tylor (1871) 1970.

55 Robertson Smith (1889; 1901) 1927.

56 Frazer 1890–1964. Cf. Milbank 1996: 36.

57 Hubert and Mauss (1898) 1964.

58 Evans-Pritchard 1954 and 1956.

59 de Heusch 1985.

60 Chilton 1992: 13.

61 Lewis (1879) 1980: 1610.

62 Lewis (1879) 1980: 716–717. See also Seiwert 1998: 270.

63 Seiwert 1998: 270.

64 Lewis (1879) 1980: 1267.

65 Lewis (1879) 1980: 1259.

66 Seiwert 1998: 269.

67 In his interesting monograph about Vedic sacrifice, Clemens Cavallin (2003: 1, n. 1) maintains that “it is hard to draw a clear line between offering and sacrifice”. He refers to Raymond Firth who “treats sacrifice as a subtype of offering, the differentia being that sacrifice implies a substantial offering and that the resources are limited; sacrifice is thus ‘giving up something at a cost’.” Firth ([1963] 1996: 97–101) refers to “the economic and ecological contexts, and the distinction between sacrifice and offering is thus relative to factors outside the ritual realm proper”.

68 Hubert and Mauss (1898) 1964: 12.

69 Hubert and Mauss (1898) 1964: 12.

70 Lewis (1879) 1980: 1987: “victima, a beast for sacrifice adorned with the fillet (vitta), a sacrifice, victim”.

71 Lewis (1879) 1980: 894.

72 Cf. Concise Oxford Dictionary 10th edition, CD-edition.

73 Henninger 1987: 545: “Eliminatory rites, though they may include the slaying of a living being or the destruction of an inanimate object, are not directed to a personal recipient and thus should not be described as sacrifices.”

74 Hubert and Mauss (1898) 1964: 15.

75 Hubert and Mauss (1898) 1964: 10.

76 Encyclopaedia Britannica 1977, vol. 16: 128.

77 Widengren 1969: 326.

78 Pointed out by Brandt (2000: 252). She found this in Cancik-Lindemaier (1991: 47).

79 Hubert and Mauss (1898) 1964: 19–20; 25–26. See also Brandt 2000: 252–253.

80 Hubert and Mauss (1898) 1964: 10 (italics by the authors). Cf. Cavallin, who like Hubert and Mauss, has examined Vedic sacrificial rituals. He asks one main question in his monograph, namely about the efficacy of sacrifice. He understands “the efficacy of sacrifice” as “the mechanisms that enable an act to achieve a certain goal” (Cavallin 2003: 2; see also 35).

81 This idea shows the influence of van Gennep and his liminal thoughts. Rappaport is opposed to this idea. Cf. Cavallin, who says that Hubert and Mauss understand the “sacred” as “a blind force that has to be controlled” (Cavallin 2003: 41).

82 This three-phase scheme is taken from a review by Noal Mellott, written in 1983, of Hubert and Mauss (1898) 1964. Critical voices say that this model fails to clarify the distinction between the sacred and the non-sacred spheres.

83 Hubert and Mauss (1898) 1964: 95.

84 Cf. Cavallin (2003: 40), who says that “they instead analysed the internal structure and logic of sacrifice”.

85 Gladigow 2000: 87. Seiwert 1998: 268–284.

86 Cf. Gladigow 2000: 87, 104.

87 Drexler 1993: 164; quoted in Gladigow 2000: 93; my translation.

88 Gladigow 2000: 93; my translation.

89 Gladigow 2000: 93; my translation.

90 Gladigow 2000: 93; my translation.

91 Gladigow 2000: 93; my translation.

92 Cf. Gladigow 2000: 99–102.

93 Jonathan Z. Smith (1995: 22, 23–25) says that places and sacrifices have changed, for instance “from Temple to domicile, and the act of sacrifice was wholly replaced by narrative and discourse. Early rabbinic traditions [for instance M. Pesahim 10.5] talked endlessly about sacrifices no longer performed, in many cases, never experienced, and, in its ritual praxis, substituted speech for deed”.

94 My translation of Gladigow 2000: 86. Cf. Jay 1992: 147.

95 Hammoudi (1988) 1993; Combs-Schilling 1989; Brisebarre 1989 and 1998.

96 These categorisations are predominantly taken from Firth (1963) 1996: 93–109.

97 Tylor (1871) 1970.

98 Tylor (1871) 1913: vol. 1: 417–419. Tylor used the word animism (from Latin anima, soul) for the earliest form of religion, thus implying “primitive” beliefs in spirits and dead souls. See more in Bell 1997: 4.

99 Tylor (1871) 1913: vol. 2: 375. See also Drexler 1993: 18.

100 In the history of the study of religion Tylor’s animistic thesis is out-dated. Later research has shown that even hunters and collectors had an idea of a high-god, and that ideas of animistic spirits were rather the exception. Drexler shows, however, that this idea may be combined with other ideas in for instance the Afro-Brazilian cult of the Yoruba. Cf. Cavallin (2003: 36–38) who emphasises that the homage theory “implies that it is not the value of the actual thing offered which is important, but it is instead the honour given to a deity through the act of offering which is in focus”, and the abnegation theory “concentrates on the abstention from something on the part of the worshipper”. Both are developed from the gift theory.

101 Henninger 1987: 550.

102 Schmidt (1912) 1926–1955. Cavallin (2003: 47) has more on Schmidt’s theories.

103 Quoted in Henninger 1987: 550. For more on Schmidt and sacrifices of firstlings, see Cavallin 2003: 47–48.

104 Robertson Smith (1889; 1901) 1927.

105 Cf. Bell 1997: 4. Cf. Milbank, who critically states, “Robertson Smith fused such a Darwinized ‘religion of humanity’ with a liberal protestant Christianity in terms of the thematic of sacrifice. Sacrifice, he claimed, had an origin which explained all later sacrificial practice, although its origin had been lost, and survived only in ‘traces’ or ‘vestiges’ akin to redundant elements in organisms, left over from previous evolutionary phases. Hence, all historical sacrificial practice is a scene of ruination and ignorant perplexity, whose practitioners manage a heritage which they cannot comprehend. Those condemned, by decree of tradition, to slay animals on stone altars fantasize a history of original human sacrifice, sometimes a judicial punishment, which was later commuted to animal offering, although precautionary insurance dictates that such a story leads to the occasional revival of a practice which never existed” (Milbank [1996: 32–33]; he refers to W. Robertson Smith [1889; 1901] 1927: 365–368).

106 Cf. Milbank 1996: 32.

107 Robertson Smith (1889; 1901) 1927: 375–377. Cf. Cavallin 2003: 39.

108 Robertson Smith (1889; 1901) 1927: 51–52; cf. Henninger 1987: 551.

109 Bell 1997: 4.

110 Durkheim (1912; 1915) 1995.

111 Durkheim (1912; 1915) 1995: 303–329. The preceding chapter is called, “The negative cult and its functions: the ascetic rites”.

112 Cf. Beattie 1980.

113 Durkheim (1912; 1915) 1995: 330–354, 330–331, 341–342. Cavallin (2003: 42) describes Durkheim’s theories about religious notions and rites as “ways for a human community to speak about itself”. The sentence, “He becomes a person through it”, might correspond to Rappaport’s (1999) main idea expressed in the title of his monograph, Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity.

114 Durkheim (1912; 1915) 1995: 335, 346.

115 Durkheim (1912; 1915) 1995: 340.

116 Durkheim (1912; 1915) 1995: 340.

117 Durkheim (1912; 1915) 1995: 341.

118 Durkheim (1912; 1915) 1995: 353–354.

119 Durkheim (1912; 1915) 1995: 421. He ([1912; 1915] 1995: 351, 423) speaks of religion with great respect, describing it as the basis for all aspects of life even including what appears physically or morally ugly.

120 For Robertson Smith, the meal, the communio, was the only essential element of the sacrifice. In accordance with his evolutionary perspective, he maintained that offerings were a much later phenomenon than the meal. Milbank criticises Robertson Smith who claimed that “tithes were older than sacrifice and not linked to it”, and “fire was a late intrusion upon the sacrificial scene, and the savouring of smoke by the deity a later rationalization still” (Milbank 1996: 34, who refers to Robertson Smith [1889; 1901] 1927: 224–227). Cf. Durkheim (1912; 1915) 1995: 344. Robertson Smith ([1889; 1901] 1927: 242) surprisingly maintains, “All through the old history it is taken for granted that a religious feast necessarily implies a victim slain.” In (1927: 242, note 3) Robertson Smith reduces his statement and says that his friend J.G. Frazer has shown him from Wilken (Alfoeren van het eiland Beroe, p. 26) that a true sacrificial feast is made of the first-fruit of rice. Robertson Smith (1927: 242) seems to understand the eating of rice as eating the rice’s souls and thus similar to the eating of an animal victim. “Agricultural religions seem often to have borrowed ideas from the older cults of pastoral times.”

121 Durkheim (1912; 1915) 1995: 341–343. Cf. Cavallin (2003: 43), who maintains that “Durkheim did not altogether escape from the heuristic allurement of evolution, i.e. the primacy of origin”.

122 Leach 1976: 81–93.

123 Leach 1976: 95.

124 Leach 1968: 524.

125 van Baal (1976) 2003: 277.

126 van Baal (1976) 2003: 278.

127 van Baal (1976) 2003: 278. Firth ([1963] 1996: 94–99, esp. 98) also underlines this aspect of economy.

128 Carter 2003: 276 (from the introduction to van Baal’s text).

129 Carter 2003: 277 (from the introduction to van Baal’s text).

130 van Baal (1976) 2003: 281. Van Baal also makes an interesting distinction between “gifts” and “offerings”. He maintains that a gift is not a bribe but a free rendering that does not expect something in return except from protection or blessings. In the vocabulary of trade words like bribe and exchange, reciprocity and contracts are used. The vocabulary of religious sacrifice and gift-exchange, however, van Baal underlines, is different, and includes phenomena like “unbalanced reciprocity”, “obligation to give and to accept a gift”, and “turn[ing] participants into partners”. This is part of van Baal’s exchange with Tylor’s (1871) and partly van der Leeuw’s do-ut-des theory (1933; 1956).

131 Beattie 1980: 29–44.

132 Gladigow 2000: 95; my translation.

133 Gladigow 2000: 95; my translation.

134 Gladigow 1984 and 2000: 98, 104.

135 Strenski 1996: 16.

136 Jay 1992.

137 Strenski 1996: 11–12, 13–17.

138 Strenski 1996: 16.

139 Strenski 1996: 16.

140 Strenski 1996: 18. William Beers (1992) pursues an evident difference between men and women concerning sacrifice. Men sacrifice, and women do not. Influenced by Sigmund Freud, Heinz Kohut and Nancy Jay, Beers explains that unconscious maleness means to show power and prestige through sacrificial activity. “The need to sacrifice occurs when the male narcissistically invested social structures have their boundaries tested and threatened, that is, whenever self-objects intrude” (Beers 1992: 147; cf. Carter 2003: 384–394).

141 Jay 1992: 101–103, esp. 102.

142 Jay 1992: 106–111, esp. 108.

143 Combs-Schilling 1989: 223.

144 Combs-Schilling 1989: 242–243. Neuwirth (2011: 502, n. 11) also points to Combs-Schilling’s research on the role of gender and violence linked to the Islamic celebration of Abraham’s sacrifice.

145 Hammoudi (1988) 1993.

146 Hammoudi (1988) 1993: 119.

147 Hammoudi (1988) 1993: 117.

148 Hammoudi (1988) 1993: 123.

149 Hammoudi (1988) 1993: 121.

150 Hammoudi (1988) 1993: 104, 119, 185 n. 10. Cf. Combs-Schilling’s (1989: 242–243) comparison between the slaughtering of the ram and the birth of the infant. See also Evans-Pritchard 1954 and 1956, following him with Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant (1979) 1989.

151 Hammoudi (1988) 1993: 120.

152 Durkheim (1912; 1915) 1995: 341.

153 Durkheim (1912; 1915) 1995: 341. Durkheim also refers to Hubert and Mauss 1898 (French): 40–42; English translation 1964: 30–32. van Baal (1976) 2003: 278 opposes the idea of the sacredness of the gift or sacrifice.

154 Durkheim (1912; 1915) 1995: 342–343.

155 Hubert and Mauss (1898) 1964: Chapter 2. Cf. Milbank’s (1996: 38) comment in reference to Hubert and Mauss: “All sacrifice transports the person who offers it either into or out of the realm of the sacred—whose essence is deemed to consist in the pressure exerted by the social organism, embedded in a wider and more ambiguous sphere of nature or divinity.”

156 de Heusch 1976: 39.

157 Beattie 1980: 38–39.

158 Mauss (1924) 1978.

159 Mauss (1924) 1978: Foreword by Evans-Pritchard to a new English edition. This coincides with Gladigow’s emphasis on economy. The latter does not, however, mention the aesthetic element. Raymond Firth ([1963] 1996) reflects also on economic consequences and says that the development towards the use of surrogate victims could indicate an effort to mitigate a shortage of resources.

160 van der Leeuw 1920–1921.

161 van der Leeuw 1920–1921: 243. This corresponds to Durkheim’s idea of sacrifice as the “positive cult”, the life-giving ritual.

162 Leach 1976: 81.

163 Leach 1976: 81.

164 Leach 1976: 81.

165 Girard (1972) 1977.

166 Chilton (1992: 15) maintains that this is especially evident in Girard’s early book, Deceit, Desire and the Novel (1961) 1965.

167 Chilton 1992: 41. Cf. Endsjø 2003: 333–336.

168 Chilton 1992: 41.

169 Hubert and Mauss (1898) 1964: 102.

170 Durkheim (1912) 1995: 375.

171 Beattie 1980: 39.

172 All the following translations from Drexler’s text are mine. See Drexler 1993: 164–165. In his view the word ‘Opfer’ covers too many different rituals and practices. He concludes that these words are inadequate to describe practices in non-Christian religious societies.

173 Strenski 1996: 20. Luc de Heusch (1985: 23) was among the first to talk about a “sacrificial illusion” arising from the multitude of incompatible definitions of “sacrifice”. Milbank (1996: 27) refers to Detienne’s work of 1979, written before de Heusch’s article, in the following terms: “There is no such thing as ’sacrifice’, a concept which he [Detienne] thinks belongs in the rubbish dump of such other 19th century western projections as ‘totem’, ‘taboo’, ‘mana’ and ‘the sacred’” with reference to Detienne and Vernant (1979) 1989.

174 Drexler 1993: 152.

175 Burkert 1972: 182 in Drexler 1993: 152.

176 Cf. Drexler 1993: 159.

177 Drexler 1993: 166.

178 Drexler 1993: 154.

179 Turner 1967: 19.

180 Reimann 1968: 74; my translation.

181 For instance, Drexler (1993: 160–162) refers to the meal after the sacrifice as an example of solidarity with the poor. He also alludes to the fact that different groups do whatever they want with the meat, some of them giving not a single piece to the ancestors even if the sacrifice was intended for them. In contrast to van der Leeuw, according to whom “‘communio’ often is not about a ‘sacramental sacrificial meal’ with a god, but is eating with the ancestors”, Drexler (1993: 162) underlines that the sacrificial meat, connected to the Afro-Brazilian sacrifices, is often of a small amount and fairly worthless. The participants eat most of it themselves and the ancestors get only a small portion or nothing. This obviously stands in contrast to the Islamic sacrificial animals, which are generally expensive (camels and sheep) and for some people too expensive to afford.

182 Drexler 1993: 167.

183 Drexler 1993: 166–167.

184 Drexler 1993: 166.

185 Drexler 1993: 168.

186 Everything in the middle of this scheme may be sacred and profane. Drexler (1993: 167) does not distinguish between these two aspects as categorically as Hubert and Mauss do. He says that he would certainly not describe each sacrifice as a sacrificial ritual of transition.

187 Bystanders are people who participate casually in the ritual. They are characterised by their consumption-oriented attitude (Drexler 1993: 169).

188 Drexler 1993: 171.

189 Drexler 1993: 171.

190 Feelings such as anxiety arise as a result of sickness and fatalities (Drexler 1993: 171, 177; 178–179).

191 Drexler 1993: 171.

192 Evans-Pritchard 1940: 95; Rappaport 1999: 183.

193 Drexler 1993: 173. Seiwert’s article was not yet published when Drexler wrote his book in 1993, but he had apparently read the manuscript. Cf. Seiwert 1998: 269.

194 This is exemplified by the Catholic act of communion in the Holy Eucharist.

195 Rappaport 1999: 112–114. His example is a “man dubbed to knighthood”, where neither a physical nor a chemical or biological alteration takes place.

196 Seiwert 1998: 278–280.

197 Chilton 1992: 13.

198 Khalidi (1994: 30) writes that fragments of the works by ʿUrwa ibn al-Zubayr (d. 94/712), who was a nephew of ʿĀʾīsha, and his student al-Zurī (d. 124/742) are found in later writers. My earliest source, perhaps after the Qurʾān, is Ibn Isḥāq (d. 150/767) whom we only know through his editor Ibn ishām (d. 218/833). Cf. Farstad 2012.

199 See primary and secondary literature as we are delving into the coming text studies.

200 Clarke Brooke 1987. “Sacred Slaughter: The Sacrificing of Animals at the ajj and ʿĪd al-Aḍḥā”, Journal of Cultural Geography 7, 67–88. Every year there are several pilgrimage reports for instance in the Saudi-Arabian newspaper Arab News and others, bringing detailed information about all aspects of the pilgrimage.

201 Jan Hjärpe 1979. “The Symbol of the Centre and its Religious Function in Islam”, Religious Symbols and their Functions. Based on Papers read at the Symposium on Religious Symbols and their Functions held at Åbo on the 28th–30th of August 1978; ed. by Harald Biezais, Stockholm, 30–40.

202 Francis E. Peters 1994a. The Hajj: the Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. See also Peters. 1994b. Mecca: a Literary History of the Muslim Holy Land. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. Another report that has been written for a larger audience is David Edwin Long. 1979. The Hajj Today. A Survey of the Contemporary Makkah Pilgrimage. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press.

203 Juan Edvardo Campo. 1991. “Authority, Ritual, and Spatial Order in Islam: the Pilgrimage to Mecca”, Journal of Ritual Studies 5, 65–91. See also Bell 1997: 128.

204 Maurice Gaudefroy-Demombynes. 1923. Le Pèlerinage à la Mekka. Philadelphia: Porcupine Press.

205 Carl Rathjens. 1948. Die Pilgerfahrt nach Mekka. Von der Weihrauchstrasse zur Ölwirtschaft. Hamburg: Robert Mölich Verlag.

206 Jacques Jomier (1966) 1986. “Role et importance du pèlerinage en Islam”, Lumière et vie 79, 723–735.

207 A.J. Wensinck and Bernhard Lewis. 1971c. “adjdj”, EI2, vol. 3: 31–38; Wensinck. 1971d. “Irām”, EI2, vol. 3: 1052–1053; Wensinck [J. Jomier]. 1978. “Kaʿba”, EI2, vol. 4: 317–322.

208 M.M. Bravmann. 1972. The Spiritual Background of Early Islam: Studies in Ancient Arab Concepts. Leiden: Brill.

209 Suraiya Farouqhi. (1990) 2000. Herrscher über Mekka. Die Geschichte der Pilgerfahrt. Düsseldorf / Zürich: Artemis & Winkler Verlag; 1994. Pilgrims & Sultans: The Hajj under the Ottomans 1517–1683. London / New York: I.B. Tauris. The last book has an excellent bibliography on Mecca and pilgrimage.

210 Ian Richard Netton (ed.). 1993. Golden Roads: Migration, Pilgrimage and Travel in Mediaeval and Modern Islam. London: Curzon Press.

211 M.N. Pearson. 1994. Pious Passengers: The Hajj in Earlier Times. New Dehli: Sterling Publishers Private Limited.

212 Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje. 1880. Het Mekkaansche Feest. Leiden: E.J. Brill; Hurgronje. 1888. Mekka. 2 vols. The Hague. The 2nd volume is translated into English, 1931. Mekka in the Later Part of the 19th Century. Leiden: E.J. Brill.

213 Otto Baumhauer (ed.). 1965. Arabien. Dokumente zur Entdeckungsgeschichte. Band I. Einleitung von Hermann von Wissmann. Stuttgart: Henry Goverts Verlag.

214 Alan Rush (ed.). 1993. Records of the Hajj: A Documentary History of the Pilgrimage to Mecca. 10 vols. Cambridge: Archive Editions. Esp. volumes 1 and 2 are useful for early Islam in addition to the last volume 9 that presents documents and maps.

215 ʿAbās Mamūd al-ʿAqqād. 1974. “Al-aḥīyatu fī muqāranati al-idyān”, Al-majmūʿa al-kāmila, Mujallad 6, Beirut: Dār al-kitāb al-lubnānī, 83–87 [thanks to Oddbjørn Leirvik, University of Oslo, for this reference]; Andreas Kaplony. 1994. “Eine wenig bezeugte Mit-Feier des islamischen Opferfestes in Jerusalem: das ‘Vor-Gott-Stehen wie in ʿArafāt (taʿrīf)’”, Jerusalem – Visions, Phantasies and Transpositions of the Holy City. Comparison. Bern: Peter Lang, 91–108.

216 Ignaz Goldzieher. 1886. “Le sacrifice de la chevelure chez les Arabes”, Revue de l’histoire des religions 14, 49–52.

217 Julius Wellhausen. (1887) 1897. Skizzen und Vorarbeiten. Reste arabischen Heidentums – gesammelt und erläutert. Berlin: Georg Reimer Verlag.

218 William Robertson Smith. (1889) 1901. Lectures on the Religion of the Semites. London: Black.

219 Richard Bell. 1933. “The Origin of the ʿĪd al-Aḍḥā”, Muslim World 23, 117–120.

220 I will mention just a few of his most important articles: Joseph Henninger. 1942–45. “Das Opfer in den altsüdarabischen Hochkulturen”, Anthropos 37–40, 779–810; Henninger. 1948. “Le Sacrifice chez les Arabes”, Etnos 13, 1–16; Henninger. (1950) 1981. “Zur Herkunft eines islamischen Opfergebetes”, Arabica Sacra, 311–318: Henninger. 1956. “Zur Frage des Haaropfers bei den Semiten”. Sonderabdruck aus Die Wiener Schule der Völkerkunde, Festschrift zur 25jährigen Bestand 1929–1954, hrsg. von J. Haeckel, Horn-Wien, 349–368; Henninger. (1959) 1981. “Pre-Islamic Bedouin Religion”, Studies on Islam. Transl. and edited by Merlin L. Swartz. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 3–22; Henninger. 1963. “Über Frühlingsfeste bei den Semiten”, Verbo Tuo. Festschrift zum 50jährigen Bestehen des Missionspriesterseminars St. Augustin bei Siegburg / Rheinland Steyl, 375–398; Henninger. 1987. “Sacrifice”, The Encyclopedia of Religion. Mircea Eliade (ed.). vol. 12, New York / London: Macmillan Publishing Company, 544–557.

221 Charles Pellat. 1960. “ʿAthīra”. EI2, vol. 1: 739; Pellat. 1971. “Ibil”, EI2, vol. 3: 665–669; Pellat. 1981. “Dam [blood]”, EI2, suppl.: 188–191.

222 Th.W. Juynboll and J. Pedersen. 1960. “ʿAqīqa”, EI2, vol. 1: 337.

223 Dorothea Müller. 1969. “Hadith-Aussagen zum Erstlingsopfer”, Festgabe für Hans Wehr, ed. by W. Fischer, 93–96.

224 Jacqueline Pirenne. 1976. “La religion des Arabes préislamiques d’après trois sites rupestres et leurs inscriptions”, Al-Bāḥith. Festschrift Joseph Henninger, Studia Instituti Anthropos 28, St. Augustin bei Bonn, 177–217.

225 A.J. Wensinck. 1986. “Qurbān”. EI2, vol. 5: 436–437.

226 Toufic Fahd. 1966. La divination arabe. Leiden: E.J. Brill; Fahd. 1968. Le pantheon d’Arabie centrale à la veille de l’hégire. Paris: Paul Geuthner; Fahd. 1991. “Al-maysir”, EI2, vol. 6: 923–924; Fahd. 1995. “Nuub”, EI2, vol. 8: 154–155; Fahd. 1997b. Shiʿār, EI2, vol. 9: 424.

227 Gerald R. Hawting. 1982. “The Origins of the Muslim Sanctuary at Mecca”, G.H.A. Juynboll (ed.). Studies on the First Century of Islamic Society. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 23–47; Hawting. 1986. The First Dynasty of Islam. 661–750. London: Croom Helm; Hawting. 1990. “The ‘Sacred Offices’ of Mecca from Jāhiliyya to Islam, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 13, 62–84; Hawting. 1993. “The Tawwābūn, Atonement and ʿĀshūrāʾ”, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 17, 166–181; Hawting. 1994. “An Ascetic Vow and an Unseemly Oath? ‘īlā’ and ‘ihār’ in Muslim law”, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 57, 113–125; Hawting. 1997. “The Literary Context of the Traditional Accounts of Pre-Islamic Arab Idolatry”, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 21, 21–41; Hawting. 1999. The Idea of Idolatry and the Emergence of Islam: From Polemic to History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

228 Patricia Crone and Michael Cook. 1977. Hagarism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

229 Patricia Crone and Adam Silverstein. 2010. “The ancient Near-East and Islam: The case of lot-casting”, Journal of Semitic Studies 55, 423–450.

230 Robert G. Hoyland. 1997. Seeing Islam as Others Saw it: A Survey and Evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian Writings on Early Islam. Princeton N.J.: Darwin Press. Hoyland. 2001. Arabia and the Arabs: From the Bronze Age to the Coming of Islam. London / New York: Routledge.

231 James E. Montgomery. 2006. “The Empty ijāz”, J.E. Montgomery (ed.) Arabic Theology, Arabic Philosophy: From the Many to the One: Essays in Celebration of Richard M. Frank. Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 37–97.

232 Eugen Mittwoch. 1971a. “ʿīd”, EI2, vol. 3: 1007; Mittwoch. 1971b. “ʿīd al-aḍḥā”, EI2, vol. 3: 1007–1008; W. Montgomery Watt, A.J. Wensinck [C.E. Bosworth], R.B. Winder and D.A. King. 1991. “Makka”, EI2, vol. 6: 144–187; G.-H. Bousqouet. 1965. “Dhabīḥa”, EI2, vol. 2: 213–214; Joseph Schacht. 1991b. “Mayta”, EI2, vol. 6: 924–926. See also about dying camels: J. Hell [Ch. Pellat]. 1960. “Baliyya”, EI2, vol. 1: 997.

233 Gustave Edmund von Grunebaum. (1951) 1988. Muhammedan Festivals. New York: Olive Branch Press; von Grunebaum. 1962. “The Sacred Character of Islamic Cities”, Mélanges Taha Husain. Cairo, 25–37.

234 Hava Lazarus-Yafeh. 1978. “Muslim festivals”, NUMEN 25, 52–64; 1981a. “The Religious Dialectics of the adjdj”, 17–37, endnotes 136–142; 1981b. “Modern Muslim attitudes toward the Kaʿba and the adjdj: The rise of Neo-Fundamentalism in Islam”, 106–129, endnotes 163–167, both articles in Lazarus-Yafeh. 1981c. Some Religious Aspects of Islam: A Collection of Articles. Leiden: E.J. Brill.

235 Lazarus-Yafeh (1978: 56) writes, “As a matter of fact Islam does not really know of sacrificial rites and the sacrifice is more of a family meal.”

236 M.J. Kister. 1970. “‘A Bag of Meat’: A Study of an Early Hadith”, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 33, 267–275; Kister. 1971a. “Maqām Ibrahīm, a Stone with an Inscription”, Le Muséon 84, 477–491; Kister. 1971b. “‘Rajab is the Month of God...’: A Study in the Persistence of an Early Tradition”, Israel Oriental Studies I. Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv: Faculty of Humanities, 191–223; Kister. 1979. “‘Shaʿabān is my Month...’: A Study of an Early Tradition”, Studia orientalia memiae D.H. Baneth dedicata, ed. J. Blau et. al. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 15–37.

237 M.J. Kister. 1980b. “Labbayka, allāhumma, labbayka … : On Monotheistic Aspects of a Jāhiliyya Practice”, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 2, 33–57, add. notes 1–9, Kister. 1990. Society and Religion from Jahiliyya to Islam. Collected Studies Series, Hampshire / Brookfield: Variorum Reprints.

238 S.M. usain. 1937. “Talbiyāt al-Jāhilīyya”, Proceedings of the 9th All India Oriental Conference, 361–369.

239 Toufic Fahd. 2000. “Talbiya”, EI2, vol. 10: 160–161.

240 Edmond Doutté. (1909) 1984. Magie et religion dans l’Afrique du Nord. Archives de Sciences Sosiales des Religions 30, Paris: Geuthner. Popular Islamic sacrifices willnot be any major theme of my discussion.

241 Rudolf Kriss and Hubert Kriss-Heinrich. 1960. Volksglaube im Bereich des Islam. Band I: Wallfahrtwesen und Heiligenverehrung. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

242 Joseph Chelhod. 1952. “Le sacrifice Arabe nommeé ‘aiya’”, Revue de histoire des religions 142, 206–215; Chelhod. 1955. Le sacrifice chez les Arabes. Recherches sur l'evolution la nature et la function des rites sacrificiels en Arabie occidentale. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France; Chelhod. 1964. Les structures du sacré chez les Arabes. Paris : Maisonneuve (Islam d’hier et d’aujourd’hui 13); Chelhod. 1965b. “Fidya”, EI2, vol. 2, 884; Chelhod. 1971a. “Hady”, EI2, vol. 3: 53–54; Chelhod. 1971b. “awa”, EI2, vol. 3: 294; Chelhod. 1971c. “imā”, EI2, vol. 3: 393; Chelhod. 1978. “Kaffāra”, EI2, vol. 4: 406–407.

243 William A. Graham. (1983) 2010. “Islam in the Mirror of Ritual”, Islamic and Comparative Religious Studies: Selected Writings. Ashgate Contemporary Thinkers on Religion: Collected Works, Farnham: Ashgate, 86–106.

244 Nicole Grandin. 1978. “Note sur le sacrifice chez les Arabes muselmans”, Systèmes de pensée en Afrique noire 2, Michel Cartry and Luc de Heusch (eds.), 87–114.

245 Emilio Platti. 1994. “Le sacrifice en Islam”, Marcel Neusch (ed.): Le sacrifice dans les religions. Sciences théologiques & religieuses 3, Paris: Beauchesne, 157–174.

246 Uri Rubin. 1982. “The Great Pilgrimage of Muhammad: Some Notes on Sura IX”, Journal of Semitic Studies 27, 241–260; Rubin. 1986. “The Kaʿba: Aspects of its Ritual Functions and Position in pre-Islamic and Early Islamic Times”, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 8, 97–131; Rubin. 1990. “anīfiyya and Kaʿba: An Inquiry into the Arabian pre-Islamic Background of dīn Ibrāhīm”, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 13, 85–112; Rubin. 1995. The Eye of the Beholder: The Life of Muammad as Viewed by the Early Muslims. A Textual Analysis. Princeton N.J.: Darwin Press.

247 Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych. 1986. “The Rithāʾ of Taʾabba’a Sharran: A Study of Blood-Vengeance in Early Arabic Poetry”, Journal of Semitic Studies 31, 27–45; Stetkevych. 1993. The Mute Immortals Speak: Pre-Islamic Poetry and the Poetics of Ritual. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

248 Brannon M. Wheeler. 2010. “Gift of the Body in Islam: The Prophet Muhammad’s Camel Sacrifice and Distribution of Hair and Nails at his Farewell Pilgrimage, NUMEN 57, 341–388.

249 Brannon M. Wheeler. 2006. Mecca and Eden: Ritual, Relics, and Territory in Islam. Chicago / London: University of Chicago Press.

250 Tarif Khalidi. 1994. Arabic Historical Thought in the Classical Period. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

251 Fred McGraw Donner. 1998. Narratives of Islamic Origins: The Beginnings of Islamic Historical Writing. Princeton N. J.: Darwin Press; Donner. 2010. Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam. Cambridge, Mass. / London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

252 Ulrika Mårtensson. 2001. The True Testament: Sealing the Heart’s Covenant in al-Tabarī’s Taʾrīkh al-Rasul waʾl-Mulūk. Avhandling för teologie doktorexamen religionshistoria, Department of Theology, University of Uppsala, Sweden; Mårtensson. 2005. “Discourse and Historical Analysis: The Case of al-abarī’s History of the Messengers and the Kings”, Journal of Islamic Studies, 16, 287–331.

253 Suliman Bashear. 1990. “Abraham’s Sacrifice of His Son and Related Issues”, Der Islam 67, 243–277. Cf. also his important articles on early Islam; Bashear. 1992. “The Images of Mecca: A Case-study in Early Muslim Iconography”, Le muséon 105, 361–377; Bashear. 1993. “On Origins and Development of the Meaning of the Zakāt in Early Islam”, Arabica XL, 84–113; Bashear. 1997. Arabs and Others in Early Islam. Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam 8. Princeton, N.J.: The Darwin Press.

254 Norman Calder. 1988. “From Midrash to Scripture: The Sacrifice of Abraham in Early Islamic Tradition”, Le muséon 101, 375–402; Calder. 1993b. “Tafsīr from abarī to Ibn Kathīr: Problems in the Description of a Genre, Illustrated with Reference to the Story of Abraham”, Gerald R. Hawting and Abdul-Kader A. Shareef (eds.). Approaches to the Qurʾān. London and New York: Routledge, 101–140.

255 Nicolai Sinai. 2011. “The Qurʾān as process”, A. Neuwirth, N. Sinai and M. Marx (eds.). 2011. The Qurʾān in Context. Historical and Literary Investigations into the Qurʾānic Milieu. Leiden: Brill, 407–439.

256 Mishael Maswari Caspi and Sascha Benjamin Cohen. 1995. The Binding [Aqedah] and its Transformations in Judaism and Islam: The Lambs of God. Mellen Biblical Press Series 32, Lewiston / Queenston / Lampeter; Mishael Maswari Caspi. 2001. Take Now Thy Son: The Motif of the Aqedah (Binding) in Literature. Bibal Monograph Series 5, North Richland Hills, Texas: Bibal Press.

257 Only a few examples, also on related topics: J.B. Segal. 1961. “The Hebrew Festivals and the Calendar”, Journal of Semitic Studies 6, 74–94; Herbert Schmid. 1991. Die Gestalt des Isaak. Ihr Verhältnis zur Abraham- und Jakobtradition. Erträge der Forschung 274. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft; Ole Davidsen. 1995. “Om pagt, omskærelse og offer i Abrahamhistorien”, Religionsvidenskabeligt Tidsskrift 27, 79–118; Saul M. Olyan. 1998. “What Do Shaving Rites Accomplish and What Do They Signal in Biblical Contexts?”, Journal of Biblical Literature 117, 611–622; Joseph A. Fitzmeyer. 2002. “The Sacrifice of Isaac in Qumran Literature”, Biblica 83, 211–229; Lutz Richter-Bernburg. 2007. “Göttliche gegen menschliche Gerechtigkeit: Abrahams Opferwilligkeit in der islamischen Tradition”. B. Greiner, B. Janowski, H. Lichtenberger (eds.) Opfere deinen Sohn! Das ‚Isaak-Opfer’ in Judentum, Christentum und Islam. Tübingen: Francke Verlag, 243–256; Richter-Bernburg builds most of his understanding on Leemhuis 2002.

258 Herbert Schmid. 1976. “Ismael im Alten Testament und im Koran”, Judaica 32, 67–81; 119–129; Michael Krupp. 1995. Den Sohn opfern? Die Isaak-Überlieferung bei Juden, Christen und Muslimen. Gütersloh: Chr. Kaiser Gütersloher Verlagshaus; Frédéric Manns (ed.). 1995. The Sacrifice of Isaac in the Three Monotheistic Religions. Proceedings of a Symposium on the Interpretation of the Scriptures held in Jerusalem, March 16–17, 1995. Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Analecta 41, Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press; Martin B. Bourgine. 1996. “Das Opfer Abrahams in jüdischer und christlicher Auslegung: Gen 22,1–19 im Midrasch Bereschit Rabba und in den Genesis-Homilien des Origenes”, Una Sancta 4, 308–315; Lukas Kundert. 1998. Die Opferung / Bindung Isaaks. Band 1: Gen 22,1–19 im Alten Testament, im Frühjudentum und im Neuen Testament. Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Testament 78, Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag; Kundert. 1998b. Die Opferung / Bindung Isaaks. Band 2: Gen 22,1–19 in frühen rabbinischen Texten. Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Testament 79, Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag; Friedmann Eissler. 2009. “Abraham im Islam”. Christfried Böttrich, Beate Ego, F. Eissler (eds.), Abraham in Judentum, Christentum und Islam. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 116–185.

259 Reuven Firestone. 1989. “Abraham’s Son as the Intended Sacrifice (al-dhabīḥ, Qurʾān 37:99–113): Issues in Qurʾānic Exegesis”, Journal of Semitic Studies 34, 95–131; Firestone. 1990. Journeys in Holy Lands: The Evolution of the Abraham-Ishmael Legends in Islamic Exegeses. New York: State University of New York Press; Firestone. 1991. “Abraham’s Association with the Meccan Sanctuary and the Pilgrimage in the pre-Islamic and Early Islamic Times”, Le muséon 104, 359–387; Firestone. 2004. “Sacrifice”, Encyclopedia of the Qurʾān, Leiden: Brill, 516–518.

260 Fred Leemhuis. 2002. “Ibrāhīm’s Sacrifice of his Son in the Early post-Koranic Tradition”, Ed Noort and Eibert J.C. Tigchelaar (eds.) The Sacrifice of Isaac: The Aqedah (Genesis 22) and its Interpretations, Leiden: Brill, 125–139.

261 Harris Birkeland. 1956. The Lord Guideth: Studies on Primitive Islam. Oslo: Aschehoug.

262 Josef van Ess. 1991–1997. Theologie und Gesellschaft im 2. und 3. Jahrhundert Hidschra: Eine Geschichte des religiösen Denkens im frühen Islam. 6 vols., Berlin / New York: Walter de Gruyter.

263 Anne-Marie Brisebarre. 1989. “La celebration de l’ayd el-kebir en France: Les enjeux du sacrifice”, Archives de sciences sosiales de religions 34, 9–25 ; Brisbarre. 1998. La fête du mouton : Un sacrifice musulman dans l'espace urbain. Paris: CNRS Éditions.

264 Pierre Bonte, Anne-Marie Brisebarre, Altan Gokalp (eds.). 1999. Sacrifices en islam: Espaces et temps d’un rituel. Paris: CNRS Anthropologie.

265 Abdellah Hammoudi. (1988) 1993. The Victim and Its Masks. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

266 M. Elaine Combs-Schilling. 1989. Sacred Performances: Islam, Sexuality, and Sacrifice. New York: Colombia University Press.

267 Mohammed Rashed. 1998. Das Opferfest (ʿīd al-aḍḥā) im heutigen Ägypten. Islamkundliche Untersuchungen 215, Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag.

268 Yvonne Sherwood. 2004. “Binding – Unbinding: Divided Responses of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to the ‘Sacrifice’ of Abraham’s Beloved Son”, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 72, 821–861.

269 Walter Gottschalk. 1919. Das Gelübde nach älterer arabischer Auffassung. Berlin: Verlag von Mayer und Müller.

270 Paul R. Powers. 2004. “Interiors, Intentions, and the ‘Spirituality’ of Islamic Ritual Practice”, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 72, 425–459.

271 Erwin Graef. 1959. Jagdbeute und Schlachttier im islamischen Recht: Eine Untersuchung zur Entwicklung der islamischen Jurisprudenz. Bonner Orientalische Studien 7. Bonn: Selbstverlag des Orientalischen Seminars der Universität Bonn.

272 Beate Andelshauser. 1996. Schlachten im Einklang mit der Scharia: Die Schlachtung von Tieren nach islamischem Recht im Lichte moderner Verhältnisse. Sinzheim: Pro Universitate Verlag.

273 F. Viré. 1997. “Sayd”. EI2, vol. 9: 98–99.

274 Yasin Dutton. 1999. The Origins of Islamic Law: The Qurʾān, the Muwaṭṭa and Madinan ʿAmal. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press.

275 Annemarie Schimmel. 1960. “Opfer”, RGG, third ed., vol. 4, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1638–1641; 1640. German: “Selbst im Islam, der den echten Opferbegriff gar nicht kennt, klingt der Verdienst-Gedanke an.”

276 "sacrifice (religion)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 26 Feb. 2014 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/515665/sacrifice>.

277 Lutz Berger. 2012. “Sacrifice; Islam”, Religion Past and Present, vol. 11, Leiden / Boston: Brill, 392–393.

278 Reuven Firestone. 2004. “Sacrifice”, Encyclopedia of the Qurʾān, Leiden: Brill, 516–518.

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Chapter 3

The Qurʾān

3.1 Selection of texts

It is not the ambition of this chapter to provide an extensive analysis of the Qurʾānic texts on sacrifice. However, there is a need for a survey of the pertinent Qurʾānic material, and it is my intention to offer such a presentation in this chapter. The criteria for the selection of texts are that they refer to the sacrifice, the pilgrimage (ajj), the places Mecca and Mina, or to the connection between sacrifice and Ibrāhīm and/or Muammad. The selected texts are from suwar 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 17, 22, 37, 48, 58 and 108. The pericope Q 37: 99–113 is the most important; other Qurʾānic texts are, at first sight, less obviously about sacrifice. In an article about Q 37, Suliman Bashear (1990) dealt only briefly with the sūra itself.1 In his view, more interesting material was to be found in the adīth and historical reports. I will try to demonstrate that there are many elements in the Qurʾānic text(s) that are decisive for an understanding of sacrifice in early Islam,2 even if we here do not make use of adīth and tafsīr to any notable extent. Topics concerning pre-Islamic deities and practices are present in our Qurʾānic material (Q 6:136–137; 22:31; 5:3 and elsewhere).

3.2 The offering of Ibrāhīm’s son according to Q 37

3.2.1 Context of the narrative

The story about Ibrāhīm offering his son in Q 37 (al-affāt) is found in vv. 99–113. Before presenting and shortly commenting on these verses, we must take a brief look at the verses that precede and succeed them. ← 45 | 46 →

The first part of the sūra tells about the unrighteous who will be judged by Allāh, and the righteous who will go to Paradise. According to vv. 69–71 the ungodly were admonished to desist from the actions of their forefathers, but they continued in their evil ways. The only exceptions were Allāh’s true servants, his prophets, Nūḥ (Noah),3 Ibrāhīm (Abraham), Isḥāq (Isaac),4 Mūsā (Moses),5 Harūn (Aaron),6 Ilyās (Elias),7 Lūṭ (Lot)8, and Yūnūs ibn Mattā (Jonah),9 who are mentioned before and after our narrative. Ibrāhīm was an example of righteousness not only in a general sense, but in particular in virtue of averting the divinities (ālīha) “without God” (dūna Allāhi) that his father had worshipped. “He stole away to their idols and said to them: ‘Will you not eat [your offerings10]? Why do you not speak?’ With that he fell upon them, striking them down with his right hand” (v. 91).11 His opponents tried to throw him into the fire, but he looked to the sky and said that he was sick. The people left him without harming him (cf. vv. 90 and 98). ← 46 | 47 →

Following the narrative about Ibrāhīm and the near sacrifice of his son, we are told that Mūsā and Harūn were saved from “the mighty scourge”12 or “great distress”13 (al-karb al-ʿaẓīm)) (v. 115). But the prophets were given victory and the clear book, the straight path, and the praise of the later generations. “They were two of Our believing servants,”14 the Qurʾān states. In the last part of this sūra, the topics of Allāh’s potential daughters (al-banāt) and divine females (malāʾika) are brought into the text. However, the answer is clear, “Surely they lie when they declare: ‘God has begotten children’.”15 Those who maintain such errors will be punished, but the prophets will gain victory and peace.16 In other words, the link to verse 4, “Your God is one”, is underlined here. But still, the topic of ‘later generations’ (al-akhirīna and dhurriyyitihimā) is decisive (vv. 108, 113, 119 and 129). Does this also lead us to Q 108 and its emphasis on sacrifice and offspring?

3.2.2 Q 37:99–113

This narrative has been thoroughly explained in many Islamic commentaries, which I cannot take time and space to refer to here. Over the past fifteen years, Calder, Firestone, Bashear, Leemhuis and others have analysed this narrative extensively and discussed most of the exegetical material known to them.17 To some extent I will use their comments where they support or are opposed to my findings. I present two different translations of the Qurʾānic text that are both extensively used among scholars and believers. By and large these translations agree with each other despite minor differences. In some cases it is useful to compare the two. I have added an Arabic transcription in a third column.

← 47 | 48 →

← 48 | 49 →

This narrative contains few if any details of the context of the situation. It is very short and succinct in what it seeks to tell. Nothing is said about place or time. Its chronological scheme is only vague. Shaytān does not try to interfere in the Qurʾānic version.21 Nothing is said about anxiety or joy. Neither is there any mention of other relatives or persons who may have been present. A selection of key words from the narrative might include: Father Ibrāhīm and his son, who is probably not mentioned by name; a dream, vision or a call; a test; a solution, and God who has a plan for this exceptional action. A possible structure for this passage (vv. 99–113) would then be:

A Trust in Allāh, request for a righteous son; divine answer (vv. 99–101)

B Ibrāhīm’s vision and its consequences (vv. 102–105)

B.1 The time; content; father and son (v. 102)

B.2 The act (v. 103)

B.3 Allāh’s intervention (vv. 104–105)

C Characterisation of the episode: the manifest trial (v. 106)

D The response of Allāh (vv. 107–113)

D.1 Allāh releases the son by a sacrifice (v. 107)

D.2 Allāh blesses and rewards Ibrāhīm, thus securing the praise of later generations; He grants him peace and gives him the son Isḥāq (vv. 108–113)

Before I shall consider this passage in greater detail, following the above structure, I will quote Leemhuis with whom I disagree, “Obviously, this is not a usual narrative like the story in Genesis 22. It is true that the elements of a story are present, but in its form, the Koranic message is too fragmentary and the style ← 49 | 50 → too formal and elliptical to even look much like a story.”22 Verily, this is a narrative, sharp and short-cut.

A Trust in Allāh, request for a righteous son, divine answer (vv. 99–101)

Vv. 99–101 express confidence in Allāh; he will guide his servant (v. 99) and give him a son who is among the righteous (min al-aliḥīna) (v. 100). In v. 112, the same term is used of Isḥāq. This first boy is described as a ‘gentle son’ (bi-ghulmin alīmin), who does not oppose his father’s will (v. 101).23 The majestatis pluralis “we” (here in v. 101 and elsewhere) is important and lifts the narrative from the level of daily life to one of dynamic transcendence, indicating that man’s future is at stake.

B Ibrāhīm’s vision and its consequences (vv. 102–105)

B.1 The time, content, father and son (v. 102)

In verse 102a we read that the boy is “running with him”. The wording used here is the same as that which later became the term for the running between al-Marwa and al-afā, al-saʿy, which a Muslim pilgrim performs following the tawāf seven times around the Kaʿba. This ritual is mentioned in Q 2:158, where it is told that the runner will gain Allāh’s reward. This term may also have been taken over from pre-Islamic times, describing a race between the two stone deities, Nāʾila at al-Marwa and Isāf at al-afā.24 But as translated by Dawood and others, the word may well mean ‘to work’. The son “reached the age when he could work (al-saʿy) with him”.25 In this translation it is emphasised that the child is able to work physically. In Arberry’s translation, however, the emphasis is on the age of religious maturity when the child can follow an adult on the walk between al-Marwa and al-afā.26 In combination the translations express both physical and spiritual maturity.27 ← 50 | 51 →

I should also point out the continuation of v. 102a, “his father said to him: ‘My son, I dreamt that I was sacrificing you (adhbauka).’” The reference to a dream is an indicator of transcendent intervention. A dream (manām),28 a vision (ruʾaya), and a heavenly voice (nādaynā) (v. 104) are all clearly mentioned, but no other audible phenomena are referred to except for the conversation between Ibrāhīm and Allāh. The father understands the divine message and tells his son. This suggests a very close relationship between father and son, an impression that is further reinforced by the ensuing, “Tell me what you think”. The focus is on the relation between father and son, and the relation between these two and Allāh. In these relations there is complete harmony; both father and son obediently accept the sacrifice. This intimate relationship possibly stands as a compensation for Ibrāhīm’s break with his own father – and his deities – described in the earlier narrative of sūra 37:83–96.29

The son is eager to obey his father: “He replied, ‘Father, do as you are bidden. God willing, you shall find me steadfast (min al-abirīn).’”30 Wensinck ← 51 | 52 → maintains that this term means ‘being among the patient ones’, but it is often connected with the status of an intended sacrifice. It means ‘to restrain or bind’, “thence qatalahu abran ‘to bind and then slay someone’. The slayer and the slain in this case are called ṣābir and mabūr respectively”.31 This indicates that this narrative may have suggested the image of a martyr at the point where the boy bows down, although the text does not use the term shāhid. Consequently, ‘steadfast’, used in the translations of both Dawood and Arberry, is too weak. It would be better to translate, ‘restrained’, ‘deprived of freedom’, ‘bound’, or ‘submissive’, as Calder suggests.32

There are suggestions of making a vow in the form of the son’s saying, “do as you are bidden” (v. 102b), and “You have fulfilled your vision” (v. 105), but no explicit term for an oath appears.33 This may have led to the importance of making a vow and having the right intention (niyya) before the ajj rituals. The later v. 106 about the ‘bitter test’ may also indicate that the father was severely tested by his vision and his son’s words to him.

B.2 The act (v. 103)

Both father and son surrender to Allāh’s will. They surrender (aslamā), a word that has become the Islamic term for obedience.34 Ibrāhīm “laid down his son prostrate upon his face (li-jabīni)”. The latter term occurs only here in the Qurʾān. Hence, Calder does not translate the word, but leaves it in Arabic. However, following Hebrew and other Arabic sources, he explains that the word can be taken to mean ‘a hill’, “the place where the sacrifice takes place”.35 ← 52 | 53 → Personally, I find this unconvincing. The ritual of submitting to God does, however, have a corresponding expression in the Islamic prayer ritual (alat) and prostration (rakʿa).36

B.3 Allāh’s intervention (vv. 104–105)

At the climactic point of the narrative, when Ibrāhīm is about to irrevocably fulfil the sacrifice of his son by killing him, Allāh suddenly intervenes and stops him, calling him by name and declaring that Ibrāhīm has already confirmed or fulfilled (qad addaqta) the vision (al-ruʾuya) (v. 105) – rather than the dream, which was the term used in v. 102a. This second derivation of the stem -d-q points to ‘a belief in something’; it is ‘an acceptable and verified’ message. Additionally, the root -d-q is the same as that of the word for ‘alms’ and ‘gift of mercy’ (adaqa).37 In the sentence, “Thus do We reward (najzī) the righteous (al-musinīna)”,38 the verbal (najzī), from the stem j-z-y, is used. It has the same consonant root as in jizya, which has become the main word for ‘tribute’, one of the Islamic five pillars (rukun). Nevertheless, it occurs only once as a noun in the Qurʾān (9:29).39 This sentence is repeated five times in sūra 37 (vv. 80, 105, 110, 121, 131) and makes an interesting regular pattern for the reward of those who are musin. Calder calls this sentence “a formulaic locution, peculiarly appropriate to the life of Abraham, and adapted here to a particular context, ← 53 | 54 → rhyme, scheme etc.”40 The sentence is also combined with another sentence, “he is one of our believing servants” (min ʿibādinā l-muʾimīn),41 except in v. 105, where Ibrāhīm is rewarded, playing the main role. This leads us to a consideration of the connection between the intended sacrifice, the gift of mercy and the tribute.42

C Characterisation of the episode: “the manifest trial” (v. 106)

In one way, Ibrāhīm is only one among many “righteous” prophets. However, we can infer from the more specific and detailed description given to him in Q 37that he is granted a much more prominent position than most of the others. One thing that indicates this among the biographical details in this passage is the characterisation of the near sacrifice as “the manifest trial” (al-balāʾ al-mubīn).43 In the Qurʾānic text nothing is said about what the test really was. Was his loyalty to Allāh tested? Or did Allāh demand the sacrifice from Ibrāhīm? No other trials are mentioned here, but commentaries and later narrative details in sūra 37 introduce more ideas of the tests Ibrāhīm was subjected to. Firestone emphasises al-abarī's idea that this test, balāʾ, “was one of a series of tests that Abraham had to pass in order to merit being a patriarch of Islam”.44 Further, Firestone points at the connection al-abarī and others make between balāʾ and Q 2:124: “Remember that Abraham was tried by his Lord with kalimāt which he fulfilled.”45

D The response of Allāh (vv. 107–113)

D.1 Allāh releases the son by a sacrifice (v. 107)

Q 37:107 is the only place in the Qurʾān where the noun dhib, ‘a sacrificial victim’, occurs. This stem dh-b- is used in two other suwar as well, viz. Q 5:3, ← 54 | 55 → dhubia ʿalā l-nuubi (‘it was slaughtered at a sacrificial stone’),46 and Q 2:71, dhabaḥūhā (‘they slaughtered or sacrificed her [the cow]’). In Q 37:102a this root is used in the first person imperfect and with the suffix ka, you, adhbauka, which then means, ‘I will offer you’. The dhib (sometimes called dhabīḥa, which is not used here)47 must be slaughtered according to a strict ritual known as dhakāʾa, i.e. ‘cutting the animal’s two external jugular veins’, the wadajān (dualis) awdāj (plural), or ‘cutting the throat, from beneath, at the part next to the head’. Dhakāʾa differs from al-nar that is cutting “in the pit above the breast, between the collar-bones, where the camels are stabbed”.48

But in our passage nothing is said about how the slaughtering takes place. The term is used but not explained. However, the sacrifice is not a ‘normal’ dhib; it is a dhib ʿaẓīm, a mighty sacrifice (v. 107).49 This combination occurs only here.50 The mighty sacrifice is not necessarily a ram, but also a camel be slaughtered. An interesting tradition maintains that this ram is the same as the ram that Adam’s son sacrificed.51 The animal is not mentioned in the Qurʾānic passage prior to the occurrence of any specified physical action. There is no ← 55 | 56 → knife, table or altar; the only things that are specified are a vision and two obedient males in a position of surrender. The dhib ʿaẓīm is, however, suddenly present and seems utterly different from the son. This major event is not accompanied by exclamations or astonishment. There is no explanation of why and how this dhib ʿaẓīm suddenly comes forward. It appears just at the right moment and in the right place. The dhib is connected to the verbal with the exalted ‘we’, “We ransomed him” (fadaynāhu). Fadaynāhu and dhib constitute the two sacrificial terms in this text.

Concerning the verbal root f-d-y, Lane states that the background is uncertain. It may well have been used, but not exclusively, among the Arabs connected to the pre-Islamic institution of al-imā, which was a closed field where animals were kept for religious reasons and in order to protect the animals’ health.52 Lane gives examples of different uses of this verbal in conjunction with a pronominal prefix: ‘he gave his ransom’, ‘he gave a thing or a captive for him, and so liberated him’, ‘he liberated him, or ransomed him [from captivity]’, ‘he loosened him, or set him free, and took his ransom’, and, ‘giving a man and taking a man [in exchange]’, or ‘the preserving a man from misfortune by what one gives by way of compensation for him’.53 Lane renders v. 107 as follows: “And we made an animal prepared for sacrifice to be a ransom for him, and freed him from slaughter.”54 ← 56 | 57 →

N. Sinai states that the rendering of the Abrahamic narrative and the surrounding verses in Q 37 want to emphasise “the miraculous assistance that God gives to his ‘sincere servants’”.55 Ibrāhīm is clearly reckoned as one of these servants. Sinai also convincingly writes that there are structural and thematic connections between this narrative and the narrative about Ibrāhīm and the guests who announced to him the good message (tabshīr) of having a son “endowed with knowledge” (Q 51:24ff; 28).56 In Q 37:107, we have seen that this promise was tested but in due time, it was fulfilled. Such abruptions of God’s promises, in this case it was called an abrogation (nash) of the Qurʾān, were to be considered as a dilemma by the Muslim juridical scholars; God ordered Ibrāhīm to sacrifice his son but He obviously found another solution and saved the boy’s life.57

D.2 Allāh blesses and rewards Ibrāhīm, thus securing the praise of later generations; He gives him the son Isḥāq (vv. 108–113)

We do not know from this narrative whether the father had only one son. We do not know whether he would have any descendants if this son were killed. When the son is released, the next topic of the narrative is: ‘later generations’, ‘folk’, ‘seed’ (dhurriyya [v. 113]58 and al-akhirīna [vv. 108, 119 and 129]). This indicates that the focus of the story is offspring as an abundant blessing from Allāh, a theme of great importance for human and religious (Islamic) life as a whole.

The prospective heirs fall into two groups, the “righteous” (musinīna) (vv. 105 and 113) and the “self-wrongers” (ẓālim) (v. 113). The patient and pious boy willing to be sacrificed is opposed to these “manifest self-wrongers”, the unjust and the sinners.59 The same phrase used in v. 105 is repeated here in v. 110, “Thus do We reward the righteous”, followed in v. 111 by the additional sentence of reverence, “He was one of Our believing servants”. ← 57 | 58 →

One offspring in this narrative is Isḥāq who is called the “blessed” in v. 113.60 Was he then the son who was brought to the sacrificial place and eager to be offered? Or was the intended sacrifice his brother Ismāʿīl, who is not mentioned by name here at all? As will be evident from the ensuing chapters, the Islamic exegesis has been preoccupied with this topic ever since the writing of the Qurʾān.

Firestone is one among recent Western scholars who observes that the name of the intended sacrifice is never mentioned in Q 37.61 He says that the Qurʾān is not interested in sacred genealogy, as the Bible is.62 Both sons are, however, identified as prophets. In Q 19:54, Ismāʿīl is characterised as a righteous man (ṣādiq), a messenger (rasūl) and a prophet (nabī), but without any reference to him as the intended sacrifice. Isḥāq is called “one of the righteous” by means of a different term (al-aliḥīna), and a prophet (nabī) (Q 37:112). Ismāʿīl is associated with the building of the Kaʿba together with his father Ibrāhīm (Q 2:127). Isḥāq, however, is mentioned more often than Ismāʿīl in the Qurʾān (17 times compared to 12). Firestone maintains that later adīth and qiā al-anbiyāʾ literature recounts this story and tries to fill some of the gaps that the Qurʾān leaves open.63 Bashear’s comments concerning the two sons in this sacrificial narrative are valuable.64 He evaluates most adīth and tafsīr in order to see which role the different traditions and isnāds seek to emphasise. But, as mentioned above, Bashear does not discuss the Qurʾānic text as such.65 ← 58 | 59 →

3.2.3 Some episodes linked to the portrait of Ibrāhīm Q 17:31–33 and Q 6:136–137, “You shall not kill

The context in Q 17 uses words relating to avariciousness and wealth. The believer is asked to give richly to near kin and to the destitute and wayfarers. Then “God gives abundantly to whom He will and sparingly to whom He pleases” (v. 30). The text continues,

31. You shall not kill your children (awlādakum) for fear of want. […] To kill them is a great sin.

32. You shall not commit adultery, for it is foul and indecent.

33. You shall not kill any man (al-nafsa) whom God has forbidden (arrama llāhu) you to kill, except for a just cause (illā bi-l-aqqi). If a man is slain unjustly, his heir shall be entitled to satisfaction. But let him not carry his vengeance too far, for his victim will in turn be assisted and avenged.66

The question is whether these prohibitions are ever brought into connection with Q 37 and the narrative about Ibrāhīm nearly sacrificing his son. Is Ibrāhīm’s near sacrifice a “just cause” (illā bi-l-aqqi)? If not, it would be possible to imagine that his son’s relatives – mother and brothers – would avenge this killing. Q 17:33 would give the right (ulṭān) to avenge the unjust murder of a close relative. This prohibition is also mentioned in sūrat al-anʿām, known as “The Cattle”, Q 6:136–137. But there, it is connected to the customs of killing children in pre-Islam, what is said to “ruin” and “confuse” those believing in Allāh, and, consequently, this becomes a warning to them.

136. They set aside for God a share of their produce (al-arth) and of their cattle (al-anʿām), saying, “this is for God” – so they pretend – “and this for our idols (shurakāʾihim).” Their idols’ share does not reach God, but the share of God is wholly given to their idols. How ill they judge!

137. Their idols have induced many pagans to kill their children (qatala awlādihim), seeking to ruin them and to confuse them in their faith (dīnahum). Had God pleased they would not have done so. Therefore leave them to their false inventions.67

Here we hear about the pre-Islamic traditions of giving donations from agriculture to God and deities other than Him. It is an uneven relation between them. The sentence “Their [idols’] share does not reach God (fa-lā yailu ilā Allāhi), but the share of God is wholly given to their idols (shurakāʾihim)” underlines this fact.

In the following passage (from Q 6:141) it is emphasised that Allāh is the creator of all animals and plants, and the order of nature is regulated in pairs of ← 59 | 60 → animals (vv. 143–144). Although the sūra is called ‘The Cattle’, this passage is ambivalent concerning their use as offerings, probably because such offerings were made to deities other than Allāh. The worst example of this is the demand of the deities to kill (qatalū) children (vv. 137 and 140). This action is characterised as “ruinous”, “confused” and a “false invention”. Not quite as serious but almost so, according to this text, are regulations concerning cattle and crops that God does not accept because His name (ism Allāhi) is not invoked over them (v. 138); i.e., they were given to deities other than God. This is condemned as an “invented lie”. Quite possibly the killing of children was a sacrificial act in pre-Islamic times, a practice that was subsequently condemned. In this respect, it is interesting that the passage is followed by regulations concerning prohibited and accepted food in Islamic times. Q 3:96–97a, Ibrāhīm’s religion and signs

This passage is only loosely concerned with sacrifice, yet it contains terms denoting symbols and signs involved in the sacrificial ritual. Ibrāhīm’s religion (millat)68 is described as the example to be followed. His principle virtue consists in his denial of divinities other than Allāh. He was a anīf. The text continues,

96. The first temple (bayt) ever to be built for mankind was that at Bakkah, a blessed site, a beacon (hudan) for the nations (li-l-ʿalamīna).

97a. In it there are veritable signs (ayā bayyana) and the spot where Abraham (maqām ibrāhīm) stood. Whoever enters it is safe (amin). Pilgrimage to the House (ajj al-bayt) is a duty to God for all who can make the journey. As for the unbelievers, God can surely do without them.69

The two symbols of guidance, hudan70 and ayā,71 attest the divine presence and accompany and testify to the work of the Prophets connected to the pilgrimage. ← 60 | 61 → The claim here is that in the House of God one finds “veritable signs (ayā bayyana)”.72 Q 6:162, Prayer and service of sacrifice

In Q 6:161 Ibrāhīm appears as the main character. He is not only the follower of the one god, Allāh, but also linked to one of the most important utterances all Muslims are supposed to pronounce, “My prayers and my devotions (alāti wa-nusuki), my life and my death, are all for God” (v. 162).73 Here there is a connection between prayer and devotions, or prayer and “my service of sacrifice”, as Ali translates.74 Later, we will see that the connection between prayer and other ritual elements is emphasised in many aspects of Islamic pilgrimage and ritual life. Concerning Dawood’s translation of nusuk as ‘devotions’, it should be mentioned that in Q 2:196 the same word is often translated as ‘sacrifice’ or ‘offerings’. This is the only place in the Qurʾān where the term nusukī, ‘my sacrifices’, is used.75 Probably this refers to the attitude of devotional ritual, whether in the context of prayer or of sacrifice.

Immediately prior to the verse just quoted, the believer is reported to say, “My Lord has guided me to a straight path, to an upright religion, to the faith of saintly (hanif) Abraham, who was no idolater” (v. 161).76 In combination these two verses suggest a possible connection between Muammad’s view of his own role compared to that of Ibrāhīm – both were leaders along the straight path. Additionally, the monotheist Ibrāhīm had the important task of combining prayers with sacrifice, as they are understood to have been combined in the first ajj.

3.3 Other texts

3.3.1 Sacrificial rituals Q 22:26–35, Sacred rites and animals

Sūra 22 is called ‘the Pilgrimage’ (al-ajj) and contains a couple of passages that are important for the understanding of the sacrificial ritual and sacrificial ← 61 | 62 → animals. In v. 25 Allāh is said to have established the sacred mosque (al-masjid al-arām), which he gave to all mankind. This house is mentioned later, but then as “My House” (baytiya) (v. 26) and “the old house” (bayt al-ʿatīq) (vv. 29 and 33). Ibrāhīm was placed there and is presented as an example of someone with the right belief. He and other visitors are supposed to keep Allāh’s House clean (ahhir) for those who make the walk (li-l-aʾifīna),77 who stand (al-qāʾmīna), prostrate themselves (al-rukkaʿa) and fall down (al-sujūd) (v. 26). These four expressions are all Islamic ritual terms known from the later pilgrimage and prayer ritual. The pilgrims are described as coming on foot and on skinny animals (camels) (ḍāmir)78 (v. 27).

28. They will come to avail themselves of many a benefit, and to pronounce on the appointed days (ayyām maʿalūma) the name of God over the cattle (al-bahīmat l-anʿān) which He has given them for food. Eat of their [flesh], and feed the poor and the unfortunate (wa-aʿimū l-bāʾīsa l-faqīra).

29. Then let the pilgrims spruce themselves (thumma li-yaqḍū tafathahum),79 make their vows (wa-li-yūfū nudhūrahum), and circle the Ancient House.

30. Such is God’s commandment. He that reveres the sacred rites of God (wa-man yuʿaẓẓim urumāti Allāhi) shall fare better in the sight of his Lord. The flesh of cattle is lawful to you (wa-uillat lakum al-anʿām), except for that which has been specified before. Guard yourselves against the filth of idols (al-rijsa min al-awthān); and avoid all falsehoods.

31. Dedicate yourselves to God, and serve none besides Him. The man who serves other deities besides God is like him who falls from heaven and is snatched by the birds or carried away by the wind to some far-off region. Even such is he.

32. He that reveres (yaʿaẓẓim) the offerings made to God (shaʿāʾira llāhi) shows the piety of his heart (fa-innamā min taqwā l-qulūbi).

33. Your cattle are useful to you in many ways until the time of their slaughter (ilā ajalin musamman).80 Then they are offered for sacrifice at the Ancient House. ← 62 | 63 →

34. For every community (umma) We have ordained a ritual (manāsik), that they may pronounce the name of God over the cattle (bahīma l-anʿām) which He has given them for food. Your God is one God; to Him surrender yourselves. Give good news to the humble,

35. whose hearts are filled with awe at the mention of God; who endure adversity with fortitude, attend to their prayers, and bestow in charity (yunfiqūna)81 of that which We have given them.82

This passage mentions many different aspects of ritual life. Pilgrims are supposed to purify themselves and to perform the rituals and the corresponding ablutions. They are asked to make their promises, walk around the House (v. 29), and to pray and show charity (v. 34). They must also revere (yuʿaẓẓim) the rites of Allāh (vv. 30 and 32). The verb yuʿaẓẓim is second derivation from the root ʿ--m, and of the same root as ʿaẓīm, the adjective used to describe the sacrifice in Q 37:107. It is a word with a wide range of meanings, some connected to ‘honour’, others to nouns like ‘charms’ and ‘spells’.83 Here it no doubt has the meaning ‘honour and awe’ (cf. v. 35).

The text uses two different terms for these rites, urumāti Allāhi (v. 30) and shaʿāʾir Allāhi (v. 32).84 Arberry translates urumāti as ‘the sacred things of God’, and shaʿāʾir as ‘God’s waymarks’,85 thus underlining the aspect of sacred guidance in these terms. The root sh-ʿ-r combines different meanings: ‘to be known; symbols or signs; hair; poetry; cultic shrine; falseness, feelings’.86 Thus ← 63 | 64 → the root carries interesting connotations in addition to the main meaning, ‘symbol’. Paret says that here shaʿāʾir means the sacrificial animals that the pilgrims took with them on their pilgrimage to Mecca.87 These signs can be placed in the same group as “the clear signs” (ayātin bayyinātin) that God sent (v. 16). He who follows this guidance (v. 16) and reveres these rites or signs “shall fare better in the sight of his Lord” (v. 30), and “shows the piety of his heart” (v. 32).

The animals allowed for sacrifice and intended as signs are cattle (al-anʿām and al-bahīma al-anʿām) (v. 30). Cows are prohibited unless the name of Allāh is pronounced over them (v. 34). The usefulness of these animals – at certain times – is obviously connected with daily needs, such as milk, wool and transportation. It is not clear whether the pluralis majestatis demands a ritual (manāsik) to be performed by all communities or only by all Muslim communities.88 Neither is it obvious whether these rituals are the same or different from each other (v. 34). The sacrifices, or rites,– are necessary in order to achieve acceptance from Allāh. He has given and wants something in return, their commitment (v. 35). The text emphasises that he wants people who surrender and are humble, in other words, people who are sincere Muslims.

Firestone says that Ibrāhīm is “recalled” in this context because the story about his life was important in order to “emphasize to Muammad the Kaʿba’s originally pure state as a shrine to the one God”, and Muammad should “refrain from associating any other divinity with God and to purify the original monotheistic shrine from the corruption of the many idols there.”89 Firestone adds that the Qurʾān links Ibrāhīm with the sacred sites in Mecca and thus relates it to pre-Islamic associations.90 Dawood’s translation at this point, “Then they are offered for sacrifice at the Ancient House” (thumma maillahā ilā bayti al-ʿatīq)91 is inaccurate. A better rendering would be “their [or its] sacrificial place (mailla) [is] at the ancient house”. ← 64 | 65 → Q 22:36–38, “Their flesh and blood does not reach God

This passage follows immediately after the former discussion in Q 22:26–35 about the different animals suitable for sacrifice and accentuates a strong warning against an apparently tempting misapprehension of sacrifice (v. 37).

36. We have made the camels a part of God’s rites (wa-l-budna jaʿalnāhā lakum min shaʿāʾir Allāh). They are of much use to you. Pronounce over them the name of God as you draw them up in line (awāffa) [and slaughter them]; and when they have fallen to the ground eat of their flesh and feed the poor and destitute. Thus have We subjected them to your service (sakhkharnāhā lakum), so that you may give thanks.92

37. Their flesh (lan yanāla Allāh luumūhā) and blood does not reach God (wa-lā dimāʾuhā); it is your piety (al-taqwā) that reaches Him.93 Thus has He subjected them to your service (ka-dhalika sakhkharahā lakum), so that you may give glory to God for guiding you (li-tukabbirū Allāha ʿalā mā hadanakum). Give good news to the righteous (wa-bashshiri al-musinīna).

38. God will ward off evil from true believers. God does not love the treacherous (khawān) and the thankless (kafūr).94

In the next verse follows a statement that victory is reserved for those who take up arms when they are attacked (v. 39). This suggests that the whole passage may have been used to motivate the udaibiya expedition. Q 22:32 and 36 describe the camels (budna) an integral part of the offerings made to God or God’s symbols (shaʿāʾir illāh)95, and the person that shows the piety of his heart (v. 32). Additionally, cows are said to be “useful in many ways until” their limited time, when they were sacrificed at the Kaʿba (v. 33). The first verse in the section to be discussed here (v. 36) is also positive about sacrifice. The camels will be lined up (awāffa) in order to be seen and admired as the best gift for God.96 These animals are then described as being turned on their sides (wajabat wujūbuhā); this is probably the position in which they lay after the killing. It is not mentioned how many animals are required, but meat of camels was obviously attractive. The food was not only for those who did the slaughtering; it was supposed to be distributed generously among those who begged and those who did not. The division is not described in greater detail.

In spite of the initial positive statement, the ensuing verses are extremely critical. Neither flesh nor blood (luumūhā wa-lā dimāʾuhā) reaches God even if ← 65 | 66 → the opposite was claimed just a few sentences before.97 It is interesting that the verbal yanāla contains an element of “being acceptable to”.98 The same verbal is used in Q 7:35–37 where the terms for signs (ayāt) (and not shaʿāʾir as here in this passage), piety (taqwā) and something good are combined in a way that parallels the use of “reaching them (yanāluhu)” in Q 22:37.99 It is assumed that a person’s piety (taqwā) is the only thing acceptable to Allāh (yanāluhu). Izutsu translates taqwā with ‘pious fear’ and shows that the word is almost synonymous with ‘faith’ or ‘devotion’.100 Neuwirth underlines that v. 37 is forever tabooing a connection between Islamic sacrifice and “eine Sühne-Handlung”, even if Islam knows the sacrifice of kaffara.101

The denial of intercession and ransom is also touched on in Q 5:36 (39). But there, it is only related to the disastrous fate of non-Muslims. Their potential sacrifice or self-made redemption is not acceptable to Allāh.

As for the unbelievers (kafarū), if they offered all that the earth contains and as much besides to redeem themselves (li-yaftadū) from the torment of the Day of Resurrection (min ʿadhābi yawm l-qiyāma),102 it shall not be accepted from them (mā tuqubila minhum). Theirs shall be a woeful punishment. (Q 5:36)103 Q 2:67–73, Mūsā sacrifices a cow

The narrative in sūra 2 about Mūsā104 concerns Allāh, Mūsā and the children of Israel. Mūsā received “the Scriptures and knowledge of right and wrong” (v. 53). He was given manna in the desert (v. 57) and received water – twelve springs – after striking a rock with his stick (v. 60). The people of Mūsā ← 66 | 67 → “disbelieved (yakfurūna) God’s signs (ayāti Allāhi)” (v. 61). These signs are mentioned once more in v. 73, and thus connected to the guilt of manslaughter mentioned in v. 72.

67. When Moses said to his people: ‘God commands you to sacrifice a cow (inna Allāha yaʾamurukum an tadhbuḥū baqaratan),’ they replied: ‘Are you making game of us?’105 ‘God forbid that I should be so foolish (min al-jāhilīna)!’106 he rejoined.

68. ‘Call on your Lord,’ they said, ‘to make known to us what kind of cow she shall be.’ He replied: ‘Your Lord says, “Let her be neither an old cow nor a young heifer, but in between (innahā baqaratun lā fāriun wa-lā bikurun ʿawānun bayna dhālika).” Do, therefore, as you are bidden.’

69. ‘Call on your Lord,’ they said, ‘to make known to us what her colour (lawnuhā) shall be.’ He replied, ‘Your Lord says: “Let the cow be yellow (afrāʾ), a rich yellow (fāqiʿ) pleasing to those that see it.”’

70. ‘Call on your Lord,’ they said, ‘to make known to us the exact type of cow she shall be; for to us cows look all alike. If God wills we shall be rightly guided.’

71. Moses replied: ‘Your Lord says: “Let her be a healthy cow (musallama), not worn out with ploughing the earth or watering the field; a cow free from any blemish (lā shiyata fīhā).”’ ‘Now you have told us all,’ they answered. And they slaughtered a cow [her] (fa-dhabaḥūhā), after they had nearly declined (kādū yafʿlūna).107

72. And when you slew a man and then fell out with one another concerning him, God made known what you concealed. We said: ‘Strike him with a part of it.’ Thus God restores the dead to life and shows you His signs (ayātihi), that you may grow in understanding.108

The cow to be sacrificed should be neither old (fāri) nor a young heifer (bikur), but in between (v. 68).109 The term fāri is only found here in the Qurʾān and means ‘an old cow’, while bikur means ‘a virgin’ or ‘a young heifer’, i.e. a cow that has not yet born a calf, or that has born only one calf.110 Is this a reflection of the notion of the ideal balance? The cow has to be yellow (afrāʾ), rich yellow (fāqiʿ)111 (v. 69), healthy (musallama)112 and free from any blemish (lā shiyata ← 67 | 68 → fīhā) (v. 71). Mūsā acted on a command from Allāh. But the reaction of Mūsā’s audience was negative: they accused him of being ignorant and of possibly belonging to the people of the ‘time of ignorance’ (min al-jāhilīna). It is not clear whether this sacrifice is an accepted Islamic sacrifice or not. Even if Allāh ordered it, the whole narrative seems vaguely unreal and infused with disbelief. The story is a parallel to the narrative about the reactions Muammad met with when he first started his preaching in Mecca (Q 96). The style of the text is almost ironical, as if the audience or the reader would not know what a heifer looks like. After the detailed prescriptions Mūsā’s audience followed Allāh’s command and sacrificed the cow (dhabaḥūhā). The text does not tell the reason for the near failure of the ritual, but underlines the Islamic aspect of Allāh as the only one who can resurrect life.

In this text slaughter has a double significance; on the one hand, it provides meat, but, on the other, it can also be explained in more religious terms. The sacrifice of the cow seems to have been performed as a compensation – a ransom – for the manslaughter committed by Mūsā (Q 20:40). The touch of some of the heifer’s flesh induces Allāh’s resurrection of the dead. Thus, the murder was indirectly exchanged for life. Q 5:1–4, Permitted and non-permitted animals

This passage is said to contain the last verses Muammad received during his first and last hajj in the year 10 AH.113 The text is therefore an important witness of one stage in the development of the pilgrimage, even more so, since the context in which the verses appear was probably a speech to the pilgrims. It mentions some traditions that are pre-Islamic and now forbidden in Islam.

1. Believers, be true to your obligations (awfū b-il-ʿuqūdi). It is lawful (uillat) for you to eat the flesh of all beasts (bahīma l-anʿāmi)114 other than which is hereby announced for you. Game (al-ayd) is forbidden while you are on pilgrimage (w-antum urum). God decrees what He will.

2. Believers, do not violate the rites of God (shaʿāʾir Allāh) or the sacred month (wa-lā al-shahra l-arām), or the offerings (wa-lā l-hadā) or their ornaments (wa-lā l-qalāʾida), or those that repair (lā āmmīna) to the Sacred House seeking God’s grace and pleasure. Once your pilgrimage is ended, you shall be free to go hunting. ← 68 | 69 →

3. You are forbidden carrion (urrimat ʿalaykumu l-maytahu), blood (al-dam), and the flesh of swine (lam l-khinzīri); also any flesh dedicated to any other than God (wa-mā uhilla li-ghayri llāhi bihī). You are forbidden the flesh of strangled animals (al-munkhaniqa) and of those beaten or gored to death (al-mawqūdha); of those killed by a fall (al-mutaraddiya)115 or mangled by beasts of prey (al-naṭīḥa) (unless you make it clean by giving the death-stroke yourselves); also of animals sacrificed to idols (wa-mā dhubia ʿalā l-nuub). [You are forbidden] to settle disputes by consulting the Arrows (an tastaqismū bi-l-azlāmi). That is a pernicious practice. […]

4. They ask you what is lawful to them. Say: ‘All good things are lawful to you, as well as that which you have taught the birds and beasts of prey to catch, training them as God has taught you. Eat of what they catch for you, pronouncing upon it the name of God. And have fear of God: swift is God’s reckoning.’116

The obligations (al-ʿuqūd) mentioned in this text may well relate to the pilgrimage.117 If we compare these verses to Q 5:95–96, there is an obvious correspondence. It is forbidden to hunt in the status of irām during the ajj, although fishing is allowed.118 Allāh has made the sacrificial animals hady119 and qalāʾid (plural of qilāda). Neither is the status of these animals described nor how they serve man.120 Paret maintains that the sacrificial animals were decorated with qilāda around the neck, a symbolic sign or ornament that accounts for the name qalāʾid being given to the animals themselves. Hence, he does not distinguish this term from the term hady. V. 1 has a parallel in Q 2:173 and is also briefly reflected in Q 16:115a: “He has forbidden you carrion (mayta), blood (dam), and the flesh of swine; also any (flesh) consecrated other than in the name of God.”121 The practice of collective slaughtering, and the cutting off of a part of an animal or the removal of its skin is condemned.122 In Q 6:145 we encounter several similar divine rules regarding food. Here it is said that the al-mayta, self-dead meat and carrion, running blood, the flesh of swine and any flesh that has been consecrated to gods other than Allāh are unclean (rijs). Any other food is permissible for consumption. In the same category as ← 69 | 70 → blood is anything that is poured forth or shed (dam masfūḥ).123 The flesh of swine is also mentioned as impious and sinful (fisqan).124 In addition, the same rule is emphasised forbidding the use of anything over which the tasmiyya has not been uttered.125 The time for these activities is the so-called “sacred month” (also Q 2:194), but it is not stated which of the sacred months the reader should take this to be. In other words, whether the text points to the only month mentioned in the Qurʾān, that of Ramaḍān,126 or one of the four “sacred months” of al-Muarram,127 Dhū l-Qaʿda, Dhu-l-ijja or Rajab,128 we do not know.

In this passage the different applied terms for ‘sacrifice’ derive from the roots dh-b-, k-f-r, h-d-y, q-l-d and sh-ʿ-r. There are sacrifices given to Allāh and sacrifices given to the stone deities (nuṣūb) (v. 3).129 Arrows (azlām) are condemned,130 and later in the sūra (v. 90), it is said that the “maysir and the deities (al-anāb) and the arrows (al-azlām) are the filthy (rijsun) work of Shaytān”; it will “keep you from the remembrance of God and from your prayers” (v. 91).131 Q 5:30–32, The offerings by Adam’s two sons

These verses are the first of six verses in this sūra about Adam and his two sons.132 ← 70 | 71 →

30. Recount to them in all truth the story of Adam’s two sons: how they each made (qarrabā) an offering (qurbān), and how the offering of the one was accepted while that of the other was not. One said: “I will surely kill you.” The other replied: “God accept [offerings] (yataqabbalu Allāhu) only from the righteous (al-muttaqīna).

31. If you stretch your hand to kill me, I shall not stretch mine to slay you; for I fear God, Lord of the Universe.

32. I would rather you should add your sin against me to your other sins and thus become an inmate of the Fire (al-nār). Such is the reward of the wicked (al-alimīna).”133

Here, the righteous (al-muttaqīna) and the wicked (al-alimīna) are opposed to each other and represented by two brothers who are not referred to by name.134 Only their father’s name is mentioned as Adam. Further, the text explains that murder is the result when one of two sacrifices (qurbān) is not accepted. The term is derived from the root q-r-b, ‘to draw near’, and occurs as a noun three times in the Qurʾān (here and in Q 3:183 and 46:28).135 The verb connected with the sacrifice is from the same root, qarrabā, which is intensified through the second derivation, and it appears in dualis. Who the righteous (al-muttaqīna) and the wicked (al-alimīna) are, is not mentioned here, but the reader is informed that the righteous “fear[s] God, Lord of the Universe”, and the wicked “become[s] an inmate of the Fire”.

The sacrifice of one of the brothers was accepted, the sacrifice of the other not.136 K. Kueny comments that “The Qurʾān turns the sons into generic types who represent the righteous and the unrighteous, and asserts that God only recognizes offerings from the righteous.”137 Allāh is the one who attests. But it is ← 71 | 72 → not explained why the qurbān of the righteous is approved of by Allāh.138 V. 35 compares the evil of slaying one person to the slaughter of all people (qatala al-nās jamīʿan).139 Allowed are, however, murders that happen in the frame of revenge and blood money. Allāh’s clear signs as conveyed through the prophets are to be followed.

3.3.2 Compensation Q 2:196 and 48:25, 27, ajj and sacrifice, fasting and almsgiving

In this section we will look at texts according to which compensation is an aspect of the sacrificial rituals. Q 2:196 has a similar wording as Q 48:25. Both texts describe the ajj and the ʿumra. This impression is conveyed by the word manāsikakum, ‘your rules or rituals’, which denotes the ajj and the ʿumra. Dutton convincingly translates Q 2:196:

And complete ajj and ʿumra for Allah (manāsik); and if you are prevented (fa-inn uḥṣirtum)140 [you should sacrifice] whatever sacrificial animal is easy [Dawood: send such offerings as you can afford] (fa-mā (i)staysara mina l-hady); and do not shave your heads until the sacrificial animal reaches its place of sacrifice [Dawood: their destination]. And whoever among you is ill, or suffers harm (adhā) to his head, [should pay] a recompense (fidya) of fasting (min ayām) or almsgiving (sadaqa) or a sacrifice (nusuk). Then, when you are safe, whoever does tamattuʿa141 with an ← 72 | 73 → ʿumra until the ajj [should sacrifice] whatever sacrifice is easy (istaysara mina l-hady). And whoever does not have one should fast three days during the ajj and seven when you return; that is ten altogether. This is for those whose families are not present at the Sacred Mosque. And have fear for Allah, you know that Allah’s punishment is severe.142

To facilitate a better understanding of this passage it is necessary to quote most of the text from Q 48:25, 27, as well:

25. Those were the unbelievers who debarred you from the Sacred Mosque (al-masjid al-aram) and prevented your offerings from reaching their destination (wa-l-hadiy maʿakūf143 an yablugha maillahu).144 [...]

27. God has in all truth fulfilled His apostle’s vision, in which He had said: ‘If God will, you shall enter the Sacred Mosque (al-masjid al-aram) secure and fearless, with hair cropped (muallikīna ruʾūsakum) or shaven (muqaṣṣirīn).’ He knew what you knew not; and what is more, He granted you a speedy victory.145

Q 2:196 is divided into two parts, one of which may have originated in the year 6 AH, the other in the year 10.146 They are therefore connected with two different occasions, one with the treaty at al-udaibīya in the sixth year AH,147 with which Q 48:25 also seems connected, and the second with Muammad’s Farewell Pilgrimage four years later. Probably the verse refers to the slaughtering of camels at or around the al-udaibīya, which was not a part of the ajj as such, but was associated with the gathering nomads and tradesmen, who were having fun playing games for stakes of valuable animals. Still, Q 2:196 as a whole and Q 48:25, 27 have similar wordings and terminology that must be examined in order to achieve a thorough understanding of the texts.

Different words for sacrifice are used in these texts. The words manāsik and nusuk derive from the root n-s-k, which means ‘to lead a religious life; to sacrifice’,148 or as Lane says, ‘to worship’.149 He also mentions the fourth ← 73 | 74 → derivation of the root, which is ansaka, ‘he washed and purified a garment’, and the fifth derivation, tanassaka, ‘he devoted himself to religious exercises’.150 Nusuk denotes the sacrificial victim, and this is one of two places where nusukin occurs in the Qurʾān. The plural of mansak, meaning the ‘ceremonial’, is manāsik, which can also mean the place(s) where the religious rites are performed.151 Later the word became synonymous with all the rituals of the ajj and ʿumra, and the word has become the appropriate designation for the book(s) where these rituals are found.

Another important word in Q 2:196 is fidyatun. This refers to the close relationship between fasting, alms and the offering of a sacrifice. As already mentioned in the context of Q 37, the word fidya comes from the root f-d-y, and it is rendered as “compensation” in Ali’s translation, but another possibility is ‘ransom’, which is the term used by Dawood, and which can be understood in the sense ‘redemption or that which is paid to redeem a fault’.152 From the sentence that requires the pilgrim, under certain circumstances, to “pay a ransom (fidya) either by fasting or almsgiving (sadaqa) or a sacrifice (nusuk)”, it would appear that fidya is a wider term than nusuk.153 The term fidya is also used in Q 2:183,154 57:15,155 and 57:17,156 occurrences that I will return to in due course. Dawood and Arberry translate al-hady in a very general sense; they say “offerings” and not “sacrificial animals”, which is the term used by Ali. Penrice157 supports the more general translation by saying “a victim for sacrifice, an offering” without specifying that the victim is an animal. The word comes originally from the root h-d-y, meaning ‘to lead in a right way’. ← 74 | 75 → According to this original meaning we might say that the hady is something that should lead the believer on the right path and give guidance, as already suggested above.158 On the other hand, the hady can be understood in a looser sense referring merely to the sacrificial act. Independent of the question about what sort of sacrifice the hady is, it is necessary to see it in its ritual context, whether pre-Islamic or Islamic. Ali translates al-hady as “sacrificial animals”, and he comments that the “Muslims from Medina had brought the animals for sacrifice with them, and had put on the irām or pilgrim’s garb, but they were not only prevented from entering Mecca, but were also prevented from sending the sacrificial animals to the place of sacrifice in Mecca as they could have done under 2:196”.159 Ali and others state that the sacrifice was actually offered at udaibīya to mark the settling of the treaty.160 Bell comments that the reason for the constraints on the use of certain types of animals mentioned in Q 2 and 48 likely was the economic aspect of the Meccan pilgrimage. Merchants would lose money if they were prevented from selling their animals as sacrificial goods in the market.161

In these texts two aspects of hair-shaving are mentioned, both of which figure in the sacrificial ritual. Firstly, “Do not shave your heads until the offerings have reached their destination” (Q 2:196). Secondly, hair-shaving is mentioned as a sign that someone is allowed to enter the sacred mosque in Mecca: “With hair cropped [or shortened] (mualliqīna ruʾūsakum) or shaven (wa-muqaṣṣirīna)” (Q 48:27).162 The two aspects may be interconnected. Interestingly, Robertson Smith has stated, “The sacrifice of the hair was a common part of the ritual in every Arabic pilgrim-city or -place.”163 In the Islamic context the shaving of the head seems exclusively to be linked to the ajj or the ʿumra, and to the performance of the ʿaqīqa sacrifice linked to the days after a baby’s birth.164

V. 196 twice says that the pilgrim should sacrifice “istaysara mina l-hadyi”. This has been translated as both “the sacrifices that you can afford” and “the sacrifice that is easy”, suggesting the presence of a linguistic dilemma. ← 75 | 76 → Istaysara165 is the tenth derivation of the root y-s-r, third person perfect, and has the same meaning as in the fifth derivation, ‘to be easy’166 or ‘to be made ready for someone’. Lane translates, “What is easy [to give], of camel and kine and sheep or goats: or as some say, either a camel or a cow or a sheep or goat.”167 However, it is likely that Dutton is closer to the original meaning, and I therefore consider his translation, “the sacrifice that is easy”, more appropriate.

It is interesting that the word for the old Arabic game of chance, maysir,168 is derived from the same root, y-s-r; the noun yāsir means ‘dividing a thing into parts or portions’.169 Hence, there is a connection with the slaughtering of an animal that has to be divided after it has been killed. The game maysir is forbidden in the Qurʾān (2:219; 5:3 and 90–91).170 On the other hand, one of Allāh’s epithets is muyassir, which derives from the same root, and has the meaning ‘facilitator’.171 So how should istaysara be translated in this context? Dawood’s translation, “If you cannot [make the pilgrimage], send such offerings as you can afford”, seems to be the best alternative. This also explains that, although the offering is obligatory, someone who is unable to buy the required gifts for economic reasons is allowed to fast instead. This became a religious principle, which we find discussed and expanded upon by Mālik ibn Anas.

In his translation of Q 48:25, Dawood leaves the destination of the sacrificial animals, maillahu, unspecified, but in the Arabic text there is a clear indication that this place is the “place of sacrifice”, which is how Penrice,172 Arberry, Ali and Paret173 translate it.174 The word is derived from alla, which ← 76 | 77 → means ‘to untie, unbind, unfasten; to release, set free; to be allowed, lawful’.175 In the Qurʾānic context the word alla means “to fulfil the rites and ceremonies required of a pilgrim, to become alāl after being arāmu”, in other words, loosened from the status of arām. The word tailla, also from the root -l-l, means ‘dissolution of a vow’. This word indicates a connection between sacrifice and vow (nadhr; plural nudhūr176), which will prove significant in the later analysis.177

Paret comments that the maill in both verses (48:25 and 2:196) has to be localised in the holy area.178 Based on parallels in Q 2:196, Snouck Hurgronje proposes two different interpretations for the whole context, one of which relates predominantly to the al-udaibīya treaty, and the other to the ajj rituals as well as to the connection between rituals and power.179

The 14th century exegete Ibn Kathīr says, “they hindered al-hady to reach its maill; that was their fault and their obstinacy. And al-hady, they were 70 camels (budna) which came at God’s order.”180 Here, Ibn Kathīr definitely understands al-hady to be “camels”. Dutton181 has interestingly connected maill with “the place of destination”. The fact that Q 22:33 regards the aram as the maill – and not Mina only – reflects the two different sacrifices that occurred in Mecca.182 ← 77 | 78 →

Q 2:196 contains so many aspects that it is easy to overlook the verses that follow, 197–200, which also contain some important references to rites and traditions emphasised in the pilgrimage. Q 2:197 mentions the sacred months. The pilgrims are told to avoid obscenity and wickedness and to struggle for goodness, piety and remembrance of ʿArafāt and the sacred monument (al-mashʿar al-arām). “And when you have fulfilled your sacred duties (manāsikakum), remember God as you remember your forefathers or with deeper reverence” (v. 200). In other words, Q 2:196–200 describes sacrificial rituals within the frame of elements of the pilgrimage. At the same time, these verses, especially Q 2:196, refer to a sacrifice as the compensation (fidyatun) and to a sacrifice (nusuk) that is performed when another ritual sacrifice (hady) has not been fulfilled. In any case the ritual actor is supposed to bring something “for His sake”, “in the memory of Allāh” (fa-adhkurū Allāha) (v. 196).183 Q 5:95–103, Killing or sacrifice

The first verse in this pericope seems to be addressed to the believers heading for Mecca. They may be concerned about their rights regarding hunting and food.184

95. Believers, kill no game while on pilgrimage. He that kills game (ayd) by design, shall present, as an offering to the Kaʿba (hady bāligha l-kaʿba), an animal (al-naʿam) equivalent to the one he killed, to be determined by two just men among you; or he shall, in expiation (kaffāra), either feed the poor or fast so that he may taste the evil consequences of his deed. God has forgiven what is past; but if anyone relapses into wrongdoing God will avenge Himself on him: God is mighty and capable of revenge.185

If the pilgrim is unfortunate to kill an animal, this creature must be compensated for. The compensatory animal is a cow (al-naʿam) and the offering is here also called a hady, but unlike the cases mentioned above, the offering should be made at the Kaʿba. The expiatory offering, the kaffāra,186 is made when the prescribed ritual is not fulfilled. It requires the same number of animals in order to qualify as valid. Chelhod combines the idea of kaffāra with the early Islamic (and pre-Islamic) Bedouin Arab tradition of burying each other’s offences.187 A second possibility if a man has acted wrongly is to feed the poor or to fast; the requisite number of days is not mentioned here. Among the Arabic words used ← 78 | 79 → for ‘to atone for’ is kaffāra.188 This word comes from the root k-f-r, which has a secondary meaning, ‘to be infidel’, and is an antonym to ‘to believe’ (anama).189 Other interesting examples from the Qurʾān are Q 3:195; 4:31; 5:12 and 65:5, where kaffāra means ‘to erase’ and ‘to conceal [a crime or a sin]’, all with Allāh as subject. A particular penalty (anitha)190 is imposed when someone breaks one of the oaths that people take for and during the ajj and which are constitutive for the state of irām. In such a case it is necessary to recompense and make a kaffāra, or to distribute food, or to free a slave (Q 5:89). However, Chelhod says, even if “this is [...] a propitiatory act [...] the idea of expiation seems lacking”.191 He still links the idea of kaffāra with the early Islamic and pre-Islamic Arab tradition of burying each other’s offences, known as dafn al-dhunūb.192

V. 96a informs the believer that he is allowed to eat seafood, but once again it is repeated that the killing of game is forbidden in irām. The next verse states that Allāh has made the Kaʿba and that this place is a goal for the believers, “and the sacrificial offerings with their ornaments (wa-l-hadya wa-l-qalāʾida), eternal values for mankind; so that you may know God has knowledge of all that the heavens and earth contain”.193 Muammad is then described as one who warns, and Allāh as the forgiver and the merciful. “God demands neither a baḥīrah, nor a sāʾibah, nor a waṣīlah, nor a ḥāmi. The unbelievers invent falsehoods about God. Most of them are lacking in judgement” (v. 103).194

All these unfamiliar words are terms for describing camels at different stages of their development and according to different grazing traditions. Baḥīra is “a name given to a camel in pre-Islam which was turned loose to feed, after being slit in its ears”.195 Sāʾiba is the “name of a she-camel” in pre-Islam to ← 79 | 80 → which “certain superstitions, among others the right of free pasture” were connected.196 Waṣīla is “a she-camel or ewe” that was considered in pre-Islam as “wont to certain superstitions in honour of their idols”.197 Finally, ḥāmi is the “name of a camel concerning which certain superstitious usages were observed by Pagan Arabs”.198 These were all regarded as forms of pre-Islamic sinfulness and thus associated with the unbelievers. It was therefore necessary to distinguish between those animals (camels) that were purified or in some other way sanctified for sacrifice, and other animals that were forbidden to be presented at the Sacred House. It is also noteworthy that the place of offering is not the maill (mentioned in Q 2:196 and 48:25), but, as mentioned above, the Kaʿba itself.

3.3.3 Positive and negative statements Q 108:1–3, “Pray to your Lord and sacrifice to Him

The shortest, but no less important, sūra in the Qurʾān, 108, is called ‘Abundance’ (al-kawthar). It is generally considered very difficult to understand and has been continuously under discussion.199

1. We have given you abundance (innā aʿṭaynāka al-kawthar).200

2. Pray to your Lord and sacrifice to Him (fa-alli li-rabbika wa-nar).201

3. He that hates you shall remain childless (innā shāniʾaka huwa al-abtar).202 ← 80 | 81 →

Verse 1

After the “we” – pluralis majestatis – combined with the word for ‘presenting’ or ‘offering’ (with the root ʿ--w), the important term al-kawthar occurs; it is used only here in the Qurʾān, and is derived from the frequent root k-th-r, meaning ‘it was or became abundant, numerous’.203 According to Birkeland, it can be seen from many early isānid that al-kawthar’s main meaning is “abundance of good”, al-kawthar al-khayr, and that it has little to do with a river or pool of water in Paradise, as some of the exegetes have suggested.204 However, the traditional interpretation of al-kawthar as “the fountain of abundance” is interesting in the current context, and Lane supports this reading when he says that kawthar is “a certain river in paradise from which flow all the [other] rivers thereof, pertaining specially to the Prophet, described as being whiter than milk and sweeter than honey and as having its margin composed of pavilions of hallowed pearls”.205 The question is whether this fountain can be identified with the important Zamzam-well in Mecca, which is called “the water of Paradise”206 and which may for a long time have been the site of sacrificial ← 81 | 82 → offerings in pre-Islam. In spite of divergence among the scholars, I find the al-kawthar to be an interesting metaphor of “abundance” and “gift from Allāh” that I will bring into the analysis of v. 3.

Verse 2

In v. 2 the term nar is used to denote “sacrifice”. Naara (the root n--r in perfect) means ‘to injure the jugular vein; to sacrifice by cutting the jugular vein’.207 Here the word is used in imperative and linked to the technical term for ritual prayer alli, pray! This “sacrifice” refers sometimes to cows or generally to all sacrificial animals (hady) but more often specifically to camels.208 The term also means ‘to stab or to stick a camel or a beast’.209 In a comment to the translation of the noun ʿīd al-nar, Lane renders it as, “The day of the stabbing of camels, or also of cows and bulls”.210 The tradition also combines the term qurbān with the alāt, and says that alāt is the sacrifice of every pious man.211 According to Birkeland, naara is interpreted differently among different groups of Muslim exegetes. Firstly, it means “to master their affairs or knowledge”,212 whereby it is used to describe a person performing his prayers, naara al-alāt.213 Secondly, one tradition, narrated by Abū Jaʿfar, understands nar as “lifting hands during the first time of the takbīr”. Both interpretations were rejected by later orthodox exegetes who said that nar had to be “nar al-budun”, ‘the slaughter of beasts of sacrifice’.214 Thirdly, the consensus from about year 200 AH (Ibn Saʿd) gives a more legally-oriented understanding of the term nar. “The alāt is the prescribed ritual alāt, the sacrifice is an-nusk (‘sacrifice’) and adh-dhab (also: ‘sacrifice’) on the day of al-aḍḥā.”215

Instead of praying to other gods or idols, devotion is attracted to the al-kawthar, the abundance, or Allāh himself. This nar should be a sign of ← 82 | 83 → gratitude towards God.216 The main point of these narrations is that this particular nar and alāt are obviously identical with the Muslim nar and alāt that constitute the essence of tawḥīd, and that they are not to be equated with the pagan devotions around the Kaʿba.217 Birkeland maintains that the sacrifices are signs of thanksgiving for Allāh’s rich gifts to Muammad, and they do not necessarily mean the Islamic practice, even if the word for prayer used here, alli, does suggest the Islamic ritual rather than a freer prayer, duʿāʾ.218

Fifthly, one late tradition infers the sense of sūra 108 from sūra 107. In this case the prayer (alāt) in 108:2a corresponds to the neglect of prayer in 107:5 and the withholding of alms (zakāt) in 107:7 to “sacrifice!” (nar) in 108:2b. Birkeland characterises this connection between the two suwar as a product of “post-traditional, speculative-dogmatic tafsīr”.219 Rāzī, however, considers the zakāt (alms’ tax) to be closely related to alāt (prayer), and especially to al-nar (the sacrifice), claiming that “the distribution of meat to the needy was an important aspect of the Muslim sacrifice”.220 Rāzī’s exegetical combination of Q 107 and 108 is, in particular, the strongest argument for regarding the zakāt and the nar as closely related.

Verse 3


XIII, 279
ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2014 (July)
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. XIV, 279 pp.

Biographical notes

Gerd Marie Adna (Author)

Gerd Marie Ådna is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the School of Mission and Theology in Stavanger (Norway). Her research interests include early Islam and ritual studies as well as contemporary Islam with emphasis on migration and family issues. She is an expert in Christian-Muslim dialogue in Norway and Europe.


Title: Muhammad and the Formation of Sacrifice