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Muhammad and the Formation of Sacrifice

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Gerd Marie Adna

Islam has a festival of sacrifice, id al-adha, which is celebrated each year in the month of pilgrimage. Simultaneous to the celebration and the sacrificial ritual in Mecca, during hajj, sheep, camels and cows are slaughtered all over the Muslim world. The story about how Abraham nearly sacrificed his son, Ishaq or Isma’il (Q 37), is important. Also other parts of the Qur’an contribute to the understanding of the id al-adha. Further, texts from the first 500 years after hijra contribute to a new comprehension of the theology of sacrifice in Islam. In this monograph insights from the wider field of religious and anthropological studies (esp. R.A. Rappaport) are applied to the source texts about sacrifices and rituals in pre-Islam and Islam.
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Chapter 3: The Qurʾān

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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 (ḥajj), the places Mecca and Mina, or to the connection between sacrifice and Ibrāhīm and/or Muḥammad. 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 ḥadīth 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 ḥadīth 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).

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