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Muhammad and the Formation of Sacrifice


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 5: The Sacrifice of Ibrāhīm


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Chapter 5

The Sacrifice of Ibrāhīm

5.1 Introduction

Many early Islamic sources present Ibrāhīm and his family in Mecca.1 We have already discussed the material from the Qurʾān. The texts selected here are taken predominantly from al-Ṭabarī, supplemented with some texts from al-Yaʿqūbī, who restricts the use of asānid and shows a critical distance to his sources and to the historical events, especially those that occurred long before his own time,2 and further with some texts from al-Kisāʾī,3 who represents the same historical period as al-Ṭabarī, but writes in a much more popular style. Because al-Ṭabarī analyses a conspicuous number of versions, his work has become the most important source for many academic studies.4

5.2 Al-Yaʿqūbī

The Taʾrīkh al-Yaʿqūbī5 constitutes the earliest surviving world and “universal” history in the Arabic historical tradition. In his two-volume world history, al-Yaʿqūbī includes a lengthy story about Ibrāhīm and a narrative about the near sacrifice of his son. After a long description of the holy places around Mecca, in which Ibrāhīm takes Ismāʿīl to the different stations of the ḥajj rituals and explains all the names (etiological stories), the story continues,6 ← 125 | 126 →

Then he went to al-Mashʿar, and he fell asleep there, and Allāh ordered him to sacrifice...

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