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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 7: Sacrifices during Muḥammad’s Pilgrimages


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Chapter 7

Sacrifices during Muḥammad’s Pilgrimages

7.1 Introduction

In the years after Muḥammad’s hijra to Medina in 622 AD, his main desire was to return to Mecca. Various undertakings of Muḥammad and his companions and some of the agreements he made with his enemies were associated with sacrificial activity. Muḥammad himself performed the “small” pilgrimage, ʿumra, which involved sacrifices, to Mecca in the year 6/628, following the Ḥudaybiya agreement, and then again in the years 7/629 and 8/630.1 There are also some fascinating allusions to and descriptions of sacrificial activities during some ʿumrāt and in connection with certain military campaigns organised by Muḥammad’s friends.

These reports form an interesting background to Muḥammad’s first and only ḥajj, and include ritual elements that Muḥammad developed into a comprehensive ritual during his last visit to the ḥaram. The ḥajj, called the ḥijjat al-wadāʿ, the ‘Farewell Pilgrimage’, because Muḥammad died six months later (June 8, 632 AD), took place almost ten years after he had fled from the city. When he entered Mecca and Mina in 632, sacrifices were offered at different places.2 Actually, the ḥijjat al-wadāʿ marked and represented a peak in the intensity of Muḥammad’s ritual activities. This is made clear in Ibn Kathīr’s ← 169 | 170 → account of this event in which he describes how Muḥammad performed the rituals at the Kaʿba: he “only did this [the pilgrimage...

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