The most commonly worldwide spread story of sacrifice as we all know was elicited in the story of Jesus’ sacrifice of himself to save humanity from bearing the liability of Adam’s sin.
Regardless of the wrongful theme of the story that a person –the claimed son of God – bears the sin of another, revealing the oppression and cruelty of “god” to let his “only son” suffer that much for a sin that he did not commit, I think we need to go into the meaning of sacrifice in depth.
A great story of sacrifice
This story I am going to relate goes around the incentive for sacrifice.
It is a story of a great Prophet, who has had a great mention the Bible, the gospel, and the Qur’an.
He was the father of two great Prophets; he is Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham).
Prophet Ibrahim has been a very obedient servant to God, he believed in Him Alone. He challenged his father, people, even the chief of his tribe because he believed.
Ibrahim had two sons: Is-hac (Isaac) and Isma`eel (Ishmael). They both were good pious Prophets who also called their people to do believe in God, but only one of them is the hero of this story.
When Isma`eel has become a bright young-man, Ibrahim had a vision that he is slaughtering his son. He saw it for three consecutive days, the thing that made him quite certain that it is a revelation from Allah (The Creator of Heavens and Earth) carrying an order for him to do so.
It is very surprising that a person accepts such an order and hastens to execute it (even if he was a prophet) because, after all, he is a human and a father who loves his son very much, but what is really astonishing is the submissiveness and obedience of this young man to his father, a young man who has not yet tasted the pleasures of life, who has a future waiting for him to build. That scene is best described in Allah’s saying:
So We gave him the good tidings of a forbearing youth” [Quran.com/37/101].
“Then when he (His son) reached the age of endeavoring with him, he said, “O my son, surely I see in a dream (Literally: time of sleeping) that I should slay you; so, look, what do you see?” He said, “O my (dear) father, perform whatever you are commanded; you will soon find me, in case Allah (so) decides, among the patient.” [Quran.com/37/102]
How cruel is that!!
One might wonder, what on earth is that religion that makes a father slay his son with his own hands. However, I am here asking you in exchange: what religion makes God let his only son to be crucified for a sin that he never committed!!
And here is my answer to your presumed question: the story did not have such a tragic end, for Allah has sent down a great ram to be sacrificed for Isma`eel in the very last minute when Ibrahim grabbed the knife, lied his son on his forehead, and was about to slay him.
This is the real meaning of sacrifice; a father sacrifices his son to obey the Commands of His Lord, and a pious son who submits to these Commands as well. Allah says:
And when they had both submitted and he put him down upon his forehead, (103) We called to him, ‘O Abraham, (104) You have fulfilled the vision.’ Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good. (105) Indeed, this was the clear trial. (106) And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice. (107)” [Quran.com/37]
To surprise you even more, did you know that this sacrifice story exists in the bible –although it is distorted in the bible- but it was after all mentioned?
In King-James version, in Genesis 22 the following was stated:
“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.
And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son”.
In honoring Ibrahim for obeying Allah’s Commands in this extremely difficult trial, Allah has made this a Sunnah (supererogatory act of worship following the example of the Prophet) for all Muslims since then till the end of this world. Not only had He made it so, but also had made it one of the greatly-rewarded acts of worship.
In Islam, the real sacrifice is represented in obeying the Commands of your Lord, abandoning an evanescent lust, and enduring all hardships just to abide by the ordains prescribed by Allah seeking His Content and Recompense.
This is really what sacrifice is about: submissiveness, abandonment, and obedience to an All-Wise and Just Deity.