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Qurbanī (Arabic: قربانى), Qurban, or uḍḥiyah (أضحية) as referred to in Islamic law, is the ritual animal sacrifice of a livestock animal during Eid al-Adha. The word is related to the Hebrew קרבן qorbān "offering" and Syriac qurbānā "sacrifice", etymologised through the cognate Arabic triliteral as "a way or means of approaching someone" or "nearness". In Islamic law, udhiyyah would refer to the sacrifice of a specific animal, offered by a specific person, on specific days to seek God's pleasure and reward. The word qurban appears thrice in the Quran: once in reference to animal sacrifice and twice referring to sacrifice in the general sense of any act which may bring one closer to God. In contrast, dhabīḥah refers to normal Islamic slaughter outside the day of udhiyyah.
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Islam traces the history of sacrifice back to Abel and Cain (Habil and Qabil), whose story is mentioned in the Qur'an. Abel was the first human being to sacrifice an animal for God. Ibn Kathir narrates that Abel had offered a sheep whilst his brother Cain offered part of the crops of his land. The ordained procedure of God was that a fire would descend from the heavens and consume the accepted sacrifice. Accordingly, fire came down and enveloped the animal slaughtered by Abel thus accepting the sacrifice of Abel while Cain's sacrifice was rejected. This led to jealousy on the part of Cain resulting in the first human death when he murdered his brother Abel. After not seeking repentance for his actions, Cain was not forgiven by God.
The practice of qurbani can be traced back to Ibrahim, who dreamt that God ordered him to sacrifice his most precious thing. Ibrahim was in a dilemma as he couldn't determine what was his most precious thing. Then he realized it was his son's life. He had faith in God's command. He let his son know the purpose why he was taking his son out of their home. His son Ismail agreed to follow God's command, however, God intervened and informed him that his sacrifice had been accepted, and replaced his son with a sheep. This replacement seems to point to either the religious institutionalisation of sacrifice itself, or to the future self-sacrifices of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his companions (who were destined to emerge from the progeny of Ishmael) in the cause of their faith. From that day onward, every Eid al-Adha once a year, Muslims around the world slaughter an animal to commemorate Ibrahim's sacrifice and to remind themselves of abnegation.
Wisdom of sacrifice
The philosophy behind udhiyyah is that it is a demonstration of submission to God, complete obedience to God's will or command and sacrificing belonging for him. Ibrahim demonstrated this spirit of submission and sacrifice in the best possible manner. When confronted with the challenge of love and allegiance, he chose to submit unconditionally to God and suppressed personal desire and love for his family and child. Qurbani calls for the slaughter of one's innate desires by placing the knife of courage and resistance on hatred, jealousy, pride, greed, animosity, love for the world and other such maladies of the heart.
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In Islam, the sacrifice of an animal is legal from the morning of the 10th to the sunset of the 13th Dhu l-Hijjah, the 12th lunar month of the Islamic calendar. On these days Muslims all over the world offer Qurbani which means a sacrifice or slaughter of an animal on specific days. It is understood as a symbolic repetition of Ibrahim's sacrifice of a ram in place of his son, a crucial notion in Judaism, and Islam alike. Islamic preachers would use the occasion to comment on the fact that Islam is a religion of sacrifice and use this opportunity to remind Muslims of their duty of serving mankind with their time, effort and wealth.