Aqiqa or Sacrifice

by Mr Muhammad Anwar, M.A., Assistant Imam, Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat-e-Islam Lahore UK

The Islamic Guardian (UK), January to March 1982 Issue (Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 26–27)

We have received a booklet entitled Al-Hiddyah — Right Guidance to Muslim Friends, in which the author, Edward McComb, asks Muslims:

“Did Jesus die on the cross on behalf of the sinners?”

He then himself goes on to say:

“Dear Muslim friends, your answer is — No. But the Bible declares Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures”;

and that

“from the beginning to the end of the Bible we see that man came to God by means of a Qurbani (sacrifice). This was true of Habil (Abel), Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Daud (David), and many others.”

Under the heading ‘Aqiqa, Mr McComb charges Muslims with offering blood sacrifice on the occasion of an ‘Aqiqa while denying the greatest sacrifice — that of Jesus, made for sinners. Let us try to understand what Qurbani or sacrifice signifies, and then make a critical study of the author’s views. Qurbani is derived from the root qurb meaning nearness, and I endorse the author’s view that in religious terms ‘sacrifice’ means seeking nearness to God. However, there are several objections to the theory that Jesus sought nearness to God by sacrificing himself for sinners.

Was this pre-planned by God? If so, what was it intended to achieve and what good came out of it? If God wanted to be merciful to us, could He not forgive our sins without killing His “only son”? Was He accountable to someone to whom He had to prove that He had not reprieved the sinners without retribution? Were the Jews so powerful that they left God no choice but to sacrifice His son? Besides, there is no logic in the statement that Jesus made a sacrifice; on the contrary, it was God who sacrificed His own son! Who was seeking nearness to whom — God to Jesus or Jesus to God?!

If the sacrifice was not planned and Jesus acted on his own to sacrifice himself for the sinners, Jesus would seem to be leaving behind God, the Father, in qualities of sympathy, compassion and love for mankind. A god lacking these attributes is hardly worth obeying.

Indeed, the sinners ought to be grateful to the Jews who acted as a conduit to the implementation of God’s plans. Here the question arises: Did the Jews incur God’s wrath by so doing? They could not, because it was destined and God chose them to carry out His will. If it was Jesus’ will that the Jews carried out, the sinners should still be grateful to them. Indeed, God Himself must appreciate the invaluable co-operation between the two which saved Him from punishing humans for their sins! Perhaps Mr McComb can solve the riddle of a God Who first sent Prophet after Prophet teaching that every person bears the consequences of his own actions, and then suddenly turned around and sacrificed His son as an atonement for the sins of all mankind.

As for the “Islamic blood sacrifice,” as Mr McComb styles it, the word ‘Aqiqa is derived from the root ‘Aqqa meaning to cut or to remove, and it signifies the removal of hair of a new born child on the 7th or the 8th day after birth. It is generally known that at times a whitish layer forms on the skull and it is not possible to remove it simply by washing. By about the 7th day the skull becomes firm enough to withstand shaving. The answer to the objection that since not every child will be affected by this layer, why should every child be shaved, is that if an infectious disease breaks out, precautions are taken to guard all those who may be affected by it, even though it is certain that not all would contract the disease.

The other part of ‘Aqiqa consists of the sacrifice of a goat or a sheep. This is not obligatory, applying only to those with means. The purpose is to express gratitude to God for the child by distributing the meat to the poor and the needy. The prayer Mr McComb quotes in his booklet cannot be traced to any authentic source. If some Muslims choose to make un-Islamic prayers at ‘Aqiqa this cannot be used as an objection against Islam.