THE ORIGIN OF THE 'ID AL-ADHA


The sacrifice of animals formed part of the ceremonies of the Pilgrimage from pre-Islamic times. In Islam it became the custom for Moslems who did not take part in the Pilgrimage to hold a festival and offer sacrifices on the same day 20th Dhi-l-Hijja. This rite is usually founded on the Prophet's example, who, according to Tradition, offered sacrifices in Medina on the 10th Dhi-l-Hijja of the year 2. No Qur'anic authority is assigned for it, though Surah xxii, 29 and 37 are referred to for the merit of bestowing portions of the flesh of the sacrificed animals upon the poor.

This passage, Surah XXII, 27-38, containing regulations for the Pilgrimage, is, by Noeldeke-Schwally (p. 214), assigned to the year 6 or 7. This dating appears doubtful, if only from the close association of these regulations with Abraham, and the use of the word hunafa' in v. 32. Mohammed's reversion to Abraham as his model and precursor belongs to the time of his break with the Jews in the first years of his residence in Medina, and having served its purpose was allowed to fall into the background.

An examination of the passage reveals reasons for suspecting that it has been subjected to revisal and alteration. Vv. 31 and 33 each introduced by dhalika, look like additions to something previously laid down. V. 34 must evidently refer to animals for sacrifice; it does not join very well to 33, even if, as we shall see is possible, we take sha'a'ira lllahi in that verse to designate them, as laid down in v. 37. The repetition kadhalika sakh-kharnaha . . . (37), kadhalika sakhkharaha ... (38) is almost conclusive proof of an alteration having been made. It may be noted also that the final phrase of 35 is similar to that of 38. Why v. 36 should intervene in a passage laying down regulations for the Pilgrimage is not at once clear, though it must be admitted that there is no decisive reason why it should not. But why should Mohammed in defining a religious rite connected with the sacrifice of animals, suddenly go off in the middle of v. 35 to insist on the unity of God, and the humility and fear with which His commands are to be accepted? If he were making an alteration on a rite previously ordained, and there were therefore some danger of objections being raised, there would be at least some motive for the reminder. If now we take fa'ilahukum in v. 35 to be the beginning of the alteration which ends with v. 37, and remove that interpolation, v. 35 is left without a conclusion. V. 34, out of place where it stands, would supply it admirably. We thus get as the original of the passage which begins at v. 35, the following:

"35a. For every community We have appointed a pious rite that they should make mention of the name of Allah over the beasts of the flocks with which He has provided them; 34. Ye have benefits from them up to a set time, then their destination is the Ancient House. 38. Neither their flesh nor their blood will reach unto Allah, but piety on your part will reach Him. Thus have We made them subject to you, that ye may magnify Allah on account of the guidance He has given you.

"Give (thou) good tidings to those who do well."

Here then we have it definitely laid down that the sacrificial animals are to be taken to Mecca, as an act of piety on the part of the Moslems. This was altered and the passage made to read as follows:

"35. For every community We have appointed a pious rite that they should make mention of the name of Allah over the beasts of the flocks with which He has provided them; your god is One God, so to Him surrender yourselves. Give (thou) good tidings to the humble,

"36. Whose hearts are filled with awe when Allah is mentioned, who patiently endure what befalls them, who observe the (stated) Prayer I and of what we have provided them with give freely.

"37. The sacrificial animals We have appointed to be amongst the symbols of Allah for you, in which there is good for you; so make mention of the name of Allah over them, standing in rows; then when their sides are firm to the ground (i. e., when they are quite dead) eat of them and feed the suppliant and the clamant. Thus have We made them subject to you, mayhap ye will be thankful."

The force of this is that instead of the animals being sent to Mecca where, according to common ideas, the holy places or symbols of Allah were, the animals themselves are declared to be amongst the symbols of Allah, and thus capable of being made the center of a ceremony wherever they may be. Here then, we have the ordinance for the 'Id al-adha. If now we accept the traditional account that Mohammed instituted the ceremony on the 10th Dhi-l-Hijja of the year 2, the situation becomes clear. Mohammed, revolting from the Jews and reconstituting the religion of Abraham, had adopted the Pilgrimage and laid down the manner of it as given to Abraham, in the somewhat theoretical and poetical passage 2730, 32, and had then gone on to ordain that his followers should take part in it by sending sacrificial animals to Mecca. This probably took place about the time of the change of qibla, or earlier, say in the middle of the year 2. The battle of Badr had then intervened in the month of Ramadan, and the participation of the Moslems in the Pilgrimage became impossible, the sending of sacrificial animals to Mecca, absurd. Hence the substitution of the sacrifice might be.

It is not so easy to determine when vv. 31 and 33 were added. It is tempting to take 33 as referring to Safa and Marwa which in II, 153, evidently in response to enquiries, are recognized as being among the sha'a'ir Allah, and the visiting of them permitted. But it may be that the addition was made in order to prepare the way for the alteration in the following passage, and that the sha'a'ir Allah are the animals which are going to be recognized as such. In any case, the addition of 33 was either made at this time or at some later date, for it was probably written of the back of 34, after these words had been cut off to allow the present ending of that verse to be added.

That hurumat in v. 31 refers to food-restrictions is fairly clear, and the date of its addition will depend on the time at which these restrictions were laid down. As this was one of the first questions of dispute between Mohammed and the Jews, the promulgation of food laws probably took place fairly early. The reason for the addition evidently is that if Moslems took part in the Pilgrimage, especially in the impoverished condition of many of them in the early years, they would be tempted to partake of the flesh of animals which had been consecrated to some other god than Allah. It would be better if they avoided this, though it is not actually forbidden to them. The balance of probability seems to fall on the side of the addition having been made before the battle of Badr had made it impossible for Moslems to take part in the Pilgrimage.

Edinburgh.

RICHARD BELL.


The Muslim World, vol. 23: 1933, pp. 117-120.

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