Id-al-Adha -- What does it really mean?

Abraham and his son preparing for the sacrifice.Every year many thousands of sheep, goats, camels and other animals are sacrificed throughout the world on the occasion of Id-al-Adha. At this special time, Hazrat Ibrahim (peace be upon him) is remembered for his humble submission in being willing to sacrifice his son at the command of God. We remember that at the last moment as the prophet was about to plunge the knife into the body of his son, Almighty God called out to Hazrat Ibrahim (pbuh) to stop and not to harm his son. Instead, God provided an animal as a substitute sacrifice. And so, every year similar sacrifices are performed in memory of Hazrat Ibrahim's submission to God.

But is there a deeper, secret meaning to this sacrifice that can benefit us today? Yes, there is a deeper meaning to the sacrifice which can only be understood by first listening to the voice of God in the holy Tawrat, one of the heavenly books. Why must we look into this particular holy book? Because it is this book which gives the original account of the life of Hazrat Ibrahim (pbuh), including the original account of this great sacrifice. The event is recorded in the holy Tawrat, part one (Genesis), chapter 22.

In the story, Hazrat Ibrahim (pbuh) and his son are walking to the hill where the sacrifice is to take place. The boy notices that they have everything except an animal to sacrifice, and so he asks his father a question, "The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" (Genesis 22:7)

Hazrat Ibrahim (pbuh) answers, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son" (Genesis 22:8). Notice that both the prophet and his son thought that the appropriate animal for the sacrifice was a lamb, or baby sheep. Hazrat Ibrahim (pbuh) speaking as a prophet, said that God would provide the lamb for sacrifice. But what actually happened?

    "Then he [Hazrat Ibrahim] reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven,
    'Abraham! Abraham!'
    'Here I am,' he replied.
    'Do not lay a hand on the boy,' he [the angel] said. 'Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.'
    Abraham looked up and there in the thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son." (Genesis 22:10-13)

Hazrat Ibrahim (pbuh), or Abraham, said that God would provide a lamb for sacrifice. But what did God provide? God did not provide a lamb, but a ram. We know that it was a ram because it was caught in a thicket by its horns. A lamb has no horns. If this is so, then a question remains, "Was Hazrat Ibrahim (pbuh) mistaken when he said that God would provide a lamb?"

No, he spoke the truth. This is where the secret meaning of the sacrifice comes in. For many centuries after Hazrat Ibrahim's sacrifice, the full meaning of the prophet's statement remained hidden. Then one day, a new prophet appeared to mankind-- Hazrat Yahya (pbuh). Listen to the account of Hazrat Yahya (pbuh), or John the Baptist, found in the holy Injil,

    "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" (Injil, John 1:29).

Lamb. Illustration copyrighted.Hazrat Yahya (pbuh) undoubtedly knew the story of Hazrat Ibrahim's great sacrifice. He himself could have read the story in the holy Tawrat. He knew that Hazrat Ibrahim (pbuh) said that God would provide a lamb to die as a substitute for his son. Hazrat Yahya (pbuh) could also know that the actual animal sacrificed at the time was a ram, not a lamb. Now as a prophet of God, Hazrat Yahya (pbuh) upon seeing the great messenger Hazrat Isa Masih, says to everyone, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"

According the holy Injil, Hazrat Isa Masih is a lamb. But which lamb? The lamb which Hazrat Ibrahim (pbuh) first said God would provide. This is the lamb which had to be sacrificed to save the son of Hazrat Ibrahim (pbuh). The animal which Hazrat Ibrahim (pbuh) sacrificed was not the real lamb of God, but just a ram. It was only a temporary arrangement made until the real lamb of God should come. The real Lamb, Hazrat Isa Masih, would be much better than any mere animal because he could take away the sins of all men! An animal's life does not have the value of a man's life, and so the sacrifice of an animal can never take away any man's sins. But the life of Hazrat Isa Masih has inestimable value, and so he can help every man. By giving his own life as a sacrifice for sins, he could free all the sons of Hazrat Ibrahim (pbuh) from their sins.

But when did Hazrat Isa Masih give his life as a sacrifice for sins? Before he was taken up to be with God. Of his own free will, he himself decided that he would let evil men kill him, by nailing his body to a cross:

    Jesus carrying the cross."So the soldiers took charge of Jesus [Isa]. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others--one on each side and Jesus in the middle. Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty." A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had finished the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." (Injil, John 19:17,18,28-30)

Perhaps this is new knowledge to you, but it was not new to the prophet, Hazrat Isa, Spirit of God. He knew in advance that it would happen. Not only that, he allowed it to happen. Before all this happened, Hazrat Isa Masih had said,

    "No one takes it [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again." (Injil, John 10:18)

So it was Hazrat Isa's own decision to lay down his life as a sacrifice. But just as he layed his life down, he also took it up again by his own authority. He became alive again! His rising again was the proof that his suffering was not a defeat. God is most great! The plot of the evil men failed. Hazrat Isa Masih was victorious. After he became alive again, Hazrat Isa Masih said this,

    "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave." (Injil, Revelation 1:18)

In giving his life as a sacrifice, Hazrat Isa Masih fulfilled the words which Hazrat Ibrahim (pbuh) spoke to his son many years before, "God himself will provide a lamb for sacrifice." This is the lamb which takes away the sins of all men. His sacrifice is still powerful to save men from sins today because he is not dead, but alive. The holy Injil says,

    "Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." (Injil, Hebrews 7:25)

Hazrat Isa Masih is the lamb who saves the sons of Hazrat Ibrahim (pbuh), that is, those who have the faith of Ibrahim. Hazrat Ibrahim (pbuh) believed that God himself would provide a lamb as a substitutionary sacrifice. Hazrat Ibrahim also believed that even if death should come, God can raise the dead to life. God has raised Hazrat Isa Masih, who is alive today to intercede on behalf of all those who come to God through him. You too may approach God through Hazrat Isa, who will intercede to God for you, and save you from the penalty of your sins.

So remember that when you see an animal being sacrificed on Id-al-Adha, the sacrificed animal speaks of a much greater sacrifice--the sacrifice of Hazrat Isa Masih, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of men.

(Copyright © 2001 Al-Kitab Scripture Research Institute
[]. Used by permission.)