The word qurbani embraces vast scope of meaning. This is derived from word qurb (nearness). Therefore the act of qurbani denotes the nearness to Allah Almighty. Technically, the word qurbani refers to the sacrificing of animals on the occasion of Eid al-Adha with a view to achieving the nearness to Him. In the wider context, it means sacrificing everything one possesses in the way of Allah like life, wealth, honour and comfort etc.
The act of slaughtering lawful animals as a means for achieving nearness to Allah Almighty dates back to the time when Adam came to the world. The Holy Quran has made mention of the first sacrifice offered in the way of Allah by the sons of Adam, Habeel and Qabeel. Although these sons of Adam started the tradition of slaughter but it gained eternal popularity through the incident that involved Ibrahim and Ismail. This slaughter is the reflection of the greatest slaughter offered on the face of earth. Thus in order to commemorate the sacrifice offered by Ibrahim and Ismail till the Day of Judgment, the Muslims were enjoined to perform the act of slaughter on 10th of Dhil-Hajj during every Islamic year.
Slaughtering is not merely a ritual but it is a means to the following ends.
First, it is the Sunna of Ibrahim, which has been invested with permanence among the followers of Islam and they have been enjoined to perform this act practically in order to revive its spirit. Allah Almighty has given the status of worship to following the Sunna of Ibrahim. Zaid Bin Arqam reports that the Companions asked, “O Prophet of Allah! what is this slaughter. He replied: It is Sunna of your father Ibrahim. The Companions asked: will we get any reward from this slaughter. He replied: you will get reward against every hair (of sacrificial animals). The Companions asked: if it be lamb. He replied: still you would get reward against every hair.”
This stands established from this that the Holy Prophet slaughtered (animals) not only on his and his family’s behalf but also on behalf of his Umma (religious community) till the Day of Judgment. Allah Almighty blessed him with this act for commemoration and revival of the Sunna of Ibrahim. That is why he advised Ali to continue with this act of slaughter on his own and Prophet’s behalf. Ali acted upon this piece of advice all his life.
Following in the footprints of Sunna of Ibrahim not only keeps the memory of his actions alive but also inspires us to implement them in our lives. The Sunna of Ibrahim reminds the Muslim Umma of its commitment that it would leave no stone unturned to render any kind of sacrifice for the revival of faith. If this pledge is missing, then slaughtering is merely a ritual devoid of its substance.
The second aim of slaughter is to create the feelings of sacrifice among the Muslims. That is why Allah Almighty enjoined upon the Muslims to perform this act till the Day of Reckoning. This worship is known as Sunna of the Holy Prophet and Ibrahim without any dispute. The real of aim of slaughter is to create and foster the feelings of sacrifice among the Muslims so that they should remain ready to sacrifice anything dear to them in the cause of Allah.
Thirdly, every action leaves its impact upon human personality, self and heart, but there are specific actions, which are instrumental in achieving nearness to Allah Almighty. Slaughtering is also one such act but it can only succeed in fulfilling its purpose if it is aimed at winning the pleasure of Allah Almighty. On this basis, the drop of blood of slaughtered animals does not yet fall on the ground when Allah Almighty accepts in His Company and rewards those who offer sacrifice.
What is a prerequisite for acceptance of slaughter is the possession of good intentions and sincerity of heart. If an action, even though it may be a small one, is performed with full measure of sincerity, elevates its performer. And if the same action is devoid of sincerity and good intentions in spite of its enormity would be of no consequence near Allah Almighty. If the aim of slaughter is the demonstration of wealth, status and an attempt to impress others, such an action may deceive people but will not be rewarded by Allah Almighty. Contrary to this, a poor person can enjoy great esteem in the sight of Allah who is penniless but has burning urge to implement His Sunna of slaughter but is constrained to do this due to lack of wealth. Therefore, it is the intention, with which the act of the slaughter is performed, which is more important than anything else is.