Sacrifices in the Bible and in the Qur’an



Have you ever wondered why Muslims still sacrifice animals? They bring a sacrifice and share the meat with the poor. They please Allah and obey his word. This reminds us of the Old Testament. But do sacrifices in the Qur’an have the same meaning as in the Bible?

  1. Sacrifices in the Qur’an
  2. Some of the sacrifices in the Qur’an are derived from the Bible

In the Qur’an, sacrifices do not have the same prominence as in the Bible. Abraham’s sacrifice has a major role, although the Qur’an strangely claims Ishmael as sacrifice instead of Isaac (Surah 37:99-111 based on Gen.22:1- 18). Abraham and Ishmael were both tested whether they would really submit under Allah’s will. And then they “ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice” (Vers 107). But Allah would never require any sacrifice: “It is neither their meat nor their blood, that reaches Allah: it is your piety that reaches him….”(Surah 22:37) Note: The Qur’an is contradicting itself!

Abraham’s and Ishmael’s symbolic act has given the model for the annual sacrifice as a rite of the Hajj.

  1. The prominent sacrifice is a symbol of one’s dedication during the Hajj

As the Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam every Muslim should perform it at least once in his life. The sacrifice offered during that particular time is a symbol of piety of the heart. The Muslim should show his dedication and submission to Allah. (Surah “Al Hajj” 22:32) and “To every people did we appoint rites (of sacrifice), that they might celebrate the name of Allah over the sustenance he gave them from animals (fit for food), but your God is one God: submit then your wills to him (in Islam): and give thou the good news to those who humble themselves” (Surah 22:34). This sacrifice is nothing more than a symbol of thanksgiving for material and spiritual blessings from Allah. Therefore the Muslim should be willing to share the meat of this sacrifice with the poor and needy (Surah 22:28).

But again, the sacrifice cannot redeem anybody from anything: “…The sinner’s desire will be: would that he could redeem himself from the penalty of that day by (sacrificing) his children … By no means! For it would be the fire of hell.” (Surah 70:11-15; cf 22:37).

Nevertheless many Muslims believe that sacrifices can be used as means of cleansing. In popular Islam sacrifices are used during name giving, weddings, and funerals and for restoration of relationships so as to protect the participants from evil spirits. But this belief has no base in the Qur’an.

  1. One’s whole life should be a sacrifice to Allah

Besides the formal rite of sacrificing animals, the whole life of a Muslim should be regarded as a sacrifice for Allah. The purpose of life is to serve Allah which is seen by total obedience to and submission under his will (Surah 6:162f). A committed Muslim would even give his life as sacrifice in Jihaad (holy war) to obtain eternal blessings. To a Muslim, to accept the divine and perfect Messiah as a sacrifice of atonement would appear to add a partner to Allah, this is the unforgivable sin.

  1. Sacrifices in the Bible
  2. Sacrifices were a token of atonement

Sacrifices were a part of worship in Israel. The best animal should be given to God (Deut.15:21). Yahweh would be Israel’s blessing and his people were to worship Him alone (Ex.34:14). In Israel real worship was supposed to be a matter of the heart and not just a formal duty (Ps.5:7).

Sacrifices (Lev. 1-7) were used to obtain atonement, forgiveness of sin and to express a deep gratitude for what God has done for them, to remember their covenant with God and to show their faith in God who cleansed and released the sinner from their sin. In some cases the man put his hand on the head of the animal as a sign of identification, before it was burnt “… and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.” (Lev. 1:4).

“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” (Lev.17:11).

Note that God himself established this system of sacrifice, it was not manmade. Life must be taken as ransom for one’s life. This is a divine principle (cf. “instead” Gen.22:13 or “pass over” Exod. 12 and also Lev.24:17-22).

Even though these sacrifices were very important in the time of the Old Testament, they were only a token of release from sin, a foreshadowing of the final sacrifice, because they had to be offered again and again (Hebr. 10:1). Therefore a better sacrifice was needed.

  1. The perfect sacrifice of atonement is the Messiah

Isaiah and Daniel got a glimpse of the perfect sacrifice which would be used to make atonement for sin (Isaiah 53:5,10; Dan.9:24) These prophecies clearly point to the Messiah, fulfilled in Jesus (John 20:30; Rom.3:25ff; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor.5:17ff). John the Baptist understood this, stating about Jesus: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus is the perfect sacrificial lamb. (1 Peter 1:18-20). Sacrifices were instituted by God. This was necessary to satisfy His justice: “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (Rom.3:25-26). Therefore the Lamb deserves worship (Revelation 5:6-14).

Jesus died once as a sacrifice for the sins of many people (Hebr. 9:28). Therefore we do not offer blood sacrifices any longer.

Only Jesus, the foretold Messiah, could be the perfect sacrifice to remove the sin which separated man and God. “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebr. 9:14).

  1. We are asked to offer sacrifices because of Christ’s sacrifice

The purpose of Jesus sacrifice is not only to redeem us but also to free us to serve him. (Hebr. 9:14; 2Cor. 5:15). Now we are asked to give our life as a holy sacrifice to God. (Rom. 12:1: cf. 1Peter 2:5).

How do we react towards the saving sacrifice of Jesus? What is our act of worship like? Do we please God with our life? Do we obey God and His command to make disciples of all nations? Let us share this wonderful message of God’s perfect sacrifice in Jesus, the Lamb of God, with our Muslim friends. “… And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us (2Cor. 5:19-20).