Qurbani has long and deep roots in Semitic history though the path of its journey has been different. The first references to "Qurban" are in Judaism and later moves to Christianity and finally Islam. They are not precisely the same but the roots are. It's about offerings made to God and which entails a sacrifice. However, within this broad framework, certain differences prevail.

In Judaism, the "korban/ qorban" means any sacrificial offerings mentioned the their holy book the Torah (Tura). It means sacrificial offerings given from humans to God as homage, for winning favor, or securing pardon. The object sacrificed was usually an animal that was ritually slaughtered and then burned on an altar in the temple. Other sacrifices include grain offerings made of flour and oil.

After the destruction of the "Second Temple" by the Romans, which effectively ended the rise of Judaism, sacrifices were prohibited because there was no longer a Temple, the only place considered holy enough for sacrifice. They were briefly reinstated during the Jewish-Roman wars of the second century CE but discontinued. It's said that when the Temple is rebuilt, sacrifices will be offered again by the Jews.

Etymology of "qurbani"

The Semitic root qrb means 'be near' though we understand it means "sacrifice. In Islam it goes back like Judaism to the story of Abraham/Ibrahim being ordered by God to sacrifice his dearest possession and he chose his son but some texts ask which son that was, Ishmael or Isaac. However, both are about seeking nearness to God.

The idea conveyed in most "korbanot" was that of a "gift" to God. Korbanot served a variety of purposes. Many were brought purely for the purpose of communing with God and becoming closer to God, or in order to express thanks, gratitude, and love to God.

In Judaism, the slaughter of an animal sacrifice is not considered a fundamental part of the sacrifice, but rather is an unavoidable preparatory step to the offering of its meat to God. Thus, the slaughter may be performed by any Jew, while the other stages of the sacrifice could only be performed by priests.

Qurbani and Islam

Qurbāni (Arabic: قربان) or uḍḥiyah 'sacrificial animal') as referred to in Islamic law, is a ritual animal sacrifice during Eid al-Adha.

The concept and definition of the word is derived from the Holy Qur'an, the sacred scripture of Muslims, and is the analog of Qorban in Judaism and Kourbania in Christianity. While the word and concept are similar as in other Abrahamic religions, there is no burnt offering in Islam. The sacrifice is more about giving from one's own resources for distribution as food to the impoverished and family of the one making the offering for consumption.

Reference to sacrifice in Islam

In the Holy Quran the story of Habil and Qabil is first mentioned in relation to an animal sacrifice. When they were threatening each other and Qabil said, "I will kill you ", Habil said, Allah accepts only from those who are Al-Muttaqun (the pious)." - Quran 5:27. In the Quranic narrative, it is highlighted that the act of sacrifice itself with impure or impious intentions will not be accepted.

Abraham and Ishmael

The story of Abraham being ordered by God to sacrifice his son but God replacing the human with a goat is considered the primary Islamic story of the Qurbani. As per "Sahih Muslim" an interpretative text, Prophet Muhammad sought out horned, white rams to sacrifice during Eid al-Adha, the same animal as that of Habil and Qabil.

In commemoration of the event, specific livestock animals are sacrificed ritually for consumption. One third of their meat is consumed by the family offering the sacrifice, while the rest is distributed to the poor and needy. The Quranic sacrifice during Eid al-Adha is held high the Hanafi school of law.

The blood of the sacrificed is discarded, and Islam has no burnt offering. The meat is divided in three: one portion goes to the needy and poor, one portion goes to the one performing the sacrifice, and another to their family. One may donate their third to whomever they choose.

From the above it's clear that the concept of animal killing as sacrifice has dominated in history though what it has meant in the Jewish past may differ as per later Islam. It seems to have been more ritualistic in significance in Judaism and the Holy temple and the priests have a bigger role in it. However, in Islam, it has a strong social angle and the act of sharing the meat has more of an social equitable angle as well as the pious one. However, to both it is about achieving nearness to God/Allah.

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