Sacrifice is usually seen as something noble which a person makes for the greater good. Unfortunately, in the world of Islam, sacrifice is currently associated with suicide bombers and terrorists who ‘sacrifice’ themselves for what they perceive to be the Islamic cause. This is not only inaccurate but antithetical to the ethos of the Quran. The Quran enjoins the sacredness of life and the sacrifice made is of the ‘nafs’ (self, meaning one’s ego or desires need to be given up for the sake of Allah). If however one dies in the service of Allah, it is not with intent to do so.
Suicide attacks are anti-thetical to the Quran’s ethos
2/195: And spend in the way of Allah and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction [by refraining]. And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good.
The believers paradox, Killing of believers, 4/93: But whoever kills a believer intentionally – his recompense is Hell, wherein he will abide eternally, and Allah has become angry with him and has cursed him and has prepared for him a great punishment.
- Sacrifice to achieve the garden:
Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their selves and their wealth for that they will have Paradise….(9/111)
This chapter of Quran (Anfal/Tauba or 8/9) which we see as a single chapter is about the life cycle of the system of peace and justice. In order to establish it, one must sacrifice his ego-based needs and his wealth. The system here is symbolized by the garden.
- Sacrifice as a means of attaining true ‘life’
O you who have believed, seek optimization through patience and connections. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.
And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah , “They are dead.” Rather, they are alive, but you perceive not.
And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and wants and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient,
Who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah , and indeed to Him we will return.”
Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the guided. (2/153-157)
This passage occurs in chapter which gives the blueprint of the earthly utopia. Before this passage, that utopia is described through the persons of Ibrahim and Isma’il (2/122-152). This passage is beginning the first steps towards that utopian state. It shows that the optimum performance is needed along with a selfless attitude. This is what is meant by sacrifice.
- The sacrifice of ibrahim
My Lord, grant me [a child] from among the righteous.
So We gave him good tidings of a visionary youth.
And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said, “O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think.” He said, “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast.”
And when they had both made peace he put him down upon his cowardice
We called to him, “O Abraham,
You have fulfilled the vision.” Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good.
Indeed, this was the clear trial.
And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice,
And We left for him [favorable mention] among later generations: (37/100-108)
What is the sacrifice made here?
Indeed, the foremost house established for mankind was that with bakkah (tears, the breaking of the neck) – blessed and a guidance for the worlds.
In it are clear signs the position of ibrahim. And whoever enters it shall be safe. ….(3/96-97)
What is the vision of ibrahim?
Certainly has Allah showed to His Messenger the vision in truth. You will surely enter the sacred space of submission…(48/27)
What is the trial of ibrahim?
And, when ibrahim was tried by his Lord with commands and he fulfilled them. [ Allah ] said, “Indeed, I will make you a leader for the people.”He said, “And of my descendants?” said, “My covenant does not include the wrongdoers.” (2/124)
Ibrahim was commanded to establish the house of God as a sanctuary for all mankind. He enlisted the help of his son ismail. Together, they sacrificed their egos and wealth until that vision was fulfilled.