Abraham's sacrifice

We read in the Quran that God never advocates sin (7:28). Nowhere in the Quran do we see that God ordered Abraham to kill his son. On the contrary, God intervened to save Abraham and Ishmael from Satan's plot (37:107), and He told Abraham: "You believed the vision!" (37:105). Undoubtedly, it could have only been a dream inspired by Satan, for killing an innocent person is prohibited in the Quran and in all God's Books:

Do not kill any person; God has prohibited that, except in the course of justice. 6:151

Abraham's son Ishmael was innocent; he did not commit an evil act that justified being killed. Thus if God had truly commanded Abraham to kill Ishmael, it would have meant that God commanded Abraham to commit a sin. Many Muslims will insist that God only did this so as to test Abraham and see whether Abraham loved God more or his own son! However this logic is totally insulting to God! Indeed God tests all people, but God tests people in upholding His commandments, and not in breaking them!

Suppose you have a 12 year old son and you taught him all his life that stealing is wrong and that he should never steal any money for any purpose. Now suppose that one day you wish to test your son, would you test him by commanding him to go and steal some money for you? Would you command your own son to do what you taught him all his life that is wrong, to see how much he loves you?

To arrive at the truth about Abraham's dream, and the source of the dream, we must put aside all our preconceptions about this issue and verify the subject purely on the merit of Quranic evidence.


We read in Sura 37 how Abraham had a dream in which he saw himself slaughtering his son Ishmael. However, the source of the dream is not spelt out in clear words in the Quran.

Sura 37

Then when he was old enough to accompany him, he said, "O my son, I see in a dream that I am slaughtering you, so see what you think." He said, "O my father, do as you are commanded to do. You will find me, God willing, of the patient ones."
Then when they both submitted, and he placed his forehead on the ground,
We called him, "O Abraham,
you have believed the vision!" Indeed, We thus reward the good-doers.
This was a clear test indeed.
We made a concession for him in place of a grave slaughter.
And We preserved his history for those who followed.
Peace be upon Abraham.
We thus reward the good-doers.
He was one of Our believing servants. 37:102-111


It is stated quite clearly in the Quran that killing an innocent believing person is a great sin:

No believer shall kill another believer except if it is by mistake.

Whoever kills a believer intentionally, his penalty is Hell wherein he shall permanently remain. God is angry with him, has cursed him, and has prepared for him a great punishment.

As a result, God would never command any human being to kill an innocent person. When a human's life comes to an end, it is the angels who are commissioned to take him and not other humans.


We also know that God never advocates sin:

Say, "God does not command immorality. Are you saying about God what you do not know?"

Here we need to place the above 3 important facts side by side. We know that Ishmael was an innocent believer, thus killing him would have been a sin, and we know that God never advocates sin. Only one truth emerges from these assurances; the dream Abraham had could not have been from God.
The only source that advocates sin is Satan. Abraham misinterpreted when he thought that the dream was from God.

However, because Abraham was a righteous believer, God rewarded Abraham by saving him from committing this horrendous crime:
"We thus reward the good-doers". God intervened and saved Abraham from falling for Satan's trick. God intervened when Abraham failed to correctly interpret the source of the dream. This is indicated from God's words to Abraham "you have believed the vision!" God intervened and saved Abraham from committing a great slaughter (37:107) and a great sin (4:93).
From the above analysis, we can see that the traditional Islamic interpretation of this event, claiming that God commanded Abraham to kill his son Ishmael so as to test him, is a violation of Quranic truth.

Those who read
7:28 and still insist that God commanded Abraham to commit a sin to test him cannot be sincere believers in the words of the Quran. Their belief would be no more than lip service.
Moreover, the concept of sacrifice for God is totally alien to the teachings of the Quran. Nowhere in the Quran do we read of God asking us to offer sacrifices for Him.
The animal offering (which is one of the genuine rituals of Hajj) is not a sacrifice done 'for God', but it is done for the benefit of the people:

We have decreed the animal offerings for you among the rites of God.

Neither their meat nor their blood reaches God, but it is your reverence that reaches Him.

By reading the words:
"Neither their meat nor their blood reaches God, but it is your reverence that reaches Him.", it becomes clear that the ritual of animal offering during Hajj is not done because God is in need of sacrifice, but is done for our own good. Such offerings, whereby we give to the poor and needy, make us more righteous. Such offerings are not given because God is in need of any sacrifice. In addition, when the meat of the animals is ditributed on poor people, they too benefit.


Perhaps the most glaring misunderstanding is a result of the mis-interpretation of 37:107. According to traditional interpretations, largely based on hadith, it is claimed that God saved Ishmael by substituting a sheep in his place as a ransom. When we examine the relevant Quranic verses we find no mention of a sheep or any other animal, nor any justification or evidence for such an understanding. Verse 37:107 comprises three words, they are:

2- B'zhabh
3- Azeem

Fadaynah: The word fidya is used in the Quran to mean a concession; it does not mean sacrifice nor ransom. The whole concept of sacrifice offered to God, or for that matter God sacrificing for the human is totally un-Quranic. To demonstrate the correct Quranic use of the word fidya, we refer to the following Quranic words:

And for the one who is ill or suffering a head injury, is given the 'fidya' (concession) of fasting or giving to charity, or by observing a worship ritual.

The word
"fidya", as used in 2:196, cannot mean sacrifice/ransom. This verse speaks of our rites during Hajj and specifically of obeying God's command not to shave our heads until the completion of the animal offering ritual. If we are ill or have a head injury (and we are forced to keep our heads shaved) then we are given a concession (not sacrifice/ransom) of fasting or giving to charity in place of the ritual we are not able to observe. When a person has to shave his head, and thus he fasts or gives to charity, he is not sacrificing anything nor offering a ransom, he is simply making use of the concession which God allowed in such circumstances.

B'zhabh: This word means: in place of a slaughter. The traditional Muslim thought depicts a sheep that God gave Abraham to slaughter in place of Ishmael, but the Quran does not speak of any sheep or any other animal that was substituted in place of Ishmael! The story of the sheep is borrowed from the Biblical ram in Genesis 22:13.
So what is the slaugher which God is mentioning in this verse? The only slaughter spoken of in these verses is Abraham's intended slaughter of his son Ishmael: "My son, I see in a dream that I am slaughtering you" (37:102).

Azeem: the word Azeem, which means great or grave, describes the slaughter as a "grave slaughter", also disproves the story of the sheep.
Why would slaughtering a sheep be described as a grave slaughter? On the other hand, if Abraham was to slaughter his innocent son, this would have indeed been a very grave and sinful slaughter.
The word Azeem as used in the Quran does not always describe something good or praiseworthy, but it is often used to describe something of great evil or unrighteousness, for example:
- great disgrace (9:63)
- great evil scheming (12:28)
- great affliction/disaster (21:76)
- great punishment (2:7)
- great magic (7:116)
- great slander (24:16)
- great transgression (31:13)

When we put the three words in verse 107 together, we find the picture totally different from the traditional interpretation of this verse. The three words together say that God made a great concession (of intervention) to prevent the grave slaughter which Abraham was about to commit.

Why did God call it a concession?
God does not normally intervene to save any person from committing sin. If a person decides to steal, kill, or even disbelieve in God altogether, God never intervenes to stop him. This is because God gave us free will, then God would hold us accountable on the Day of Judgement.
So the fact that God intervened to save Abraham from committing a sin was a "concession" from God. The reason God intervened is given in the following words:

"We thus reward the good-doers. He was one of Our believing servants."

The Quran tells us of two other cases where God made concessions for the benefit of one of His servants by intervening to stop him from committing a sin. Both of these concessions were for the benefit of prophets of God:

1- God intervened to save prophet Joseph from committing adultery with his master's wife
. This was a concession given for the benefit of Joseph.

She was about to go for him, and he was about to go for her, had he (Joseph) not seen his Lord's proof. It happened thus so that We would avert from him sin and immorality, for he was one of Our pure servants. 12:24

2- God also made the concession of intervening to save prophet Muhammad when he almost succumbed to the wishes of the disbelievers who urged him to fabricate something else besides the Quran and attribute it to God. This would have indeed been a great sin:

They almost diverted you (O Muhammad) from what We revealed to you so that you would fabricate something else and attribute it to Us, and then they would have considered you a friend.
And had We not made you stand firm, you almost leaned towards them a little. 17:73-74

It is worth noting that these were very merciful acts on God's behalf for the benefit of the three mentioned prophets. The magnitude of such concessions can be appreciated when we know that God allowed other prophets to commit sin without Him intervening to stop them. God did not stop prophet Moses from committing murder (28:15), nor did God intervene to stop prophet Jonah from deserting God's mission (21:87).


One further piece of evidence that confirms that the dream of Abraham was not from God is found in 37:102.
Before presenting this evidence it is important to note the following:
When God inspires any person, the person inspired is left with no doubt whatsoever that what he received was from God. God would see to that so that His will be done. We have in the story of Moses the strongest evidence for the truth of this rule:

We have indeed bestowed favour upon you (Moses) one more time when We inspired to your mother what was to be inspired: 'Cast him into the basket, then throw it into the river. The river will toss him onto the shore, to be picked up by an enemy of Mine and an enemy of his.'

When God inspired the mother of Moses to throw her baby (Moses) into the river, she immediately complied with God's command. Knowing about the mother instinct, and how it is the strongest and most protective feeling among all humans, it can be concluded that no mother in all the world would throw her baby in the river, knowing that he will be picked up by the enemies of God, unless she was 100% certain that the inspiration was from God.

When we look at the case of Abraham and the dream he had, we find that he was not at all confident about the source of the dream. Let us look at the following words spoken by Abraham:

"My son, I see in a dream that I am slaughtering you, so see what you think."

If Abraham was confident that the dream was from God, would he ask his young son as to what he thinks should be done? Would Abraham tell his son,
"see what you think"? Ultimately, if the command was from God, would God leave Abraham in doubt and having to ask his young son for his opinion?


Now that it has been established that the dream Abraham had could not have been from God, then who could it have been from? Without question it could only have been from the one who always advocates sin:

The devil promises you poverty and commands you to commit immorality, while God promises you forgiveness from Him and favour. God is Immense, Knowledgeable. 2:268

God gave us the facts of this matter in black and white. Therefore, whoever insists after all this Quranic information that the dream of Abraham was from God, would be, in fact, rejecting numerous Quranic verses.


Killing an innocent person is a sin. Abraham's son Ishmael was innocent; he had not committed any sin that justifed being killed. Thus, if God had truly commanded Abraham to kill Ishmael, for any reason, it would have meant that God commanded Abraham to commit a sin.
God never advocates sin (7:28). Nowhere in the Quran do we read that God ordered Abraham to kill his son. On the contrary, God intervened to save Abraham and Ishmael from Satan's plot (37:107).