Letter: Prophetic calls for ritual sacrifice

Sir: Contrary to the assertion of P J Stewart (Letters, 3 May), there is plenty of "theological justification" for Muslims to sacrifice sheep at the time of the haj, whether in Mecca or elsewhere.

Not only are there numerous Prophetic directives concerning the excellence of sacrifice at this time, but there are also considerably more Koranic references to the subject than the single one he mentions, in particular those in Chapters 5 (The Table), 22 (The Pilgrimage) and 48 (The Conquest). And given that Mecca has always been a place of sacrifice and that the distribution of the meat is a secondary consideration, it is not a "logical step" to send money for food aid to poor countries instead. Rather, most people's haj would be incomplete in a legal sense if there was not some sacrifice on their behalf actually in the environs of Mecca, although according to the well-attested Madinan school of Islamic law, the preferred way of doing haj does not actually require a pilgrim to sacrifice at all.

Finally, I am amazed at D W Evans' attitude to the prophet Abraham and the "barbarous" Old Testament (Letters, 3 May). Have people no respect for the great men of God whose practices such festivals commemorate? And have people completely forgotten the literal meaning of the word "sacrifice" and all that it entails, both physically and spiritually, in favour of a merely metaphorical usage?

Dr Yasin Dutton

Department of Islamic and

Middle Eastern Studies

University of Edinburgh