In the previous article we had looked at the sign of Adam and Eve. They had two sons who violently confronted each other. It is the story of the first murder in human history. But we also want to learn universal principles from this story to gain understanding from their Sign. So let us read and learn. (Click Here to open the passages in another window).
Cain & Abel (Qabil and Habil): Two sons with Two sacrifices
In the Taurat the two sons of Adam & Eve are named Cain and Abel. In the Qur’an they are not named, but are known as Qabil and Habil in Islamic tradition. They each brought sacrifices to Allah but only the sacrifice of Abel was accepted while that of Cain was not. In his jealousy Cain murdered his brother but he could not hide the shame of his crime from Allah. The important question from this account is why the sacrifice of Abel was accepted while that of Cain was not. Many assume that it lay in a difference between the two brothers. But a careful reading of the account will lead us to think otherwise. The Taurat clarifies that there was a difference in the sacrifices brought. Cain brought ‘fruits of the soil’ (ie fruits and vegetables) while Abel brought ‘fat portions from the firstborn of his flock’. This means that Abel had sacrificed an animal, like a sheep or a goat, from his flock.
Here we see a parallel to the sign of Adam. Adam tried to cover his shame with leafs, but it took the skins of an animal (and thus its death) to give an effective covering. Leafs, fruits and vegetables do not have blood and thus do not have the same kind of life like that of people and animals. The covering of bloodless leafs was not sufficient for Adam and similarly the sacrifice of bloodless fruits and vegetables from Cain was not acceptable. Abel’s sacrifice of ‘fat portions’ meant that the blood of that animal was shed and drained, just like that of the animal that originally clothed Adam & Eve.
Perhaps we can summarize this sign with the expression I learned as a boy: ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’. That expression seems to fit Cain. He believed in Allah and showed this by coming to worship Him with a sacrifice. But Allah did not accept the sacrifice and thus did not accept him. But why? Did he have a bad attitude? It does not say that he did in the beginning. It could be that he may have had even the best of intentions and attitudes. The sign of Adam, his father, gives us a clue. When Allah judged Adam and Eve he made them mortal. Thus death was a payment for their sin. And then Allah gave them the sign – the raiment (skins) from the animal that covered their nakedness. But that meant that the animal in question had to die. An animal died and blood was drained to cover Adam and Eve’s shame. And now their sons brought sacrifices but only the sacrifice of Abel (‘fat portions from flocks’) would require death and shedding & draining of blood of the sacrifice. The ‘fruits of the soil’ could not die since it was not ‘alive’ in the same way and had no blood to drain.
The Sign for us: Shedding & Draining of Blood
Allah is teaching us a lesson here. It is not up to us to decide how we approach Allah. He sets the standard and we decide whether we submit to it or not. And the standard here is that there is a sacrifice that dies, sheds and drains its blood. I perhaps would prefer any other requirement because then I could give it from my own resources. I can give time, energy, money, prayers and dedication but not life. But that – a sacrifice of blood – is precisely what Allah required. Anything else would not be sufficient. It will be interesting to see in succeeding prophetic signs if this pattern of sacrifice continues.