Anila Muhammad of Muslims for Progressive Values argues against the tradition of animal sacrifice on the holiday of Eid al-Adha, which Muslims observe today:
The Quran states that Abraham had a dream in which he believed God was instructing him to sacrifice his son. What should be obvious, yet is overlooked, is that at no point does the Quran state the dream was from God or that God demanded this sacrifice. This is an important distinction to make since the insistence for animal sacrifice is based upon the notion that Abraham's vision came from God and God instructed Abraham to sacrifice his son. In fact it should be noted that God interjects to stop Abraham from sacrificing his son.
The next distinction to make in the story has to do with a translation of the last line -- "And We ransomed him With a momentous sacrifice."
In some translations of the Quran the term "Momentous sacrifice" has been replaced with animal sacrifice. There seems to be some debate among scholars on this last, but crucial, sentence. Quranic scholars such as Muhammad Asad have further interpreted this line to read "mighty" or "tremendous" and have indicated (in their references) that Abraham, himself, not God, sought out a Ram for slaughter.
In fact the Abrahamic sacrifice had nothing to do with the physical act of blood-letting. Abraham's sacrifice was ACTUALLY about his willingness to let go of the most important thing in his life, in order to fulfill, what he perceived to be, the will of the Divine Creator.
In order to properly commemorate Abraham's sacrifice it's important to ask ourselves if we are giving up something of intense value when we reduce the sacrifice to slaughtering an animal. Are we really making the same type of emotional and mental sacrifice that Abraham made? If not, then how exactly are we enhancing our spiritual development by continuing with this tradition?