The Fiqh of the ‘Eid al-Adha Sacrifice (udhiya/qurbani)

Answered by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher

The Fiqh of the ‘Eid al-Adha Sacrifice (udhiya/qurbani). 

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Q. What is the ruling of the sacrifice?

A. The slaughter of ‘Eid al-Adha (in Arabic: udhiya; in Urdu: qurbani) is a confirmed sunna (sunna mu’akkada) and only becomes obligatory if one vows to perform it by saying, for example, “I hereby owe Allah to perform a sacrifice,” or “I hereby owe Allah to sacrifice this animal,” or if one says something like, “This animal is my sacrifice.” Not performing the sacrifice is disliked (makruh), because some scholars (such as the Hanafis) say that it is obligatory. (al-Yaqut al-Nafis fi Madhhab Ibn Idris, 204; Tuhfat al-Muhtaj, 9.346)

Q. What if I can’t afford it?

A. The sacrifice is only a confirmed sunna for morally responsible (mukallaf) Muslims who are able to sacrifice. Able to sacrifice means that they own enough to buy a sacrificial animal plus enough to fulfill their own needs and the needs of everyone they are obliged to support on the day of ‘Eid and the three days that follow it. It is not required from a Muslim who is not morally responsible, such as a child or someone who is insane. (I‘anatu’l-Talibin, 2.330)

Q. Is it a confirmed sunna for everyone in the family?

A. No. The confirmed-ness (ta’akkud) of the sunna is of collective nature (‘ala’l-kifaya). If the head of the household performs it, it is no longer a confirmed sunna for everyone he is obliged to support (such as his wife and children), although if they choose to perform it anyway, it is praiseworthy. (I‘anatu’l-Talibin, 2.330; al-Yaqut al-Nafis fi Madhhab Ibn Idris, 204)

Q. What kind of animals can be slaughtered?

A. It is only valid to slaughter camels, cattle, sheep, or goats. Camels must be over five years old, cows and goats must be over two years old, and sheep must be over one year old. Sheep can, however, also be slaughtered after six months if their front teeth fall out. It does not matter whether the animals are male or female; both are valid to slaughter.

Camels and cows fulfill the sunna for seven people and can be shared among them. Sheep and goats cannot be shared by multiple people, since they only fulfill the sunna for a single person.

The animals must be free of any defect that diminishes the quality of their meat. For example, it is not valid to slaughter animals that are lame, blind, insane, or sick. See Reliance, j14.2 for a more detailed description of defects that make the animal invalid to slaughter for the ‘Eid sacrifice.

(Reliance, 14.2; I‘anatu’l-Talibin, 2.331; al-Yaqut al-Nafis fi Madhhab Ibn Idris, 204-205; Mughni’l-Muhtaj, 4.379)

Q. Do I have to slaughter myself?

A. It is sunna for males to slaughter themselves if they can slaughter well, although it is valid to commission (tawkeel) someone else to do it on their behalf. If one cannot slaughter well, or if one is a female, it is sunna to commission someone else to perform it on one’s behalf. If one commissions someone else to do it, it is sunna (but not necessary) to be present and witness the actual slaughter.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to the Lady Fatima (Allah be pleased with her),

“Stand up to your sacrificial animal (udhiya) and witness it, for at the first drop of its blood, all your previous sins will be forgiven.” (Hakim)

It is best to commission a Muslim who knows the fiqh of the sacrifice.

If one slaughters oneself, one must intend at the time of slaughtering that this is the sunna sacrifice of ‘Eid al-Adha. If one commissions someone else to slaughter, one can intend when one authorizes them to slaughter on one’s behalf.

(Mughni’l-Muhtaj, 4.378; Reliance, j14.3-j14.4; I‘anatu’l-Talibin, 2.335)

Q. Can I commission a trustworthy Muslim to slaughter on my behalf in another country?

A. It is valid to give someone money and commission him to buy an animal and slaughter it in a country other than where one is living (I‘anatu’l-Talibin, 2.335). This is discussed in more detail in a separate answer posted on this list.

Q. When is it valid to slaughter?

A. The time for slaughtering enters after sunrise once enough time has passed to perform two short rak‘as (i.e. consisting of only the integrals) and two short khutbas (i.e., consisting of only the integrals). Before this time, it is not valid to slaughter. It remains valid to slaughter until sunset on the 13th of Dhu’l-Hijja. It is disliked to slaughter during the night (al-Yaqut al-Nafis fi Madhhab Ibn Idris, 205; Mughni’l-Muhtaj, 4.383).

Q. What do I do with the meat?

A. If one made the sacrifice obligatory upon oneself by vowing it, one must give away the entire animal in charity (including the hide, horns, and hooves) and it is forbidden (haram) for one to eat from it.

If the sacrifice was a sunna sacrifice (meaning that one did not vow it), it is permissible to eat from the meat of the sacrifice, although some of it (meaning any non-trivial (ghayr tafih) amount) must be given away in charity. It best to give all of the meat away in charity except for a few morsels (not more than three) that one eats oneself; it is sunna that these morsels be from the liver (kabid). It is common practice in many Muslim lands to give one-third of the meat in charity, one-third to wealthy Muslims, and to keep one third for oneself, and this is acceptable.

To give in charity means to give the meat to someone who is poor (faqeer) or short of money (miskeen) as defined in the chapter of zakat (see Reliance, h8.8, h8.11). It is not necessary to give to more than one person. The meat must be given uncooked.

It is invalid to sell any of the animal—even its hide. If the sacrifice was not obligatory, then one may give the hide away in charity or as a gift or use it oneself, but one may not sell it. It is not permissible to destroy it (itlaf) either. It is not permissible to give it to the butcher as payment for his slaughtering, although one may give it to him as a gift (if the sacrifice not obligatory, it is only be permissible to give it to him if he is poor or short of money). It is unlawful (haram) to give or feed any of the sacrificial animal to a non-Muslim.

(al-Yaqut al-Nafis fi Madhhab Ibn Idris, 206; Tuhfat al-Muhtaj + Hashiyat ‘Abd al-Hamid, 9.363-365; Hashiyat al-Bajuri ‘ala Ibn Qasim al-Ghazzi, 2.324).

Q. Are there any other recommended measures related to the sacrifice?

A. Yes. It is disliked (makruh) for the one who intends to perform the sacrifice to remove any hair or nails from his body from the 1st of Dhu’l-Hijja until he performs the sacrifice. This hair includes all the hair of the body, whether it is from the head, beard, moustache, armpits, private parts or anywhere else. Some of the Shafi‘is even said that to remove one’s hair or nails during this period is forbidden (haram), although this is not the relied-upon position of the school.

This ruling is taken from the hadith of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace),

“When you see the moon of Dhu’l-Hijjah, and you intend to perform the sacrifice, then don’t remove (lit. “touch”) any of your hair or nails.” (Muslim)

(Mughni’l-Muhtaj, 4.378; al-Minhaj Sharh Sahih Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, 7.139; Reliance, j14.1)

And Allah knows best.

Hamza Karamali