What is Qurbānī/ Udhiyyah?
Qurbānī, also known as Udḥiyyah, refers to a ritual religious act of slaughtering animals for God’s sake as an act of worship during the days of slaughter (ayyām al-naḥr). The practice is a physical exercise to internalize an Abrahamic lesson of sacrificing the negative, less important and sin to attain the positive, more important and obedience to God. This act also supports impoverished communities and feeding the less fortunate.
Why is Qurbānī/ Udhiyyah done?
- To express gratitude on the life God has given us.
- To imitate the Prophet Abraham (peace and blessings upon him) wherein he was willing to sacrifice his personal desires for God’s sake. In place of his son, he was blessed with a ransom, an animal, which was slaughtered.
- To share the blessings of God with others including the poor and needy.
- To obey God and slaughter the animal with permission from the Creator Himself.
What is the status of Qurbānī/ Udḥiyyah?
The act is an emphasized prophetic practice (sunnah muakkadah) that should only be left out if one has a genuine excuse to do so. In Islamic jurisprudence, some schools, such as the Ḥanafī denomination, consider the Qurbānī as a necessary (wājib) practice. (See: Kitāb Al-Fiqh ʿAlā Madhāhib Al-ʿArbaʿah, Aḥkām Al-Qurʾān, Al-Mugnīy, Al-Majmuʾ, Fatḥ Al-Qadīr)
“Offer prayer to your Lord and sacrifice [animals].” (Qur’ān 108:2)
“The Messenger of God (peace and blessings upon him) resided in Madīnah for ten years. He rendered the Udḥiyyah (ritual sacrifice) every year.” (Musnad Aḥmad)
Who does Qurbānī?
Based on the principle above, every adult Muslim who has sufficient funds to purchase an animal on the days of slaughter (10th, 11th and 12th of Dhūl Ḥijjah) should conduct the Qurbānī/ Udḥiyyah. One is not required to do Qurbānī on behalf of dependents. (See: Al-Badāʿi Al-Ṣanāʿi)
How is it done?
One can do the Qurbānī oneself by attending a farm, purchasing an animal and rendering the slaughter. One also has the option to delegate the task to a trusted organization, relative and or friend. The slaughterer must be a believer.
“God’s Messenger (peace and blessings upon him) sacrificed with his own hands two horned rams.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim)
‘Alī bin Abī Ṭālib (may God be pleased with him) narrated, “The Messenger of God (peace and blessings upon him) appointed me to be in charge of his sacrificial animals, and commanded me to distribute all their meat, hides and saddlery to the poor.” (Bukhārī, Muslim).
“The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) slaughtered sixty-three camels with his own hand, and ‘Ali (may God be pleased with him) slaughtered the rest on behalf of the Prophet.” (Ibn Mājah)
When is it done?
Qurbānī/ Udḥiyyah is to be carried out on the days of ʿEīd Al Adḥa knows as “Ayyam al-Naḥr or Tashrīq”. These days fall on the 10th of Dhūl Ḥijjah after sunrise to the 12th of Dhūl Ḥijjah sunset. Those living in a city can only slaughter after attending ʿEīd prayers on the 10th.or at least after the ʿEīd prayers have taken place, if one was unable to attend the prayer. – (See: Kashshāf Al-Qināʾ)
The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) said, “Whoever slaughtered the sacrifice before the prayer, they just slaughtered for themselves, and whoever slaughtered after the prayer, they slaughtered at the correct time and followed the tradition of the Muslims.” (Bukhārī)
“The Messenger of God (peace and blessings upon him) forbade [slaughtering thereafter] eating sacrificial animals after three days.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim)
Are there any conditions?
The obligation is upon a Muslim sane adult who has the required funds. The intention of Qurbanī must be coupled with the act, solely for God. The animal to be slaughtered must be free from defects such as blindness, injuries, disfigurement, cut off limbs, leanness etc. The animal must also be of age. A camel should be five years, a cow or ox must be two years of age, a sheep and or goat must be one year. Chickens and smaller animals are not permitted for the Udḥiyyah ritual. (See: Al-Badāʿi Al-Ṣanāʿi)
“Sacrifice only a full-grown animal.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim)
“God’s Messenger (peace and blessings upon him) sacrificed with his own hands two horned rams which were white with black markings, reciting the name of God and glorifying Him (saying Allāh Akbar).” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim)
“A crippled animal whose limp is obvious is not to be slaughtered as sacrifice, nor an animal with a bad eye whose blindness is obvious, nor a sick animal whose sickness is obvious, nor an emaciated animal that has no marrow (in its bones).” (Tirmidhī)
Is it true that a person who intends to conduct ritual slaughter cannot trim or cut hair and nails starting from the 1st of Dhūl-Ḥijjah?
It is preferred and praiseworthy for the one who will slaughter to abstain from trimming or clipping. Even though this is a meritorious act, it is not mandatory.
“Whoever sees the new crescent of Dhūl-Ḥijjah and wants to offer a sacrifice, let them not remove any hair or nails until they have offered the sacrifice.” (Nasaʿī)
“I twisted the garlands of the animals for sacrifice of God’s Messenger (peace and blessings upon him) with my own hands. Then God’s Messenger (peace and blessings upon him) put them around their necks by himself. Nothing religiously legal was regarded forbidden for God’s Messenger (peace and blessings upon him) until the animals were slaughtered.” (Bukhārī)
What is to be done with the meat once the animal is slaughtered?
The meat can be consumed by anyone. Generally, it is recommended to make three portions, one for one’s own use, another portion for relatives, neighbours and friends and a third portion for the poor and needy. If all the meat is distributed to one of the categories, that is also allowed. (See: Al-Baḥr Al-Rāiq)
“God has provided for them of [sacrificial] animals. So eat of them and feed the despondent and poor.” (Qurʾān 22:28)
Isn’t this Qurbānī cruel and against animal welfare?
God created animals for man’s benefit. Animals have always been used for many purposes. In modern day, there is no doubt that there are numerous violations related to animal welfare when manufacturing cosmetics, leather apparel, medical drugs, decorations, jewelry and also in realms of research. This should end. For indeed animals deserve the best as they are also God’s creatures.
As far as the Muslim ritual practice of Qurbānī is concerned, every aspect of animal welfare must be upheld. There is prophetic emphasis of being dignified when slaughtering the animal. Inflicting minimum pain to the animal. Sharpening the blade prior to slaughter, in the absence of the animal.
Remember, the purpose of the animal slaughter is to draw nearer to God. One cannot attain the proximity to God by adhering to one aspect of the instruction while violating another. Both animal slaughter and upholding animal welfare go hand in hand.
“When you slaughter animals, slaughter them with utmost excellence [and care], sharpen your knives and give comfort to your sacrificial animal.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim)