Big Sheep or Tasty Sheep?

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by

Answered by Sidi Mostafa Azzam

When choosing an animal to slaughter for Eid, I read a hadith about the animal coming on the Day of Resurrection with its horns and hair. I always try to choose a large ram, with a wooly coat and large, curly horns. However, these animals are usually older, retired studs. Personally, I think the meat is fine, but some of my family members have been very vocal in telling me the meat is awful. Should I slaughter a barely-of-age, small animal without horns or a lot of hair so people enjoy the meat, or should I stick with what I’ve been doing?

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Most people seem to much prefer the taste of lamb over the taste of adult sheep, whose meat tends to be tougher. But the sheep slaughtered must be an adult, namely by having reached a full year of age or having lost its baby teeth after six months of age (Hashiyat al-Jamal, 5:252 (Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al-`Arabi)). Note, also, that it is a common practice to clip the sheep’s tail to fatten it, also making the meat tastier. But sheep with their tails clipped are invalid for slaughtering (Hashiyat al-Jamal, 5:253). So the sheep that may be tastier may be invalid for slaughtering. Given that, if you are choosing between valid sheep, then the best sheep to slaughter is white, then tan, then black and white, then black (Reliance of the Traveller, j14.2). If after that, you are choosing between two white one-year-old sheep, should you choose the larger, woollier animal with bigger horns or should you choose the smaller, expected-to-be-tastier animal? I’m not sure, but some factors to consider: 1) the larger is more beneficial, because it provides more meat; 2) the larger is more expensive and thus more effort, and as the principle goes, “the more the work, the more the merit (ma kana akthara fi`lan kana akthara fadlan)” (al-Mawahib al-Saniyyah `ala al-Fara’id al-Bahiyyah, 174 (al-Maktab al-Islami)). And Allah knows best.


Mostafa Azzam


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