Animal Sacrifice on Eid Al Adha

There’s an all out effort to prove Islam a barbaric, antiquated religion that cannot – will not – survive without reform. The latest set of complaints is about animal sacrifice (Qurbani) on occasion of Eid Al Adha and the particular piece I refer to was written by a self-proclaimed progressive Muslim. Comments on the piece were quickly closed and this blog remains my only alternative to share my views.

This post is a commentary on “Should Muslims Reconsider Animal Slaughter on Eid?” by Anila Muhammad, printed on the HuffingtonPost. Views expressed, naturally, are my own.

In the article, the writer retraces traditions and cites Qur’anic verses – to make the argument that Muslims have misunderstood Abraham’s story for 1400 years (if not more, considering that Islamic understanding of the story is also informed by the Judeo-Christian tradition). The writer uses references (not the main interpretation) from Muhammad Asad (formerly Leopold Weiss, an Austro-Hungarian Jewish convert and Islamic scholar) to seemingly prove that God never asked animal sacrifices of Abraham or us (see Quran 22:34 to find the command). It was only Abraham’s impression that He did (she claims without a source or reference). At this rate, all divine inspiration – Adam’s, Noah’s, Moses’, David’s, John’s, Jesuses’ and Muhammad’s – can be attributed to dreams and the entire Abrahamic tradition, effectively nullified. I have no bones to pick with people who outright deny prophetic stories. But one who presents herself as a true believer and then labels prophetic inspiration a sham – warrants little trust.

Ritual sacrifices in Abrahamic traditions date back to the times of Cain (Qabeel) and Abel (Habeel).

Ritual sacrifices in Abrahamic traditions have continued since the times of Cain (Qabeel) and Abel (Habeel) – the two sons of Adam.

The writer also contends that average Muslims are reconsidering animal ‘slaughter’ (as if killing were the prime motive) but manages to name only four such people. A similar article printed in a Bangladeshi newspaper alludes to the Qur’anic verse that says “its not the blood that reaches God; its the piety”. So, this writer argues, animal sacrifice is not required (check out the comments section on the piece). He doesn’t mention verses like:

  • “O you who believe! Violate not the sanctity of the Symbols of Allah, nor of the Sacred Month, nor of the animals brought for sacrifice, nor the garlanded people or animals, etc.” (Surah al-Maidah: 2)
  • “Allah doth accept of the sacrifice Of those who are righteous.” (Surah al-Maidah : 27)
  • “And for all religion We have appointed a rite [of sacrifice] that they may mention the name of Allah over what He has provided for them of [sacrificial] animals” (Surah al Hajj: 34)
  • “Verily my prayer, my sacrifices, my life and my death are solely for Allah; the Rabb of the worlds.” (Surah An’aam: 162-163)
  • “So pray to your Lord and sacrifice [to Him alone]” (Surah al Kauthar: 2).

Both writers failed to mention Hadith sources like “There is nothing dearer to Allah Ta’ala during the days of sacrifice than the sacrificing of animals. The sacrificed animal shall come on the day of Qiyamah with its horns, hair and hooves (to be weighed in reward). The sacrifice is accepted by Allah Ta’ala before the blood reaches the ground. Therefore sacrifice with an open and happy heart” (Tirmizhi, Ibn Majah)Here are some other points/questions raised in the article.

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?

No. Abraham was a prophet of Allah and asked to make the biggest sacrifice imaginable. Abrahamic traditions remember Abraham’s tremendous willpower and fear of God through Qorban / Qurbani. During the festival, we spend hard-earned money and give to the poor (1/3rd of the meat) and extended family-friends-neighbors (another 1/3rd). Every year, we part with our money and get in touch with the destitute. We remember the difficulty of Abraham’s task and thank Allah that we’ve been spared …for we would’ve surely failed in that test of faith.

One must not forget that Abraham didn’t exactly rejoice at the idea of sacrificing his beloved son. Sacrifice isn’t pleasant. And Muslims don’t enjoy killing animals either. But we endure this sacrifice to demonstrate the submission of our will to the will of the Almighty. That – if you care to know – is the essence of Islam.

However, we must ask ourselves — are we concerned with feeding people for only a few days or maintaining the message of social justice the Quran espouses?

These are not mutually-exclusive. Every year, my family gives out meat to 50/60 people who have little access to protein. But we also continue to give alms, Zakat during Ramadan, gifts to the less-fortunate. I say this not to brag – but to point out that animal sacrifice doesn’t diminish my capacity for contributing to social justice. Anyone who is trying to imply that Muslims / religious people don’t donate enough, is either anti-religion or anti-fact. Here’s my case. More.

Thousands of people find gainful employment in selling, trading, transporting, tending to and managing sacrificial animals. Floating populations help out with the ritual and earn a healthy fee and millions of orphans find good food on their plates. It’s easy for people with great jobs and credit limits to turn a blind eye to the poor woman I met this afternoon; she took her share of meat and then pleaded for the animals’ intestines: the intestines, she would eat; the meat, she would sell. That’s how poor the really poor people are. And there is no other time when religious sacrifice brings so much bounty all round.

If we are concerned with social justice and creating meaningful, long term change then we Muslims must reconsider funneling our money from this sacrifice and make other investments in our communities to help the disadvantaged. 

The key word here may be ‘other’ investments. Why ‘other’? The premise here is that the sacrifice is merely symbolic. That’s incorrect. None of the sacrifice is wasted. The meat is consumed or distributed. The hide goes into production of leather. Apart from spiritual advancement, there is redistribution of wealth, employment (for professional cattle-herders and traders) during this time. That’s more than the development sector can say, where up to 70% money is spent on administrative, staffing and fund-raising costs.

(To forgo the sacrifice) Consider that the livestock industry is the leading contributor towards land, air and water pollution and degradation of our ecosystem.

That’s not even proper logic.

What would the writer have the world do? Annihilate the planet’s livestock? Or did she mean only animals meant for sacrifice pollute the environment? The truth is, humans will continue  to consume meat till the end of Time – and our markets will supply as long as the demand exists. Pollution and environmental degradation is not a result of Qurbani, but of the consumption-focused market economy.

(The) idea of humane treatment of animals in Islam is at complete odds with the reality of how animals are treated. 

This I agree with. Islamic law is quite strict about being humane to sacrificial animals and this is something we all should work on. Recently, Bangladesh has seen the emergence of privately-bred, humanely-treated animals in the market. There is growing awareness about making the sacrificial ritual as humane as possible too.

***

To end my rant, I find it mind-boggling that an ideology (used loosely) that supports the wanton killing of unborn human fetuses, feels so much compassion for animals killed for their meat. Of course, they don’t object if its David Cameron trying to relax the ban on fox-hunting (which happens to be the most pointless, institutionalized form of animal slaughter). They cheer matadors as they repeatedly stab bulls for sport. They don’t care if its KFC or Outback Steakhouse doing the killing. Nor is it a problem if its packaged Turkeys being cooked or goats/rams being slaughtered during Thanksgiving or Dussera. But oh! Should Muslims make a sacrifice – they will pour over it like sharks and yap endlessly about how barbaric we are!

Some societies may find it easier or more convenient to let their children think that meat comes from KFC or supermarkets. They may even consider surreptitiously removing the Food-Chain from textbooks. Others may opt to retain rituals that remind them of the Lord’s kindness and our dependence on Him for our daily bread (meat); remind us that it is perfectly natural to eat of animals, fish and plants though they all have lives. I have nothing against people/ Muslims choosing to avoid ritual sacrifice. I do object to attempts to rationalize such a choice through misleading interpretations of scripture. Besides, for a race that’s constantly condemning its own to death every second – I think its a tad bit pretentious and/or hypocritical.

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21 thoughts on “Animal Sacrifice on Eid Al Adha

  1. A lot of Australian Islamophobia is expressed through animal slaughter customs.

    Many Australians think halal slaughter methods are intrinsically inhumane.
    Very few Australians know what they are of course.

    And there’s the live export industry to Indonesia and the Middle East.
    The Australian media loves to find abuses in that while ignoring similar abuses during the transport and slaughter of animals within Australia.

    • Hey Cabrogal – I’ll admit that it can look pretty gruesome. But as you surely know, slitting the throat is one of most humane ways to slaughter an animal. I hate that everyone is so eager to prove us barbaric – and constantly resorting to untruths to back-up their arguments.

      I won’t deny that, right now, I feel much of the opposition is to Muslims sacrificing animals on Eid. Others can do it any time of the year. Heck! Muslims can do it any time of the year …but not on Eid. Not to remember our God, not to honor a prophet. That’s where it’s all at.

      I hope everyone treats animals with kindness: Muslim or otherwise. On Eid or otherwise. Eid Mubarak to you.

    • Thanks a lot. You know what? I wrote the second last paragraph first. The rest was an afterthought. I’m so tired of people constantly picking on us …it gets difficult to maintain any semblance of civility. But I tried my best. Thanks for reading and do come back.

  2. I go through several articles on Eid here on word press and almost all of those were about the criticism This Eid is facing all over the world and about how bad and cruel this festival is…..
    People claim to be the wisest ones through their articles and never think about the underlying facts..How come ? Because they have this fact stuck to their minds that they have to prove Islam wrong no matter what…. They are not willing to ponder upon what seems right to them in this religion. I am tired of arguing with them too… But I guess it will continue….
    A wonderful post by you once again ! Thumbs Up !

    • Thanks a million, Pearl. I guess it is okay for an outsider to think the Qurbani a cruel custom. But to pretend to prove that Islam itself never asked animal sacrifices of us – is quite disturbing. I mean an animal-rights activist can oppose animal killing – and that’s fine. But to purport to suggest that Muslims have misunderstood the religion for thousands of years and wrongly sacrificed animals – is plain offensive.

      Worst is all these attacks makes the average Muslim doubt his own religion and shy away from engaging in debate. (S)he ends up thinking ‘oh – these liberals must be right – we ARE cruel and barbaric!’. And that – should never happen.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. hi adnan, can i say found this most interesting and yes there are many ignorant and contradicted people on our planet ! Sad to say.
    A friend of mine, Australian has just also written a blog describing the Eid in Ternate Indonesia and how and why the sacrifice takes place ( blog is called jalanjalan with bu cathy, who teaches Indonesian where i live in Australia). She was staying with friends during that time. It was all new to me and sounded incredibly sensible and compassionate ….what a positive thing to do. in peace trees

    • Hey Trees, can I just say I look forward to your considerate, compassionate comments every time I publish something? Thank you so much.

      Just read Kathy’s post and it was very informative. For many people, it’s easy to view Muslims as backward, barbaric people without trying to understand our beliefs or customs. I’ve read HuffPost comments that claim Muslim children and old people find demonic pleasure in repeatedly stabbing dumb animals! I guess one only sees what he wants to see. Truth is: it is MEANT to cause us pain and discomfort to slaughter an animal (though we may buy meat from the shelf everyday) …and therein lies the essence of a ‘sacrifice’. Otherwise, it would be just mindless slaughter.

      Thanks again for taking the time to read and understand what, to you, must be a strange culture and ritual. I wish there were more enlightened people like you.

  4. Aoa, Eid Mubarak and thanks for the rant. Very eloquent.
    A colleague of mine (American atheist) was going on about what a barbaric Islamic tradition animal sacrifice is. My only answer to such stupidity, “turkey-murder-day is coming up?” The world is so full of hypocrisy but that’s not the worst part. It’s muslims falling for this nonsense that really saddens me. Youth in Pakistan is so impressionable, mostly because they never get the “right” kind of education.

    Anyways hope you get to enjoy the day with your family, regardless of the dark mis-informed patches of dull.
    (p.s. glad I found your blog)

    • W.A.S., Eid Mubarak and thanks for reading.

      Turkey-murder-day is funny and should be officially inducted (hey! they added ‘meatspace’ and ‘muggle’). But ‘srsly’ (in the dictionary too) – in the end, these people aren’t even complaining about the slaughter. What they really, vehemently detest is doing it in the name of Allah SWT. Ever wonder what these people are so mortally afraid of?

      I guess the silver-lining is that this incident led me to read & research more from original texts, instead of relying on what Mufti X thinks it all means.

      I liked your blog – quite mean, opinionated and confrontational. Thanks again for the wishes. Hope you guys are having a great Eid too. Peace out.

  5. I really had to read something like this after I had read the article on HuffingtonPost a few days ahead of the Eid. However, i kind of agree with the second half of the article where it says about animal cruelty. The cows, among other animals, are transported from distant parts of the country tied up on top of truck — and this is nothing but cruelty. I wish we could do something.

    • Hello Sajib – thanks for reading and commenting. I agree with you that the breeding, handling and transportation of the animals can be very inhumane. I hope we are able to remedy it in the near future.

      Having said that, bringing up these issues in an Eid-related article, conveys the impression that the animals’ suffering is caused by Eid rituals – and not the capitalistic market system. Hence: blame Islam! I thought the citing of Qur’anic verses quite misleading too (you can check out the Dhaka Tribune article’s comments section). The contention that charity instead of animal sacrifice is acceptable – has little legitimate basis. In fact, charity and sacrifice in Islam are mutually exclusive.

      Belated Eid Mubarak.

  6. A very well-written rant! I think you deal with the matter pretty darned well. I’ve noticed that there is an increase in re-reading both Islamic and Christian material to make these two religions say whatever secular society wants to believe. There is a lot of “if you are religious then everything you thought your religion said is wrong” kind of articles about. The article you criticize here is just one small example.

    I do slightly disagree though with your emphasis on the ‘blame Islam’ in the last two paragraphs. While I agree with your sentiments in general, I don’t think they are the case here where it was a Muslim who actually wrote the report. I do think, as I just said, that she has re-interpreted to suit secular interests, but that doesn’t mean it was a secularist who did it. To an extent then, I believe that as a non-Muslim, I see this as an ‘internal affair’ for Muslims to sort out, argue or dismiss themselves rather than a case of Secularists interfering again. They do that often enough, of course, but just not in this particular case.

    • Hello Ken, thank you for reading and sharing your great observations.

      I absolutely agree that there’s a lot of going back to the roots in both Islamic and Christian traditions. Out of this, some come out feeling empowered and some, embarrassed. Hence, the polarization all over.

      With regards to the last two paragraphs let’s start with a question: do people with Judeo-Christian names like John or David speak against Christianity? Yes. Are discussions about Christianity exclusive to regular Church-goers? No. Every Secularist, every atheist, every Muslim and every immigrant has something to say. It’s the same in Islam. Of late, Islam has just been receiving more flak because of its refusal to devolve to fit the secular mold. My central theme is that: “the split of the future is not between Muslims and Christians, but Secularists and Believers”.

      That’s why I find interacting with devout Christians much easier – I get where they’re coming from. I understand their religiosity and devotion. We may not understand every aspect of God identically, but we’re searching for the same path. We believe in God, we believe in Angels and in Abraham – the father of our traditions. I don’t understand the ‘Muslimness’ of anyone who doubts Abraham’s trials, tribulations and motivations Speaking from an Islamic point-of-view, I welcome reinterpretations – but not deliberate omissions and references to unknown clerics. Can I be blamed for not wanting Islam to become a made-up religion that can be interpreted as per whims? For not wanting to be shamed into a secular mindset / way-of-life?

      I would really, really love to hear what you think. Belated Eid Mubarak.

      • I 100% agree with you! I think your points are very good and well stated again. I’m not sure if I made my comment clearly though and we may be mis-communicating.

        My point is simply that the end of your piece came across as though a secularist had written the article you were criticising when, in this case, it was actually a Muslim. I think there is a big difference between the fight between the secularists and those with faith, and that of between those of the same faith. I agree totally about your comments about the former but think this article fits into the category of the latter.

        I am aware I may, to an extent, be splitting hairs, for what I find among Christian writers who try to challenge traditional belief is that they are unconsciously pandering to secular whims and I suspect this woman here is doing exactly the same thing. Thus, most of your points still stand as entirely valid.

        • Thanks a lot, Ken. And you’re not splitting hairs at all, yours is a key distinction.

          Your last paragraph says it all. I feel that a Secularist, with a Muslim name, is still thought of as a Muslim. But a Secularist brought up in the Christian tradition, is a Secularist. You know? In popular opinion, names and beards / Hijabs make the Muslim – not underlying beliefs and philosophies. What Anila Muhammad advocates, is definitely a secular idea and omits key scriptural teaching. Whether it is subconscious or deliberate – is hard to say.

          Thanks for pointing out what felt off in my post. Appreciate your taking time out.

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