Slaughtering animals for offerings and COVID -19 (Part I)

Pamelia Khaled:

The goals and objectives of this article are to provide an overview of the slaughtering or sacrificing animals for religious practices across the world including Islam. The Muslim Festival is held near the end of the Islamic calendar and honors Abraham’s devotion and sacrifice to God, which is knocking at the door. Prophet Abraham is the key figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, who were about to sacrifice his son Isaac at God’s command. However, Public execution of killing animals for sacrifice or offerings has a profound impact on children. 

First, I introduce one painful story of the Ghadimai festival. Manoj Gautam expressed his frustration at how at the Gadhimai festival, Nepal, approximately 500,000 animals are sacrificed each year, including buffaloes, goats, birds, and pigeons. He portrayed how this religious festival created an image of Gadhimai as the world’s most bloody and violent festival. In 2009, Manoj Gautam started a campaign against animal offerings festival. He wrote that “this is the first Gadhimai Festival since our Stop Animal Sacrifice campaign began, and already we have reduced animal sacrifices by at least 70%.

For five years, we have been conducting mass sensitization in all 99 villages of Bara district, and we have reached every single adult in the five villages surrounding the festival area. Together with our friends from Humane Society International, we have worked tirelessly on the ground to save as many animals as possible, despite much adversity and great personal risk (due to the political and corruptive forces behind Gadhimai)”. Manoj further notes that “we mobilized hundreds of volunteers, confiscated thousands of animals, and convinced countless pilgrims not to sacrifice their animals. We even held an all-night protest within the heart of the temple itself and convinced the butchers to release over 300 buffalo”. This Himalayan Odyssey tells us to be more humane. We human beings need more effort to stop mass killing animals and think more about saving the lives of non-human animals and all other animals and finding a real path humanistic way.

Similarly, each year Muslims and Christians offer millions of camel, cow, sheep, goat, and turkey as part of the ritual of Eid festival and thanksgiving. How mass killing animals can be reduced for the safety of our child’s psyche and the environment should be reconsidered. Therefore, this article inquired several issues: if Qurbani is mandatory or not; the goals and objectives of slaughtering the animal, why sacrificing animals was permitted in ancient time; if a few families can share one animal, specifically during the COVID time; if there is an issue if a Muslim does not take part sacrificing an animal for a pandemic; what are the other approaches of supporting poor instead of slaughtering and meat distribution during this troubled time. 

Muslims consider that slaughtering or sacrificing animals on Eid Ul-Adha is a symbolic event of love, compassion, sacrifice, and wealth distribution. The mandatory rule is distributing the two-third of the slaughtered meat among the poor not for mass consumption or competition of buying the best animals at a higher price. To prevent Coronavirus, it will be great not to allow us to gather animals for marketing and slaughter this year for the Eid ul Adha event. And no race and competitions of buying the best animals or purchasing a few animals for sacrifice for one rich family (sacrifice a few animals for the per household).  Following local methods, one animal slaughtering requires a number of people, so in Bangladesh, they should not approve marketing animals as well as slaughtering.

If Qurbani is Wajib or not? There is a big controversy on Qurbani. According to Hanafi Majhab, Qurbani is Wajib/optional, not mandatory. Hanafi Majhab suggests that if you can afford, you can do it.  If you cannot afford to buy an animal, you do not have to Qurbani. The people of India, Pakistan, including Bangladesh, follow Hanafi Majhab. Three Majhabs, such as Shafei, Hambeli, Maleki suggest that Qurbani is not obligatory. And Tirmiji commented that Qurbani is not Wajib, as Prophet did it, so it is Sunnah. It is not obligatory but strong Sunnah. It is Wajib/optional, not Farj/ not mandatory. Thus, controversy remains between optional and obligatory followers. I would like to clarify what Islam says about Abraham’s Qurbani of a sheep instead of his son, including the distribution of meat referring to Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl. Many Muslims do not have access to the knowledge about the meaning of Qurbani and meat distribution process that was determined during the ancient times.

On the sacrifice on Eid-Ul Adha, what Fatwa/ Islamic laws we have in our hands and hearts, let’s be sure of it.  And what are the goals and objectives of slaughtering animals on this occasion, or it has a far greater meaning of love and share, egalitarian aspects of Islam. According to Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl (2016), “in Shari’ah, contrary to what many contemporary Muslims believe, the very idea behind the udhiyah is not to partake in a sacrificial offering in remembrance of the Prophet Abraham’s sacrifice of a sheep instead of his son. The sacrifice is not an offering to a deity, and it is not a symbolic reproduction of the atonement offered Abraham when God instructs him not to kill his son but to slaughter a sheep instead. Rather, the consumption of meat in pre-modern times was considered a delicacy that only the rich could afford. The poor preserved their livestock, usually for harvesting or the production of milk products, but they were rarely in a position to consume their livestock.

The rich, on the other hand, who could afford to consume livestock, would enjoy the meat of animals, especially in feasts and special occasions throughout the year. Remember that there was no real way of preserving meat in mediums such as freezers or the like, so even among the rich classes, the consumption of meat was not commercialized as it is today. The slaughter of animals took place on special occasions and unless you were part of the elite, you had no opportunity to enjoy meat unless it was gifted to you by the elite of society or unless once or twice a year you could afford the high expense of slaughtering a sheep or goat.” 

Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl (2016) explanations above depict on the goals and objectives of Udiyah are quite different from what we all learned due to our limited knowledge regarding this critical issue. Qurbani/Udhiyah is the tradition of sharing meat with your family and the poor at the end of the Hajj season, at Eid ul-Adha.

(To be continued…..)


The writer is a Doctoral Candidate working on peace and conflict resolution through science at Curriculum Studies and teacher, Development department, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (UofT), and working as a Teaching Assistant, Sociology department, University of Toronto.

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