Qurbani: Rulings and Animal Welfare
Qurbani/Udhyiah means sacrifice and is generally used to refer to the slaughter of an animal for Allah during the Eid al Adha period ideally as soon after the Eid prayer as possible. The ruling is within 3 days of Eid al Adha. If the sacrifice is done before it must be repeated and if it is carried out after it is not accepted. The 3-day ruling only applies to the slaughter of the animal, the meat may be stored and distributed at a later date to save from being wasted. (1)
The reason for the slaughter of an animal is in the remembrance of the prophet Ibrahim pbuh (Abraham) and his test from Allah to sacrifice his own son Ismail. As an act of faith Ibrahim pbuh agreed but Allah intervened at the last minute and sent a ram in his son’s place. The actions of Ibrahim pbuh show the lengths he would go to in his submission to the will of Allah which is what Muslims wish to replicate. In history the replacement of a ram instead of a human signifies Allah condemning human sacrifice which was common practice during the time and throughout history. (2)
“ You have indeed fulfilled the vision [by showing your willingness to sacrifice your son]. Thus do we reward the righteous. This was obviously a great trail- and we ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice, and left him, thus, for posterity to say in laudation; ‘peace be upon him’”. Quran 37:105-109
Udhyiah/ Qurbani Is carried out to signify this as a Muslim and to distribute the meat amongst those in need, the community and family. Some schools of thought say this is compulsory however others say it is a sunnah ( an encouraged act). (3)
“This is a commemorative tradition (sunnah) of your patriarch Abraham” (4)
Eid al Adha is the festival at the end of the yearly Hajj pilgrimage carried out by millions of Muslims each year in Mecca.
The most common animals which are slaughtered are Cows, Goats, Sheep and Camels. Although you could also choose bull and buffalo.
It is best to feed the poor with these sacrificed animals, however the ruling in Islam is that at least one third of the meat should go to the needy.
It is a great sin to waste the meat of a sacrificed animal or to not distribute any to the poor and a criminal act under Shariah/ Islamic law. (2) (3) Quran 22:36, 37.
Qurbani has a set criterion relating to the Muslim believer. They must be of sound mind and Muslim and they must have the wealth to afford qurbani. There are also alternative depending on circumstances. If you are ill in hospital, away from home or have a small amount of wealth you can offer to give to charity, feed the poor or hold fast. (2) If you are not of privilege you are excused from giving Qurbani and Zakat (Charity). People can also share Qurbani, a small animal such as Goat is equal to one Qurbani, but a large animal such as a camel is equal to 7, so it is permissible for people to share a large animal. (1)
“ Islam sanctioned sacrifice and expounded its wisdom and purpose; the wisdom being to introduce the rich to spend, the purpose being to feed the poor unfortunate – for thus said the Lord ‘Eat of it and feed the poor unfortunate.” (5)
Animals which are being sent for Qurbani must meet a certain criterion.
The animals must be in good health and condition. Animals who are sick, weak, blind, have a disability, broken horns, no teeth or young are not allowed.
The age of the animal is also a consideration. A sheep should be one year or older, cattle 2 years or older and a camel 5 years or older. Unless there is an exceptional circumstance.
All other animal welfare advice from the Quran and hadith still apply from rearing the animal to slaughter.
“ God has honoured man with authority over his countless creatures. Everything has been harnessed for him. He has been endowed with the power to subdued them and make them serve his objective. This superior position gives man an authority over them and he enjoys the right to use them as he likes. But that does not mean that God has given him unbridled liberty. Islam says that all the creation has certain rights upon man.
He should not waste them on fruitless ventures nor should he unnecessarily hurt or harm them. When he uses them for his service he should cause them the least possible harm and should employ the best and the least injurious methods of using them.” (6)
1) Important rules and guidelines regarding Qurbani. Muslim Aid. https://www.muslimaid.org/media-centre/news/important-rules-and-guidelines-regarding-qurbani/
2) Animal Welfare in Islam; Al-Hafiz Basheer Ahmad Masri; The Islamic Foundation; Leicestershire, UK; 2007
3) What is Qurbani. Islamic relief. https://www.islamic-relief.org/what-is-qurbani/
4) Cf. Ibn Kathir, Vol 3; p. 221.
5) Wajdi’s Encyclopaedia. Sacrifice. Shaykh Farid Wajdi.
6) Towards Understanding Islam; Sayyid Abul A la Mawdudi; English translation by Dr. Khurshid Ahmad, a Muslim of renown in the literary and religious circles; Islamic Publications Ltd., 13-E Shah Alam market, Lahore, Pakistan