Do-it-Yourself Udhiyah Sacrifices on the Rise in the USA
Seeing a goat or lamb being slaughtered in front of your eyes translates into seeing blood. Lots of blood. Gushing on the floor. Nevertheless, for an increasing number of families personally doing the slaughter is an experience that brings the story of Prophet Ibrahim’s* spirit of sacrifice to life. Ramadan and the Eid Ul Fitr holiday are far more tangible for Muslim children, given the visual cues for an entire month. With opportunities for a Do-it-Yourself Udhiyah (sacrifice) on the rise, a growing number of North American parents now want the significance of Eid Ul Adha celebrations to be just as evident.
(Quran- 6:118-119) “Their meat will not reach Allah, nor will their blood, but what reaches Him is piety from you. Thus have We subjected them to you that you may glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and give good tidings to the doers of good.” (Quran – 22:37)
For several years now, Zeba Siddiqui of Plano, Texas, and her family have travelled an hour from home on Eid ul Adha to reach farms in surrounding cities. They prep their kids so won’t be queasy about blood they’ll see. “It is important for children to understand that the Islamic method of slaughtering is more humane as compared to the mainstream meat industry,” Siddiqui said. “They see firsthand how the free flowing blood cleanses the animal carcass of disease.” While waiting for their turn at the farm in Weatherford, Texas, her children often feed and play with the goats in the pen. “With Whole Foods and Costco selling halal meat, it is no surprise that even non-Muslims are warming up to the idea of the organic way of raising and slaughtering animals.”
Ashraf Hussain of Glendale Heights, dad to girls ages 13 and 8, steers away from the crowds to do the hand slaughter himself at a Wisconsin farm. As a hunter, he has the skill and tools to bring the fresh meat back home the same day. “I like the satisfaction of knowing that I am taking home the exact animal I slaughtered a few minutes ago,” Hussain said. “It does take a large chunk of my day to compete the cutting and cleaning process, but I think it is something important for us city dwellers to experience.”
“My girls don’t lead completely sheltered lives but watching the slaughter is not part of their reality,” says his wife, Zeenat. Further, she doesn’t feel that it’s a family holiday when the men are away for most of Eid day instead of spending time with the family.
Nabeela Mohammad from Montgomery, Illinois can relate to Zeenat. Until a few years ago, her family drove to a Pontiac, Michigan farm on Eid. “It used to be like a whole day affair when he had to go to Michigan,” Mohammad said. Today, they go online to secure a time slot to hand-slaughter a goat or lamb with Chicago-based, Barkaat Foods. “With their online booking and payment system, doing zubah has become a breeze as the men are back home in two hours.”
Eid Ul Adha is about understanding how life is sacred in Islam. “In India or Pakistan, you often see the goats brought home a week before Eid so that we establish an emotional connection with the animal,” said Ahmed Khan, CEO of Barkaat Foods. “Our children don’t see this in the United States.” As an antidote, Barkaat Foods has a community BBQ at their free range Wisconsin farm, a month prior to Eid Ul Adha. This allows customers to see the lambs and goats in their natural surroundings. Barkaat Foods also get special permission from the USDA to allow children at the slaughter so they may understand the importance of both zabiha halal and the farm to fork process from.
Chicago-based Maghreb Association of North America (MANA; http://manachicago.com), with members of North African ancestry, too organizes an udhiyah program and they, too, make a community picnic of their visit to the farm. On average, about 70 families attend, each paying for the sacrificial lamb plus $10 per person for the picnic. Every family chooses what it does with its share of the meat while abiding by the Islamic rules governing its distribution, says Board Member Abderrahmane Khellil. The next sacrifice is scheduled for around the 26th of October 2012, depending on the day of Arafa.
Hafsa Chaudhry’s family in Glendale Heights participates in the Abraham Day Meat Drive organized by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). Her 9 and 6 year old, initially squeamish, now consider it tradition to attend a farm animal slaughter on Eid. ICNA volunteers then distribute the meat on Chicago’s South Side to families who cannot afford it regularly.
“So eat of that [meat] upon which the name of Allah has been mentioned, if you are believers in His verses. And why should you not eat of that upon which the name of Allah has been mentioned while He has explained in detail to you what He has forbidden you, excepting that to which you are compelled. And indeed do many lead [others] astray through their [own] inclinations without knowledge. Indeed, your Lord – He is most knowing of the transgressors. (Quran – 6:118-19)
It’s essential to know the rules governing the sacrifice. The number of animals sacrificed on Eid Ul Adha depends on the family’s size and income. Animals but be disease free. A razor sharp knife without nicks is critical to preventing unnecessary pain to the animal. In most cases, the customer invokes the name of God, makes the first slit and the slaughter house staff does the rest. One family accidentally scarified a pregnant cow one year, which goes against Islamic injunctions governing the slaughter.
Many families have animals slaughtered in countries where they have extended family. Still others donate online to organizations like Islamic Relief (www.irusa.org), Zakat Foundation (www.zakat.org) and Helping Hand (www.hhrd.org), providing meat to countries where it is most needed.
No matter the route chosen, one goal unites these families on this holiday — the desire to please God.
During the three days of Eid Ul Adha, any Muslim that is financially able, has to sacrifice a sheep, goat, cow or camel in the name of God. Muslims believe that all life is sacred and that by taking the name of God when slaughtering an animal, it becomes a solemn act. They also do it to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham* who was asked by God to sacrifice his son, Ismail* and who, without question, set out to fulfill the command. When he was just about to commence with the sacrifice, God told Prophet Ibrahim that his sacrifice was accepted and He replaced Ismail* with a ram. Muslims divide the meat from the sacrifice into thirds – one-third for themselves, one-third for the less fortunate and the rest for friends and family. However, many donate all the meat to the needy.
Editor’s Note: The words ‘peace be upon him’ are recited upon mention of every prophet.
About the Writer: Kiran Ansari is a Chicago-based writer and editor with more than 12 years of experience and bylines in more than 30 publications. She can be reached via LinkedIn and at Kiran@kiranansari.com.