Faith and Tradition This Eid-ul-Adha
Kristin Pufpaff, DVM, and Imran M. Ikram
There are many challenges that Muslims living in non-Muslim majority countries face for which there are no simple answers. Often compromises have to be made in order to practice faith in a way that we believe to be as close as possible to that prescribed by Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him [PBUH]).
Those compromises can be made more easily by educating ourselves on what is cultural and what is prescribed by faith. It is sensible that as we adapt to a different culture we build new traditions, while still being careful to hold onto what makes Islam a beautiful and simple religion. Below is a reminder of some of the rulings surrounding the slaughter of animals for Eid-ul-Adha.
Udhiyah is an Arabic term that specifically refers to the slaughter of Eid-ul-Adha. Qurbani is the Urdu word for this term, borrowed from Persian, which is related to the Arabic word qurba. Qurba means “to draw near to,” specifically to God; udhiyah or qurbani is a ritual act that spiritually draws one nearer to God. This metaphysical effect results from a mere mechanical act because of its representation and commemoration of the sacrifice of Ibrahim (PBUH). The willingness of the act to sacrifice one’s own child, Isma’il (PBUH) in this case, by the order of God is the ultimate embodiment of the concept of qurba. By conducting udhiyah or qurbani, we attempt to honor that sacrifice by offering our time, energy, and resources in order to get closer to God.
In regard to those upon whom udhiyah is required, it is strongly encouraged on all men and women who are of sound mind and reasoning, have reached the age of maturity, and possess a minimum threshold of wealth in excess of personal needs. The Hanafi school and some members of other schools stipulate that it is wajib (mandatory) provided the previously listed conditions are met. Those who establish the act as wajib specify the threshold of wealth as approximately 200 silver dirhams in excess of personal needs, the equivalent of approximately $375 at today’s prices.
In order for a slaughter to be considered an udhiyah, it must be offered with intent and must be done during the days of Eidul-Adha, the tenth to twelfth of Thul Hijjah, and it must occur after the Eid prayer has been completed. The obligation of an individual who participates in udhiyah is that he or she must slaughter one “share” of an animal. Small livestock (goats, sheep) count as one share, while large livestock (cattle, camels) satisfy seven shares.
Any portion of the meat can be consumed or donated, though many scholars suggest that one third go to the individual offering the sacrifice, one third to family and friends, and one third to the needy.
The slaughter itself is the act of worship, not the distribution of meat or its meritorious ancillary effect of providing for the needy. In other words, giving a monetary amount equivalent to the cost of a lamb to charity in lieu of slaughtering is not a valid replacement for the slaughter. The rationale is that one who gives charity rather than slaughters substitutes an established act of worship with something not previously prescribed without clear precedent. A practical analogy would be that one cannot substitute his or her daily prayers with fasting. Sending money for slaughtering abroad is valid so long as one is intending on that money to be used for the purpose of slaughter of Eid-ul-Adha and not to be distributed as sadaqah (charity).
Given the above rulings and traditions, the question might be asked: what should American Muslims be striving for during Eid-ul-Adha? It seems fair to say that the person who most benefits from an act of worship is the person performing it. Since the act of worship is the slaughter of an animal and not the giving up of one’s money, American Muslims should be striving for a way to be present for their Eid-ul-Adha sacrifice to ensure the conditions for slaughter can be properly met. However, the reality of our way of our life as Americans is that, as a whole, we have become increasingly disconnected from agricultural life. This is contrasted with some of our home countries in which it is perfectly acceptable to slaughter on the street outside one’s home. Though seemingly banal back home, this action in a public place preserves the integrity of the slaughtering process by making the action visible. To return to that integrity, the best solution for our society is for Muslims to seek out and work with slaughterhouses that meet halal and animal welfare standards and are also willing to perform custom slaughter. This would also allow American Muslims to positively engage our communities through partnerships with local food banks; Muslims could donate a portion of their sacrifice to these institutions. A 2013 United States Department of Agriculture report found that 14 percent of American households were food insecure at some point during the year, meaning that they did not know where their next meal was coming from. American food banks often look forward to Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas as times of the year when they are able to help more people because they receive more donations. Wouldn’t it be great if beyond fulfilling an act of worship for our own benefit, the American Muslim community could use Eid-ul-Adha as another opportunity to express goodwill toward fellow Americans as a whole by helping those in need around us?
should be at least one year old
should be at least one year old
should be at least two years old and fulfills the obligation for seven people
should be at least five years old and fulfills the obligation for seven people
|Other livestock reasonably analogous to the previous categories (note: poultry is not sufficiently analogous)|
Imran M. Ikram holds a degree in divinity with a focus on Islamic studies from the University of Chicago and currently works for IFANCA as the coordinator of community services.