A Guide to the Day of Sacrifice for New Muslims

By August 31, 2017Blog

A Guide to the Day of Sacrifice for New Muslims

Day of Sacrifice[1]

The tenth day of the Month of the Pilgrimage [2], is the second Islamic holiday of the year. Muslims around the world celebrate it just as they did a few months ago after the completion of Ramadan. This year the holiday will correspond with Friday the 1st of September.

The history of the Day of Sacrifice goes back to the time of Abraham.  The annual celebration commemorates the great event when God commanded Abraham in a dream to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience. 37:102

As Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, God revealed to him that his “sacrifice” had been fulfilled.  He had shown that his love for his Lord superseded all others, that he would make any sacrifice in order to submit to God.  If you are a convert to Islam from Christianity or Judaism, you may know a different version of the same story also appears in the Old Testament of the Bible.

Some people are confused as to why God asked Abraham to slaughter his own son.  The purpose was not for Abraham to kill his son; rather it was to sacrifice the attachment to his son from his heart so all his love belonged to God alone.

Thus, it is a part of our tradition that during the blessed Ten Days of the Month of Pilgrimage and on the Day of Sacrifice we remember the sacrifice of Abraham by reflecting over the story and reliving some of the rites.  We reflect on what made him such a strong believer, one who was beloved to God, someone God blessed and made a leader and example for all the nations that were to follow.

Sacrificing one’s son was a test of Abraham’s faith.  To commemorate and remember Abraham’s trials, Muslims slaughter an animal such as a sheep, goat, cow, or camel.  The practice is often misunderstood by those outside of the faith.  Therefore, several points must be understood here:

  1. The animal sacrifice is not a pagan ritual as some may assume. It is nothing like pagan rituals as there is no use of the spilled blood to rub on objects or icons as a blood ritual. There are no superstitious beliefs. There is also no false belief that the blood or meat goes to feed a god or is used to avert such false god’s anger as pagans believe.

Quite the contrary as the One True God tells us the point behind the sacrifice.

“We have made sacrificial animals (camels/cows) part of God’s sacred rites for you. There is much good in them for you , so mention God’s name over them as they are lined up for sacrifice, then, when they have fallen down dead, feed yourselves and those who do not ask, as well as those who do. We have subjected them to you in this way so that you may be thankful. It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches God but your piety. He has subjected them to you in this way so that you may glorify God for having guided you. Prophet, give good news to those who do good.” 22:36-37

Performing this ritual sacrifice in the name of God is a sign of obedience to God, piety. After the blood is drained and discarded, the meat of the animal is to be distributed to the poor, one’s family and friends.

  1. There are no special rituals involved, other than the animal meeting certain requirements.  The animal is slaughtered in the same way it is slaughtered any other time in the year to be lawful to consume.  The only difference is in the intention.  For regular slaughter, the intention is to consume the meat or feed it to others, but for this occasion, it is to worship God by commemorating Abraham’s trial and in obedience to God.
  2. God’s Name is pronounced since God has given us power over animals and made them subservient to us. He allowed us to consume their meat, but only in His Name.  By saying the Name of God at the time of slaughter, we remind ourselves that even the life of an animal is sacred and we can only take away its life in the Name of the One who gave it in the first place.
  3. Good acts atone for one’s sins.  Offering the animal sacrifice is a ritual of devotion that also expiates one’s sins.  Muhammad the messenger of God taught that the most beloved deed on this day is offering the sacrifice and that it will bear witness for the devotee on the Day of Resurrection.

Regulations related to the Sacrificial Animal

  • Type of Animal

The only animals which are allowed to be sacrificed are those mentioned in the Quran as cattle and livestock lawful for consumption, namely camels, cows, goats and sheep. A single sheep can be offered as a sacrifice for a single person or a family.  At the time of the Messenger of God, a man would sacrifice a sheep on behalf of himself and the members of his household, and they would eat from it and give some to others. A camel or cow is sufficient for seven people.

  •  Age of Animal

The animal should be of a certain age to be fit for sacrifice.  The minimum ages are:

  1. a) 6 months for a lamb or sheep.
  2. b) 1 year for a goat.
  3. c) 2 years for a cow.
  4. d) 5 years for a camel.
  • Characteristics of the Animal

It should be free of any faults or defects as one should choose the best offering to gift to God. The blind or one eyed animal, a sick animal, a lame animal, and an emaciated animal will not qualify for the sacrifice.

There are milder defects that do not disqualify an animal, but it is disliked to sacrifice such animals, like an animal with a horn or ear missing, or with slits in its ears, etc.

  • Time of Sacrifice

The animal should be sacrificed at the specified time which starts after the congregational service (prayer and sermon) on the Day of Sacrifice has concluded and lasts until before sunset of the 13th day of the Month of Sacrifice. The three days following the Day of Sacrifice are called the Days of Sunrise.[3]

The meat from the sacrifice is eaten by family and relatives, given away to friends and neighbors, and donated to the poor.  We recognize that all blessings come from God, and we should open our hearts and share with others.

Advice for the Day of Sacrifice

  1. Take the day of off from work or school, if possible. If you cannot, try to make arrangements for time off to try to attend the congregational service if it is close by.
  2. Make arrangements for the sacrificial animal ahead of time. You can go with local Muslims to a ranch or a slaughter house or go by yourself if you have prior experience. It will be an experience you will not forget! You may want to slaughter the animal yourself or you can have a fellow Muslim do it for you. If no Muslim is available, a Jew or a Christian may do it as long as they slaughter the animal properly by cutting the jugular veins and letting the animal bleed out. You can also transfer money to an Islamic charity to do it on your behalf and they will distribute the meat to the poor. For millions of poor Muslims around the world it is the only time in the year they get to eat meat.

As a new Muslim,  you might not live in an area with a Muslim community, so it is recommended that you donate money to a charity to do the sacrifice on your behalf and to feed poor Muslims through one of the online Islamic relief organizations.  Costs of doing the sacrifice will vary based on the country you want it to be performed in. A few organizations are listed below, you can find many more online:

http://www.islamic-relief.org/category/seasonal/seasonalcampaignqurbani/

http://irusa.org/udhiyahqurbani/?gclid=CL-llYOA-c4CFQpsfgod1A8Cfg

https://umrelief.org/campaigns/qurbani/

https://pennyappealusa.org/campaigns/qurbani

  1. Connect with your local mosque or Islamic center at least a week before to find out the time and place where the congregational prayer will be held. After the prayer, sweets and light refreshments are usually served. Most mosques will hold Eid dinners either in the evening or within the next few days. Find out when and where they are and try to attend them.
  2. Do not get lonely or feel isolated. Make arrangements with your Muslim friends or families ahead of time to visit them for Eid. Invite Muslim friends and cook for them. If you can’t cook, eat out with them. Try to involve your non-Muslim family members by taking them to the Eid prayer with you or have them visit you for dinner with your Muslim friends. It will take some planning. Do it ahead of time. You have four days to celebrate!
  3. Families give gifts to children on Eid. Prophet Muhammad said: “Exchange gifts with each other, you will love each other.” You may like to give gifts to your non-Muslim and Muslim family members and friends.
  4. Volunteer on Eid day at your local mosque. They will need volunteers for parking, food set-up, clean up, children’s activities, and more.
  5. Dress up for Eid. Buy some new clothes and be in ‘celebration’ mode!

To sum up the proceeding…

On this day, a Muslim who is not performing the Hajj pilgrimage engages in the same activities one normally does on the Day of Breaking Fast[4], with the exception of not paying the charity of breaking fast, which applies only after Ramadan.

A distinctive feature in this Celebration is the slaughtering of a sacrificial animal, which is considered to be a highly recommended act of worship for those who can afford it financially.

Another feature is the extension of the feast for several days. The Day of Arafa, the Day of Sacrifice and the three Days of Sunrise are five consecutive days of celebration which come around annually, hence the name Eid[5]. These days are designated to be a time to ‘eat, drink, joy, and remembrance/devotion to God’ as the messenger Muhammad taught. The Day of Sacrifice along with the three days after it are days that are forbidden to fast as they are days of celebration.

A sacrificial animal refers to any of the pastoral animals (sheep, goats, cows or camels) that are slaughtered during the Festival of Sacrifice with the intention of seeking closeness to God.

Slaughtering a sacrificial animal during the Festival of Sacrifice is a practice which the messenger Muhammad regularly did and encouraged for those who can afford to do so. The head of the household may offer a sacrifice for himself and on behalf of his dependents.

It is not lawful to offer a sacrifice of any animal or bird except pastoral animals, namely sheep, cows or camels.

One sheep or goat would suffice for a household, and seven different households may share in sacrificing a cow or a camel.

The sacrificial animal must be of the right age. A sheep must be at least six months, a goat one year old, a cow two years old, and a camel five years old. It should also be free from apparent defects.

What Should Be Done with the Sacrificial Animal?

It is forbidden to sell any part of the sacrificial animal.

It is recommended to divide it into three parts: one part for personal consumption/eating, one third to be given as gifts and one third to be given in charity to the poor and the needy.

It is permissible to delegate someone to slaughter a sacrificial animal on one’s behalf, such as trustworthy charitable organization that undertake the slaughter of sacrificial animals and distribute them to the needy.

It is, of course, permissible to slaughter more than one animal on behalf of a single household or person as it would count as extra good deeds.

May God bless you and accept your worship and sacrifice.

[1] Day of ‘Adha’ Sacrifice

[2] Thul Hijjah

[3] Days of ‘Tashreeq’ Sunrise as people would have the meat from their offerings dried under the sun during these days.

[4] Day of ‘Fitr’ Breaking Fast

[5] Eid means a recurring and repeated event

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