Submitting Through Sacrifice

Miftaah Scholars

Fearing that he was being deceived by Shaytan, Ibrahim AS initially dismissed the recurrent dreams in which he witnessed himself sacrificing his beloved son, Isma’il AS. However, as the divine nature of this command became unmistakable, Ibrahim AS mustered the strength to approach his dear son. Allah ﷻ recounts this incident in Surah Shua’ra:

فَلَمَّا بَلَغَ مَعَهُ ٱلسَّعْىَ قَالَ يَـٰبُنَىَّ إِنِّىٓ أَرَىٰ فِى ٱلْمَنَامِ أَنِّىٓ أَذْبَحُكَ فَٱنظُرْ مَاذَا تَرَىٰ ۚ قَالَ يَـٰٓأَبَتِ ٱفْعَلْ مَا تُؤْمَرُ ۖ سَتَجِدُنِىٓ إِن شَآءَ ٱللَّهُ مِنَ ٱلصَّـٰبِرِينَ 
Then when the boy reached the age to work with him, Abraham said, “O my dear son! I have seen in a dream that I ˹must˺ sacrifice you. So tell me what you think.” He replied, “O my dear father! Do as you are commanded. Allah willing, you will find me steadfast.” (37:102)

Ibrahim AS emerged triumphant in this test of sacrifice. Allah ﷻ greatly cherished this act of submission and He established the practice of Udhiya/Qurbani for us as well. Thereby commemorating the sacrifice of His close friend, Ibrahim AS.

The Prophet ﷺ informed us of the merits of this act, saying, “No human performs a deed on the Day of Sacrifice that is dearer to Allah ﷻ than the Udhiya/Qurbani. The sacrificed animal will come on the Day of Resurrection with its horns and cloven hoofs and hair [interceding on your behalf]. Its blood is accepted by Allah ﷻ before it reaches the ground, so let your heart delight when you do it” (Ibn Majah 3126).

Linguistically, Udhiya refers to the forenoon, as it is typically the time when the slaughter takes place. Qurbani signifies drawing closer to something, symbolizing how the act of sacrifice brings us closer to Allah ﷻ and reflects the genuine intention behind this divine legislation. It is essential to understand that Allah ﷻ has not enjoined Udhiya/Qurbani because he requires meat from us. Rather, through our sacrifice, we experience the true essence of complete devotion to Allah ﷻ. We willingly submit ourselves to His command, sacrificing solely for His sake, and in the process, we cultivate piety, generosity, and unity. As Allah ﷻ mentions in Surah Hajj:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

لَن يَنَالَ ٱللَّهَ لُحُومُهَا وَلَا دِمَآؤُهَا وَلَـٰكِن يَنَالُهُ ٱلتَّقْوَىٰ مِنكُمْ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ سَخَّرَهَا لَكُمْ لِتُكَبِّرُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَىٰكُمْ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ ٱلْمُحْسِنِينَ 
Neither their meat nor blood reaches Allah. Rather, it is your piety that reaches Him. This is how He has subjected them to you so that you may proclaim the greatness of Allah for what He has guided you to, and give good news to the good-doers. (22:37)

Udhiya/Qurbani holds the status of wajib or mandatory according to Hanafi school and sunnah mu’akkadah according to the three other schools of Sunni law. The legal burden would fall on every mentally sound Muslim who has reached the age of puberty, possesses wealth exceeding the nisab of Zakat (which is currently $5,940), and is not in a state of travel. While it is highly recommended, it is not obligatory for parents to offer a sacrifice on behalf of their children.

For every act of ibadah, Allah ﷻ has established specific guidelines that we must follow diligently. Adhering to these guidelines ensures the acceptance of our deeds and safeguards us from introducing any innovations or deviating from Allah ﷻ’s wise commands. Concerning Udhiya/Qurbani, these guidelines revolve around the permissible animals that can be slaughtered, the method of slaughter, and the designated time for the sacrifice.

The sacrificial animal chosen for Udhiya/Qurbani must be free from defects and meet specific age requirements. For goats, rams, and sheep, they should be at least one year old. Cows, bulls, oxen, and buffaloes must be at least two years old, while camels should be a minimum of five years old.

It is not befitting of Allah ﷻ to be offered an animal that is flawed or deficient. Defects that render the animal unfit for sacrifice include a completely broken horn, a majority of broken teeth, blindness, diseased meat, a limp that hinders the animal from placing weight on the affected leg, severance of more than one-third of the tongue, ear, tail, or udder, and excessive weakness and feebleness.

Once an animal has been designated for sacrifice, it is no longer permissible to utilize it for personal purposes, such as riding or milking.

It is preferable for each individual to personally perform the slaughter, embodying the spirit of sacrifice and personal involvement. However, it is permissible to delegate someone else to carry out the slaughter on one's behalf. When handling the animal, gentleness and compassion are essential. Before the slaughter, the knife should be sharpened to ensure a swift and humane process. It is advised not to slaughter one animal in front of others to avoid distress among the animals. Unnecessary harm to the animal should be avoided at all costs.

The proper method of slaughter involves facing the animal towards the qiblah and laying it on its left side. Then, the intention for the act of slaughter should be made sincerely for the sake of Allah ﷻ. While slaughtering, one should say “Bismillah, Allahu Akbar” (In the name of Allah, Allah is the Greatest). The windpipe, food pipe, and both jugular veins must be cut for the slaughter to be valid.

It is preferable to divide the meat of the sacrificed animal into three equal parts. One-third of the meat should be consumed by oneself, another one-third should be shared as gifts with neighbors and relatives, and the remaining one-third should be given to the poor and less fortunate. It is important to note that selling any part of the animal is strictly prohibited.

The optimal time for performing the sacrifice is immediately after the Eid prayer on the first day of Eid, 10th of Dhul Hijja. However, any slaughter done after the Eid prayer and before Maghrib on the 12th of Dhul Hijja will be valid.

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