What is udhiyah/qurbani?
Shaikh (Dr) Haitham Al-Haddad
Q: What is udhiyah?
It is the act of slaughtering an animal (a camel, buffalo, sheep or goat etc) for the sake of Allah on the 10th of Dhu’l-Hijjah. In fact, Eid al-Ad’ha, the main festival of Islam, is named as such because of this act. The word "udhiyah" also refers to the animal being sacrificed.
Q: What is the importance of udhiyah?
Sacrificing an animal for the sake of Allah is one of the acts most loved by Allah. The sacrifice on Eid is even more loved by Allah as He says in the Qur’an: "Say (O Muhammad): Verily, my Salah (prayer), my nusuk (deeds), my living, and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the worlds. He has no partner. And of this I have been commanded, and I am the first to submit."
"Therefore, turn in prayer to your Lord and sacrifice (to Him only).""And for every nation We have appointed religious ceremonies, that they may mention the name of Allah over the cattle that He has given them for food. And your God is One God, so you must submit to Him alone. And give glad tidings to those who obey Allah with humility."
It was narrated that ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said, "The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) stayed in Madinah for ten years, offering sacrifice (every year on Eid)." Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sacrificed two white rams speckled with black. He also stated that the Prophet slaughtered them with his own hands saying ‘God is great’ and put his foot on their necks."
There are some acts in the Shari’ah for which specific virtues are not explicitly identified, but this does not mean that the act is not itself virtuous. For example, the I’tikaf (spending the last ten days of Ramadan in a mosque) which the Prophet never failed to undertake has no specific statement regarding its virtue. The udhiyah is the same. According to the Maliki jurist and exegete Ibn al-’Arabi, there is no authentic hadith concerning the virtue of udhiyah. However, some scholars accepted the narration of A’ishah, the wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he said, "On the day of sacrifice there is no deed of the son of Adam which is more loved by Allah than the drop of blood. The slaughtered animal will come on the Day of Judgement with its horns, hoofs and hairs. The blood is accepted by Allah before it falls on the ground and they will be made happy by it."
Udhiyah is a very noble social act as the Sunnah is to give part of it as charity, a part of it as a gift, and a part of it is to be consumed by the one sacrificing it and his/her family. Some people in poor countries do not eat meat throughout the year due to its expensive nature except when they receive a gift of udhiyah meat.
Q: Is it compulsory to sacrifice an animal?
Irrespective of whether it is obligatory or not, there is no doubt that all Muslims unanimously agree that it is a strongly established Sunnah that people should practice especially as it is a symbol of Islam. Some scholars believe that due to its importance it becomes an obligation if one can afford to sacrifice an animal. Imam Abu Hanifah and his school of thought adopt such a view. It is also one of the views of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal.
Q: We always hear that you should not cut your hair and nail before sacrificing your udhiyah in order for it to be valid? Is that true?
It is reported in Sahih Muslim that Umm Salamah, the wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him) narrated that the Prophet said, "When the month of Dhu’l-Hijjah starts, if one of you wants to offer a sacrifice, let him refrain from (cutting) his hair and nails." According to another version of the hadith, he said, "When the ten days (of Dhu’l-Hijjah) begin, if one of you wants to offer a sacrifice, let him not touch his hair or skin with anything." However, the hadith does not confirm that the sacrifice will not be accepted unless the person refrains from these acts. If anyone cuts his hair or nails by mistake, or out of ignorance, he should still sacrifice the udhiyah.
Q: Is there any compensation to be paid for cutting one’s hair or nails if planning to sacrifice an animal?
There is no compensation that should be offered and the person should still offer the sacrifice as its validity and acceptability to Allah is not contingent on having left one’s hair or nails uncut.
Q: What is the wisdom behind avoiding cutting the hair or the nails?
Scholars have mentioned different types of wisdoms. People in Hajj refrain from similar acts and it is the wisdom of Allah that He wants other people who are unable to travel for the Hajj to have a similar opportunity to gain reward. If people observe these actions, they will be connected to the Hajj and the people on Hajj.
Q: What is better for Muslims in non-Muslim societies, to offer the sacrifice or make a financial donation towards an Islamic project?
Slaughtering for the sake of Allah is an Islamic symbol whether one is in the west or the east. We have to remember that when the Shari’ah instructs us to perform an act that seems irregular, then the Shari’ah intends this act as a ritual and Allah loves it. Let us remember that human beings never know what Allah loves except through revelation. Therefore, such acts are intended by Allah and loved by him when they are performed in the way He commands.
Charity is just one aspect of slaughtering while the other aspect is to show obedience to Allah. This specific sacrifice is better than giving its price as charity. As explained earlier, it was practiced by the Prophet and his Companions. The Prophet could simply have given charity and allowed people the choice but he didn’t do so. Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said, "Sacrifice when divinely prescribed is better than giving its price in charity...even if you give many times more the value of the sacrifice for tamattu’ and qiraan [two types of Haj], it will never take its place, and the same applies to the udhiyah."
Q: Who should offer the udhiyah within a household?
Most scholars including Malik, al-Shaf’ii, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal have agreed that one sacrifice is sufficient on behalf of all the members of a household, no matter how many of them there are. Al-Tirmidhi narrated that ‘Ata’ ibn Yasaar said, "I asked Abu Ayyub, "How was the sacrifice conducted at the time of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)?"
He said, ‘A man would offer a sheep on behalf of himself and the members of his family, and they would eat some and feed others with some.’" Commenting on this hadith, Al-Mubarakpuri said, "This hadith clearly states that a single sheep is sufficient on behalf of a man and the members of his household, even if they are many, and that is correct." In another hadith reported by al-Hakim, it is narrated that when Abdullah ibn Hisham was young, his mother came with him to the Prophet (peace be upon him) who wiped over his head and supplicated for him. He said that the Prophet used to slaughter one animal on behalf of himself and all his household members. Al-Hakim classed this hadith as authentic. It has not been mentioned at all that the Prophet commanded his household members to sacrifice individual sheeps on their behalf. In fact, he would say when he sacrificed a ram, "this is on my behalf, that of my household, and the ummah of Muhammad."
Imam Malik declared that a single sheep is sufficient on behalf of a man and the members of his household even if they are more than seven, and one sheep does not suffice two households even if they number less than seven. He quoted the hadith narrated by Mukhnif ibn Qays that the Prophet said, "One udhiyah and ‘atirah [sacrifice during the first ten days of Rajab] is prescribed for every household every year." However, the authenticity of this hadith is disputed.
Q: Is it better to sacrifice the udhiyah in a non-Muslim country or to authorise someone to do it on our behalf in a Muslim country where many more poor people can benefit from it?
As discussed earlier, the udhiyah serves two purposes: firstly to show gratitude and obedience to Allah and secondly to enjoy the eating of meat that might not be eaten frequently on other days. Allah called the rituals of Hajj including slaughtering the camels the “sha’air” which means symbols. He said, “And the budn [cows, oxen, or camels driven to be offered as sacrifices by the pilgrims at the sanctuary of Makkah] We have made for you the symbols of Allah, therein you have much benefit.”
Therefore, we should exert effort in practicing this Sunnah in different lands and make it visible to our families, neighbours and the public. This is the general guideline that should be observed at all times. However, some other exceptions might be applied such as if there is a dire need in other countries while the sunnah is visible where the person resides, then we may conclude that it may be better for the person to arrange the slaughter of his his udhiyah in countries that suffer from famine. The matter differs based on individuals, time and place.
Q: What shall we do with the meat of the udhiyah?
It is prescribed for the person who offers the sacrifice to eat some of the meat, to give some as gift and to give some in charity, because Allah says, “Then eat thereof and feed therewith the poor having a hard time.”“Eat thereof, and feed the poor who do not ask (men), and the beggar who asks (men). Thus have We made them subject to you that you may be grateful.”
Salamah ibn al-Akwa’ (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Eat some, give some to others and store some.”
Giving some to others includes both giving gifts to the rich and giving charity to the poor. It was also narrated by A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “Eat some, store some and give some in charity.”
Scholars (may Allah have mercy on them) differed concerning the amounts that should be eaten, given as gifts, and given in charity. The matter is broad in scope but the best way is to eat one-third, give one-third as gift and give one-third in charity. What one is permitted to eat may also be stored, even for a long time, so long as that will not result in any harm being caused by eating it, except in times of famine, when it is not permitted to store it for more than three days. Salamah ibn al-Akwa’ (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Whoever among you offers a sacrifice should not have anything of it left in his house after three days.” The following year, they asked, “O Messenger of Allah, should we do what we did last year?” He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Eat some, give some to others and store some, for last year people were having a hard time and I wanted you to help (the needy).”
Q: It is difficult in Western countries to sacrifice an animal yourself, so is it permissible to allow the meat shop to take care of your udhiyah?
It is permissible provided that the conditions of the udhiyah are met. Prior to listing these conditions it is essential to remember that slaughtering the udhiyah is an act of worship and so it must be carried out for the sake of Allah and in accordance with the way prescribed by the Qur'an and Sunnah. One main condition that many people forget when discussing the conditions of the udhiyah is the fact that it should be slaughtered as an udhiyah and not just in the name of Allah. Another requirement for the udhiyah, which is a condition according to many scholars, is that it must be slaughtered by a Muslim. It is true that we are allowed to eat the meat of the People of the Book as stated in the Qur'an. However, many scholars exclude the udhiyah as it is an act of ritual worship and thus can only be carried out by a Muslim.
The animal should be from amongst the bahimat al-an'aam, i.e., camels, cattle, sheep and goats. Allah says, "And for every nation We have appointed religious ceremonies, that they may mention the name of Allah over the beast of cattle that He has given them for food."
Additionally, the animal should have reached a certain age. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, "Do not sacrifice anything but musinnah (an adult animal) unless it is difficult for you, in which case you may slaughter a six-month old lamb (jadh'ah)."
Al-Nawawi said in his al-Majmu', "The Ummah has agreed that with regards to camels, cows and goats, nothing will be excepted as udhiyah except a "thani", and with regard to sheep, nothing will be accepted as an udhiyah except a jad'ah [six months old].
The various schools of thought differed as to the years synonymous with a musinnah and thani. The various opinions are as follows:
1. With regard to the stipulated age of sacrificial animals, the scholars differed concerning that. The musinnah (or thani) of goats is one that has reached the age of one year according to the Hanafis, Malikis and Hanbalis. According to the Shafi'is, it is one that has reached the age of two years.
2. The musinnah (or thani) of cows is one of the has reached the age of two years according to the Hanafis, Shafi'is and Hanbalis. According to the Malikis, it is one that has reached the age of three years.
3. The musinnah (or thani) of camels is one that has reached the age of five years according to the Hanafis, Malikis, Shafi'is and Hanbalis.
4. A jadh'ah sheep is that which has reached the age of six months, according to the Hanafis and Hanbalis. According to the Malikis and Shafi'is, it is a sheep that has reached the age of one year.
The animal should not have major defects. Al-Bara' ibn 'Aazib narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, "There are four which are not permissible for sacrifice, a lame animal which is obviously lame, a one-eyed animal whose defect is obvious, a sick animal whose sickness is obvious, and an emaciated animal that no one would choose". In one of the reports of al-Nasa'I, the fourth one was the one that has had one of its legs cut off.
The final condition is that the udhiyah is to be slaughtered at the correct time which begins after the Eid prayer on Eid al-Ad'ha and ends when the sun sets on the thirteenth of Dhu'l-Hijjah. Imam Ahmad narrated that Buraydah (may Allah be pleased with him) said, "The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not go out on the day of (Eid) al-Fitr until he had eaten, and he did not eat on the day of (Eid) al-Ad'ha until he came back, then he would eat from his sacrifice." Therefore, there are four days of sacrifice in total - the day of al-Ad'ha and the three days after it.
Q: Can we buy a lamb from the butchers and then intend it as an udhiyah?
No. The animal has to be slaughtered with the intention of an udhiyah - it is an act of worship that cannot be accepted without a specific intention. It cannot be slaughtered with one intention and then intended as something different.
Q: Can we give non-Muslims some of the meat of the udhiyah?
It should generally be given to Muslims with some jurists having allowed for it to be given to non-Muslims.