A guide to understanding Qurbani/Udhiya

What is Qurbani?

Qurban is the ritual slaughtering of livestock — sheep, cows, bulls, goats, camels, etc — on specific days of the Islamic calendar. The practice of Qurbani can be traced back to the time of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) when he dreamt that Allah ordered him to sacrifice his son, Ismail. Due to Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail’s sincere and total submission to Allah’s commands, Allah The Most Merciful, substituted a Ram instead.

When is Qurbani permissible?

On the 10th of Dhul Hijja after the imam had descended from the mimbar to the 13th of Dhul Hijja before Maghrib.

Who should Qurbān?

Sharī’ah scorns at, dislikes, or confers “unlawful (ḥarām)” on a Muslim when he/she has the financial capacity to do a qurbān but does not do it willfully or forgetfully, or neglects to do it.

Imām Abū Ḥanīfah (r.a) is the only one of the four Schools of Thought who makes the qurbān wājib (compulsory) on the one who possesses the equivalent or more than the niṣāb (the minimum amount liable to the payment of zakāh). Thus, the person who is by the means and (financially) able to do a qurbān, should exert all efforts to do, at least, one qurbān.

Imām Abū Ḥanīfah inferred his opinion from the ḥadīth of the Prophet Muḥammad (s.a.w.s.) when he said: “Whosoever is by the means (to slaughter for qurbān) and he (or she) does not make the sacrifice should not come near our place of prayer (for Eid-al-Aḍḥā).”

Almighty Allāh says in the Holy Quran:

“It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allāh, but it is piety from you that reaches Him. Thus have We made them (i.e. sheep, goats, cattle or camels, etc.) subject to you that you may magnify Allāh for His guidance to you. And give glad tidings [O Muḥammad (s.a.w.s.)] to the muḥsinīn (doers of good)” [Al- Ḥajj: Q22: 37].

The Prophet Muḥammad (s.a.w.s.) said: “The flowing of blood (i.e. performing qurbān) on the Day of Sacrifice is the most loved of deeds what people are doing on this day. Indeed, the qurbān will be delivered with its horns, hair (wool) and cloven hoofs on the Day of Resurrection. Truly, the blood falls by Allāh at a place before it falls to the ground. Appease another person with your qurbān.”

How to choose a sacrificial animal (Al-Uḍḥiyah)

  • The sacrificial animals are described as livestock of sheep, goats, cattle and camels, etc.
  • A sheep must be, at least, one year old or more than six months old, providing its (front) teeth had already fallen out.
  • The goat and cow/bull must be, at least, two years old, going into its third year.
  • The camel must be, at least, five years old, going into its sixth year.

How to apportion the Uḍḥiyah / Qurbān?

  • One sheep or goat is equivalent to one qurbān.
  • However, seven persons may share in one cow, bull or camel.

What are the conditions for the sacrificial animals (Al-Aḍāḥī)?

The uḍḥiyah / qurbān must be an animal that is:

  • Perfect [kāmil]
  • Sound [salīm]
  • Healthy [mu’āfan]
  • Not Deformed [ṣaḥīḥ]

The uḍḥiyah / qurbān must not be an animal that has defects, such as:

  • Blindness in one or both eyes or animal has lost more than one-third of its eyesight
  • A third or more of the ear or tail is cut off
  • Total lameness of one or more legs. If the animal is partially lame or the leg is not severely injured and it is able to walk with it (even though limping), then the animal is valid for sacrifice
  • An extremely emaciated or weak animal
  • An animal where the majority of teeth have fallen out
  • An animal born without ears
  • An animal with a horn broken off at the base or root. If the horn is only partially broken off, the animal is valid for sacrifice.

Preparing for sacrifice

  • Sheep and goats must be handled humanely, no dragging by fleece, horns or legs. They must not be carried upside down by their legs.
  • Stress should be avoided by covering the animal’s eyes before slaughter.
  • The knife used must be extremely sharp and must be sharpened after every animal, no serrated or damaged knives must be used.
  • Noise must be kept to a minimum.
  • The slaughterer must be competent and must ensure the animal is ready to bleed with one swift cut (oesophagus, trachea, and jugular). There shall be an immediate and strong blood loss.

How to sacrifice

  • Slaughter must be performed out of the view of other animals and the blood washed away and carcasses removed before the next animal is brought to be slaughtered.
  • Once the throat is cut the animal will rapidly lose a large amount of blood but is still conscious and feeling.
  • The cut must be quick and clean, a deep, swift cut severing carotid and jugular on both sides of the neck is imperative to allow a quick blood loss resulting in loss of consciousness and death.
  • If the cut is not good, do not hesitate to ‘request’ that the animal is cut again, as above. If sawing action/poor cut etc is seen, check to see if the size of the knife is suitable, the knife is sharp and the slaughter knows what he is doing.
  • The pupils will dilate; the eyes eventually roll back into the head and then will return to a staring position.
  • The animal dies from blood loss and the effectiveness of the cut (especially cattle) affects the time the animal takes to loose consciousness.
  • Sheep and goats must be allowed to bleed out for 6 minutes before dressing commences. Eight minutes for cattle.
  • Inserting a hosepipe or throwing water onto the jugular straight after slaughter is not permissible.
  • The legs of sheep and goats may not be tied.

The significance of Qurban

As Eid-ul-Aḍḥā dawns upon the Muslim Ummah on the 10th of Dhil Ḥijjah, we are passionately reminded of our spiritual connection with our Creator, Almighty Allāh and the consciousness of Eid-ul-Aḍḥā. In the process, we exemplify this through our spiritual connectivity, and by commemorating the sacrificial legacy or tradition (i.e. the Sunnah) of the Prophet Ebrāhīm (a.s) and his son, the Prophet Ismā-īl (a.s); and our caring and benevolent nature towards our fellow human beings and other creations of Almighty Allāh.

In essence, the consciousness of Eid-ul-Aḍḥā allows us to express appreciation to and humility in front of Almighty Allāh, whilst we physically connect with the sacrificial animals in the spirit of Divine guidance. Says Almighty Allāh:

“It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allāh, but it is piety from you that reaches Him. Thus, have We made them (i.e. sheep, goats, cattle or camels, etc.) subject to you that you may magnify Allāh for His guidance to you. And give glad tidings [O Muḥammad (s.a.w.s.)] to the muḥsinīn (doers of good)” [Al- Ḥajj: Q22: 37].

After making the personal sacrifice of the Qurbān, we identify with our fellow human beings in the beautiful Islāmic spirit of sharing, caring and giving to especially those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Says Almighty Allāh:

“Then, when they (i.e. the sacrificial animals) are down on their sides (after the slaughtering), eat thereof, and feed the beggar who does not ask (from people), and the beggar who asks (from people). Thus, have We made them (i.e. the sacrificial animals) subject to you that you may be grateful” [Al-Ḥajj: Q22: 36].

An important, but often overlooked benefit of ensuring all Islamic welfare guidelines are adhered to, is that it instils mercy and compassion in the person offering — and the person performing — the sacrifice.

May Allah accept our noble efforts Ameen.