No, I am not going to sacrifice an animal this Eid-ul-Adha nor am I going to pay someone to do it for me.
Instead, my sacrifice is going to be of a non animal nature and yes, it is religiously sanctioned and justified.
I saw animals being slaughtered when I was a boy and it hurt me deeply.
I couldn’t understand why such beautiful creatures had to die.
Remember, killing is not something humans are innately born to do.
Children do not naturally kill kittens, lambs and bunnies. They play, explore with and protect them. Their first instinct is to love.
In other words, I don’t see how it’s part of the “fitra” or natural human disposition to go out of one’s way to kill when there’s no genuine need to.
Yes, I am aware of the verses in the Qu’ran regarding consuming certain animals but if you’ve ever seen an animal get slaughtered from a young age when your innocence is still intact, it stays with you; beleive me.
We’re told Islam requires us to slaughter humanely. What exactly, is “humane” slaughter?
The word humane is defined as: having or showing compassion or benevolence.
How does one “compassionately” or “benevolently” cut someone’s throat? Doesn’t the act of killing by definition negate any benevolence?
This is another discussion worth exploring as I genuinely would love to learn.
For now, I know in my heart God will not be displeased because I decided to show compassion to his creatures and not kill them.
In fact this attitude was openly condoned by the Prophet Muhammad in an authentic tradition:
Qurra ibn Iyas reported: A man said, “O Messenger of Allah, I was going to slaughter a sheep but I had mercy on it (or felt sorry for it).” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “If you had mercy on the sheep, then Allah will have mercy on you twice.” (al-Adab al-Mufrad 373 Book 20, Hadith 373), Graded as Sahih (authentic) by Sh. Al-Albani, rh).
The Issues At Hand
Having said that, let me make a couple of things abundantly clear from the outset:
- I am not here to argue against the fact Islam allows eating certain animals. It does.
- Nor am I here to declare and/or make what is permissible impermissible and vice versa. Not my area.
I’m here to ask how these can be reconciled with the very real challenges we are faced with today.
Yes, some difficult and perhaps uncomfortable questions will be asked and I sincerely hope our scholars, learned folks and community alike have the spiritual, moral and ethical courage to address these questions with objectivity and pragmatism.
I feel there are two main points:
1. The impact our animal consumption is having on our world today
2. The way animals are treated especially during the Haj season (and of course at other times of the year).
As stated earlier, Islam permits Muslims to consume certain animals.
So we have the text.
Scholars have written extensively about the rules and regulations on this topic.
We have the guidelines.
Sadly however they are devoid of today’s context.
What we have today are rules and regulations based on what “should be” and not “what is”.
From an environmental perspective, today’s world is vastly different than the one Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) lived in.
Unfortunately, we are yet to upgrade our practices to reflect this reality.
In fact, we have superimposed our modern day cruel and exploitative practices on Islam thereby rendering the original mosaic into an eyesore.
The Impact Mass Killing Animals Is Having On Our World Today
This brief video highlights precisely some of what animal agriculture is doing to our world today (sources in video):
In case you missed it, animal agriculture is:
- Responsible for 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions – more than the global transportation industry combined.
- The leading cause of species extinction
- The leading cause of ocean dead zones
- The leading cause of habitat destruction
- The leading cause of water pollution
Ocean dead zones are perhaps one of the most disturbing.
This occurs when so much animal excrement and toxins (mainly from factory farms) are dumped by the billions of pounds into the seas. They vanquish all life in the area by depleting oxygen rendering them uninhabitable for marine life. As such, once flourishing ecosystems become “dead zones”. No more naturally landscaped corals, no more darting schools of fish, no more gliding rays or turtles: it’s a desolate, eerie underwater grave.
We are not talking about small, insignificant areas either.
The dead zone off the Gulf of Mexico measured 6,474 square miles (16,760 square kilometers) in 2015.
Today, that’s ballooned to 8,776 square miles – larger than the State of New Jersey.
Industrialized factory farming, cruelty, torture, greed and pollution can only result in one thing:
Corruption has appeared throughout the land and the sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness]. – Qu’ran 30:41
Now if that were the only thing killing animals has done to our world, it would be worth prioritising.
But wait, there’s more:
- Livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land
- 1-2 acres of rainforest are cleared for animal agriculture every second
- Animal agriculture is also a leading cause of human starvation.
Yes, over 1 billion humans are starving and malnourished today and animal agriculture is a leading cause of this.
They starve because the food we could feed them with is given to billions of animals instead.
We then kill these animals and feed less people with them and use up ungodly amounts of resources to do so.
But isn’t the entire purpose of udhiya (qurbani) supposed to be to feed the poor?
Well the question arises : Given the purpose of sacrifice is to feed the poor, but sacrificing today is contributing to more people going hungry among many other environmental disasters, then isn’t it time to re-examine this practice?
If we have a choice to make this world better, why wouldn’t we?
Points To Consider
We have a golden opportunity to set an incredible example if we fed the poor with non animal sources because:
a) It would feed a lot more people and isn’t there more reward for feeding more people? (An acre of land properly harvested can yield around 35,000 lbs of plant foods Vs around 250 lbs of meat).
b) It would give the earth and animals much needed respite from the hell mankind has unleashed on them
c) Not doing so will contribute further to the environmental calamities we face.
Another thing to consider:
- The verses in Surah Al Hajj outlining the sacrifice (verses 31-37) were revealed in the first year after the Prophet (pbuh) arrived in Medina. The Muslim population at that point in time was approximately between 200-300. The number of animals they would have sacrificed can be safely estimated at a few dozen or hundred. We are now fast approaching 2,000,000,000 (billion) Muslims. We are not collectively sacrificing a few dozen or even hundred, we are now killing tens of millions on Eid alone. The sheer number slaughtered (not including the ones killed throughout the rest of the year) exacts a horrific toll on both animals and our planet as highlighted above. This is simply unsustainable.
Aren’t Islam’s objectives to maximize benefit and minimize harm to all?
Surely it also allows for suspending an action, even if it’s for a period of time if not doing so will result in further and greater harm.
So would Islam still sanction the mass killing of animals on Eid today given the fact our planet is in peril largely because of…mass killing of animals?
I hear a very loud NO train hurtling towards us on that one.
I can already hear alarm bells in some folk’s minds: “He’s trying to change the faith!” “Islam’s rules don’t change!” “We have to sacrifice an animal on Eid no matter what!”
None of these statements are factually correct.
Islam doesn’t require us to stop striving to become better global citizens.
In fact it mandates it.
So how can you claim to be a compassionate, caring soul when your actions are directly contributing to the misery of others?
Animal Abuse – Sheep
The other side of this discussion and perhaps the most important in terms of restoring our sense of humanity are the victims themselves – the animals.
See, nobody in our communities talk about them unless they’re posting cute shots of their pets on Facebook or telling their kids bedtime stories.
We treat them like they don’t matter.
William Ralph Inge, an 18th century Anglican bishop said it best:
We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form.
They are the most oppressed beings on the face of the planet.
As we approach another Eid, millions of animals – mainly sheep but also goats, cows, buffalo and camels are subjected to some of the most horrific treatment imaginable.
Many suffer from physical and psychological torture before they are mercilessly massacred – ironically all under the name of the faith that mandates the opposite.
Australian sheep are shipped by the millions thousands of miles to the Middle East to accommodate the bi annual mass killing that occurs. These animals are made to endure hell on earth.
They are crammed tightly into transport trucks that look exactly like the concentration camp carriages Jews were placed in during The Holocaust.
That’s violation #1 and in direct conflict with Islamic principles. We may not transport animals in such ways.
They are forced to stand in often sweltering conditions the entire journey.
You try wearing a woolen coat in 35 degree heat with 200 other humans packed into a single room. That’s violation #2.
Once they arrive at the transport dock, there is no respite. They’re marshalled onto ships and sent off on a 3 week cruise to the Middle East where on average, 3 sheep share 1 square meter of space. Around 40,000 (out of the 4 million shipped) of them die every year before arriving. They die from stress, they die from suffocation, they die from thirst, they die from exhaustion, they die from overheating and they die from being trampled.
Mind you, it is considered “haram” (forbidden) for these animals to be eaten now so they basically died for absolutely NOTHING.
40,000 sentient souls with central nervous systems and the ability to feel pain and trauma gone forever for NOTHING but human greed.
That’s violation #3.
The ones that make it are subjected to open air lots under the searing Middle Eastern sun frequently topping 40 degrees.
That’s violation #4
They are then sold to customers who routinely pick them up in cars and put them in the trunk AND close it. In 40 degree heat.
That’s violation #5.
They are often dragged by their necks or heads.
That’s violation #6.
Many of the ones “processed” on the lot are slaughtered in plain view of each other.
That’s violation #7.
They are not watered, fed or properly cared for.
That’s violations 8, 9 and 10.
How does your meat taste now?
Animal Abuse – Camels & Cows
Sheep have it hard but camels don’t have it any better.
They are often held in large pens with sometimes more than a dozen camels in a pen and literally have their necks sliced at the base in front of each other.
As one camel walks around, its strength gradually seeps away as it’s legs buckle and blood waterfalls forth.
It thuds to it’s side taking in it’s last moments of life as the next and the next is subjected to the same abhorrent treatment.
Some are tied and paraded in the middle of the street so passersby can watch the spectacle and not even let these majestic animals die with a shred of dignity.
They are often prodded with sticks, spikes and dragged by nose and mouth rings and forced to watch and smell the deaths of their fellow members before they are brutally murdered:
GRAPHIC CONTENT BELOW: THE IMAGES BELOW SHOW ACTS OF ANIMAL SLAUGHTER SOME READERS MAY FIND DISTRESSING
These images quite frankly, are disgusting.
If these images aren’t good enough for your eyes, then why are they good enough for your stomach?
I am ashamed to associate myself with people who treat animals this way and want no part in anything that treats God’s creation in such a manner.
The Prophet Muhammad admonished his Companions for hurting the feelings of a mother bird as recorded in Saheeh Muslim:
We were on a journey and during the Prophet’s absence, we saw a bird with its two chicks; so we took them. The mother bird was circling above us in the air, beating its wings in grief. When Prophet Muhammad returned he said, “Who has hurt the feelings of this bird by taking its chicks? Return them to her.”
And this woman was condemned to hell for mistreating a single cat:
A woman was tortured and was put in Hell because of a cat which she had kept locked till it died of hunger.” Allah’s Messenger further said, “Allah said (to the woman), “You neither fed it nor watered it when you locked it up, nor did you set it free to eat the creatures of the earth.” Bukhari 3:553, Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar [Also in Muslim, Narrated Abu Huraira]
For one cat.
One bird’s feelings were hurt and this caused the Prophet (pbuh) enough grief to arrange for her chicks to be immediately returned to her.
Yet around the Muslim world, tens of millions of animals this Eid are not spared from the treatment shown above.
They are openly slaughtered in front of the other and where do you think the stress hormones of a 1,500lb animal end up?
Inside you when you eat the tortured soul and then we wonder why much of the Muslim world is very sick (we’ll explore that another time).
Cows and buffaloes are often subjected to even worse treatment because they have a tendency to fight back.
Some Muslims who have lost their sense of decency and compassion tie them in front of each other as menacing crowds gather in giddy anticipation.
Children are often encouraged to participate in the decapitations.
Visibly shaken and terrified, the animal knows what’s coming next. They aren’t stupid.
There are countless more disturbing images and videos online showing these animals being kept in a perpetual state of fear as they are tied to walls and taunted before they are killed.
When it’s time, it takes between 6-8 men to try and physically restrain the animal as it violently kicks (I personally love it when it lands one), desperately trying to save it’s life.
As valiant as their efforts are, they end up having their throats slit in wide, plain open view of other animals while a feverish crowd, drunk on blood go into a trance like celebration.
The stench of death soon follows and open air markets are soon stacked with swaying corpses as throngs of people check out the goods.
The foul smell makes me physically gag.
I personally do not know or understand how this is supposed to be part of the “beauty” of Islam.
Each and every one of these examples ends in the torturous and barbaric death of these beautiful animals.
Each one ends up on the floor, it’s lifeless, staring eyes the only sign of beauty remaining in a very ugly world.
Why Is This Acceptable?
Where are the scholars? Where are the “fiqh councils”?
Where are the imams, the muftis and community leaders openly condemning such actions and educating our communities not to torture animals?
It would be really nice to hear a Friday sermon, keynote speaker or conference dedicated to these issues.
Yes, you may hear the often repeated narrations of the prostitute that was forgiven for quenching the thirst of a dog or even the “mercy to all the world’s” verse from the Qu’ran but actionable, real world advice?
It saddens me even further when such actions are justified by many Muslims using the Qu’ran and Sunnah (sayings, actions and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh).
Yes, we become very strict Muslims when it comes to killing and eating animals and we defend our right to the death to do it even when the world is burning…but not so strict in other matters.
Not so strict in our personal hygiene when attending the mosques.
Not so strict when dealing honestly in business. Not so strict when selling alcohol, cigarettes and other vices in our stores. Not so strict with our taxes.
No so strict when it comes to sexually harassing 99.3% of women on the streets of Egypt or Pakistan or India or any other Muslim majority country where women are easy targets.
I realize this may be uncomfortable for many people but this to simply illustrate the complete disconnect Muslims by and large have with their own faith.
We’re still asking our leaders if eating McDonalds is ok or not!
The real question should be “When are you going to tell folks to stop supporting such vile industries that are antithetical to everything Islam stands for?”
We have largely become a nation who are into “aadah” (habit) not “ibadah” (worship).
Please, Enough Is Enough
I really wish we would stop using Islam as a front to justify these atrocities against God’s creatures.
It’s outright cruel and inhumane.
It’s not okay to do this and you don’t need a scholar or any other human being to tell you otherwise.
If you have a heart, a conscience and an ounce of compassion, you would instinctively object to this.
It’s high time we evolved a new approach in order to bring about a positive change to this world.
Replacing factory farms with “halalified” versions will simply; pardon the pun, put lipstick on a pig.
You will still be destroying the environment, animals will still be abused and you will have accomplished very little.
Killing animals on such a large scale to satisfy the meat addictions of billions of people virtually guarantees animal welfare will be neglected.
The concept of mass animal agriculture is inherently wrong.
What You Can Do About It
As God’s representatives on Earth (Qu’ran 2:30), is it not our duty to protect it or are we just content peddling slogans and lip service on social media and conventions?
This Eid, make your sacrifice truly meaningful.
Sacrifice your addiction to meat for one day. You can feed many more poorer people with better quality plant based foods for the same amount of money.
Don’t be part of the global crime taking place against animals and our planet.
You have a choice to make and your choices are a vote for either change or more of the same.
One can spend considerable time learning of the ecological catastrophes we’re facing due to breeding, feeding and killing approximately 100 billion land animals each year worldwide but more importantly…
What can we do about it?
Boycott these industries forever.
Do not be part of it.
The issue is far beyond the opinion of one person or the other. It is far greater and more serious than fixating on the rules of killing animals (Dr. Tariq Ramadan covered this in more detail here.)
Given the fact our past generations never had to face such significant environmental and ethical challenges of this magnitude, is it unreasonable to ask our scholars today to better inform themselves of these haunting realities in order to set us on a better course?
In fact, the Arabic word fiqh means deep understanding or full comprehension.
This is exactly what they need on these issues so they can produce a new fiqh for food relevant to us today.
A fiqh that accounts for our current climate so we can correct our course and serve mankind better.
I would really love to know what they have to say about killing billions of animals today given the devastating impact this has on our world.
Yes, I also want to know about GMO’s, chemicals and additives in our food, our obligations towards the environment and other such pertinent issues.
Allhamdulilah, I sleep well at night knowing I am not voluntarily contributing to the needless suffering of animals and destroying our world.
When I stand before God, I have absolutely no problem whatsoever saying to Him from the deepest place in my heart:
“Oh Allah, I did what I did out of sincere concern for your creation. I saw so much corruption and evil dished out to it, I wanted no part in it. Your seas were polluted heedlessly, your animals were massacred without mercy; even to extinction, your trees were razed in swaths and your people were starved and sickened. I did everything within my power and conscience to not partake in any of it; but to fight it for Your sake.”
Knowing what you do now, what will you tell Him?
Remember, we weren’t born killers.