I’d like to share a few quick thoughts this Eid-ul Adha.
I’m not going to discuss the devastating impact raising and killing animals is having on the animals and environment. This is detailed in the article Don’t Kill An Animal This Eid.
Please familiarize yourself with it if you would like a little background as to why I strongly feel it is highly irresponsible and negligent to continue this practice today.
Instead, I want to speak from the heart as I feel this issue is symptomatic of much larger problems within our community. Simply put, we very much need to halt, have a moratorium or at the very least, re-examine this practice.
Many Muslims still argue udhiya is required because “the Prophet and His Companions did it”. This is hardly an argument particularly when we are mass killing tens of millions of animals on a single day! There is no doubt in my mind if he (pbuh) were alive today and saw this, that he would not allow it.
Secondly, the Prophet (pbuh) lived in a materially and substantially different time. Udhiya was NOT considered obligatory by many of his closest and most iconic companions with several of them preferring to help the needy in different ways rather than killing an animal:
Fat’h al-Bāri adapted from ‘Selections from Fath al-Bāri by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalānī’ translated by Tim Winters. It is authentically reported in the sunan of Bayhaqī that Hudhayfa bin Usayd said :
.لقد رأيت أبا بكر ، وعمر وما يضحيان كراهية أن يقتدى بهما
I saw Abū Bakr and Umar would not perform Udhīyah (sacrifice) disliking that they’d be followed (by people in this tradition).
They specifically did not want people imitating them thinking it is obligatory.
It is also authentically reported in another tradition, that Abū Masūd al-Ansarī said :
إني لأدعُ الأضحى وإني لموسر ، مخافةَ أن يرى جيراني أنه حتمٌ عليَّ
I abstain from offering Udhīyah even though I am able to offer it, fearing that my neighbor would think that it is obligatory upon me.
He specifically did not want people imitating him thinking it is obligatory.
Ibn Abbas (widely considered the best Qu’ran interpreter after the Prophet) offered udhiya in a different manner:
It is authentically reported in Sunan al Bayhaqī:
عن عكرمة مولى ابن عباس: كان إذا حضر الأضحى أعطى مولىً له درهمين فقال: اشتر بهما لحماً وأخبر الناس أنه أضحى ابن عباس
Ikrima narrated that if Ibn Abbas were to observe Udhīyah, he would give two Dirhams to his slave and say : buy meat out of it, and inform the people that this is the sacrifice (udhiya) of Ibn Abbas.
Ibn Hazm has authenticated and narrated from the Tabi’ī Imam, Faqih Sa’īd bin al-Musayab and Imam Shā’bi that they both have said :
عن سعيد بن المسيب والشعبي وأنه قال : لأن أتصدق بثلاثة دراهم أحب إلي من أن أضحي .
As spending by three Dirhams in charity, is more dearer to us than to sacrifice (udhīyah). –al-Muhalla
It is authentically demonstrated from Bilāl when he said :
مَا أُبَالِي لَوْ ضَحَّيْتُ بِدِيكٍ ، وَلأَنْ أَتَصَدَّقَ بِثَمَنِهَا عَلَى يَتِيمٍ أَوْ مُغَبَّرٍ ، أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ مِنْ أَنْ أُضَحِّيَ
I wouldn’t care if I slaughter a rooster, because spending that cost to an orphan or a poor person, is more dearer to me than to offer udhiyah (sacrifice). –Musannaf Abd al-Razzāq, the Sanad has been classified as “Sahih” by Allama Abu al-Hasan al-Sulaymanī and Sh Mash’hūr Hasan)
Are these not the closest companions of the Prophet who understood his directives and commands best? Yet even so, they simply did not believe this was a required action and found other ways to fulfill the objective; which has always been about feeding the needy.
So if they can fulfill their udhiya in novel ways that does not require them to kill animals 1400 years ago, why can’t we?
We Have Better Options
Consider this: Allah (swt) has favored us to live in an era with an overabundance of food and unprecedented technological advancements. Advancements not afforded to previous generations.
Advancements that have now given us the luxury to create many different meat alternatives whether they are plant based options or lab grown meat where meat is made without the need for an animal having to die.
With such options at our disposal and given the Prophet’s generation’s innovative ways to feed the needy, why are we insisting to mass kill?
Do you feel Allah (swt) would prefer you show your devotion to Him by mass killing millions of his creation or by still fulfilling your religious obligation of feeding the needy; but protecting his creation at the same time?
“Their meat will not reach Allah , nor will their blood, but what reaches Him is piety from you. Thus have We subjected them to you that you may glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and give good tidings to the doers of good.” -Qu’ran 22:37
It is not the killing itself, the meat or blood that will reach Allah (swt). Since there is no blood sacrifice or atonement in Islam, the entire lesson here is your piety or consciousness to do good and take care of the needy. This is what’s important.
If your intention is to feed 10 poor people on Eid with delicious, cruelty and blood free meals whereby humans are fed and animals are spared death – how and why is this wrong?
I saddens me though that we need texts, opinions and ideas of other people before cross examining our hearts. Whatever happened to looking at the situation before us and innovating creative ways forward whereby both humans and animals thrive? We claim to be free human beings yet willingly surrender our intellect to imams, rulings, mathabs and teachers when common sense and logic as well as compassion demand we not run streets with blood.
You do not need permission or approval to do the right thing.
The Principle vs The Model
Principles don’t change, models most certainly do.
The Qu’ran and the Prophet (pbuh) gave us solid foundations and principles to go by. They did not necessarily give us exact models to replicate due to the significant changes societies undergo. As such, each society has their own ways of adapting and fulfilling a directive in different ways.
“And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of horses of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy…” 8:60.
Principle: Fight (in war) with as much power as you can.
It does not mean you have to use horses! This was mentioned simply because this was the rhetoric they understood at the time.
Another example is the Qu’ran mentions slavery in many places. Why? Because slavery was widespread at the time and the Qu’ran addressed it.
Model: Be kind and free slaves.
Principle: Help those in need, especially those who are in less fortunate circumstances.
It does not mean you have to revert to slavery to please God!
Similarly, the entire purpose of the udhiya was to feed the poor. They used animals because they relied heavily on them for thousands of years prior, it was a strong symbol of wealth, meat was considered a delicacy and it encouraged them to give from their most valuable resources.
Principle: Feed the poor and less fortunate
Today, we can feed the poor and less fortunate with many different options that do not require tens of millions of animals to have their throats slit. If we can – why don’t we?
So extracting the principles particularly on contemporary issues is going to help us far more than trying to replicate models that may very well only have been effective during certain eras.
Finally as stated throughout other articles – if the objective of udhiya is feeding the poor but performing it today (due to various circumstances outlined here) actually causes more people to go hungry; then it’s madness to persist.
The image of Muslims is also seriously compromised.
The horrific portrayal of Muslims as bloodthirsty barbarians when juxtaposed with a backdrop of mass slaughter is amplified. One could argue the mainstream media are making Muslims look bad but consider that’s the case because…we are being bad.
Pools of blood surrounding thousands of dead, dying and quivering animals cannot be portrayed any other way except for what it is – abhorrent. There is absolutely nothing holy about it. Combine this with cheering street crowds as animals are decapitated and it should be called out as repulsive, inhumane and antithetical to everything Islam stands for.
If animals could speak your language and understand you; what would you tell them as to the reason why you are doing this to them? How will you explain to them that leaving them in peace is NOT what God, The Most Merciful wants?
Killing an animal on Eid is not required. We can fulfill our religious obligations of feeding the hungry in many different ways whereby we, the animals and planet all benefit.
Our collective attitudes when it comes to the udhiya is not one of objectivity but blind habit. We’re not listening to our hearts. For some odd reason, we are taught doing so is “following one’s desires” or that it is somehow wrong to act on what your conscience tells you. So instead of elevating our hearts and connection with God, we suppress it and forfeit our free minds to other people we feel know our hearts better than us. Scholars, rulings and texts have their place but ultimately, these are human endeavors.
Ironically, our independent human endeavors to make this world better is the answer to this riddle.