What do I need to know about qurbani?
The words Qurbani and Udhiya
Qubani means sacrifice, something which is offered to Allah, in order to come close to Him, from the word qurb (closeness).
In the Middle East it is known as Udhiya which refers to the timing of the sacrifice, as it is conventionally performed after Fajr but before the Dhur, which is Duha time.
What is Qurbani?
Qurbani (as it is known in South Asia) is the ritual of sacrificing a livestock animal during the festival of Eid ul Adha.
Qurbani takes place after the salat ul Eid, between the 10th and 12th of the month of Dhul Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar. Along with Ramadan, the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah are of the holiest day of the year.
The offering is not because Allah needs the animal, as pagans believed when they offered sacrifices to idols. Rather it is showing obedience to His commands, the willingness to spend money, and to distribute the meat to the poor. This is why Allah says:
It is neither their flesh nor their blood that reaches Allah, but what does reach Him is the taqwa (the sense of obedience) on your part. Thus He has made them (the animals) subjugated to you, so that you proclaim Allah’s glory for the guidance He gave you. And give good news to those who are good in their deeds. (22:37)
Early history of sacrifice
It is one of the most rewarding and respected rituals of Islam, which goes back to the time of Adam, when his sons Qabil and Habil offered a sacrifice to Allah. Allah accepted the sacrifice of Habil, who was righteous, which was an animal but not Qabil’s, who was disobedient, which was crops.
Recite to them the truth of the story of the two sons of Adam. Behold! they each presented a sacrifice (to Allah. It was accepted from one, but not from the other. Said the latter: ‘Be sure I will slay thee.’ ‘Surely’ said the former, ‘He (God) doth accept of the sacrifice of those who are righteous.’ (5:27)
The ritual of Qurbani is one that goes back to all civilisations who were sent prophets. Allah Almighty said in Surat al Hajj:
For every nation We have appointed a rite so that they might mention Allah’s Name over the livestock He has provided them. Your God is the One God, so submit to Him. And give good news to the humble (34:34)
Therefore we find commands from God in the Torah and the Bible on different occasions asking for sacrifices. Most famously, there is the story of Ibrahim (peace be on him) whose example was followed by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him)
The sunnah of the Prophet (peace be on him)
As Muslims we continue the practice of the Prophet (peace be on him). As per hadith:
The Prophet (peace be on him) offered as sacrifices, two horned rams, black and white in colour. He slaughtered them with his own hands and mentioned Allah’s Name over them and said Takbir and put his foot on their sides. (Bukhari)
The reward of giving qurbani
The sacrifice is loved by Allah Almighty. Aisha (may Allah pleased with her) narrated:
‘There is nothing dearer to Allah during the days of Qurbani than the sacrificing of animals. The sacrificed animal shall come on the Day of Judgement with its horns, hair and hooves (to be weighed on a person’s good deeds). The sacrifice is accepted by Allah before the blood reaches the ground. Therefore, sacrifice with an open and happy heart’. (Tirmidhi)
Whatever Allah loves, is rewarded generously. Zaid ibn Arqam narrated:
“The Companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, what are these sacrifices?’ He said: ‘The Sunnah of your father Ibrahim.’
They said: ‘What is there for us in them, O Messenger of Allah?’ He said: ‘For every hair, one merit.’ They said: ‘What about wool, O Messenger of Allah?’ He said: ‘For every hair of wool, one merit.'” (Sunan Ibn Majah)
These ahadith shows us that the animal will be on your scales on the Day of Judgement and that you receive a reward for every single hair on the animal.
The ultimate sacrifice of Ibrahim
The command to offer an animal sacrifice is nothing compared to Allah’s test of Ibrahim’s obedience, faith and love, when he was commanded to sacrifice his son, Ismail.
It is easy to make a claim that we love someone but it is only when we are prepared to make sacrifices for them that it is apparent how much we actually love them.
It is only when we are prepared to give up of our money, time or prized possessions for someone that our love is proved.
For this reason the topic of sacrifice is never complete without mentioning the story of Ibrahim (peace be on him), who was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for Allah. Allah asked him to give Him what was most precious to him, his beloved son, who had been born after a very long wait.
Yet, he submitted to God’s command, and showed that he was prepared to give what he loved the most back to Allah. It was an act of pure devotion.
While most people would be unable to show this level of devotion, the ritual sacrifice commemorates his obedience.
Ibrahim (peace be on him) was rewarded for this with the favour of Allah Almighty and his son was saved and replaced by a ram:
’And We left for him (favourable mention) among later generations, “Peace upon Ibrahim”. Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good. Indeed, he was of Our believing servants. And We gave him good tidings of Ishaq, a prophet from among the righteous. And We blessed him and Ishaq’. (37:108-113)
Is qurbani obligatory or recommended?
Allah Almighty said in Surat Al Kawthar:
Therefore pray to your Lord and make a sacrifice. (108:2)
Qurbani is considered wajib by some scholars while others say it is a highly recommended sunnah.
Qurbani is therefore at least a very strongly encouraged sunnah, and at most considered obligatory for those who can afford according to the scholars. The Quran Sunnah and ijmah all agree that sacrificing an animal is a rewarding form of a worship.
Hanafi opinion – obligatory
The opinion of the Hanafi school of thought is that one is sinful if one can afford to sacrifice an animal at Eid al Adha, but does not. They based it on the fact that the Prophet (peace be on him) performed sacrifice every year, and his hadith in which the Prophet (peace be on him) said:
He who has the capacity, and does not sacrifice, may not approach our Musalla (place of prayer – on the Eid) (Ibn Majah and others)
Moreover the Prophet (peace be on him) used to make two sacrifices – one for his family and one for the ummah, to cover those who had not done it.
Abu Talhah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:
‘The Prophet (peace be on him) sacrificed for the one who could not sacrifice from his ummah, one who bore witness to the Oneness of Allah and [his] Prophethood’. (Tabarani and Ahmad)
3 schools – strongly recommended
The Shafi and Malik and Hanbali schools say that it is a strongly recommended sunnah, so you will receive the reward for doing it but not incur sin if you do not.
Who should give qurbani?
Every sane Muslim, who has reached puberty, and has wealth surplus to their needs, amounting to more than the current level of nisab (87.48 grams of gold or 612.35 grams of silver). In simple terms, anyone who is eligible to pay zakat.
What animals can be sacrificed?
The animals commonly used for Qurbani are sheep/lamb, cows, goats and camels. It needs to be at least the size of a lamb – any animal smaller than that, for instance a bird, does not count.
The age of the sacrifice
The lamb should be at least 6 months old, goats and sheep have to be at least a year old, cows need to be 2 years old and a camel must be at least 5 years old.
The animal can be male or female but must be in good health and free from any defects.
Once the animal is chosen for sacrifice it is marked and cannot be substituted by another animal unless it is a better animal. The animal must treated with kindness, fed and cared for. It must not experience any fear or trauma before it is slaughtered.
How much is one family/person required to sacrifice?
The sacrifice of one animal suffices a couple and their children. Therefore a sheep or goat would count as the Qurbani for a nuclear family.
A large animal such as a cow or camel would count as 7 qurbanis, so it would be accepted from 7 families.
If you cannot afford it but wish to do it, bearing in mind that it is not an obligation for you, and that it should not create an undue burden, you would be able pay for a share in it with another person.
No part of the animal must be sold, not even the skin. The butcher must not be paid from a share of the animal, though you may gift him a portion.
Can you give multiple qurbani?
Yes. You can buy as many animals / shares as you like. You may offer a sacrifice per family member, and also for loved ones who have passed away. It earns more reward if you give more, though the requirement is only one animal per family.
The Prophet (peace be on him) himself carried out multiple Qurbanis for himself and the Ummah. He used to sacrifice two animals every year, one on behalf of himself and the members of his household, and the other on behalf of his Ummah.
Can you give qurbani on behalf of the deceased?
Yes. This is a very blessed act to do for them.
The Hanbali fuqaha’ have stated that the reward for sacrifice reaches the deceased and benefits them, as giving charity on their behalf does.
It is not part of the sunnah to do this, because the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not offer a sacrifice specifically on behalf of any of his deceased loved ones. And it is not narrated that any of his companions offered a sacrifice on behalf of any of their deceased loved ones.
Can you give qurbani on behalf of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him)?
These is a difference of opinion. The reward of following the sunnah goes to the Prophet (peace be on him) but if you wish to make a sacrifice on his behalf you may do so, as he made a sacrifice on behalf of himself and on behalf of his ummah.
فقد روى الإمام أحمد وأبو يعلى في مسنديهما وغيرُهما بسند صحيح حديثَ جابر في حجة الوداع وفيه: وكان جماعة الهدي الذي أتى به النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم والذي أتي به عَلِيٌّ مائةً، فنحر رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بيده ثلاثة وستين، وأعطى عليا فنحر ما غبر وأشركه في هديه.
Imam Ahmad and Abu Ya’la narrated in their Musnad in a good chain of transmitters Hadith Jabir about the Farewell Hajj , that:
The number of camels which the Prophet (peace be upon him) prepared for sacrifice were 100, he slaughtered 63 in his own hand and gave Ali to slaughter the rest.
Who is the meat distributed to?
After the livestock animal has been sacrificed, its meat is divided into three equal portions – one for the individual performing Qurbani, one for the family of the Muslim who provided the animal, and one for the poor and needy.
Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported about the Prophet (peace be on him):
Whenever he slaughtered a sheep, he would cut it into pieces and send them to the women friends of Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her). (Bukhari and Muslim)
In another narration:
And if he (peace be on him) slaughtered a sheep, he would send meat to the friends of Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) as a present as much as would suffice them. (Bukhari and Muslim)
If you wish, particularly if you consume meet all around and it is not a luxury for you, you may donate all of the meat from the sacrifice to the poor, as the meat will be the highlight of their year.
Should the sacrifice be given locally or abroad?
Generally it is preferable to take care of your local community first and ensure their needs are fulfilled. However if you feel that the need is greater abroad, particularly if there has been a calamity, war, natural disaster, and there is a great deal of suffering in a particular place, then you can give to place where there is greatest need. You should respond to it.
Sharing with the poor
In the West, we are so blessed to have easy access to meat that it is hard to appreciate some people only eat fresh meat a few times a year. In poverty-stricken communities, meat is an unaffordable luxury. Eid ul Adha offers us the chance to share our blessings with those who do not have them.
In all our Islamic celebrations our focus is not just having a good time ourselves but ensuring that those around us also share their happiness. Therefore at the first Eid we ensure that poor people can also celebrate Eid and have a decent meal that day by paying Zakat al Fitr. On Eid al Adha we ensure that poor people are able to consume meat, which might be the only meat they consume during that year .
Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) related that the Prophet (peace be on him said:
‘None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself’. (Bukhari)
Celebrating by giving
In Islam, our festivals always connect us with Allah as well as our community, combining worship with charity.
Eid al Fitr is the celebration of completing a month of worship, Ramadan, coupled with increased charitable giving and the donation of Zakat al Fitr, so the poor can have a decent meal that day.
Eid ul Adha marks the completion of Hajj, the annual pilgrimage, and again, it comes with the concept of sharing with those less fortunate by sacrificing an animal and sharing its meat with the poor, many of whom will not have eaten meat for a very long time.
Can the meat be distributed among non-Muslims?
Yes, particularly if they are relatives or neighbours.
Can Muslims give money to the poor instead of sacrificing an animal?
Though there is a trend to attack animal slaughter due to vegan and vegetarian and environmental movements, it is not right for us to change the sunnah. Halal and haram is prescribed by Allah.
If people in the community do not need meat but need money, it would be possible to give them the equivalent money in place of meat. However, this should not be the norm. If a family has multiple sacrifices to make, they can opt to give some of it as money, and the rest as meat.
Allah knows best.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim
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