Animal Sacrifice in Islam: Principles and Etiquettes
By Dr. AbdulHameed Badmas Yusuf
Among all creatures, man is unique and outstanding; the Creative and Perfect Maker fashioned him in a beautiful way. He endowed him with the intellect which is his most treasured asset. He also made all other creatures subservient to him. These include animal, rain, sea, mountain, plants, etc.(Q2:29). Even celestial bodies like the sun, the moon, and the stars are all made to provide the needed services for man’s survival on earth.(Q16:12)
Precisely, man is given the authority over animals. He is permitted to eat them, use their skins and bones, and deploy them for hunting purposes. But among all animals, there are a few exceptions that have been prohibited by Allah for man to eat. These as enumerated in Q5:3 include:
a) animal’s blood;
b) flesh of swine;
c) that on which any
other name than that
of Allah has been
d) the strangled animal; e) the one beaten to
f) that killed by a
g) that killed by being
smitten with the horn; h) that which wild beasts
have eaten (except the
i)what is sacrificed on
stones set up (for
Apart from making food of it, man can also use animals for many other purposes. For instance, the animal can be used as means of transportation, its skins can be used to make a tent, the faeces of the cow can be used as fertilizer, and dog can be used for security and hunting purposes.
Yet, that man is permitted to use animals for the purpose of sacrifice is not a free license for him to be cruel towards animals. In their own rights, animals are also unique creatures. Allah has describes them as a community like the human community (Q6:38) in terms of their creation and provision of sustenance. It is not by accident that Allah discusses some animals in the Qur’an as many chapters are named after animals such as Cow, Ant, Elephant, and Spider. Also a kind of bird, namely bird, and dog feature in the Qur’an. The Arab logicians often described man as “hayawan natiq” (a talking animal). Aristotle also described man as a social animal. While man makes use of animals, he should also acknowledge their worth and treat them well. Among other things, man is only superior to animals due to his intellectual capacity which animals lack.
Essentially, animal sacrifice in Islam is a religious duty in Islam. It is done on the 10th day of Dhul Hijjah to commemorate the submission of Prophet Ibrahim to the Divine Command to sacrifice his son, Prophet Ismail. As a matter of fact, Allah did not really want Prophet Ibrahim to kill his son. His main intent was to test the extent of Ibrahim’s submission to His will. Killing of human beings for sacrifice purpose or aimless killing of animals are un-Islamic. Part of the reforms the Prophet Muhammad brought to the Arab land was to abolish infanticide which was burying of female children alive. (16:58-49 &27:31). He also prohibited the practice of cutting of animals’ ears for the ritual purposes.
For the purpose of sacrifice during Eid, a number of animals can be used. These include camel, cow, sheep, and ram. These animals must be physically healthy and mentally fit . Animals suffering from blindness, mental disorder, lameness, etc are not fit for sacrifice. In the end, neither the flesh, nor the blood of these animals is countenanced by Allah. Rather, what reaches Him is the piety of the man making the sacrifice. (Q22:37).
Animal sacrifice in Islam is not a means of pleasing any angry gods. Neither are its meats to be placed at a certain “T” junction as done in some religions for the purpose of propitiation. Also animals are not to be worshipped as practiced in India. Contrarily, the animal thus sacrificed in Islam is consumable. As a rule, the meat of the animal during the Eid is to be divided into 3 parts. The first part is for the family of the man making the sacrifice. The second and the third parts are for gift and charity purposes respectively. (Q22:36). This underscores the social significance of the festival. It promotes the virtue of sharing and impacting the indigent people in the society positively.
In Islam, Animal slaughtering follows a humane procedure that protects their rights. This is contained in the following prophetic tradition:
Verily, Allah has prescribed excellence in everything. If you have to kill, kill in the best manner. If you have to slaughter, slaughter in the best manner. Let one of you sharpen his knife, so his animal is spared of suffering.
The above tradition is instructive; it prescribes the best manner of killing the animal so that it will only be exposed to the minimal pain. When the knife is very sharp, it will cut the jugular vein of the animal and it will ease its exit as rapid as possible. Then, after slitting the jugular vein, the animal should be allowed to react to the bitter experience. This is by untying the rope on its two hands and one leg. While the animal struggling, the blood will flow out of the vessels easily and faster. This is the most humane and healthy way of slaughtering animlas. Any other manners of slaughtering the animals will ultimately expose them to maximum pain which amounts to cruelty against the animals.
Islam prohibits cruelty to animals. For it is a wanton abuse which could earn the perpetrators the divine wrath. According to a prophetic tradition, a lady was said to have tied a cat. She neither fed it nor allowed it to be free to get food. Eventually, the cat died of starvation. Because of this wicked act, the Prophet said the lady was condemned to hell fire. He also said that whoever killed a sparrow for no just course, he shall be queried on the Day of Judgement. The only just course is to kill animal and eat it. Conversely, in another tradition, a man was said to have given water to a thirsty dog. This seeming simple act was enough to earn the kind man the admittance into the Garden of Bliss.
It follows from the above that Islam is in the forefront of recognizing the rights of animals centuries before the west followed suit. It considers all forms of cruelty to animal as sinful acts which attract severe divine punishments.
Unfortunately, many people deny the animals their God-given rights. There are many examples of cruelty to animals in our contemporary time. One of them is what many pseudo Alfas (scholars) do to animals while using them for ritual purposes. Some would skin a particular animal alive or take feather off a chicken alive ! Some would also put a certain animal in a very hot pot for ritual purposes !!! Another bad example of cruelty to animals is setting them against each other for the purpose of competition. This happens mostly a few days to the Eid festival. In the process, many rams would lose their teeth, horns, and eyes. Some would also die in the process.These horrible ways of cruelty to animal are enough to deny the perpetrators the entrance into the Paradise.
Finally, animals also have souls like human beings. But out of necessity, Allah has permitted us to eat the lawful ones among them for our survival on earth. While enjoying this divine previledge, we must still treat them well by feeding them, giving them conducive shelter, and giving them medical care when necessary. We must not subject them to cruelty because all forms of cruelty to animals are devilish and satanic. We should treat them well, for us to earn the pleasure of Allah.
AbdulHameed Badmas Yusuf is a Lecturer of Islamic Studies, Department of Religions, University of Ilorin
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