Misconceptions about animal sacrifice


Abdullah Al-Alweet


EVERY year millions of heads of sheep are sacrificed during the Eid Al-Adha festival. Such a huge number of sheep would not have been slaughtered for sacrifice if people had been given correct information about this ritual. A lot of money is wasted on sacrifice by people, who lack proper religious knowledge.

Some people wrongly believe that it’s a Sunnah, which should be followed by every Muslim. This is a mistake because this animal sacrifice is required only from cattle owners who rear animals and do business with it, and others are not required to do the ritual.

The Holy Qur’an says: “That they may witness things that are of benefit to them and mention the name of Allah on appointed days over the beast of cattle that He hath bestowed upon them. (Al-Haj: 28)

The word “bestowed upon them” was used in this verse with a purpose and not without any meaning. A person should have purchased an animal to say that he has possessed one. Bestowed here means actual possession of the animal not its possibility.

This Qura’nic verse was revealed in the context of making sacrifice as a kaffara or expiation for performing the tamattu form of Haj. We should know that the Qur’an will not use any word without any meaning and it’s better to have a new meaning for a word than it becoming redundant.

I believe that the word rizq used in this verse to denote what has been possessed personally and not to indicate general blessings like rain. God will not ask us to give charity or do sacrifice from the general blessings. But if they possess part of them like honey, milk, fruits and fish, etc. they would be asked to pay charity to get closer to Allah. People are instructed to give charity from these agricultural products for possessing them.

The Hadith that “those who had the ability to perform sacrifice and did not do that should not approach our (Eid) prayer places” is applied on those having cattle, not money.

Performing sacrifice for the dead is another mistake, even if it was mentioned in the will as there is no evidence for doing it by the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions. We know that the Prophet did not perform sacrifice for his uncle Hamza and wife Khadeeja.

Prophet’s wives did not perform sacrifice for the Prophet after his death. Aysha and Asma did not perform sacrifice for their father Abubacker Al-Siddique after his death. Abdullah Bin Omar and his sister Hafsa did not perform sacrifice for the goodness of their father Omar Bin Khattab. If an act of worship is considered makrooh or disapproved in Islam it will remain disapproved even if it was mentioned in the will of a dead person.

Another common mistake is to sacrifice cattle for every member of the family. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sacrificed two heads of sheep while his wives were with him, and he did not sacrifice for every one of them. How can someone sacrifice animals for his wife and children, who live with him in a single house, and boast about the number of sacrifices made? This is mere hypocrisy because a person is supposed to perform worship secretly without publicizing it. Some people may narrate certain stories in order to tell people he performed the prayer in the mosque.

The fourth misconception related to sacrifice is its repetition every year. The Prophet did not repeat sacrifice every year, even though it was imposed in the second year of migration. He lived 8 years after the imposition of sacrifice but he did not perform sacrifice in all those years.

It is narrated from Abubacker and Omar that they were not performing sacrifices fearing that it would become a Sunnah or a tradition. Hudaifa Al-Ghafari has narrated a Hadith in this respect. Famous scholar Al-Albani has said the people who reported the Hadith were dependable and trustworthy. A similar Hadith has been reported from Abdullah Bin Omar and Bilal.

It has been reported about Omar Bin Khatab and other Companions of the Prophet that they had not sacrificed animals continuously for three to four years. These narratives do not support the phenomenon of sacrificing animals every year. Performance of sacrifice once in life would be sufficient.