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Are Muslims Obligated to Offer the Qurbani Sacrifice (Uḍḥiyah)?

Is the qurbani sacrifice an obligation on every Muslim?

Offering a qurbani sacrifice (also commonly called uḍḥiyah) as an act of worship on the days of Eid al-Aḍḥa is strongly encouraged for Muslims who have the financial means to do so because it was a confirmed practice of the Prophet, on him be peace, and his Companions, God be pleased with them.

There are two major opinions in Islamic Law (fiqh) regarding whether qurbani is a recommended (mandûb) deed or an obligation (wâjibfarḍ).

Muslim jurists also differ as to whether the qurbani’s recommended or obligatory offering is per household or per individual.

What is the majority opinion on offering the qurbani sacrifice?

The majority of scholars hold that the qurbani (uḍḥiyah) on the days of Eid al-Aḍḥa is not an obligation but a sunnah mu’akkadah, that is, an “emphatically recommended” action following the Prophet’s way, on him be peace. This is also the opinion of first two Rightly Guided Caliphs, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar ibn Al-Khaṭṭâb, God be pleased with them.

The proof the scholars cite that qurbani (uḍḥiyah) is not a compulsory duty (farḍ) is the statement of the Prophet, on him be peace:

“If the 10(first days of Dhu’l-Ḥijjah) come in and one of you wishes to slaughter [in sacrifice], then let him take nothing from his hair or skin” (Muslim).

(This means one intending to offer the qurbani (uḍḥiyah) sacrifice in the days of al-Aḍḥah should not cut his or her hair or nails.)

In other words, the Prophet, on him be peace, presents his instruction as a choice for Muslims to offer sacrifice or not sacrifice.

What is the minority opinion on offering the qurbani sacrifice?

The Hanafi scholars rule that qurbani (uḍḥiyah) is wâjib (obligatory) based on the verse in the Quran:

So perform the Salah [ritual Prayer] for your Lord and slaughter [an animal] (Surat Al-Kawthar, 108:2).

This is a commandment to the Prophet, on him be peace, which makes it an injunction upon all believers, as this comes in a category of acts not exclusive to him in which humanity must follow him.

This school of scholars, along with several other eminent ones, including the jurists Al-Awza’i, Al-Layth, and Ibn Taymiyah, also cite two statements of the Prophet, on him be peace, as evidence for their position.

“Let one who has offered sacrifice before the [Eid] Prayer offer another sacrifice in its place. And one who has not offered sacrifice, let him do so in the name of Allah” (Muslim).

(This means that one is not to sacrifice his or her qurbani (uḍḥiyah) prior to the Eid Prayer, and one who does so must do an additional sacrifice after the Eid Prayer in order for it to count as qurbani (uḍḥiyah).)

“One who has ample wealth to offer sacrifice but does not do so, let him not approach our place or prayer” (Ahmad, Ibn Majah).

Is the qurbani sacrifice done by each individual or per household?

The scholars of the majority opinion — the ones who categorize qurbani (uḍḥiyah) as recommended (mandûb) — rule that this act of sacrifice is to be performed on behalf of every household that meets its stipulations of fulfillment, not by each individual that fulfills its conditions.

They define “household” in this sense loosely, as people living together whose finances are intertwined and who are related in one way or another.

Do any scholars rule that individuals must do qurbani sacrifice?

A small group of scholars (among the ones who hold the minority position that qurbani (uḍḥiyah) is wâjib, obligatory) classify this obligation further as farḍ ‘ayn — indivudally obligatory, a compulsory duty for everyone who meets its conditions of requirement.

How strong is the recommendation to offer the qurbani sacrifice?

The scholars of the majority, who classify offering the qurbani (uḍḥiyah) sacrifice at the time of Aḍḥa as an “emphatically recommended” act of worship, or confirmed Sunnah (sunnah mu’akkadah), hold that not offering sacrifice at the time of Aḍḥa — when one possesses the financial capacity to do so — is reprehensible (makrûh). That is, it is hateful not to offer sacrifice if you have ample means.

They cite two statements of prophetic proof in support of their position:

The Companion Jabir (Allah be pleased with him) said: “I prayed on Eid al-Aḍḥa with the Messenger of Allah, Allah’s peace and blessings upon him. When he finished [the Eid Prayer], two rams were brought to him, and he sacrificed them both. He said [at the moment of sacrifice]: ‘In the Name of Allah. Allah is the Greatest (Bismillah. Allahu Akbar.) This is from me, and from anyone of my Ummah who did not offer sacrifice.’ ” (Abu Dawud)

Also, the Prophet, on him be peace, said:

“Let any of you who wishes to offer a sacrifice take nothing from his hair or nails” (The five major hadith references cite such a report, apart from Bukhari).

What do Muslim scholars advise about doing qurbani sacrifice?

One who has the means should offer sacrifice in the days of Aḍḥa on behalf of his household. This is true whether one takes the qurbani (uḍḥiyah) sacrifice as an obligation or as a confirmed practice of the Prophet, on him be peace.

This safeguards one’s worship, reverence, and willing submission to God, so that one does not become blameworthy.

It is also important to share the meat of qurbani with those in need (see Why Is Qurbani Important in Islam?).
(For a fuller understanding of the qurbani (uḍḥiyah) sacrifice and its rules see What Is the Qurbani Sacrifice?)