Making the qurbani sacrifice of a designated, approved animal (also commonly called udhiyah) as an act of worship on the Ḥajj-Pilgrimage days of Eid Al-Aḍḥah is strongly encouraged for all Muslims who have the financial means to do so – even though they are not making Ḥajjj. This ruling is based on the confirmed practice of the Prophet, on him be peace, and his Companions, God be pleased with them.
Muslim scholars hold two major opinions in Islamic Law (fiqh) as to whether qurbani is a recommended (mandûb) deed or an obligation (wâjib, farḍ).
Our jurists’ rulings are similarly at variance on the question of the qurbani being recommended or obligatory for every Muslim household or every believing individual.
The majority opinion on making the qurbani sacrifice
Most legal scholars hold that the qurbani (udhiyah) on the days of Eid Al-Aḍḥah is not an obligation, but it is an “emphatically recommended” practice of the Prophet, on him be peace, termed in Law as a sunnah mu’akkadah. This means the Muslim who would follow the way of the Prophet, on him be peace, should perform any such act.
Both Abû Bakr and ‘Umar ibn Al-Khaṭṭâb, the first two Rightly Guided Caliphs, God be pleased with them, held this opinion. This immensely strengthens this ruling.
The scholars cite the following statement of the Prophet, on him be peace, as a proof that qurbani (udhiyah) is not a compulsory duty (farḍ) on every Muslim:
If the ten (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 (udhiyah) sacrifice in the days of Al-Aḍḥah should not cut his or her hair or nails.)
The key word here translates as ‘wishes,’ ‘wants,’ or ‘desires.’ In other words, the Prophet, on him be peace, presents in the course of his religious instruction the choice for Muslims to offer or not offer the sacrifice.
The minority opinion on making the qurbani sacrifice
Muslim scholars of the Ḥanafî school disagree. They contend that the qurbani (udhiyah) offering is an obligation (wâjib). They cite as proof this verse of the Quran:
Then perform the Salah [ritual Prayer] for your Lord and slaughter [an animal] (Surat Al-Kawthar (The Abundant Goodness), 108:2).
Allah directed this command that to the Prophet, on him be peace, but the Ḥanafi scholars extend its injunction to all believers because it is not the kind of act that is exclusive to the Prophet, on him be peace. They place it in a category of rituals that humanity must follow him in doing, and the human beings who comply with and fulfill the actions of the Prophet, on him be peace, are the Muslims.
Ḥanafî scholars are not alone in this position. The esteemed Muslim jurists Al-Awzâ‘î, Al-Layth, and Ibn Taymiyah, evidence their agreement with this ruling with two statements of the Prophet, on him be peace:
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 (udhiyah) prior to the Eid Prayer. Also, one who does so must do an additional sacrifice after the Eid Prayer in order for it to count as qurbani (udhiyah).)
One who has ample wealth to offer sacrifice but does not do so, let him not approach our place or prayer” (Ahmad, Ibn Majah).
Should each individual Muslim do the qurbani sacrifice or every household?
In the majority opinion – the scholars who categorize qurbani (udhiyah) as recommended (mandûb) and not obligatory (farḍ) – the ruling is that every household that meets the stipulations of fulfillment of the udhiyah sacrifice should make a single qurbani sacrifice on behalf of all the household members – not one sacrifice for each individual of the household.
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 minority Ḥanafî position hold qurbani (udhiyah) as not only wâjib, or collectively obligatory, but as farḍ ‘ayn, individually obligatory. This would make it a compulsory duty for every individual who meets its conditions of requirement. Again, the scholars who hold this opinion are few.
How strong of a recommendation is the qurbani sacrifice?
Very. Most scholars classify offering the qurbani (udhiyah) sacrifice at the time of Aḍḥah as an “emphatically recommended” act of worship, a confirmed Sunnah (sunnah mu’akkadah). As such, they say that it is reprehensible (makrûh) for a Muslim who possesses the financial capacity and capability of doing the sacrifice in the days of Aḍḥah to not offer it. That is, it is hateful not to offer sacrifice if you have ample means.
They cite two prophetic proofs in support of this position:
The Companion Jabir (Allah be pleased with him) said: “I prayed on Eid Al-Aḍḥah 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 ḥadîth references cite such a report, apart from Bukhari).
What Muslim scholars recommend about doing qurbani sacrifice?
Anyone who has sufficiently abundant means should offer sacrifice in the days of Aḍḥah on behalf of his household. This holds true for those who say the qurbani (udhiyah) sacrifice is an obligation, as well as those who hold it 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.
Is it permissible to send one’s qurbani sacrifice to Muslims elsewhere?
According to a significant number of modern and current scholars, for those who live in circumstances and countries of food sufficiency and even surplus and superabundance – as millions of Muslims living in wealthy nations and in relative wealth do today – it is not only permissible but desirable to pay for the cost of their qurbani (udhiyah) sacrifice to be slaughtered and distributed in other countries where there is great need from hunger, poverty, oppression, and displacement among the Muslims.
Muslims today sadly lead the world in all these humanitarian categories.
The underlying reason for the udhiyah sacrifice is twofold:
Reviving the way (Sunnah) of the Prophet, on him be peace
Bringing relief, joy, and fulfillment to Muslims everywhere on these Eid days of happiness and celebration
Thus, it is far better to ensure that one’s udhiyah or qurbani sacrifice for Eid Al-Adhah reaches the famished, the persecuted, the dispossessed, and the war-weary Muslim needful – who barely have meat to eat – than for it to take up residence in our freezers, on those of our family and friends, or for it to add harmfully to our own over-caloric intake.
What is the basis for transferring qurbani to those in need?
One of the prime objectives of Islam – and thus the Muslim nation – is the elimination of poverty in the world – and particularly the feeding of the needy.
Providing food for the impoverished and constrained is, in fact, a primary obligation of the believer, an obligatory manifestation of the faith our lips profess. This holds a dire warning for Muslims.
As to those who refuse or neglect feeding the destitute – a sentiment that now abounds among the lopsided beneficiaries, both in terms of elites and nations, of the increasingly outrageous wealth disparity in our world – this marks a person’s unbelief and his or her destiny in Hellfire.
Have you seen one who belies the final Judgment? This, then, is the same one who repels the orphan, and who will not urge the feeding of the indigent. So woe to all those who pray – that is, those who are unmindful about the meaning of their Prayers: those who only make a show of worship, while they withhold basic aid from others. (Sûrat Al-Mâ‘ûn, 107:1-7)
Give to the poor who, striving in the path of God, have become constrained – unable to tread through the land for livelihood (Sưrat Al-Baqarah, 2:273).
For in this variance of wealth and poverty, We but try some of them through [the test of satisfying] the [impoverished] condition of the others (Sưrat Al-An‘âm, 6:53)
And mention much the name of God during the known days of Ḥajj-Pilgrimage over what He has provided them of grazing beasts to sacrifice. So eat of them and feed the afflicted ones, the indigent poor. (Sûrat Al-Ḥajj, 22:28)
Specifically, however, the legal (fiqhi) principle that underlies the permissibility of transferring one’s “recommended” (mandûb) ritual of udhiyah to those in need is based on the permissibility of transferring the “obligatory” (farḍ) Zakat payment beyond the locality from which it was collected (which is its primary ruling) when there is urgent cause to meet a greater need and more urgent interest.
Both the Ḥanafî and Mâlikî Schools of Islamic Law permit the transfer of the udhiyah sacrifice (or most of it in the case of the Mâlikîs) to people in greater need than those of one’s own country. Nor do the Shâfi‘î and Ḥanbalî schools deny the validity of the qurbani if one does it.
The Quranic injunction to sacrifice does not specifically preclude transfer of the qurbani sacrifice to satisfy the direly in need of food and sustenance. Indeed, it strongly indicates that such people are, in fact, divinely intended recipients of its provision:
As for the charitable-offerings of camels and cattle at the Ḥajj-Pilgrimage, We have made the benefit of sacrificing them among the prescribed rituals and waymarks of God for you. In them, there is much good for you. So mention the name of God over them as they stand in ranks for sacrifice. Then when they collapse upon their flanks, you may butcher their meat to eat of them yourselves — and to feed both the self-restrained needy and the suppliant poor. Thus have We subjugated the sacrificial animals to feed you all, so that you may all give thanks to God. (Sûrat Al-Ḥajj, 22:36)
The very next verse clarifies the divine objective of our practice of this sacrifice: (1) that Muslims must implement our sacrificial offerings in all places, and (2) we must feed the poor with it.
Never shall any part of their flesh nor their blood reach God. But rather, it is your devotion — inspired by the fear of God in you — that reaches Him. Therefore, has He subjugated them to you, that you shall extol God, the Creator for the blessing of faith to which He has guided you. So give glad tidings to those who excel in doing good. (Sûrat Al-Ḥajj, 22:36-37)
The example of the Prophet, on him be peace, bears this out. He said in an authentic report:
‘Any one of you who offers sacrifice, let none of it be left in his house after the third day.’ The next year, [the Companions] asked: ‘O Messenger of Allah! Shall we do as we did last year? He said: ‘No. That year people were hard-pressed [with need], and I wanted [the udhiyah meat] to be distributed among them.’
This is a clear text that the Prophet, on him be peace, who is a source of Revelation and Law, saw the people in dire need and commanded the capable Muslims to feed them with their qurbani sacrifice within three days – the days of Eid and sacrifice – and not beyond the timeframe he set. When that condition of urgency ended, he lifted his prohibition.
Then let us be mindful that when the Prophet, on him be peace, set such a limit on his Companions, it became ḥarâm, forbidden, for them to do otherwise. They had to distribute the qurbani sacrifice within three days of its completion.
Hence, when Muslims are in dire need – and there can be no denying that this urgency is widespread and unprecedentedly dire among Muslims in our times at every humanitarian level (war, displacement, orphaning, impoverishment, starvation, persecution) – we who are safe, enriched, well-stocked, and living in abundance should fulfill the obligation of feeding our elderly, our children, our sisters, our brothers who suffer catastrophic loss and need wherever they may be.
When Allah, God willing, lifts this condition from us, we may return to each one of us exclusively offering our sacrifice personally and distributing it locally. Now, however, there is great and life-saving need to let Muslims the world over have a share in our qurbani sacrifice.