The Qurbani sacrifice (also known as Udhiya or Udhiyah) is considered an essential part of the Islamic faith, embodying a complete sacrifice for the pleasure of God.
But what exactly does the practice of qurbani entail? And how can we as Muslims properly practice this esteemed tradition?
The word qurbani in the Persianate dialects of the Muslim world derives from the Arabic word qurban, which refers to when one freely submits their will to God’s through a symbolic sacrifice, which during the season of Eid al-Adha refers to the sacrifice of animals.
The word udhiyah in Arabic refers specifically to an animal that is slaughtered on the days of Eid al-Adha as an act of worship, with its Arabic root referring to both the day of Eid al-Adha as well as the timing of Eid, which takes place during the mid-morning.
The use of either qurbani or udhiyah to refer to the animal sacrifice made during the season of Eid al-Adha is predominantly due to the culture one is from or living in. Both terms are used interchangeably in the Muslim world.
The sacrifice of qurbani is offered at the completion of the Hajj pilgrimage on the day of Eid al-Adha. It solemnly commemorates the act of the prophet Abraham in submitting to a vision from God to sacrifice his first son, Ishmael (Ismail in Arabic), and being rewarded with a replacement of a ram for sacrifice in Ishmael’s place.
In performing a sacrifice similar to Abraham’s, Muslims renew their commitment to being willing to “sacrifice” their time, money and efforts to God in all aspects of their lives. Qurbani itself symbolizes the ultimate act of submission to God. The fruits of this act, the meat taken from the sacrifice, are given to the needy in charity.
The command for Muslims to give qurbani on a yearly basis during the season of Eid al-Adha comes from three sources:
The Quran (the holy book for Muslims)
The Sunnah (the practices of the Prophet Muhammad, on him be peace)
The Consensus of the Muslim Community (known as ijma’ in Arabic)
Excerpts of sources that command the practice of qurbani include the following:
“As for the charitable-offerings of camels and cattle at the Hajj Pilgrimage, We have made the benefit of sacrificing them among the prescribed rituals and waymarks of Allah for you. In them, there is much good for you. So mention the name of Allah over them as they stand in ranks for sacrifice” (Quran 22:36).
“So perform the salah [ritual Prayer] for your Lord and slaughter [an animal]” (Quran 108:2).
“Whoever slaughtered the sacrifice before the prayer, he just slaughtered it for himself, and whoever slaughtered it after the prayer, he slaughtered it at the right time and followed the tradition of the Muslims” (Bukhari).
“The Prophet offered as sacrifices two horned rams, black and white in color. He slaughtered them with his own hands, mentioned Allah's Name over them and recited the takbir and put his foot on their sides” (Bukhari).
The majority of Muslim scholars hold that qurbani is to be performed on behalf of each household that is capable, whereas a minority hold that qurbani is to be performed on behalf of each individual.
In both cases, those who slaughter must be: Muslim, a resident and not a traveler, and one in a state of sound mind and financial ease.
With regards to the performance of qurbani itself, the conditions for a valid qurbani are:
The one giving a sacrifice should not trim their hair, skin or nails during the 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah.
The sacrifice must be of animals normally considered livestock or cattle, such as cows, buffaloes, bison (bovine); sheep (ovine), goats (caprine), camels and the like.
The sacrifice must be fully grown (about six months for a goat, one year for a sheep, three years for a cow, and five years for a camel).
The sacrifice should be free of defect, especially regarding its meat quality.
The sacrifice must be given after the Eid prayer on Eid al-Adha or on the subsequent days designated for it thereafter.
When all of the above conditions are met, the sacrifice is then performed and the meat from the sacrifice is distributed.
When making the qurbani sacrifice, Muslims can choose to make it either locally or internationally, where it is typically most needed, and can be set up through a charitable organization.
From there, the order is submitted to the location of choice, where field workers ensure the animal or animals to be sacrificed are healthy and have been humanely raised. They then slaughter the animal or animals and package the meat immediately for delivery to the needy, as qurbani meat is always delivered fresh.
Finally, the meat is hand-distributed to the poor, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, and the qurbani sacrifice is considered complete.
Qurbani will forever remain an important component in a Muslim’s regular practice, and giving qurbani allows us to give hope to those who would otherwise struggle to fulfill this practice.
We slaughter and hand-deliver qurbani meat every year to the needy in 40 countries, including Rwanda, El Salvador, India and more, and would be honored to be a part of your qurbani this year.
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