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IS THE UDHIYYA (QURBANI) CRUEL TO ANIMALS?

Is the Udhiyya (Qurbani) cruel to
animals?
Currently, millions of animals are being sacri4iced as part of the Hajj and Eid al-Adha religious
festival. This is an act of worship commanded by Allah and His Messenger (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him).
The animals that Shariah has stipulated for sacri4ice are sheep, cows, goats and camels. At this
time of year, there are sometimes suggestions that Muslims are needlessly putting millions of
animals to their death. The act of sacri4ice is wasteful and outdated, it is said. It is against
animal welfare rights and the practice leads to pointless waste.
Is Islam for or against animal rights? Is the udhiyya (sacri4ice) oppressive? Are Muslims
wasteful during the Qurbani season? Here are a few points are worthy of close deliberation:
*****
a. Islam is very speci4ic when it comes to which type of animals must be sacri4iced:
Sheep: at least one years old, unless it is fat in which case six months is acceptable
Camel: at least 4ive years old (this can be shared amongst seven people)
Cow: at least two years old (this can be shared amongst seven people)
Goat: at least one years old
All of them must be healthy and free from physical defects.
None of these animals are endanger of extinction, in any part of the world. Millions of cows
and sheep have been sacri4iced over the years and no one has reported a shortage. In New
Zealand, there are about 4.8 million people. There are thirty million sheep in the same
country. In 2019, it was reported that there were approximately ten million sheep in Wales
alone, in a country where there are only about three million people living.
On the other hand, lions are endangered species yet westerners hunt and poach them for fun.
In 2015, it was estimated that there are only 30,000 lions living in the wild in Africa. This is
compared to 200,000 a century ago. Rich westerners come to East Africa with the sole
intention of entertainment via killing endangered species. In July 2015, the American Walter
Palmer came to Zimbabwe and killed ‘Cecil the Lion’, causing international outrage.
Islam allows hunting, but not for entertainment purposes. Hunters are also reminded that
ecological balance must be maintained.

b. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was sent as a mercy for all
worlds. He taught compassion and decency even towards animals when no one had even
heard of human rights, let alone animal rights. He was the pioneer of animal rights centuries
before the term was even coined in the west:
*Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told the story of an
immodest woman who was forgiven simply because she passed by a dog panting near a well.
Seeing how thirsty the dog was, she took off her shoe, tied it to her scarf and drew up some
water. Her sins for forgiven as a result of this act.1
*Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) reports that whenever they would dismount
at a station for a rest, they would remove all baggage and seating from the camel before
performing Salah, eating and drinking. 2
*Abd Allah ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) passed by a group of youth from
Quraysh who were shooting arrows at a suspended bird. The youth dispersed as they saw this
Companion. Ibn Umar remarked, ‘Whoever does this, namely use birds for sport, Allah and His
Messenger have cursed them.’ 3

c. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was very speci4ic when it came to
how the slaughter takes place. All rulings are geared towards compassion and decency. He
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was very insistent that the knife used for sacri4ice
must be very sharp. The knife should not be sharpened in the front of the animal. The
slaughter should not take place in front of other animals. Prophet Muhammad (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
‘Indeed Allah has prescribed good (Ihsan) in all things. So when you kill, kill well. Where
you sacri4ice, sacri4ice well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare
suffering to the animal he slaughters’ 4

d. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) instructed Muslims to ensure all
parts of the animal are used. Or to word it differently, he ordered us to be sustainable and
green. The skin must be used. The bones can be used. The unused meat should be left for
other animals to consume. In Muslim countries, the Eid al-Adha season is very important for
butchers, farmers, tanners, cloth merchants and many more. They all bene4it from the supply
chain provided by the sacri4ices.

All this was clearly laid down fourteen centuries ago. The 4irst law in the UK aimed at any
compassion towards animals was introduced in 1822.
*****
To conclude, an observer must look at the whole sacri4ice process before declaring it fair or
unfair. Anyone who does so will certainly appreciate the green, sustainable and compassionate
nature of the practice. Islam is based on decency, love and compassion. This extends to all,
including animals.

Dr. Ha8iz Ather Hussain al-Azhari
@ha8iz_ather
Sunan Ibn Maja, cited in Muhammad: Mercy and peace personified, by Maulana Mohammed Shakir 1
Noorie, Maktab-e-Taibah, Mumbai, India, 2017.
Human Rights in the light of the Qur’an and Sunnah, M.I.H Pirzada, Al-Karam Publications, p. 150. 2
Ibid., p. 152. 3
Imam al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith.

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