Qurbani: The ritual of sacrificing an animal

The festival Eid ul-Adha is a sacred, historical and faith-reinvigorating occasion in the Muslim calendar. It is a time of intense spiritual activity. The festival of Eid ul-Adha invites reflection on the sacrifice and the life of Prophet Ibrahim. This great prophet of Allah made every sacrifice for Divine Pleasure. He gave up his home, his family and wandered in the desert of Arabia, seeking to establish the way of Allah. Reading about the sacrifices of this great man inspires and enthuses us. One cannot fail to see the extent of devotion and love of Ibrahim for his Lord – who has the stomach to even think about sacrificing his own son?

The Quran narrates this wonderful story:

So, We gave good news of a son with strong character. When he was old enough to work with him, one day he told him: “My son, I saw in a dream I’m sacrificing you; tell me what you think?” He replied, “Father, do as you were told; you’ll find me patient, Allah willing.” When both submitted and Ibrahim laid him face down, We called out: “Ibrahim you have fulfilled the dream. This is how We reward the righteous.” It was a clear test of faith. We saved Ismael in exchange for a slaughtered ram and left his tribute among future generations. Peace be on Ibrahim” (Saffat: 101-109).

This is a life-affirming message that a believer must love his Lord more than anything else, and be willing to make sacrifices. Qurbani makes us aware of the idea that a believer is a sincere, ever engaged in a struggle against evil and expending every ounce of energy to ensure truth prevails. Qurbani motivates us to make sacrifices for the Divine and to stand up for social justice and to support the weak.

What is Qurbani?

Qurbani is the sacrifice of an animal on the days of Eid al-Adha, on the 10th to the 12th of Dhul Hijjah. It is a form of worship to please the Lord and to follow the example of Ibrahim. Qurbani is compulsory (wajib) on every person who has the nisab – this is the minimum amount of wealth that makes a person liable for paying Zakah. It is eighty-five grams of gold or an equivalent amount of money. The current value of this is approximately £4,000. Aisha narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said, “The best deed of the son of Adam on the 10th of the Dhul Hijjah is to sacrifice an animal, and his sins will be forgiven before the blood drops on the ground” (Tirmidhi).

It is reported that some disciples enquired about the Qurbani and asked the Messenger ﷺ, “What is the Qurbani?” He ﷺ responded by saying, “This is the sunnah of your father Ibrahim.” They then asked, “What is in it for us?” He ﷺ said, “For every hair of the animal you receive a merit, and for every piece of the wool you receive a merit” (Ibn Majah).

These days it is acceptable to give money to a charity to carry out the Qurbani on your behalf.

Some rules for the Qurbani:

  • Qurbani is wajib on everyone who possesses the nisab; this means that if both husband and wife have the nisab, then each must offer their own Qurbani.
  • There is no alternative to the Qurbani i.e. you cannot pay money to the needy in lieu of Qurbani.
  • The animals of Qurbani are; Camel, Cow, Ox, Buffalo (2 years), Goat (a year), Sheep and Ram (six months). The animal for sacrifice must be healthy.
  • The meat of the Qurbani can be divided into three parts; one part for oneself, the second part for relatives and the third part for the poor and needy in the community. This is the preferred way of distributing Qurbani meat. However, if one wants to keep all of the meat, that is permissible as well and the meat can be kept for any length of time. It is a good practice to distribute the meat to non-Muslims too.
  • The hides of the Qurbani animals must be given to poor people or to religious organisations and schools.
  • It is preferred that a person slaughters the animal themself, rather than asking others to do it.
  • It is recommended to avoid cutting your hair and nails until your animal has been sacrificed.