Qurbani or Ishq: Animal Sacrifice in Islam

Altab and friends rescued Rani a night before scheduled sacrifice last year
Altab and friends rescued Rani a night before scheduled sacrifice last year

Recently Dharma Deen explored the topic of animal sacrifice in Hinduism, questioning its necessity in Bali or Bhakti. This month we consider animal sacrifice in Islam through a Q&A session with India-based activist Altab Hossain. We discuss topics such as the Five Pillars of Islam, what qualities make a good Muslim, and whether qurbani fits into compulsory duties expected of a devout Muslim.

“Whoever is kind to the creatures of God, is kind to himself.”
– The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

Q: What is compulsory in Islam?

A: Observing the Five Pillars of professing one’s faith, faith in Allah and Prophet Mohammed, observing prayer five times a day, giving zakat to the needy, fasting, and hajj pilgrimage.

“Praying is a Muslim’s direct link to God. It’s difficult to forget about God, to lie, steal, cheat or hurt when you’re constantly going back for five times a day to connect with him, to thank him and ask for his strength. It is like food for the soul.”
– Mona Shadia (Source)

Q: Is animal sacrifice compulsory?

Some people mistakenly believe it’s religious to sacrifice an animal because it’s mentioned in the Holy Quran. And some of those same people forget to pray five times daily, which is the most important thing in Islam.

If one can be a good Muslim even if they don’t pray five times a day then that person can also be a good Muslim when not taking part in Eid Al Adha. If Allah doesn’t punish us for not praying five times a day, Allah will not punish us for skipping bakrid – something that isn’t farz/obligatory/compulsory.

“Neither their flesh nor their blood reaches Allah, but rather your piety”
– Quran 22:37

Dhaka, Bangladesh
streets full of rain and sacrificial blood

Q: Should Muslims end the practice of animal sacrifice on holidays?

Eid-al-Adha is about test of faith to prove our love towards Allah. If you wanted to show your love of God why not sacrifice by giving away 25% of your total wealth to charity? It would be a much bigger sacrifice than forcefully taking a life of a goat who cannot even protect him/herself.

If Eid is really about feeding the poor you can nourish a lot more people with rice, grains, and vegetables or give them money of equal value. Last year I talked with people standing in line to collect meat and many said they always prefer money over meat. They preferred money to use for their kids’ education and other necessary expenses.

If Eid is really about sacrificing something dear to you then sacrifice your ego and make friends with your enemies, serve your servants, and remind yourself you belong to God.

It is not the animal sacrifice that’s important, it is the meaning driven from the act that is. It is about loving God to such an extent that you’d sacrifice the most dearest thing to you. Ibrahim’s son was the dearest thing in his heart. Is a goat the greatest love in your heart? Probably not. But the wealth you have, the food you eat, the pride you have from your position in society, these things are dear to you. Please sacrifice these things and show mercy and compassion instead.

Q: Does mass animal sacrifice have any negative effect on the environment and people?

A: There are a lot of negative psychological aspects. Kids are exposed to bloodshed, beheading, and violence. This is desensitization and normalization of carnage. The Quran asks us to purify ourselves with clean living, and it’s unclean to be surrounded by so much blood. In addition, the environment is full of the smell of blood, pollution, and cries of animals in pain.

“Istighna is to serve the cause of Islam by all means without any expectations for reward, whether material, social, or otherwise. This means sacrificing one’s resources, including time, money, abilities, and networks for serving humanity. In return, a Muslim is to desire Allah’s pleasure alone. “
– Fethullah Gülen, Turkish scholar

Q: Any concluding thoughts?

I would like to reach out to all the Muslim brothers and sisters in the world and request them to think deeply. Is buying a goat and cutting his/her throat your sacrifice for Allah? You have a golden opportunity to show your love and faith for God. Killing an Animal can never be your sacrifice. Allah is watching. Allah knows best. Sacrifice what is most precious for you in the name of Allah. If cutting throats of animals were any sacrifice and a way to show love towards Allah, then butchers would be termed as most devout Muslims.


Altab Hossain is an Interior Designer and environmental and animal rights activist residing in Kolkata, India. In his free time he organizes with Fridays for Future Kolkta and Kolkata Vegans. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

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