The Islamic festival of Eid Al-Adha, or “Festival of Sacrifice” follows close on the heels of the first Eid festival of the year, Eid Al-Fitr. The Arabic word “Adha”means “sacrifice”, having its root in the word “duha”, which also means “light” or “illumination”.
After Ramadan, the month of Shawwaal ensues, in which most Muslims fast 6 days. This month is followed by Dhul Qa’dah, which is the month in which most of the Muslims who intend to perform Hajj, start their preparations for the trip, and eventually reach Saudi Arabia. After the month of Dhul Qa’dah, comes the month of “Dhul Hijjah”, which literally means, “Of the Hajj”. This is the month in which Muslims perform Hajj, which is closely linked to the global festival of Eid Al-Adha celebrated by other Muslims all over the world.
On the tenth of Dhul Hijjah, pilgrims in Mina, Saudi Arabia, sacrifice an animal for the sake of Allah. Please refer to the article How To Perform Hajj for more details about the Hajj and its rituals. On the same day, Muslims elsewhere in the world celebrate the festival of Eid Al-Adha, in which those who can afford to, also sacrifice an animal to gain Allah’s pleasure, embodying the sacrifice made by Prophet Abraham [peace be upon him] when he was ordered by Allah in his dream to sacrifice his son Ismael [peace be upon him], to which he complied. His spirit of unflinching submission to Allah is epitomized every year as Muslims indulge in a similar sacrifice. Eid Al-Adha is celebrated in more or less the same way as Eid Al-Fitr, except that an animal is sacrificed on this Eid.
Buy and rear a sacrificial animal:
The Muslim who can afford to, should buy a sacrificial animal well before Eid. This could be a male ram, goat, sheep, cow, or a camel. The more beloved and dear the animal is to its owner, the more meaningful will be its sacrifice.
This animal should be taken care of, fed well, respected (it should not be harmed, or ridiculed in any manner) and nurtured until the time of sacrifice. Alternatively, if the Muslim can not afford a separate ram or goat for himself (or herself), scholars have allowed 7 Muslims to share in one cow. Gain knowledge of the sacrifice ritual: Muslims should be well-aware of the correct etiquette and steps of religious sacrifice, by seeking knowledge of Islam pertaining to this ritual. That is, the owners should educate themselves in the Islamic rules of slaughter, and be present to supervise this ritual.
The basic guidelines are as follows: –
- The sacrifice should be performed during the day-time, not at night.
- The knife to be used to cut the animal’s throat should be very sharp, so much so that the least amount of force or pressure is needed to slice the animal’s jugular vein, so it feels the least amount of pain when its skin is thus cut
- The knife should not be shown to the animal, but the latter should be fed well and laid down facing the direction of the “Qiblah” (Muslim direction of prayer – the Ka’ba) in Makkah.
- The person who will perform the sacrifice should be well-versed in their job, and should not hurt the animal by clumsily jabbing away at the latter’s throat with a blunt knife, causing pain and fear. The one performing the sacrifice should be swift and deft. He should say “Bismillah Allahu Akbar” before slicing the animal’s throat. The owner of the animal should recite the following dua (invocation) before the sacrifice (translation): “Indeed I turn my face towards The One Who originated the heavens and the earth; upon the way of Abraham, the unswerving one, and I’m not of those who commit shirk [polytheism]. Indeed my salah, my sacrifice, my living and my dying is for Allah, the Sustainer of the worlds. There is no associate with Him, and so I have been commanded, and I am from the ones who submit. O Allah! (This sacrifice) is from me, for You.”
- The animal dies due to loss of blood. The blood should be allowed to drain completely from its body before it is skinned, disembowelled and chopped. This takes a good half-hour or so. The test to see whether the animal’s blood has drained is to touch the animal’s body; if it is still warm, it means the blood has not drained completely.
- It is absolutely forbidden to start skinning and cutting the animal when it is still alive or writhing. Some butchers, especially the amateur ones, who want to make the maximum amount of money on Eid Al-Adha by slaughtering as many animals as possible, commit grave errors in the process of slaughter. They should not be allowed by the animal-owners to thus abuse the animal. Moreover, it is impermissible for Muslims to consume blood in any form. If the blood has not drained from the animal’s body completely before it is cut up, it will remain in the veins inside the meat, thus rendering the meat “haraam” for consumption.
- For larger animals such as cows and camels, only expert butchers should try to slaughter them on Eid Al-Adha, and should be booked well in advance. It has been noted that when inexperienced people try to slaughter these large animals themselves (as expert butchers are very busy on this Eid), the latter get scared and become difficult to tie down and subdue, at times dashing off, causing injuries and harm.
Go for Eid prayer after the Fajr prayer:
This prayer is performed exactly the same way as for Eid Al-Fitr. The entire household awakens early and takes a full bath or ghusl, putting on new clothes and proceeding to the Eid open prayer-ground, for the early-morning Eid prayer. The whole family should attend this prayer, reciting the following “takbeer” all the way: Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar – Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest! Laa ilaaha illallaahu Allahu Akbar – There is no god except Allah, Allah is the Greatest! Allahu Akbar wa lillaahil Hamd – Allah is the Greatest and for Allah is The Praise! The Eid prayer is a couple of units or rak’ah’s, followed by a sermon, or khutbah, by the imam (in some schools of jurisprudence, the sermon precedes the Eid prayer). The one major aspect of this Eid is not to eat anything on 10th Dhul Hijjah until the meat of the sacrificial animal is cooked, and to partake from it as the first morsel of food for the day.
Prophet Muhammad [may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] would thus fast from morning till the sacrifice, and break his fast with the meat of the animal. This fast is not compulsory; it is a sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad [may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him], and is thus highly recommended. Perform the animal sacrifice as soon as possible after returning home from Eid prayer:
After the family returns home, the animals should be sacrificed. This can be done in the home verandah or courtyard, or in a neighborhood ground. In Muslim countries, animals are slaughtered everywhere, from the roads to the streets. In non-Muslim majority countries, however, animals can only be sacrificed at designated places, with prior permission. If, for some valid reason, the sacrifice can not be performed on 10th Dhul Hijjah, it may be performed on the 11th or 12th (the days of stay in Mina for the pilgrims in Saudi Arabia). The reward will diminish with each passing day, though.
Eat from the meat:
A variety of delicious meat dishes await the Muslims on Eid Al-Adha! No sooner than the meat reaches the kitchen, that the appetizing aroma of mouth-watering delicacies starts wafting from it. The recipe served immediately for breaking the short 10th Dhul Hijjah morning fast, is “kaleji” (roasted mutton or beef liver) with naan-bread or paratha.
For lunch and dinner, main courses of mutton biryani, pulao, beef nihari, qorma, and shami kababs are extremely popular in the Indo-Pak region. Gift meat to relatives and neighbors: Muslims send fresh meat to neighbors, relatives and friends as a sign of sharing and caring throughout the three days of Eid Al-Adha. Give meat to the poor and needy: It would not be an exaggeration to say that in most developing Muslim countries, the poor Muslim populace gets to each meat just once a year – on Eid Al-Adha.
The spirit of charity runs high as every Muslim who sacrifices an animal is eager to share their meat with their poor brethren. Some better-off families go as far as dedicating several animals solely for feeding the poor and hungry on the three days of Eid. It is heartening to witness the spirit of sharing and giving on this Eid, as no Muslim goes hungry during the tiring but joyous days of Eid Al-Adha!