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The History of Qurbani and an Urgent Call to Revive Ethical Practices

by in Culture & Lifestyle on 22nd June, 2023

Qurbani, or udhiya, holds great significance in Islam. Stemming from the traditions of our beloved Ibrahim (as) and the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), Qurbani serves as a powerful reminder and practice of submission to Allah. 

However, as the world evolves, so do the challenges and complexities associated with Qurbani. Some of these challenges include environmental concerns around animal welfare and waste management, that ultimately push the cost associated with Qurbani. In this article, we delve into the history of Qurbani, and the importance of reviving the forgotten sunnah of Ibrahim (as) and Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that prioritise ethical Qurbani and thus justify premium costs. 

This article is sponsored by Islamic Relief UK. Their Quality Assured Qurbani programme is a specialised worldwide programme which upholds Core Humanitarian Standard and Shariah compliance throughout the entire process to ensure receivers get quality, halal (permissible) and Tayyib (healthy, pure) Qurbani meat. 

The History of Qurbani – An Act of Submission and Devotion to Allah

To truly understand the significance of Qurbani, we journey back in time to the story of Ibrahim (as). Ibrahim (as) is known as Khalilullah, the friend of Allah (SWT). He (as) demonstrated his unwavering faith by willingly submitting to Allah’s command to sacrifice his beloved son, Ismail (as). Accepting Ibrahim (as)’s intentions and as an acknowledgement of his submission, Allah replaced Ismail (as) with a ram, ultimately establishing the tradition of Qurbani.

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) further reinforced the importance of Qurbani in his own life. It is narrated that he performed Qurbani not once but twice, demonstrating the significance of this act and its perpetual relevance in the lives of Muslims.

Jabir (as) said: “I prayed ‘Eid ul-Adha with the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, and when he finished (the prayer), he was brought two rams, and he sacrificed them. He said, ‘In the Name of Allah, Allah is Most Great. This is on behalf of myself and any member of my Ummah who did not offer a sacrifice.’ ” [Sunan Abi Dawud]

There is an urgent need to revive the true spirit of Qurbani as taught to us by Ibrahim (as), to bring it back as a selfless act of parting with what we love most, with complete devotion to Allah (SWT). 

With costs of food rising globally, there is also a need to follow in the footsteps of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW), focusing on quality and quantity, ensuring ethical practices in both sacrifice and distribution and thus providing higher value to both receivers and the environment. 

What Is Ethical Qurbani?

So what makes Qurbani ethical? What are the conditions to look out for and what brings us closer to prophetic Qurbani? 

  • Compassionate Treatment of Animals

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) once passed by a camel that was so emaciated that its back had almost reached its stomach. He said, “Fear Allah in these beasts who cannot speak.” (Abu Dawud)

At the heart of ethical Qurbani lies the compassionate treatment of animals. The Prophet (SAW) placed a strong emphasis on kindness, mercy and the humane sacrifice of animals where we are encouraged to ensure that all animals, whether for the intention of sacrifice or not, are provided with proper care which includes access to clean water, nutritious food, and suitable living conditions. The act of sacrificing an animal should be performed with utmost respect and consideration for its welfare, minimising any potential suffering or harm.

  • Hygiene and Quality Control: 

Ethical Qurbani emphasises the importance of hygiene and quality control. There are strict guidelines in place on the process of Qurbani to ensure that the meat is safe for consumption.

The animals must be healthy, free from diseases, and the slaughter should be carried out swiftly and with precision. Furthermore, animals must not be sacrificed within sight of one another to minimise distress.

Proper inspection and certification play a crucial role in upholding these standards, guaranteeing that the Qurbani meat is of the highest quality. 

  • Equitable Distribution of Meat

Aishah (RA) said: “Some poor families among the people of the desert came to Madinah on the occasion of Eid al-Adha at the time of the Messenger of Allah (SAW). The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, ‘Keep with you meat sufficient for three days, and whatever is left, give in charity.’ (Muslim)

Equitable distribution of meat is another integral aspect of ethical Qurbani. Qurbani is typically distributed in three equal parts: one for yourself, one for friends and family and one for the poor and needy. In this way, the act of sacrifice is not only an individual obligation but also a means of fostering compassion within the community. We are encouraged to share the meat, ensuring that the blessings of Qurbani reach those who do not have the means to practise it. This principle echoes the spirit of social justice and serves as a reminder to uphold the values of generosity and empathy. 

Islamic Relief UK prioritises providing a high-quality service to receivers. They go the extra mile by purchasing healthy animals that yield more meat, distributing all three parts to the most needy worldwide, and ultimately providing more value to recipients living in vulnerable circumstances. 

  • Responsible Environmental Practices

Responsible environmental practices also find a place within ethical Qurbani. Sustainable farming methods, waste management, and minimising the ecological impact of Qurbani are essential considerations. This not only aligns with the principles of ethical Qurbani but also contributes to the broader goal of sustainable living. 

Embracing Prophetic Qurbani

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW)’s approach to Qurbani provides a comprehensive guide for Muslims seeking to uphold the highest standards. The Prophet (SAW) emphasised the importance of sacrificing animals of good quality, treating them with kindness and gentleness, and distributing the meat equitably among family, friends, and the less fortunate. Following the footsteps of the Prophet (SAW) ensures that Qurbani is not merely a ritual but a means of embodying the prophetic values of compassion, justice, and generosity.

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: Whoever revives a Sunnah of mine that dies out after I am gone, he will have a reward equivalent to that of those among the people who act upon it, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest. (Ibn Majah)

Ultimately it is our collective duty as Muslims to uphold prophetic traditions with ihsan, or excellence. From the correct intentions to practising Qurbani with mindfulness, upholding the rights of those around us from our family, neighbours and animals, we can fulfil our duty as Muslims and khilafah, or custodians of the earth. 

May Allah accept our deeds, intentions and sacrifice in this month and beyond.

This article is sponsored by Islamic Relief UK who prioritise those most in need, focus on quality as key, handle animals with care and ensure cost-efficiency in the Qurbani process.

Amaliah Team

Amaliah Team

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