This article was originally published by Worldwide Quran Thinkers.
In light of Animal Rights
The Concept Of Animal Slaughtering On Eid-Al-Adha
We are fast approaching the time when millions of animals would be slaughtered by Muslims during Eid Al Adha. Eid al-Adha is one of the most important Muslim festivals celebrated worldwide, wherein Muslims slaughter animals such as sheep, goats, buffalo, cattle, and camels on the culmination of Hajj in Mecca.
Muslims in general do not even know the Quranic guidance or what has Allah really ordained for us- they all are simply following whatever has been practiced generations after generations in the name of Islam. By being under the impression that Eid al-Adha honors Nabiy Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son, every year Muslims celebrate this Eid by slaughtering animals at mass scale under the impression as if this is what Allah has ordained. In the article ‘How Islamic Is The Animal Sacrifice Of ‘Eid Al-Adha’- An Islamic Perspective Against Animal Sacrifice’ Shahid ‘Ali Muttaqi 1 writes
Let us start with the situation as it was in pre-Islamic Arabia with regard to animal sacrifice. The pagan Arabs sacrifice to a variety of Gods in hopes of attaining protection or some favour or material gain. Islam, however, broke away from this longstanding tradition of appeasing an “angry God”. The notion of “vicarious atonement of sin” (absolving one’s sins through the blood of another) is nowhere to be found in the Qur’an. Neither is the idea of gaining favour by offering the life of another to God. In Islam, all that is demanded as a sacrifice is one’s personal willingness to submit one’s ego and individual will to Allah.
One only has to look at how the Qur’an treats one of the most famous stories in the Judeo-Christian world: the sacrifice of Isaac (here, in the Islamic world seen as the sacrifice of Isma’il) to see a marked difference regarding sacrifice and whether or not Allah is appeased by blood. The Qur’anic account of the sacrifice of Isma’il ultimately speaks against blood atonement. Qur’an never says that God told Abraham to kill (sacrifice) his son. Though subtle, this is very important. For the moral lesson is very different from that which appears in the Bible. Here, it teaches us that Abraham had a dream in which he saw himself slaughtering his son. Abraham believed the dream and thought that the dream was from God, but the Qur’an never says that the dream was from God. For, certainly, the Ever Merciful, Most Compassionate — would never ask a father to go against His command of “thou shall not kill” and kill his own son in order to be accepted by Him. For the Qur’an teaches us that God never advocates evil (see 7:28 and 16:90) and that only Satan advocates evil and vice (24:21). The notion that Allah would want us to do an immoral act runs counter to Allah’s justice.
Should Muslims Reconsider Animal Slaughter On Eid?
In the article ‘Should Muslims Reconsider Animal Slaughter on Eid?’ 2 Anila Muhammad highlights
Eid-ul-Adha commemorates the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael, is a day of celebration around the Muslim world. However, for millions of animals it is anything but a day for rejoicing as this day marks the beginning of ritual animal slaughter. Consider, that, the very act of involving ourselves in the ritual animal sacrifice places our earth at jeopardy. As Muslims, on Eid, and the rest of the year, should we not be mindful of whether continuing such a tradition is compatible with our Islamic responsibility to be care-takers of this earth?
Many individuals in the Muslim world are either refusing to participate in this ritual or speaking up and asking for an end to animal sacrifice. Some are notable animal advocates such as Amira Hassan from Tunisia, Seçil Aracı from Turkey and Amina Abaza the founder of the Society for Protecting the Rights of Animals in Egypt. And it isn’t just animal advocates who wish to see an end to this ritual. It is average Muslims who are re-evaluating if this ritual is actually part of the tradition of compassion and mercy as espoused by the Quran.
If one opens the Quran, at verse 37:102, to read the ACTUAL story the interpretation turns out to be rather different The Quran states that Abraham had a dream in which he believed God was instructing him to sacrifice his son. What should be obvious, yet is overlooked, is that at no point does the Quran state the dream was from God or that God demanded this sacrifice. This is an important distinction to make since the insistence for animal sacrifice is based upon the notion that Abraham’s vision came from God and God instructed Abraham to sacrifice his son. In fact it should be noted that God interjects to stop Abraham from sacrificing his son. In fact the Abrahamic sacrifice had nothing to do with the physical act of blood-letting. Abraham’s sacrifice was ACTUALLY about his willingness to let go of the most important thing in his life, in order to fulfill, what he perceived to be, the will of the Divine Creator.
The Treatment & Conditions Of Animals For This Ritual
In an article published on Aug 23, 2018 ‘It’s time to phase out religious animal sacrifice’ 3 the author Farzana Hassan, who had just returned from her home country after Eid-al-Adha, wrote
“Each year millions of animals are slaughtered en masse in one of the most populous of Muslim nations. They include sheep, goats, cattle — even camels. The festival maintains its charitable tradition, so most of the meat is distributed among the poor and needy, with a little kept for self and family. Canadian Muslims also celebrate Eid al-Adha each year. The religious observance commemorates the near sacrifice of Abraham. Muslims across the world still pay tribute to the faith this event promotes. But this begs the question of why a similar tradition never took shape within Judaism, where the story of Abraham’s great compliance with God’s commandments originated and whence the Islamic tradition arose.
Before meeting their fate, the sacrificial animals are bedecked, bejeweled and indulged in every way possible. Many of these pampered animals also gain a degree of fame through media coverage. As a vegan I am in principle against any kind of slaughter. I abhor the fact that billions of animals are killed yearly for regular meat consumption. Extending this, animal slaughter specifically for religious reasons is a travesty which contravenes the love and respect which any philosophy should advocate.
Anila Muhammad in her article ‘Should Muslims Reconsider Animal Slaughter on Eid?’ 2 mentions
It would not be possible to discuss this issue without recognizing the very beings that give their lives for this tradition — the animals. There is a strong tradition in Islam for the just and humane treatment of animals and especially those who are to be slaughtered. Yet this idea of humane treatment of animals in Islam is at complete odds with the reality of how animals are treated. Live animal exports to Muslim countries from places such as Australia and New Zealand account for a majority of the animals who are used for the Eid sacrifice. There is now indisputable documented evidence, from both Muslim and non-Muslim investigators, detailing level of cruelty to these animals. Live export animals are routinely packed tight into transport containers for journeys that can take weeks. During that time, they are provided with no food, no water, and stand chained and immobile in their own urine and feces. Many animals die of dehydration and malnutrition. Many pregnant sheep or cows give birth to their babies in these conditions, only to watch them die a slow, painful death. Even if we forget for a moment how these animals arrive at their destination. Consider that during the Hajj more than two million animals are sacrificed in one day. It is absolutely impossible to slaughter this number of animals, within a few hours, and think it is done in a humane manner.
Fabricated Stories Versus The Reality As Per The Quran?
Unlike the general mal-practice, this fabricated story is NOT backed by Quran. In fact, this a biblical concept of the story of Abraham. There is no replacement of son to sheep mentioned in the QURAN. In Quran Nabiy Ibrahim’s act of sacrifice does not go that Far. Quran tells us that he saw a dream, from which he thought he has been asked by God to sacrifice his son, he spoke to his son, his son obediently agreed and laid down by his forehead. THAT’S IT. Then God advised Ibrahim that he saw a dream, but since he was willing to sacrifice his most precious thing in the way of God Almighty in order to prove his obedience to GOD, therefore GOD almighty replaced his great willingness to sacrifice his most precious thing; with a REWARD. Let’s take a look at Quranic Ayahs As-Saffat 37:102-112
(102) And when he reached with him Balagha (Age of maturity), he said, “O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I Azbahu (deprive from) you, so see what you think.” He said, “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the S’aabireen (steadfast).” (103) And when they Aslama (submitted) and he put down upon his forehead, (104) We called to him, “O Ibrahim, (105) Indeed, You are S’adaqat (sincere/honest) of the dream. “Indeed, We thus reward the Mohsineen (doers of good). (106) Indeed, this was a Bala (situation to bring out your real character) Mubeen (clearly and distinctly). (107) And We Fadya (returned) him with his great Zabih (deprivation)
The last phrase of Ayah 107 is mistranslated and misinterpreted by saying as if Allah is talking about animal slaughter, whereas nowhere the word animal, sacrifice or the slaughter is mentioned. The word Zabiha is used in Quran in the meanings of killing, destroying, parting with or depriving oneself from, which is referred in Ayah 107 to the great deprivation by Nabiy Ibrahim that he was willing to part with his most cherished person. The next Ayahs are as follows, which depicts the reward by Allah, based on the Nabiy’s willingness to part with his most cherished person
(108) And We left him in later generations. (109) “Salamun (submit like) the Ibrahim.” (110) Indeed, We thus reward the Mohsineen (doers of good). (111) Indeed, he was of Our Aebad (Follower of our laws) the Momineen (those seeking knowledge, using brain to be at utter conviction & upholders of their covenant). (112) And We gave him Bashar (good tidings) of Isaac, a Nabiyyin of the Swaliheen (those who do acts of Is’lah, reform & righteousness).
The three Rewards were mentioned for the ‘great sacrifice’, none of them was a divine requirement to slaughter animals. As per above ayahs in Quran, there is no Link between Animal slaughtering, and the acts of Nabiy Ibrahim and we could not find even a single Quranic ayah which supports Muslims to slaughter animals for Eid-al Adha. If one follows any laws related to animal slaughter, then, the person needs to keep in mind that these laws are not from Quran and hence, following any law from outside the Quran is an act of shirk since the only Hikm, the lawmaker and judge in matters of Deen is Allah and Allah has mentioned all the laws in the Quran.
The Way Forward, Learn From Children & Come Back To Basics!
Quran tells us that we have been created on the basis of Fitrat of Allah, the traits that our creator wants to see in us- the ability to love and care for every being on the planet; to stand up for justice, to be curious for knowledge, to connect everyone together with love and compassion for every being, be it animals or humans. Refer the Ayah 30:30
So direct your Wajha (Attention, focus, aim) towards the Deen-e- Hanifan (followers of only the laws of Allah). Fitrat of Allah- upon which Allah has created humanity. There is no change for the creations of Allah. That is the Deen-e-Qayyama but most of the people do not have the knowledge.
Deen-e-Qayyamu is describing the Deen, which is devoid of any sort of Zulm or injustice, that is Haqq- absolute justice as per Allah’s Solid judicial principals; bearing the characteristics of Hanifan (remaining steadfast on being Aabid- follower of laws of Allah only, taking Allah as deity by avoiding shirk at all costs) and aligned with Fitrat of Allah, on which Allah has created the humanity, in terms of kindness, love, care, compassion and justice towards others at its core. This Ayah is telling us, in very concise and clear manner that at the time of our birth, we are created based on the Fitrat of Allah, those traits and characteristics that Allah wants to see in us and upon which Allah has created the whole of humanity – which is to seek knowledge, to use our intellect, to be upholders of justice and to connect people together in love, harmony, care, compassion and justice at its best for everyone, and to approach every being, including humans and animals, on the planet with love, compassion and care. These traits are present in us, at the time of our birth in the purest form, which among other things include two basic elements 1) Deen-e-Hanifan- to be followers of laws of Allah only, which are mentioned in the Quran and 2) Shouldn’t be any change for and towards the creations of Allah, depicting the concepts of care, compassion, and love that a child feels towards all the creations of Allah since a child is embodiment of Fitrat of Allah without any contamination of upbringing, conditioning or impacts of the environment so far. But upon birth and with the passage of time, people divert away from what they were born with, due to impacts of environment and upbringings, since they do not seek knowledge, do not use their intellect, they end up taking those as deities, whose laws they follow in matters of Deen, instead of and besides Allah.
There are many things we can learn from children even in case of the concept of Eid-al-Adha. Regardless of the fact that Muslims prefer to ‘train’ their children to develop association with the animal before Eid and then have them witness the slaughtering, the fact remains that witnessing the animal slaughtering during Eid-al-Adha is traumatic experience for children. Farzana Hassan, writes in her article ‘It’s time to phase out religious animal sacrifice’ 3
The most disturbing aspect of this tradition is that children are encouraged to develop an affection for the animal — and then often forced to witness its slaughter.
We also learn the following from the article ‘Pledge to Celebrate a Cruelty-Free Eid al-Adha’ 4 By PETA India, which was published during Eid couple of years back
Having a “cruelty-free” Eid al-Adha. Let Vegan Actor Sadaa Sayed Motivate You
Like many children, when Sadaa Sayed was little, seeing a goat slaughtered for qurbani traumatised her, and she immediately decided to stop eating meat. Islam does not require the killing or eating of animals, and she realized that all animals, regardless of species, don’t want to be exploited or killed for their flesh, eggs, or milk. She became vegan, and her family’s Eid celebrations are now 100% cruelty-free.
Sacrificing animals causes more suffering by normalising killing and desensitising children to violence against animals.
The best way to learn our way back to Deen-e-Islam is to observe young children and learn from them, instead of trying to teach them our ‘ways and rituals’, because the ‘Fitrat of Allah’ is present in its purest form in young children. So instead of trying to insensitive the young children so that they also can ‘tolerate’ this barbaric ritual of animal slaughtering in the name of Deen, let’s learn from them and let’s go back to basics, the same Fitrat of Allah upon which we are all created by our creator.
Stop Eating Meat, Animal Slaughtering & Leave The Nature Be!
Through her article ‘Should Muslims Reconsider Animal Slaughter on Eid?’ 2 Anila Muhammad suggests
In order to properly commemorate Abraham’s sacrifice, it’s important to ask ourselves if we are giving up something of intense value when we reduce the sacrifice to slaughtering an animal. Are we really making the same type of emotional and mental sacrifice that Abraham made? If not, then how exactly are we enhancing our spiritual development by continuing with this tradition?
The next reason the practice of animal sacrifice continues has to do with the argument of using the meat of these animals to be able to feed disadvantaged people. Yes, it is true that some of the meat of the sacrificed animal goes to feed the poor. However, we must ask ourselves — are we concerned with feeding people for only a few days or maintaining the message of social justice the Quran espouses? There are numerous verses devoted to social justice in the Quran. 2:177 has been interpreted by scholars to mean that holistic spiritual observation involves understanding and responding to the conditions of the disadvantaged in our communities. That giving “away wealth” does not only include money but our time, involvement and long-term commitment to helping shift the conditions of those who do not have. And, meaningless religious observation, done for the sake of tradition, as is the case with animal sacrifice, has limited scope to alter conditions.
If we are concerned with social justice and creating meaningful, long-term change then we Muslims must reconsider funneling our money from this sacrifice and make other investments in our communities to help the disadvantaged. Maybe those investments would be towards grassroots organizations. Such organizations engage the communities they work for. They give power to their constituents to determine what they need (education, vocational training, health care) instead of assuming to know what they need (meat), thereby “helping to change the condition of a people” (Quran 13:11) for the long-term.
If treatment and conditions of animals is not reason enough to forgo the Eid sacrifice then consider that the livestock industry is the leading contributor towards land, air and water pollution and degradation of our ecosystem. Consider, that, the very act of involving ourselves in the ritual animal sacrifice places our earth at jeopardy. As Muslims, on Eid, and the rest of the year, should we not be mindful of whether continuing such a tradition is compatible with our Islamic responsibility to be care-takers of this earth. Many Muslims have privately contemplated these very points and have determined this tradition does not serve their understanding of Islam.
Humanity as caretakers of the planet earth and all its inhabitants, has to step up. We don’t have any choice anymore, if we want to save our home, we have to save its biodiversity. As per Ms. Trankmann 5, “Humankind can therefore only survive, let alone prosper, if our world remains biodiverse. What is needed is a global rescue plan: a bold roadmap for protecting biodiversity”. As per Kim Stanley Robinson in his article published in the Guardian in 2018, ‘Empty half the Earth of its humans. It’s the only way to save the planet’ 6, he gives a drastic solution, i.e., leave the nature be!
There are nearly eight billion humans alive on the planet now, and that’s a big number: more than twice as many as were alive 50 years ago. It’s an accidental experiment with enormous stakes, as it isn’t clear that the Earth’s biosphere can supply that many people’s needs – or absorb that many wastes and poisons – on a renewable and sustainable basis over the long haul. Leave about half the Earth’s surface mostly free of humans, so wild plants and animals can live there unimpeded as they did for so long before humans arrived. Same with the oceans, by the way; about a third of our food comes from the sea, so the seas have to be healthy too. All this can be done. All this needs to be done if we are to make it through the emergency centuries we face and create a civilised permaculture, something we can pass along to the future generations as a good home. There is no alternative way; there is no planet B. We have only this planet, and have to fit our species into the energy flows of its biosphere.
Farzana Hassan suggests in her article ‘It’s time to phase out religious animal sacrifice’ 3
I abhor the fact that billions of animals are killed yearly for regular meat consumption. Extending this, animal slaughter specifically for religious reasons is a travesty which contravenes the love and respect which any philosophy should advocate. All this offends not only my vegan sensibilities but also my feelings for the children. Not that I can claim sole moral superiority on the issue, because some practicing Muslims have abandoned the tradition by simply donating money to charity rather than sacrificing an animal. This suggests that perhaps an enlightened compromise is attainable. Such charity is one of the defining purposes of Eid al-Adha observance. This is indeed a noble endeavour and must be encouraged to continue and even expand. It would make more sense to spend this type of money on simply giving cash to the needy, as they are the ones to determine their most urgent needs.
PETA India through their article ‘Pledge to Celebrate a Cruelty-Free Eid al-Adha’ has the following suggestions!
Having a “cruelty-free” Eid al-Adha means engaging in sacrifice in ways that don’t involve cruelty or animal slaughter. Vegetarian and vegan Muslims already practice cruelty-free sacrifice by using their free time to volunteer for charity, donating money or vegan foods to those in need, or by setting aside their greed and ego. Islam promotes peace, dignity, respect, tolerance, justice, and mercy. The sacred texts consider animals an important part of God’s creations. There are many ways to make sacrifices on Eid al-Adha that don’t hurt animals. As the late, great actor Irrfan Khan once said, “The meaning of Qurbani is to sacrifice something which is close to you instead of any goat or sheep which you just buy to sacrifice.” Having a cruelty-free Eid promotes peace and compassion. Instead of taking animals’ lives, distribute vegan food to the poor, send clothes or toys to an orphanage, donate money to charity, volunteer at an animal shelter, or put out bowls of clean water for the community animals in your area.
Conclusion — Some Thought-Provoking Questions!
Perhaps we, as Muslims, should ask ourselves, the following questions
- How can Allah, on one hand appoints us as caretakers of planet earth and then ask us to slaughter animals for no reason, and or for Allah’s pleasure, which end up of encouraging animal farming causing pain and suffering to other life forms on earth- that are also Allah’s creations?
- Does the All-wise and all-knowing not know about the impacts of animal slaughtering at such vast scale and animal farming on global warming?
- How can Allah, who asks us not to kill a soul without its due right, can ordain killing of animals for whatever reason? – is this not a clear contradiction of Quran and current Muslims practice?
- How is it that children feel traumatize to witness such animal slaughter, whereas we, as grown-ups fail to see the barbaric elements of this tradition and culture?
- Is it because we are so engrained in our ritualistic practices of our forefathers, that we fail to understand or follow the divine message of the Quran?
- Is it possible that what has been handed down to us through our forefathers is in fact the laws of other than Allah and from outside of the Quran?
- How is it even possible that one hand, Allah says that ‘Allah does not need our flesh or blood’ but then the same creator would ask us to slaughter these animals?
- How does the sacrifice of an animal is a sacrifice in the path of Allah by a Muslim? Why not people’s money should be spend instead for the benefit of others- the most beloved treasure of any human being?
- How would feeding meat to the poor for one week is a sacrifice in the path of Allah and how does that benefit the poor?
- Rather than feeding meat to the poor for one week only why not we give them the money instead? Muslims can spend or give their money to poor and needy instead. That is also the most beloved act in the eye of GOD almighty as well.
- So rather than sacrificing millions and millions of animals around the world once a year or feeding some meat to the billions of poor Muslims for one week only, why not we give that money as a Sadaqa for the benefit of poor all year around so that they can stand on their own feet, do some small businesses, and live their lives with dignity and respect?
- Why should we choose to feed some meat to them every year for a week and keep them poor? Don’t we know it is Fard/obligatory command upon us to help poor and needy in Quran as stressed by Allah many times.
The state of global warming and the fact that we, as humanity, are the number one cause of it, is ironic keeping in view the fact that no other creature on the planet is capable to be caretakers of earth- Only we, as humanity are, due to the high level of intelligence that we have been blessed with, our ability to seek and use knowledge and our highly interrelated connectivity and network of communications amongst us. Even then, we’re destroying the only home we have, the planet earth; and thereby, making sure our own extinction by our own hands! The time to act is right now, before it’s too late. To do as you deem fit, we leave you with this quote from Shahid ‘Ali Muttaqi’s article ‘How Islamic Is The Animal Sacrifice Of ‘Eid Al-Adha’- An Islamic Perspective Against Animal Sacrifice’ 1
It is ultimately up to us as Muslims to take the first step, to speak out about pressing issues of ethics and morality, both for the sake of our own community and its continual advancement with the rest of humanity, as well as to clear up misconceptions in the Western world that ultimately hurt us all. For it is ONE world. And if we are to better the planet on which we live, it is going to take mutual respect and cooperation among all of humankind.
Acknowledgement & References
DISLCAIMER: Please note that ONLY the relevant sections of the following articles, posts or books are mentioned in this article by WQT- Worldwide Quran Thinkers as reference only. By mentioning these relevant sections or the following as acknowledgements here, does not in any case mean that WQT- Worldwide Quran Thinkers agrees with any of the view or the opinions of these authors on an overall basis or their any other work, or any other part of their publications.
- ‘How Islamic Is The Animal Sacrifice Of ‘Eid Al-Adha’- An Islamic Perspective Against Animal Sacrifice’ by Shahid ‘Ali Muttaqi
- Should Muslims Reconsider Animal Slaughter on Eid? by Anila Muhammad, Muslims for Progressive Values , Toronto Chapter, Oct 26, 2012 | Updated Dec 25, 2012
- It’s time to phase out religious animal sacrifice by Farzana Hassan- Aug 23, 2018
- Pledge to Celebrate a Cruelty-Free Eid al-Adha- By PETA India- published Eid 2020
- Why Humanity Must Save Nature To Save Itself, by Ms. Beate Trankmann- Resident Representative of UNDP
- Empty half the Earth of its humans. It’s the only way to save the planet- by Kim Stanley Robinson, published in ‘The Guardian’ 2018