First thing first
Muslims are not alone who consume meat as a powerful lobby is trying to project. A huge majority in the world considers non-vegetarian food as their first choice. Likewise, animal sacrifice is not the monopoly of Islam and Muslims alone. Religious scriptures are testimony to the fact that, like meat consumption, animal sacrifice is also age-old and it has always been in practice by people of different faiths. Difference is only in preferences or the types of meat and method of slaughter. Islam has a distinction for the reason that, for the first time like it did in other cases, it laid guidelines for animal slaughter and also listed animals and their parts which are prohibited.
Why Muslims sacrifice animal?
Islam traces the history of animal sacrifice i.e Qurbani to Cain (Qaabeel) and Abel (Haabeel). Abel (Haabeel) was the first human being to offer sacrifice of an animal for Allah. But animal sacrifice – Qurbani during the four days of Eid al Adha is in the memory of Prophet Ibraheem, his dignified wife Hager and their noble son Prophet Ismaeel (Peace be upon all them).
Prophet Ibraheem (Abraham in Bible) dreamt that Allah the Almighty ordered him to sacrifice his son Prophet Ismaeel. Ibraheem agreed to follow Allah’s command and perform the sacrifice. However, Allah intervened, replaced his son Prophet Ismaeel with a sheep and informed Prophet Ibraheem that his sacrifice had been accepted. The incident, also narrated in Bible though with slight difference, coincided with 10th of Dhul Hijjah. To commemorate this, Muslims all over the world sacrifice animals every year on 10th of Dhul Hijjah.
Qurbani is a demonstration of submission to Allah the Almighty, complete obedience to Allah’s will or command and sacrificing everything for his pleasure. Prophet Ibraheem demonstrated this spirit of submission and sacrificed in the best possible manner. Qurbani calls for the slaughter of one's innate desires by placing the knife of courage and resistance on hatred, jealousy, pride, greed, animosity, love for the world and other such maladies of the heart.
Allah says in the Quran: 'It is neither their flesh nor their blood that reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches him.' (22:37)
Zaid bin Arkam reports that the Companions of the Messenger of Allah asked him: “O Messenger of Allah, what is this sacrifice?” He said: “It is the way of your forefather Ibraheem.” They asked: “What (reward) is for us therein?” He replied: “There is a reward for every hair (i.e. the reward for meat and useful parts of the animal’s body will be very lofty in merit, but there will also be a great reward for the parts which are useless and thrown away such as the hair).” They asked: “For the wool, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied: “There is one reward for every strand of wool.” (Ahmad, Ibn Majah)
Can cash substitute animal sacrifice?
Charity and donating cash and money to poor also have similar significance. So, can’t we, instead of slaughtering animals, directly donate to poor the money used to buy them? This question is raised every Eid al-Adha by animal rights activists. This year the chorus is louder, and strangely, with animal rights activists are also the people who, in some way or the other, are responsible for killing human beings.
That the people demanding ban on animal sacrifice and suggesting to substitute it with cash directly donated to poor also have in their ranks those who happily and proudly killed Muslims without showing a bit of care or sympathy over the loss of innocent lives make their intention very clear. It is hence not difficult to judge what makes them to raise such a demand.
Moreover, if they are really concerned about the welfare of poor, a glimpse at the statistics and economics involved will lay bare the fact that animal sacrifice is actually helping the poor in more comprehensive way than directly donating to them cash or money.
Let’s take for example the case of Mumbai. According to available records, a total of 2,45,000 goats came to Deonar abattoir for sale this Eid al-Adha. Out of them, Muslims bought a total of 2,09,000 goats for sacrifice. Assuming a minimum price of Rs.15,000/- for one goat, traders received a whopping 3.135 billion rupees in return.
Add to this the cost of fodder consumed by the animals. Average cost of fodder for one day for one goat is Rs.100/- which for 2,45,000 goats is a sum of about 2.45 crore rupees for a day. Considering that animals remained at Deonar abattoir for a week, the amount of fodder goes to over 17 crore rupees for a week. Also add to this the transportation charges from Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and other parts of Maharashtra from where the goats are brought to Mumbai.
As per tradition, after animal sacrifice, Muslims keep some meat for own consumption and donate the remaining to poor and to those who could not afford to buy animals for sacrifice. Assuming that the average weight of one goat is 25 kgs and 50% i.e. 12.5 kgs of this meat is donated then the cost of total meat donated can be roughly estimated at about 1 billion rupees. Besides meat, skins and hides of animals amounting to roughly around 5.25 crore rupees (considering cost of one skin as Rs.250/-) are also donated for charity.
Where did all these money go? The animal traders, truck drivers and those selling fodder and trading in skins and hides are not Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis. They are all poor people who wait for whole year to earn some money during Eid al-Adha. Moreover, this is only during Eid al-Adha that poor families get a chance to eat mutton which @Rs.400/- per kg is otherwise out of reach for them.
The above statistics are keeping into account this year’s records of Deonar abattoir only of goats. If we add to this the cost of goats purchased from outside Deonar abattoir and the animals other than goats like buffalo then the total money involved could easily exceed more than 05 billion rupees.
This is a brief statistic of Mumbai alone. A whopping 05 billion rupees change hands in one form or the other in just 3-4 days in one single city, taking care at every stage that the poorest of poor of the society are benefited.
Is excess meat during Hajj wasted?
Every year more than 2 million pilgrims from across the world stand on the plains of Arafat to perform Haj. They sacrifice hundreds of thousands of live animals mostly goat and sheep at nearby Mina to commemorate the sacrifice by Prophet Ibraheem and his family (Peace be upon all of them). In terms of numbers, more than 2.5 million live animals were sacrifice by the pilgrims in 2015, according to local media reports.
Unlike three decades ago when the meat from hundreds of thousands of animals sacrificed during Hajj would be burnt or buried to reduce the surplus and not least, to prevent a sanitation crisis, Saudi authorities launched the “Utilisation of Hajj Meat”, also known as the “Adahi programme”, under which excess meat is immediately frozen and shipped to impoverished Muslims in more than two dozen countries.
This is in total contrast to animal sacrifice by people of other faiths, who neither have such an arrangement nor the guidelines as laid down in Islam for animal slaughter.
Care of poor people Islam’s top priority
Besides Eid al-Adha, the other festival Muslims celebrate is Eid al-Fitr. Eid al-Fitr is celebrated some two months before Eid al-Adha and it coincides with the end of the holy month of Ramadan. In Ramadan, Muslims observe Sayam – fast, during the entire month.
Before setting for the Eid al-Fitr special prayers Muslims have been ordered to pay Sadaqat-ul-Fitr – the Eid charity paid not in the form of cash but in the form of food grains. Unlike animal sacrifice, which is mandatory only for those who can afford, Sadaqat-ul-Fitr is obligatory for every individual Muslim – men, women and children.
Like substituting animal sacrifice with cash donation, there are suggestions that instead of food grains, Sadaqat-ul-Fitr should also be given in cash. However, scholars are unanimous that as directed by Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) Sadaqat-ul-Fitr should be in the form of food grains and not cash. For, the motive behind the Sadaqat-ul-Fitr is to provide food to poor people so that no one is hungry on the Eid day.