Eid Adha: What I Knew About Animal Sacrifice Is Wrong
Updated: Oct 22, 2020
Living in Malaysia, those who were “born Muslims” are required to learn Islamic Studies in school.
What I had learnt about Eid Adha was that it’s a ritual to honour Prophet Abraham’s (or Ibrahim’s) sacrifice to God.
The story goes that Ibrahim saw in a dream that he slaughtered his son. He thought it was a revelation from God to prove his loyalty so he attempted to do just that. But before he could “sacrifice” his son, God intervened and the son was spared.
This forms the Qurban tradition during Eid Adha which is to slaughter an animal (usually four-legged) as a form of sacrifice to give to family, neighbours and the needy.
Change of Perspective
When I decided not to eat meat and become vegan, I didn’t think much about this ritual.
I knew that eating meat is not compulsory in Islam nor is it wrong to not eat meat.
But when this time of year came, I couldn’t help but question the tradition.
Understanding the vegan perspective, I accept that killing – be it in the name of God or otherwise – can never be humane. We can’t know for sure whether the animal is willing to die for God.
But from the Islamic perspective, I can’t totally condemn the act entirely as I understand the need for animal slaughter for survival.
I repeat – for survival.
If you’re Muslim, you know that there are rules to slaughtering.
You can’t just slaughter unscrupulously. You have to ensure that the animal was well taken care of their whole life and that the slaughter itself is quick with as little pain as possible.
This would be a whole other topic that I shall delve further but basically, I think that the reason animal slaughter is allowed in Islam is for dire occasions where humans have no other choice but to eat animals for sustenance. And knowing that we have the ability to show respect and kindness, we don’t just kill like how tigers do their prey. We do it mindfully, knowing that you are responsible for the slaughter.
Prophet Ibrahim’s Dream Was Not A Command
To find out if animal slaughter during Eid Adha is mandatory and if there are any other ways to sacrifice oneself, I went back to the source.
The related verses are in Sura 37:100-111
My Lord, grant me [a child] from among the righteous. So We gave him good tidings of a forbearing boy. And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said, “O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice 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 steadfast.” And when they had both submitted and he put him down upon his forehead, We called to him, “O Abraham, You have fulfilled the vision.” Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good. Indeed, this was a clear trial. And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice, And We left for him [favourable mention] among later generations: “Peace upon Abraham.” Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good. Indeed, he was of Our believing servants.
If you read carefully, God never mentioned that Abraham’s dream is from God. When Abraham nearly “sacrificed” his son, God stopped him so that he didn’t kill an innocent soul.
And we know killing is a sin in any religion.
So why would God ask Ibrahim to kill his son?
One explanation would be that the dream was actually from Satan, tricking Abraham into committing a sin.
Satan threatens you with poverty and orders you to immorality, while Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and bounty. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing. (2:268)
Moreover, there is no mention of a ram or sheep.
The thought that God replaced Ibrahim’s son with a ram might have come from the Bible.
Now I know some righteous uncles scholars would argue that you can’t practice Islam without the Sunnah to accompany the Quran a.k.a words of the Divine.
Say that we do want to look at the Sunnah, allow me to do the honour of Sunnah-picking:
Imam Bayhaqi has reported: Abu Bakr and Umar would skip the sacrifice a year or two lest people consider it as an obligatory ritual.
From this, it’s clear that the Prophet’s (pbuh) companions did not do the sacrificial ritual each year so that other people don’t think it’s compulsory.
Can We Sacrifice Without Slaughter?
Sadly, people tend to remember traditions better than the actual words of God.
Their meat will not reach Allah, nor will their blood, but what reaches Him is piety from you. (22:37)
Animal slaughter for sacrifice might have made sense at one time (a long, long time ago). So did riding on camels from one place to another.
Animals or livestock might have been a luxury back then and it would have been seen as a great sacrifice if one would give it up.
In this 21st century, however, money and property are the ones that are considered luxury items.
Meat is no longer a luxury as even the poor could afford a meal with chicken.
And let’s be honest, raising animals in a factory does not constitute a “good life”.
So why not sacrifice some of our money or one of our cars/ apartments/ smartphones during Eid Adha?
Or at the very least, why not feed the needy with healthy wholesome plant-based foods (which would also mean giving up some of our money).
Am I Biased?
Being a Muslim and Vegan is a tricky situation, especially during occasions like Eid Adha.
If you do your own research, you are convinced that it’s okay to be vegan while holding to the Islamic faith.
But when you’re in the Muslim community, you’re constantly faced with actions that may not align with the values and teachings of what you think to be the true Islam.
As a vegan, I believe that it’s not necessary for us to eat meat anymore.
As a Muslim, I believe that we should always show kindness and compassion to all creatures on Earth.
So if you see my point of view, I think that my beliefs from both sides are compatible.
You may still think I’m biased despite my justification, which you may be right. But how are you not biased with your pre-existing beliefs?
Regardless, I hope that this conversation continues and that Muslims who find veganism to be compatible with or similar to the values of Islam do not shy away from speaking out.
All good that came from this is from Allah and all errors are my own.
Thank you for your time.