Eid-al-Adha is the second of the two major holidays in Islam, and it is celebrated on the 10th, 11th, and 12th of Zulhijjah, which is the last month of the Islamic calendar. The focus of the celebration is to commemorate the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Ishmael as a sign of obedience to Allah (God). As a symbol of Ibrahim’s sacrifice, and to show gratitude towards Allah, Muslims sacrifice an animal during Eid-al-Adha such as a sheep, goat, cow, or camel. This sacrifice is commonly referred to as Udhiya (in Arabic) or Qurbani (in Urdu and Persian).
The animal used for Qurbani/Udhiya must meet a number of specific requirements. They must be free from any form of illness or disability, including blindness, limping, and malnourishment, and they must meet certain age requirements. For example, a permissible sheep or goat is one that is at least one year old, while cows must be at least two years of age and camels must be at least 5 years of age.
The Qurbani/Udhiya is obligatory for all adult Muslims that possess wealth beyond their basic needs. As a general rule, a sheep or goat is sufficient for a single individual’s sacrifice, while a cow or camel can be used to account for the sacrifice of seven individuals. The meat from the Qurbani is often distributed equally to three groups: one part for the person performing the sacrifice, one part for friends and family, and one part for the poor. This symbolizes our willingness to part with things that are considered valuable to us, while also sharing with those around us and those that are in need.
While it is often suggested that each Muslim perform the slaughter with their own hands, this is not always possible in many Western countries due to many health and safety regulations. Therefore, it is permissible for a sacrifice to be performed by someone else on one’s behalf and then having the meat distributed to the poor, as long as one covers the costs of the animal and distribution. One of the key requirements of the slaughtering process is to pronounce Allah’s name before taking the animal’s life. By saying “Allah hu Akbar” in Arabic, which translates to “God is Great”, we are reminded that life is sacred.