Sacrifice Ritual, The Rights of Animals, False Respect

Issue 709 » October 26, 2012 - Dhul-Hijja 10, 1433

Living The Quran

Sacrifice Ritual
Al-Hajj (The Pilgrimage) Chapter 22: Verse 34

"We've appointed religious rituals for every community (on earth), so they could commemorate the name of God over the resources He gave them from among (the many types of) livestock (animals). Your God is One God, so submit yourselves to Him and give good news to the meek."

The whole purpose of all pilgrimage rituals is to enhance believers' God-fearing sense. All these rituals are symbols confirming submission to God, the Lord of the Kabah, the Sacred House, as also obeying Him in all situations. They may also involve reminders of old events, from the time of Abraham and later generations, but these are reminders of complete submission to God, obeying His rules and looking up to Him for guidance.

Sacrifice ritual was known in many communities. Islam put it on its right course, offering it for God alone. What really matters is that sacrifice be truly made for the sake of God rather than for the legal minutiae of the act. Whilst details of sacrifice have varied in different times, lands, and communities, the common denominator, however, has always been the spirit and purpose of sacrifice.

Compiled From:
"Towards Understanding The Quran" - Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi, Vol. 6, p. 12
"The Holy Quran: Guidance for Life" - Yahiya Emerick, p. 239
"In the Shade of the Quran, Vol. 12" - Sayyid Qutb, pp. 131, 132

Understanding The Prophet's Life

The Rights of Animals

Animals have rights, for all of Allah's creatures comprise His `family'. Sahl ibn Amr narrated that once the Messenger of Allah, passed by a camel who was so emaciated that his belly seemed to have disappeared. He said, `Fear Allah regarding the animals who cannot speak. Ride on them while they are healthy, and eat of them when they are healthy'. (Abu Dawud.)

A famous hadith says that `a woman was punished and thrown into Hell-fire on account of her cat. She kept it tied up till it died of hunger: she neither gave it something to eat nor drink, nor let it go so that it could eat things on earth'. (Bukhari, Muslim.) The Prophet also said:

'Forgiveness was granted to a prostitute! She came upon a dog at the mouth of a well, which was panting and was about to die of thirst. She took off her leather sock, tied it with her headscarf and drew some water from the well for the dog. It was for this act of kindness that she was forgiven her sins.' When asked, 'Are we rewarded even for good we do to animals?' he replied, 'Reward is given for good done to any living creature.' (Bukhari, Muslim.)

If Allah commands us not to treat animals in this way, you can well imagine the extent of our obligations to human beings. The greater benevolence exhibited by someone, the dearer that person is to Allah.

Compiled From:
"In the Early Hours" - Khurram Murad, pp. 127, 128


False Respect

Strict respect for the form of the Islamic message yet obvious infidelity to its substance is seen during the festival of sacrifice (Eid al-Adha) which commemorates Abraham's sacrifice at the end of pilgrimage. Not only can one witness appalling scenes in terms of lack of respect for animals and their ill-treatment, but one is also shocked at the amount of waste, at both national and international levels. Indeed, progress has been made regarding the distribution of meat, in particular to people in poorer countries, but chaos still rules. Mistreating animals, wasting food - is this being faithful to the higher goals of Islam's message? Where are the fuqaha councils - integrating specialists in slaughtering techniques but also those with up-to-date knowledge of development, who can stress the goals and priorities firmly and vigorously while suggesting new approaches to those issues? Because respecting the lives of living animals is more important than the "techniques" used to slaughter them, because wasting food is unacceptable, because higher goals cannot be ignored in the name of means and productivity! For all those reasons, it is important to produce more coherent reflection and practices, and to issue circumstantial legal rulings, taking applied ethics into account in the light of the challenges of our times.

Proposing breeding techniques on a small, medium, or large scale; developing new types of slaughterhouses allying respect and efficiency; issuing legal rulings (fatawa) that, in some areas, more clearly encourage monetary compensation rather than ritual sacrifice (which remains a recommended act - sunnah) are all initiatives that may help the Muslim world to reconcile itself with the higher objectives and meaning of its ethics rather than hiding behind insistence on norms and means that guarantee only false respect of the requirements of Islam's message. Ritual slaughter is a simple, day-to-day example, which perfectly reveals the contradiction within contemporary spiritual teachings. It emblemizes the whole problem: obsession with form regardless of substance, confusing means and ends, adoption of reform that is not suitable for transformation, and overdetermining norms while neglecting meaning: it is the heart of all contradictions.

Compiled From:
"Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation" - Tariq Ramadan, pp. 237, 238