The word qurbani is derived from the word qurb which means nearness, approach. Al qurbaan, which is the Arabic idiom, is defined as being any work which leads to divine proximity. In this way, all religious services bear the title of qurban, or means of getting near to Allah Ta’ala. It is indeed a priviledge to be close to Allah Ta’ala. On earth, to be the blue-eyed boy of the king entails concessionary priviledges. In Allah’s Kingdom, the race is open to all individuals without any discrimination of race or potential to seek nearness to the king of kings. The approach to Him is by means of holy and human works and more particularly by sacrifice. The holy prophet (saw) has reported what our Lord has stated: “My servant comes constantly near to Me by accomplishing supplementary acts until I grow fond of him. In that condition, I become his ears by which he hears, eyes with which he sees….. and if he asks Me anything, I grant it to him, if he seeks My protection, I protect him.” (Bukhari)
Every generation knows the watchword that only the offer of sacrifices can ensure the Great Salvation. The example has been set by Ibrahim (as), who, before being crowned godfather of men, has had to offer many a sacrifice at various levels. “And remember the Ibrahim (as) was tried by his Lord with certain commands, which he fulfilled. He said: I will make thee an imam to the nations.” (Al-Baqarah: 124). Among the peoples of the world, Ibrahim or Abraham (as) is the most accepted prophet. Jews and Christians revere him as a prophet and original father. He stands as a reference in terms of piety and values. Islam proclaims its source, its seed from Ibrahim (as).
This universal acceptance has necessitated unparalleled sacrifices on his part. He has had to undergo hard trials such as emigration, being thrown into the fire and being separated from his family, among other ordeals. And still more, Allah did order him to sacrifice his son Ismail (as). He did submit himself to the divine will and he even placed the knife on the neck of his son to accomplish the sacrifice. But Allah Ta’ala sent a sheep from Paradise which took the place of the son and Ismail (as)’s life was thus spared. In fact, Allah Ta’ala wanted to gratify Muslims with His Kindnesses in comparison with their counterparts of the Christian and Jewish faiths, but for that purpose it was necessary to offer Ismail (as) in sacrifice, who was the ancestral father of Prophet Muhammad (saw). The prophet (saw) has stated: “I am the son of two sacrifices.” (Baidawi): Ismail (as), son of Ibrahim (as) and father of the Arabs, and Abdullah, the Prophet’s (saw) own father. Both were about to be sacrificed. It is precisely to revive the memory of the spirit of sacrifice of Ibrahim (as) that every year we are required to slaughter animals during the days of Eid ul Adha. Prophet Muhammad (saw) has affirmed that “it was the practice (sunnah) of Ibrahim (as).” (Mustadrak). It is to remind us that divine satisfaction is hidden behind veils of sacrifice and patience.
Qurbani and Udhiyyah means to slaughter camels, oxen, goats or sheep exclusively for Allah’s pleasure during the 10th, 11th and 12th days of Zil Hijjah. That is why, a qurbani which is accomplished only to obtain the meat of the animal is not valid. Qurbani is compulsory on an adult who is not travelling and who possesses enough property in kind or in money terms to purchase a share in an animal slaughtered locally. That is the reason why haajees who stay for fifteen days or more in Mecca or Mina have to perform two qurbanis: one for hajj itself and the second for the annual qurbani.
The slaughter of animals on the 10th day of Zil Hijjah is an integral symbol of Islam. Allah Ta’ala has stated: “The sacrificial camels We have made for you as among the symbols from Allah.” (Al Hajj: 36). Our mother, Ayesha (ra) has reported that the prophet (saw) has stated: “On the day of Eid ul Adha no action pleases Allah Ta’ala more than the shedding of blood (of an animal).” (Tirmizi). The sense of sharing, the friendship established by the exchanges of meat between families and neighbours and the visit to the poor of the suburbs are common practices in our country as was the practice in the time of prophet Muhammad (saw). However, for a decade or so now, we have been encouraged to perform our qurbanis overseas, in places where live people who are poorer than in our country. Let us examine the implications of this new tendency.
First of all, it is perfectly permissible to perform the qurbani elsewhere in the world through appointed agents, as is clearly established in the Qur’an regarding the offering of a domestic animal to be brought to the Kabah. (Refer to surah 5 Al Maidah, verse 95)
Having said that, qurbani performed in poor localities are distributed among the poor and this exercise spares us the trouble of slaughtering the animal and distributing their meat.
However, it should be noted that the spirit of qurbani is not to alleviate poverty as a priority. Rather, it is to revive the spirit of sacrifice of Ibrahim (as). Unfortunately this facility of performing qurbani overseas attracts a majority of people and this gives rise to the question of the intergrity of the symbols of the day of Eid ul Adha which requires us to perform the slaughtering of the animal in accordance with the sunnah of Ibrahim (as). The danger of this tendency is that it may lead to the denigration of the symbols (Sha’aair) of qurbani by future generations. In this respect, Allah Ta’ala has warned us very clearly in the Qur’an: “O those who believe! Violate not the sanctity of the symbols of Allah, nor of the sacred month, nor of the animals brought for sacrifice, nor of the garlands …..” (Al Maidah: 2). It is therefore not authorized to defile the sacrifice of the 10th day of Zil Hijjah. Wanting to free oneself from the troubles of qurbani is against the spirit of sacrifice and a further denigration with regards to this symbol of Islam.
In the same way, one can refer to the anecdotes of Habeel (Abel) and Qabeel (Cain), the two sons of Adam (as). Both did offer sacrifices to Allah. “Recite to them the truth of the story of the two sons of Adam (as). Behold! They each presented a sacrifice (to Allah): It was accepted from one, but not from the other. Said the latter: “Be sure, I will slay thee.” “Surely” said the former, “Allah doth accept of the sacrifice of those who are righteous.” (Al Maidah: 27)
According to the tafseers of Ruhul Ma’ani, Tabri, etc, the sacrifice of Qabeel was rejected because he did not offer the best of his possessions. Whereas Habeel did offer, from among his sheep, the best of what he possessed and that was accepted. In comparison, if today we satisfy ourselves with a qurbani overseas worth Rs 600 instead of spending for a qurbani worth locally some Rs 5 000, then this attitude runs the risk of causing the rejection of our qurbanis, as was the case with Qabeel. That is the reason why, according to jurists, the qurbani which is most acceptable is the one which is the most costly.
According to the above-mentioned verse, it is the qurbani of the pious which Allah accepts. Now therefore, the Qur’an qualifies piety by the raising of the level of the symbols of Islam: “And whoever holds in honour the symbols of Allah (in the sacrifice of animals), such (honour) should come truly from piety of heart.” (Al Hajj: 32). Having said that, it is recommended that, according to one’s means, one chooses the most costly animals. (Shami). It is noteworthy that, in the case of sacrifices performed overseas, the following sunnahs and recommendations of the day of Eid ul Adha will be neglected: –
1. It is recommended to slaughter the animal with one’s own hands.
2. At least, it is advisable to witness the slaughter by one’s presence and to recite the dua which the prophet (saw) taught to his daughter Fatimah (ra): Inna swalaati wa nusuki wa mahyaya wa mamati lillahi rabbil ‘alaameen, laa sharika laa.
3. It is recommended to consume the cooked liver of one’s qurbani immediately after the slaughter.
4. As a principle of priority, one must distribute the meat to one’s near relatives and to the poor of the locality.
5. Allah Ta’ala has stated: “Therefore to the Lord turn in prayer and sacrifice.” (Al Kawthar: 2). The sequence that the Qur’an details requires that, after the Eid prayer, the animal should be slaughtered.
Since the Qur’an is categorical that sacrifice is an integral part of our religion, we must therefore encourage and live up to this symbol during the days of Eid ul Adha. The following verse clearly establishes that the main objective of sacrifice on the 10th day of Zil Hijjah is to extol the name of Allah and not to alleviate poverty: “To every people did We appoint rites (of sacrifice) that they might celebrate the name of Allah over the sustenance He gave them from animals (fit for food).” (Hajj: 34). Moreover, it is piety that is being sought: “It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah: it is your piety that reaches Him.” (Hajj: 37). And the piety of the heart is reckoned for him who honours the sacred symbols of Allah, and that can only take place in his (own) environment. (Refer to surah 22 Al Hajj verse 32).
In conclusion, local qurbani is without doubt more recommended and praiseworthy than the one performed overseas. The prophet of Allah (saw) has stated: “Sacrifice is compulsory in each household every year.” (Nassai). Therefore, for the raising in dignity of the symbolic rites demonstrated by Eid ul Adha, it is important that, within each family, at least one or two shares of qurbani should be carried out in Mauritius. It is in this way that we shall be able to preserve, for future generations, the sacred rites of qurbani. And Allah knows best!