Of late, a new fad has caught the imagination of those around the world, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, who are trying to re-interpret the animal sacrifice that marks the festival of Eid-ul-Zuha as an expression of charity that is more appropriately expressed in money terms in today’s day and age.
In their own understanding, this is an attempt to make Islam more compatible with what they perceive to be the demands of the ‘modern’ world. Unfortunately, this fad proceeds on a mistaken understanding of both Islam as well as the ‘modern’ world.
To begin with, let me straightaway clarify that this is not an attempt to argue with animal rights activists. If you believe that animals are not meant to be eaten and advocate vegetarianism, then all I can do is to quote the Quran where it says “to you be your way and to me be mine”.
Though I will say this in fairness – at least your philosophy is internally consistent and does not contradict itself. But if you enjoy steaks and kababs and naharis all year round and save your animal rights and environmental activism for this one day of the year, then this article is for you.
To begin with, I would like to inform you that the processed meat you buy from the frozen foods section of your local supermarket was once a frisky lamb or a fluffy chick that had its throat cut open by a gutka chewing man in a banyaan. I just wanted you to know that.
A study conducted by the Institute of Management Sciences, Peshawar in 2009 found that the sacrifice of animals on Eid-ul-Zuha constituted a direct transfer of money to rural households with fewer intermediaries and generated employment for thousands of opportunistic animal rearers, livestock traders, butchers and leather industry workers among others, who look to Eid for a small annual windfall.
Further, as per the numbers of livestock sales in Pakistan annually and during Eid for the year 2016 quoted in a Dawn article, the total sales of goats and cattle around Eid work out to around 5% of the total annual sales, and given that there is a sharp drop in meat sales in the days following Eid since most families are well-stocked for days to come, the total deviation from normal, month on month, for the livestock industry is probably a lot less than we imagine.
But these are matters that can be debated endlessly and which require a lot more facts and figures than are available. In any event, the arguments being made for dispensing with the ritual are more …what’s the word for someone who’s talking through their hat?…philosophical.
It is well known that animal sacrifice is performed on this day following the Abrahamic tradition that is common to both the Quran and the Old Testament where Ibrahim (Abraham) has a vision the he is to sacrifice his own son.
Abraham unquestioningly follows the command of God and takes his son to the place of slaughter. Just as Abraham is about to slit his son’s throat, God speaks to him and tells him that he has fulfilled his vision.
God replaces the son with a ram which Abraham proceeds to sacrifice. God is pleased with Abraham’s unquestioning adherence to His command and so bestows His blessings on Abraham and promises to grant his descendants glory and multiply them throughout the earth.