“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). But your god is One God: submit then your wills to Him (in Islam): and give thou the good news to those who humble themselves”- Chapter 22: Verse 6 (The Holy Quran)
The tradition of Qurbani (sacrificing) is as old as civilization itself. The practice started from the time of Adam and achieved special significance during the time of Abraham (Ibrahim). The offering of sacrifice is common in almost all religions and is not limited to Abrahamic faiths.
What are the days for Qurbani/ Udhiyya’?
The most prevalent practice in the Muslim world is observing Eid ul Adha and Qurbani on three days of Dhul Hajjah (10th 11th and 12th ). This is also the position of the Ahnaf (followers of Hanafi fiqh). The other position followed by mainly Shafi’i school maintains that Qurbani can be performed on all three days of Ayyam e Tashriq (11th, 12th and 13th) in addition to the 10th of Dhul Hajjah (Yaum un nahar). This makes a total of four days. It should be noted that the position of 3 days is backed by a stronger hadith compared to the latter mentioned Shafi’is position.
Can the offering of a single animal suffice for a whole family?
Short answer is Yes. A society may go through a period of affluence followed by austerity. During the life time of the prophet Mohammad (PBUH), his own financial conditions changed. And therefore we observe different practices by the prophet during his life. At times he sacrificed more than one animal on Eid. While during other times it was recorded that he sacrificed a single animal for his whole family.
Today we see that the practice of individual qurbani or one qurbani share per person is more prevalent. In many segments of the society this is considered to be the only way. It is common to see every adult member of the family taking part in qurbani in many households.
The downside of this practice is that at times when a family feels that they wont be able to afford qurbani for every person, they let go of it altogether.
Scholars that emphasize on Qurbani for every person have based this opinion on the concern that, if condition is relaxed than it may be misused. A person should strive to do the most he can.
Is Qurbani limited to cattle?
Yes, the Quran specifically mentions cattle. However some Ulema (scholars) have extended this definition to herbivorous quadripeds (Bahimatul Anaam) that can be domesticated (chapter 22 :34). For instance if a person has domesticated a deer and does not have other options than the person can use the deer for qurbani. It should be further noted that Bahimatul Anaam does not include herbivorous quadripeds that have a more bestial nature. For example Nilgai Antelope or Bisons found in North America.
Having said that, the preferred options are goats, sheep, oxen and camels because their pairs have been specifically mentioned in the Quran (Chapter 6: 143-144).
Is Qurbani Nafl (optional) or Wajib (obligatory)?
There is divided opinion on Qurbani being Nafl or Wajib. First and foremost it should be noted that it is not an absolute must (fard). However, as mentioned in the Quran it is a deed of utmost significance. It is a form of worship that is much appreciated by the almighty.
It is a way for us to achieve piety and get closer to Allah. Within the Ahnaaf (practitioners of Hanafi fiqh), it is considered as a sunnah (prophet’s practice) that holds the status of Waajib. This stricter position is based on a tradition that reports the prophet Mohammad (PBUH) to have said, that those who had the ability to perform Qurbani and did not do so, they should stay away from even the place of Eid prayers.
The Shafii’s and other schools of thought consider this tradition to be weak and therefore consider Qurbani to be optional. Maulana Mohammad Ishaq, a prominent scholar in the sub-continent explained the nafl (optinal) stance by Shafaii’s. He says “Qurbani being optional carries weight as the companions of the prophet, Abu Bakr and Umar (R.A) both did not perform qurbani for years. Another companion Abu Masood Badri despite having the means did not perform Qurbani many a years. He did this purposefully so that the followers after the prophet’s time do not consider it to be obligatory.”
“However” Maulana adds “if a person wants to leave Qurbani on an occasion than this should be done bearing in mind that the value of Qurbani is undiminished and remains a strong sunnah”
It should be noted that because the Hanafi school deems Qurbani to be compulsory, they also have added a qualification criterion. A person needs to hold a certain minimum amount of disposable wealth (nisab) to qualify for qurbani. Those who don’t are exempt.
Is it compulsory to offer the Eid prayer before Qurbani?
Yes, it is compulsory to perform the Eid prayers before Qurbani. In Muslim countries where Eid ul Adha is celebrated, the act of Qurbani and processing of the sacrificial animal requires skills. Handy men are hard to get hold of later during the day and other logistical issues can arise. There is a temptation among people to perform Qurbani first thing in the morning. One should make sure that the Eid prayers have been performed before this act.
Is it compulsory to have seven shares in ox and camel?
The 7 shares for camel and for ox are the legal maxim. This means that even if one person wants to sacrifice a whole camel alone, he/she can do so. To reiterate, the maximum not the minimum amount of shares for ox (Cow or Bull) is 7 and in camel (male or female) is also 7.
Can I offer sacrifice on behalf of the prophet Mohammad (PBUH)?
Yes, only when you have offered your own share first. The prophet’s own practice was to offer one animal for himself and one on behalf of his followers (Ummah). Therefore some scholars say that after one has performed Qurbani for their own self, they can offer the other for the Ummah and the one after in the name of prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
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