Food for Thought During Eid al-Adha
Although sacrifice is not a pillar of Islam, one could argue that animal sacrifice has become embedded in certain aspects of Muslim society. Ritual sacrifice occurs not only during Eid al-Adha, but during weddings, festivals, and other types of Islamic celebrations annually. Animal slaughter is often considered a sensitive topic for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Some Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), as well as in communities throughout North America and Europe, feel pressured and belittled by Western society for practicing an ancient tradition, which takes place during Eid al-Adha.
Eid al-Adha, known as the "Sacrifice Feast" or the "Festival of the Sacrifice", celebrates the Quranic scripture regarding Abraham's sacrifice of a black ram instead of his son to God; which is extremely similar to the Biblical story found within the book of Genesis. Though "animal sacrifice is not explicitly mentioned in the Qur’anic account", many Muslims around the world believe that animal sacrifice is meant to thank Allah.
Perhaps the "beauty" which surrounds this particular sacrifice is the sharing element, in which the community shares the sacrificed cow, sheep or goat meat in three parts. One part is meant for the family, one share for is for friends and neighbors, and the third part should be given to the poorer community members.
Eid al-Adha, known as the "Sacrifice Feast" or the "Festival of the Sacrifice", celebrates the Quranic scripture regarding Abraham's sacrifice of a black ram instead of his son to God.
However, animal rights activists and lobbyists around the globe are questioning animal welfare and the methods of butchering, which are used to sacrifice the animals for the holy festival. Some state that there are no regulations concerning the killing of the thousands of animals during this time each year.
Halal specialists have argued that there should be more specific rules issued by religious leaders, which will guarantee a higher spiritual connection for the practitioners of the sacrifice, and also protect the animals in conditions which are considered 100% Halal.
Perhaps the "beauty" which surrounds this particular sacrifice is the sharing element, in which the community shares the sacrificed cow, sheep or goat meat in three parts.
Furthermore, last week, the Egyptian government stated that it will impose fines for those who slaughter animals in the street, as the handling of the animals should be conducted inside specific slaughterhouses. This week France has urged Muslims not to slaughter animals in the streets during public celebrations.
On the other hand, numerous Muslims and non-Muslims claim that Christian countries in the West still practice intensive factory farming, which also promotes horrific acts of animal bloodshed and environmental destruction worldwide; therefore the overly critical opinions or condemnation of Eid al-Adha festivities are not necessary.
Clearly this issue is not black and white, as there are many grey areas of dispute regarding methods of the sacrificial rituals. What should not be disputed is the inhumane way that some animals are treated before and during the Eid al-Adha celebration.
While walking through the streets of Cairo I've seen countless sheep in the back of transportation trucks beaten senseless for no reason, as well as animals standing outside in 100 degree weather in their own feces and urine, without any shade or a drop of water to drink.
Chances are meat such as this will still be purchased, even though the animals have suffered a great deal before their sacrificial death. Is this meat still considered Halal? Shouldn't this practice be deemed haram (forbidden) by today's standards, due to the unethical welfare of animals during Eid al-Adha preparations? Muslims and non-Muslims should not ignore this grim reality.
What should not be disputed is the inhumane way that some animals are treated before and during the Eid al-Adha celebration.
Of course, one could argue that the current economic and political situations in many of the MENA countries make it difficult to buy Halal meat, which is truly considered Halal. Generally speaking, wouldn't it be worth the extra time to investigate the conditions the animals lived in, how they were handled during transportation, and how were they treated during their final moments in our world?
There are strong beliefs and traditions in Islam which promotes the humane treatment of animals. "God has ordained kindness (and excellence) in everything. If the killing (of animals) is to be done, do it in the best manner, and when you slaughter, do it in the best manner by first sharpening the knife, and putting the animal at ease" (Saheeh Muslim).
The Prophet Muhammad was known as a kind and peaceful man who advocated for the proper treatment of animals. The Prophet told his beloved followers to "fear God in regards to these animals who cannot speak their will."
Let us all remember that during this Eid al-Adha.