by Shaykh Ahmed Abdul Mujeeb Qasmi Nadvi (translated by Muhammad Owais Jafrey)
There are two worships during the month of Dhu’l Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar, which cannot be performed in any other month. The first is Hajj and the second is the sacrifice of an animal (sheep, goat, cow or camel).
Ever since the time of Adam (AS), sacrifice of an animal was considered as a means to achieve closeness to Allah (SWT). The popular belief during the time of earlier prophets was that the sacrifice of an animal by Allah (SWT) was accepted only if it was burned by a lightening or fire from the sky. The Ummah of Prophet (SAW) was absolved from such a condition. The meat of the sacrificial animal and the war spoils were made lawful (halal) for the Muslims.
Sacrifice, which is called Udhiya in the Arabic language, is defined by scholars of Islamic jurisprudence as sacrificing a certain animal at a certain time with the intention to win Allah (SWT) closeness. Like the two Eid prayers and Zakah (Poor’s due), the command to sacrifice an animal was given two years after Hijrah (migration of Prophet (SAW) to Madinah). The obligatory nature of this command is based on the Holy Qur’an, the traditions of Prophet (SAW), and the consensus of opinions of the Islamic scholars. Aayah 2 of Surah Al-Kawthar says:
“[Prophet] Pray to your Lord and make your sacrifice to Him alone.” and Aayah 36 of Surah Al-Hajj says: “We have made camels part of Allah’s sacred rites for you. There is much good in them for you, so invoke Allah’s name over them as they are lined up for sacrifice, then, when they have fallen down dead, feed yourselves and those who do not ask, as well as those who do. We have subjected them to you in this way so that you may be thankful.”
Ummul Momineen Aayesha (RAnha) relates that Prophet (SAW) said: “On the 10th day of Dhu’l Hijjah, i.e. on the day of Eid-ul-Adha, no other act of mankind is liked by Allah (SWT) more than the sacrifice of an animal. The sacrificed animal with its hair, hoofs, and horns will be resurrected on the Day of Judgment as a witness; before its blood drops on earth, Allah (SWT) is pleased and accepts the sacrifice. Hence Allah’s bondsmen, make sacrifice with your heart’s utmost pleasure.” (Tirmidhi)
Anas (RA) relates that Prophet (SAW) sacrificed two fair skinned horned lambs with his own hands and while slaughtering them, he had his blessed foot on their side and recited Bismilla,i walLahu Akbar. (Bukhari & Muslim).
This sacrifice is also the Sunnah of Sayyidina Ibrahim (AS) as mentioned in Aayah 107 of Surah Assaffat: “We ransomed his son with a momentous sacrifice.” The purpose of sacrifice is to thank and express gratitude to Allah (SWT) for His blessings.
There is a difference of opinion to the nature of sacrifice among scholars of Islamic jurisprudence with regards to its nature of being Fardh (obligatory) or Sunnah. According to Imam Abu Hanifah (RehmA) it is obligatory for any well-to-do person. Imam Malik (RehmA) in one of his opinions agrees with this ruling. (Sherh-e-Nawavi) Imam Shafa’ee (RehmA), Imam Ahmad (RehmA), and Imam Abu Yusuf (RehmA) from the Hanafi school of thought consider it is Sunnat-e-Mu’akkidah(recommended Sunnah) (Al-Mughni 13: 360). Imam Malik (RehmA) also supports this opinion, though he also supports Imam Abu Hanifah’s ruling. (Bidayat-ul-Mujtahid)
Imam Abu Hanifah (RehmA)’s ruling is based on Aayah 2 of Surah Al-Kawther and the tradition related by Abu Hurairah (RA) in which Prophet (SAW) said that the one who can afford to sacrifice, and even then he doesn’t, he then should not come to our prayer ground. (Ibn-e-Majah). Haakim considers this tradition as Sahih (correct). Abdullah bin Umar (RA) said that Prophet (SAW) stayed for 10 years in Madinah and offered sacrifice each year. (Tirmidhi)
One person asked Ibn-e-Umar (RA) if the sacrifice is obligatory. He replied that Prophet (SAW) and Muslims did perform sacrifice. The man asked again to which Ibn-e-Umar (RA) replied: “Do you have some sense? Prophet (SAW) and Muslims offered sacrifice”, he added. Such an emphasis means that had it not been obligatory, Prophet (SAW) should have made such an indication. (Fat’hul Mulhim)
There are different opinions about timings of sacrifice.
the Muslim community makes the sacrifice. If some one precedes the Imam, he will have to redo it.
Imam Abu Hanifah bases his ruling on the tradition of Prophet (SAW) related by Ber’aa bin Aazib (RA). He says that Prophet (SAW) said in his Khutbah: “The most important thing to do this day is to first offer prayers and then go to make the sacrifice. Whoever follows our method is right, and whoever does it before prayers, his sacrifice is invalid. It is like slaughtering a goat for his own household. (Bukhari & Muslim).
Jundub bin Abdullah (RA) says that once he was with Prophet (SAW) on the day of Eid-ul-Adha. After he (SAW) had performed Eid prayers, he saw some sacrificial meat. Evidently some one had made the sacrifice before the Eid prayers. Prophet (SAW) said that those who did the sacrifice before the Eid prayer will have to make it all over again. (Bukhari & Muslim)
The last time for the sacrifice is 12th of Dhul Hijjah. Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik, and Imam Ahmad support this rule. Muwatta of Imam Malik records Abdullah bin Umar to have said that there are two days to make the sacrifice after Eid-ul-Adha. Sayyidina Umar (RA), Sayyidina Ali (RA), and other companions like Ibn-e-Abbas(RA) are also quoted to have said the same thing. Imam Shafa’ee, however opines that the 13th Dhul Hijja is also among the days of sacrifice.
Let me share two traditions of Prophet (SAW), which throw more light on this issue:
(a) A lame animal whose limp is evident. (b) An animal, which has lost an eye and the loss is too obvious. (c) Animal that is sick, and (d) the weak animal which may seem to have no marrow in its bones. (Muwaata Imam Malik, Musnad Ahmad, Jaam-e-Tirmidhi, Sunan Abu Dawood, Sunan Ibn-e-Majah, Sunan Daarmi)
sacrifice with a broken horn or severed ear.
Sacrifice in fact is submission and an offering to Allah (SWT), hence it is required that the best animal be selected for this purpose. Holy Qur’an in Aayah 92 of Surah Al-e-Imran says: “None of you [believers] will attain true piety unless you give out of what you cherish: whatever you give, Allah knows about it very well.”
According to Jaabir (RA) Prophet (SAW) advised that seven people may share the sacrifice of a cow, oxen or camel. [Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu Dawood]