Qurbani – Lessons We Can Learn from the Ritual Sacrifice (Plus Q&A)

By Adil Safdar

As the days of Eid fast approach us and we all frantically go into research mode in order to discover what is required from us during this period of sacrifice, I want to present to you two aspects to this journey; one the spiritual and second the rights in terms of actions pertaining to this auspicious event.

Before we begin to immerse ourselves into the topic of Qurbani it is probably wise to understand the origins of the word itself. It may come as a bit of a surprise but the term Qurbani (Arabic: قربانى‎) is actually a Persian/Urdu word which derives from the Arabic word Qurban meaning ‘to act in order to seek Allah’s pleasure’.

Another term that is more prominent in the Arab world is Udhiyah (أضحية) which means ‘blood sacrifice’. These two words are going to be the pillar of my discourse because the term Udhiyah expresses the outward aspects of the sacrifice we will do in the coming days, whilst the word Qurbani expresses a much more holistic understanding of why we’re actually engaging with this practice.

The Origins of Qurbani

Another way to heighten our understanding of Qurbani is to be aware of its origins. Often we hear the story of Prophet Ibraheem (as) and Ismaeel (as) echoed loudly from the pulpit of the mosque which is, more often than not, told through the lens of Ibraheem (as). However, I feel if we widen our field of vision ever so slightly to incorporate Ismaeel’s (as) experience, perhaps we can attain a more vast insight into this majestic occasion.

Even better still if we can put ourselves into their shoes and ask ourselves how we would respond in a similar test of steadfastness. This inner analysis may even give an insight into what our spiritual relationship with Allah is.

To do this, it may be worth outlining a very brief summary of this grand occasion that links to our practices today. Furthermore, it may also enable us to have a more profound understanding as to the sacredness of our actions soon to be performed.

The Story of Sacrifice

The summary goes as so – the Prophet Ibraheem (as) has a spectacular vision in his dream where The Almighty commands him to sacrifice his son. We subsequently learn of the committed Ibraheem (as) mission of going out with his son to perform this sacrifice. Whilst on this journey the deceitful Shaytan comes to him as an obstacle with the aim of preventing both father and son from acting out the command of Allah.

Much to the Shaytan’s dismay, Ibraheem (as) along with his devoted son, both remain firm on their mission. As time hastily approaches for the actual sacrifice, Allah commands Ibraheem (as) that the mission was successfully completed and that he ought to sacrifice an animal instead.

Now, we may have heard this story a number of times but what I want us to do is look at the Quran and focus on what Ismaeel (as) said:

And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said, “O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think.” He said, “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast.” (Qur’an – 37:102)

When death was staring Ismaeel (as) straight in the eyes he remained firmly established on the noble path of Qurbani- i.e to act in a manner that is pleasing to Allah. Perhaps we forget this potent perspective or overlook it. There is no doubt that the outward act of our Udhiyah does indeed have its rights. Nonetheless, it must be understood like all other things in this life, through the prism of sincerity. For if this sincerity is unjustly removed then it will not be a Qurbani but merely just an Udhiyah in its outward form, and any blood sacrifice without the catalyst of Qurbani is an absolute travesty and truly worthless.

What does Udhiyah Mean for Us Today?

Having scratched the surface on the immensely important topic of sincerity, for it is a topic that can take a lifetime to discuss, we can tread the path on this journey to what the Udhiyah means for us today.

I intend to do this via a Q & A style. However, before embarking on this I desire to make it crystal clear that only a mad person would say that we ought to sacrifice our sons or any other human. Hence let’s make it absolutely clear from the onset that there is no doubt when we read all the verses of the Quran related to this monumental event, one can conclude that Allah did not want this from Ibraheem (as) and indeed does not want this from us either.

Any literalist interpretation of these passages in isolation is akin to a child staring at a fire and crawling right into it. This day is about sincerity to Allah; sincerely making any sacrifice for Allah, sincerely negotiating any traps placed in our journey of life by Shaytan for Allah, having sincere relationships for Allah, being sincerely steadfast on Islam for Allah, sincerely taking from the blessing of the world for Allah, and the list is endless.

Emboldened with inner sincerity, one must then move onto acting sincerely in a manner most pleasing to Allah. Hence this nicely brings us onto our Q & A and we intend that it assists you all in acting in a manner most pleasing to The One, ameen.

Frequently Asked Questions about Qurbani

1) Is Udhiyah compulsory on children who have not attained puberty?

No, Udhiyah is not compulsory on children under the age of puberty.

2) Is Udhiyah compulsory on all adults?

Udhiyah is compulsory on sane adults who is wealthy. In Islam, one who posses wealth equal to, or greater than, the nisab value is considered wealthy.

In simple terms, one who is eligible to pay Zakat must also perform the Udhiyah.


3) What if you are travelling during this time?

If you are considered a traveller, i.e. shortening your prayers then you do not need to make Udhiyah

4) When should the Udhiyah sacrifice be made?

The Udhiyah is carried out on the days of Eid ul-Adha, namely 10th of Dhul Hijjah to the end of 12th of Dhul Hijjah.

It is better to carry it out early, i.e. the 10th of Dhul Hijjah.

The sacrifice needs to be made after the Eid prayer, from the perspective of where the animal is being slaughtered, otherwise if done before it will not be considered an Udhiyah and must be done again.

5) Can I pay on behalf of my family?

Every individual must pay this who qualifies to be described as a wealthy person. Since the intention is important here, the husband, or anyone for that matter, can’t just simply pay on behalf of his wife without her knowing or having made any intention of her giving money for which the husband is effectively acting as an agent to pass the money over.

6) Can any animal be sacrificed?

No, the animal is either one goat or sheep (which fulfils one person’s Udhiyah) or 1/7th of a cow or camel (which again fulfils one person’s Udhiyah).

There are certain conditions which are required to be met in order to ensure the animal is suitable for Udhiyah. 

 (i) For a camel it must be at least 5 years old, for a cow it must be at least 2 years old, for a sheep or goat it must be at least 1 year old

(ii) Free of certain defects such as; blindness from one or both eye(s), limp preventing the animal from making the journey to the place of sacrifice, very skinny, has an ear or most of an ear cut off,  or its tail is cut off, or any other deficiency that is worse than the ones mentioned. 

7) Are there any other recommended actions?

The following are not compulsory, but recommended nonetheless:

(i) To eat from the meat that has been sacrificed

(ii) To give some of it to the poor

(iii) To give some of it to those who are wealthy

(iv) to store some of it for later

(v) To not cut the animals hair or nails during the month of Dhul Hijjah

(vi) If capable to do the slaughter yourself

(vii) If not able to slaughter then next best is to witness the slaughter

(viii) To give the skin away to charity, or can use it for themselves but must not sell it or use the wealth from selling it to pay for the Udhiyah

8) What if I've missed Udhiyah in the past when it was compulsory upon me?

In such a case you would give the monetary value of each Udhiyah missed and give this to the poor. 

9) Do I need to abstain from cutting my hair and nails prior to the sacrifice?

It is recommended that the one making Udhiyah not cut their nails or hair from the beginning of Dhul Hijjah until after the sacrifice, however, this is not obligatory and no sin is incurred if left out.

10) Can I not just give the monetary amount of the animal to any charitable cause instead of the sacrifice?

No, one is not able to do this. One must stipulate that the value given is specifically for the purpose of sacrifice, and the party carrying out the sacrifice must do so in according to the rules, otherwise it will not count.

E.g. when making Udhiyah via an online charity, one must ensure that their donation is made specifically for the purposes of sacrifice (no matter which country) and not, for example, general sadaqah to sponsor an orphan. Any other voluntary type of charity can be given separately at one’s own will.

Similarly, when making Udhiyah via a local butcher, one must stipulate that this is for sacrifice.

Adil Safdar iSyllabus Glasgow

About Adil

Adil Safdar is a dentist who resides in Glasgow with his wife and their two children. He is blessed to be studying sacred sciences from teachers including Shaykh Amer Jamil, Shaykh Ruzwan Mohammed, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Ustadha Zaynub Ansari, Shaykh AbdulKarim Yahyah, Shaykh Abdul Aziz and Shaykh Nuh. He is also very grateful to Shaykh Hassan Rabbani for giving him the opportunity to teach Islamic studies to children using the Isyllabus for Schools curriculum. Deenspiration is a new journey for Adil and he looks forward to developing a fruitful spiritual connection with his readers through which all can benefit with the permission of Allah.   

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