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The Meaning Of Word Udhiya (Qurbani)

2023-10-28  Ustadh Sadique Ahmed

“So turn in prayer towards your Lord and sacrifice (animals).” (108.2)

Udhiya is an Arabic word meaning blood sacrifice. Qurbani is an Urdu and Persian word derived from the Arabic word “Qurban,” which literally means an act performed to seek Allah’s pleasure. It is technically used for the sacrifice of an animal slaughtered for the sake of Allah (SWT).

Among those acts of worship that are executed with one’s wealth, Udhiya (sacrifice) holds a distinguished position. This is because it was inspired by the act of sacrificing that which is most beloved for the sake of Allah (SWT) and on His command. It is a genuinely unparalleled sacrifice, as I will discuss below. It is also pertinent to its status that, in the Qur’an, the mention of ‘salaah’ is made together with Qurbani in Surah al-Kawthar.

This act of Udhiya is to commemorate the unparalleled sacrifice offered by the Prophet Ibrahim (AS)  when he was commanded by Allah (SWT) to sacrifice his blessed son Isma’eel (AS). Allah (SWT), being pleased with the Prophet’s obedience, sent down a ram to be slaughtered instead of his son. It is in his blessed footsteps we tread today when we sacrifice.

Udhiya is a demonstration of total submission to Allah (SWT) and proof of complete obedience to Allah’s will. When a Muslim offers a Udhiya, this is precisely what he intends to prove. Thus, the Udhiya offered signifies that he is a slave of Allah (SWT) at his best and that he would not hesitate even for a moment. 

Once he receives an absolute command from his Creator, he surrenders before it and obeys it willingly, even if it is at the price of his life and possessions. This is exactly what the Prophet Ibrahim (AS) did. It would appear that there should be no reason why a father should slaughter his innocent son. But, when the command came from Allah (SWT), he never asked the reason for that command, nor did he hesitate to obey it. This is the true philosophy of Qurbani.

Zaid lbn Arqam h relates that the Companions asked, “O Messenger of Allah (SWT), what is Qurbani?” He replied, “It is the sunnah of your father, Ibrahim n.” They asked again, “What benefit do we get from it?” He answered, “A reward for every hair (of the sacrificed animal).” They asked, “And for wool, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “A reward for every fiber of the wool.”

(Ibn Majah)

This reward is further exemplified in the following hadith:

Aisha i reports that the Apostle of Allah (SAW) said, “There is nothing dearer to Allah (SWT) during the days of Qurbani than the sacrificing of animals. The sacrificed animal shall come on the Day of Judgment with its horns, hair, and hooves (to be weighed). The sacrifice is accepted by Allah (SWT) before the blood reaches the ground. Therefore, sacrifice with an open and happy heart.

(Al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)


Fiqh of Udhiya

The sacrificial animal can either be a camel, cow, sheep, or goat. The most virtuous to slaughter is a camel, thereafter a cow, then a sheep, and lastly a goat. Furthermore, the sacrificial animal has to be of a certain age. A camel has to be at least 5 years old, a cow 2 years old, a sheep 1 year old, and a goat 6 months old.  The animal cannot have any illnesses or disabilities. There is no difference between the male and female animals, and it is good to sacrifice a stout, healthy animal.

The sacrifice is compulsory for the one who possesses the minimum amount of capital that qualifies one to pay zakah (nisab). A sacrifice is also compulsory for those performing hajj and umrah. However, this is the dam al-shukr and not the Qurbani. Pilgrims who are not in a state of travel (Musafir) while in Mina because they are in Makkah for more than 15 days should perform the Qurbani if they meet the conditions. Those who are Musafir can do it for extra reward, but it is not obligatory upon them.

The pilgrim is not allowed to delay the sacrifice beyond the 3 days of sacrifice after ‘Arafah. If one does so, he will be liable to a penalty. If one is not able to sacrifice even after that, he will have to fast for 3 days in hajj and 7 days when he returns to his homeland. Allah (SWT) says in the following verse of the Qur’an, “He must make an offering, such as he can afford, but if he cannot afford it, he should fast three days during the hajj and seven days on his return, making ten days in all. This is for those whose household is not in (the precincts of) the Sacred Masjid. And fear God, and know that God Is strict in punishment.”(2:196)

It is permissible to eat from the sacrificial animal. The pilgrims must offer the sacrifice after stoning the jamarat (pillars representing the Shaytan) and before cutting the hair in the vicinity of the Haram.  Failure to do so will result in a penalty.

As for non-pilgrims, they will offer the sacrifice after the Eid prayer on Eid al-Adha. It is preferred that one slaughters the animal oneself, as this is closer to piety and the sunnah of the Prophet (SAW), who slaughtered his animal with his blessed hands. However, if one is unable to do so, one should try one’s utmost to witness the slaughtering.

If one has been favored by Allah (SWT) with wealth, then one should also perform Qurbani on behalf of the Messenger of Allah (SWT), his sahabah, his ummah, the Prophets (AS), and for his own living or deceased relatives, friends and teachers.

One should always remember and never overlook our beloved Prophet (SAW) and perform Qurbani on his behalf. Abu Talhah h has related that the Prophet (SAW) sacrificed one ram, and while sacrificing the other, he said, “This is on behalf of every one of my Ummah who believed in me and testified (to my prophethood).” (Al-Tabrani)

It is a matter worthy of deep thought and consideration that the Prophet (SAW) kept his Ummah in his mind while offering the sacrifice, and it is no doubt appropriate that his Ummah reciprocate at the time of Qurbani by offering a sacrifice on his behalf.

For pilgrims and non-pilgrims alike, the spirit of sacrifice has been lost. In most cases, we don’t even see the animal. Most people in the West would pay a Muslim butcher or a charity to do the sacrifice and distribute the meat amongst the poor. Certainly one still receives the great reward, but how can this compare to the immense sacrifice offered by Ibrahim (AS) when he laid his only son, at the time, face down on the ground, ready to execute the command of Allah (SWT)? Furthermore, it is far removed from the Sunnah and etiquettes of Udhiya.

Earlier generations truly made a sacrifice when they intended to slaughter an animal. If their journey of hajj wasn’t difficult enough, traveling on foot through the scorching heat of the desert and the wilderness of the jungle for weeks and, at times, months, on land and sea, they often took their animals with them from their homeland. The animal that a man had nurtured and bred for years he would set out with that animal for hajj. He would stand side by side with this animal at Mina, Arafah, and Muzdalifah.

Despite many attachments with the animal not dissimilar to how people are towards their pets nowadays, at the end of a strenuous hajj, already full of sacrifice, he makes one more sacrifice – for some, the greatest sacrifice.

How do we recreate that sense of sacrifice at the time of Qurbani when, for many of us in the West, it is nothing but a mere ritual? Let us at least try to find ways of performing it according to the sunnah and work on our state of mind when we execute the sacrifice, focusing on our intention and telling ourselves our sacrifice is a token, but we would gladly sacrifice more. It is also important for us in the West to ensure that when we sacrifice, our children are witnessing, or at least are also aware of what we are doing. 

Too often, the fathers offer sacrifice on behalf of the family, and the family is unaware or uninterested. It is important to make an occasion of it. Take your children with you, irrespective of the manner in which your sacrifice is being made or ordered. Make sure they are aware of its significance and tell them the whole story of Ibrahim (AS) and the importance of following in his example of obedience to Allah (SWT) at all costs.

I end with the following hadith reported by Abu Hurairah H who reports that the Apostle of Allah (SAW) has said: “Whoever has the capacity to sacrifice and does not do so, should not come to the place where the Eid prayer is offered.” (Ibn Majah).

Hence we can understand the importance of Udhiya from the above hadith, therefore each and every Muslim who is obliged should offer it, and if preferably within their locality.  This will not only create an atmosphere of Eid and Qurbani in the community but will also serve as a lesson for generations to come.

2023-10-28  Ustadh Sadique Ahmed