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Big Sallah, bigger sacrifice

T oday is Arafat day in the Muslim world. It is recommended by the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) that Muslims who are not on…


oday is Arafat day in the Muslim world. It is recommended by the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) that Muslims who are not on pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah should observe voluntary fast today. Tomorrow, Sunday 10th Dhul-Hijjah 1440AH (August 11, 2019), Muslims would be observing this year’s Eid ul-Kabir, otherwise called ‘Big Sallah’ in Nigeria. It is a religious festival in which Muslims are required to offer animal sacrifices to commemorate the initial offering made by Prophet Ibrahim (AS). Since that symbolic sacrifice, it became a religious rite for Muslims who have the means to offer sacrifices, annually, on the 10th day of the Islamic lunar month of Dhul-Hijjah. Another name for this festival is Ad-ha, meaning sacrifice.

The Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) teaches that those that are able to offer sacrifices on the occasion of the Eid ul-Kabir should eat out of the meat and also give some portions of it to others. While some scholars fix two-third (2/3) of the entire meat as the portion to be given out, others opine that the proportion is not mandatory. The most important thing is that the person who made the sacrifice should (along with his family members) eat out of it and also share part of it with relations, friends and neighbours. If sharing fresh meat would be a burden to the recipient(s), it is preferred that the meat is roasted, fried or cooked before it is shared. The act of sharing the Dahiyyah meat with others symbolizes the will to give up some of our own bounties not just to help those in need but also to strengthen ties of friendship. Overcoming the common grievances we hold against one another which impede mutual co-existence is the ultimate spirit in sacrifice. The Dahiyyah sacrifice is thus perfected when a person making the sacrifice shares out parts of the best portions of the meat.

Religious rites and festivals in Islam including Ramadan, Hajj and Eid ul-Fitr are seasons for making sacrifices. However, since Eid ul-Kabir is singled out as a ‘big’ time for us to express our total submission to Allah’s will, it behooves that our sacrifices during this period should be ‘bigger’ than they used to be at other times.  Sacrifices do not begin and end with alms or sacrificial animals. Giving your time, paying attention to finding solutions to other people’s problems are some intangible sacrifices we make without necessarily knowing. Our inter-personal relationships during this period should therefore be done with a greater spirit; making it a bigger sacrifice.

The most significant aspect of Dahiyyah is the inner dimension of its lessons. The occasion of Big Sallah goes beyond animal slaughter or sacrifice. Allah (SWT) already makes this clear in Qur’an 22:37 that “It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah. It is your piety that reaches Him”. Sacrifice by Muslims seeks to signify that their submission to the will of Allah (SWT) is absolute. The animal sacrifice on the tenth day of Dhul-Hijjah is in furtherance of this submission. It is a sincere demonstration of submission to Allah when a Muslim gives out that which he loves most for the sake of the most Beneficent. Giving out that which the owner does not consider valuable would thus sum up to a ‘smaller’ or an imperfect sacrifice.

As an obedient servant of Allah, Prophet Ibrahim (AS) neither earned divine anger for his obedience to Allah’s command nor lost his son. Rather, his creator was pleased with him and gave him a sheep as alternative to sacrificing his son. Whenever we express our faith in Allah’s will and command in this manner, the end would surely be pure bliss. Let us therefore try to sacrifice parts of our interests, comforts or possessions for the sake of Allah (SWT) in these first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah. We could sacrifice a portion of the night (when sleep is most desirous) to stand in prayers; worshipping Allah. We could also sacrifice some morsels of our delicious meals(s) to satisfy someone else’s hunger.

Minimum age limit has been set aside by Islam for every category of slaughter-animal on the occasion of the Eid. It is required that a ram or sheep should have attained a year or at least eight months. A goat is expected to have entered its second year. A cow should have entered its fourth year and a camel should not be less than six years of age. It is not right to use a sick, emaciated or blind (partial or full) animal that has one or other deformities for the sacrifice. A slaughter-animal with a broken horn or split ear(s) should not also be used for the Dahiyyah (sacrifice). Maliki scholars opine that the one with a broken horn can be used if no blood gushed forth from the injury.

The reward for Dahiyyah is according to the type of animal offered. The most preferred is un-castrated ram; then a castrated ram; then a sheep; followed by an un-castrated he-goat; then a castrated he-goat; then a she-goat; followed by a bull; then a cow; followed by a male camel; then a female camel, which is the least preferred. However, the reverse (in the order of preference) is the case for those on pilgrimage to Makkah because the object of sacrifice in hajj (called Hadyah) is to provide plenty of meat for the underprivileged. On the other hand, the intent of sacrifice in Eid ul-Kabir in the case of Muslims who are not on pilgrimage is to taste and enjoy the best of meat.

Muslims are required to offer their sacrifices only after the leader (Emir, Chief or Imam) of the community in which they reside has slaughtered his sacrificial animal. Anyone who therefore slaughters his animal before his (religious or community) leader does so would be considered to have made no sacrifice. However, if one resides in a place where no such leaders exist, he is advised to delay his slaughtering until when presumably the religious leader in the community nearest to him would have slaughtered his animal.

The period for slaughtering extends across three days and Muslims are at liberty to slaughter their animals within the stipulated three days (10th, 11th and 12th of Dhul-Hijjah). However, the first day (10th Dhul-Hijjah), is preferred over the succeeding two days (11th and 12th Dhul-Hijjah). The slaughtering on each of the days is preferred before sunset. Anyone who slaughters his animal at night shall be deemed to have made no sacrifice.

While we wish Muslims on pilgrims a successful hajj exercise, we pray that Allah (SWT) Would guide non-pilgrims to truly live up to the expectations of the spirit of sacrifice that the festival of Eid ul-Kabir stands for, amin. Happy Eid ul-Kabir! Kullu Aamin Wa Antum Bi Khairin!!

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