What’s with all the meat?
Every year, crowds of Muslims flock to the farms for their sacrifice of meat. It must be an odd scene, seeing some of the families still dressed in their finest clothing from the morning Eid prayer, waiting on a line, tip-toeing just to glance over at which goat they will pick, and returning home with large black bags filled with meat. Our home was always bustling the day following Eid, as all of the meat is cut and placed into smaller bags to give to family members, neighbors, and friends. My brothers and I would go door to door to give it away.
By now, many of us know the story, and it has it’s strings in other faiths. According to Islam, Ibrahim AS (Abraham) was commanded to sacrifice his son, Ismail AS, and both father and son obliged. According to Judaic traditions, he was commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac.
Take a look at both texts side by side:
|Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance.
Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”
Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.
Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.
Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.
(Genesis, Chapter 22)
So We gave him good tidings of a forbearing boy.
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.”
And when they had both submitted and he put him down upon his forehead,
We called to him, “O Abraham,
You have fulfilled the vision.” Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good.
Indeed, this was the clear trial.
And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice,
And We left for him [favorable mention] among later generations:
“Peace upon Abraham.”
Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good.
Indeed, he was of Our believing servants.
(Quran, Chapter 37, Verses 101-111)
Although other religions have this, Muslims may be the only ones overtly commemorating this day. It begs to question: how is this sacrificing in the modern times, a commemoration if there is no ‘son’ involved? For those who aren’t aware of the tradition, may also wonder ‘why does God want this meat’? This is easily explained from this verse in the Quran:
“Their meat will not reach Allah, nor will their blood, but what reaches Him is piety from you.” – Surah Al-Haj
Due to the current dynamic of our industrialized society, many of us aren’t able to take care of a cow or goat and then perform the sacrifice. The essence of it was to feel the pain of the loss of an animal that you loved. It was meant to be an animal you took care of, and loved, and used it’s milk. At the same time, it is recognizing the importance of sharing your food to others. ⅓ of the sacrifice must go to the poor, downtrodden, and needy, with the remaining ⅔ for oneself and friends and families.
The distance that has been created between us and other animals in love and mercy because of our living conditions should now be closed by our conscious remembrance of sacrifice, obedience and gratefulness. Allah has truly given humankind an upper hand, and with this, comes responsibility and compassion. When we sacrifice for the sake of Allah, we aren’t simply slaughtering, we are doing so by His laws, trying to be as inhumane as possible, making sure the animal’s nerves are cut first so the pain is lessened.
The slaughtering of Qurbani/Udhiya meat as Zabiha Halal, requires that the animal be healthy, clean, and the slaughter be done in the name of Allah, in a very quick manner, with careful drainage of blood. If the cut fails to sever the carotid arteries and jugular veins, and the animal takes a long time to die, the question of animal welfare comes into play. In terms of halal and kosher, the federal Humane Slaughter Act has deemed them both humane practices.
Where is the spirituality in the practice? When it comes to the Prophet’s (pbuh) life, we find that meat wasn’t a daily meal. Meat was for special occasions such as wedding festivities. Often the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was found fasting, or choosing to eat simple things like dairy and barley.
To be true, many of us eat meat so often that we don’t recognize the spirituality within food. When we practice mindfulness and become more cognizant of our eating habits, we will recognize that an animal gave their life for us to enjoy a burger. The life of that animal actually belongs only to The Creator, only to Allah. It is by Allah’s permission that He allowed humans the ability to hold, restrain, and slaughter the animals. It is also His blessing that we humans would learn how to cook the meat in so many different ways: beef biryani, samosas, lamb chops, burgers, stews, barbequed, and the list goes on. It is of Allah’s blessing that we enjoy this meat.
At the end of the day, every creation of Allah submits to Allah’s command.
We show our obedience by giving to those who may not have meat, and remember Allah when we sacrifice, and upholding His mercy as we do it.