Outsourcing a Sacrifice

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Millions of Muslims converge to perform Hajj in Saudi Arabia. As they offer mandatory animal sacrifices, the meat is supplied to the impoverished African countries to eradicate food shortage. Interestingly, Kashmir is emulating this tradition, threatening the essence of a sacrifice, Junaid Nabi Bazaz reports.

Butchers slaughtering sheep -- Photo:Bilal Bahadur.

Butchers slaughtering sheep — Photo:Bilal Bahadur.

Sacrificing animals (Qurbani) on the eve of Eid-ul-Azha is done in the memory of Prophet Ibrahim and his son Hazrat Ismail. The inherent message in offering sacrifices for the Muslims in the world is to be ready to sacrifice anything in the path of Allah.

The tradition began when Prophet Ibrahim who saw Allah commanding him in his dream to sacrifice his son, Hazrat Ismael. Ibrahim, being a god fearing person, adhered to the commandment and went to sacrifice his son. While he was about to slit his throat, a lamb appeared in Ismail’s place. It was from this time that it became compulsory for Muslims to offer sacrifices of Eid-ul-Azha.

Islamic scholars believe the perfect way of sacrificing animals is that a devotee must be present while an animal is being slaughtered. But the tradition of offering money to Islamic seminaries (Darool-ul-uloom) and orphanages is taking away the essence of sacrifice. “This trend if not implemented properly will take away the purpose of a sacrifice,” says Mufti Mujahid Shabir, author of more than 15 books on Islam and former president of Islami Jama’at-e-Talaba said.

As per an edict issued by Islamic scholars, a person who lives in any part of the world, where it is difficult for him to offer Qurbani can pay money to seminaries or orphanages and his Qurbani is deemed offered. “Islam prefers easy ways over difficult ones. So under such situations, it is allowed,” says Mujahid.  But now, this change is setting a trend in Kashmir which is taking away the essence of offering sacrifice. A person who is well-off and could perform Qurbani himself or herself also prefers to pay seminaries instead of offering Qurbani himself or herself, which is not as per the prophetic way. “Though his or her Qurbani is accepted, but it doesn’t get equal rewards.”

The trend was actually initiated by Saudi Arabia where people performing Hajj either credit money to the banks or carry out the slaughter of animals in their presence. A logical explanation for this is that there is the mammoth gathering of devotees who have to make sacrifices, besides doing a lot of worship in a short span of time.

Mufti Abdul Rasheed, the head of Dar-ul-Uloom Bilaliya, one of the largest Islamic seminaries in Kashmir, uses this argument to justify the application of this trend.  But Mufti Mujahid rebuts him. “Situation in Hajj is different. It is impossible for 30 lakh people to offer sacrifice at one time. That is why this trend has been set. The situation is not similar in Kashmir.”

The meat extracted from sacrificed animals is sent to impoverished African countries where it is distributed among needy and hungry people.  Noor Mohammad Bhat, a local who once used to offer Qurbani himself now prefers to pay a local seminary. The incorporation of payment for everyone has made him to change his mind. “Offering Qurbani ourselves is a tiresome task. Now, when I got the same reward with fewer efforts, I prefer to pay,” he said.

However, Noor Mohammad is not sure who can offer Qurbani himself and who by payment. Once he heard about this trend of making payment to seminaries from his friends. “I believe them,” he said.  He visited nearby orphanage and paid equal money with which he was going to buy a sheep for Qurbani.

“This is another problem,” says Mujahid. “Some of the Darool-ul-Ulooms do not inquire before devotee pays for it. “If they take money seeing the situation that a person is faced with, then there are no issues.”

“They come at their own will. So we do not question them,” says Abdul Aziz Mir who is the Chairman of Jammu Kashmir Yateem Trust, one of the biggest orphanages working in Kashmir.

Figures revealed by Darool-ul-Uloom Bilaliya reveal 72 sacrifices were offered by the seminary on behalf of faithful in 2005. In 2007, it increased to 112 and 125 in 2009. “This year, we expect it to cross 150,” says Mufti Abdul Rasheed, President of the seminary. Other seminaries which offer sacrifices include Darool-ul-Uloom Rahmiya in Bandipora and Asraful Uloom in Banihal.

“According to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), a person who is financially well-off to offer Qurbani and does not do it as per his commandments should not even come to offer Eid prayers. How can you then justify that a well-off person is permitted to offer sacrifice by paying money under normal circumstances,” Mujahid says.

“Islamic scriptures say offering Qurbani is done in remembrance of our prophets.  So that remembrance can only be solemnised the way it is commanded.  By doing it that way, the spirit of remembrance remains alive,” he says. “But when you try to find convenient ways, the faithful forget its relevance. Hence purpose of Qurbani is unachieved,” Mujahid says.

The purpose behind shouldering such a huge responsibility by orphanages and seminaries is to do it in the way of Allah. However, they do it for earning extra bucks to run their institutes. “We also earn some profit from it. We have not maintained data of it. But I know the margin is small,” says Mufti Rasheed.

Shepherds from various areas are also benefitted. Noor Mohammad Kalla (name changed) sells hundreds of sacrificial animals to orphanages. “It helps me a lot. One is that I sell hundreds of sheep at one time and that too in cash. And second is, I now need not to find costumers. My stock finishes only by selling it to them.”

The mixed response of Islamic scholars over the issue may have divided the people but on the other side have benefitted poor areas of Jammu and Kashmir. “We sent tonnes of meat to many areas of Doda and Banihal. This way, we distribute it among needy people,” Mufti Rasheed says.

About Author

A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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