By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
02 September 2017
On the occasion of the three-day-long festival—Eid-ul-Azha or Eid-e-Qurbani—Indian Muslims sacrifice the Halal animals, exercising the right to freely profess and practice religion enshrined in the article 25 of the Indian constitution. But at the same time, they are exhorted by a sizeable section of the Ulema to act cautiously and stick to the country’s laws while celebrating the feast of sacrifice—Baqr-Eid. This appeal has particularly been made by the Sufi-Sunni Ulema like those in Ajmer Dargah in the recently held monthly Sufi gathering called Chhati Sharif.
Sufis’ Appeal to Follow the Country’s Law on Eid-Ul-Adha
Syed Mehdi Mian Chishti, Gaddi Nashin at the Dargah, congratulated the people on the occasion of Eid-ul-Adha, calling the Qurbani a ‘greater means’ to draw close to Allah. However, he exhorted: Every capable Muslim should sacrifice, but don’t let the Qurbani descend into blood orgy. We must ensure that no one's heart is hurt, no one is troubled, and that this festival does not spread any kind of dirt. “Hearts are to be connected, not to be broken”….. “You cannot achieve the pleasure of your Lord (Rabb) until you help the disturbed people”, he said. Similarly, the founder-president of All India Ulema & Mashaikh Board, an apex body of Sufi-Sunni Muslims in India, Sayed Mohammad Ashraf appealed to the Muslims: In many places on this occasion, some elements of communalism might try to vitiate the atmosphere of peace during the sacrifice. “Therefore, we need to work with cautiousness, patience and completely adhere to the country’s constitution in all religious matters of dispute”, he said.
As per the Indian constitution, some states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi and others have outlawed the practice of cow-slaughter, not the animal-sacrifice per se.
Muslim Rashtriya Manch’s Demand for Ban on Animal-Sacrifice
Earlier, dozens of Muslim clerics linked with the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) vowed to spread the message of no cow sacrifices on Eid throughout the country for communal harmony. This should have been warmly welcome by both the Sunni and Shia Ulema.
But surprisingly, Muslim Rashtriya Manch has now demanded a blackout ban on the animal-slaughter during Eid al-Azha. Questioning the Islamic tradition of animal sacrifice, Joint coordinator of the Manch, Khursheed Agah has stated that sacrificing of the animal during Eid is a ‘superstition’. MRM has issued this statement: "Paedh Paudhe, Pashu Pakshi Allah Ki Rahmat Hain, Un Per Tum Raham Karo (Plant, trees, animals and birds are all God’s creation, hence one should be sympathetic towards them)", as reported in Times of India.
This has created a churn among the Muslim clergy and Ulema from both Shia and Sunni sects, particularly in Uttar Pradesh. In response, the Ulema have cited verses from the holy Quran to maintain that ‘Qurbani’ (sacrifice) has well-established religious sanctity since the days of the Prophet. “Political history can be rewritten but none can rewrite religious history. Qurbani of animals has religious sanction dating back to the days of the Prophet and the holy Quran clearly mentions it,” noted Islamic cleric, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangimahal, the naib-imam of Lucknow Eidgah, said.
There is a grave misconception deeply steeped in the larger section of the Muslim community. I find an urgent introspection on this crucial part completely missing from among both the Ulema and the so-called Islamic scholars of the MRM. Both have failed to raise an awakening among the Indian Muslims in decoding the rationale behind the sacrifice of Eid-ul-Adha in Islam.
While the Sufi Ulema’s appeal to follow the country’s law along with the religion on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha might encourage the peaceful adherence to Qur’an and constitution, there is a dire need to debunk the importance of non-vegetarianism falsely attached to Islam. It has to be stated clearly and categorically that meat-consumption is neither obligatory (Wajib) nor mandatory (Fard) in Islam.
As a matter of fact, non-vegetarianism or meat-consumption is neither obligatory (Wajib) nor mandatory (Fard) in Islam. It’s not even the essential part of the Qur’anic philosophy of the sacrifice. The Qur’an clearly elucidates that Allah does not take pleasure in flesh and blood: “animals’ meat will not reach Allah, nor will their blood, but what reaches God is piety from you” (22:37).
Thus, the common notion about the animal sacrifice in Islam is completely flawed and unfounded. It is not obligatory for a Muslim to be non-vegetarian. A pure vegetarian can be a very good and devout Muslim. All that the holy Qur’an says with regard to having food is: “Eat of the good things we have provided you” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:168). This verse is very clear in its statement that eating meat is not a necessity in Islam. The Qur’an gives only permission, not an exhortation, to consume a non-vegetarian food. It is patently clear in this verse: "O ye who believe! Fulfil (all) obligations. Lawful unto you (for food) are all four-footed animals with the exceptions named." [Al-Qur’an 5:1]
As for the Qurbani or animal-sacrifice being performed on the three days of Eid-ul-Adha, it is ordained in remembrance of the Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son, Ismail, when God asked him to sacrifice the most precious thing to him. It was none other than his only beloved son whom Allah gifted to him after he spent sleepless nights in constant prayers, asking for a child. However, when Ibrahim had fully prepared to sacrifice his son, God put a sheep in his place.
Prophet Ibrahim’s infinite devotion and complete submission to the will of God are the core values that Muslims celebrate during Eid-al-Adha. Thus, they remind themselves of the Prophet’s willingness to sacrifice the most precious thing for the sake of God. Muslims sacrifice the Halal (permissible) animals in remembrance of Ibrahim’s devotional sacrifice to God and distribute them to the poor and the less fortunate who cannot afford their meals. However, animal sacrifice is not the core essence of this historical event. The holy Qur’an relays that God does not actually take pleasure in flesh and blood (22:37).
Given the above verse, it is patently clear that meat is not a necessity in Islam. If someone prefers to be vegetarian, then she/he is fully allowed and encouraged. While Islam has given permission to eat meat of Halal animals, it has not made it obligatory upon Muslims. It is a matter of one’s personal choice and taste rather than of religiosity. Clearly, this solemn occasion cannot be confined to only animal sacrifice. We must engage in all virtuous and harmonious acts based on kindness and sharing to achieve the noble objectives of Eid-ul-Adha. It is indeed ordained on Muslims to sacrifice Halal or permissible animals in remembrance of Prophet Ibrahim’s devotional sacrifice to God and distribute them to the poor and the less fortunate. Some affluent Muslims go as far as donating money and several kilos of meat to feed the poor families in their country as well as abroad. However, the ritualistic animal sacrifice is not the core essence of this festival. Muslims may go for many other ways to emulate Ibrahim’s devotion to God during Eid-ul-Azha.
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a scholar of classical Islamic studies, cultural analyst and researcher in media and communication studies and regular columnist with www.New Age Islam.com
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