Every Eid al-Adha, it behooves all good Muslims to make a private donation of halal meat to those who need it most. While the Qur’an doesn’t call upon the destitute and the dispossessed to make a Qurbani donation, it does ask that believers who can afford the sacrifice make it as a matter of faith and charity to their fellow man. While food drives and relief aid programs are common sights in the world, the Qurbani donation is wrapped up in centuries of Islamic traditions that require Muslims to put forth extra effort to make sure their donation is by their traditions. While the prescriptions of the Qur’an are complicated at first glance, the process of a Qurbani meat donation is simple; appropriately and humanely slaughtering a healthy, clean animal and donating the meat to the poor and unfortunate who need it most. Indeed, in regions wracked by strife and poverty, a Qurbani donation will be cherished as delicious and a healthy boost of protein and nutrients. For the particularly unfortunate, it may be the only meat they can eat over the course of the year. Thus, any Muslim who wishes to further a humanitarian cause could do a lot worse than to make a Qurbani donation.
The tradition of Qurbani is ancient indeed, with its history tracing back to the beginnings of the faith itself. Sura Al-Ma’ida tells of the Prophet Muhammad being told the story of the two sons of Adam, Qaabeel, and Haabeel. Haabeel offered Allah a sacrifice of a sheep and Qaabeel offered Allah a sacrifice of crops from his field. Allah told both brothers that a fire would come from the sky to consume the accepted sacrifice. Haabeel’s sheep was the one consumed by the flames, setting a precedent from the preference of meat in holy sacrifices. A second occurrence in the Qur’an describes who Ibraheem was commanded by Allah to sacrifice his son, Ismail, but at the last second was prevented from killing the boy by an angel sent from the heavens. Ismail was replaced with a great sacrifice in his place, which many Islamic scholars feels set the precedent for Qurbani sacrifices. Ideally, the sacrifice of a Qurbani animal every Eid to commemorate Ibraheem’s sacrifice to Allah will remind Muslims that sacrifice for the benefit of others and Allah is the way of Islam.
The Qur’an itself (22:37) states that it isn’t the flesh or blood of the animal that reaches Allah, but the believer’s faith that reaches the heavens, a notion shared by most of the world’s religions regarding sacrifices large and small. A demonstration of submission to Allah, the slaughter of a Qurbani animal is also symbolic of the believer’s destruction of their baser urges such as hatred, envy, pride, greed and anger.
A Qurbani donation is not as simple as going to a butcher shop, however. There are many prescriptions in the Qur’an for the sacrifice of animals. First, it is legal on the morning of the 10th to the sunset of the 12th of Dhu al-Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar. The animal must be slaughtered according to the rules of halal sacrifice to ensure that the meat is all right in the eyes of Allah. Most adult Muslims are called upon to undertake a Qurbani sacrifice, though the mentally ill, the children, the indigent and travelers a certain distance from home with no intention to stay a long time are exempted from this though they are considered particularly rewarded if they can make this sacrifice. Animals for Qurbani sacrifice can be purchased on behalf of others, provided that the sale of the animal is consented to by the person it is being bought for, as some people may not wish to sacrifice an animal they didn’t purchase themselves. A goat or a sheep is the standard, baseline donation, but a Muslim can also chip in and pay for at minimum one seventh of a share of a domesticated camel or cow as their contribution to a Qurbani sacrifice.
Islamic charities across the world collect donations of funds and at times animals to purchase Qurbani animals on behalf of those who could not otherwise afford the sacrifice. Most Islamic charities work to ensure that the animals purchased to meet the standards laid down by the Qur’an and were slaughter properly, humanely and hygienically, again following the standards established by the Qur’an. While this isn’t always true, not always be possible, most Islamic charities will do their best to ensure that this is done, particularly since the Qurbani sacrifice is the few times, other than the birth of a newborn, that Muslims customarily make animal sacrifices to Allah. Given as the Quran is important mostly to Muslims, most Qurbani donation funds will be sent to Islamic countries or countries with a large population of Muslims despite not being a majority, such as India and Zimbabwe. Few Muslims will object to receiving a Qurbani donation, and some Islamic charities can lay claim to feeding millions of people with each Dhu al-Hijjah.
Though marked by ancient tradition predating all of the nations that practice it, the Qurbani is an event of faith and celebration. Muslims, who wish to participate in a Qurbani donation, may find it as easy as buying an animal from their neighbors, but some may want to send money to an Islamic charity so their funds will allow others to receive Qurbani in far-flung regions of the world. And, with hunger an ever present problem across the globe, any morsel of food, let alone a rich meal of meat, can be a miracle.