In spite of pandemic, religious scholars insist on animal sacrifice during Bakr Eid

Syed Hurairah

Hyderabad:There is considerable consternation over Bakr Eid or Eid Al Adha.

No, it is not the annual Hindu right-wing groups’ clamouring over each other, running ‘boycott Bakrid’ or ‘save bakras’ hashtags, and manufacturing trends on Twitter.

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This time, the controversy is over the festival and a world which is struggling to live with COVID-19. Can Muslims, instead of sacrificing an animal, donate its equivalent in cash to the poor?

The question, though valid in its own right, has evoked polarising opinions in many parts of the country. There are some who say that this is the need of the hour. Others, including the ulama, have continued to assert that the qurbani  (animal sacrifice) is obligatory and that it has no substitute.

The issue surfaced because of two reasons. Firstly, COVID – 19 pandemic is raging across the country. There are over 10.72 lakh cases across India. This has led to more than 26,800 deaths. The tentacles of the unseen enemy have wreaked havoc to lives, livelihoods, disposable incomes, saving, and in short, the economy. It is primarily due to this that some Muslims have entertained the thought of donating money, meaning the value of the animal in cash, to the needy. It is the sensibility of charity and the need to help fellow humans behind this.

The second reason is the outcome of the first – seeking validation from Islamic jurists. Two fatwas have dominated the headlines. The first is from the Darul Uloom Deoband in Uttar Pradesh, which is considered to be one of the leading centres of Islamic thought in India, and the second from Jamia Nizamia in Hyderabad.

Both fatwas resonate with each other. Both have stated that there is no replacement for qurbani. Both have insisted that the sacrifice should be made either on the 10th, 11th or the 12th of Zul Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar. Or tentatively, August 1, 2 and 3.

Substantial efforts, both opined, should be made to make the sacrifice. The fatwa which was issued from the Darul Uloom Deoband states that the qurbani during these three days could be made at places other than the city or town of the one making the sacrifice.

But despite these fatwas, the suggestion for giving money to the lesser privileged did not peter out. While few suggested that instead of each saheb-e-nisaab (on whom qurbani is mandatory per Islamic jurisprudence) making the sacrifice, one sacrifice per household should do. Meaning that if there are two earning members of the family who meet the gold or silver ownership requirements, or their equivalent as per Hanafi school of thought, only one makes the qurbani and the rest be donated for charity.

But, this suggestion too was torpedoed. Noteworthy names from the Muslim clergy such as Maulana Syed Sajjad Nomani and Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, both who occupy positions of power in the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, insisted that according to the Islamic law this was not possible.

The former minced no words in his disapproval. He criticised those who have with them more than one vehicle in their household or live in comfortable houses, even as he raised objections about such people encouraging forfeiting the qurbani.

Meanwhile, the latter took a softer approach and said that those wanting to donate money instead of making the sacrifice are not people with malignant intentions, but that they have not fully-grasped the rationale behind making the sacrifice on Eid Al Adha. He said that qurbani is the sunnah of Prophet Ibrahim and symbolises that Muslims will sacrifice anything for their God.

While some say that this confusion has arisen only now, there are others who have been entertaining the thought for some time now. A few are already practicing this. Others, in line with the suggestions of the clergy, have given up nafl qurbani, which is, for example, made in the name of a family member who is not saheb-e-nisaab.

The clergy, including the fatwa from the Darul Uloom Deoband, opines that in exchange of the nafl qurbani, money which is the equivalent of the cost of the animal be donated to the poor. Also, for the sake of understanding, instead of buying an animal for, say Rs. 10,000, a less expensive one be bought, for demonstrative purposes say Rs. 6,000 and amount saved, that is Rs. 4,000, be donated to charity

What is unclear is this setting of an unofficial the ‘benchmark price’. As is known, the prices of animals for sacrifice have fluctuated, mostly upward, with each passing year.

Those who are not associated with the AIMPLB too have tried to clarify their position on the subject. For example, from the Friday sermon pulpit in Hyderabad of the Shahi Masjid Bagh-e-Aama, Khateeb Maulana Ehsan al-Homoomi too strongly supported that those on whom sacrifice is mandatory, perform it without fail. He said that Muslims should take the responsibility of safety in the times of COVID-19, and batted for sacrifice be performed by a group of people. Moulana al-Homoomi said that these people should get butchers tested for Corona Virus and then perform the skinning of the animal.

In spite of the major Islamic institutions and personalities opposing substitution of cash for animal sacrifice, there are small groups who are still in two minds—whether to follow the opinion of a large number of Ulema or donate animal price among the poor.

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