When one starts questioning the rituals of Eidul Azha

Published: October 6, 2014

The poor animals being slaughtered actually provide livelihood to millions of poor Pakistanis who wait eagerly for this Eid to sell off the cattle they have raised all year round. PHOTO: FILE

The poor animals being slaughtered actually provide livelihood to millions of poor Pakistanis who wait eagerly for this Eid to sell off the cattle they have raised all year round. PHOTO: REUTERS The poor animals being slaughtered actually provide livelihood to millions of poor Pakistanis who wait eagerly for this Eid to sell off the cattle they have raised all year round. PHOTO: FILE

Eidul Azha in a rural set-up has jarring differences when compared to how we celebrate this Eid in cities. I live and celebrate my Eid in Karachi, but if I celebrate it in my ancestral village in Khairpur, Sindh, this is what would be different.

The animals would be much less expensive, much more readily available, and the sense of community in sharing the meat would be the focus. Less affluent neighbours and relatives will casually come to the house where an animal is sacrificed and ask candidly for a share of the meat. The ones giving it out will not look down on the ones asking for it. There are fewer formalities and lesser ego issues involved, something that urbane sensibilities take away.

But perhaps the best thing about celebrating this Eid in my village is that no one questions the ritual. In an urban, more “aware” world, we question everything. But when each religious ritual is questioned, its efficacy is doubted and its methodology is demeaned, we are actually getting ahead of ourselves. A classic example is what we here every year:

“Why not do away with this ritual of animal sacrifice?”

The reasons given are many. The fact that this ritual involves blood and “gore” and millions of poor animals end up losing their lives, and so the ritual is too violent. The fact that the stench, the organs, the blood (yes, the blood is a pet peeve) and the slaughter waste makes our entire cities abattoirs. And the most classic one is that the same money could be used to help the needy with their more urgent needs.

“Why not pay a poor child’s yearly school fee, rather than spending the same money on slaughtering a goat?”

The answers to above criticisms are quite simple, really.

The problem is not with so many animals being slaughtered, but with the fact that our cities in Pakistan are not equipped with the infrastructure to dispose the slaughter waste on this day, or any day actually. Our anger is misdirected at the ritual, whereas the problem lies with the lack of civic sense in our citizens in how they dispose the slaughter waste. Here, we stumble upon a bigger issue – the fact that being a good citizen that does not harm others is a basic tenet of Islam, but is sadly not seen as one. But just because people break traffic signals, we cannot stop using cars on streets. Similarly, the ritual cannot be done away with because of the fault of some.

The poor animals being slaughtered actually provide livelihood to millions of poor Pakistanis who wait eagerly for this Eid to sell off the cattle they have raised all year round. Try and explain to the shepherds who travel to Karachi from Tharparkar and to Lahore from villages in Rahimyar Khan that you think this ritual should be done away with. The reaction may surprise you.

What’s interesting is that most of the people criticising the ritual are avid meat-eaters all year round. It is not like they moved to being vegetarians and vegans. They love their ‘bong ki nihari’ and ‘mutton pulao’, but have a problem with this, giving reasons from environmental imbalance to being unkind towards nature.

The ritual is mandatory for those who can afford to sacrifice an animal. In today’s era of inflation, if a person can afford to spend on an animal’s sacrifice once a year, then that person can for sure spend on paying a child’s fee for school too. Why are the two things mutually exclusive? Why must I choose one?

But who are we kidding? The above given reasons, both for and against this ritual, are logical. And religion, worship, and most of all faith, cannot be explained by logic. Humans are innately selective in the logic they choose to strengthen what they already believe in.

Muslims, who unquestioningly carry on this ritual, or any ritual of faith, may have understood that salvation lies in trusting how the Mastermind has designed religion. He created us and He knows what works for us. Sitting and meditating is great but can never replace the five daily prayers. A nature hike may be great for your soul but can never have the effect that sa’ee between the perpetually overcrowded Safa and Marwa in the hot city of Makkah does. And if I spend money to help a needy (which I must, as charity is both a ritual and a purification exercise), it’s a great thing to do, but will not have the same effect as sacrificing an animal on this day.

In this act, I feel an affinity with that act of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). As someone who has genetic hemophobia and cannot stand the sight of blood, it’s not an easy ritual. But then, acts of love and leaps of faith never really are easy.  As mentioned in the Holy Quran, it is not the flesh or blood of animals that reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches Him. The biggest part of piety is handing over one’s reigns to Allah, and saying, “You Know best”. Accepting one’s human limitations of understanding when compared with Divine wisdom – that, my friends, is the ultimate sacrifice.

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz is a writer and editor, and has worked as the Features Editor with The Express Tribune. Her focus is human-centric feature stories. She now writes as a freelancer, and works in the field of marketing and corporate communications. She loves literature and traveling. She tweets on @FarahnazZahidi. Her work can be seen at chaaidaani.wordpress.com/

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Shahid K.

    The sacrifice of the animal is only incumbent on those who perform the haj while visiting from outside Mecca. People who perform the haj while living in the meeqaat (area around Mecca) perform the haj Ifrad and for them even it is optional not to sacrifice an animal at the completion of their haj. So why are we living thousand of miles from Mina are obligated to perform this ritual when the people living close to the holy land do not even sacrifice the animals on Eid ul Azha? If you want to do the sunnah of Prophet Ibrahim, then go to the site (Mina) where he offered the sacrifice and not do it in your homes.Recommend

  • vaqas

    Without getting into any argument, the fact remains that there are so many things in our religion, as it is practised today, that should be questioned its not even funny. And more importantly, the right to question any and everything (including religion) should be restored to the people, and the sword hanging over there heads in the shape of the blashemy law should be removed completely and immediately and without any thought put into it.Recommend

  • WB

    “Muslims, who unquestioningly carry on this ritual, or any ritual of
    faith, may have understood that salvation lies in trusting how the
    Mastermind has designed religion.”

    There is absolutely no verifiable evidence that any religion is made by god.

    All evidences claimed by people is invariably baseless.Recommend

  • Abid

    And then the writer wakes up ……oh we’re still in real world. US is fighting IS, Obama is killing Osama, Rich are becoming richer….Capitalism lives on….poor animals….some killed for their fur and some for their meat. Wrong…so wrong….may be you should go back to sleep.Recommend

  • Junaid

    If someone questions the ritual, what problem do you have? Just because its sacred for you doesn’t mean its sacred for everyone. It may be divine wisdom for you, and not for others.Recommend

  • shiraz

    The blogger no where asks you to treat the ritual as sacred against your wishes..but are you so piqued if she justifies the sacredness from her point? and ..Sir. Obviously you are among the people who would love to reward a good chef for a mouth watering dish of non veg but after turning your plate would start bragging about the INHUMAN QUALITIES of the ones who have slaughtered the animal and made it possible to satisfy your taste buds. Hypocrisy. ..at its best.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Feeble argumentation.

    1) The ritualistic slaughter industry provides livelihood to ‘millions’; so did
    audio cassettes and floppy disks. To maintain an industry that’s obsolete or
    has been shown to be morally or environmentally problematic, just because it
    provides jobs, is irrational.

    2) The idea that an “avid meat-eater” is not allowed to criticize slaughter, is like saying a cigarette smoker is not allowed to acknowledge the ill effects of smoking. Would you rather they stay in denial of the consequences of their action, because it suits their lifestyle?

    3) The practice is “mandatory” depending on who you ask. There are more than one schools of thought.

    4) Yes, we can pay for a poor child’s schooling AND give him meat. But our concern is you using the giving of meat as a way to justify the slaughter’s environmental, moral and even social costs (it could potentially desensitize children to violence, by portraying this as ‘celebration’). As if there’s no other way for you to give charity, except in the form of meat.

    You may as well have shortened your blog to five words: “Because my religion says so”, which would’ve been just as compelling.Recommend

  • Sam

    Author can you eloberate on “but will not have the same effect as sacrificing an animal on this day.”. What wish do you think will God almighy grant you by taking life of an animal. The animal is also God’s creation. Have you rationally thought what good will come out by taking an innocent life. You are offering a life sacrifice to the same God who preaches that “saviour is always bigger than the killer”. Just ponder over this thought.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    You can eat ice-cream, and acknowledge the health problems it causes, both at the same time. It doesn’t make you a hypocrite. It just means you’re not living in denial.Recommend

  • Critical

    I wouldnt question the sacrifice of the animals but I would question the way of sacrifice…

    I’m a meat eater but If I see McD killing a chicken or Cow right in front of my eyes everytime I order a Big Mac with chicken nuggets…I might probably pass out….

    I dont like the fact that they kill cows and camels right in the middle of the street and in fact encourage kids to watch the scenes of an animal writhing in agony as the blood pours out of it…Recommend

  • Critical

    When one starts questioning the Eid rituals

    Ans: Beat them like this…

    What you see is what happened to a PETA activist who stood outside a mosque asking them to have a bloodless Eid….Recommend

  • Junaid

    Do you know me personally? If not, how come you know I say anything against eating meat or slaughtering animals?

    I eat meat and have no issue with slaughtering animals, but I do have an issue with other people enforcing their beliefs on me. The author implies that qurbani is sacred and no one should question it; I disagree. It’s not for her to tell us what we can or can’t question.

    She says that charity can’t have the effect that Qurbani has, this is her OPINION that she’s trying to pass off as a fact!Recommend

  • Samira

    If you dont question rituals we would be stuck in dark ages. Sati would still be there. Inquisitions would still be here. Women would still not be allowed to vote! Remember there was a time when people would sacrifice other humans to their gods. Therefore, questioning religion, traditions and values is necessary.Recommend

  • Anjum Arshi

    Contribution of this Eid to economy is over 500 billion rupees. Thousands of rural families and middle men benefit from this economic activity. More respectful and effective than giving alms. HOWEVER, we Muslims sacrifice animals to follow the example of Abraham. Period. Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    “r u an educated woman?”

    Ostensibly, educated enough to not use personal arguments, and type full words like “are” and “you”.Recommend

  • Asif

    Islam ver 1.1 coming soon? Do release a Beta first … Utter nonsense … Islam is complete (Period). Don’t hide behind your petty cultural, economical, social problem’s and make it a basis for unleashing your weird ideas. Fix your issues… Islam has nothing to do with them.Recommend

  • Parvez

    It is very, very difficult for me to reconcile with the idea this custom ( for it is a custom that has grown out of a story in the Holy book to show that if one keeps faith in God he is rewarded ) has to be literally re-enacted……by taking the life of a helpless defenceless animal. I don’t mean to hurt people’s sensibilities but surely in this 21st century can’t we come up with a solution that would satisfy both the religious side and the humane side.Recommend

  • Critical

    (it could potentially desensitize children to violence, by portraying this as ‘celebration’)

    Agree with you,My muslim friends once pulled me to watch the qurbaani of a camel…(Camels are so rare in south india)…I still cant shake off the fountain of blood pouring from its neck and two women with huge bucket rushing to catch the blood….

    Being a non-vegetarian doesnt mean I would rejoice looking at a slaughter…Recommend

  • Ruhaifa Adil

    Jazakillah Khairan, Farahnaz.. couldnt have read your post at a better time, with people questioning the command for sacrifice and coming up with arguments of “inhumane treatment”, and “spending money on something better”

    By all means folks, when you go out to a restaurant to have a meal worth thousands of rupees, please instead spend it on something “better”; when buying the latest lawn ka jora, please instead “ëducate a child”; when indulging in a new car or jewellery, do the charity you are suggesting one does now instead of a goat.

    Why is it that all “good deeds” are remembered “instead of” doing what Allah wants, but not when you are doing what you want?Recommend

  • tman

    get ready for the trolls to jump in lady as you just said positive things about religion ..Recommend

  • Virkaul

    Bootlegging, drugs trade, arms smuggling and many other such occupations too support livelihood of millions.Recommend

  • Hmm…

    Was thinking about your comment.Maybe the solution that would satisfy,both the religious & the humane side was each mosque/community sacrificing a single animal (instead of an animal for each household) -that way the symbolism is complete. And it would also be nice if the sacrifice was attended only by those above 21.Recommend

  • ali88

    Thatswhat blogs are for. Blogs are opinion peices. Y are u getting so worked up?Recommend

  • vasan

    Becoming Vegetarian is the only correct way to solve all these problems and above all will avoid violenceRecommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/riaz.ali.1069020 Riaz Ali

    The blogger has never questioned anyone. She has righfully questioned the hypocrisy of this seasonal breed of animal lovers who rise up every Eid ul Adha after enjoying their meat dishes all throughout the year. And there are people to justify this hypocrisy.Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/riaz.ali.1069020 Riaz Ali

    Well said.Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/riaz.ali.1069020 Riaz Ali

    The PETA activist made provocative remarks right in front of a mosque where people come to pray. Why did the PETA activist have to choose a mosque for a demonstration when there were so many other areas in the city to do so. And moreover when has PETA had a demonstration against the meat sacrifices during the Durga Puja and in the buffalo slaughter happening in many temples.
    And if they love animals so much, let them stop killing cockroaches, bees, spiders and even algae.Recommend

  • Indian

    ‘There is absolutely no verifiable evidence that any religion is made by God’
    Secular people can live by evidence & spiritual people can live by faith.
    Both should accept each others differences & co-exist in society.As long as people respect the Constitution ,no one cares who believes/disbelieves,what.Recommend

  • Usman

    genetic hemophobia!!? lol wut??!Recommend

  • Mursil

    There is a concept called ‘Cyclic dependency check’ in computer science which is used to verify the content of a file transfer at the receiving end.
    Quran has suggested a similar mechanism to check the authenticity of the message in Quran. You will not find conflict among the different Ayats of Quran.Recommend

  • LS

    Where did she say Islam in her post? The word she used is Rituals… Rituals by definition isn’t always religious. As far as questioning a religion is concerned that is her pejorative not yours… So get off your holier than thou horse and first learn comprehend what is written.Recommend

  • J.P,Sharma

    Here, In INDIA The PETA activists, the women,one of them a Muslim, were chased and beaten, just because they were carrying a placard saying Happy Eid and urging to go vegan this Eid. Glad to see such thought provoking article for which the Tribune’ is known for. HATS OFF TO THE AUTHOR For writing such a masterpiece.Recommend

  • Heh ?

    People who consume non-vegetarian food should also enjoy the gore of en-masse slaughter,to escape the tag of hypocrisy ?!

  • Gratgy

    The only ones doing “Qurbani” are the poor animals themselvesRecommend

  • Indian

    Buffalo slaughter ? I haven’t heard of anything like that-but if such a practice exists-then it’s good to encourage that-one animal per temple/mosque/community, instead of one animal per home/per family-much less gore,blood & offal…cleaner city & more humane.
    ( How odd to compare swatting cockroaches to slitting the throat of a large,four legged mammal…)Recommend

  • Asif

    Can you take your head out of the clouds and read my comment again … it says don’t blame religion for the malpractices you have developed on your own. Writer wants to review a pillar of Islam based on what she thinks is a ritual … Have you been school to know what happens when a pillar is attacked for all wrong reasons? Recommend

  • Vish

    Sacrificing an animal is the wrong & easy way to do it. Prophet Ibrahim was ready to sacrifice his own son (his most precious possession), when God permitted him to sacrifice a lamb (God’s own creation) instead. Only those who are prepared to show their love for God, by following Prophet Ibrahim’s example and sacrifice their most precious possessions, follow the true spirit of Eidul Zuha. For eg. Nawaz Sharif needs to sacrifice all his luxuries and material possessions to qualify as a true muslim. Definitely not easy. To kill God’s creatures one needs permission from God (as Prophet Ibrahim had)Recommend

  • abhi

    An this is forced qurbaniRecommend

  • abhi

    “When one starts questioning the rituals ” Thats when you know they have started using their minds.Recommend

  • Kiran

    If the elite were to give away the sacrificed meat to the poor, every single person in Pakistan could eat well, even if it is for one day. so it’s not the ritual that’s the problem, it’s the people, especially the upper middle class who fail to distribute the meat to those worse off.Recommend

  • Lol..

    Oops..hahaha :DRecommend

  • Zee

    Sorry Mam! Don’t confuse with the traditions and core teaching of Islam! You can’t question the religion.Recommend

  • Parvez

    That’s a suggestion….and a start. The thing to ponder is that should a decision like this be left up to the public through a public forum….or an enforcement by the State, to be done for the betterment of all. After that the actual methodology could be debated.
    To be realistic this will always remain a academic debate in Pakistan but then, nothing changes without trying.Recommend

  • Zee

    Best comment so far! Even I wonder those who usually love to eat meat, enjoy spending on luxuries start lecturing to do some thing better instead spending on Qurbani.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Sacrificing bakras is now a “pillar of Islam”? Must be a brand, new 6th pillar you’ve unilaterally introduced after Shahadah, Salat, Zakat, Roza and Hajj.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Except that when I buy a ‘lawn ka jora’, nobody’s throat is sliced, and no violence is celebrated.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    Well…this may be construed as blasphemy. We live in strange times.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    But religion has taken over the constitution in many places like Pakistan.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    Oh Allah!Recommend

  • Indian

    True- and that’s not a good thing in today’s world.
    A secular Constitution is what best helps people co-exist in harmony,irrespective of who believes what & human rights are ensured for all.Recommend

  • Hmm…

    Neither the public,nor the state..maybe it’s the local municipalities/local sanitation/public health departments that should set such guidelines for all the cities & maybe explain beforehand,via posters & circulars about city sanitation & the health hazards of too much offal from en masse slaughter & encourage the use of just one animal per mosque & also,stiff fines for those who break the guidelines.Recommend

  • abhi

    If the economic contribution is huge, it is better idea to do it daily!Recommend

  • naveen

    I wonder reading all the comments as to how perverted and violent i “should” have become having witnessed qurbaani since age 8/9 (i am now 35)!!! My sons are more violent and filled with rage thanks to the trending video games rather than any qurbaani that they have ever witnessed. It would be good to have factual discussions on these things rather than abstract ones. Further how islam advises treatment to the animal to be slaughtered is more humane than what i have heard or seen in any other code of ethics- If you don’t like meat / the ritual of animal slaughter thats your issue, i don’t see anything inhumane about it!Recommend

  • LS

    You said…
    1) Islam ver 1.1…
    2) Islam is complete…
    3) Islam has nothing to do with them

    There is no word religion in that post. Islam is just one of Many religions. Sacrificing animals is part of many religions but cannot be PILLAR of any religion. It is a ritual; a gift given to God. God isn’t asking for animal sacrifice, you might as well gift some fruits if you want.Recommend

  • Anon

    I can’t stand people like you. For a lot of folks meat is the most easily accessible food. You’ll sit around crying about not sacrificing animals but won’t lift a finger to feed the poor. At the same time you’ll eat some organic vegan thing that was picked by poor people laboring under the hot sun and receiving poor wages. The animal becomes more important than any person who might be suffering,Recommend

  • B

    Why can’t she question about religion? Something told to you and you just accept it without asking anything? If I tell you, the sun rises in the west or the Earth is flat, you will just believe it or, you will ask for clarifications?Recommend

  • Muhammad Waqar

    When performing qurbani become celebration of violence…..Recommend

  • Salma

    Questioning you and questioning GOD is different. You cant question your creator. Period.Recommend

  • gp65

    IS Qurbani violent? IS it celebrated? Answert these 2 questions and you have answer to your question.Recommend

  • gp65

    You can distribute meat without publicly slaughtering an animal in front of young kids.Recommend

  • Blunt

    Come on…how else will they be desensitized & trained enough to cut the throats of foreign journalists ?Recommend

  • Parvez Iqbal Malik

    Great write up. From my meagre knowledge of religion, it is only mandatory for those performing Hajj – Salat, Zakat, Saum and Hajj being mandatory and Qurbani is part of Hajj. It is Sunnat-e-Ibrahimi not farad. May Allah(SWT) forgive me for my faulty knowledge, but that is what I have come to understand in over 60 years of reading and talking to “experts” on madhab.Recommend

  • Parvez Iqbal Malik

    This is not about being a vegetarian or not.Recommend

  • imad uddin

    Several among m relatives augue against the act of fasting as they give several reasons for it including tht God does not need a man to do all this for Him. But no one i know challenges the wisdom behind the ritual of qurbani.
    One cant even imagine when Prophet Muhammad pbuh must have asked them to follow one God anf that even the most powerful among men are slave to him, ho hard must the opposition have been. The real “Qurbani” is when u explain it to an unaware person for his benefit, knowing tht you will be humiliated, and believing tht the next person could be much better than you morally, spritually, if just he knew. When u surrender ur ego in front ofAllah , and undestand the responsibility, when u feel that other people deserve the understanding of deen more, while it has been blessed to you, the less able, the less deserving, it is where the qurbani comes
    But ur last sentence sounds a bit misleading even to me , a receptive reader.
    My experience has been, when Allah opens certain patterns for u n shows u what is right n why, u must fill tht space with obedience, and Allah opens further patterns… till u clearly see it all. N u can see how some arguments are merely a result of seeking space, indifference or merelly argument for d sake of argument.
    When u know its from God, u dont need to sacrifice to believe in its wisdom. ITS INCIDENTAL.

  • Sundas Arshad


  • http://www.facebook.com/riaz.ali.1069020 Riaz Ali

    If you have so much concern for animals it should be across the board. Don’t be a hypocrite who will happily kill cockroaches and then. For cleaner cities first ask the municipal authorities to collect waste properly. Cleanliness of a city does not depend on an animal sacrifice happening once a year. Plus it is one animal per family provided they can afford it.Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/riaz.ali.1069020 Riaz Ali

    If you consume non vegetarian food, you very well know animals are slaughtered for that very purpose. People who use silk and fur know animals are reared and then killed for that very purpose. and people act as animal lovers should stop killing insects, cockroaches. Finally learn something about the laws of nature, deer eats grass and the lion eats the deers.Recommend

  • Zeeshan Afghan

    why not you say i am atheist and i don’t believe in God or whatever, the same God created lion who does not eat grass.Recommend

  • ayyaz

    I ll only comment on your environmental concern of slaughter. I live in middle east where collectively more animals are slaughtered than those in Pakistan and India. They have made such infrastructure and set of rules that anyone who is not participating in the ritual never get a chance to even hear that where and how this is happening. I agree with the writer that our anger should be directed to lack of civic sense which prevails in our society rather than towards the ritual itself.Recommend

  • kafir
  • rationalist

    What a barbaric and primitive practice.Recommend

  • rationalist

    So It is ok for you to have someone else kill a defenseless animals for you to eat? Isn’t the whole practice of butchering defenseless animals and eating them a primitive and barbaric practice?Recommend

  • rationalist

    Isn’t that hypocrisy? You will eat what someone else kills for you as long as you don’t have to watch it?Recommend

  • rationalist

    You don’t need to kill a poor animal to feed the poor. Humans can live on vegetarian diets. The most powerful animal on earth, the elephant, is a vegetarian.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Seeing an animal get slaughtered gives you an appreciation of the meat you have, I feel it encourages you not to waste and appreciate that it was once a live being. (similarly Id imagine seeing the hardwork used to grow crops has a similar effect)Recommend

  • vikas


  • vikas

    its not concern for the animal. Its concern for hygiene and the sanity of childrenRecommend

  • vikas

    you did not make any sense. what were you trying to say exactly?Recommend