Explaining Bakra Eid to a foreigner: “Why do you people sacrifice animals?”

Published: September 26, 2015

They had some pertinent and intellectual queries that needed a more scholarly take than I had to offer.

Bakra Eid and ‘bari’  Eid are the two loving nicknames I used while referring to the feast of sacrifice all of my childhood that I spent in Pakistan, until I moved to the West and realised that people mostly referred to it to as Eidul Azha in this part of the world.

I have often been asked by Americans and people from other faiths about the significance of both the Eids, and while Eidul Fitr has been naturally easy to explain, Eidul Azha not so much.

Most of us growing up in liberal Muslim households do not educate ourselves, cerebrally, on the philosophy behind the Islamic rituals and practices we conduct. Every Islamic ritual has a broader and philosophically intellectual significance to it rather than the obvious one, and it is of prime importance to understand the rational aspect of Islam to really and truly understand and appreciate it. Our faith focuses on tolerance, inclusion and peace, and in today’s divisive world, it is of primary importance to focus and teach the next generation the cerebral aspect of Islam, the one that literally means peace.

While having a discussion with young American Muslims, the same question was put forward to me: How would you explain Eidul Azha to a foreigner from your perspective?

I tried to explain to them the best way I know, however, they had some pertinent and intellectual queries that needed a more scholarly take than I had to offer. Hence, I turned to Dr Aslam Abdullah for a more detailed answer to the same. Dr Abdullah is the director of the Islamic Society of Nevada. He teaches Islamic studies at the OLLI centre of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. He has triple masters in Arabic and Islamic studies, sociology and has a PhD in communications. Dr Abdullah has appeared on Fox News and CNN on various occasions to discuss Islam.

According to Dr Abdullah,

“Eidul Azha, the festival of sacrifice, commemorates sacrifices offered by the family of Prophet brahm (PBUH), the patriarch of the three monotheistic religions, namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Judaism and Islam believe varying versions of this great sacrifice. The Jewish faith believes that it was Isaac who was offered for sacrifice, while Islam says that it was Prophet Ismail (PBUH), the eldest son who was offered for sacrifice.

Regardless of the variation in details, the truth is that Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) and his son were willing to carry out the divine command and sacrifice their dearest possession.”

The following explanation is the intellectual understanding of the great incident, hence an enlightening moment for all those who have been searching upon this topic.

“Obviously, it was a teaching moment for humanity with a clear message that there comes a moment in the life of individuals and nations, when they must be prepared to sacrifice the dearest of their resources for the common good of all. The sacrifice offered by Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) was a clear statement about the belief in one God, when idol worshipping was the norm. It was a bold move, and one with a very clear message emphasising to people that no individual, power or authority should be followed in place of God. It was a declaration that authority ultimately belongs to God.”

On the explanation and significance of Hajj, Dr Abdullah said the following,

“The visitation to Makkah, for five days, the ritual set in motion by the family of Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) has few other dimensions. It is an assembly where a community asserts, through its behaviour and many rituals, that it does not discriminate among people on the basis of race, ethnicity, colour, or stature. Everyone is equal in the eyes of God, and it is possible to create a world that has no barriers.”

This, in essence, asserts that barriers are created by human beings.

“The way Muslims dress, live and engage in rituals during that time, enhancing the concept of equality in the best possible manner. Hajj offers the greatest assembly of human beings on earth at one place, and all devoting themselves to the divine guidance. It provides the platform to people from different backgrounds to interact with each other, learn about and from each other and develop a common understanding of goals and aspirations. It cements the bond of commonality and humanity amongst people, who may otherwise differ in language, race or ethnicity. It gives them hope in the principle of equality and unity at a community level, and eventually at the global level.”

This sounds more idealistic than realistic, but religious ideology is focused on common and greater good, its interpretation and practice not so much.

Dr Abdullah further added,

“The other dimension of Hajj is that it gives a sense of historical continuity of the divine message. It reminds us that God has always given guidance to humanity, and that guidance is in our very best interest. In fact, the day of Eidul Azha is not just for Muslims, it is for every member of the Abrahamic family including Jews and Christians. In the recent past, I suggested to Muslim Americans to celebrate this day dedicated to the Children of Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH), and that Muslims should organise programs inviting Jews, Christians and people of other faiths to share their common heritage. I hope that someday, we would be able to do that and live the spirit of Hajj in its real and true spirit.”

Bisma Tirmizi

Bisma Tirmizi

The author lives for the simple pleasures and her musings over a cup of tea almost always find a way to be the written word. She also writes for pakteahouse.net. Her book 'Feast With A Taste Of Amir Khusro', published by Rupa Publications, is available in stores now.

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

  • Nabiel

    I don’t enjoy bakra eid all that very much because of the way animals are slaughtered here. There are hardly proper butchers to handle animals properly. I was always ready for the pain wali debate but since then have come to realise that our way might be less painful.


  • Waron Dafe

    more excuses for being sadistic, why torture and kill poor animals in the name of god?Recommend

  • X-moslem

    Still not clear why millions of animals need to be sacrificed for some events which took place thousands of years ago….Jews dont do that, Christians dont do that, why is that Islam still carries these practices…Recommend

  • Parvez

    Sorry……that really did not explain how its ‘ all right ‘ to buy an expensive animal two days before the event, then slaughter it, then sigh a sigh of relief that ‘ I’ve done my duty ‘
    On your bringing up of monotheistic religions in your explanation, there is a study that says Zoroastrianism founded about 2000 BCE was the religion that first propagated the concept of one God…..and as far as I know they are a religious lot but have no culture of animal sacrifice, in your words to make ‘ a clear statement of the belief in one God ‘.
    What I appreciate is that you have clearly spelled out that this is a ritual based on a story in all the religious texts…….my point is why is the ritual glorified to an extent where the substance looses significance.Recommend

  • Ash N

    We don’t have to explain ourselves to anyone.Recommend

  • Ajay

    If you want to sacrifice your dearest possession to God like the Prophets sacrificed their Sons, why you kill a poor animal in most inhuman way? And you name it divine command and God’s wish? It doesnt make sense. If one has to sacrifice one has to donate to charity because money is a mans most dearest possession. Killing of poor animals in Muslim households with women and children watching the poor animal pinned to the ground, its throat being slit, whimpering in pain and blood flowing is a most insensitive and horrible sight any one can digest. What was caveman’s religious ritual cant be valid today. Moreover too much importance to rituals are counter productive since it generates ego in the man that he is very religious and pure and others are less religious that’s why inferior to me. The real purpose of religion is to become spiritual and not to kill defenseless animals and justify bloodshed.Recommend

  • clap clap

    You guys must surely be animal-lovers, to call their killing a sacrifice!Recommend

  • Oz Oz Oz Oye OyeOye

    Please do NOT justify through any form of stories that a peace loving God has given authority to kill animal in the name of sacrifice and peace…Sorry I am not buying it..and I genuinely have no intention to hurt anyone’s religious sentiments irrespective of any religion which allows any form of killing any human (for example honour killings) or any animal. For the current generation of youngsters I ask this Question to you: We are well educated and can apply our own logic to things…Is it necessary to just blindly accept status quo in these matters where we kill animals in the name of ‘Sacrifice’ ??? I cannot think of any other close analogy other than following: If Raja Ram Mohan Roy had not influenced the Indian society in 1800, there would still be women dying on the pyre of her husband in the name of ‘sati’. So just because my parents and fore fathers have done things in a certain way, does not mean that it is correct…I may not be able to change the world, but I can DEFINITELY change myself…A proud Converted Vegetarian.Recommend

  • AsifButt

    You are probably more illiterate than practical.
    The west is gradually realizing the benefits of “Islamic Animal Slaughtering Methods”.
    For centuries the Western civilizations have skinned animals and used them for their superficial lifestyles. For centuries the whole world has been living on animal meat.
    And people like you , out of the blue , just pop in with some lame “poor animal” theories.
    This universe , planet earth and the plants and animals existing are there for some very distinguishable reasons. Why have you picked Muslims on their Holy day to criticize all this ? Are you so illiterate that you dont know that consumable animals have been used throughout the history of mankind ?

    I know what you are . Like most of the global racists , you are simply a Muslim hater…Recommend

  • Queen

    People all over the world who hunt and kill animals for food are all sadists, right? BTW, Does killing people especially children for giving ‘bali’ to gods not indicate sadism? Point to ponder.Recommend

  • waqas mansoor

    about 1 billion animal killed in KFC , MCdonalds and burger king etc to feed the rich and make money no one gives a sht about, but when during eid muslim sacrifies animal to feed the poor and suddenly yall become animal lovers and great human beings, cooool story broRecommend

  • Ozi

    to all non veg guys. Why is it that sacrificing on this particular day pains you while eating the steak, nihari, qeema is OK the rest of the year . I am trying to understand are you against this day or sacrificing the animal in whole ?Recommend

  • Arsalan Haider

    hey foo when do we torture these animals ? we feed them take care of’em until the ritual day. It’s you who immorally biased. don’t you eat meat ? don’t you eat chicken. haan…? big fast food chains slaughter billions of animals per day and yet when Muslims do it for a day we are being sadistic. Look at ur sleves first.Recommend

  • Gary

    Agree with you. Islam apparently means peace, but they shall prove that by slaughtering innocent helpless animals. Why can’t they sacrifice stupidity instead?Recommend

  • Ansari

    Why don’t you ask this from McDonalds. They do the same thing daily.Recommend

  • Vijender Singh

    I am not convinced with the explanation provided about the killing of so many animals in one day, just because of a religious ritual. Religion infact has become a business for many and it is not limited to Islam alone. Until Turks were ruling the Macca region, anyone could go to Mecca/Medina. But Saudis have created a business out of it and have become defacto leaders of the muslims by controlling access to the holy sites. I wonder how prophet Mohammed feels watching all this from heaven. Many non-muslims also have same love & respect for prophet mohammed and may wish to visit Mecca but its a pity that his legacy and teachings have been ‘occupied’. His messages and teachings could have benefited many more and Islam could have been very different from what it has become, if it would not have become the ‘property’ of some. The number of people who visit Dargah in Ajmer is equally high and Saint Moin-ud-deen Chisti is equally loved by muslims & non-muslims. TO me the meaning of ‘Musalman’ is someone who has ‘musal-sal-iman’ and that is the crux of what prophet taught this world. He never asked anyone to come and visit Macca or sacrifice animals to prove that you are a good muslim. He was a messenger of peace and harmony and even being a non-muslim I love him. I wish the author would talk someday about the noble souls like Baba Bulle Shah, Baba Ghulam Farid, Baba Nanak who people are forgetting due to spread of Wahabism in the place where she spent her child hood. God bless!Recommend

  • stars

    “The west is gradually realizing the benefits of “Islamic Animal Slaughtering”—ROFL- West is in fact realizing the benefits of going completely Vegan. Don’t fool yourself in false ideas. Animal Agriculture is the leading factor of climate change. Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.Recommend

  • Cynical


  • ajeet

    Mullah bhai
    Hate is your creed. Many countries are banning halal slaughter.Recommend

  • rationalist

    I agree that those eating meat and never think of where that comes from are a little hypocritical when they complain against animal sacrifice.

    Humans can live quite well on a vegetarian diet. There is no need to kill a defenseless animal for food.

    After all, isn’t human conscience supposed to evolve on the basis of humanism, enlightenment and compassion for all living thing?Recommend

  • Qamar Abbas

    Animals are your assets, and giving up the assets is Sacrifice ! …. Meat from the animal is distributed among the poor people, and that is the lesson which we learn from this act !Recommend

  • Saad Ali Shaikh

    Islam promotes the concept sharing and caring. We are advised to select for our brother what we select/like for ourselves. what else in the world would be better than to share with your family, relatives and poor. The best food today is meat. and poor can’t afford it because of its price. the concept is to divide the whole thing in 3 portions, self, relatives and poor/needy. do you find any flaw in this? anyone left out to address to?Recommend

  • Saad Ali Shaikh

    Life is a cycle. things are created in a way that they will depend on others. rationally speaking, you should not eat veg because they are poor plants and can’t cry when you chop them off. the last oxygen you inhaled consisted of alot of germs, which you just killed.
    Ajay, at your holy places milk is poured on your gods(very respectfully). I am very respectfully addressing to the fact that, the poor sit outside the temples and rich instead of donating that thing to poor waste it by pouring. how would you justify that?
    secondly, is there any other way you can sacrifice an animal without hurting much considering the blood flows out correctly? any idea you would suggest, like cutting legs? cutting body in half? anything?Recommend

  • Ozi Ozi Ozi Oye Oye Oye

    @waqas mansoor and similars….why is that some Muslims like you become defensive when someone asks a genuine question on the lines of an article…No one is commenting here out of the blue…comments are here because this author is trying to explain and justify a ritual on behalf of Muslims…Now your question why people do not question KFC, McDonalds etc…they do NOT try to justify and write article to prove to the world that God has given them authority to kill animals in the name of ‘sacrifice’.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    only india is.Recommend

  • AsifButt

    It is your assumption that I am a Mullah . Or perhaps you have some delusional logic which I cant see here ?

    Many countries “WILL” ban halal slaughter due to people like Dafe and you ofcourse.

    And I think not even the person who gave you birth would understand how you deduced that hate is my creed.

    But I am sure you are enjoying all this,.Recommend

  • SuperNeo™

    worst of this is …. they made kids familiar with blood in street slaughtering of these animals.
    more than faith its show strength by public ally slaughtering these animals like taliban kill peoplesRecommend

  • roman

    The last paragraph was a catastrophe. But anyways. Let me tell All the criticers that the muslims dont give a Thing about what you Think and feel. We have always done it from when it becomes obligatory on us and We Will do it in the future as well. Listen people, nobody gives a Thing about your comments beside the muslims Who always have to defend islam in a very embarrasing way. We do the sacrificing(Who can afford it ) because its a command in islam from our creator. Thats the main reason. Period. Take it or leave it. A muslim brought in the West tired of pleasing non muslims instead of giving Them the real reason behind our actions. The non muslims appreciate This much more than All kind of strange arguments. Recommend

  • ajeet

    Just shows the bloodthirsty nature. The wile year, its humans who are slaughtered by this group, and one single day, its animal slaughter.Recommend

  • Bangladeshi

    Some people seem to have got mixed up between slaughter of millions of animals everyday for trade versus slitting open an animals throat in the presence of women and kids of the household. To make it more farcical, they happily go around saying that they have sacrificed the most loved possession of their live. Recommend

  • Ajay

    If you must eat meat, the animals should be transported, stored and slaughtered in modern abattoir under scientific process which cause minimum pain and torture to the animal and the meat packed and sold in hygienic conditions. What happens in muslim households in the name of sacrifice is a horrible torture and killing in front of children, women and all which is most insensitive even animals are watching others getting butchered and waiting their turn. I just can’t understand how any one can justify it as God’s wish. And how can the animal be your desired and loved possession if you just buy it on the day of the mass murder?Recommend

  • Atif

    If you read above its so easy to understand that slaughtering is not the thing that exclusively done by Muslims on a certain date. It’s continous around the globe -pick any day. More than two third of the people eat meat, of course it doesn’t come from the sacrifice Muslims do on Eid. Do you think the meat bought on butcher’s shop is justified but the one at our house is nit??

  • Uzair Aftab

    What do you mean by ‘Muslims do it for a day’? We don’t do it just for a day. Infact, we slaughter animals all the time (just like people belonging to other faiths do) & on this’ special bari eid’, we just break records for murdering maximum number of animals in one day. Which doesn’t make us better in anyway at all & fails to explain the idea behind murdering helpless animals.
    Your argument is baseless. Recommend

  • Zaki Mahmood

    Can u give some of the names where halal slaughter is ban? Recommend

  • Parvez

    Atif, in this case its not the slaughter of animals for food that is in question…….it’s the slaughter of animals in the name of ‘ sacrifice ‘ and if one looks a little deeper you will realize that really no sacrifice is involved……..it’s all ritual that completely eclipses the real meaning.Recommend

  • Ajay

    If at all you decide to eat meat, the animal should be transported and stored and slaughtered in a modern abattoir adopting scientific ways to cause minimum pain and meat processed , packed and sold in hygienic conditions. The way the animals are now cut in muslim households is quite insensitive and barbarian. No civilised community can continue with such practice in the name of religion. I am sorry to say there were many bad practices in hindu religion also but people change it and traditions doesn’t mean we blindly follow what could have been normal centuries ago. Recommend

  • ajeet

    Here you go mullah,
    Denmark has banned it. Finland and Poland have court cases going on against the ban. In the rest if the western world, the animal has to be stunned before the barbarians do halal slaughter, thus defeating the purpose. In India, no one do halal slaughter of cows where the patriots are present in more numbers than the Arabs.Recommend

  • abhi

    You right but still killing an animal and calling it sacrifice is little far fetched.Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    I personally do not think we should have articles on Faith, because it creates more confusion than it clears.

    All these people who are against sacrificing animals in front of children are right. And also that you didn’t just sacrificed your most loved possession, u just bought 1000s of rupees worth meat, which you can show around later in the neighborhood as a symbol status. the poor hardly get to eat anything even on this occasion.

    Animals should be slaughtered in abattoirs and not inside homes or on streets for hygiene and other purposes.

    Eating meat or be Vegan is a total different debate.Recommend

  • http://thoughtsandotherthing.blogspot.fr/2015/09/vegetarianism-ritual-killings-et-al.html Supriya Arcot
  • Saad Ali Shaikh

    Ajay: just make an unbiased search on google regarding why halal slaughter is better then other methods. you will get the answer. You will then understand the logic behind it. Let me say it with confidence, there is nothing illogical in islam. moreover, if you know the reason behind the phenomenon of ‘sacrifice’, you would not have asked these types of questions. you can raise questions regarding fasting, but on the other hand you should be rational in accepting the answers. If you don’t try to understand my point of view then how will you get what I want to say.Recommend

  • Saad Ali Shaikh

    I understand your point of view. but i would differ. just make an unbiased search on google regarding why halal slaughter is better then other methods. you will get the answer. You will then understand the logic behind it. Let me say it with confidence, there is nothing illogical in islam. moreover, if you know the reason behind the phenomenon of ‘sacrifice’, you would not have asked these types of questions. you can raise questions regarding fasting, but on the other hand you should be rational in accepting the answers. If you don’t try to understand my point of view then how will you get what I want to say.Recommend

  • http://thoughtsandotherthing.blogspot.fr/2015/09/vegetarianism-ritual-killings-et-al.html Supriya Arcot

    Thats banned by law today .Recommend

  • Ajay

    There are many ways of sharing and caring and Islam is not the only religion which promotes this. But slaughtering animals on mass scale in house and streets and cutting its flesh and distributing flesh is what demons would do not compassionate, civilised and sensitive humans.Recommend

  • ammar72

    Let us have a clear point. The people who “actually’ want to know about our this “sacrifice ritual” in Eid ul Azha have ample explanations and references given by the writer as well as commenters. They must take time and ponder over the logic, historical perspective, the importance of religion and ultimately the spirit of obedience that is the center-piece of Muslims’ practice. I hope that if they take it sincerely, there should be no problem in understanding the philosophy behind sacrifice and the Islamic way of slaughtering animals. And if they still have queries, they are most welcome. But to all “others” who just want to create fuss, spread hatred, abuse Muslims & Islam, propagating filth thru unnecessary & unending arguments are advised to live as before, as no explanation or logical answering can satisfy or cool them. They are dirty minds that don’t know any other thing than disclosing their inner selves and evil. Period.Recommend

  • deepak

    people eat meat for the gratification of senses ( for taste), it has nothing to do with god.. its all man made stories.Recommend

  • Sudhanshu Swami

    All the animals will receive blessing of Supreme God, because they sacrificed their life for their owners.Recommend

  • Soul Speek

    God asked Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his most beloved possession. He went on to sacrifice his own son as he was his favourite.
    How on earth a goat or cow purchased a few days before Eid equals the beloved Son?
    the sacrifice is one thing and participating in worldwide bloodshed,
    mayhem and butchering of poor animals is another thing.
    God is loving
    is compassionate. We can not feel Him by sacrificing a goat purchased
    from streets and showing our love to HIM..!!!Recommend

  • Mish

    I dont know why you people are arguing over this. Its our religious matter and we do it just like you worship cows, monkeys n elephants and drink their sacred piss. So kindly do what your religion tells you and let us do what our religion tells us. PeaceRecommend

  • Green Consciousness

    pretty words cannot hide the stink -denial, avoidance and liesRecommend

  • vinsin

    Dargah and Saint system is unislamic. You can always convert. Nanak was Kafir. Wahabism is based on Islam and Muhammed.Recommend

  • Soul Speek

    Show me, where in Quran it is written by creator to sacrifice animal on Eid ul Adha! Recommend