Eid al-Adha is called the Great Eid. It occurs at the culmination of the Hajj, and is the culmination of the first ten blessed days of Dhu al-Hijjah, days which have been described by our beloved Prophet (pbuh) as the best days of the year, exceeding even the days of Ramadan in their virtue.
From the confirmed Sunnahs (practices of the Prophet) of Eid al-Adha is the sacrifice of a suitable animal. One of the meanings of this sacrifice is to commemorate the sacrifice of Abraham, when he was tested by the command to sacrifice his son, Ismail. After demonstrating his willingness to conform totally to the command of Allah, a ram was sent to him to be sacrificed instead of his beloved son. This incident is related in the Quran, Sura al-Saffat : 99-110.
This Sunnah should be undertaken by every adult Muslim who has money over and beyond his needs, and the needs of his dependents' for the Day of Eid and the Days of Tashrik, the three days following Eid. The sacrifice can only be done with a camel, cow, sheep or goat. This is according to the Quranic injunction to sacrifice from the category of animals referred to as al-An'am . This was interpreted by the Prophet and all of his companions, to mean the four previously mentioned categories.
There are basic conditions, which must be met in the sacrificial animals.
1.a A camel must have lived for five years and entered into the sixth.
1.b A cow or a goat must have lived for two years and entered into the third.
1.c A sheep must have lived for one year and entered into the second.
2. The animal should be free of any defects that would cause an abnormality in the animal's body weight. This includes any debilitating disease, blindness, lameness, etc.
3. As for the person actually doing the slaughtering, it is necessary that he be a Muslim. It is lawful to eat the meat slaughtered by a non-Muslim, all of the other conditions of the sacrifice being met, however, that sacrificed animal does not qualify as meeting the conditions for Udhiyya. However, it is permissible to have a non-Muslim skin, clean, and process the sacrificed animal.
The time for sacrificing extends from the end of the Eid Salat and Khutbah until sunset of the last day of Tashrik. After sacrificing an acceptable animal, it is acceptable for the sacrificing party to eat as much of the meat as he/she pleases. However, it is best to eat a little for the blessing in the meat, and then to give the rest in charity. It is a good practice for the family to eat one-third, to share one-third with neighbors and friends, and to give one-third to the poor.
Note : The sacrificing party can give the skin of the animal in charity or keep it for his personal use. However, he is forbidden from selling it. Doing so nullifies the sacrifice. Imam al-Bayhaqi produces a hadith in which the Prophet said, "Whoever sells the skin of his sacrificial animal has no sacrifice (vol. 9, p. 294).
- The person intending to sacrifice should refrain from shaving any hair from his body or clipping his nails until after he has sacrificed. This is consistent with a hadith related by Imam Muslim, in which the Prophet said, "When you see the crescent of Dhul-Hijjah, and one of you desires to sacrifice, let him refrain from cutting his hair or clipping his nails [before sacrificing].
- The sacrificing party should be the one undertaking the sacrifice. If prevented by some excuse, he/she should be present to witness the event. Imam Hakim (vol. 4, vol. 222) relates with a sound chain of transmission, that the Prophet said to Fatimah "Go to your animal and witness it being sacrificed. Your previous sins [lesser sins] will be forgiven with the first drop of blood [you witness]."
- The leader of the Muslims can have animals sacrificed for the faithful from the public treasury (Bait al-Mal). The Prophet sacrificed a ram and said, "In the Name of Allah, O Allah! Accept this from Muhammad, the family of Muhammad, and the Ummah of Muhammad" as related by Imam Muslim.
Note : It is permissible to have the sacrifice done with an animal purchased in another country, even though, as indicated above, it is preferable to do it in one's own locale.
Zaid Shakir is one of the prominent Islamic scholars in the United States and teaches Arabic, Law, History and Islamic Spirituality. Born in 1956, Shakir in California he became a Muslim in 1977. He has studied International Relations at the American University, earned his MA in Political Science from Rutgers University. He studied Arabic and Islamic sciences for seven years in Syria and is the first graduate of the prestigious Abu Nour University. He gives lectures around the world and is chosen one of the most influential Muslims in the world.