Can Muslims Offer Charity instead of Animal Sacrifice during Eid ul Adha?
Updated: Jul 8, 2021
Every year, Muslims around the world sacrifice millions of animals during Hajj. Even though the number of sacrificial animals is nowhere near the number of animals the world slaughter daily, yet Muslims make the largest nation sacrificing animals in one day.
Can Muslims offer charity instead of sacrificing animals on Eid ul Adha?
This Question has always been on the minds of people from the time of the Prophet. The earliest reference to this issue comes in al-Musannaf by 'Abd al-Razzaq. He narrates the following from al-Thawri, who heard from 'Imraan ibn Muslim, who heard from Suwayd ibn Ghaflah. "I heard Bilaal (one of earliest companions of the Prophet) say: To give its price (i.e., the cost of the udhiyah) in charity to an orphan or a debtor is dearer to me than sacrificing it. He (the narrator) said: I do not know whether Suwayd said it by himself or it is the words of Bilaal.
Countering this opinion, Ibn al Qayyim Al-Jauzi wrote in Tuhfat al Mawdood in the ninth century: "The basic principle is that offering the sacrifice is better than giving its price in charity, because of what results from that of drawing close to Allah by offering a sacrifice and giving charity, and performing this ritual in front of one's family and children, and keeping this ritual alive among the people because the sacrifice is one of the symbols of Islam.Tuhfat al-Mawdood (p. 65):
In his opinion offering a sacrifice and shedding blood is required, and it is an act of worship. Scholars argue that the Quran asks for this sacrifice: "Therefore turn in prayer to your Lord and sacrifice (to Him only)" [al-Kawthar: 108:2]. They also quote the following verse in support of their view: "Say (O Muhammad): Verily, my salaah (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allâh, the Lord of the 'Alameen (humankind, jinn and all that exists)" [al-An'aam 6:162].
"There is prayer and sacrifice in every religion, and no other acts of worship could take their place. Hence if you give charity equivalent to many times the price of the sacrifice offered in Hajj, it can never take its place. The same is true of udhiyah." Therefore, they say that offering the udhiyah on behalf of the living members of one's family is a confirmed Sunnah (Sunnah mu'akkadah) for the one who can do it and delivering it is better than giving its price in charity. (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa'imah, 11/419
But some scholars believe that If one's relative is sick and in urgent need of treatment and medicine, then helping him in sickness and striving to find cure takes precedence over sacrifice udhiyah, especially if the illness is severe.
Imam Ibn Taymiyah, one of the most quoted Islamic scholars in his book on religious fatwas (decrees), wrote: Hajj done in the prescribed manner is better than charity that is not obligatory. But if he has relatives who are in need, then giving charity to them is better, who need his charity for his maintenance. But if both actions are voluntary, then Hajj is better because it is an act of worship that is both physical and financial. Offering a sacrifice for 'aqeeqah or udhiyah is better than giving its price in charity, by the same token. (al-Fataawa al-Kubra, 5/382)
However, he explained that If it is a matter of choice between udhiyah and paying off debt on behalf of a poor person, then paying off the debt is better, especially if it is a relative. (Majmoo' Fataawa wa Rasaa'il Ibn' Uthaymeen, 13/1496)
A contemporary Muslim scholar Javed Ghamdi in response to a question on the issue wrote the following. "The spirit of sacrifice means the resolve that our life and death are both available for Allah Almighty, our creator, and we are willing to do whatever He expects from us in this life. It is a revival of this resolve that is desired through animal sacrifice every year. Ideally, when the knife cuts the animal's throat, we should be making that commitment with our sincere emotions.
Qazi Asad Sanai, Chairman Al-Ansaar Foundation, in Hyderabad, India, recently sought the opinion of the Jamia Nizamia, an Islamic seminary, because of the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic in the city.
The fatwa issued by the Seminary allows Muslims to give money to non-Syed poor persons, including relatives or students pursuing Islamic education in seminaries instead of sacrificing the animal and distributing the sacrificial meat, because of the prevailing situation due to Covid-19.
Mufti Mohammed Azeemuddin, President of the Jamia, said nothing is more pleasing to Allah than sacrificing cattle in Allah's name from 10th to 12th of Zul Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar. However, if the situation doesn't permit, distributing the present case will also be equivalent to sacrificing any animal.
He explained that if 'Qurbani' is possible, it is better to sacrifice; otherwise, donating an equal amount will be the best alternative.
The Quran explains:
[But bear in mind:] Their flesh or blood do not reach God. It is only your God-consciousness that goes Him. To this end, we have made them subservient to your needs so that you might glorify God for all the guidance with which He has graced you. And give thou this glad tiding unto the doers of good." 22:37
The Quran clearly states the purpose of sacrificing and relates it with God-consciousness. It is not the cattle and the blood of these sacrificed animals that God desires, but the spirit behind sacrifice that God appreciates and acknowledges. It is this spirit that qualifies for a divine reward.
Scholars, in the past, have allowed charity instead of animal sacrifice. They quoted social and economic conditions for this opinion.
It is no secret that the Muslim world faces enormous economic and social crises. Fifty percent or more Muslims live below the poverty line. Sixty percent suffer from various diseases. Forty-seven percent live in debt. Yet, scholars have urged Muslims to spend on animal sacrifice. As a result, Muslims spend approximately 3 billion dollars on animal sacrifice every year. Imagine what wonders this amount of money can do to eliminate poverty among Muslims.
If Allah says that he is not looking for the blood or meat of animals, then why should scholars insist on keeping a tradition that people have an alternative in spirit. Instead, perhaps, the Muslim scholars ought to look at the emerging realities and apply rules of reasoning to be pragmatic and contemporary.
The 22nd chapter of the Quran, known as Surah al-Hajj, states that animals' sacrifice will take near the house of God. Therefore, pilgrims from different parts of the world should consume the meat and distribute it to friends and the poor. (See verses 27, 28, 33, and 36).
Hence, [O Muhammad, ] proclaim you unto all people the [duty of] pilgrimage: they will come unto thee on foot and every [kind of] fast mount, coming from every far-away point [on earth], (22:27)
so that they might experience much that shall be of benefit to them, and that they might praise the name of God on the days appointed [for sacrifice], over whatever heads of cattle He may have provided for them [to this end]: eat, then, thereof, and feed the unfortunate poor. (22:28)
In that [God-consciousness], you shall find benefits until a term set [by Him is fulfilled], and [you shall know that] its goal and end is the Most Ancient Temple. (22:33)
[But bear in mind:] never does their flesh reach God, and neither their blood: it is only your God-consciousness that goes to Him. To this end, we have made them subservient to your needs so that you might glorify God for all the guidance with which He has graced you. And give thou this glad tiding unto the doers of good. (22:36)
In these verses, the Quran specified that only the pilgrims would offer the sacrifice near the House of God to eat and distribute. It does not say that the sacrifice is obligatory upon every individual or at places other than Makkah.