Sacrifice: My two cents on Eid el-Adha as a vegan Muslim

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» Sacrifice: My two cents on Eid el-Adha as a vegan Muslim

Content warning: mental health and animal suffering

I am writing this piece on the first day of Eid el-Adha. Today marks the first day of a religious celebration that millions of Muslims around the globe engage in. 

Eid el-Adha commemorates the incident of Ibrahim (AS), a prophet of Allah, who was decreed to sacrifice his son Ismail as a token of his dedication and obedience. As he was about to perform the sacrifice, Allah then exempted him from sacrificing his son and he was commanded to sacrifice a ram instead. 

‘Adha ’ comes from the Arabic word 'Tadhiyah', meaning sacrifice; the act of giving up something valuable for the sake of other considerations; the consideration, in this case, being for Allah’s sake. 'Qurbani', as it is called in some other countries, comes from the Arabic word 'Qurb', or closeness. In a sense, this sacrifice is a way to get closer to the creator.

And so, it went.

Every year, Muslims observe pilgrimage to Mekkah, then mark Eid el-Adha with celebrations, by doing good deeds, gathering with the family, and offering a sacrifice – slaughtering a cow, ram, goat, and other species. Then, they offer the food they prepare from this sacrifice to people with low income.

From the sound of it, this seems like a beautiful practice – to gather with the family, praise God, and feed the less fortunate. That’s what I’ve thought of it, as a Muslim, ever since I can remember. 

And then I became vegan, vowed never to cause suffering upon another creature as long as I roam this earth, and I now perceive this Eid as a major source of anxiety.

On such a day, I’d rather stay indoors and bury my head in work or in my pillow like a startled ostrich, than shudder at the thought of drowning in the rivers of innocent blood being poured down the streets – this might be a slight overdramatization of events, but it is how I imagine it. Can you see where my anxiety comes from now?

In all realness, and as a huge disclaimer, I am not trying to attack this Eid. I am very well aware of the fact that millions of animals are slaughtered on other occasions as well, such as Easter. In fact, they are slaughtered every single day, for no special occasion whatsoever, unless of course, you consider Billy’s eighth-grade graduation barbeque to be one.

I am aware that they are killed, by the millions, every single day.

What haunts me today though, out of all days, is how something that is supposed to make me feel so calm, grateful, and connected to the people that I care about, to my religion, and to my creator, makes me feel the complete opposite instead. 

Is it me? 

Is it wrong to cry as I witness cows, sheep, and goats packed and pickled in boats, with their legs tied, as they sail towards the edge of the blade?  

Is it a flaw in my own belief that my heart aches so bad as I think of all the animals who have been bought for this day, sleeping peacefully, under the blanket of a fake sense of security, in the barns and backyards of those who have purchased them, not knowing that when tomorrow comes, they will be no more? 

That there will be cheers when – and as – that happens?

How can someone raise an animal from infancy, care for them, bond with them, hold them in their arms and feel their warmth and beating heart, solely for the purpose of murdering them? 

I wonder what goes on in the mind of that lamb as they realize that the days of pampering, security, and sustenance are over, and that this same human that has been their caregiver all along, will now be their undertaker. What a betrayal.   

Is it horrible to think that maybe what Allah meant when he replaced Prophet Ibrahim’s sacrifice of his son with a ram was not that we need to do the same, but rather to show how revered and respected the lives of all creatures are, and that the soul of a ram is nothing less than the soul of a human being, not to mention a prophet, such that one can replace the other?

I just don’t get it. 

I fail to see how a peaceful religion like the one I follow, one where the Quran defends the lives of the helpless, and commands humans to be kindhearted and merciful, one where its prophet Mohammad (PBUH) has countless sayings that specifically stress the importance of being kind to animals, wouldn’t accept a sacrifice other than the life of an animal as a serving of our obedience. 

What is sacrifice anyway? 

By having their life taken away, isn’t the animal really the one offering the sacrifice here?

Wouldn’t it be clearer evidence of my obedience if I sacrificed something personal? Something that has value to me? Like volunteering my time, my efforts, my knowledge, preparing and offering plant-based food to the less fortunate, or even donating money? 

Isn’t it really a matter of us using this sacrifice as a way to purify our souls from latching on to worldly things, much like fasting in Ramadan? Isn’t everything that is required from us by God a task for us to 'level up' spiritually? To shed our lust for this world and grow? To give love and compassion to those around us, animals included? 

I would like to think so. I know so. 

It grieves me that I am not welcome to think this way by most people around me, and by those who might read my words and feel like I have strayed from the right path. 

It pains me that we do not see eye to eye when it comes to this.

I know that all it takes is to view the goat as a being that leaps when excited, the cow as the mother who cries when her children are taken away, and the lamb as the baby that they are. 

As individuals, as souls, not as a commodity, not as objects. These are the words of Allah.

“And there is no creature on [or within] the earth or bird that flies with its wings except [that they are] communities like you. We have not neglected in the Register a thing. Then unto their Lord they will be gathered.” 6-Surah Al-An’am (The Cattle) 38

We have been numbed by industries, by culture, and by tradition, and made to think that they are not really creatures of hearts, brains, and souls, but rather supermarket paraphernalia. We have lost the connection.

But I know in my heart that all it takes is one look into their eyes to re-establish that connection, and once that is done, a single heartstring might be pulled, and that will be the start of something. 

I will be here for that. 

As for now, I will reclaim my right to celebrate this Eid, getting closer to my creator and offering sacrifice, on my own terms.

By Najah Raya – a communications officer and a designer. That just means that I try to put my thoughts and feelings into words and colors that might make the most sense to the world. Hoping to save the animals, one article at a time.

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