September 20, 2016
By Saeed Qureshi
I was immensely appalled by the gleeful cruelty and willful sadism exhibited by the Muslims faithful in slaughtering the animals in order to fulfill one of the cardinal religious obligations ascribed to Prophet Ibrahim. The poor, helpless, dumb animal is surrounded by a few sturdy strong muscled individuals.
They knock the animal down by twisting and pulling his tail, while the others tie up his legs. Yet the others hold him fast by horns and the rest give the animal a push to fall down on the ground. The animal is tied down to the earth by several people while one of them slits its throat and jugular vein with a saber like knife.
The gory scene gives an impression as if they are dealing with a bloodthirsty enemy and to avenge on him for the heinous murders that he had committed or defiled the females of the avenging persons. With bloodshot eyes and with a definitive resolve as if they to kill the enemy by inflicting on him the maximum possible torture.
Watching the blood flowing out of the body of the animal is also considered as part of the sacred ritual and it gives a kind of satisfaction to the person offering sacrifice in the name of God. No one has the faintest idea how much pain the helpless animals must be undergoing. Unfortunately, the animals can neither speak nor have a lawyer to protest or plead against this barbarity.
In modern societies where animal flesh is voraciously consumed and is an integral part of the food, the animals are not subjected to the agony and callousness that is shown in the Muslim societies. In Europe and elsewhere the companies dealing with the bulk supply of meat stun the animal with a gun or some instrument and then the body is dissected which is not at all painful to the animals for being unconscious.
When we dig out the history of sacrifice, we know that invariably, the humans have been offering sacrifice of either animals or the humans. In Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Hindu civilizations, the human sacrifice to the deities and idols has been in vogue from time immemorial. The Aztecs used to pluck the throbbing heart of their victims and hold it up to the Sun god.
However, the ritual or the religious obligation of sacrifice was first started by Hazrat Abraham (PBUH), the father of the so known Semitic or Abrahamic religions as well as the forerunner of islam. Prophet Abraham (in Islam it is Ibrahim) made a covenant with God that he would slay his own son after he received the divine commandment to do so.
While he was about to fulfill the divine will, the archangel Gabriel saved the young lad Ismail (Jews and Christians believe it was Isaac or Ishaq) by replacing him with a ram at the nick of the moment. Since this legend is narrated to have happened in the vicinity of Mecca, the Arabs even before the advent of Islam were observing the tradition of Prophet Abraham by sacrificing the animals.
Until the advent of prophet Muhammad and bestowal of Prohethood on him, the people of those times believed in the Old testament(Torah) version that it was not Ismael but Ishaq who was taken for sacrifice on the command of god. Even during the time when prophet was not yet given the Prohethood, the people would simply go around the Khana Kaaba for prayers like in any shrine.
This story goes like this that Ibrahim at the behest of his first wife Sara expels Hagar(Hajira) and his son Ismael. By raveling a long distance, they reached the wilderness of Beersheba. The water given to them by Ibrahim finished and the child started rolling on the ground with the thirst. She cast the child under a shrub not to see him dying. She wept in sheer desperation. The angle of god helped them by creating well of water which is now called the well of Zam Zam. The two hillocks between which Hagar ran seven times for water are also there. The place where Ibrahim wanted to sacrifice his son is also near.
Nevertheless, another version is given in Genesis chapter of the Old Testament that God directed Ibrahim to take his son Isaac for burnt offering upon a mountain to be pointed out later. Ibrahim reached that place after three days of journey with his ass and two servants.
When Ibrahim put the wood on the altar and was about to slaughter to be followed by burning the angel produced a ram caught in the thicket. Thus he sacrificed ram instead of Isaac. This place was named by Ibrahim JehovahJireh. Now this place is different from where Hajira(Hagar) and her son Ismail were about to die because of thirst and where the God’s sent angel created well.
One can see the difference in the places of Ismail and Isaac, where they were to be sacrificed in accordance with the command of god. Ismael went to the place where the present Khan Kaaba, Safa and Marva hillocks, the places where Satan tried to dissuade Ibrahim from offering sacrifice are situated.
There is another account in which it is stated that Khana Kaaba was first built by Adam and later rebuilt by Ibrahim. It is evident that the place of sacrifice was also near the Khana Kaaba and not which Bible narrates to be JehovahJireh where Ibrahim took his younger son Ishaq for sacrifice.
In 610 AD or CE when Hazrat Muhammad was chosen by God as his prophet, he proclaimed Hajj (pilgrimage)as one of the five pillars of the edifice of Islam. Sacrificing of animals is performed on the day of performance of Hajj in Mecca in the 12th month of Islamic calendar called Ziljhaj. This obligation is reminiscent of the sacrifice of Ismail.
I did not find any reference if the people performed Hajj before the advent of Islam. Although due to water well and an altar or temple, the caravans would sojourn here, not for religious purpose but to break the journey in the desert. It might be possible that the well of Zam Zam was always there from the ancient times and later became stopover for the travelers. When the episode of Hajira and Ismael happened it was elevated to a sacred place.
The Muslims around the world also follow this obligation along with the other four obligations. The time difference between prophet Abraham and prophet Muhammad is 2500 years. It is not known if during this period how the people performed Hajj or they would believe in Abraham as the prophet of God. This is however evident that the city of Mecca with its water and old shrine was used as a stopover for the caravans who traveled along the Red Sea between the North and South of Saudi Arabian Peninsula.
I am curious to know if God’s covenant or conditions to Prophet Abraham to sacrifice the animals was exclusive to him only or was later ordained and decreed for everyone. As far, we know the full-blown complexion, clear-cut and vivid contours, or features of Islam had not been laid out until the proclamation of Islam by Prophet Muhammad.
Did during the intervening period that comes around to over 2510 years (between prophet Abraham and prophet Muhammad), the successive generations perform this ritual of Abrahamic legacy? During these three millenniums, only Jewish or Christian faiths were practiced.
Coming back to the methods of scarifying the animals, here in America the Muslims do offer sacrifice of the animals mostly cows, goats and lambs. Yet the slaughtering is assigned to the professional meat sellers or certified butchers who buy the animals themselves on the uniformly fixed prices.
These professionals slaughter the animals far away from the city in closely watched slaughterhouses or abattoirs. The meat in properly cut into pieces, put in the polythene bags and given to the faithful. All this process is done in a very neat, clean, and organized manner.
This system or procedure can be practiced in Islamic countries also that otherwise make a mess of this very fundamental religious obligation. In every lane and street, park, public place and road the sacrificial animals are tethered for days on end. There is massive disruption of traffic and horrendous pollution of air with all kind of pervading fodder, animal droppings, refuse, and smell.
This unhygienic environment phenomenally aggravates and rather assumes unbearable fifthly proportions when after the slaughtering the heaps of offal, intestines, dried blood pools, entrails and other wasted portions of the slaughtered animals are seen scattered everywhere for days together.
The nauseating stench fills the air that does not go soon. These repugnant spectacles present a sheer contrast with unislamic societies where the pristine Islamic ritual is carried out scientifically, so hygienically and in such an organized manner.
If we refuse to learn salutary and positive lessons and useful models from the advanced and civically vigilant societies in other spheres such as good governance, then we should at least follow the systems by which they manage their municipal affairs and keep the environment clean and pollution-free.
In America, the people are so much conscious of clean environment that they do not smoke within their houses even at midnight. I am a witness and a part of this commendable behavior as I live here. They go out of the house and offices for smoking. This also shows the citizens’ respect for the law, which ordains to smoke within the public places and offices.
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