The first day of Hari Raya Haji was celebrated in Malaysia yesterday, and today, all the social media is filled with pictures of bloody slaughtered animals.
This makes most of us normal humans with normal emotions to cringe and just delete the pictures straightaway, yet many others tend to gloat over how daringly they pulled the sacrificial animals to slaughter, then slit its throat and saw the blood gushing out and then slashed the meat. Or worse, those who gloated over how they chased a runaway animal and then slaughtered it.
All this makes many of us wonder if Muslims are such violent and blood-crazy people when it comes to making a sacrifice which is supposedly to be part of our worship practices?
It also makes us – both Muslims and non-Muslims – wonder if Islam has no compassion for animals which the religion says are God’s creations and if there is no dignity in death for these sacrificed animals.
One may also then put two and two together and say, oh, yes, they just love blood so much, maybe that is why the Middle East is always fighting each other, for many think that is where all the Muslims live, despite the fact most of the more than 1.6 billion Muslims of the world live elsewhere than the Middle East, with most in Asia.
Now, while some readers have started to rant and rave that I am being unIslamic by raising these questions, let us look at the true way animals should be sacrificed during Hari Raya Haji, and the main laws of slaughter in Islam which are usually ignored by Muslims who think that sacrifice of Hari Raya Haji is all about blood, meat and heroism.
The sacrifice made during Hari Raya Haji (korban) is to remember the trial of Abraham who was commanded to kill his only son Ishmael. It was reported that both prepared to submit, but at the last second, Ishmael was replaced by a ram, and Muslims believe Allah revealed to them that the sacrifice has been made by merely submitting and there was no need to kill Ishmael. It was a test of faith.
To commemorate the sacrifices of Abraham and Ismael, Muslims are encouraged to slaughter animals on that day. While non-Muslims may ask what does it all mean, Muslims believe Allah has given humans power over animals and allowed the Muslim to consume meat, but only if they pronounce His name at the solemn act of taking life.
Muslims believe that by saying the name of Allah at the time of slaughter, they are reminded that life is sacred.
Most of the meat from the sacrifice of Hari Raya Haji must be given away to others. One-third is eaten by immediate family and relatives, one-third is given away to friends, and one-third is donated to the poor. The act symbolises the willingness to give up things they hold dear hearts, a test of their faith. It also symbolises the willingness to give up some of their own bounties, in order to strengthen ties of friendship and help those who are in need.
Nowhere in Islam does it state that the sacrifice itself, as practised by Muslims, has anything to do with atoning for their sins or using the blood to wash themselves from sin.
The first rule of halal in Islam is keeping the dignity of the animal to be sacrificed intact. It must not be shamed, taunted, stolen, sickly, hungry, pregnant and it must fulfil many strict criteria to make its meat halal (permissible) for Muslims to be able to consume it.
It has many strict rules, if not followed, which will make the meat haram (not permissible) to be eaten.
The animal should be handled gently and individually. Water must be offered to the animal before slaughter. The animal should not be slaughtered in front of other animals and no blood seen so that no stress or discomfort has been caused to the other animal. The knife should not be sharpened in front of any animal before slaughter. Animals should be killed in a comfortable way. Unnecessary suffering to them must be avoided.
And yet, we see many of these rules not followed during the slaughtering frenzy of Hari Raya Haji here. Animals are herded and slaughtered in front of the others, children taunting the animals and there seems to be no mercy, which may put off many off meat for a certain time until they forget the images played up in the media.
Then there is that endless selfies with the animals before slaughter and their carcasses after slaughter, making some of us, even Muslims churn in our stomach at the inhumanity of it all, when we have been taught that Islam is a religion which stresses on compassion and humanity for all creations.
Not to mention that as Muslims in Malaysia are big-time beef eaters, most slaughter cows and as we have Hindus and Buddhists who revere cows in Malaysia, this causes more distress and some hate against Muslims for that time being.
It would be good if the Islamic authorities ensure that the sacrificing is done humanely and Islamically, so that for the few days during Hari Raya Haji and after, we are all spared the bloody pictures of slaughtered animals, and to save us the rising of our blood pressure.