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How Vegan Muslims Observe Qurbani

On the second Eid of the Islamic calendar called Eid-al-Adha, Muslims around the world offer sheep, goats, cattle and camels for Qurbani or sacrifice. This meat is distributed to the poor. It symbolises the intended sacrifice by Prophet Abraham of his only son at the time. Just before the sacrifice was about to take place, God provided a ram as sacrifice. Animals were very important and valuable assets and this, and Abraham’s willing to sacrifice his son, showed the submission of their individual will and ego to God. For vegan Muslims, who don’t partake of any animal products, Qurbani is observed in a different way. The Daily Vox spoke to vegan Muslims around the world about what Qurbani means to them and how they observe it.

Anissa Buzhu (27) Utrecht, The Netherlands

Qurbani symbolises what the essence of Islam means to me: i.e. submission. The expression of that submission comes with practices from ancient traditions, which in itself have a lot of value and wisdom. Qurbani goes beyond the sacrifice of an animal: it’s about connecting with your Maker, reflecting on yourself and serving God by serving people. Helping others, I perceive as something you can do without animal products. Because, by that, we help our planet – which I consider to be the first revelation and God’s creation. These are all aspects Islam teaches us. The meat industry and consumption today is completely different compared to how our prophets have been treating and consuming animals. Qurbani, for me, becomes redundant in today’s conditions. I was a vegetarian and a flexitarian (eating mostly vegetarian and sometimes some fish or chicken for example). For eight months now, I can consider myself mostly plant-based and 100% vegetarian. This did not happen overnight: it came through reading, exchanging experiences and getting inspired by friends.

As a butcher’s granddaughter, usually for Eid-al-Adha my family arranges their own meat and most of it will be distributed through a mosque and/or to families in need in our community or outside it, so there is no exclusion. This Eid, I intend to buy plant-based groceries and donate it. It will take many generations and open dialogues before Qurbani will be seen as something that you can have a choice and flexibility in. I feel that now it is a norm that you should observe in the way it has been determined in the most literal sense: slaughter the animal as a sacrifice. I understand it from a traditionalist point of view. I understand the complexity because I too love God and want to serve in my own best way possible.

It would bother me when there is a lack of respect towards Muslims who don’t consume meat or animal products. In a sacred time, we must honour the wisdom that the prophets have taught us and focus on being peaceful. Muslims come, as any other being, in plenty of shapes and sizes. This diversity is a blessing from God we must acknowledge, respect and be/remain open in order to gain knowledge and inspiration.

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Reslane Khassouani (31) Lens, France

I’m vegan for a year and a half. I was vegetarian before for one year. To me, Qurbani means the sacrifice of Abraham to obey Allah to show him his truth faith. It means it’s an important day to me to show that we have to prove our faith to Allah by praying, doing duaa (prayer) and by giving charity. On Eid-al-Adha, I wake up early, pray the Eid prayer, and pray the five mandatory prayers throughout the day. Sometimes I give money to charity organisations. I share also the dinner with my family. I have my own meal, of course, because I am vegan. People – other than my family – don’t really understand why I don’t follow the Sunnah – the teachings and practices of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). I have tried to explain that it is not necessary to slaughter an animal or eat meat but of course they couldn’t care less. So finally, I just give up explaining.

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Ya’eesh Khan (25) Pretoria, South Africa

Qurbani is a sacrifice of something you love, treasure and hold dear in order to bring you closer to Allah. It is a time when we are willing to give up what is important to us. I am vegan since October 2017 and vegetarian since October 2016. Most people today just pay money towards a slaughter. I take the same amount of money and buy food and groceries to feed those less fortunate and in need. I prefer this way not only because no life had to be lost for the same outcome, but also because it ensures the food I am giving is healthy and of good quality. It also tends to feed a lot more people. The rest of my family are meat eaters. They observe Qurbani by paying over their share of money and having someone else slaughter on their behalf. It’s not been easy being a vegan Muslim. I have been ridiculed for the way I live and shunned by my friend groups. People also tend to think I have denounced my faith for veganism and follow it as a religion. Recently I was told that the way I observe Qurbani is completely against Islam and the person would not hear my explanations on the matter.

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Baya Tellai (32) Algiers, Algeria

I’ve always considered Eid-al-Adha as a religious feast, a celebration of devotion, trust and a reminder of the real meaning of being a Muslim. I’ve always hated Qurbani since I was a child because I found it weird to see an a live sheep turned into flesh and not considered as a whole creature. For me, Qurbani is a great opportunity to meet my family. My parents wanted more family time, talking with us to strengthen our bond so it became habit not to buy a sheep but to buy some meat and prepare a simple meal. However, about a year ago, I became vegan. I’d been a vegetarian for seven years before. Since my sister is vegan too, we had a conversation with our parents and convinced our dad not to buy meat and have a plant-based meal instead.

On Eid, my dad usually goes to the mosque. Once he’s back, we have a plant-based breakfast. Later on, we prepare lunch while talking about veganism and a plant-based lifestyle, and debate Eid/ Qurbani as a habitual celebration detached from its soul versus a teaching and a source of endless wisdom. We try to understand why it changed so much and share our findings from the Quran, Sunnah and Hadith (traditions or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad). People find it unusual how we observe Qurbani. We face some criticism: we’re being influenced by a foreign culture, our ancestors never gave up meat. We get asked questions like: where do you get your protein from? Why are you going against religion? When we give evidence of veganism along the evolution of cultures and humans (using health studies, Quran, Sunnah, evidence from history) they usually say we won’t last long, we’re isolating ourselves from the society, it’s not practical.

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Irfan Ansari (25) New Delhi, India

Qurbani or sacrifice, to me, means voluntary detachment from something (tangible or intangible) for the service of God or fellow humans or animals. I have been a vegan for the past six years. Each year, a week before Eid-al-Adha, I put all my effort to convince my parents not to buy any animal for Qurbani with all the ethical, logical and environmental reasons of going vegan. But, it has all been in vain so far. On the day of Eid-al-Adha, with a heavy heart, I witness a cow or a goat slaughtered in an open place of my house. After the Eid namaz (prayer), a butcher is called to slaughter the animal and then the meat is distributed amongst the poor, relatives and neighbours. My family eats meat and views it as their right and a necessity. For about a week, it’s just meat which is cooked in the house so I eat outside. I see people taking pride in the killing of an animal which they call a sacrifice – which in itself is a misnomer. In our society, the number of slaughtered animals or its size has become a yardstick to indicate how rich you are. If I disagree, I am either ridiculed or called an apostate.

Voxes edited for length, brevity and clarity

Featured image via Public Domain Pictures 
9 Comments
  1. Linda Kay Barto says

    I am a semi-vegetarian, as was Prophet Muhammed (peace upon him). I offer my “sacrifice” in the form of a grocery store gift card to a family in need. Where I live I do not have access to a food animal that is both tayyib (humane, ethical, pure, natural) and halal (permissible, including the slaughtering process). The gift card allows me to help a neighbor, and it is more practical for my circumstances.

  2. Nadia says

    What beautiful wisdom and insight! For me ..,time to review my union with the Almighty and to burn the many vices I still have in the sacrificial fire of God’s great mercy. It’s about assessing the strength of your connection with the Almighty and really just getting in touch with your soul!
    I too… will be distributing other non-meaty …much needed items !
    Well done Shaazia 👏🏻👏🏻

  3. Sabeehah Motala says

    Refreshing read. I had not considered the insensitivity of Qurbani for vegetarian and vegan Muslims. I appreciate the insight into how they participate, and also into alternative ideas for participating, aside from distribution of meat.

  4. Fatimah Behin says

    Bless you sister. I turned Vegan almost 3 yrs ago come October. For me, the terms that define “Halaal” in today’s world are a money-making scheme. No animal can be considered Halaal when grown and slaughtered under extreme duress. This farce, labelling food items as Halaal, whether animal flesh or by-products like milk, yoghurt etc. needs to end as industrialized agriculture is not Halaal. Muslims today do not understand that Ibrahim’s sacrifice was something to learn from – that it is not and will never be about feeding the poor, something we should do everyday btw. It was about having to make that choice to follow through as his Lord commanded, and that the sacrifice changing into a Ram at the last second is supposed to make you think: we do not value Allah’s creation so how is it a sacrifice? For the hundreds of millions mindlessly slaughtering this Eid, you miss the point. If one “feels” nothing for that which has been entrusted to us, how will your Eid be symbolic of Ibrahim’s gesture?

    1. QOJ says

      Slaughtering an animal under inhumane conditions or keeping them as such, is sinful and against Islam, I’m also glad to note many farms in South Africa who grow and keep their animals organically and well kept. All is not doom and gloom

  5. Heba-Joan says

    I’m an American Muslim living in Egypt these past 30 years… I moved here to escape the Rat race, commercialism and feeling used & unsafe overall in Western Society… I became a Muslim at age 23 and moved to Egypt at age 26.
    I do feel safer here As I chose to live outside the bigger cities and for me, this Yearly Holiday is possibly the one day of the year for many families to receive & eat meat! I myself have noticed that world wide Animals are raised in Factories and forced to live in their own waste, on me Ted with antibiotics and growth hormones and truthfully, THIS IS NOT ALLOWED in Religion!!! There are very specific guidelines for the treatment of animals and how they are to be handled but unfortunately commercialism has taken over here too. I refuse to eat Animals or their byproducts because i believe it is bad for my health , so now I follow a Whole Foods Plans Based ( WFPB) Lifestyle because that is closer to God than eating Factory food!!!

  6. QOJ says

    From a Islamic ‘shar’ i’ viewpoint, sacrificing an animal, is compulsory on anyone that posseses the Nisab of Zakaah.

    Slaughtering is not an option subject to our thoughts or food choices nor can it be replaced by groceries for the equavalant amount.

    If one has made a choice to be vegan, no problem but do not discard or ridicule a compulsory obligation of our religion.
    The meat will be much appreciated by the needy and will go a long, long way of one chooses to donate the entire carcass, with rewards allocated for you double fold, for fulfillment of a duty and alleviating hunger of those who are poverty struck. Very often, those areas we work in appreciate the meat parcels as it is rare to come by for them, out of their price range and satisfying to them.
    The act of sacrifice is not an empty one but a tribute to Ibrahim AS, who placed the metaphorical knife repeatedly on his desires and thereby ascended to Divine proximity.

    What will we choose to sacrifice this year?

  7. Yunus says

    People need to be more educated with regards to Qurbani. The command of Allah was to sacrifice a Human Being as a Test which was Passed by IBRAHIM A.S. whereby Allah sent a Ram from Jannat to be slaughtered instead of ISMAIL .A.S. Not veggies. It should also be noted that Veggies and Groceries Cannot suffice for meat.

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