The first thing that comes to mind when we talk about Eid-ul-Azha is sacrifice. After all, what is qurbani for if not to offer sacrifices to Allah through the slaughter of an animal? To the believer, the sacrifice is an expression of submission to the divine will. While there are pleasures and rewards to be reaped from such an act, it is, as any pundit would remind you, not the end, but merely a means to an end—a sacrifice far greater than the ritual killing of an animal.

This is what we need to consider as we approach yet another Eid-ul-Azha, the second of the two holiest festivals in the Muslim calendar, dogged by a devastating monsoon flood. Weather events such as this have a way of creeping into people’s life at odd hours, but the timing of this year’s flood is significant.

It coincides with the Feast of the Sacrifice, effectively putting to the test our belief in sacrifice and the strength of our resolve to do what’s necessary. Before we discuss the nature and rationale of that sacrifice, here’s a quick round-up of the latest flood situation.

According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, more than 8.1 million people in Bangladesh have been affected by what is being considered one of the worst floods the country has experienced. To date, 140 people have died and over 697,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed. In total, the floods that ravaged vast swathes of land in not just Bangladesh but also India and Nepal have affected over 16 million people.

Although water has started to recede in some places, as latest reports suggest, the victims’ troubles are far from over. With their crops washed away, houses and schools perished, no work, and their prospects of rehabilitation bleak, the victims are going to need all kinds of assistance to return to some semblance of a normal life. Whether or not they will be able to do that depends in large part on how we, those relatively unaffected by the flood, respond to the situation.

One may argue that helping the victims does not have to fall under the category of sacrifice, religiously speaking. We help someone in need precisely because that’s what we should do—one human helping another in their hour of need. And disasters like this offer us a chance to reaffirm our commitment to humanity. But that line of argument tends to ignore the reality that, in today’s increasingly individualistic society, often what’s necessary for one maybe just as easily deemed irrelevant for another.

Sacrifice, for the religiously inclined, is a better motivation.

03_Kurigram_+Flood_270814_0006According to the Islamic jurisprudence, the sacrificial meat should be divided into three equal parts—one for the household, one for relatives and friends, and one for the poor, regardless of what faith they subscribe to. Traditionally, the festival allows for grand, indulgent feasts for the duration of four days and the division of meat makes sure everyone has a part in that.

In a normal situation, there would be no need for counterargument. But this is not a normal time, and it will not be wise either to drag a noble practice with profound social implications into an unnecessary debate. But certain confusions need to be cleared because of the potentially harmful consequences of the strong language used by the pro-tradition quarter.

Firstly, even before laying out details about meat division, Islam, in very clear terms, explained the category of individuals that must sacrifice animals. There is a difference between must and can—anyone can sacrifice, but not everyone is bound to do so. To be clear, anyone for whom it is mandatory to perform Hajj must also perform qurbani, which would easily exclude a majority of the people offering animal sacrifices in a poor country like Bangladesh.

It will be then safe to say that those people, instead of treading the conventional path to sacrifice this year, can redirect part of their money or meat—or the entirety of it—to something equally uplifting: helping the flood victims, without being troubled by a religious obligation.

Secondly, even those who must perform qurbani can easily set aside part of the meat and donate it for the cause, which will essentially mean the same thing as far as the objective of a sacrifice is concerned. Not to mention the bloodless sacrifices of food, medicine, and other cash or in-kind donations that can tremendously help those unfortunate men, women and children struggling to survive in the flood-hit areas.

In fact, anyone can come forward and be a part of the relief effort given the circumstances. The conservatives often tend to ignore that Islamic laws are remarkably flexible when it comes to dealing with an emergency. If extreme weather events such as a flood do not quality as emergency, I don’t know what else does.

The bottom-line is, help, in whatever guise and amount it comes, is welcome and can be made use of at this stage. It’s important to make sure that every potential donor feels properly motivated to reach out instead of being cowed into inaction.

Badiuzzaman Bayis a writer and human rights activist.

7 Responses to “Why donating qurbani meat or money as flood relief is alright”

  1. omar

    There are no hadith it says to divide the meat into three parts, so far I know. Tradition practiced not often what religion says. A Muslim can donate full amount of meat to the poor. In this case, people who lives closed to flood affected people can donate the full meat to flood affected. Just giving out money will not help. In fact, it is good to do qurbani so many people get some work for processing meat and many get free meat. If you distribute money, yes, people can buy their necessary items but many people will not get work. So stopping qurbani will not help. Many farmers make money selling cattle during qurbani in higher price as people spend more money to buy animals.

  2. Khan

    Old saying:”What belongs to God give him and what belongs to the king give him”. So qurbani is for God and it also returns directly to public. So it must be offered unconditionally. The King the government should use the tax money for the flood victims and avoid doing corruption. In our third world the politician wish that during their tenure they wish they get election, flood or any natural disaster so that they get a good chance to make money!

  3. K Pirani

    I support the views that qurbani money should be spent on helping flood victims. However, I understand that Islam does not permit this ‘diversion’ of funds from qurbani. Qurbani is wajib. The animal flesh can be distributed to flood victims in its entirety. Money can be given to flood victims, but not in lieu of qurbani.

  4. asraful islam

    Once there was a saying: `Nije bacle baper naam’. But, now it is said: ‘Nije bacle Nijer naam’. I hoped the state would take a decision to raise the countrymen’s consciousness about the matter. lt is alright to donate the qurbani’s money as flood relief.

  5. Moin Ahmed

    A well written article with very nicely put opinions based on facts inline to the Islamic jurisprudence (Shariah). Eid Mubarak.

  6. Feroz khan

    Thank you so much for your most enlightened piece of writing.
    I believe, all good Muslims will donate their kurbani expenses towards the relief of the great suffering people affected by the floods and please don’t forget the animals including cattle, goats, sheep etc., all suffering and dying from lack of food, shelter and dry land.
    It is so tragic that people calling themselves Muslims are performing kurbani when a third of the country is flooded, with all living beings falling ill, deprived and dying. The seekers of mercy can only find solace in God’s grace if the understand and identify with the sufferings of the living humanity and the animals.
    All animals are the love of God put in our care. When we disregard them, we disregard our Creator.
    Please, blessed Bengalis help the helpless and you will receive your reward from God.

    • omar

      When you give money to someone, they will either buy meat or food items. So no harm if you do qurbani and distribute the whole qurbani to the poor.

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