Wa`alaykumAs-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
1- Udhiyah is one of the great rituals of Islam. It is sunnah mu’akkadah (confirmed Sunnah), according to the majority of jurists, for whoever can afford it.
2- When one intends to sacrifice an animal, one is to observe that such an animal has reached the required age, which is 6 months (or more) for sheep, 2 years (or more) for cattle, and 5 years (or more) for camels. If the meat of a species of the required age is not as good as its younger counterpart and the latter has more meat, the specific age may be disregarded in this case so long as there is no better species of the required age.
To shed more light on the rulings of udhiyah in total, the eminent Muslim scholar Dr. `Abdul-Fattah Idrees, Professor of Comparative Jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, states,
Offering udhiyah during Eid Al-Adha is one of the Islamic rituals that are supported by various evidences in the Shari `ah. For example, Almighty Allah says, “Therefore turn in prayer to your Lord and sacrifice [to Him only].” (Al-Kawthar 108:2)
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) offered two big, fat, black and white rams, and both were horned and castrated. He (peace and blessings be upon him) placed his leg on the side of the neck of the first one and said, “In the Name of Allah. Allah is the Greatest. (Here I offer this animal for Allah’s sake) on behalf of Muhammad and his kith and kin.” Then, he (peace and blessings be upon him) placed his foot on the side of the neck of the other animal and said, “In the Name of Allah. Allah is the Greatest. (Here I offer this animal for your sake,) Oh Allah; on behalf of Muhammad and his nation, those who witness that there is no god but You and that I have conveyed the Message You have sent me with.”
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also recommended that Muslims offer udhiyah. `A’ishah, Mother of the Believers, reported the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as having said, “No deed is more beloved to Almighty Allah on the Day of `Eid Al-Adha than offering sacrifices [for His sake]. The animals sacrificed will come on the Day of Judgment with their horns, hair and hoofs [to testify to the sincerity of the people who have offered them]. The blood of these animals takes its place in Almighty Allah’s sight before it is dropped on the ground. So, be pleased on offering them.”
Udhiyah, according to the majority of scholars, is sunnah mu’akkadah. Ibn `Abbas reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “There are three things that are obligatory for me but voluntary for you. These are the Witr Prayer, sacrificing animals (on `Eid Al-Adha), and the two [Sunnah] rak`ahs of Fajr Prayer.” Umm Salamah, Mother of the Believers, also reported that he (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “When the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah start and one of you wants to offer an udhiyah, let him not cut any his hair or nails until he has offered his sacrifice.” The Prophet’s words here “and one of you wants to offer an udhiyah” indicates that the udhiyah is a voluntary act, as an obligatory one would not be left for one’s choice as these words denote.
The Proprieties to be Followed by the Person Offering Udhiyah
According to the majority of scholars (the Malikites, the Shafi`ites, and some of the Hanbalites), it is undesirable for the one who intends to offer a sacrifice to cut his hair or nails when the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah start, as indicated in the abovementioned prophetic forbiddance “Let him not cut…”. Nevertheless, it is still permissible as `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) was reported to have said, “I twisted with my own hands the garlands for the budn (cattle selected for sacrifice) of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon) who garlanded and marked them and then made them proceed to Makkah. Yet nothing permissible was regarded as impermissible for him then.” This denotes the permissibility of cutting hair and nails.
One Sacrifice Is Sufficient for the Whole Family
It is sufficient for the head of a household to offer one animal on behalf of himself and the members of his family. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) offered a she-goat on behalf of himself and his kith and kin. However, one may also offer a whole camel or cow as a sacrifice on behalf of one and seven people can share in offering one cow or camel, whether they belong to the same family or not. In this regard, according to Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions shared during the Hudaybiyah year in offering sacrifices: seven of them would share in offering one camel or cow.
Conditions of Udhiyah
The animal to be sacrificed should have reached the required age, which is 6 months (or more) for sheep, 2 years (or more) for cattle, and 5 years for camels. It is desirable that the animals offered for sacrifice be fat, big, and free of the faults that may affect the quantity and quality of their meat. That is why it is not sufficient to offer an animal that is one-eyed or has lost a great part of its horn. Al-Barra’ reported that the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said, “There are four [defects] that will not do for sacrifice: a one-eyed animal whose defect is obvious, a sick animal whose sickness is obvious, a lame animal whose limpness is obvious and an emaciated animal that has no marrow in its bones.”
As for the point raised in the question concerning the hybrid cattle of 2 years or more whose meat may not be as good as their counterpart under 2 years, if there are no cattle that meet the specifications of udhiyah but this hybrid type, and the cattle under 2 years have more meat, the latter may be sufficient in this case. This is because the latter here meets the purpose of Shari`ah with regard to udhiyah, which is affording much more meat in the interest of the poor, and it makes it easier at the same time for the people who offer sacrifices.
The Time for Offering Udhiyah
The specified time for offering udhiyah is during the period from after the `Eid Prayer on the Day of `Eid Al-Adha until the last of the Days of Tashreeq (13 Dhul Hijjah). Al-Barra’ reported that on `Eid Al-Adha, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would say, “He who offers our Prayer (meaning the `Eid Prayer) and observes our ritual (sacrificing an animal) in that day, has done right; and whoever sacrifices before the Prayer, let him repeat it.” He (peace and blessings be upon him) was also reported to have said, “The first ritual to be observed on this day (`Eid Al-Adha) is to offer [the `Eid] Prayer and then slaughter the animals for sacrifice. So whosoever offers a sacrifice before the `Eid Prayer, he or she just slaughters an animal for meat; it has nothing to do with the ritual of slaughtering.” It follows from this that it is not right to slaughter before the `Eid Prayer and he who does so should offer another sacrifice.
Being Present While the Udhiyah Is Slaughtered
It is desirable for he who offers a sacrifice, if he is not to slaughter it himself, to be present at its slaughtering. Ibn `Abbas reported that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “When you have your udhiyah slaughtered for you, be present there, as you are forgiven with the first drop of its blood.” It was also reported that he (peace and blessings be upon him) said to his daughter Fatimah, “Watch your udhiyah (while being slaughtered) as you are forgiven with the first drop of its blood.”
It is as well desirable that one says upon slaughtering one’s udhiyah, “In the Name of Allah. Allah is the Greatest.” One may also add, “O Allah! This is from You and for You. O Allah! Accept it from me or from so-and-so.” It was reported in this respect that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was brought a ram to slaughter. He (peace and blessings be upon him) placed his foot on its sides and said, “O Allah! Accept it from Muhammad, the kith and kin of Muhammad, and the nation of Muhammad.” Then he (peace and blessings be upon him) started slaughtering. It was also reported on the authority of Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would say on slaughtering, “O Allah! This is from You and for You. O Allah! Accept it from Muhammad and his nation. In the Name of Allah. Allah is the Greatest.” Then he (peace and blessings be upon him) would start slaughtering.
Distributing the Meat of Udhiyah
It is desirable that one keeps one third of the udhiyah for oneself and the family and distribute the other two thirds: one among the poor and needy of one’s relatives and neighbors, and the other among the people who come to ask for meat. Allah Almighty says, “Eat thereof and feed the beggar and the suppliant” (Al-Hajj 22:36). It was also reported that Ibn `Abbas said that the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) would keep one third of the udhiyah for his family, distribute another third among his poor neighbors, and keep the remaining third to distribute among those who come to beg him for food. Ibn `Umar was also reported to have said about the distribution of udhiyahs and the slaughtered animals as sadaqah (charity), “One third thereof is to be kept for oneself [and one’s household], another third for one’s relatives and the remaining third for the poor and needy.”
If one has the udhiyah slaughtered by a butcher, one is not to give any portion thereof to the butcher as fee. However, one may give the butcher a part thereof as a gift or charity if the latter is poor. `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was reported to have said in this regard: Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered me to watch over a camel while it was slaughtered and to distribute its meat and skin; he (peace and blessings be upon him) also ordered me not to give the butcher something thereof saying, “We will give him [his fee for slaughtering it].”
It is not permissible for one to sell any part of the udhiyah, whether meat, skin, or anything else. But it is unanimously agreed upon that one may make use of the skin or the droppings of the udhiyah for oneself.
In conclusion, based on the above, it becomes clear that the reason behind specifying a certain age for udhiyah is that it contains more meat by this age so that it could be distributed among a greater number of the poor. But if there is an animal under the age specified for udhiyah and this animal has much more meat than the one of the specified age, one may slaughter this animal instead, especially in the case of the hybrid cattle, when there is no cattle of another species to sacrifice.
Allah Almighty knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.