Offering sacrifice is the tradition of our father Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Allah has promised reward on every part of the animal that you sacrifice, even on its hair. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “On the day of sacrifice, no one does a deed more pleasing to Allah than the shedding of blood. The sacrificial animal will come on the Day of Resurrection with its horns, hair, and hooves (and its owner will be rewarded on that basis); and (its) blood finds acceptance with Allah (for its owner) before it falls on the ground, so rejoice over it.” (Tirmidhi)
Slaughtering an animal is better than giving its monetary value in charity. The deed of sacrificing an animal is a recommended or stressed Sunnah (Sunnah Mu’akkadah) for those who can afford it. Slaughter on your behalf and your household, including your wives, children, and parents, so that all of them will gain its reward. This was the practice of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He slaughtered for himself and on behalf of his family. Some people offer sacrifice only on behalf of their parents, depriving themselves and their households of the reward. It is preferable to sacrifice in the name of all (the household). If one is appointed to slaughter then he should fulfill the will accurately.
Many Muslims offer sacrifice on behalf of their deceased relatives during the first year of their death. They call it Dahiyyah Al-Hufrah (the sacrifice of the grave) – this practice has no basis in Shariah. Some people wipe or mark the animal from its face till the back of its neck to specify the owner of the animal. One should only state the owner by mentioning his name while slaughtering, without wiping. This was the conduct of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Moreover if one sacrifices the animal with only the intention and without mentioning the name of its owner, it still will be sufficient.
The sacrifice should be of camels, cows, sheep, or goats. It cannot be valid unless it meets two conditions:
· The animal must have reached the required age
· It must be free of certain defects that invalidate sacrifice.
Age specifications are as follows:
· Camels: Five years old.
· Cows: Two years old.
· Goats: One-year-old.
· Sheep: Six months old.
The defects that invalidate sacrifice have been explained by the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the following Hadith.
“Four (types of animals) should be avoided in sacrifice: A lame animal whose lameness is evident, a one-eyed animal which is clearly one-eyed, an animal which is clearly ill and an emaciated animal with no fat on it.” (Ahmad)
· The clear lameness is identified by the animal’s inability to fight and keep up with healthy animals.
· An animal with a defective eye – either popping out or completely concealed – is identified as one-eyed. If the imperfection is not detectable – even though the animal cannot see with it – the sacrifice will still be valid but disliked.
· The way it trots, the type of appetite it has, and other similar factors determine if the animal is healthy. An ailing animal whose poor health is obvious can be accepted as a legitimate sacrifice. In any case, it is preferable to offer an animal in the sacrifice that is free from all such defects.
· If the sacrificial animal is so thin that its bones contain no marrow, it will not be accepted as a valid sacrifice.
The sounder the sacrificial animal is, the more acceptable it becomes. The male animal, whether castrated or not, is acceptable as the Prophet (peace be upon him) offered both in sacrifice. However, the fleshier the animal, the more satisfactory it is.
Slaughtering a goat or a sheep is better than one-seventh of a camel or a cow, even though both are equivalent. One may share a cow or camel with six other persons, hoping reward for all of them. Sacrificing a pregnant animal is also equally acceptable.
One should slaughter his sacrificial animal himself if he is able to. If he cannot, he can hire someone to do it and should attend the slaughtering. If he is not present, the sacrifice is still valid. If a person slaughtered an animal thinking it was his but found out later that it belonged to someone else, then the sacrifice will be credited to the real owner, he will receive the reward for it and will be entitled to its meat.
For instance, if there is a yard with several sacrificial animals in it and a person takes one of them, assuming that it is his and slaughters it, but later discovers that it did not belong to him, then although the sacrifice is valid, the one who mistakenly slaughtered the animal does not receive the credit or reward for it. His position is like that of someone appointed to slaughter on behalf of the owner.