In Islam sacrifice, commonly known as Qurbani, means slaughter of a permissible animal in the name of Allah on the 10th, 11th or 12th of the Islamic month of Zil Hijjah.
It is Sunnah (a symbolic obligation) practised by Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in an essential religious rite in memory of the sacrifice performed by Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him). God put Ibrahim to a most difficult trial, the details of which are described in the Quran. “O my Lord! Grant me (Ibrahim) a righteous (son)!” So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear. “Then, when the (the son) reached the age of serious work with him, he said: “O my son I see in a vision that I offer you in sacrifice: Now say what is your view!” (The son) said: “O My father! Do as you are commanded: You will find me if God so wills, one practising patience and constancy!” So when they had both submitted their wills (to God), and he had made him prostrate on his face (for sacrifice), We called out to him: “O Ibrahim! You have already fulfilled the vision!” Thus indeed do we reward those who do right. “For this was obviously a trial and We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice: and We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times: Peace and salutation to Ibrahim! (37:100-109).
This is the origin of the Islamic precept of sacrifice in fulfilment of God’s command provided in the Quran: “… to your Lord turn in prayer and sacrifice.” (108:2).
The aim of sacrifice, like all other fundamentals of Islam, is to imbibe piety and self righteousness. It also promotes the spirit of sacrifice for a right cause. To explain its purpose, God says in the Quran. “It is not their meat, nor their blood, that reaches God, It is their piety that reaches God”: (22:37)
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “On the 10th of Zil-Hijjah, there is no better act in the view of Allah than shedding the blood (of Slaughtered animals). And verily sacrifice earns the approbation of Allah even before the drop of blood (of the slaughtered animal) falls on the ground. Hence you should offer it in good spirit. For every hair of the sacrificial animal, there is a blessing.” We propose to deal here with the precepts and practices pertaining to Qurbani, according to Hanafi Fiqh.
Qurbani is Fardh for
Qurbani, like Zakat, is essential for one who has the financial means and savings that remain surplus to his own needs over the year. It is essential for one’s own self.
However, a slaughter of animal can also be offered for each member of one’s family. It may be offered, though it is not essential, for one’s deceased relations, too, in the hope of benediction and blessings for the departed souls.
What to Sacrifice
All the permissible (halal) domesticated or reared quadrupeds can be offered for Qurbani. Generally, slaughter of goats, sheep, rams, cows, and camels is offered.
It is permissible for seven persons to share the sacrifice of a cow or a camel on the condition that no one’s share is less than one seventh and their intent is to offer Qurbani.
Age of Sacrificial Animals
Sacrifice of goat or sheep less than one year old (unless the sheep is so strong and fat that it looks to be a full one year old) is not in order. Cow should be at least two years old. Camels shouldn’t be less than five years old.
Sacrifice of an animal will not be in order if it is one eyed, or blind, or has lost an estimated one third or more of its eyesight, or estimated one third or more of its tail, or its ear has been cut off, or it is lame, or its bones have no marrow, or it has no ears by birth or its horns have been broken from their roots, or it has no teeth at all.
If the number of teeth intact exceeds the lost ones, it is permissible. If it has no horns by birth, or has less than one third broken horns it is permissible.
Distribution of meat
One should eat the meat of the sacrifice, give it to relations and friends, (to non-Muslims also) and also to the poor in charity. One third should be given in charity, but if it be less it will not be a sin.
Injunctions as to Skin, etc.
It is not permissible to give a portion of meat or the skin of the slaughtered animal as wages. They should instead be given to the needy in charity. Even the rope and cover of the sacrificed animal should be given away as charity.
Injunction as to sacrifice giver
It is commendable that one who intends to offer a sacrifice should refrain from having a hair cut, a shave, and pruning of nails, from the 1st of Zil-Hijjah (upto the time he has performed the sacrifice).
In the first instance, one who proposes to offer sacrifice must make an intention to that effect.
Method of Sacrifice
The animal for slaughter should be laid on its left side facing Kaabah and its throat cut open with a sharp knife, and its blood allowed to drain. In the case of a camel, it should be allowed to remain standing after its left fore leg has been stringed. A sharp spear should then be thrust in its breast and in both sides of its neck, and the blood allowed to drain.
Taken from Islamic Voice (http://www.islamicvoice.com) with permission.