The word ‘Qurbani’ is derived from the Arabic, ‘qurban’, which has its root in the Arabic word ‘qurb’ – meaning ‘nearness’. The purpose of offering Qurbani is to draw near to Allah. Through Qurbani, we reaffirm what we sometimes forget in the hustle and bustle of everyday life – that we completely submit to Allah, and we are willing to sacrifice whatever is asked of us to be close to Him and gain His pleasure, just as Prophet Ibrahim (AS) did so many years ago for the will of Allah (SWT). At the last moment, Allah replaced Ibrahim’s son with a ram, saving his life and rewarding Ibrahim’s devotion. That is why Muslims pay Qurbani and in doing so, we also help impoverished families and communities receive their share. Qurbani is compulsory for anyone of sound mind who has reached the age of puberty and who has wealth above the threshold amount.
There are some important aspects regarding the sacrifice of animals from their selection, their care and slaughter which is followed by the cooking and preservation of their meat.
Selection of animals:
The animals intended for slaughter should be fit in all aspects which necessitates their proper selection. For Qurbani, sheep and goat should be at least one year in age (enough for one person’s Qurbani), cows or buffaloes at least two years in age (enough for seven people’s Qurbani) and camels of at least five years in age (enough for seven people’s Qurbani). Age of animals can easily be calculated by dentition. Ruminants such as cattle, sheep and goat have a dental pad or browsing pad on upper jaw and incisor teeth on the lower jaw. Young animals have milk teeth; adults have varying numbers of permanent incisor teeth depending on age. The full-mouth has 8 permanent incisor teeth whereas old animals are broken mouth or even gummers. Animals should be in good health. There should be plenty of flesh on them and they shouldn’t be hide-bound. The technique of evaluating animals is known as Body Condition Scoring (BCS) and the animals meant for Qurbani should ideally have a high Body Condition Score.
Weighing of animals:
Once the animals have been selected, their rates have to be decided. Normally the rates of the animals are governed by their body weight and given their size, most of the times it is difficult to weigh the large animals. Various formulae have been developed to calculate the body weight of the animals such as Sheep and Cattle without actually weighing them on a balance. The Heart Girth (G) of the animal is measured with an inch tape and then the length (L) is measured from point of shoulder to point of pin bone (near base of tail). As per the formula, the body weight is equal to the product of square of heart girth and length divided by 300 which gives weight in pounds. For example, if a sheep has a heart girth equal to 35 inches and a body length equal to 30 inches, the calculation would be (35×35×30)/300=122 pounds. The dressing percentage in sheep is around 50% which means if a sheep has a live weight of 40 Kg, only 20 kg meat would be obtained from it, the rest being offal and wastes.
Care of animals:
Most of the people purchase sacrificial animals just a couple of days before their slaughter. People tend to give their utmost attention to these sacrificial animals in this short period. They are often bathed, decorated and given plenty of quality feed. However, giving too much feed in these couple of days does more harm than good to these sacrificial animals. For example, the animals are fed too much of concentrates (feed pellets, grains or oil cakes) in this short period. We must keep in mind that most of the times these animals are not given too much of concentrates for economic reasons by their owners (Chopans or Bakerwals). They are accustomed to grazing on pastures and such animals are not naturally adapted to higher quantities of concentrates. When we purchase such animals and feed them higher quantity of concentrates, it can cause digestive disturbances in them and can even be fatal. In fact, veterinarians often encounter plenty of cases in field conditions on the eve of Eid wherein people feed too much of concentrates to their sacrificial animals leading to illness in them and even death. So offer more of dry grass and plenty of water and give limited quantity of concentrates to animals intended for slaughter.
Slaughter of animals
After purchasing the animals, they must be properly transported. Animals must be tied securely in the vehicle and plenty of bedding should be offered to them to ensure their comfort. Once the animals reach their destination, they should be given adequate rest before slaughter. Slaughtering animals without being rested after their transport from long distances has an adverse effect even on their meat quality because of exhaustion and stress. Moreover, it is an act of cruelty not to give proper rest to animals. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “If you kill, kill well, and if you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters”. The animals are obviously slaughtered by the Halal Method wherein the animal’s throat is cut by a sharp knife severing the carotid arteries, jugular veins and windpipe in a single swipe. Blood must be drained out of the carcass completely. An animal must not be slaughtered in front of another animal.
Cooking of meat
When an animal is slaughtered, after few hours of slaughter gradual toughening of meat occurs, known as rigor mortis (death stiffness). The rigor mortis gradually passes off on its own depending on temperature due to proteolytic enzyme activity. Either meat should be cooked before the onset of rigor or the rigor must be allowed to pass away (ageing of meat). Ageing of meat increases its flavor and juiciness. Prior to cooking meat can be tenderized either mechanically, or by marinating or by use of certain enzymes. One of the popular methods of consuming meat is by roasting it. As there is no use of oil in roasting it can be beneficial for obese patients. Muscles are ideal for making barbecues and the meat can be marinated prior to its roasting by immersing it in an acidic solution of lemon or vinegar together with spices. Marination of meat prior to its roasting increases its flavor and also makes meat softer and more palatable.
Preservation of meat
Slaughter of animals should be done in a hygienic way and it must be ensured that there is no contamination of meat. The meat of sacrificial animals should be distributed among the relatives, neighbors and needy and the rest of the meat meant for personal consumption should be preserved properly for its future use and one of the most popular methods is by storing meat at a low temperature. The difference between refrigeration and freezing must be noted. Whereas refrigeration temperature is around 4 degree Celsius, the temperature of freezing is minus 18 degree Celsius. Under refrigeration, meat can be preserved only for few days but in freezer it can be stored for several weeks. If fresh meat (pre-rigor meat) is frozen, an undesirable phenomenon of cold shortening occurs. Therefore meat shouldn’t be immediately frozen after slaughter of animal. Using appropriate packaging such as freezer bags and plastic containers prevents “freezer burn” in meat. Make sure that frozen meat is completely thawed before cooking. Meat that has been frozen and thawed should never be refrozen.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.