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Can Qurbani/Udhiya Be Performed Safely In COVID-19 Times? What do Experts Advise?
Current Events
Jul 17, 2020
Guest Contributor
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Guest Contributor
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By Nargis Rahman
People line up in the hallways of Berry & Sons Islamic Slaughter House in Detroit every year on Eid ul Adha. Co-owner Abe Rababeh said some people preorder their Eid meats and give the butcher shop permission to slaughter on their behalf as they enjoy the day with their family while others like to come in and do the ritual slaughter themselves.
“After salat it’s first come, first serve in line. They do their rituals. [Some] are scared to do it or give us the access to go ahead and do it while they pray. Some will go ahead and do it themselves as [it’s part of their] culture for them,” he said.
What happens, though, with qurbani/udhiya in the time of a global pandemic, when many masajid continue to be closed, social distancing is recommended and performing the ritual slaughter to honor the story of the Prophet Ibrahim (as) may be difficult to do? How can one commemorate the day of Eid ul Adha safely?
The Berry family has been in business for 40 years. They match the numbers of animals slaughtered in donations to local organizations, which distribute meat to those in need. This year, Abe expects things to change slightly due to the pandemic, masks and social distancing guidelines, including longer wait times and fewer people being able to wait indoors.
He says with the fear of the coronavirus and hajj being canceled, more people are preordering this year. “I feel this year it might be a little more extra [orders] as bigger organizations are going to send money or meat to the people,” he said. He also expects more people to do sacrifices locally and to have more walk-ins due to possible difficulties for people being unable to send money or sponsor sacrifices at hajj.
Syed M. Hassan, the Communication & Media Relations Specialist for Islamic Relief USA, said he hopes more people consider donating money for the sacrifice instead of performing the sacrifice themselves to benefit people in need around the world. He said donations in the beginning of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah go toward funding the biggest food security project of the year.
“We strongly encourage people to make those donations in order to feed as many people as possible. We look at Qurbani Eid to support one of the largest food security initiatives that we have here at Islamic Relief USA,” he said, referring to providing food to those in need. Syed added that most people are donating qurbani/udhiya to Yemen, Palestine and Syrian refugees, along with people’s home countries. For some this is the only season people have access to halal meat, he said.
“There's a likelihood people don't have work. They don't have financial resources. There's less likelihood of them to be able to purchase fresh meat. Many families depend upon qurbani for their meat intake around the world,” explained Syed.
Life Relief & Development Public Relations Specialist Hala Sanyurah said they are also collecting donations. People can choose which country or project they’d like to donate to and see how much an animal costs per country. The price includes the cost of making the sacrifice. Palestine is the hardest to access and with a higher price point to fund, she said.
“We haven't set guidelines [for performing the qurbani/udhiya sacrifice] specific to each country. It is different per country with how COVID is handled.” She encourages Muslims to consider donating their full qurbani to those in need, so people who may otherwise not have much of a celebration can share the meat with their families and loved ones, she said.
Hala added that one positive is that this year, more people who were able to contribute donated more money during Ramadan due to the pandemic, thus helping people who lost revenue and income. She is hoping for the same with Dhul Hijjah/Eid ul Adha, but doesn’t know what to expect.
“[The amount of donations] may be lower. People lost their jobs so they are not able to provide. In Ramadan we were surprised at how many people donated because of COVID-19. The people who are donating are [doing it] more because there are a lot more people who [now are unable] to supplement [like they would in past years for] those who can't,” she said.
As for safety guidelines for individuals who plan to do the qurbani, ISNA and ICNA have not posted any at this time. However, both have COVID task forces and have included local organizations to the force. (In other places around the world where the coronavirus is wreaking havoc, some religious institutions have issued fatwas to allow for monetary donations to those in need instead of doing qurbani and sharing meat.)
The sacrifice is incumbent on those who make an earned living (who can afford it) and are of age. You can learn more about these guidelines by checking in with Islamic Relief Worldwide. People can also visit the CDC recommendations for food safety on the COVID-19 and food page for recommendations for safe food handling.
CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid, who serves as an assistant imam and sits on the Michigan Muslim Community Council’s Imam Council, said specific guidelines haven’t been issued as of yet due to the pandemic. MMCC partners with Islamic Relief and Mercy USA to distribute meat to local mosques and organizations in Michigan.
Dawud said the general guidelines for making a sacrifice for Eid ul Adha are as follows:
“The majority opinion is that it is a strong practice (sunnah mu'akkadah) for those who are not on pilgrimage to make a sacrifice or pay for one to be done. The minority opinion is that it is compulsory (wajib).”
He said people who are able to do the sacrifice can do so if they follow CDC guidelines and check with local scholars for specific questions.
“People should check with the ruling within their madhab on this as with all issues. If people are not comfortable with doing the sacrifice in person though, it should not be a problem because it is done outside and proper social distancing can be reasonably done. [Alternately,] they can pay for it to be done through an Islamic charity,” he said.
Marzana Quayoum
Marzana Quayoum said her family will perform the sacrificing slaughter at a Michigan farm while following CDC social distancing recommendations. She and her husband also sponsor another sacrifice toward an animal in Bangladesh where their relatives live, to distribute among extended family.
In addition to performing the qurbani, one of Marzana’s customs is visiting neighbors, something they forewent during Eid al Fitr and probably will again for Eid al Adha.
“First Eid [ul Fitr] [our neighbors] sent food over. [It was] part of [our Eid] ritual for so many years, ,and now it’s not. It felt different. This upcoming Eid [ul Adha] I don’t know how it's going to be. The majority of the time it's going to be just seeing siblings.”
Her brother, who is the imam at Tawheed Center in Farmington Hills, MI, hosted a BBQ for Eid al Fitr two months ago. At Tawheed Center they usually have a petting zoo and bounces houses after Eid prayer until dhuhr, the midday prayer. This year, due to the pandemic, there was a drive through parade for Eid ul Fitr. Goodie bags filled with candy and snacks were distributed, like at other mosques around the country. “The kids were excited about that part,” she said, adding that they hope to do this again for Eid ul Adha.
For families like Marzana’s, some of us will have to wait and see how they maintain traditions with new restrictions. In Michigan, where COVID cases are rising (in conjunction with many businesses reopening and plans are being debated for a possible opening of public schools in the fall), people are being encouraged to observe Eid with caution and social distancing.
While Hajj may be cancelled for millions of international pilgrims, honoring the story of Prophet Ibrahim (as) by partaking in ibadah (worship) and charity during the holy first ten days of Dhul Hijjah as well as doing qurbani (as best possible) is still what thousands of Muslims around the country are planning to do.
Will you be ordering your qurbani/udhiya online or do you plan to do it yourself? Let us know in the comments below how you will be observing the holy days of Dhul Hijjah and celebrating Eid ul Adha!
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