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What Does Islam Say About Animal Welfare? 8 Muslim Vegetarians Share Thoughts On Eid Al-Adha

Every year around this time, there’s an intense debate about Eid Al-Adha and the associated animal sacrifice. Some vegetarian and vegan Muslims still participate in the sacrifice in order to feed others while declining to partake in the meat themselves. Others may adopt a “flexitarian” diet for the day and choose to consume the meat. Still others argue against the necessity for animal sacrifice with the reasoning that other types of non-meat food can be donated instead.

Regardless of where one stands on the matter, there is an intense need as an ummah to explore the concept of tayyib and “halal.” Many Muslims are concerned with buying halal meat, but is the animal still halal if the animal wasn’t raised ethically and was raised in cruel and inhumane conditions? Is halal only about the manner in which an animal was slaughtered, or is it also about the animal’s life as well?

There are numerous examples of animal rights and their importance in Islam in both the Quran and Hadith; adopting an isolationist and reductionist view regarding permissibility does a great disservice to the fact that Islam provides us a holistic and complete guide with which to live our lives — including in the matters of ethics, animal welfare, and ethical consumption.

According to the late Imam B.A. Hafiz al-Masri of the Shah Jehan Mosque in Woking, United Kingdom: “If animals have been subjected to cruelties in their breeding, transport, slaughter, or in their general welfare, meat from them is considered impure and unlawful to eat (haram). The flesh of animals killed by cruel methods (Al-Muthiah) is carrion (Al-Mujathamadh). Even if these animals have been slaughtered in the strictest manner, if cruelties were inflicted on them otherwise, their flesh is still forbidden food (haram).”

We talked to eight Muslims who identify as being vegan and vegetarian to find out their experiences and views on Eid Al-Adha.

PHILIPPA CHADWICK

“Although you would normally sacrifice a goat on Eid al Adha, as a vegetarian, I tend to follow the thought process that you instead would sacrifice something of value. I also believe firmly in animal rights and the importance of treating animals in a humane manner, thus I personally have no problem with ethically treated goats being sacrificed for Eid since it is always done with halal butchers and I know that it was in the best manner possible. Another way I celebrate as a vegetarian is by having the meat given to those in need, as others do. So I’ve never felt neglected during the holiday 😊 I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 10, and converted (reverted) when I was 19.”

Shifa

“I don’t eat non-vegetarian meals at all. I don’t like it; everyone in my family loves to have it as their daily preferences, I’m the odd one out here. On Eid Al-Adha I force myself to eat the tabarukh because of my family, but only for that day. I don’t mind having a bite or so. 😊”

Natasha Berlinski

“So I actually became a vegetarian when I was 8 years old (22 years ago), because I didn’t like the idea of innocent animals being killed when there are other things I can eat. I am also a revert, and converted around four years ago, so was vegetarian before I was Muslim! I don’t have an issue with the animals being slaughtered per se as I know we are remembering the important sacrifice that Ibrahim (AS) was willing to make. But I think we also have to consider what sacrifices are we making in our lives at this time other than slaughtering an animal? Are we donating enough of our money to help the poor? Are we using our time to read more Quran & pray more salat instead of watching TV or scrolling social media? I think that there other sacrifices that can be made other than just killing an excessive amount of animals.”

Farah Niazi

“I am an Indian Muslim and have been a vegetarian by choice for the most of my life. Honestly, it hasn’t been difficult to practice vegetarianism in a family where everyone is a non-vegetarian since my whole family has been understanding of my eating habits and have never tried to change them, Alhamdulillah. And when it comes to my experience with the society, i.e. the non-Muslim folks, they have always responded to the fact that I am a vegetarian with either a stereotypical phrase, such as “But you are a Muslim, and it is mandatory in your religion to eat meat,” or with a condescending expression, like “ Oh wow! You are a vegetarian despite being a Muslim and that it is oh so commendable.” And these comments still keep coming whenever I introduced myself as a Muslim vegetarian.

Now when it comes to Eid-ul-Adha, the day to commemorate the supreme sacrifice of the Prophet Ibrahim(A.S), I do take part in all the celebrations, as I feel this day is more about one’s rigid intention of sacrificing the worldly attachments in the name of the Allah and to feed the poor than just to eat meat for the whole three days. And I don’t feel this day contradicts with my being a vegetarian, since the command of Allah is always and always above my personal choices and beliefs. And Allah knows best.”

SAHER

“I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 17. Would have been sooner than that, but my parents wouldn’t hear of it. I think I must have been four when I knew that I didn’t want to kill animals for my food. My dad took me to a butcher shop and I saw a live goat being slaughtered. Every Eid Al-Adha after that was painful to celebrate. We’d bring the goats to our house in Dubai the night before and sacrifice them in the morning. I was too young to understand that they’d be brought for sacrifice and not as our pets. It would break my heart to see them sacrificed and then broken down in parts by the butcher.

As an adult I became a vegetarian and now opt for vegan food as much as possible. Eid Al-Adha is a complicated Eid for me because I understand the origins of why this Eid is celebrated, but I can’t bring myself to eat or sacrifice an animal. I’ve been pressured immensely by family, relatives, and society in general to eat meat at least on this Eid. I’ve been told I’ll burn in hell for not following these customs, and denying that which Allah has permitted for Muslims. It took me a long time to stop feeling guilty about being a Muslim vegetarian, but I’ve made my peace with it. I believe Allah is merciful and my choice will be something that won’t be held against me on the day of judgement.

I still dress up on this Eid, celebrate with family, offer prayers, and give charity. I just don’t sacrifice an animal.”

Safiya A. Muhammad

“Spending Eid as a someone who doesn’t eat meat is as hard as you might think. I celebrate Eid Al-Adha as a pescatarian. Almost every year, I usually spend my Eid in my home country, Morocco, with my family. We start to prepare for Eid a week ahead. I know I don’t eat meat, and I haven’t since I was about 7 years old, but my family does, so when we search for a Eid sacrifice (اضحيةالعيد)we look for a healthy one that is big enough for the rest of my family to eat and to give to friends and the indigent.

During the second days of Eid, we always give about half of the sacrifice as sadaqah (صدقة)to the poor and needy, and the rest is for my family and friends to cook, eat, and enjoy. But instead of meat for me, I will have some of my favorite dishes such as fried or grilled fish or a Moroccan vegetable dish. Though I don’t eat meat, every year I have a wonderful Eid with my family, giving charity, and partaking in our special traditions. May Allah grant you all a lovely Eid with many blessings, Ameen!”

Houda

“I have been vegetarian for about 20 years now — I am currently 40. I have never been a big fan of meat, and I reduced it until I cut it out naturally from my meals. When I was younger, Eid Al-Adha (and all other Eids) were (and still are) the occasion were we could all gather with family and close friends and share a great time together celebrating what our religion is teaching us; it wasn’t really about the food, even if the rest of my family are really into meat).


When I started to work, I decided to get a Mutton and to gift it to a family who needs it and can’t afford it, so I still celebrate Eid Al-Adha with my family. All sort of food is available that day to make everybody around the table happy, and I know that another family is also happy enjoying their gift!”

Hiba

“Salam! I’m a vegetarian Muslim girl, and I wanted to share my experience with you. I was a fan of meat until I watched the show What the Health? on Netflix. I was so shocked that I decide to nerver eat meat never again. It’s been five years — I’m fifteen now. And my parents accept the fact that I’m Muslim and a vegetarian.When my parents eat meat, I usually eat vegetables or vegan meat, or anything that doesn’t contain meat. I do feel people thinking it’s complicated to be both Muslim and vegetarian, but it’s not when you get used to it. So many people, Muslims included, think that it’s a must to sacrifice animals during Eid. In truth, it’s a Sunnah; you can do it or not. The Prophet did it, and so we may do the same. Though it’s mentioned in the Quran that there was a sacrifice made by Abraham (PBUH), it didn’t mention it’s obligatory, and even the Hadith does not state its obligatory. I know that some people do require meat to survive, whether that’s due to poverty, medical conditions, or otherwise. While my ideal world would have no necessity for animal meat, it is an unrealistic goal that excludes many vulnerable people with valid concerns. My philosophy is the reduction of suffering wherever possible (that’s why I’m vegetarian), and that means that those who can live without meat, ideally, should, and those who do need meat should ideally get it in way that’s as ethical and sustainable as possible.

The Eid ul-Adha sacrifice is meant to feed the hungry and those in need. Those who go hungry do not have the luxury of meat, so without meat they would be at risk of malnourishment and death. When an animal is killed in the correct Zabiha method, the animal is killed with as little pain and suffering as possible for the purpose of reducing the suffering of others. As long as the detailed rules of Zabiha are followed, I have no issues with animals being sacrificed (even if i don’t it partake from it), although I wish it wasn’t necessary. Having said that, a Muslim can be fully vegan throughout his or her life and still fulfill all obligations of being a Muslim as long as the reason for being vegan is not derived from faith, but from personal choice or for health reasons.

Now coming to the question of what does a vegetarian Muslim do on Eid ul-Adha? Well he or she can perform sacrifice and distribute all the meat to his/her family, neighbors, relatives, and the poor. It is forbidden to suggest as someone who is personally a vegan that eating the meat which Allah SWT has made food for us is haram. If someone is very uncomfortable personally doing the sacrifice, it is alright to pay someone else to do the actual sacrifice for you, and then donate the meat.”

What do you think about the concept of ethical consumption, tayyib, and our responsibilities as Muslims? Slide in our DMs at @muslimgirl on Twitter and Instagram and let us know.