Sacrifice, Thy Name Is Mr. Sheep

Sacrifice, Thy Name Is Mr. Sheep

qurbani heading2

Written by Theresa Corbin

This past weekend was Eid Al-Adha, a religious holiday for Muslims at the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca, where each family sacrifices an animal (the qurbani-which is to be consumed and given to family, neighbors and in charity) in memory of Abraham’s sacrifice and success. More about Eid Al-Adha here.

Our sacrifice for last year’s Eid Al-Adha was interesting to say the least. It all began with a Craigslist ad, like many interesting journeys do. In past years my husband and I had always purchased our qurbani (the sacrificial animal) with a group of other Muslims through the mosque who had arrangements with local farmers. Then a group of brothers would volunteer (which usually included my husband) to go to the local farm and take care of the slaughter, the butchering and the delivery of the meat.

However this year in particular (2013) we were in a new city with no such group qurbani purchase or band of brothers taking care of business. We were on our own. And since my husband has first-hand knowledge of farming (dad owns a farm), butchering and Islamic slaughtering practices, we thought-foolishly-why not DIY the Eid al-Adha experience.

Side note: before we get our knickers in a knot, most of us here eat meat. And in the West the process of getting meat to table is not one many like to think about, but it is a fact of life. In Islam kindness to animals is stressed. Cruelty to animals is a grave sin and even the feelings of animals are to be considered. In an Islamic slaughter, the animal to be slaughtered must be raised free from cruelty, have reached a mature age and be healthy. Muslims are enjoined to slaughter their livestock by cutting the animal’s carotid artery, jugular vein and wind pipe in a swift and merciful manner, with a sharp knife, saying in the name of God. The animal must not be shown the knife or made to watch another animal being slaughtered, as this will cause distress for the animal.

So, once we assured the reputable nature of the sheep seller and eventually the sale of the sheep, the problem of transport became apparent. How does one get a fully-grown male sheep, ram, whatever, complete with horns that can easily bust through Toyota’s toughest car windows, from farm to home? How does one not get pulled over by the police when transporting said horn welding animal? Very carefully and with lots of dua (supplication)-that’s how!

Perhaps it takes a ram to transport a ram
Perhaps it takes a ram to transport a ram

Mr. Sheep was upset that he didn’t get shot gun (tasteless pun unintended) and spent the 45 minute trip from rural Louisiana to our suburban home making a spectacle out of himself. And no threats of being grounded from TV helped the situation.

We arrived at our home free from incident by the grace of God. And we put out water for the fellow, hoping he would calm down after a cool drink. He did not.

Mr. Sheep ran around the backyard like me trying to find my terrified way out of a crowded and germ laden Chuck E Cheese. Poor guy was scared, so we left him alone for a few minutes to settle down. He did not. As soon as we stepped outside, Mr. Sheep chased my husband, horns first, through the yard around the tree and into the one sad dilapidated bush. I played my role of disapproving adult complete with hands on hip as I watched the procession before me. We must have looked like a rural version of the three stooges.

Eventually Mr. Sheep settled down and laid down right in front of my husband. This is where I started freaking out. I had never witnessed an animal being slaughtered and I was super sure that it was going to be scarring. I am not squeamish at the sight of blood (as I have in a past life worked in a dialysis clinic). I am, however, squeamish at the sight of suffering (Can’t stomach any of the Saw movies).

But as if by some miracle, Mr. Sheep accepted his fate and laid still and silent until he was gone. It was strangely a peaceful experience. We sat in sadness and silence once the deed was done. We missed Mr. Sheep’s antics, thanked God for providing us with food and Mr. Sheep for his sacrifice. Side note part deux: bringing the process of food acquisitioning closer to home has made me so much more thankful for the food I eat.

mr sheep

By this point it was dark, and as any successful hunter knows, you gotta get ‘er done and fast, butchering that is. I held the flash light on the meat as my husband taught me how to properly prepare an animal for consumption–if ever I were in a survival situation and there was no way to order pizza, the horror!

Now we could only hope and pray that our neighbors wouldn’t venture into their backyards and glimpse over the fence and see what to an outsider might look like a gruesome crime scene. They didn’t. Thank God. I can only imagine the police officer responding to a call of devil worship and meeting us as we try to explain Eid and Islam and halal slaughter practices.

In all honesty we were probably violating some kind of zoning issue. Which reminded me of an episode of Duck Dynasty where Jase does this very same thing but in his FRONT yard as a school bus full of children drives by. I am not a fan of being compared to rednecks, but I guess if it walks, talks, and lives in the same state as the Duck Dynasty …

Finally the meat was cut and stored, and we called it an eventful day.
But Mr. Sheep’s legacy wasn’t finished. Two days later a serious looking rash appeared on my husband’s arm. He contracted a common butcher’s disease known as Erysipeloid from Mr. Sheep’s wool (because tough guys don’t need gloves, right?. WRONG!). And for a week he had to get shots to rid Mr. Sheep’s legacy from our lives.

When all was said and done we had to admit that ambition (reads lack of preparation) and bravery (reads foolhardy-ness) doesn’t make for effective pioneers, even though we might delude ourselves in to thinking it does.

This year’s sacrifice? We went to MuslimAid.org instead of Craigslist.org.

 

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31 thoughts on “Sacrifice, Thy Name Is Mr. Sheep

  1. Masha’Allah…..even never having met your husband, except for through pictures, I can totally picture this comedy of errors. May Allah accept your offering.

    I don’t think I could ever do that. I won’t even take the (cooked) meat off the lamb to put away as leftovers. Subhan’Allah.

    What does MuslimAid.org do? Accept money or hook you up with a group of Muslims or what?

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  2. You never met Yusuf in Mobile?
    I thought you had. ‘Tis sad.
    I didn’t think I could do it either. But I decided to just do it, and add it to my resume of stuff I have done even though I was afraid to do it.

    Are you saying that you throw away meat because you don’t want to take it off the bone? Is that right, just wondering if am I missing something (besides the usual marbles)?

    MuslimAid.org does it all, they scarifice in your name and send the meat to a needy area that will beneift from it the most. So basically you go to the site, give the money and you’re done.

    What do y’all usually do?

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    1. OOO- I like that idea of MuslimAid.org considering we eat more than enough meat anyway. I am also curious about taking the lamb meat off the bone situation mentioned above. Maybe her husband does it?

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  3. Good lord- what were you guys thinking. I know what you mean by the thought involved when eating meat though. I feel the same way. It is actually gut wrenching- the thought of taking another life to feed your own when there are alternatives, and yet I do it over and over- there are certain time even when I most certainly crave meat. I know there are cultures where there are almost no other options because of the terrain and whatnot. Still, feels vampiric almost (I think I just made that word up). As I sit here writing this I am boiling turkey neck and heart to make a stock for gravy tomorrow. I don’t know what to do with the liver but I hate to throw it out. I just happened to get a deal for thabeha organic turkey.

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    1. You can make some dirty rice with the liver. I have never done it, but I hear it is good. It does feel wrong at times to eat the mount of meat that we are taught to eat in our culture. It is like we have to have it at every meal or it is only considered a snack. And our bodies don’t need that much meat. Like anything else in life, I think it is a matter of balance that we as human beings find so hard to acheive.

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    2. Oh would you stop please :P… I am not a big meat eater myself, but come on…gosh what would happen if I went to the forest and captured Bamabi ?

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      1. Seriously, all people who eat in any amount really should experience this. It is such a profound thing to take a life and we are so disconnected from the lives of the animals we consume that we act like it never existed or mattered. But I am sure Bambi would kick your butt before you ever captured him (her?)

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  4. It was certainly lovely reading your experience of udhiya. I think myself very fortunate to live in a town full of Muslims where we are spilt for choice of which farm to visit to find that perfect sacrificanimalnima

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  5. Salam, I laughed from beginning to the end of your story. It was well captured and really interesting. The area I come from, Northern Nigeria, who are predominantly muslims, slaughtering is usually done inside one’s compound or infront of the house. But I had never witnessed it because of the sympathy I usually have towards the animal. It is nice to know the muslims in europe do celebrate the Eid el Kabeer.

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    1. I have always taken that approach of keeping it out of sight and mind until this year. It has changed me in a good way. Glad you like the post. Don’t be a stranger. 🙂

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  6. I’m fascinated by the writings of Corbin on Islam in a very lucid manner, understandable to all…ur contribution to Islam would b a milestone…thank u dear Theresa Corbin…may Allah bless u n ur family…Luther

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  7. My mom and I have really faint hearts and we are really sad for the animal so we try to stay away from the slaughter scene taking in home garden. We also don’t feel and don’t eat meat in those following weeks, because after imagining the poor animal’s sacrifice we do our responsibility of of cleaning the meat and prepare the portions for giving away.
    Since a while, we donate money to a local charity that does credible work and they do it.
    Thanks for narrating your experience Corbin. Yes I understand your and your husbands sadness post sacrifice. Allah The Most Merciful will reward you for this inshAllah.

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  8. ASA: Mrs. Corbin I have a question regarding your transition to Islam. Since you are a convert, which requires a conscience decision to embrace the new, I assume you are deeply aware of what drives your belief in God. Can you elaborate on the drivers that fuel your belief in God and ultimately guided you to Islam?

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      1. I have read your conversion story and find it similar to my own in several respects. Thank you for sharing. I admit that I still struggle with complete commitment. May I ask you a multi-part question? How have you reconciled familial concerns regarding life after death for those family members whom have not embraced Islam; do you feel you will leave them behind to suffer a different fate; does this cause you concern or suffering?

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      2. John, thank you for your thoughtful question about loved ones and life after death. I must say that I did struggle with this for a long time as both of my parents passed away while I was still relatively young. And I knew my mother was devoutly religious and one of the most God conscious people I have ever met. But I came to understand that we cannot say who is going to heaven and who is going to hell based on what WE know about them. Allah knows what we are all capable of understanding of His message. He also knows if the true message actually reaches each person or if we did our best to follow the previous messenger. And Allah knows what everyone is capable of doing, what we do, and what our intentions are. And each person will be judged based on Allah’s intimate knowledge of our beleif, intentions and deeds. I don’t worry so much about what my loved ones called themselves because there will be no conveyor belt in to heaven or hell where each perosn hops on to the relgion they identified as.
        At the end of the day, I absolutely trust that Allah is the most merciful. So I leave it up to Allah.
        There is a touching hadith that conforrts me when thinking about the state of my soul and those of my loved ones:
        Verily, there are one hundred parts of mercy for Allah, and it is one part of this mercy by virtue of which there is mutual love between the people and ninety-nine reserved for the Day of Resurrection.
        [Sahih Muslim – Book 37 – Hadith 6632]
        So if we have only been given one part of mercy and that is spread through out humanity, and we can see how merciful each mother is to her child, I cannot even imagine how merciful Allah will be on the Day of Resurrection with those remaining 99 parts of mercy.

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      3. Corbin,

        Thank you very much for your kind words and thoughtful response. Your words have given me comfort and additional knowledge upon which to move forward in my journey.

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  9. Great article, Theresa. I have wondered for quite some time about the specifics of Muslim law regarding raising and slaughtering an animal. It sounds like it’s all done with a great deal of humanity involved which I’m glad to see. Very similar to the Kosher laws I am familiar with … where the animal must be raised humanely, and if it’s killed for food, that done humanely as well. And you also gave a great deal of further information on the occasion as well. Thanks for sharing. I hope your writing can help to dispel the misinformation and misunderstandings about the Muslim faith. Groups like ISIL does NOT represent the majority of Muslims. Groups like Islamic Relief (I think that’s the right name for the disaster relief group!) come far closer. I look forward to more from you. Blessings.

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    1. Yes, the Islamic practice of care for and slaughter of animals is almost identical to that of Judaism. They are both Abrahamic traditions with the beleif in the same God, so we share many similarities. 🙂 And absolutely! Groups like Muslims Aid, Islamic Releif, The Red Crescent and hundres more that do humanitarian work around the world are hands down a better representation of Islam than groups like ISIS that ignore directives of the faith to treat all people with compassion and mercy. Thank you for your kind words, and encouragement. All the Best.

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  10. Have you ever lived as a Muslim woman in the middle east? its a very different existence to the fluffy, tolerant, assiduously politically-correct life that you live in the USA. People can be almost anything they want in the USA; the same is not true in the Middle East, and I think your entire blog reflects nothing more than the tolerance and evolved nature of Western society. Go and live in the Middle East for 5 years (and I’m not talking about Dubai or some other caricature of the Arab world) and then report back to us. In the meantime, a word of thanks and gratitude is due from you for the fact that, as a citizen of a western democracy, you have faced no real obstacles to indulging your interest in Islam. As a Muslim, female citizen of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, and many other countries, you would have been ostracized, disowned, and possibly worse, for converting to Christianity and then blogging about it. i have no problem with what you have done or why you have done it, but i would like you to give due credit to the political system that has enabled you to do it.

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    1. You confuse Middle Eastern politics with the WORLD religion of Islam. They are different things. I do not have to live in the Middle East to be a Muslim or Practice Islam, which by the way is not even where the majority of the world’s Muslims live. And I have been ostracized, disowned and worse for converting to Islam and blogging about it. I have never been anything but grateful that GOd allowed me to be born in the U.S. where I have freedom of religion. I AM getting pretty tired of people insisting that I prove that I am grateful.

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    2. There appears to be some discomfort or suffering behind your words. May I suggest that you talk it through with a qualified, experienced member of the clergy of your faith. If you are between faiths, May I suggest that you talk it through with those that you love and care about.

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