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!
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.
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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