Saudi Arabia: Eid al Adha in America


Eid al Adha is the time of sacrifice and giving.  This is when Muslim families in Saudi Arabia will acquire a goat, sheep or camel which they will slaughter in their back yard or parking lot.  After the slaughter the meat is cut and cleaned.  One third is retained by the family, one third is shared with friends or family and the last third is given to the poor.  It was not uncommon during our years in Riyadh to hear the bleeps of sheep from many homes in our all-Saudi compound.  No one blinks an eye if you live in an apartment and have a sheep tied outside.  Some families will slaughter their offerings in the street as they may not have a yard to slaughter one in.

In America things are a little bit different.  In most cases Muslims obtain their Eid al Adha sacrifice already slaughtered, cleaned and wrapped from a local hilal meat store.  Chances are slaughtering a live animal in a backyard would be viewed as animal cruelty.  If an American Muslim lived in a remote area somewhere in the country or on a farm, there would probably be little notice taken to slaughter a goat or sheep for Eid al Ahda.

The Islamic Centers and mosques in the United States will generally have special Eid programs and functions for its members.

I encourage American Bedu readers who have participated in Eid al Adha to share their experiences.  I know when Eid al Adha comes around I always think of my late husband and his mother sitting on the floor of the kitchen and butchering sheep (plural).  After butchering and cleaning the sheep they’d separate pieces of sheep in different bags.  Later after the evening prayer my husband and his brothers would go to poor areas of Makkah giving out bags of sheep.


28 Responses

  1. Years ago when I was a kid most of the neighborhood were houses but across the street up the block was an apartment building. On occasion some of the residents would kill chickens on the front stoops. As a child/young teen I didn’t understand why and it wasn’t all the time either. Now, looking back I am willing to bet it was muslims at Eid. Why not a sheep? Pretty hard to find a sheep in the middle of the city. I have to say that it was NOT taken well by the neighbors. It was viewed as a bit disgusting/backward…had it been the country I am sure it would have been seen differently. I remember hearing that someone called the health department and after that I don’t remember ever hearing about it again or seeing it again.

  2. Muslims that I know here in the U.S. go to farms and buy a sheep to slaughter and butcher there. I’m pretty sure that the farmer is non-Muslim but the sheep are raised organically.

  3. Religion is not a valid excuse for “sacrificially slaughtering” animals. If any given religion requires the spilling of innocent blood to satisfy and honor its deity, the followers of that religion need to seriously examine why their belief system demands bloodshed in the name of “tradition” or piety.

  4. Chicken slaughter at the home is pretty commen as a global phenomenon. They may have been Muslim, but even if they were chicken slaughter has nothing to do with Eid rituals.

  5. I just love how slaughtering something has religious value. I also have my opinions on just how humane halal butchering is. I am thankful that I live where I don’t have to see it but have certainly seen it in my family compounds in North Africa and KSA.

  6. I am not living in america but I believe that Slaiughtering of animal is WAJIB on Eid ul adha.
    BUT BUT BUT I do not believe in already slaughtered animal. The most important thing is to slaughter the anomal with own hand with TAKBIR.

  7. But but but! How many hands can slaughter one lamb? So not EVERYone can be the slaughterer, right? So what difference does it make if my husband is the slaughterer or if it’s the butcher across town? Either way, it isn’t ME, right?

  8. ‘I just love how slaughtering something has religious value.’

    Have you seen the movie Apocalypto? Quite an awesome religious slaughter scene in that movie! If you haven’t seen it you should, it’s a great movie.

  9. Don’t think I want to see it. I remember having this discussion with my husband. He said slaughtering by cutting the animal’s throat and letting it bleed to death was more humane than any other way. “How so” said I. Well it seems it’s because the animal doesn’t make a sound. I pointed out that with it’s throat cut it wouldn’t be able to make a sound and when it’s held upside down basically on it’s back it can’t struggle and that suffocating and bleeding out is not a ‘nice’ way to die. He’s not brought it up since. It is barbaric IMHO. Okay, slaughter houses are not nice places either – most of them anyway. I guess if we are going to eat meat we should be able to kill it ourselves but the halal method is cruel.

  10. Thanks Lynn…You might be right. They almost assuredly were immigrants of some kind. I didn’t know them personally. Perhaps they were used to that at home and continued it in the USA and not having a backyard used the cement steps as the most available (and able to wash away debris) site. But I remember as a kid walking past the bloody stoops on my way to school and wondering “wouldn’t it just be easier,neater,more hygenic to buy it at the grocery store?” There was one around the corner well within walking distance which my family used all the time.

  11. Wendy…

    I didn’t realize that is how it is done. Hmmm…the animal would be conscious for at least a little bit before it died. It takes time to bleed to death. That does seem inhumane as it can feel pain while it is still alive even if it can’t voice it…as long as it’s spinal cord is intact it can feel pain. I am not sure that nonhalal slaughter is any better.

  12. ooops…comment above for Lynn was meant for Sandy. Sorry!

  13. F’s family in saudi does ir every eid, although i have never graced the occasion 🙂 neither did i let me then very young kids view it. As for F i can safely say the poor man hasn’t been able t slaughter an animal for eid for the past 20+ yrs, probably much more.. i don’t think he has participated in one ever since he left saudi, of course he loves his kabsa and has to eat it in friends places or restaurants.. eid or not this is a vegetairan household as long as i’m in it.

    I’ve been told by his dad many times it’s a must for the males to slaughter at eid. I understand their point of view, but then their son doesn’t seem to care much.
    I’ve never seen a slaughter here inthe US .

    In india our neigbours did slaughter although they tied a blanket to hide the gore. my cousin wept the whole time the animal bleated.. our neighbours ( f’s aunt/uncle) felt so bad , after that year we never saw or heard the slaghter but i know they did slaughter every year.. very considerate folks.

  14. we are used to it. Here in Madina we buy a ox and take it to slaughter house, they do their job. And we bring the meat. Thats it.

  15. I am not sure whether this is more humane method than any other (after all to the sheep the net result is it’s death). Most of us are meat eaters so it is a bit odd to criticize one method over another. If the sheep voted do you think they would praise our method of slaughter over that of halal butchers?

    What does amuse me somewhat is the idea of people slaughtering animals on their own property. That sounds unsanitary.

  16. Well, Jerry … if I new I was going to die I think I’d choose the least painful method so I imagine a sheep would also.

  17. Having witnessed quite a few slaughters ..when a muslim knows the way in which to do the cutting and respects the animals rite..its such a peaceful thing to see…i saw a muslim man once who covered the eyes of the lamb with its ears and recited some words and it became totally still and relaxed and thats when he cut the throat..then it was tied up in a backyard and btw these guys are professional..they gutted..skinned and everything..without much mess..and it is sanitary.. its like going back to the simple life..u gotta love do ppl on farms do things when they don’t have prepared slaughter areas?
    I love the idea of watching a slaughter becos we have become so de-sensitised to meat and were it comes from..we just see a BigMac and were all excited..but when it comes to the blood and gore we all villages all around Europe children start young watching their parents do the exact same thing.

  18. I’m not sure why the halal way of slaughtering an animal, by making one swift cut with a sharp knife to ensure that the animal dies as quickly as possible, is any more “barbaric” than other methods. Is shooting a bolt through a cow’s head in a factory farm house better for you? Your one pound, nealty wrapped package of ground beef you buy at wal mart didn’t get there without the death of an animal, so to be offended by the “Muslim” way of slaughtering over another is absurd.

  19. “in villages all around Europe children start young watching their parents do the exact same thing.”

    – my daughter apparently saw a butcher in action ( not even killing the animal) – she never even touches meat. forget about eating. But then again my son loves his chicken.. so i think it depends on the kids, a few are revolted by the thought that an animal dies for our gastronomic pleasure 🙂 all i can say was she was traumatised by that i would never have willingly subjected her to it. but then maybe some kids grow up with it and don’t really get bothered.

  20. I think it is better to be able to at least occasionally see a slaughter. We should be mindful of what we are eating, and not pretend it all comes plastic wrapped from the store. I don’t have a problem eating meat- but I think we need to really appreciate where it comes from.

  21. Why do we have to witness a slaughter to be able to appreciate where our food comes from? Do we need to see the sweat on the farmers’ faces to appreciate where our veggies come from?

  22. Perhaps. 🙂 Some kids don’t know that carrots come out of the ground. We should all know where our food comes from and how it gets to the table and learn to appreciate the labour that goes into it.

  23. I agree Wendy.

    And in spite of my views- I’ve only seen an animal slaughtered on TV.

  24. Damn straight wendy !! 🙂

  25. I wonder why Chritians and Jews can not share this sacrifice.

  26. Sami, what do you mean?

  27. I worked for one summer in college in a (non halal) slaughterhouse, on the kill floor. Imagine a pen full of animals stunned/shocked over and over, and then swept up onto a conveyor belt (and shocked more, but they’re still alive and kickin’), with a chain looped around a hind hoof. They then sweep the animal upside down and stun it again (because if it’s kicking it can kick the knife into the person cutting their necks) and then they stab it in the throat (not even cut like we do). Then some animals come back from the stun, and they’re drug through boiling/near boiling water to help get the hair off them, and singed with burners to burn remaining hair off.

    So no, it’s not more humane the non Islamic way.

  28. @wendy
    This obediebce of Abraham has been commended by God in Genesis 22:1-19
    All Jews and chritians and Muslims should sacrifice the animal in the name of god so that we are blessed by God as written in the bible and torah.

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