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Moonsighting Gone Wrong, Again.

Moonsighting is just not working out.

Atleast not for our community here in the Toronto area. As I speak to my friends in other large (read: fragmented) communities, such as those in the UK, I hear similar tales of confusion, anxiety and horror. The problem in these communities stems from the fact that there are numerous moonsighting organizations in the same area, all following different methodologies for declaring Eid and Ramadan. This naturally results in a catastrophe and Muslims from the same family living in the same city are forced to celebrate the holidays on different days.

To give you a taste of how (and why) things went wrong in this year’s Ramadan declaration, here’s a summary highlighting the series of events as they unfolded. (Reminder: Ramadan was expected to start on Friday, April 24th or Saturday, April 25th 2020 in North America)

  • Wednesday, April 22, 10: 13 pm EST: Crescent Council of Canada (CC) declares Ramadan to start on Friday, 24th April based on the fact that it received no reports of moonsighting sighting on Wednesday night. This committee follows global moonsighting and it declared Ramadan so early because it was already the 29th of Shaban based on the lunar calendar it follows (for most of North America, the 29th of Shaban was to be on Thursday). So, starting Ramadan on Saturday was simply not an option for the group (as it would have meant observing 31 days of Shaban). Also to note is that this group gives precedence to official declarations from authorities from Muslim-majority countries, even if these declarations conflict predictions of visibility charts and astronomical calculations. It argues that testimony of witnesses takes precedence in the sharia over astronomical data.
  • Thursday, April 23rd, 7:27 pm EST : The Hilal Council of Canada (HC), another committee in the area that follows global sighting, states that there has not been any sighting of the moon in any country, including South and Central America (it is past sunset in most of the Muslim world by now). The committee decides that it will wait till sundown in California to receive the final reports before making a declaration. Confusion starts spreading in the community as one organization has already declared Ramadan while another claims no one in the Muslim world saw the moon. Note that HC does not accept moonsighting reports if they contradict astronomical data.
  • 8:39 pm: Confusion continues. The CC claims that Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia, Turkey and a host of Muslim countries have declared Ramadan. The committee thus feels validated in its original declaration which it made on Wednesday night.
  • 8:48 pm: More confusion: California-based CrescentWatch.org also claims that moonsighting reports from the Middle-East and Africa are all negative. People naturally start wondering how so many countries supposedly declared Ramadan if there were no positive sightings.
  • 9:40 pm: The Hilal Committee of Toronto and Vicinity, the oldest moonsighting group in the city, declares Ramadan to start on Saturday the 25th of April. Since the committee did not receive any positive reports by sunset from areas in its jurisdiction, it declared Ramadan to commence on Saturday. This committee follows local moonsighting and doesn’t rely on reports from the Muslim-world. Two of the three major moonsighting groups in the city have declared Ramadan on different days at this time. Residents are confused whether to fast the next day or pray tarweeh as its almost Isha time.
  • 11:11 pm: The HC finally declares Ramadan to start the next day, i.e. Friday, based on confirmed reports from California. Mosques following the HC advice to pray tarawih – an hour after Isha time had already entered. After an anxiety filled and frustrating evening, residents finally know the positions of the various moonsighting groups in the city. Now they just have to decide which one to follow!
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This baffling circus of contradictory declarations is nothing new; it has become a yearly occurrence. Last year we saw the exact same series of events unfold and the same confusion spread throughout the community; it is entirely expected that the same will happen again in future years.

Our leadership has decided that it is acceptable to put the average Muslim through this nerve-racking experience every year. For Eid declarations, the experience is far worse as thousands are often waiting till midnight to decide whether to go work the next day or send their children to school. The stress and anxiety this decision causes for the average person year after year is simply unacceptable.

Popular advice in these situations has been to ‘follow your local masjid’. However, this idea is impractical for large communities where there are numerous local mosques, all following various opinions. It is also impractical for the thousands who simply don’t frequent the mosque and are not tied to a particular organization. The layperson just wants to know the dates for Ramadan and Eid; it is an undue burden on them to research the strength of various legal opinions just to know when to celebrate a religious holiday with their families.

Only one way forward: astronomical calculations

There have been numerous sincere attempts to solve these long-standing problems associated with moonsighting over the past 50 years – all have failed. I have documented in detail these attempts, the reasons for their failure and argued for the only viable solution to this problem: astronomical calculations.

Since its introduction in 2006, Fiqh Council of North America’s calculations-based lunar calendar has proven to be the definitive solution for communities struggling to resolve the yearly moonsighting debacle. An example of such a resolution is the 2015 agreement by some of the leading mosques in the Chicago area who put aside their differences and united behind FCNA’s calendar. This approach has brought ease and facilitation for the religious practice of thousands of Muslims in that community.

While the use of calculations has been a minority position in Islam’s legal history, it has a sound basis in the shariah [1] and has been supported by towering figures of the past such as Imam Zakariya al-Ansari and Imam Ramli. Given the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in now, it is incumbent on scholars of today to revisit this position as a means of providing much needed relief to the masses from this lunar quagmire.

References:

[1]  From SeekersGuidance: Scholars upholding this can be traced all the way back to the first Islamic century. The textual basis for this opinion is the hadith narrated by al-Bukhari, “When you see it [the new moon of Ramadan] then fast; and when you see it [the new moon of Shawwal], then break the fast. If it is hidden from you (ghumma ‘alaykum) [i.e. if the sky is overcast] then estimate it (fa-qdiru lahu);” (al-Bukhari, hadith no. 1900). The last verb, fa-qdiru, can be validly understood to mean calculation. Of the scholars who held this, are Abu al-‘Abbas b. Surayj (d. 306/918), one of the leading founders of the classical Shafi‘i school, the Shafi‘i scholar and renowned mystic Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri (d. 465/1072), the leading Shafi‘i judge Taqi al-Din al-Subki (d. 756/1355), the Shafi‘i legal theorist al-Zarkashi (d. 794/1392), the renowned Maliki legal theorist al-Qarafi (d. 684/1285), and some Hanafi scholars. The late Shafi‘i commentator al-Qalyubi (d. 1069/1659) held that all sighting-claims must be rejected if calculations show that a sighting was impossible, stating, “This is manifestly obvious. In such a case, a person may not fast. Opposing this is obstinacy and stubbornness.” See al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, pp. 31-4. The leading scholar of the late Shāfi‘ī school Muhammad al-Ramli (d. 1004/1596) held that the expert astronomer was obliged to follow his own calculation as was the non-astronomer who believed him; this position has been used by some contemporary Shafi’i scholars to state that in the modern world, with its precise calculations, the strongest opinion of the Shafi’i school should be that everyone must follow calculations; see ‘Umar b. al-Habib al-Husayni, Fath al-‘ali fi jam‘ al-khilaf bayna Ibn Hajar wa-Ibn al-Ramli, ed. Shifa’ Hitu (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2010), pp. 819-22. See also the fatwa of the Hanafi scholar Dr Salah Abu al-Hajj (http://www.anwarcenter.com/fatwa/معنى-حديث-لا-تصوموا-حتى-تروا-الهلال-ول) last accessed 9/5/2016) which states, after arguing against relying on calculations, “However, the position of [following] calculations is the position of a considerable group of jurists, so it is a respected disagreement in Islamic law, whereby, if a state were to adopt it, it is not rejected, because the judgment of a judge removes disagreement, and the adoption of a state is [as] the judgment of a judge.

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Waleed Ahmed writes on current affairs and politics for MuslimMatters. He focuses on Muslim minorities, human rights and the Middle-Eastern conflict. Based out of Montreal, he's currently pursuing a Ph.D. at McGill University in fundamental physics. Waleed also has a keen interest in studying Arabic and French. He spends his spare time reading, playing basketball and praying for Jon Stewart to run in the next presidential election. contact: waleed dot ahmed at muslimmatters.org

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Umer S

    May 15, 2020 at 2:35 PM

    This is a poorly argued article. If the different standards adopted by the various hilal committees of Toronto are producing inconsistent results, this doesn’t mean that moonsighting itself is unworkable. It means that the hilal committees in Toronto need to unite and adopt a single standard. This would alleviate the problem you complain of.

    Furthermore, those granting some legitimacy to FCNA’s position on the basis that a minority from among the classical scholars allowed for calculations fail to realize a significant distinction here. Those minority positions allowing calculations were based on the ability to calculate the actual visibility of the crescent with certainty. However, FCNA does not care for actual visibility. Actual visibility is contingent on not just the position of the moon vis-à-vis the earth and sun but also on environmental and atmospheric conditions on the ground. FCNA disregards the latter conditions in making their determinations because they do not care for its actual visibility. (This fact became evident during eidul fitr 2019 when they observed only 29 days of Ramadan even though the moon was not sighted anywhere in the world on the 30th night.) FCNA’s position is that if the moon is at an angle where it could potentially be seen then this sufficient to start/end the month regardless of whether it’s actually sighted. This position is an obvious deviation from the prophetic command. FCNA engages in some high level interpretive gymnastics to argue that their position is consistent with the Prophetic command to witness the crescent. Essentially their position is that when the Prophet (s) said to witness the crescent to start/end the months, the intent was to ascertain the moon’s position and whether it had traveled far enough from the point of conjunction. Because the people of that time were unable to calculate this they had to rely on sighting the crescent. Needless to say this is a huge inference that contradicts the plain reading of the Prophetic Hadith in the matter.

    The bottom line is FCNA’s position is not rooted in classical scholarship. It’s a modern aberration motivated by political expediency and not a desire to remain true to the tradition. This is why you have people like Imam Zaid and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, who are by and large accommodating and inclusive towards varying opinions within the Sunni tradition, come out and say that this is not a valid difference of opinion.

    As an aside, I’m not aware of any moonsighting communities in America who experienced the same problem. It seems we were by and large united in our start of this Ramadan.

    • Avatar

      waleed ahmed

      May 15, 2020 at 5:48 PM

      Thanks for the comment Umer. Yes, this mainly remains an issue in fragmented communities that haven’t switched to calculations..such as those in the UK, Toronto..parts of New York. It was certainly a bigger issue few years ago but adoption of calculations has solved the problem in much of the East coast. On the West coast, local moonsighting works quite well so don’t think it was ever an issue there.

      p.s. all the references I’ve mentioned in this article (and the previous more detailed article) are from classically trained scholars. sh saladin who I referenced last time is one of Habib Umar’s students. So this really isn’t a classical vs modernist/salafi issue as is often characterized.

      • Avatar

        Umer S

        May 15, 2020 at 10:05 PM

        Your initial comment is just wrong. Here in the states, moonsighters have steadily become more and more unified to the point where by and large we’re not experiencing the sort of fragmentation you describe in the article. This is because the main moonsighting networks are the Deobandis and the Zaytuna crowd. The Deobandis have unified here and the Zaytuna crowd has always been consistent.

        As to to the second comment. My point is exactly that I’m finding fault with those traditional scholars who lend credence to FCNA’s position by citing the minority opinions on calculations found within the legal schools. I don’t think those scholars have understood FCNA’s position correctly. As I argued above FCNA’s position has nothing to do with those minority opinions.

  2. Avatar

    Umer S

    May 15, 2020 at 2:37 PM

    This is a poorly argued article. If the different standards adopted by the various hilal committees of Toronto are producing inconsistent results, this doesn’t mean that moonsighting itself is unworkable. It means that the hilal committees in Toronto need to unite and adopt a single standard. This would alleviate the problem you complain of.

    Furthermore, those granting some legitimacy to FCNA’s position on the basis that a minority from among the classical scholars allowed for calculations fail to realize a significant distinction here. Those minority positions allowing calculations were based on the ability to calculate the actual visibility of the crescent with certainty. However, FCNA does not care for actual visibility. Actual visibility is contingent on not just the position of the moon vis-à-vis the earth and sun but also on environmental and atmospheric conditions on the ground. FCNA disregards the latter conditions in making their determinations because they do not care for its actual visibility. (This fact became evident during eidul fitr 2019 when they observed only 29 days of Ramadan even though the moon was not sighted anywhere in the world on the 30th night.) FCNA’s position is that if the moon is at an angle where it could potentially be seen then this sufficient to start/end the month regardless of whether it’s actually sighted. This position is an obvious deviation from the prophetic command. FCNA engages in some high level interpretive gymnastics to argue that their position is consistent with the Prophetic command to witness the crescent. Essentially their position is that when the Prophet (s) said to witness the crescent to start/end the months, the intent was to ascertain the moon’s position and whether it had traveled far enough from the point of conjunction. Because the people of that time were unable to calculate this they had to rely on sighting the crescent. Needless to say this is a huge inference that contradicts the plain reading of the Prophetic Hadith in the matter.

    The bottom line is FCNA’s position is not rooted in classical scholarship. It’s a modern aberration motivated by political expediency and not a desire to remain true to the tradition. This is why you have people like Imam Zaid and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, who are by and large accommodating and inclusive towards varying opinions within the Sunni tradition, come out and say that this is not a valid difference of opinion.

    As an aside, I’m not aware of any moonsighting communities in America who experienced the same problem you experienced in Toronto. By and large it seems like the moonsighters in the States were united in their start of Ramadan

  3. Avatar

    Mustafa

    May 16, 2020 at 12:31 PM

    I’m okay with calculating as I’ve heard the pretty compelling case for them fiqh wise but you’re going to have to get into the nitty gritty and explain the issue if you want it to have any purchase. Else muslims being the cautious types they are are not going to risk their Ramadan’s on a fatwa they consider shakey.

  4. Avatar

    Ahmed

    May 16, 2020 at 1:08 PM

    Brother waleed , you mixed up the article with hilal to crescent . Crescent council follows both local as well as global and they are trying to unite Canada with American Muslims Or globally on celebrating Eid on 1 day, cc announced after moon was sighted in California to fast on Friday . While hilal started on Saturday as they wanted to see moon locally. Very soon hilal will join crescent for betterment of Muslims inshaAllah

    • Avatar

      Waleed S. Ahmed

      May 16, 2020 at 1:29 PM

      Brother Ahmed, there are actually three councils. Hilal council (global), Hilal Committee (local) and Crescent Council (global)..all following differing methodologies. Hilal Council declared it Friday but Hilal Committe declared it Saturday.

  5. Avatar

    Hasan

    July 3, 2020 at 9:52 PM

    Based on this flawed argument, the following argument is also valid:

    1. Atheists all agree that there is no god
    2. Theists disagree on the number of gods, the characteristics of those god(s), and every other conceivable detail regarding god.

    Atheists are unified, and therefore correct. Theists need to all follow atheists.

    This is such a logically flawed article, it is hard to know where to begin. As a scientist and physician, I can state quite certainly that the scientific data is wholly and compellingly opposed to the use of calculations. It really appears to me that people who don’t really understand the mathematics nor the science behind calculations are the first to jump up and claim its legitimacy…

    One statement by the author that irked me was this: “It is an undue burden on them to research the strength of various legal opinions just to know when to celebrate a religious holiday with their families.” Seems like a very unenlightened statement to make. I encourage all of my patients to study the science behind any procedure or medicine I give them, since it is their body, and they need to make an educated decision. No, that doesn’t mean that I expect them to gain a mastery of the field, but to have a rudimentary understanding to make an educated decision regarding their own body’s wellbeing. It is appalling and disturbing that we have people preaching that education is an “undue burden.”

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#Islam

Help! I Can’t Make Dua For More Than 30 Seconds On The Day Of ‘Arafah

Much emphasis has been given on the importance of fasting on the day of ‘Arafah, but don’t forget, this was a day the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace) “made du’a from the time of Dhur til the time of Maghrib on the day of ‘Arafah while STANDING.” (Sahih Muslim)

He ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) also said, “The best du’a is that which is made on the day of ‘Arafah.” (Sahih Muslim)

If we can develop the capacity to binge watch on Netflix 5-6 for hours a day, we can develop the capacity to make du’a longer than 30 SECONDS on the day of ‘Arafah.

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I used to be a person who couldn’t make du’a longer than 2 minutes.

3 things changed

1. I started writing my personalized du’as on a mini-notebook

2. I started reading du’as using Hisnul Muslim (The Fortress of the Muslim)

3. I started following the etiquettes of making du’a.

As an Imam, I have numerous meetings with members of my community. Sometimes, at the end of my meetings, I asked the community member to end our meeting with a du’a. It is surprising that many of them do not know the etiquettes of making du’a. By following the above etiquettes of making du’a, you can make du’a longer than 2 minutes inshAllah!

Here are 16 etiquettes of making du’a from the Qur’an and Sunnah

1) Have 100% conviction that Allah will answer you

2) Find a way to praise Allah before making your request

3) Use the proper names of Allah

4) Send salutations upon Muhammad (upon him be peace)

5) Raise your hand like a beggar

6) Face the qibla

7) Be in a state of wudu

8) Cry

9) Be a lone wolf (Be alone)

10) Ensuring that your food is pure

11) Acknowledge your sins (Privately)

12) Repeat the du’a 3 times

13) Start the du’a by praying for yourself

14) Expand your heart, pray for everyone (in particular those Muslims in China who wish they could fast on the day of ‘Arafah, but they are prohibited from doing so.)

15) Say Amin after making du’a.

16) Make du’a during the “prime-times” (From Dhur till Maghrib on the day of Arafah is primetime!)

Bonus tip: If you’re like me, you may get stuck when making du’a. An excellent tip given by our master Muhammad (upon him be peace) is to use the “filler du’a”. This “filler du’a” was actually what Muhammad (upon him be peace) and all of the Prophets made on the day of Arafat!

He said, “The best invocation is that of the Day of Arafat, and the best that anyone can say is what I and the Prophets before me have said:

Lā ‘ilāha ‘illallāhu

wahdahu lā shareeka lahu,

lahul-mulku wa lahul-hamdu

wa Huwa ‘alā kulli shay’in qadeer.

Translation:

None has the right to be worshipped but Allah

Alone, Who has no partner.

His is the dominion and His is the praise,

and He is Able to do all things. (Al-Tirmidhi)

To recap, here are 5 action items you and your family can perform on the day of Arafah.

1. Go over the following hadith with your family members.

“Allah frees far more people from Hellfire on the Day of Arafah than on any other day, and Allah comes closer this day and proudly says to the angels, ‘What do these people want and seek?’” (Sunan an-Nasa’i)

2. Say to your family members or whoever you have influence over,

“The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) made du’a on the day of Arafah from Dhur till Maghreb. How long do you think we can make du’a for on this day?”

3. Go over the 16 etiquettes mentioned in this post.

4. Challenge your family members to make a 10 minute du’a.

     Materials needed

  • Whiteboard
  • Markers
  • A Creative mind
  • Brainstorm with your family members what du’a you want to make and then write them on a whiteboard.

5. Whenever you get stuck and you can’t don’t know what du’a you want to make, make the “filler du’a” the Prophet (upon him be peace) made on the day of ‘Arafah.

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30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 19: My Mercy Encompasses All Things

Now that we have learnt about when the angels surround us, let’s now talk about how Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy encompasses all things.

We say بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ  (bismillah Ar-Rahman ar-Raheem) a lot, right? It means ‘in the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.’ 

We say it when we pray, before we eat, and we’re encouraged to say it before we begin any new task. But do we really understand what rahma (mercy) means? 

Question: What do you think rahma means?

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Do you know that the word rahma comes from the root word, رحم (rahim), which means womb? 

Question: Who can tell me what a womb is?

That’s right. A baby is usually in their mommy’s womb for 40 weeks. The baby gets all the nourishment it requires; the temperature in the womb is perfect, the nutrients are always administered, it is safe and warm. All the baby has to do is grow, and alhamdulillah all its needs are being met. 

Question: How do you think the womb relates to Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy?

Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy is constantly surrounding us like a safety net. That doesn’t mean that we’ll never experience any pain, but Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is constantly showing us mercy with every breath we take. Even blinking is a mercy from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that we don’t even have to think about. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even has more mercy for us than a mother has for her own child! 

One day the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was walking with a group of his companions, and they passed by a woman who was frantically looking for her child. She would take any child to her breast and try to feed him/her. Then the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said to the companions: “Do you think that this lady can throw her son in the fire?” We replied, “No, if she has the power not to throw it (in the fire).” The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) then said, “Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is more merciful to His slaves than this lady to her son.”

And guess what? There’s even more mercy in the hereafter than we’re experiencing right now. 

Salman al-Farisi reported: The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Verily, on the day Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) created the heavens and earth, He created one hundred parts of mercy. Each part can fill what is between heaven and earth. He made one part of mercy for the earth, from it a mother has compassion for her child, animals and birds have compassion for each other. On the Day of Resurrection, He will perfect this mercy.” [Sahih Muslim]

99 parts of mercy on the Day of Judgment! That is one reason why it’s so important to have a good opinion of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)! Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even tells us in Surat Al-A’raaf:

وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ ۚ

“My mercy encompasses all things” (Surat Al-A’raaf; 156]

And you all, my dears, are all encompassed by Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy, alhamdulillah. 

 

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The Inner Dimensions of the Udhiyah

Apart from Ḥajj, the greatest action a Muslim can do in the blessed days of Dhū al-ijjah is to offer the udḥiyah (qurbāni/sacrifice).

‘Āisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) reports that Rasūlullah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “A human does no action from the actions of the Day of Naḥr [slaughtering; refers to the day of Eid al-Adḥā] more beloved to Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) than sacrificing the animal. On the Day of Judgement, it will appear with its horns, and hair, and hooves, and indeed the blood will be accepted by Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) before it even falls upon the ground, so let your heart delight in it.” [Tirmidhī]

Although we all know that this is an action that is traditionally performed on Eid al-Adā, a lack of understanding of its reality has led some to question the importance of doing it in the first place. In past years, and increasingly during the current pandemic, many have been asking, “Can I give ṣadaqah (charity) instead?”

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To answer this, it is necessary to understand the following.1 Everything in this world is comprised of an outer form – an appearance and a desired outcome – a “soul.” These two are intertwined in such a way that separating them is impossible. One cannot survive without the other. The clearest example of this reality is in ourselves.

سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنفُسِهِمْ حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ ۗ

“Soon we will show them Our Signs in the horizons [external] and in themselves [internal] until it becomes clear to them that it is the Truth.” [Surah Fussilat; 53]

We are made of a body, which is comprised of several parts, and a soul, which fills the entire body and allows each part to fulfill its unique function. Without a body, our soul cannot survive, and without a soul, our body cannot survive. Additionally, if any part is missing, the whole person will be considered to have some deficiency. Likewise, the same principle applies to our n. Our n has an outer form, which is comprised of the actions that we perform, and a soul as well. The fact of the matter is that our goal in life is to achieve a complete connection with Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). The Quran identifies this quality with the word taqwā. The soul that permeates our entire n and therefore, all our individual actions is taqwā. All these actions display a different aspect of taqwā and together form complete n in a person. If anything is missing, a person’s n will be deficient.

For example, the soul of ṣalāh is the portion of taqwā that relates to expressing humility in front of Allāh. The soul of fasting is the portion of taqwā that relates to suppressing one’s desires for Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). The soul of is adaqah is the portion of taqwā that relates to curing one’s love for wealth by donating in the path of Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Each of these things is necessary, and although they are all types of taqwā, they are not interchangeable. To expand on this, imagine that a person had $100 in cash, $100 worth of food, and $100 worth of furniture.2 The values of all three would be the same, but the functions they perform are different. None is more important than the other but all are necessary.

Similarly, a person cannot discard the outer form (different forms of ibādāt) and say that the only thing that matters is the soul (taqwā). If this were the case, our entire religion could be discarded. Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

لَن يَنَالَ اللَّهَ لُحُومُهَا وَلَا دِمَاؤُهَا وَلَٰكِن يَنَالُهُ التَّقْوَىٰ مِنكُمْ ۚ

“Neither their flesh reaches Allāh nor their blood (the udḥiyah animal); it is your taqwā that reaches Him.” [Al Hajj; 37]

There goes udḥiyah. Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

“Oh you who have believed, fasting has been prescribed on you as it has been prescribed upon those before you so that you may become people of taqwā.” [Surah Al-Baqarah; 183]

There goes fasting.

 إِنَّ الصَّلَاةَ تَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ ۗ

“Verily ṣalāh prevents indecency and sin” (in essence, taqwā) [Surah al-‘Ankabut; 45]

Ṣalāh can also be put to the side.

لَّيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَٰكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ وَآتَى الْمَالَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ ذَوِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّائِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُوا ۖ وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ ۗ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ

“Virtue is that one sincerely believes in Allāh, the Last Day, the Angels, the Book and the Prophets and, out of His love, spend of one’s choice wealth for relatives and orphans, for the needy and the wayfarer, for beggars and for the ransom of slaves, and establish ṣalāh and give zakāh. And the virtuous are those who keep their pledges when they make them and show fortitude in hardships and adversity and in the struggle between the Truth and falsehood; such are the truthful people, and such are the people of taqwā.” [Surah Al-Baqarah; 77]

There goes our entire dīn.

The soul of udḥiyah is that portion of taqwā that expresses our total submission to Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). “O Allāh, my life is in your Hands. Do with it whatever you wish!” The actual command was to sacrifice the thing that is most dear to you – a life. And in Ibrahīm 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) case, the life of his only child. The life of the child who for decades, he prayed and hoped for. Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) commanded Ibrahīm 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) in a dream to sacrifice his beloved son, Ismā’īl 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Ibrahīm 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) said, “My beloved son, I have seen that I was sacrificing you in dream. What do you think?” Without hesitation, Ismā’īl 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) responded, “O my beloved father, do as you have been commanded. Inshā Allāh, you will find me among the patient.” When Ibrahīm 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) tried to push the knife on his son’s neck, it became dull and “We called on to him, O Ibrahīm! You have surely fulfilled your dream. This is how we reward those of excellence. Indeed, this was a clear test. We ransomed him with a mighty sacrifice.” [As-Saffat; 100-107]. From that day until the end of time, Muslims have and will continue emulate this sacrifice of Ibrahīm 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) as a reminder of what true submission is.

When standing before Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), we will need to present all types of taqwā. If we were to have a surplus of one type, for example, ṣadaqah, we would be rewarded for it, but that would not change the fact that something else is missing. If we were to tell our child to make sure that their room is clean for Eid and, instead of doing that, they cooked a delicious meal, we would thank them for their gesture, but then say that there is a time and place for everything and this time is for cleaning your room.

The purpose of ṣadaqah is to cleanse our hearts from the love of wealth by giving it to the poor. Although it is recommended to give a portion of the sacrifice to the poor, it is not the purpose, nor is it a requirement for its validity. The purpose of udḥiyah is to follow the command of Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), in the way that He commanded it. In the past, and even now in some agrarian societies, the most beloved belonging to many people was their animals. This is because unlike other wealth, animals serve many purposes. They are a means of milk and clothing, a status symbol, a means of breeding, and also can be sold or eaten. To sacrifice an animal was truly a great sacrifice.

However, times have changed. Yet due to this very reason, udḥiyah is still a sacrifice, especially in America. We are used to the comforts of our home and would much rather donate money than take a day off from work and spend time, money, and energy in going to a farm and performing the udḥiyah. This is our sacrifice. We cannot abandon this great act.3,4

May Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) preserve our pristine religion in the manner it was practiced by Rasūlullah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his companions.

قُلْ إِنَّ صَلَاتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

“Surely my prayer, my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allāh alone, the Sustainer of Universe. He has no partner. This is what I have been ordered, and I am the first to submit.” [Al-An’am; 162]

و ما توفيقي إلا باالله عليه توكلت و إليه أنيب

[1] The concept of actions having an outer form and inner soul were expanded upon in the Khutbāt of Hakīm al-Ummah Mawlāna Ashraf Alī Thanvī (throughout volume 16 – Barakāt e Ramaḍān) and Hakīm al-Islām Qāri Muḥammad Ṭayyib رحمهما الله تعالى رحمةً واسعةً . Qāri Ṭayyib specifically spoke about this concept in relation to the udḥiyah (Sunnat e Khalīl ‘Alayh al-Salām, volume 3, page 211). I benefited from these works immensely in the course of writing this article and hope the readers appreciate the depth and foresight of our pious predecessors’ foresight.

[2] This general idea – actions of being of the same value but different types – is proposed by ‘Allāma Ibn Taymiyyah and mentioned by Muftī Rashīd Aḥmad Ludhiyanvi رحمهما الله تعالى رحمةً واسعةً  in Aḥsan al-Fatāwā in relation to another topic, but the concept fits here as well.

[3] This article is not meant to say that having someone else perform your sacrifice by sending it overseas is invalid. Its purpose is to explain that the sacrifice itself is an important part of our dīn, and its full benefit will be realized when we perform the sacrifice by ourselves. It should also be noted that perhaps the reason that there is confusion over why the sacrifice cannot be substituted with ṣadaqah and thus, the distinction between the two is not clear.

[4] This article was started before the current pandemic. In a situation like this, if someone does not feel comfortable from a health perspective to perform the sacrifice on their own, they can appoint someone else to perform it for them, whether here or overseas. However, the current situation does not allow for ṣadaqah to be given in place of the sacrifice. Many ahadith (Bukhārī, Ahadith 968, 984, 985; ‘Ilā al-Sunan 17:212-217) indicate that the sacrifice is wājib. A wājib act cannot be substituted based simply on our thoughts or opinions. For more details on the obligation of the sacrifice, please read Muftī Abdullah Nana’s upcoming article about the fiqh of the udḥiyah.

* Two more points should be kept in mind. First, despite the pandemic, people have not stopped eating meat. In the current climate, if one is not able to perform the sacrifice by themselves, having it done in another country will also be a means of helping others. In fact, for many, Eid al-Adhā is the only time of the year that they able to eat meat. Second, we must broaden our thinking about charity. Our charity should not be restricted to only those things that are obligated upon us by Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) such as zakāh and udḥiyah. If Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has blessed us with the means,  we should strive to give ṣadaqah above and beyond these obligated act.

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