Where do Eid Al Adha sacrifices go? Inside one of the world's largest charity efforts

Decades ago, pilgrims endured an arduous desert journey to buy the sacrifice before handing meat to the poor

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Muslims and pilgrims around the world celebrate the first day of Eid Al Adha with animal sacrifices, most commonly sheep, to honour the Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son for God.

The ritual, as mentioned in the Quran, was observed to commemorate the Prophet Ibrahim's vow to sacrifice his son to prove his submission to God.

God rewarded him by sending a lamb from heaven to slaughter instead.

The Hajj, or holy pilgrimage to Islam's holiest sites in Saudi Arabia, is one of the five pillars of the religion that capable Muslims must perform at least once in their lifetime.

Ancient tradition, new technology

Decades ago, pilgrims had to go through an arduous desert journey to purchase livestock and oversee its sacrifice before handing meat to the poor.

But in 1983, Saudi Arabia established the Adahi project, which allows pilgrims to buy livestock using electronic coupons.

The project is overseen by the Islamic Development Bank, which has its headquarters in Jeddah, and is a major undertaking that enables the purchasing and sacrifice of animals and the fair redistribution of their meat to the needy, in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Islamic world.

For 799 riyals ($213) this year, booths located around holy sites visited by pilgrims can take charge of the sacrifice.

In addition to helping pilgrims, the Adahi project also receives online orders from Muslims around the world who want the ritual performed on their behalf.

As soon as the coupon is purchased in one of the booths or online, a request is sent to the Islamic Development Bank and a sheep is slaughtered and later distributed at a given date.

“We have reached 100,000 sacrifices from around the world until now and we have already launched the process of slaughtering and distributing,” Tawfiq Al Ghamdi, head of the support and marketing services department at Adahi project, told The National.

The number of sacrifices has fallen significantly in the last two years from a recent peak of more than a million – a figure that includes orders from pilgrims – due to the coronavirus crisis.

But a large volume of meat is still shipped to the needy in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Chad, Niger, Mozambique, Sudan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

“We manage our distribution programme according to the amounts we receive and do our best to reach as many people as we can around the Islamic world,” Mr Al Ghamdi said.

The sheep selected for sacrifice undergo several extensive health checks, he said.

The meat is divided into equal portions, packaged in vacuum-sealed bags and ­frozen.

Distribution priority is given to the less privileged in Makkah and across Saudi Arabia and the rest goes to up to 27 Arab and Muslim countries, Mr Al Ghamdi said.

Representatives from the Adahi project and other Saudi agencies co-ordinate before and after Hajj season with the beneficiary countries, through Saudi Arabia's embassies to oversee the distribution process in every capital, in accordance with a specific schedule.

“This project was made to facilitate the sacrifice ritual for Muslims around the world and it receives requests for charitable targets all year round. We make sure that the meat portions reach the most deserving,” Mr Al Ghamdi said.

Updated: July 21, 2021, 8:08 AM