How Saudi Arabia's Eid Al Adha sacrifice for Hajj has changed

Online services and sterile slaughterhouse kitchens have taken over from the traditional market

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Muslims across the globe celebrate the first day of Eid Al Adha with an animal sacrifice.

This act honours the Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son for God.

How that is carried out today is changing, including in Saudi Arabia. Overcrowded livestock markets were already a problem, particularly at the height of the summer.

Then the pandemic came along and further changed our lives.

Here is how technology is changing all that — while preserving this most important of rituals for the faithful.

How are animals sacrificed now?

This year Makkah Municipality, which oversees the holiest site in Islam, allows a worshipper to order the slaughter of an animal remotely.

It gives restaurant owners a digital platform on which they can accept orders to perform the slaughter on behalf of a worshipper for Eid Al Adha, from July 9 to July 12.

Approved restaurants were able to apply for a free permit until last weekend. Owners must prove they have high hygiene standards and that checks ensure the creatures are free from disease.

They can charge a customer 6001200 Saudi riyals ($160-$320) for the slaughter, with the carefully washed meat then collected.

Worshippers approve

This year's arrangement builds on what Saudi authorities used during the pandemic, when livestock markets could not open and people were prohibited from gatherings and crowded places.

Indeed, during the pandemic, some expats in Saudi Arabia found it easier to ask friends in their home country to slaughter an animal on their behalf, and give the meat to those in need.

"It was cheaper for me to have my family do the sacrifice in Hyderabad and the online booking system was new for us, we never did this before," said Syeda Fatima, an Indian expat living in Jeddah.

"It is unusual because we do it the traditional way, where my husband and sons go to the slaughterhouse and then distribute it to our neighbours and people in need."

Many Saudis are getting used to the new system, and approve of it.

Sterile slaughterhouses in which meat is carefully cut, washed and stored is preferable to the farmers' market for many people.

This is how the Adha sacrifices get prepared

This is how the Adha sacrifices get prepared

"It is the best and safest way to get it done," said Haifa Abdullah, a Saudi citizen in Jeddah.

"It is not just faster, but also cleaner and more hygienic than being in an overcrowded slaughterhouse — with Covid-19 still very much present."

There is already much competition between restaurants.

"I received many websites from my Whatsapp groups and all my friends did the same," Mr Abdullah said.

Significance of the sacrifice

Eid Al Adha commemorates the sacrifices made by Prophet Ibrahim, who is described as the forefather of all the prophets who came after him, including all Muslims.

Prophet Ibrahim is accorded the highest status in the Quran and is described as "among the righteous".

The sacrifice the holiday commemorates is explained in the Quran, which tells of how the Prophet Ibrahim was asked by God in a dream to sacrifice his son, Ismail, as a test of his faith.

Ibrahim dismissed the dream at first, but it recurred several nights in a row.

He grappled with the decision but ultimately decided to fulfil God’s command, even though the Devil tried to dissuade him. Ibrahim threw rocks at the Devil in response and pilgrims at Hajj re-enact this by throwing stones at symbolic pillars at Jamarat in Mina.

Just as Prophet Ibrahim was about to carry out the command, God replaced his son with a goat and told him to sacrifice the animal instead.

The story is a testament of Prophet Ibrahim's faith in God and for believers to sacrifice something dear to them — in this case a goat — and share it with people in need.

The sacrifice is mandatory for all Muslims, who must distribute two thirds of the meat to the needy.

Updated: July 07, 2022, 6:56 AM