Our guide to the meaning and significance of Qurbani – and the Festival of Sacrifice.

What is Qurbani?

Qurbani means sacrifice. Every year during the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah, Muslims around the world slaughter an animal – a goat, sheep, cow or camel – to reflect the Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail, for the sake of God.

At least one third of the meat from the animal must go to poor or vulnerable people. Traditionally, a Muslim would keep one third of the meat for their family and give the final third to their neighbours.

The significance of Qurbani

The practice of Qurbani can be traced back to the Prophet Ibrahim, who dreamed that God ordered him to sacrifice his only son, Ismail. In his devotion to God, Ibrahim agreed to follow his dream and perform the sacrifice. But God intervened and sent a ram to be sacrificed in Ismail’s place.

Ismail was spared because Ibrahim proved he would sacrifice his son as an act of piety, despite the loss it would have caused him. The continued practice of sacrifice acts as a reminder of Ibrahim’s obedience to God.

Eid-al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, is celebrated during the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar, known as Dhul Hijjah – which translates as ‘Lord of the Pilgrimage’. It is during this month that pilgrims travel to Mecca in order to visit the Kaaba. Hajj is performed on the eighth, ninth and tenth days of the lunar month. Eid ul-Adha begins on the tenth and ends on the 13th. In 2014, Eid is taking place around 3 October.

Islamic Relief and Qurbani

A Chechen boy with his family's Qurbani pack.

A Chechen boy with his family’s Qurbani pack.

Islamic Relief has been carrying out Qurbani projects since 1986, when we performed 670 Qurbanis. In 2013, around 110,000 Qurbanis were performed, benefitting over two million people.

The meat is distributed fresh, frozen or canned, depending on factors such as cost, availability and access, though the majority of countries receive fresh meat. The meat is purchased from local suppliers in order to benefit the local economy. Each meat packet contains on average of three kilograms of meat, which will provide a family of four with meals for about a week.

Those who receive the Qurbani meat include widowed women, orphaned children, refugees and poor, elderly or disabled people. For the majority of these people, meat is not part of their regular diet. The Qurbani meat allows some families to eat meat after a whole year.

When families receive Qurbani meat, it fosters a real sense of hope for them and allows them to celebrate this important occasion along with millions of other Muslims across the world.

This year, we will continue to enable poor people around the world celebrate Eid-al-Adha. You can help: give your Qurbani with Islamic Relief today.