Muslim vegan, Faizan Jaleel, is the program manager at the Brooke horse charity in India. This is his story, where he explains the true meaning of sacrifice in Islam.
His family was fond of animals, and they always had dogs and cats, Faizan Jaleel recalls of his childhood, growing up in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, around 150 miles (200 kilometers) to the west of Delhi.
Then, for six years, Faizan Jaleel, worked with the dairy industry. In the beginning, his aims were idealistic. He was striving to help poor farmers to increase the productivity of their animals, so that they and their families could have a better quality of life. However, the more time he spent in this work, the more he became aware of the cruelty to animals that was involved in the dairy industry. A devout Moslem, he felt that surely this was not what God wanted him to do. Finally he quit, he stopped drinking milk and became a vegan. He lives in Ghaziabad (Delhi NCR), with his cat and four rescued street dogs.
Working with the Brooke, a charity devoted to helping equines throughout the world, he is now the Program Development Manager for 12 Brooke Centres in India.
As a dedicated animal advocate, Faizan Jaleel spends much of his time encouraging his fellow Moslems to take a deeper look at the inhumane practice of animal sacrifice. His message is that many Moslems have misunderstood the teachings of Islam; Allah, revered as ‘the Merciful and Compassionate’, is opposed to cruelty to animals. There is no requirement for animal sacrifice in Islam.
Bakr Eid and Ibrahim’s Sacrifice
On October 5 and 6, 2014, Moslems around the world celebrated Bakr Eid. This holiday commemorates the offering by Ibrahim of his son Ishmail to Allah. In the Koran, it is stated that a miracle took place, and just as Ibrahim was killing his own son as a sacrifice to God, the boy Ishmael was transformed into a ram. Ibrahim had not killed his son, but had killed a ram instead. Faizan says that this is spoken of in the Koran, therefore it is not a myth; it was a real event. However, it has been taken out of its historical context and has been misunderstood.
The story of Ibrahim sacrificing the ram is used today by many Moslems as a justification for animal sacrifice on the holiday of Bakr Eid.
Faizan explains that people in those days used to live in the deserts of the Middle East, where there is very little vegetation. It wasn’t possible to grow vegetables in the desert sands or to be a vegetarian; if they wished to survive they had to eat meat.
In those days in that region of the world, killing animals for food was a necessity that could not be avoided. The animal that Ibrahim killed was used for food. However, this is no longer the situation today. The essential truth to be gained from this story is that although Allah does require a sacrifice, he does not require that an animal be killed, which is no longer appropriate.
What kind of Sacrifice?
The meaning of the sacrifice to Allah is not that it should be an animal, but rather that the sacrifice should be something that is very dear to the person – just as Ibrahim’s son was very dear to him. Jaleel explains, ‘the idea is to sacrifice the most beloved thing – that is the real purpose of the sacrifice. The sacrifice must be close to our heart’.
He explains that, these days, a sacrificial animal is not at all dear to the person who is performing the sacrifice. Either a person buys the animal the day before, or more likely, simply pays for an animal to be sacrificed in his name. This isn’t a real sacrifice at all. These people don’t care for the life of that animal, so it is meaningless. It is a cruel and inhumane act, which causes suffering, and it is not a real sacrifice, so it makes no sense.
Slaughter of animals for Bakr Eid is widespread throughout the world, including throughout India. In Chennai, in Tamil Nadu, it has recently been made illegal to slaughter animals in the street. They can be slaughtered only in a licensed slaughterhouse, which will greatly curtail the numbers that are slaughtered for Bakr Eid.
In Andhra Pradesh, many camels are still slaughtered as part of this celebration. In Delhi, where Mr. Jaleel lives, it is generally goats and buffaloes that are killed, not camels, and this is legal only in licensed slaughterhouses. It seldom happens in the streets, although occasionally, in ghettoes where there is a majority Moslem population, it may occur.
Mr. Jaleel says that there are many Moslems who find this practice of animal sacrifice repugnant. Often they do not participate, but he calls on them to do much more than that. They must speak out against this inhumane custom to their friends and families.
He makes the point that animal sacrifice is not only done by Moslems; it takes place in other religions too, and one must oppose all animal sacrifice, not just that practiced by Moslems.
And so what is the best way for Moslems to observe Bakr Eid? Mr. Jaleel suggests that each person should offer something that is important or that has value. Often, this may be money or resources. One may give a donation to a charity, and this gift will be of real benefit to society. By helping human beings or animals, it will be a genuine, positive sacrifice.
Is he making headway with his message? Faizan admits that the going is slow. The custom of animal sacrifice ‘has been ingrained for many generations, so the pace of change is very slow’. Sometimes it takes many discussions with a person before they begin to understand. More open and more educated Moslems are more amenable to change. It is a big issue that needs a strategic approach. He gets a lot of help from individuals who are working towards the same goal.
Patiently and faithfully, he keeps going with his mission of spreading the word that God is compassionate towards both people and animals– and that Moslems are called to give a meaningful sacrifice to God, from the heart – not a sacrifice that harms animals.
‘All the beasts that roam the earth and all the birds that soar on high are communities like your own. We have left nothing out of the book. Before their Lords they shall be gathered all.’
‘Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger without just cause, Allah will hold him accountable on the day of judgement.’