In recent times, some people have been arguing that to commemorate the memory of Prophet Ibrahim and Ismail (AS) one share of a sacrifice is sufficient on behalf of an entire family, as it is proved by the practice of some companions of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).This view contradicts with the teachings of Quran and Hadith, BY Dr Muhammad Najeeb Qasmi Sambhali.
Firstly, I would say that sacrificing an animal is a mandatory act. Allah, the Exalted, commanded for sacrifice in the Holy Quran. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) warned those people who do not sacrifice despite of fulfilling all the required conditions for being a sacrifice to be mandatory for them and cautioned them not to come near to the masjid. Allah’s command and Prophet’s caution, these two are enough evidence to say that sacrifice is mandatory upon an individual if he is fulfilling all the criteria of sacrifice. As for the practice by some companions of giving one sacrifice on behalf of the entire family, this applies to voluntary (Nafli) sacrifice.
Secondly, the Holy Quran and Hadith encourage us to take maximum part in this ritual. It is a practice in Islam to sacrifice an animal on Eid-ul-Adha. During sacrifice days, there is no deed which is more pleasing to Allah than sacrificing an animal for the sake of Allah. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) himself used to sacrifice animals after the Eid prayer as it is mentioned in various books of Ahadith. He would also sacrifice on behalf of his family and whole Muslim Ummah. Although the Prophet (Peace be upon him) never possessed wealth that could make Zakat obligatory upon him. He did not have resources to prepare a proper meal at his home for many days, but still, he used to sacrifice every year. On the occasion of Hajjat-ul-Wida, he sacrificed 100 camels. Out of them, he himself slaughtered 63 camels. The rest 37 camels were slaughtered by Ali (May Allay be pleased with him).
This practice of sacrifice during the days of Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha is followed by the Muslim Ummah throughout the world in remembrance of the great sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim (Peace be upon him). The rulings pertaining to sacrifices of Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha are identical in terms of age of the animal and counts of shares etc.
Thirdly, sacrificing animal is a kind of worship. It is a way to get closer to Allah. This practice is not limited only to Islam. Before Islam, the same custom was followed in other religions as well. So, we ought to take part in it whole heartedly.
Fourthly, the economic condition of the companions was not good at the time of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Despite of this, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) would encourage them for sacrifice.
The fifth point is that, it is absolutely right to consider sacrifice as mandatory (wajib) as all companions of the Prophet (PBUH), their followers, Imam Abu Hanifa (RA) and other scholars of Hanfi school of thought gave a verdict that it is obligatory. Allah Ibn Taima (RA) also gave a verdict that it is mandatory. In his famous book, “Jawahar Alakleel Sharh Mukhtasir Khalil”, Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal (RHA) wrote that if all the people in a city quit sacrificing, we may have a battle against them as it is a mandatory Islamic ritual and cannot be abandoned like that.
Above given points make it clear that sacrificing animal is mandatory for every individual who is fulfilling the criteria. Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal and Allama ibn Taymia agreed on its obligation. Even if we accept giving a share of sacrifice on behalf of an entire family, it can only be mubah; not a preferable act. Instead, we should encourage people to participate largely in this sacred ritual.
Since sacrifice is mandatory, every eligible individual must offer at least one animal for sacrifice. In sharia context, a family means a person, his wife and his children. If there is more than one individual eligible for offering sacrifice in a family (i.e. they have good earning or they have financial resources to offer more than one sacrifice), all the eligible members of a family should separately offer the sacrifice. However, those who are not eligible (or they cannot afford it), single sacrifice can be given on behalf of all the family members as it is proved by the act of some companions of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to offer one sacrifice on behalf of all Muslim Ummah.
(The author is alumnus of Darul Uloom Deoband and Jamia Millia Islamia. Beside hundreds of short Islamic articles that he keeps contributing to various websites, daily newspapers and monthly magazines, he has authored so far 6 books in Urdu.)
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are of the author