Muslim rite recalls Ibrahim's obedience Lamb sacrifice recalls sparing of prophet's son

April 18, 1997|By Dilshad D. Husain | Dilshad D. Husain,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

An article and caption in yesterday's editions of The Sun incorrectly identified the owner of Bullock's Country Meats in Westminster. The owner is Robert L. Bullock.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Bullock's Country Meats in Westminster is usually a place people go to buy T-bones and sirloins. Yesterday, Abdoulaye Mbaye and his family came up from Baltimore to celebrate the Islamic holiday of Eid-ul-Adha by buying two lambs.

Though it was overcast and drizzling, the mood was jovial at the animal pens behind the Bullock's store as the Mbayes picked out the lambs, which would be sacrificed to commemorate the obedience of the prophet Ibrahim to Allah.


Ibrahim -- known as Abraham in the Judeo-Christian tradition -- had obeyed God's order and was preparing to sacrifice his son Ismail -- Isaac -- when God said that a ram should be sacrificed instead. All over the world yesterday, Muslims sacrificed lambs, goats and cows to remember that crucial event shared by these three religions.

The Mbayes were among several dozen area Muslims who came to Westminster to perform this duty. An estimated 5,000 Muslims live in the Baltimore region.

Mbaye's wife gazed through the fence slats and sized up the lambs, deciding on two plump ones. His young son and daughter preferred looking for baby lambs, pointing them out to their parents when they found one.

When their turn came, Mbaye left his family and went inside the slaughterhouse to perform his religious duty.

There, a small group of men watched each other sacrifice their chosen animals. It was quick, quiet and clean, with the men silently saying a prayer before they took a knife to each lamb's throat.

"The sacrifice is done quickly, so as not to pain the animal," Mbaye said.

The three-day festival of Eid-ul-Adha is celebrated on the 10th day of Zul-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Muslim calendar. It follows the annual Hajj pilgrimage that has brought some 2 million people to Mecca in Saudi Arabia this week. Muslims have been celebrating Ibrahim's obedience for more than 1,400 years.

Mohamad Adam El-Sheikh, the imam of Masjid Al-Rahmah on Johnnycake Road in Baltimore County, told the thousands of Muslims who gathered for prayers there yesterday morning that the "qurbani" -- the sacrifice -- is required of all Muslims who are adults and are financially capable.

"We must have community unity by doing our duty," he said.

Men must perform the sacrifice. A lamb is preferred, but goats and cows are also used.

The animal is held down, and a prayer is offered to Allah before a quick cut with a sharp knife.

The meat from the animal is divided in three parts: one for family, one for friends or relatives and the third for charity.

This yearly sacrifice often draws the criticism of animal rights activists who accuse Muslims of cruelty to animals. Though area animal rights groups remained quiet this year, some businesses used by Muslims still feared protesters.

"I hear too many things about violent protests and even vandalism by animal rights people," said the owner of one slaughterhouse in Baltimore, who asked for anonymity and refused to identify his business. "We are very careful not to be cruel to animals, but we do have a job to do."

Dr. Syed Habeeb Ashruf, president of the Islamic Society of Baltimore, said Islam does not advocate cruelty to animals.

"Allah has created the world for our use, and that is why we eat meat and celebrate Ibrahim's sacrifice," he said. "But Muslims are told to only sacrifice as much as they can use and to be kind to animals."

At Bullock's in Westminster, about 150 lambs and goats were sacrificed yesterday, and 10 cows are scheduled to be sacrificed today.

Owner James Wood has accommodated local Muslims for five holidays. "It's always more complicated to have [Muslims] come in and do it instead of me doing it for them, but it usually works out," he said.

Fawad Ahmed Shaikh came to Bullock's from Owings Mills with his father, Mumtaz, who performed their sacrifice.

Shaikh, who attends Catonsville Community College, said he thought the process of sacrifice here was "technology with style."

"The qurbani here is very different from my country," said Shaikh, who moved with his family from Pakistan seven years ago.

"There, before Eid, we would go and buy the animal and keep it at our house for about a week," he said. "On Eid, the butchers would come to your house, you'd do the sacrifice, and they would clean the animal for you -- much more free-style."

When he was young, Shaikh said, he would cry for the animals he had come to know during their week at his house.

"As a child, I didn't understand why we did the sacrifice," he said. "Though I still don't want to do the sacrifice myself yet, I now understand and appreciate the reason for it."

Pub Date: 4/18/97

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