Mother Nature has always played a pivotal role in our existence since time immemorial. Only, like ungrateful children, we forget her goodness and, instead harm her – she who is the source of our very existence. And, paradoxically, also might be the reason for our destruction. Perhaps, even total annihilation. Thus, since we could not appreciate or understand the caprices of Mother Nature, we revered her although, largely, out of fear. Early Man was pitted against tremendous odds. There were flash floods; storms; diseases; earthquakes; tsunamis et al. Danger was from all around. The best way, therefore, was to appease the ‘Good Spirit’, so that it would allow them to thrive and live in peace. The finest was, therefore, offered to her, including first-born babies; sheep, goats, cattle, produce, flowers, fruits and even fellow human beings (largely captives from skirmishes between groups), were sacrificed and given as offerings to this Unknown Energy to placate it. This ‘Good Energy’ some have called as ‘God’, from the German “gutten”, which means “good”. Or, in ancient Gothic, “Godth”, referring to the ‘Good Spirit’. The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘sacrifice’ as: “The act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone; an act of killing a person or animal in a religious ceremony as an offering to please a god: a person or animal that is killed in a sacrifice.’
Belief is often irrational—and blind. There is an urgent need for us to unlearn them. During the Gadhimata festival in Nepal, more than a hundred thousand buffalos and their calves are ritually slaughtered in a single day to mollify the Goddess, who is believed to be an incarnation of Durga. Just as Durga killed Mahish-asur, who had taken the form of a buffalo, millions of buffalos and their progeny are likewise massacred. The head is decapitated from the body in a single stroke by a heavy chopper, known as the ‘jhatka’ method. Tens of thousands of goats and sheep are sacrificed every year likewise at ‘Kali’ Temples all over the country, especially in Bengal and Assam.
Abraham is common to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He is said to be the Father of these three religions. God is forever testing the faith of his devotees! Thus, to check Abraham’s absolute conviction in him, God commanded him to sacrifice his beloved son at the altar (made to God). Now, here there is a slight twist. Abraham was first married to Hagar, an Egyptian. She was Rebecca’s ‘hand-maiden’ according to the Christians and even the Jews. Although Abraham was allegedly deceived into thinking that he had married Rebecca, and Hagar was put in her place of which trickery he came to learn only when the bride’s veil was removed, he went ahead and consummated the liaison nevertheless, and fathered Ishmael. Then, he, subsequently, married Rebecca, to whom was born Isaac. Muslims believe most fervently that God had directed Abraham to sacrifice his firstborn i.e., Ishmael. Christians and Jews root for Isaac! Abraham’s devotion having been tested successfully, God placed a ram, stuck in a bramble bush, near the altar. Abraham took this as a sign from God and promptly slit the poor sheep’s throat and offered it as a sacrifice in place of his son!
However, as sacrifices go, a part of the male child’s body is mandatorily given as a token to God by Jews and Muslims, whereas Christians do not subscribe to this sacrament. In Judaism, and also in Islam, circumcision has traditionally been practiced on males on the eighth day after birth. The Book of Genesis records circumcision as part of the Abrahamic covenant with Yahweh (God), also known as “Eloheim” (Hebrew) by the Jews or “Eli” (Aramaic). Circumcision was enjoined upon the biblical patriarch Abraham, his descendants and their slaves as “a token of the covenant” concluded with him by God for all generations; an “everlasting covenant ” (Genesis 17:13), and, thus, it is commonly followed by two (Judaism and Islam) of the Abrahamic religions. Circumcision was common, although as an Abrahamic belief, Islamic people perform circumcision as a confirmation of their relationship with God, and the practice is also known as ‘tahera’, meaning purification. With the global spread of Islam from the 7th-century C.E, male circumcision is now widely accepted among previously non-circumcising people. Female circumcision is also practiced by some Muslim communities—and African tribes – by slicing off the clitoris with a blade, before the girl attains puberty since it gives pleasure to the woman during cohabitation. These people believe that God has created a male and female to have sexual intercourse solely for procreation and any enjoyment, especial by women, of this solemn act, is strictly taboo! They also condemn homosexuality because sexual activity between members of the same sex was not intended by God! Homo-sexual persons are hanged publically in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, both devout Muslim countries, but diametrically on opposite sides. Shia Iran is forever head-butting with Sunni Saudi Arabia—although they both diligently follow Prophet Mohammed, fanatically!
Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim,(aka Mohammed) was born in Mecca about the year 570 C.E. He belonged to the BanuHashim clan; part of the Quraysh tribe, which was one of Mecca‘s prominent families, although it appears less prosperous during Muhammad’s early lifetime. Muhammad was a posthumous child. His father, Abdullah, died almost six months before he was born. According to Islamic tradition, soon after birth, he was sent to live with a Bedouin family in the desert, as desert life was considered healthier for infants. Muhammad stayed with his foster mother, Halimah- bint Abi- Dhuayb, and her husband until he was two years old. At the age of six, Muhammad lost his biological mother, Amina to illness and became an orphan. For the next two years, until he was eight years old, Muhammad was under the guardianship of his paternal grandfather Abdul-Muttalib, of the Banu Hashim clan until his death. He then came under the care of his uncle Abu Talib, the new leader of the Banu Hashim. Mohammed was always a pensive and truthful person, who, in the month of scorching heat, ‘Ramadan’, would go, for several weeks, to a cave named Hira at Mount Jabal Al Nour, to meditate on Allah. It was during one such trip, when he was about forty years old, that Gabriel, God’s angel, appeared before him and bade him to: “Recite in the name of your Lord who created Man from a clinging substance. Recite and your Lord is the most Generous—Who taught by the pen—taught man that which he knew not.”
The unlettered Mohammed read the Words of Allah. This revelation which was received in 609 C.E is the ‘Holy Quran’ or: ‘The Recitation’. Muslims regard the Quran as the most important miracle of Muhammad; the proof of his Prophethood, and the culmination of a series of Divine messages revealed by the angel Gabriel from 609–632 CE. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is all about prayers for humankind, mercy, forgiveness, and happiness. ‘Roza’ or fasting in the month of ‘Ramzan’ or ’Ramadan’, as did Mohammed, during the periods of his stays at Hira, is the fourth (out of five) Pillars of Islam. But while Mohammed broke his fast at sunset with a piece of unleavened bread and a few dates, the modern gentry go on an eating binge with fun and festivity, making a mockery of this somber practice initiated by Mohammed himself.” Iftar’s parties often are also politically motivated.
Eid al-Adha, also known as Eid-e-Ghorban, Bakra Eid, Kurban Bayrami, Bakrid, Hari Raya Haji, and Big Eid, is the latter of the two Islamic holidays celebrated worldwide each year. It honours the willingness of Ibrahim/Abraham to sacrifice his son Ismail/ Ishmael as an act of obedience to God’s command. Thus, the sacrifice (or ‘Kurbani’) of a sheep, cow, goat, buffalo, or camel is the order of the day. But, in Mecca in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for instance, thousands of goats, sheep, cows, bulls, camels are sacrificed on that event by devout Muslims from around the world. As per directions of Prophet Mohammed, the meat from the animals sacrificed is to be split three ways. One-third for distribution to the poor; one third to the mosque and only the remaining one-third is for the person or family making the sacrifice. The idea was that on this one day in the year, even the poorest of the poor could eat meat, which, even in those times, was a premium item that only the wealthier people could afford. But, with such wholesale butchery, much of the flesh sacrificed, mostly mechanically as a meaningless creed, is wasted. In Mecca, it is said that carcasses of animals sacrificed are buried in large pits with help of giant bulldozers. Some may look at it as a needless waste of lives, animals though they are. But they also are Mother Nature’s children and have a right to exist, along with us, on our planet Earth, which is just a speck in the Galaxy.
The Bedouins in Mohammed’s time were a wild lot. They led very harsh lives in the desert and ate whatever they came across. Often, rotting the remains of animals. They became sick. To prevent this, it was pre-determined that the animals for sacrifice or consumption must be killed with the least amount of pain. They could not be slaughtered in front of one another. To ensure that fresh meat was consumed, the animal’s throat had to be cut in two-and-a-half strokes, using a very sharp knife, so that it drowned in its blood. Rigor mortis took time to set, ensuring that the meat was also tender. Actually, the Jews also had comparable customs for butchering animals which were observed by them as, ‘kosher’, a Hebrew word for’ fit or proper,’ often about foodstuff. Muslims use the Arabic word ‘halal ‘to describe food that is permissible’. ‘Kosher’ law prohibits eating shellfish, land animals with scales, and certain birds. Both religious laws call for quick slaughtering techniques to cause the animal the least amount of pain which are never followed. There are also differences.
* ‘Kosher’ law prohibits eating shellfish, land animals with scales, and birds of prey, but ‘halal’ does not. Both ‘kosher’ and ‘halal’ rules prohibit eating pork
*‘Kosher’ law prohibits mixing dairy and meat, as well as the cooking, serving, and cleaning utensils used for them, but ‘halal’ edicts do not.
*Slaughtering a stunned animal is accepted in ‘halal’ law, but not, apparently, in the ‘kosher’ set of laws.
*‘Halal ‘law requires praying to Allah before or while each animal is slaughtered, but ‘kosher’ does not require prayer before each slaughter.
* A ‘shochet’ or specially trained Rabbi, must slaughter the animal, while any adult Muslim, Christian, or Jew can butcher the animal in ‘halal’ law.
* Residual blood in meat is fine in ‘halal’ regulations, but not in ‘kosher’ rules, which call for rapid and complete draining of the blood at the time of slaughter.
This year, Muslims in India – and across the globe- are in for a subdued Eid celebration because of the raging pandemic. In most states in India, mosques will not be allowed to open up for prayers on Eid, and people will have to offer their ’namaz’ at home. Animal markets are also closed and slaughter in public places is forbidden.
But in neighboring Bangladesh, which recently celebrated its 50th Independence Day, solely on account of the ultimate sacrifices of our young soldiers, cows, and female calves, are deliberately slaughtered in the open streets, knowing full well that they are protected and held sacred by most Indians. These cows are largely smuggled from India in sinister collusion between the Border Security Force personnel and those from the Bangladesh Rangers, to which the Governments of both countries have turned a blind eye. The streets of Dhaka and other cities of Bangladesh have over a foot deep rivers flowing with the blood of these animals sacrificed during Eid.
Compelled by lock-down restrictions and State Government rules, some goat traders have attempted to market their animals through Face book and Whatsapp groups, but there is not much interest forthcoming. Besides, there is a severe cash crunch.
Hence, this pandemic may be welcome news for these animals who may escape the butcher’s knife!
Author: AMIT KUMAR BHOWMIK
Amit Kumar Bhowmik is a lawyer based in Pune. He has his practice including in the Bombay High court as also other High courts as well as he appears as Counsel in the Supreme court. Although essentially having his practise on the criminal side he is an all-rounder having taken up matters in the matrimonial courts as well. He is a prolific writer and an unabashed champion of women rights.
DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author