Saturday, November 28

A Vegetarian View of Qurbani Eid

The city is humming. My stomach keeps me from moving out of bed, but inshallah, I live on the 7th floor and can't see our garage. Today, of the 55 families in my building, 35 cows are being slaughtered under my building. Probably a few goats, too.

Eid Mubarak.

Qurbani Eid (Eid al-Adha) celebrates some of the sacrifices Abraham made for God. God asked Abraham to devote his son Ismael to Allah in oblation. Out of love for God, Abraham was ready to do so. As he hacked his son's neck, he discovered a sheep died is Ismael's place. God was only testing Abraham and his sacrifice was fulfilled without the loss of his son. (There are discrepancies as to which son was sacrificed: Ismael or Issac.) All across the world, Muslims are to raise a sheep (or in some cultures, like
Bangladesh, goats, cows or camels) to offer in the name of God; mirroring the sacrifice and love of Abraham. It is tradition to donate some of the meat to the poor who cannot afford an animal.

I can respect that. The love of Allah is eternal and animals are killed every day for various reasons. But the unnecessary public display seems contradictory. Not only because I can't stomach it and the streets will smell of rotting blood for several day, but because it turns into a contest: who bought the biggest cow, or who could afford to import a camel? There is even news coverage discussing which of the upper class families spent the most this year. The sacrifice was extremely personal to Abraham, not a public display to the world but to God alone. At least here in the city, the animal is not raised to be loved over a year as if it was part of the family--as if it was a son. It is no loss, no oblation, if the cow is bought the day before in a market down the road, whipped down the street to sit in front of the house and await her death. I asked my friend, "Are the cows considered good Muslims if they are sacrificed? If so, do they get 70 virgins when they reach heaven?" He just laughed.

It's obvious by the title that I can't really be a huge fan of day, and they holiday shouldn't end because it's symbolism is beautiful. But if it must be practiced, then I wish it was kept to be a private and personal family affair out of love for God and the animal, not to keep up an image of wealth. Same with Christmas--I see more Santa effigies than Jesus and I forget who's birthday it really it.

But today in Dhaka, most of the sounds coming from the streets are indistinguishable. Mostly it's men cheering with additional strange thudding sounds. It's 20C but I turn on my fan, the motor is so loud that I only hear children scream every once in a while. A fellow Fulbrighter called to tell me, "Don't worry, the streets aren't running with blood. But it is a good day to be a crow: they are tearing through two carcasses outside my window..."

For me, it's a good day to just meditate.

a cow awaiting her death--at least she's dressed nicely


  1. :) ... can you really blame me for laughing at the 70 virgin cow question!!!!! :D

  2. Really great info you have shared in this post, thanks