Question # 19: Is udhiyah (sacrifice) obligatory or Sunnah? Is one udhiyah sufficient on behalf of a family/household?

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: The correct view is that udhiyah is a confirmed Sunnah (sunnah mu’akkadah) according to the scholars of Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah. It is stressed upon whoever can afford it from his wealth. As for its number, one sheep is sufficient as udhiyah for one man and his family.

Long Answer:  The word ‘udhiyah’ means an animal of the ‘an’aam class (i.e., camel, cow, sheep or goat) that is slaughtered during the days of Eid al-Adha because of the Eid and as an act of worship, intending to draw closer to Allah thereby.  This is one of the rituals of Islam prescribed in the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم), and according to the consensus of the Muslims.

However, the scholars differ as to whether it is Sunnah mu’akkadah (a confirmed Sunnah) or it is obligatory and it is not permissible to omit it.  The majority of scholars are of the view that it is Sunnah mu’akkadah. This is the view of al-Shaafa’i, Maalik and Ahmad according to his most well-known view.

Others were of the view that it is obligatory. This is the view of Abu Haneefah and one of the views narrated from Ahmad. This was also the view favored by Ibn Taymiyah who said: “This is one of the views narrated in the madhhab of Maalik, or it appears to be the view of Maalik.”

Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Udhiyah is Sunnah mu’akkadah for the one who is able to do it, so a person should offer the sacrifice on behalf of himself and the members of his household.” (Fataawa Ibn ‘Uthaymeen)

Therefore, in order for it to be obligatory or Sunnah to offer the udhiyah, it is stipulated that the one who offers it should be independent of means, in that the price of the udhiyah is surplus to his needs and the needs of those on whom he spends. If a Muslim has a salary that comes to him every month, and this salary is sufficient for him and he has surplus money which he can afford the price of the udhiyah, then in his case it is prescribed for him to offer the udhiyah. The fact that it is stipulated that he should be independent of means is indicated by the words of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم): “Whoever can afford it but does not offer a sacrifice, let him not come near our prayer-place.” (Narrated by Ibn Maajah; classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh Ibn Maajah)

As for its number, one sheep is sufficient as udhiyah for one man and his family and whoever he wants among the Muslims, because of the hadith of ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنه) who said that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) ordered that a ram with black legs, black belly and black (circles) round the eyes should be brought to him, so that he could sacrifice it. He said to ‘Aa’ishah: “Give me the knife,” and she did that. He took it, then he took the ram, placed it on the ground and then slaughtered it (i.e., prepared to slaughter it), saying: “In the name of Allah, O Allah, accept (this sacrifice) on behalf of Muhammad and the family of Muhammad and the ummah of Muhammad.” Then he sacrificed it. (Muslim)

It was narrated that Abu Ayyoob al-Ansaari (rs) said: “At the time of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), a man would sacrifice a sheep on behalf of himself and his household, and they would eat some and give some to others.” (Narrated by Ibn Maajah and by al-Tirmidhi, who classed it as saheeh; also classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi)

Customarily ‘family or household’ refers to all those whom he supports of wives, children and relatives; linguistically it includes all those who are related to him of his own children and the descendants of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.