The yearly Islamic celebration of Eid Al-Adha, honouring the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Ismail (Ishmael) as an act of obedience to Allah’s command, his merciful staying of Ibrahim’s hand and his suggestion that a lamb should be sacrificed in the boy’s stead, takes place among soaring food prices and shifting habits of gentrified worshipers of the Muslim world.
The Qamra bus station in the Moroccan capital of Rabat is as busy as ever on Thursday, a day before the celebrations of Eid Al-Adha, Islam’s second most important religious event, start. Dirt clouds are kicked up in an arid departure section by travellers rushing to bus boarding points. But the offspring of Adam and Eve, or Adam and Hawa as Muslims prefer to call her, is by far not the only voyagers on the day.
Tethered by their necks and mouths, some boasting full teeth and well-kept, other broken-mouthed or gummers, many gimmers too, whatever their shape and form they are unloaded from coach buses’ cargo hold as students, elders and commuters at working age board the machines with thoughts of seeing their family members in the distant part of the Kingdom. The dim bellies of the coach buses reek of animal droppings and terror, while peddlers walk the aisles above offering honey-coated almonds, aromatic sweets and perfumes. The sheep, lamb and goats roar in confusion and fright but the men who pull them out and force them onto pickups seem deafened by their own laughter, their pending remuneration and prospects of a delicious feast.
The streets of Rabat’s old medina as well as other common neighbourhoods of Moroccan cities, not to mention small towns with their squares and tiled backyards, all of them resound with bleats on Friday – the first day of the four-day celebration. Until the offerings begin. Then, deadly silence holds sway as blood gushes out of the animal carcasses. As Islamic custom dictates, the halal way of butchering an animal is by severing the carotid artery, jugular vein and windpipe in a single swipe with a sharp knife so as to drain the body of blood.
The halal way of killing is believed to be humane, as animals’ suffering is allegedly minimal and their agony short. The practice also serves as a rite of passage for adolescents as they learn the value of life and the responsibility that rests within their hands both for their families and whatever animal Allah, according to Islamic belief, bestowed upon humans. The ritual killing is also to teach the boys and young teenagers to show mercy to the offering animal by putting it down in the least painful way possible.
Proponents of the killings both from and outside of the Muslim world stress that they are much more humane than the industrialised butchering of the Western world. This, clearly enough, leaves much room for debate.
Russia’s war in Ukraine backfires on Eid al-Adha
But over the years, the more bourgeois Muslims in Morocco have been moving away from the ages-old religious praxis. The shift of custom results from increased exposure of the Muslim middle class to narratives of humane treatment of animals, vegetarianism and veganism.
Meanwhile, in food-poor Yemen, something other than foreign ideas constrains the yearly celebrations.
“I came to check the prices and whether we will be able to buy or not. But the prices are unbelievably very high compared to last year,” Hamoud al-Asri told Reuters at a market in Sanaa, Yemen. Caught in a protracted civil war between the Saudi-backed government and the Shia Houthi tribe, the country has been struggling with hunger and a healthcare crisis that continues to deteriorate as a result of food supply chains fragility being the direct consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – a key provider of grain for many developing countries. Although a ceasefire worked out earlier this year has brought respite from seven years of war, millions still face hunger.
“I am leaving, I can’t afford it,” Hamoud concluded.
Sheep prices are difficult to handle also for Egyptians. A merchant selling sheep at one of Egypt’s innumerable markets said their prices had gone up by 50 percent to 90 Egyptian pounds (USD 4.77) per kilo. “We are not able to find buyers. I can sell the kilogram for 70 pounds but I need to find someone to buy from me, what else shall I do?” he said.
In Iraq’s capital Baghdad, a customer who introduced himself as Hussein said he couldn’t pay the 500,000 dinars (about USD 350) for a sheep offered by a trader. When Hussein asked him why such a high price, the vendor replied that the feed was expensive.
In the Gaza Strip’s Khan Younis market, soaring prices have discouraged many potential customers of Mahmoud Abu Holy, a livestock merchant. The man said he was unable to cut prices because of the sky-rocketing cost of animal feed – time and again, the result of Russia’s war against Ukraine. “We stand here the whole day without selling any of our animals,” said Abu Holy.
Behold economy coupled with Putin’s avaricious expansionary ambitions jeopardising the religious life of hundreds of thousand Muslims worldwide.
“Last year I bought a sacrifice for USD 300, today I found out it would cost USD 500 or USD 600 so I decided I wouldn’t do it,” Mohammad Issa, a 24-year-old Palestinian said.