Egypt: Scholar’s ruling allowing sacrifice of birds for Eid al-Adha sparks uproar

A scholar suggested that people could sacrifice birds instead of traditional livestock amid the country’s economic woes

An Egyptian man sells chickens at a street market in Cairo, on 18 February 2006 (AFP)

Published date: 23 June 2023 19:32 BST | Last update: 9 sec ago

The chicken has once again made headlines in Egypt.

A professor of comparative jurisprudence issued a fatwa (religious ruling) this week, permitting the sacrifice of birds instead of livestock for Eid al-Adha amid the tight economic situation in the country, sparking widespread backlash.

Dr Saad al-Din al-Hilali of Al-Azhar University said in a televised interview on 20 June that it is better to "spread the culture of sacrificing birds, instead of spreading the culture of borrowing and instalments in order to buy the sacrifice, in light of the narrow financial situation of many."

The scholar’s statement quickly became a trending item on Twitter, with many Egyptians taking to the platform to oppose the fatwa. Islamic scholars gave interviews, saying that rulings on the matter only permit the sacrifice of livestock such as camels, cattle, sheep, and goats, citing the Quran, Islam’s holy book.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Many average Egyptians took a satirical approach to the matter, suggesting sarcastically that donkeys could be sacrificed, or that the markets and outlets on Eid al-Adha would be filled with chickens, ducks, and geese instead of livestock 

Translation: Donkeys may also be sacrificed.

A few users also defended the professor, citing the cost of living.

Muslims who can afford to do so are required to sacrifice an animal to mark Eid al-Adha, or the festival of the sacrifice. However, soaring meat prices have left the tradition out of reach for many Egyptians, with Hilali suggesting that people were resorting to buying animals in installments for the tradition.

Many in Egypt struggle to afford basic food and nearly 60 percent of the population live below or just above the poverty line.

This is also not the first time poultry has dominated the public discourse in relation to the cost of living crisis. The government sparked controversy earlier this year when it encouraged citizens to eat chicken feet as a money-saving substitute and short-term solution for Egyptians affected by the economic crisis.

@middleeasteye As the #Egyptian government encouraged people to eat chicken feet to save money, the Egyptian pound fell to an all time low against the US dollar, and continues to depreciate 📉🇪🇬 #Egypt #dollar #egypteconomy #inflation #chickenfeet #chicken @Middle East Eye @Middle East Eye ♬ original sound - Middle East Eye

Some Egyptians have turned to raising their own animals for eggs, or to be able to eat meat once every few months.

Conditions for the sacrifice

Traditionally, Islamic scholars, including those from Dar al-Iftaa, Egypt’s Islamic advisory body, agree that the sacrificial animal (udhiyah) for Eid al-Adha must be livestock.

Meanwhile, Hilali’s reasoning was based on "the opinions of a number of imams and jurists in Islam, who authorised it and based it on evidence from the Quran and Sunnah".

Eid al-Adha, which lands on the 28 June this year, commemorates a story in the Quran, in which the Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic), was willing to sacrifice his son Ismail in obedience to a command from God.

Muslims believe that Abraham was spared the heartbreaking sacrifice when God provided him with a ram to slaughter instead.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.

magnifier linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram