Important Clarification Regarding Qurbānī
There is a message circulating on social media that suggests that the Qurbānī (sacrifice) of one sheep is sufficient on behalf of the whole family. This is indeed the view of Imam Mālik (d. 179/795), Imam Aḥmad (d. 241/855) and the Shāfiʿī school of thought. However, according to the Ḥanafī school of thought, a sheep, a goat and similar size animals will only suffice for one person. On the other hand, a cow or a camel will suffice for seven people. This has been directly narrated from Imam Abū Ḥanīfah (d. 150/767) and is also the view of Imam ʿAbd Allah ibn al-Mubārak (d. 181/797). For further details, refer to Muwaṭṭāʾ Muḥammad (638), Sunan al-Tirmidhī (1505), Sharḥ Maʿānī al-Āthār (4: 176), Badāʾiʿ al-Ṣanāʾiʿ (5: 70), al-Mugnī (9: 438), al-Majmūʿ (8: 384) and al-Yawāqīt al-Gāliyah (1: 96).
Several scholars have contacted me asking me to provide clarification because of the circulating message criticising those who sacrifice a sheep for each family member. This is incorrect even according to many of those who permit the sacrifice of one sheep for each family member. Imam Mālik (d. 179/795) for example said, “However, if he is capable, it is more preferable to me that he slaughters a goat on behalf of each person” (al-Mudawwanah, 1: 547).
In matters of faith generally and jurisprudence in particular, it is important to seek guidance from local scholars who can advise you based on your school of thought. One should be extremely cautious with such messages on social media, especially if the author is unknown. Often the content is incorrect or not in accordance with your school of thought. It is also important to note that the four schools of thought have their evidences and principles and it is not permitted for a person to pick and choose when it suits him. The evidences of the Ḥanafi position can be read in Sharḥ Maʿānī al-Āthār (4: 176), Badāʾiʿ al-Ṣanāʾiʿ (5: 70). It is also equally vital to maintain etiquette when there is a difference of opinion among the schools of thought.
In conclusion, if you adhere to the Ḥanafī school of thought, a sheep or a goat will not suffice on behalf of your family and will only suffice on behalf of one person. If you decide to send your Qurbānī abroad, this is permissible. However, you should attempt to perform at least one Qurbānī of your household locally so that you may acquire its benefits and instil its importance in the children. Eating from your own Qurbānī is desirable according to all four schools of thought and according to some scholars this is necessary (Sharḥ Muslim, 13: 131).
May Almighty Allah accept our worship in these blessed days and unite the Ummah.
7 Dhū al-Ḥijjah 1437 / 9 September 2016