It is, once again, that time of the year when hundreds of thousands of rupees will be spent on a ritual that has managed to lose its essence over time. With Eid-ul-Azha nearing, cattle have become an overpriced commodity. Cows, goats and camels are now being sold at quadruple their original prices. People are showing off the amount of money they have spent on sacrificial animals. ‘Special cows’ are being sold at prices as high as over a million rupees. Regular cows are being sold for as much as 100,000 rupees per cow; an amount big enough to feed and clothe an entire poor family for 5 months.

The sacrificial ritual originates from Prophet Ibrahim’s decision to sacrifice his son for God’s will. He was willing to sacrifice something close to him, which then became the essence of this ritual. In Prophet Muhammad’s time, most of the people were shepherds. Therefore, it made sense for them to sacrifice something that helped them get on with their lives: cattle. Over time, though, the world has changed. We are no longer mainly reliant on cattle for our incomes. Modern day currency has replaced the barter system. Instead of cows and camels, money is what is dear to people now.

Spending money on overpriced cattle takes away the essence of what religion teaches us: simplicity. It has become a matter of who can afford the best cow now. The rich go on to spend hundreds of thousands of rupees to purchase animals that end up getting barbequed at parties. The poor are given a share of meat which, owing to their inability to properly store it, lasts only a few days for them.

The hundreds of thousands of rupees that are wasted each year could be invested in a multitude of projects including education, healthcare and general welfare of the people. Instead of sacrificing animals, why can’t individuals donate money for a better cause? The essence of the sacrifice would still remain alive; individuals would be parting with something very dear to them. Of course, however, we fail to see how bringing about certain very small changes in our religious practices to keep them in sync with our modern day requirements can benefit community significantly.

There are numerous poverty struck areas within Pakistan where children are dying of malnutrition. Instead of sacrificing animals here, why can’t food packages, enough to last those individuals for months, be sent to those areas? Many of our rural areas do not have adequate educational facilities. Why can’t the hundreds of thousands of rupees spent on cattle be utilized to improve the education system of the country? Surely, God wouldn’t mind if a number of lives improved significantly by sacrificing a little less blood at his altar. 

However, yet another year will pass with one of the largest animal sacrifices taking place in the world. It is a pity that the inefficient utilization of resources leads to major issues such as malnutrition still dominating the country while a number of citizens feel content with having fulfilled their religious obligations well.