How Azerbaijan has tried to ‘modernise’ the sacrificial holiday of Qurban Bayram
Azerbaijan celebrates the Muslim sacrificial holiday of Qurban Bayram today.
In recent years, the celebration has been “modernised” – sacrificial rams can now be ordered online, and they can only be slaughtered at specially equipped sites.
The festival of Qurban Bayram is associated with the Old Testament story of how God orders the prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) to sacrifice his son, and how at the very last moment, God prevents him from carrying the act out – offering him instead a lamb to sacrifice in Isaac’s place.
The date of the holiday shifts on the Gregorian calendar slightly every year. This year, it falls on August 12 – Monday and Tuesday have thus been deemed bank holidays in Azerbaijan.
Animal sacrifice is customary on the day – in Azerbaijan, the animal of choice is generally a ram. The sacrificial meat is then distributed to neighbors, relatives and the poor. This can be done by people on their own or they give the meat to the mosque which then handles its ditstribution.
A modern approach
Despite the popularity of Qurban Bayram among believers, many in Azerbaijan consider the holiday rather cruel and outdated.
Earlier, rams were butchered even on city streets, without observing sanitary or other standards. Residents of Baku were especially unhappy with the sight of the “condemned to death” rams and the blood flowing along the sidewalks.
Therefore, several years ago, the authorities decided to ‘modernise’ the sacrificing process.
Now a sacrificial sheep can be ordered online (for about $100), and butchering animals is allowed only at specially equipped sites. At least that’s what pro-government media say.
At these points there are veterinary and sanitary laboratories, and there are special containers to deal with hide and other waste material.