June 29, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10687

Muslim Clerics And Islamic Institutions Reject Al-Azhar Professor Saad Al-Din Al-Hilali's Religious Opinion Allowing Bird Sacrifices Instead Of Livestock For Eid Al-Adha

June 29, 2023
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 10687

On June 19, 2023,[1] an episode of the MBC Egypt show "Elhekaya," hosted by journalist Amr Adeeb, featured a phone interview with Dr. Saad Al-Din Al-Hilali, a professor of Comparative Jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University. During the interview, Dr. Al-Hilali argued that it would be permissible for Muslims to sacrifice poultry instead of the tradition of slaughtering livestock to celebrate Eid Al-Adha (the Islamic Feast of the Sacrifice). His argument was in response to the issuance of fatwas that allowed for installment payments over time to acquire livestock sacrifices for those unable to afford them.

Dr. Al-Hilali emphasized that instead of promoting a culture of incurring debts, it would be better to promote the culture of offering bird sacrifices. He supported his stance by referring to the endorsement of the celebrated 11th century Andalusian religious thinker and strict compiler of Hadeeth Ibn Hazm Al-Zahiri[2], which was based on the narration of the Prophet's companion, Bilal Bin Rabah. He stated, "We should promote the culture of offering poultry sacrifices, as advocated by Dawood Bin Ali Al-Zahiri and Ibn Hazm Al-Zahiri, based on the narration of Bilal Bin Abi Rabah. They relied on evidence from the Quran and Sunnah. Since we have this perspective in Islamic jurisprudence, why wouldn't we promote it?"

During the show, Dr. Al-Hilali challenged anyone to prove that this jurisprudential view was incorrect. In opposition to this position, several clerics, preachers and Islamic institutions voiced their disagreement, citing that the Quran clearly states that Eid sacrifices must be livestock. Some even accused Dr. Al-Hilali of supporting the government by resurrecting old religious positions instead of addressing the issue of poverty, which has made it difficult for people to afford the price of livestock sacrifices. This report will highlight the reactions to Al-Hilali's remarks.

In response to Al-Hilali's interview, exiled Egyptian cleric and Muslim Brotherhood (MB) member Essam Talima, a former member of the MB Shura Council in Turkey, published an article on the website of the Qatar-based and funded the International Union For Muslim Scholars (IUMS) in which he described Al-Hilali as a pro-government preacher who provides "religious tricks" to justify the government's incompetence. Talima referred to the position of the Fatwa House in Egypt with regard to the position of Ibn Hazm that Al-Hilali cited.

According to the Fatwa House, "all the verses and hadiths regarding the sacrifice of Udhiyah are specifically about livestock, and there is no mention whatsoever of birds. It is the consensus of the Muslim community that sacrificing birds is not permissible. Regarding Al-Hilali's opinion, it is considered a deviant view that is not supported by scholars, to the extent that we have seen them dismissing it and even stating a consensus opposing it."[3]

After citing a response from the late Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader, Youssouf Al-Qaradawi, to a similar fatwa issued by Turkish scholars twenty years ago, in which he emphasized that sacrifices must be made with livestock and that it is not obligatory in all schools of jurisprudence except the Hanafi, Talima dedicated the second part of his article to condemning Al-Hilali for focusing on issues related to poverty rather than addressing the root causes, such as people's rights to public funds and their basic needs being met.

Talima concluded by asking why Al-Hilali adopts Ibn Hazm's opinion regarding sacrificing birds but does not adopt his views on political matters, such as a citizen's right to enjoin good and forbid evil or a person's financial rights when in need of assistance from those in power, and what happens if authorities deny them these rights?

Dr. Abdallah Al-Najjar, an Al-Azhar University professor and member of the Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy, noted that offering sacrifices is a recommended Islamic practice, and those who cannot afford it are not obligated to do so. Dr. Al-Najjar made these comments during a phone interview aired on Sada Al-Balad TV channel. He clarified that Shariah specifically defines the sacrifice as being from livestock, such as camels, cattle, and sheep. If a person is unable to offer such a sacrifice but intends to emulate and have good intentions in any act, whether related to sacrificing birds or other matters, Allah does not reject those who seek closeness to Him through any deed, even if it is something simple. However, it would not be considered a religious ritual or a sacrifice."[4]

Egyptian cleric Moustafa Al-'Adawi was one of the harshest critics of Al-Hilali, referring to him as an "idiot" for claiming that sacrificing birds is supported by Islamic jurisprudence. Mocking Al-Hilali's viewpoint, Al-'Adawi stated, "Al-Hilali claims it is permissible for people to sacrifice a chicken, sparrow, or pigeon. Can anyone accept such a notion? Sacrificing a sparrow? I never imagined that a PhD holder and a professor would advocate for promoting such deviance."[5]

On June 25, 2023, Egyptian Professor and YouTuber Dr. Ragheb El-Sergany joined the discussion by acknowledging that Ibn Hazm did state the permissibility of sacrificing birds and other non-livestock animals. However, he pointed out that Ibn Hazm's position was considered an uncommon view in jurisprudence and should not be regarded, as it contradicted the consensus of scholars.[6]

Turkey-based Syrian cleric Muhammad Faraj Kalbulloz reiterated that only livestock offerings are permissible to sacrifice in Eid Al-Adha, as mentioned in the Quran. He rejected classifying Al-Hilali's position as "religious reasoning."

In an interview aired on Orient TV and published on YouTube on June 27, 2023, he stated, "We have a principle in the fundamentals of jurisprudence that states there is no room for religious reasoning (ijtihad) when there is explicit textual evidence. This fatwa is not considered ijtihad because the text is clear and unambiguous in the Quran. Ijtihad is only applicable in matters where there is no explicit text in the Holy Quran.".[7]

In support of Al-Hilali's position, Egyptian MP and Islamic thinker Atef Makhalif stated during an interview aired on Al-Shams TV channel on June 23, 2023, that Eid sacrifices are traditions and recommended acts of worship. He argued that those who cannot afford to sacrifice livestock can sacrifice birds instead. Makhalif emphasized that the livestock sacrifices mentioned in the Quran were specifically related to those who performed pilgrimage, not for those who did not.[8]

Al-Hilali's position has even been rejected by his own Al-Azhar in a fatwa issued by the Al-Azhar Global Center for Electronic Fatwa and posted on its Facebook page on June 26, 2023. In the fatwa, the center states: "The sacrifice is not valid except from livestock (camels, cattle, and sheep), and participation in the sacrifice is not valid with less than one-seventh (1/7) of a cow or a camel. A sheep can be sacrificed for an individual or their household, regardless of the number of people, from the category of sheep or goats. Participating in the cost of a sheep or goat sacrifice with more than one person does not count as a valid participation in the sacrifice. Our Prophet Muhammad sacrificed on behalf of those who were unable to offer the sacrifice from his Ummah.".[9]


[1], June 19, 2023.

[2] Ibn Hazm was a prominent Muslim scholar known for his contributions to Islamic jurisprudence and his affiliation with the Zahiri school of thought.

[3], June 23, 2023.

[4], June 20, 2023.

[5], June 22, 2023.

[6], June 25, 2023.

[7], June 27, 2023.

[8], June 23, 2023.

[9], June 26, 2023.

Share this Report: