Aqiqah and Qurban: Sacrifice for the Sake of Allah (SWT) 

  Dhul Hijjah     Publications

Qurban and Aqiqah are both significant acts of worship (ibadah) in Islam that both involve the sacrifice of an animal for the sake of Allah (SWT). Anyone who has the financial means to do Qurban and Aqiqah is highly urged to do it. As these are important rituals the Prophet (ﷺ) did rigorously at their assigned times.

While these two have some similarities, they are two different acts of worship, each with specific rules on how to perform them. So, what are the differences between Qurban and Aqiqah? 

Qurban and Aqiqah in Islam

The Story of Qurban 

Qurban commemorates the divine sacrifice Prophet Ibrahim (AS) made for the sake of Allah (SWT). It plays a significant part in Eid Al-Adha, the “festival of sacrifice”, in Dhul Hijjah.

The story behind the act of worship starts with a dream. A dream sent by Allah (SWT) to Prophet Ibrahim (AS) of him sacrificing his son, Ismail (AS), whom he loved dearly.

Despite his heavy heart, Prophet Ibrahim (AS) had full trust in his Creator to guide him through this hard task. He took his son to the top of Mount Arafah to prepare for the sacrifice. When Prophet Ibrahim (AS) told his son about the dream, Ismail (AS), following his father’s example, accepted this decree of Allah (SWT) and agreed that he must be sacrificed.  

Prophet Ibrahim (AS) then blindfolded himself to ease his heavy heart while carrying out the slaughter. As he was about to begin the sacrifice, Allah (SWT) replaced Ismail (AS) with a ram, and his son was left unharmed. 

The event was a test of Prophet Ibrahim’s obedience to Allah (SWT), which he had greatly demonstrated. In honour of his devotion, Allah named him ‘Khalillullah’ in the Quran, which means an intimate friend of Allah. 

“Who can be better in religion than one who submits his whole self to Allah, does good, and follows the way of Ibrahim the true in faith? For Allah did take Ibrahim for a friend.”

Quran 4:125

Qurban in the Quran

The story of Qurban serves as a reminder for us. To learn from Prophet Ibrahim (AS)’s full submission to Allah (SWT), which is the essence of Islam itself. His sacrifice is commemorated in these verse of Surah As-Saffat, which states:

“When the boy was old enough to work with his father, Ibrahim said, ‘My son, I have seen myself sacrificing you in a dream. What do you think?’

“He said, ‘Father, do as you are commanded and, God willing, you will find me steadfast.’ And when they had both submitted and he put him down upon his forehead, We called out to him, ‘Ibrahim, you have fulfilled the dream.’

“This is how We reward those who do good- it was a test to prove [their true characters]- And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice, And We left for him [favorable mention] among later generations: ‘Peace be upon Ibrahim!’”

Quran 37: 102-109

The Significance of Aqiqah 

The birth of a child is a great blessing and gift from Allah (SWT). One of the many ways this is celebrated is through Aqiqah. It is a sacrifice offered as a symbol of one’s gratitude to Allah (SWT) for their newborn child.  

Aqiqah is a confirmed practice of the Prophet (ﷺ) and his companions. As narrated by Samurah ibn Jundub, the Prophet (ﷺ) said:  

“A boy is in pledge for his Aqiqah, Sacrifice is made for him on the seventh day, his head is shaved and he is given name.”

Sunan Abi Dawud

Likewise, when his two grandsons from his daughter Fatima (RA), Hasan and Husain, were born, the Prophet (ﷺ) offered an ‘Aqiqah for both of them, with two rams for each. (Sunan An Nasai) 

Aqiqah is also not limited to a boy’s birth. It should also be offered when a girl is born. It was narrated that Aisha (RA) said:

“The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) commanded us to sacrifice two sheep for a boy’s ‘Aqiqah and one sheep for a girl.”

Sunan Ibn Majah

However, Aqiqah should also not be a hardship for a baby’s parents. While the sunnah is to offer two sheep or goats for a newborn son, if a parent can only afford one, then they should not have to bear the hardship of getting two.

When do we perform Qurban and Aqiqah? 

When to perform Qurban

Muslims carry out Qurban during the days of Eid al-Adha, in Dhul Hijjah, the twelfth and final Islamic month. It should be done after Eid prayer, as practised by the Prophet (ﷺ) 

‘Whoever, makes the sacrifice before Eid prayer must repeat the sacrifice, and whoever does it after the prayer has completed his sacrifice.’ 

Sahih Al Bukhari

You can offer Qurban every year, so long as it is during its set days in Dhul Hijjah (the 10th to the 12th or 13th). You can also do it as many times as you wish if you have the financial means to do so.  

By contrast, Aqiqah can only be offered once in a lifetime. If a baby’s parents have already done ‘Aqiqah, there is no need to perform another one the following year.

When to Perform Aqiqah  

Ideally, Aqiqah should be performed seven days after the child’s birth, as per sunnah. However, if the child’s parents or guardians cannot afford it, then they can do it at another time, as long as the child has not hit puberty yet. If a child reaches puberty before their parents can perform Aqiqah, then it is permissible for the child to perform it for himself. 

Aqiqah is also not fixed to any event in the Islamic calendar and can be done anytime in the year. It is also permissible to perform Aqiqah during the Eid al-Adha period. Some Muslims do so as it is cheaper to buy a livestock animal during this time, due to the increase in supply to meet the demand for Qurban.

What animals can be sacrificed for Qurban and Aqiqah? 

Livestock animals that can be sacrificed for Qurban include goats, sheep, cows and camels. For Aqiqah, it is sunnah to offer a goat or sheep for sacrifice.

Animals also make up a different number of shares in Qurban. Smaller animals, such as goats and sheep count as one Qurban share. Larger animals, like cows and camels, on the other hand, count as seven shares. 

qurban inspection of sheep

For both Qurban and Aqiqah, the sacrifice can be male or female, so long as they are healthy and free from defects. The sacrificed livestock must have also reached a specific minimum age. Goats and sheep must be at least one year old, cows two years old, and camels five years old.  

How should the Qurban and Aqiqah meat be distributed? 

Meat from Qurban should be distributed raw and divided into three parts. One-third goes to the one performing the Qurban, another third to family and friends, and the last third to the less fortunate. 

This sharing of meat is to give thanks to Allah (SWT) and share these blessings with those who live in situations where eating meat is often an unaffordable luxury. Thus, Qurban provides an annual opportunity for the poor and needy to enjoy meat. Especially, if they are unable to have them at other times of the year. 

For Aqiqah, it is permissible to eat the meat from it and feed relatives, friends and the poor. While it can given raw, it is sunnah to cook it before giving it to others. Aisha (RA) said, concerning the meat of the Aqiqah that, “It should be cut into pieces, cooked, eaten and also distributed.” (Narrated by Ibn Abi Shaybah in Al-Musannaf).

Cooked meat for Aqiqah

As such, an Aqiqah ceremony becomes a celebration where the meat from the sacrificed animal is cooked and shared with family, friends and members of the community who are in need.

Summary of differences

In conclusion, while they share some similarities, Qurban and Aqiqah are two distinct acts of worship.

Qurban is done on the three or four days of Eid al-Adha in remembrance of Prophet Ibrahim (AS)’s sacrifice. It is also best to distribute it raw, and you give it as many times each year during the Qurban period as you wish.

Aqiqah, however, is done seven days after a child’s birth, as per Sunnah, and is only done once in their lifetime. It is also sunnah to sacrifice goat or sheep for Aqiqah and to cook the meat before distributing it.

In the 10 blessed days of Dhul Hijjah, do not forget to purchase your Qurban in time for Eid Al-Adha!

This Dhul Hijjah, Share Your Blessings

Help the world’s most vulnerable families enjoy their Eid when you give Qurban with Islamic Relief.