When the large Muslim community in the DMV region gets ready for Eid Al-Adha, often the most challenging task they face is deciding where to perform the sacred sacrificial ritual (udhiyya) an what to do if local farms don't meet Islamic requirements.
In the past ten years, the Muslim community in the D.C.-metro region has grown and spread rapidly and the demand for carrying out the sacrificial ritual personally has become quite popular. Although the concept is quite common, not every Muslim is able to perform the ritual locally. Hence, they find alternative options of either sending donations overseas through various charitable organizations or arranging Udhiya through relatives in other countries.
“We plan to sacrifice two sheep, one for family and one for charity,” Habib Ghanim, Sr., the President of USA Halal Chamber of Commerce, Inc. and the Director of ISWA (Islamic Society of the Washington Area) Halal Certification Department, informs the Muslim Link about his plan for this year. Not only does he plans to sacrifice locally in the Silver Spring, Maryland area, he also plans to send money overseas.
“It costs us $250 to offer Udhiya locally, and about $100 to offer Udhiya overseas,” Ghanim voices his concerns, “and most people intend to send money overseas this season due to the lower price range. Not only that, I believe the process [isn’t] organized yet within the Muslim community and often there is disunity among the Muslim community, and that just takes away the whole meaning behind the importance of this holiday season.”
Mr. Ghanim’s organization not only donates every Hajj season, but they also donate to poor and needy in Africa every month through local masajid and imams.
While Mr. Ghanim believes that it is hard to arrange local Udhiya, Imam Ahmad Azzaari of Prince George’s Muslim Association (PGMA) believes it to be otherwise.
“As for Udhiya, we don’t usually offer any slaughter options in the masjid, but if someone wishes to perform the act locally, we encourage them to go the nearest place, which is either in Columbia or in Germantown,” Imam Azzaari regrettably explained the situation that faces many Muslims in America.
Modern farms such as Lambco, LLC, in New Windsor, MD allow Muslims to perform the act on the farm as long as they are not in violation of the Meat Inspection Act.
The Muslim community at PGMA, according to Imam Azzaari, also has the option of either donating the money to charities overseas or locally, which most people from the community do, or have the opportunity to send money overseas to have the Udhiya performed on their behalf and have the meat distributed among the poor.
“We do not have any agreement with any charity organization or any local halal meat or farm to carry these acts but we hope one day we are able to,” Imam Azzaari expressed his desire, “we also wish that a local farm or local halal meat store would offer a discount to anyone who is part of PGMA during the Hajj season, then life would be so much easier.”
PGMA also has a system, where if a Muslim family donates meat as an act of charity, the association cooks the meat in their kitchen as a meal for the needy.
Azim Salehi, the Chairman of Maryum Islamic Center (MIC) Board of Trustees expressed the same concern of having no farms near the vicinity with which they have an agreement. The nearest halal meat store is either in Columbia or Ellicott City. According to Mr. Salehi, the Muslim community at MIC is “pursuing Udhiya individually locally or via sending money for Udhiya to Muslim countries of their choice.”
The Imams of Islamic Community Center of Laurel (ICCL) have opened a local farm called Simply Natural, LLC in Sharpsburg, MD and offer the services to anyone who wishes to perform their own Udhiya or want to place an order. Launched this year, the farm promises animals that are naturally bred and raised on a pure diet.
While the majority of Muslim community organizations in Maryland do not offer Udhiya services, the Muslim community in Richmond, Virginia has set up an organized system to carry out the act.
The Islamic Society of Greater Richmond (ISGR) offers the service to their community through GlobalMart (a store next to ISGR).
For the ninth consecutive year, Richmond area Muslims are organizing a community sacrifice on Eid-ul-Adha at the Tuckahoe Plantation, a historic farming site over 600 acres in size equipped to host gatherings of thousands of people. It costs ISGR about $10,000 to have Eid-Al-Adha at the Plantation.
“Some may be sending money to relief agencies, but every year more and more [people] are doing sacrifice locally ever since ISGR started sacrifice and prayer at a local farm in 2006,” says a spokes person on behalf of ISGR.
It costs $170 for the live lamb and $150 plus processing for the shared-cow at GlobablMart as part of ISGR’s early Udhiya orders.
"It is cheaper to do Udhiya overseas, but ISGR continues to make it easier and cheaper to offer Udhiya locally. If anyone from our community wishes to choose the service from a local halal meat shops, we have that option available as well.”
ISGR plans to do the Udhiya and eat the meat as a community and give the rest to the needy. ISGR also encourages people to give the charity portion to the Masjid so that the Masjid can distribute it after cooking it.
The only concern ISGR voices is that although there are many local farms or slaughter houses available in the area; however they are not open to all the Muslim populations.
A concern that Anne Arundel County Muslim Council Director (who wishes to remain anonymous) shares, “there are not a lot of local farms or slaughter houses owned by masajid. I wish and request the masajid, which are building bigger complexes should also build a place to carry out such services within the vicinity. It will make our lives so much easier.”
Almost all the mosques and halal meat stores offer Udhiya services to the Muslim community but none have any agreement with any charity organizations.
Charity organizations such as ICNA Relief, Islamic Relief, Helping Hands amongst others are available to carry the charity requests of the Muslim community in the DC Metro area.