Yet it is important to know when the sacrifice should be offered. Al-Baraaâ reports that he heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) delivering a sermon on the day of the Eid of Sacrifice. He said: âThe first thing we do at the beginning of this day of ours is to offer the (Eid) prayer. We then go back home and slaughter our sacrifices. Whoever does this follows our practice (or sunnah).â (Related by Al-Bukhari)
Islam always prefers that even for social and festive occasions, a short act of worship is included. This makes for a good restraint so that people do not indulge themselves too much in the festivity. Hence, the Prophet mentions that the first thing to do on the day of the Eid of Sacrifice is to offer the Eid prayer. This is a short 2-rakâah prayer, followed by a sermon which should not be too long. The prayer is offered about half an hour after sunrise, leaving the whole day for social activity.
Once the Eid prayer has been completed, the sacrifice may be offered. The sacrifice cannot be done before the prayer, even though some families may want it that way so that they have more time during the day for their pleasure. The sacrifice may be delayed, and indeed done on any of the following three days, but cannot be done before the prayer. If it is, then it is not an Eid sacrifice. Hence the Prophet made it clear that only a person who offers the Eid prayer then attends to his sacrifice follows the Prophetâs practice. The point here is that the sacrifice is part of the worship on that day. Worship must be done in the same way as the Prophet did and in the order he showed. In worship, the order of various acts is often considered part of the worship. Hence, it is important to realize that unless the sacrifice is done after the Eid prayer, it is not a sacrifice; it is merely food that one provides.
In a Hadith also reported by Al-Baraaâ we learn: âThe Prophet gave us a sermon on the day of the Eid of Sacrifice after we finished the prayer. He said: âWhoever offers our prayer and slaughters as we do has done the worship. Anyone who slaughters before the prayer has not done the worshipâ. Abu Bardah said: âMessenger of God, I slaughtered my sheep before the prayer. I knew that the day is one of feast, so I wanted my sheep to be the first to be slaughtered in my home. I did that, and I had some food before I came to the prayerâ. The Prophet said: âYour sheep is merely meat (i.e. not sacrificial). Abu Bardah said: âMessenger of God. We have a well built female goat, which I value more than two sheep. Is it good enough for sacrifice?â The Prophet said: âYesâ.â (Related by Al-Bukhari)
This second hadith makes the importance of time very clear. The sacrifice of the Eid has an appointed timing that starts after the prayer on the first day of the Eid and finishes by Asr prayer on the last day. Abu Bardah had to slaughter his goat in order to do the sacrifice. The sheep he slaughtered earlier did not serve that purpose because it was done before the prayer. ¬