DAMASCUS - As world Muslims celebrated `Eid Al-Adha by sacrificing sheep, Syrians who are desperately hungry were told to eat dogs, cats and donkeys to survive in the war-torn country.
Dog, cat and donkey meat could be eaten "after reaching a desperate need and the stores of food were inadequate to feed the population under the siege," the CNN quoted an imam in Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in the capital, Damascus.
The fatwa was reportedly issued during last Friday prayers in the Yarmouk camp which has been besieged for months by Syrian government forces.
Speaking to refugees struggling to meet their basic needs, the imam allegedly allowed them to eat those animals, though they are forbidden in Islam.
A similar message was allegedly conveyed in a YouTube video which showed a group of religious leaders outside Damascus issuing a fatwa permitting the eating of cats, kittens, donkeys, and animals killed in shelling.
The man reading the statement appeals to the world, and particularly to Muslims who are completing the Hajj pilgrimage, to think of the Syrian children "dying of hunger" while the viewers' stomachs are full.
"How can't they just stand for us, for our children?" the sheikh asks.
"Do they want us to get to the point when we are forced to eat the flesh of our dead martyrs and our beloved just to survive?"
CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of the video.
In Islam, the saliva of dogs was regarded as a filthy substance that should be avoided and which required extreme care to wash off. Eating anything that is filthy is regarded as wrong. It endangers our health.
As for donkeys, people needed them to transport equipment and people, and in such circumstances they were instructed to not eat the donkeys.
The second refers to not eating animals that have been living in effect as part of the family. This means that when we have a domesticated animal living among us, then it would be a violation of our implied agreement with that animal to kill it and eat it.
`Eid Al-Adha, or "Feast of Sacrifice, marks the end of the Hajj season and is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations, together with `Eid Al-Fitr.
A financially-able Muslim sacrifices a single sheep or goat or shares with six others in sacrificing a camel or cow as an act of worship during the four-day `Eid Al-Adha celebrations.
The ritual commemorates Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail to Allah as an act of obedience and submission.
The Udhiyah meat is divided in three equal parts, one each for one's own family, friends and the poor.
At the Atmeh refugee camp in Idlib province in northern Syria, `Eid was also deemed a strange visitor to the impoverished area.
"Before the crisis, during `Eid, we used to go to the shops and buy items, we were happy," Suad Zein told CNN.
"Eid was a wonderful holiday here. Now these days I can't even buy my boy a pair of trousers, or shoes, or even a loaf of bread.
"I have eight children. I can't support them all. We are living in despair."
"We have nothing to celebrate. We used to celebrate with food, drink, desserts. We used to make pastries. ... Now there's nothing," added another Syrian.
The case was not anyway better in refugee camps outside Syria.
In Lebanon's coastal town of Sidon, despair was palpable among the poverty-stricken female Syrian refugees receiving psychological counseling at a community centre run by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC).
I don't want to leave the house, quietly sobbed Fatima, a 32-year-old mother of four who fled Aleppo after family members were killed and her husband's business was destroyed by the war a year ago, Independent European Daily Press reported
Fatima said she now lives in a crowded school with other Syrian families in the volatile Ein al-Helweih refugee camp, Lebanon's largest settlement established to house Palestinian refugees more than 60 years ago.
I have sympathy for the Palestinians because they live in bad conditions, and I know that we make their situation worse, she said.
Being in a desperate need of money, Fatima was forced recently to sell two of the family's blankets for 15 dollars, a decision she says she regrets.
My children don't have shoes and I can't afford them, she said.
Their teachers say they should come in decent shoes. My son is psychologically torn apart. He sits alone at school while the other children play together. He was not like this before.
Fatima has no plans to celebrate `Eid.
We used to give each other all sorts of things. That's why I won't step outside. She sighed.
Our displacement from our country has made us old.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net