Kurban Ait During Pandemic: Kazakh Muslims to Accomplish Religious Duties Virtually

NUR-SULTAN – The Kazakh Spiritual Directorate of Muslims changed the guidelines around the sacrifice ritual of Kurban Ait (Festival of the Sacrifice) Islamic holiday to ensure social distancing and the safety of the believers. This year Eid al-Adha will last from July 31 to Aug. 2.

Hazrat Sultan Mosque in Nur-Sultan – the largest mosque in Central Asia. Photo credit: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The celebration is derived from a story in the Qoran about the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismael as an act of complete obedience to God. According to the story, God then intervened and substituted Ismael with a sheep.

Muslims thus perform an animal ritual sacrifice, usually a sheep, to commemorate the divine intervention. Each Muslim traditionally should sacrifice an animal and divide it into three parts. Then, they are encouraged to share the parts with poorer Muslim families, relatives and their own family.

The spiritual directorate launched a website for online sacrifices at Qurban2020.muftyat.kz. The orders will be open until July 30. The directorate introduced changes “taking into account the opinion of our people, relying on international experience,” said Supreme Mufti Nauryzbai kazhy Taganuly during the July 24 press briefing at the Central Communication Service.

“The same animal sacrifice practice is found in Turkey, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates and in a number of Muslim countries. A special feature is that the meat of a sacrificed animal is distributed to the needy,” he said.

Although people will not be able to keep a part of their sacrifice and be present at the sacrifice ceremony, they can still ask for a photo and video report via WhatsApp instant messenger.

The supreme mufti also hinted that the minimum contact religious duty might remain a common practice in the future.

“Allah willing, next year we will also use this system. Our duty is only to distribute the meat of the sacrificed animal to those in need,” he stressed.

In addition to this, the Kazakh Council of Ulema (Muslim scholars) and scholars from Central Asia adopted a general fatwa (non-binding legal opinion) that Kazakhstan will abstain from Ait Namaz, a prayer in central mosques, this year.

“This high responsibility and awareness should be shown by all our fellow citizens. During the holiday, you can congratulate your relatives by phone, send gifts by delivery. Nowadays, all the technical conditions have been created, so you do not miss the opportunity to please your loved ones and friends on significant days. We urge you to start transferring family events, meetings with relatives and friends to an online format,” he said.

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