Allah legislated sacrifice in Islam to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim's sacrifice and provide abundance for the people during the 'Eid. The Prophetsaid, "The days of sacrifice are days for food and drink and making remembrance of Allah Almighty" [Recorded by Malik in A-Muwatta`].
The sacrificial animal, udhiya, refers to the livestock slaughtered as an act of worship to Allah on the day of 'Eid and ayam al-tashriq [the three days following 'Eid] such as camels, cattle, and sheep. The legal premise for its legitimacy is the Qur`anic verse,
We have truly given abundance to you [Prophet]—so pray to your Lord and make to Him alone [Al-Kawthar, 1-2].
Ritual sacrifice—a sunnah
Sacrifice is a confirmed sunnah and it is disliked for a person who is capable of offering a sacrifice to neglect this rite. Muslim and Bukhari reported that the Prophetsacrificed two horned black and white rams; he put his feet at their sides—he slaughtered them with his own hands—and uttered the name of Allah and glorified Him.
A person who offers a sacrifice earns a great reward from Allah the Almighty as attested to by the words of the Prophet when the Companions asked him, “O Prophet! What is sacrifice?” He answered, “It is the sunna of your forefather Ibrahim.” They asked, “What benefit is there for us in it?” He replied, “A reward for every hair on the skin of the sacrificed animal.” They asked, "And for animals with wool?” The Messenger of Allah replied, “A reward for every strand of wool" [Bukhari].
'A`isha, may Allah be pleased with her, narrated that the Prophetsaid, "There is no human deed dearer to Allah on the day of sacrifice than the ritual shedding of the blood of sacrificial animals. The animal will come on the Day of Judgment with its horns, hair and hooves intact. Its blood reaches Allah the Almighty before it even reaches the ground. Therefore, make [the sacrifice] in good will" [Al-Tirmidhi].
Sacrificial animal specifications
Only camels, cattle, sheep and goats may be slaughtered. Allah says,
To celebrate God's name over the livestock He provided for them. [Al-Hajj, 34]
-The minimum age is six months for a sheep; one year for a goat; two years for a cow; and five years for a camel, whether male or female.
-The sacrificial animal must be free from any defects or diseases. The Prophetsaid, "There are four defects which render an animal unsuitable for sacrifice: a one-eyed animal whose defect is manifest, a sick animal whose infirmity is plain, a lame animal that has an obvious walking problem, and an animal which is too weak to stand or walk" [Recorded by Al-Tirmidhi who declared it fair and authentic. Al-Nisa`i reported it in his Sunan al-Kubra].
The prescribed time for sacrifice
The time for sacrifice begins after sunrise of the day of 'Eid after enough time passes for performing the 'Eid prayer. Its time extends throughout the days of tashriq, by day or night and ends by sunset of the third day. Al-Baraa` narrated that the Prophetsaid, "The first act with which we will start this day of ours—the day of 'Eid—is the 'Eid prayer and then return to sacrifice. Whoever does so, will have adhered to our sunnah, and whoever slaughters before the prayer, what he sacrificed is merely meat he presents to his family and not sacrifice" [Bukhari and Muslim]. In another hadith, the Prophetsaid: "Whoever slaughters his sacrifice after the 'Eid prayer and the two sermons has completed his rites and followed the sunnah of Muslims" [Bukhari and Muslim].
Slaughtering for oneself and sharing in a sacrifice
A single sacrificial animal fulfills the sunnah for a person and his household. It is permissible for more than one person to share in a cow or a camel because each fulfills the sunnah for seven persons and their families. Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him) said, "On the day of Hudaybiya, we offered a sacrifice with the Prophetconsisting of a camel on behalf of seven and a cow on behalf of seven" [Muslim].
Distributing the meat
It is recommended for the person making the sacrifice to eat from it, give some of it away to relatives and as charity and store some of it. On the day of 'Eid, the Prophettold his Companions, "Eat from the sacrificial animal, give some of it as charity and store some of it." Scholars have stated that it is preferable to eat a third, give out a third in charity and store a third. This is merely an approximate division and not a definite one.
Slaughtering the animal oneself
It is recommended for a person to slaughter the animal himself if he can slaughter well, and say, "In the name of Allah, Allah is the greatest. O Allah! This is for so-and-so," mentioning his name. Otherwise, he is to commission another person who can slaughter well, though he must attend the sacrifice. The Prophettold his daughter, Fatima, "O Fatima! Go and witness the slaughter of your [sacrificial] animal, because, with the first drop of its blood, Allah will pardon all your sins. Say, "My prayers and sacrifice, my life and death, are all for God, Lord of all the worlds; He has no partner. This is what I am commanded, and I am the first to devote myself to Him [Qur`an 6:162-3]." One of the Companions then said, "O messenger of Allah! Is this just for you and your family or for Muslims in general?" The Prophetreplied, "This is for Muslims in general."
Scholars maintained that it is permissible to transport the [sacrificial] animal from one country to another.
Sacrifice is one of the Islamic rites and a confirmed sunnah; therefore, following it entails a great reward.
Allah the Almighty knows best.