Consecration of Animals
(budn, nusuk, hady)

Csaba Okvath and Muzaffar Iqbal

 Consecration of animals is their dedication for sacred rites, whether for exclusively ritual use or by slaughtering them. Both divinely-ordained (budn, nusuk, hady) and pagan consecrations (baḥīra, sāʾiba, waṣīla, ḥām) are mentioned in the Qurʾān. Consecration is one of the seven contexts in which animals appear in the Qurʾān (see Animals).

Divinely-ordained Consecrations

Budn (sing. badana), the fem. pl. noun budn occurs only once in Q 22:36 (And the budn, We have appointed them for you among the symbols (shaʿāʾir) of Allah; for you therein is good. So mention the name of Allah over them when they are drawn up in lines. Then when their flanks fall [dead], eat of them and feed the needy and the beggar. Thus have We subjected them to you, that you may give thanks). Budn designates the mature livestock sacrificed at the Kaʿba during pilgrimage (see Hajj), fattened (yastasminūnahā) before they were taken to the House of Allah (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, kitāb al-bāʾ, bāb al-bāʾ wal-dāl wa mā baʿdahumā fīl-thulāthī; Makkī, Hidāya). The root b-d-n (see Body) has the meaning “bulky, corpulent” (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs; Rāghib, Mufradāt). Budn generally denotes a camel (ibil) but can also be a cow (Ṭabarī, Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīrs; Māwardī, Nukat, all sub Q 22:36), given the sound hadith reported by Jābir b. ʿAbd Allāh (d. 78/697): “We set out for Hajj, wearing iḥrām (muhillīna bil-ḥajj) with the Messenger of Allah, upon him blessings and peace. He instructed us that seven persons should share in a camel or a cow for offering badana” (Muslim, Ḥajj, al-ishtirāk fīl hady wa-ijzāʾ al-baqara wal-badana kullin minhumā ʿan sabʿa). The animal is earmarked with “distinctive ḥajj signs” (shaʿāʾir, sing. shaʿīra), consisting of neck garlands (qalāʾid, cf. Q 5:2, 97) placed on camels and cows, but not on smaller livestock (al-ghanam), the animal is “bloodied with a blade” (al-idmāʾ bi-ḥadīda: Azharī, Tahdhīb, bāb al-ʿayn wal-shīn maʿ al-rāʾ) by the slashing or stabbing of its hump (done only for camels) or with an iron blade (an yaṭʿan fī ṣafḥat sanām al-baʿīr bi-ḥadīda), to mark it as a sacrificial animal (hady) (Baghawī, Tafsīr; Ibn Rushd, Bidāyat, 2:139; al-Shāfiʿī, Umm, 7:154; Ibn Qudāma, Mughnī, 5:455-457). Abū Ḥanīfa (d. 150/767) alone considered this as disapproved  (makrūh) as it resembled mutilation (muthla) (Kāsānī, Badāʾiʿ, 2:162). The Shāfiʿī jurist Ilkiyā al-Harrāsī (d. ca.504/1110) says, “Allah Most High bestowed particular blessings on His slaves by giving them budn, for He says [in this verse] therein is good for you; this means the owner of the camel can make use of it by riding on its back, drinking its milk, and using its hair until it is declared to be budn; after that its place is the Ancient House (al-Bayt al-ʿAtīq),” (Aḥkām, sub Q 22:33), meaning the Sacred Mosque in Makka.


Nusuk, devotion (ʿibāda), from the root n-s-k, originally referred to the pilgrimage rites (Rāghib, Mufradāt, sub n-s-k). The root appears seven times in the Qurʾān in three derived forms: Four times (Q 2:128, 200; 22:34, 67) as the noun mansak (worship); twice (Q 2:196; 6:162) as the noun nusuk (sacrifice); and once (Q 22;67) as the active participle nāsiku. The verb nasaka, which does not appear in the Qurʾān, bears the meaning of “worship and closeness to Allah Most High” (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, kitāb al-nūn, bāb al-nūn wal-sīn wa mā yuthallithuhumā). Aḥmad b. ʿAlī al-Jaṣṣāṣ (d. 370/981) cites a hadith narrated by al-Barāʾ b. ʿĀzib, who said: “The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, went out on the Day of Sacrifice (yawm al-Aḍḥā) and said, ‘Today, our first nusuk is the prayer, then ritual slaughtering (al-dhabḥ)’” (Jaṣṣāṣ, Aḥkām, sub Q 2:133)—whether of camels (jamal), cows (baqar), or sheep and goats (ghanam) (Muslim, Ḥajj, jawāz ḥalq al-raʾs lil-muḥrim idhā kāna bih adhan wa-wujūb al-fidya li-ḥalqih wa-bayān qadrihā; Mujāhid, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:184; Muqātil, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:286; Ṭabarī and Rāzī, Tafsīrs, sub Q 2:196). Abū Hilāl al-ʿAskarī (d. 395/1004) explains that “the linguistic origin of nusuk is ritual slaughtering (dhabḥ); the thing sacrificed is called al-nasīka and al-dhabīḥa; then this usage became widespread and the substantive is now used to denote all acts of worship.” One who performs the rites (manāsik) of the Hajj is a nāsik, intending thereby the sacrificed animals (al-dhabāʾiḥ) that conclude the pilgrimage (Wujūh, p. 460). He then cites Q 22:34: And for every nation (umma) have We appointed a mansak, that they may mention the name of Allah over what He has provided of cattle beasts …. The noun mansak in this verse denotes the act of shedding blood (per Mujāhid) or the site of ritual slaughter (per ʿIkrima), which suggests that animal sacrifice (qurbān) has been divinely ordained for every previous nation since the time of Ibrāhīm, and that pronouncing the divine Name replaced the prior pagan practices (Rāzī, Tafsīr, sub Q 22:34; see Basmala). The rite of slaughtering a consecrated animal at the annual Ḥajj was initiated through the divine substitution of a ram for the son of Ibrāhīm(Q 37:102-107) The enormous benefit of this ritual is described in a hadith:

The Companions of the Messenger of Allah, upon him blessings and peace, asked, ‘Messenger of Allah, what are these sacrifices?’ He said, ‘This is the practice (sunna) of your father Ibrāhīm.’ They said, ‘What is there for us in them, O Messenger of Allah?’ He said, ‘For every hair a merit (ḥasana) is recorded.’ They asked, ‘What about the wool, Messenger of Allah?’ He replied, ‘A merit for every tuft of wool” (Ibn Mājah, 4:556 § 3127; Aḥmad, 32:34 §19283; Ṭabarānī, Kabīr, 5:197 §5075; Ḥākim, Mustadrak, 2:422 § 3467).


Hady (Q 2:196x3; 5:2,95, 97; 48:25), a general term and collective noun (sing. hadya, hadiyya, hady), is derived from the weak triliteral root h-d-y, “to herd”—thence hady as “all kinds of animals driven to the Ḥaram [in Makka], camels, cows, and other small grazing livestock (al-naʿam), with the express purpose of sacrificing them (li-tunḥar)” (Ibn al-Athīr, Nihāya; cf. Fayyūmī, Miṣbāḥ). Hady may be selected from the eight pairs of animals mentioned in Q 6:143-144, the larger they are, the more meritorious (Ibn Rushd, Bidāya, Ḥajj, al-qawl fīl-hady; Qurṭubī, Tafsīr, sub Q 5:2). The larger sacrificial animals are decorated with garlands (qalāʾid; cf. Q 5:2, 97) as a sign that they are dedicated (ushʿira or uʿlima) to Allah Most High (Wāḥidī, Wajīz and Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr, sub Q 5:2). The expiatory sacrifice for hunting game while in the state of consecration for pilgrimage (iḥrām) is the like of what he killed (Q 5:95): that is, in size and value (Wāḥidī, Wajīz; Baghawī, Tafsīr), and it is a special type of hady.

Pagan Consecrations

Q 5:103 names four types of animals that pre-Islamic Arabs offered their deities: Allah has not appointed anything of baḥīra, nor sāʾiba, nor waṣīla, nor ḥām; but those who disbelieve fabricate falsehood against Allah, and most of them do not understand. Historians, exegetes, and lexicographers differ on the precise details of each of these animals, but generally agree that the first two were she-camels, the third was either a sheep or she-camel, and the fourth was a male camel; once consecrated, they could not be ridden or milked for human consumption, and they were allowed to graze freely until they were slaughtered.


Baḥīra (pl. baḥāʾir, buḥur), is the fem. sing. noun from the verbal root b-ḥ-r, bearing the meaning to split or cleave (shaqqa) (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān); this definition is attested by the historian of Makka, Muḥammad b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Azraqī (d. 250/864), who says in his account of the digging of the Zamzam (q.v.) well by the Prophet’s grandfather ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib: “He dug until water streamed forth at the bottom; then he split it (baḥḥarahā, that is, widened it) so that it did not drain away” (Akhbār, 2:42; cf. ʿAbd al-Razzāq, Muṣannaf, 5:313, with the verb baḥarahā). Al-Rāghib al-Aṣfahānī (d. ca.502/1108) writes that, applied to a camel (baʿīra), the verb means “to make a broad incision (shaqq wāsiʿ) in its ear, so as to mark it” (Mufradāt). Ibn Isḥāq (d. 150/767) says baḥīra is the female offspring of the sāʾiba (see below); his editor Ibn Hishām (d. ca.218/833) adds that a baḥīra is a she-camel with a slit ear (tushaqq udhunuhā), which no one is permitted to ride, nor can anyone shear off its hair (lā yujazzu wabaruhā) or drink its milk (unless a guest or in charity) (Sīra, 1:89). More details are provided by exegetes: Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm b. Muḥammad al-Zajjāj (d. 311/923) says a baḥīra is a she-camel whose fifth pregnancy bears male offspring, and whose ear is then slit; not even an exhausted wayfarer (muʿyī) may ride it thereafter (Maʿānī; also see Ibn al-Jawzī, Zād, sub Q 5:103). Abū Muḥammad al-Ḥusayn b. Masʿūd al-Baghawī (d. 516/1122) provides a more comprehensive explanation including the above elements, and notes: “Such a camel had free access to water and pasture (al-kalāʾ). The fifth calf is examined; if it was a male they sacrificed it and men and women ate from it together, but if it was a female they split its ear and let it loose; its milk and other benefits were considered forbidden for women; all of its benefits were assigned exclusively to men. If it died, [the dead body’s use] was permitted for both men and women.” He also notes that some gave the necessary duration as twelve years before bearing a she-camel, not five pregnancies; these two periods approximate each other, given more than a year-long gestation and the time between calves (Tafsīr; see also Samʿānī’s Tafsīr for a similar explanation, sub 5:103).

Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Qurṭubī (600-671/1204-1273) cites a well-known hadith in reference to the ritual mutilation of animals: “There is none born but is created according to fiṭra (see Innate Nature); it is the parents [of the child] who make him a Jew, a Christian, or a Zoroastrian; similar to this are beasts that deliver their young hale. Do you see any part of its body amputated (jadʿāʾ)?” (Bukhārī, Tafsīr al-Qurʾān, lā tabdīla li-khalqi Llāh); he explains jadʿāʾ as meaning the slitting of the ears—“and in this way he compared the hearts of humans to the beasts because they deliver hale offspring missing nothing, after which their ears and noses are cut off and they dub them baḥāʾir and sawāʾib” (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr, sub Q 30:30).

Sāʾiba (pl. sawāʾib, suyyab) is derived from the weak stem s-y-b, which bears the meaning of flowing or running along—a continuous free movement (sayb), as of water or running animals. Its Qurʾānic meaning is drawn from the form-II verb sayyaba, in the sense of “to release or set free”, the sāʾiba being a she-camel that can pasture freely (Rāghib, Mufradāt; Ibn Hishām, Sīra, 1:89; Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, sub kitāb al-sīn, bāb al-sīn wal-yāʾ wa mā yuthallithuhumā; Rāghib, Mufradāt, sub s-y-b; Rāzī, Tafsīr sub Q 5:103). Abū al-Faraj Jamāl al-Dīn Ibn al-Jawzī (510-597/ca.1116-1200) lists five definitions: (i) livestock (anʿām) that is freed [that is, dedicated to] to deities (tusayyab lil-āliha), which was not ridden, milked, shorn, or loaded—per Ibn ʿAbbās (3bh-68/619-688); (ii) the portion of one’s herd given to the guardians of the deities, who may feed male wayfarers with their milk and flesh, or men and women both if the camel dies—also transmitted from Ibn ʿAbbās; (iii) a she-camel that gave birth to ten she-calves in a row, which was then freed (suyyibat), such that only a guest or its calf could drink her milk, men and women eating its meat together—also mentioned by al-Farrāʾ (d. 207/822) and Ibn Isḥāq, who holds this to be five sets of twins, all she-calves (Ibn Hishām, Sīra, 1:89); (iv) a she-camel that is set free to pasture at will through the oath of one in distress who vowed he would free it if Allah healed him or brought him home in security, with the standard formulamy camel is freed’ (nāqatī sāʾiba), and (v) a camel freed in gratitude after the owner traveled to pilgrimage upon it—as related by al-Shāfiʿī (150-204/767-819) and al-Māwardī (364-450/974-1058) (Ibn al-Jawzī, Zād, sub Q 5:103).

Prophetic traditions mention the first pagan consecrator: “I saw ʿAmr b. ʿĀmir b. Luḥayy al-Khuzāʿī dragging his intestines in the Hellfire (yajurr quṣbah fīl-nār), for he was the man who started the custom of releasing animals [for idols]” (Bukhārī, Manāqib, qiṣṣat Khuzāʿa; for other versions, see Qurṭubī, Tafsīr, sub Q 5:103 and Ibn Hishām, Sīra, Qiṣṣat ʿAmr b. Luḥayy wa dhikr aṣnām al-ʿArab). Abū Hurayra (19bh-57/599-676) said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah, upon him blessings and peace, say to Aktham b. al-Jawn: O Aktham, I saw ʿAmr b. Luḥayy b. Qamaʿa b. Khindif dragging his intestines in the Fire. I have never seen a man more similar to you than him nor to him than you. Aktham said: “O, Messenger of Allah. Can this resemblance harm me?” The Messenger of Allah, upon him blessings and peace, replied, “No! You are a believer and he was a disbeliever. He was the first man to alter the religion (dīn) of Ismāʿīl; he slit [the ears of] baḥīra, sāʾība and ḥām, and let them go loose (sayyaba al-sāʾiba)” (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 5:103; see also Bazzār, Musnad, no. 8991; al-Kalbī, Kitāb al-Aṣnām, p 8).

Waṣīla (pl. waṣāʾil, wuṣul), the fem. sing. noun is derived from the weak root w-ṣ-l, meaning “to connect or join”. Abū ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Khalīl al-Farāhīdī (100-175/718-791), the compiler of the oldest Arabic lexicon, considers it to be a sheep: “Al-waṣīla is of small livestock (ghanam); if it bears a female it is kept [alive] and if it bears a male, men eat from it to the exclusion of women. If, after the birth, the female dies [then men and women both] eat together; if a female is born dead but a male is born alive with it, the female offspring is given to men alone, excluding women, and it is called al-waṣīla (the connected one, because of its male twin)” (ʿAyn). Ibn Qutayba (213-276/828-889) offers many details and cites Ibn Isḥāq and ʿIkrima defining it as a sheep that gives birth to female twins in five or six consecutive pregnancies, respectively, the pagan men slaughtering and eating the offspring of the next pregnancy if it was a male (jady), let graze freely if it was a female (ʿanāq), and spared both if it was twins (waṣīla) (Ibn Qutayba, Gharīb, 1:378, alfāẓ min aḥādīth al-mawlid wal-mabʿath). Others identify the waṣīla as a she-camel with ten successive pregnancies, or vary the details of how many pregnancies or who was permitted to eat the offspring after the counted years of twins or alternating male-female children (Zabīdī, Tāj, sub w-ṣ-l; Samʿānī, Baghawī, Rāzī, Tafsīrs; Jaṣṣāṣ, Aḥkām, sub Q 5:103). Ibn al-Jawzī says that a waṣīla is a she-camel (nāqa) which in its first pregnancy gives birth to a female; if the following one is also female, she was offered to the false gods (see Idols and Idolatry); and she was called al-waṣīla because the two female calves were consecutive without a male between them, according to the arch-scholar of Madina, Ibn al-Musayyib (Zād, sub Q 5:103).


Ḥām (pl. ḥuwwam), the masc. sing. noun from the root ḥ-m-y, denotes an uncastrated mature bull camel (faḥl) consecrated for the idols after it has completed a number of copulations and “has passed a very long period in the possession of its owner” (Jawharī, Ṣiḥāḥ). Al-Rāghib al-Aṣfahānī lists this noun under ḥamiya (to be hot or become warm), stating that it was a bull that had sired five offspring in ten pregnancies and thereafter was not ridden (Mufradāt); Ibn Isḥāq says it is one that has sired ten she-camels with no male offspring between, and no use is made of its hair (Ibn Hishām, Sīra, 1:89). Al-Zajjāj agrees, adding “no burden can be placed on its back and it should not be denied water and pasture. Allah Most High declares that He has not prohibited any such thing, but those who disbelieve forge lies against Allah” (Maʿānī), some even declaring these to be rulings of Allah Most High (Samarqandī, Baḥr). Though most authorities agree that the ḥām had sired ten pregnancies (Samarqandī, Baḥr; Baghawī, Qurṭubī, Rāzī, Tafsīrs), Ibn al-Jawzī reports varying criteria, some of which have the camel sire ten female offspring by its own female offspring or sire seven consecutive female offspring (Zād).

Useless and Unlawful Consecrations

The so-called consecration and dedication of certain animals to idols is both “useless and unlawful”, a loss for which there is no gain (Rāzī, Tafsīr, sub Q 5:103). The pagan Arabs even manipulated their own practices: They assign to Allah a portion, of the crops and cattle that He created; and they say, ‘This is for Allah’, in their delusion, ‘and this is for our partners (idols). That which is for their partners does not reach Allah, and that which is for Allah does reach their partners. Evil is their ordinance! (Q 6:136). They would say, What is in the bellies of these animals is exclusively for our males and forbidden for our females (Q 6:139)—meaning the fetuses of the baḥīra and the sāʾiba (Qatāda and al-Shaʿbī), or the animals’ milk (Ibn ʿAbbās), or both (Ibn al-Jawzī, Zād). All such claims manifest their ignorance (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr): And do not utter lies in what your tongues assert, [claiming] ‘this is lawful and this is unlawful,’ such that you fabricate a lie against Allah. Those who fabricate lies against Allah will not prosper (Q 16:116). Allah Most High declared unlawful only carrion, blood, swine flesh, and animals sacrificed to deities other than Allah (Q 2:173; 5:3; 16:115). Altering these rules is a sign of the false way of the disbelievers, who forge a lie (iftirāʾ) against Allah (Rāzī, Tafsīr, sub Q 16:116).


The polytheists’ consecration of waṣīla and baḥīra is also mentioned in Q 6:143-144, according to exegetical explanations of the rhetorical questions in these verses (Samʿānī, Tafsīr): Eight pairs—of sheep, two, and of goats, two. Say, ‘Is it the two males He has forbidden or the two females, or that which the wombs of the two females contain? Tell me with knowledge, if you are truthful.’ And of camels, two, and of oxen, two. Say, ‘Is it the two males He has forbidden or the two females, or that which the wombs of the two females contain? Or were you present when God enjoined this upon you?’ Who does greater wrong than one who fabricates a lie against Allah, that he may lead men astray without knowledge? Truly Allah does not guide wrongdoers. The eight pairs refers to the male and female of each of the four classes of livestock (sheep, goats, camels and oxen), which the Makkan polytheists would arbitrarily prohibit without having any firm proof. The exegetes relate an account in which the polytheists argued with the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, about the consecration of animals:


Their spokesman was Mālik b. ʿAwf Abū al-Aḥwaṣ al-Jushamī, who said: ‘Muḥammad, we know that you prohibit what our predecessors used to do.’ The Messenger of Allah, upon him blessings and peace, said: ‘You yourself have prohibited certain types of grazing livestock without having any firm proof. Allah created these eight pairs of animals for the sake of eating of them and other uses. Where does this prohibition come from?’ At that, Mālik b. ʿAwf became silent and confused.” (Baghawī, Tafsīr; Samarqandī, Baḥr; Thaʿlabī, Kashf; Qurṭubī, Tafsīr; Khāzin, Tafsīr; Māwardī, Nukat gives the name as ʿAwf b. Mālik)


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See also

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