The picturesque and renowned mountainous valley of Hunza situated in the Gilgit Baltistan region of Pakistan is shrouded by the snowcapped peaks of the towering Karakoram Range. It has a dominant populace that identifies as Ismaili Muslims. The beauty of the place has been absorbed by the people and is manifested in their beautiful practice of celebrating Eid-ul-Adha. Their celebrations are carried out with religious enthusiasm, albeit with slightly different traditions than the majority population of Pakistan that associates with Sunnism. 

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Within each mohallah (community) the flock of sacrificial animals are brought and gathered at a community hall which is usually a place near the Jamatkhana (a religious gathering place for the Ismaili Muslims). All these animals have one thing in common in spite of the difference in their species – they are covered with multihued ornaments “like they are brides”. The assembling of these sacrificial animals is preceded by the people in the mohallah congregating and offering the Eid dua.  

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At the community hall, there are volunteers as well as scouts that slaughter the animals for the residents. This means that there are no hired butchers, but rather members of the community themselves that partake in this sacred sacrifice. Some of these volunteers oversee and supervise the process of slaughtering.

After slaughtering, the total weight of the meat is divided by the number of households in the community. This allows for the calculation of the kilograms of meat that each household would receive from the community hall. The distribution of meat equally amongst residents is the most beautiful aspect of the tradition of sacrifice in Hunza. This allows every member of the community to feel included in the religious festival of Eid regardless of their socioeconomic status.

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Adding onto the lure of the practice is the fact that the owners of the sacrificial animals remain anonymous. This further ensures that no distinction is made between the rich contributing to the sacrifice and the poor who are not able to afford the purchase of a sacrificial animal. This anonymity in sacrifice and equality in the distribution of meat makes the festivities of Eid-ul-Adha in Hunza distinctive as well as more pleasurable for everyone in the community, kindling communal spirits and guaranteeing the well-being of everyone.

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Contrastingly, the popular Sunni traditions of Eid-ul-Adha maintain that the animal slaughtered by the owner should be distributed equally into three parts: one part to be consumed and stored by the owner, another part distributed to relatives, and the third part given away in charity. However, there is no restriction in the amount consumed or given away in charity as according to one of the Fiqh (philosophies of the Islamic law), if one wishes, one may eat all or part of the sacrificed meat, or give away all or part of it to the needy and poor. 

Further insights into the unique elements that embellish the Eid traditions in Hunza were provided by Sher Afzal who is a resident of the Ali Abad area of Hunza to Dawn News in 2016. He has dubbed these practices as “centuries-old tradition”.

Being a leader of a group of volunteers himself he manages the processes of sacrifice and distribution of the meat among the local residents. The pride he has for his community following the steps of their ancestors is evident when he proclaimed that “we are happy and honored to be following the practice of our forefathers”. 

Shedding light onto the anonymous process of offering animals for sacrifice at the community hall, he explained that “local people have their own animals which they offer for Qurbani … the names of people who offer their animals for sacrifice are kept secret.” 

Regarding the equal distribution of meat, he asserted that no discrimination is made between people who offered the animals as well as the rich and the poor. This is because it is ensured that everyone gets an equal share of the meat. He added the example of that year’s total turnout of the meat as well as the number of households at that time for further clarification of the equitable distribution. Accordingly, “this year we had around 5,200 kilograms of meat which was then divided among 1,300 households”. Thus, through calculations, it is deduced that each household got around four kilograms of meat in 2016.

Additionally, the systematic distribution of meat in Hunza guarantees that all members of the community receive their fair share of meat, with no household left behind. In order to fulfill this meritorious goal, a group of volunteers is tasked with the responsibility of distributing the meat to each and every household. Afzal claims that “we divide volunteers into different groups and assign them areas for the door-to-door distribution of sacrificial meat”.

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The residents, furthermore, ensure that cleanliness is prioritized during the act of sacrifice and not to become a source that mars the scenic beauty of the popular tourist destination that lures numerous visitors every year. According to a resident, “We are really careful to dispose of the blood or any other waste of the animal properly”. This certifies that the unpleasant sight that is often seen in parts of Pakistan consisting of the innards of animals, bees buzzing around them, and the foul putrid smell emanating from them engulfing the air in the aftermath of the sacrifice is not replicated in the Hunza Valley.

To capture fully the mentality that drives these practices, Piyar Ali another resident of Ali Abad in Hunza succinctly declared that “we celebrate Eid-ul-Adha keeping the concept of sacrifice in mind, and equally distribute the meat … this is the actual concept of sacrifice taught by Prophet Ibrahim (A.S.) and Prophet Ismail (A.S.)”. 

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. He/She does not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Rizq or its members. The publication does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of Rizq.

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