Photographer Sophie Campos is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography. From the project ‘Eid al-Adha / Ain Lahcen-Morocco’. To see Sophie’s body of work, click on any image.
In the summer of 2022, I had the pleasure to be invited by my friend Adil to Morocco. Visiting his hometown left a deep impression on me – despite there being linguistic/cultural barriers, part of me felt identified with the bustling city, its humble people, and their heartwarming Latin hospitality.
Around the first week of July, people were getting ready for the Eid al-Adha (Holiday of the Sacrifice), the second and biggest of the two main holidays celebrated in Islam. The event has deep origins, as it honors the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Ismail (Ishmael) as an act of obedience to Allah’s command. According to the Quran, before Ibrahim could make the sacrifice, Allah intervened and provided him with a lamb which he was supposed to kill instead.
To commemorate this divine intervention, animals are ritually sacrificed – this ritual, which happens during Eid al-Adha, is known as Qurban. There are stipulations for the animals being offered: they can be sheep, goats, lambs, cows, bulls or camels. The animals must also be healthy, free from disease, cannot be blind or one-eyed, missing parts of their tails or ears – ultimately, they must be sacrificed in accordance with the Dhabihah Islamic standards and practices.
We went to Adil’s grandparents’ house in Ain Lahcen, to join the religious ceremony of Eid al Adha. Adil’s aunt and grandmother headed together to the stable and took out one lamb from the sheepfold to the head of the family, Adil’s grandfather, who is traditionally meant to carry out the Sacrifice (Qurban).
Once the lamb was pinned to the ground, it could not offer resistance, and it is clear through the picture how helpless the lamb was before the situation. His four legs were tied together with a rope and, as the Dhabihah method prescribes, its head was placed facing Mecca.
Adil’s uncle was holding the lamb’s breast and tied legs, while his father immobilized the head, holding it from the chin to the neck. Then, he made a swift, deep incision to the throat with a one swipe of a sharp and non-serrated blade, cutting the main veins and arteries, while calling upon the name of Allah (Bismillah). While blood was draining, the animal was not cleaned until he had died.
After that, they made a little cut in one of the legs so the uncle could blow air and separate the skin from the organs more easily. They made an incision from the butt to the tail, and started to remove the skin beginning with the legs, while half of the limbs were cut off.
Once the carcass was hanging from a tree branch, the head and rest of the skin were removed, and organs were carefully separated from the body, washed and stored in tubs. Lungs were blown and the intestines were braided.
When they finished removing the organs, Adil’s grandmother and aunt prepared and cooked the meat, separating it into different parts. One portion was to be shared amongst the family, the second was for relatives and friends, and the third was to be given to the disadvantaged.
When the fried liver was served as the first dish, they made a prayer on behalf of Allah. I had mixed feelings towards the food – although the taste was amazing, I was not used to the texture, and could not help but think about how the lambs we were consuming had been alive minutes before.
‘Smalahove’ was prepared next, a traditional dish made from a sheep’s head. The skin of the head was torched, scraped and washed, the brain removed, and the head was salted and dried.
SEE FEATURED IMAGE – Aunt scraping the goat’s burned head
While I contemplated the heads being burned, I could not help but feel sickened by the banality of the situation. During the process of the sacrifice down to the dismemberment and cooking of the meat, I had developed more empathy with these animals than ever, as opposed to the times I had gone to the supermarket to buy packaged meat. There was a link between us, and this made me question what was better for these animals as well – to live a life of comfort in a field with fresh air, or to be locked in large-scale farms, separated from their mothers and pumped with steroids before meeting their fate.
From an outsider, the practice of Qurban may appear macabre, yet everywhere in the world the act of butchering an animal for its meat is the norm. In the context of this ceremony, the slaughtering of two lambs in the name of Allah is nothing but a display of respect for religious beliefs that date back centuries, with a myriad of other ways in which Muslims uphold tradition.
On my last day, I went outside for a walk, only to find Adil’s uncle gathering the flock in a vast field, still wearing his ceremonial clothes. As I saw the little sheep following him in glee, I wondered if these lambs were being cared for in order to take part in the next sacrifice.
All images and text © Sophie Campos
By Sophie Campos
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