A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to celebrate Gamou – the birth of the prophet Mohammad- in the small spiritual community of Dene. The festivities involved many passionate late night praying, dancing, and chanting sessions. We also had the opportunity to witness another important aspect of the festivities: a bull sacrifice.
It was fascinating to watch the whole process from start to finish. Cole (another student) and myself were fortunate enough to be made aware that the sacrifice was going occur before it actually did. As a result, we observed from a respectful distance as four or five men from the community came over to sacrifice the bull. First, one man carefully grabbed the bull by its horns and pulled its head down while the other men attended to sweeping its legs out from under it, and tying them up with a rope. Then, the man holding the bull’s horns turned its head so that the horns were in the sand and its neck was taught and pointing up into the sky. After the bull was effectively immobilized, the professional hired to help with the sacrifice came over, unsheathed his machete, and dragged the blade across the animal’s throat after an announced “Bismillah” (in the name of God).
The animal was kept tied down and detained while it bled out. All the while, two other men were kneeling and bowing beside the bull, chanting verses from the Quran and praying. All of these components of the sacrifice – from the “Bismillah”, to the blood letting, to the praying – contributed to establishing the meat as halal.
After the animal had bled out entirely, the men went to quickly and systematically skinning, quartering, and butchering the bull. It was at this point that I felt a personal and familiar connection with the process. Having spent much time hunting and field dressing deer myself, I was inclined to offer my help (and my knife) in any way possible. In the matter of a few hours, the moving, breathing, living being had been sacrificed and disassembled for a greater purpose.
It was a fascinating process to both be witness to and be apart of.
It seems that so often in America, we are so detached from the food that we eat (especially the meat). It is difficult to look at a medium-well steak on a plate and imagine the living being that went into it. For some people, this disconnect might make that steak more palatable. However, I think that there is a certain beauty in having an intimate, even spiritual connection to the food that you eat.
Needless to say, we had a lot of ceebu yapp (rice with meat) during our stay. However, this time, we were all far more mindful of and connected to the food we ate.