Cautiously, Muslims around the world celebrate Hajj festival of Eid al-Adha

Crowd of Muslims gathers, sitting, for prayer, in a field

In years before the pandemic, Eid al-Adha prayers were offered in vast community gatherings. Above, Muslims gather for Eid prayer in Bangladesh. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


SUNSET MONDAY, JULY 19As we reported in our earlier Hajj story, Hajj 2021 is a tiny sampling of the normally jam-packed experience in the holy sites, due to pandemic restrictions. However, in many parts of the world, families are eager to return to larger gatherings for prayer and shared meals. Various government bodies around the world are issuing warnings and, in some cases, legal restrictions on gatherings. Only news reports this week will tell us how much the pandemic has limited public celebrations.

Whatever unfolds this week in public settings, Muslims of all ages certainly will be remembering Ibrahim (Abraham) and his complete willingness to make a sacrifice during Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. On the first morning of the Eid festival, Tuesday July 20 in 2021, crowds would fill mosques, sometimes overflowing into sidewalks, parking lots, open fields and parks around the world. Officially, Eid al-Adha begins after the descent of Mount Arafat by the pilgrims on Hajj in Mecca; Muslims across the globe normally gather with family and friends and offer prayers in congregation.


Two joyous religious holidays are observed by all Muslims each year: Eid al-Fitr, ending the fasting month of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha.

On the morning of Eid al-Adha, Muslims dress in their finest clothing and offer prayers in congregation. Visits are made, and even non-Muslims are invited to take part in the feasts and festivities.

Jews and Christians are familiar with the Bible story of the patriarch Abraham and a call to sacrifice his son Isaac. According to Muslim tradition, the story focuses on Ibrahim and his son Ishmael. In the Islamic version, when Ibrahim lowers his arm toward his son, the Archangel Gabriel places a ram on the altar instead of Ishmael. In commemoration, Muslims sacrifice an animal on Eid al-Adha, keeping one-third of the share; giving one-third to relatives and neighbors; and donating the remaining one-third to the poor.

sweets platter of cookies

Cookies prepared for Eid al-Adha in Israel. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

THE ‘GREATER EID’                

Sometimes called the Greater Eid (the Lesser Eid, Eid ul-Fitr, occurs at the end of Ramadan), Eid al-Adha calls able Muslims to sacrifice a halal animal. By sharing, it is ensured that even the most impoverished person may celebrate Eid. The animal sacrifice—which must meet specific age and quality requirements—may be performed anytime before sunset on the final day of Eid. Families that do not own an animal to slaughter contribute to a charity that will provide meat for the needy.

It is Islamic custom to exchange joyful greetings, present gifts to children and visit with family and friends during this joyous time. The events of Eid al-Adha last between one and four days, although in some regions, festivities carry on even longer.


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