Eid al-Adha: Muslims gather in congregation for Ibrahim’s greatest sacrifice

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

Eid al-Adha prayers are offered in congregation. Above, Muslims gather for Eid prayer in Bangladesh. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET MONDAY, OCTOBER 14: Eid Mubarak! Eid Saeed!

Tonight begins the joyful holiday of Eid al-Adha for 1 billion Muslims—and tomorrow morning, followers of Islam will arise early, don their best clothing and travel to an open space, offering special Eid prayers in congregation. Muslims on Hajj will observe the holiday in Mecca. Visits with friends and family, feasting, gift exchanges and sacrificial offerings to aid the poor are most common during the Eid holidays, although today’s Muslims also embark on extended vacations and 24-hour Eid shopping bonanzas.

IBRAHIM’S ULTIMATE SACRIFICE

Eid al-Adha—the Feast of Sacrifice, or Greater Eid—begins days in advance, as devotees make preparations for the anticipated holiday. Alternative names for Eid al-Adha vary by region: in Spain, for example, it is known as Fiesta del Cordero, or “festival of the lamb,” in honor of the many sheep sacrificed during this time. To commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, to God—and the divine intervention that turned Abraham’s sacrifice into a slaughtered ram—Muslims worldwide sacrifice approximately 100 million sheep, cows, goats, buffaloes and camels annually. (Wikipedia has details.) Traditionally, one-third of a sacrificed animal’s meat is kept by the contributor; another one-third is offered to relatives, friends and neighbors; and the remaining one-third is donated to the poor, so that even the poor can partake in the joyous Eid holiday. Because most Muslims  cannot slaughter an animal themselves, money is prepaid to a charity that will sacrifice an animal and distribute the meat on their behalf.

Interior of old mosque, stone pillars and rich red carpet, light streaming in windows

Interior of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam and a favored destination for Eid prayers. Photo by Asim Bharwani, courtesy of Flickr

EID CONGREGATION, GIFTS AND FEASTING

On the first morning of Eid al-Adha, devotees rise before dawn to wash, dress in their finest clothing and offer Salat al-Fajr (pre-sunrise prayer). En masse, all those who are healthy and able then travel to a nearby open space—often a mosque or other designated area, sometimes a field—to offer Eid prayers, which must be offered in congregation. Following Eid prayers, Muslims exchange joyful greetings of “Eid Mubarak!” and “Eid Saeed!” Visits are paid, children receive gifts and even non-Muslims are invited to Eid brunches and parties, so that everyone can enjoy the festivities of Eid. (This year, it’s estimated that Eid al-Adha will commence in the UK and Europe on Oct. 15 and 16.) In the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha lasts four days.

IN THE NEWS:
SHOPPING IN DUBAI;
VACATIONS IN THE UAE

In Dubai, Eid al-Adha also is associated with the phrase: Shop ‘til you drop! For the second year, major malls in Dubai will be open for 24-hour shopping during the first two days of Eid al-Adha. (Read more in The National.) Because of this special marketing last year, Dubai experienced an influx of tourists; concerts, international plays, fireworks and elaborate dinners make up just some of the goings-on. (Gulf News has more.)

With several days off of work for the Eid holiday, many Muslims choose to spend time on a vacation in the UAE—and there is no shortage of packages offered by various tourist destinations. (Details are at Abawaba.com. Or, The National reported.) Along with the recent opening of the UAE’s first Waldorf Astoria, cruises, buffets, activities, beach stays and more entice families and individuals alike.

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