Eid al-Adha: Muslims recall Ibrahim’s sacrifice in communal joy

Cow in front, sheep in back, on pasture with mountains in background

In commemoration of Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice Ishmael, Muslims slaughter a halal domestic animal for Eid al-Adha. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4: As the Hajj continues for 3 million pilgrims in Mecca, Muslims worldwide express joyful appreciation for Ibrahim (Abraham) and his complete willingness to make a sacrifice. Today is Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. (Dates and spellings vary.) Officially, Eid al-Adha begins after the descent of Mount Arafat by the pilgrims on Hajj in Mecca.

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. Adherents begin Eid al-Adha by dressing in their finest clothing, traveling to a mosque or field, and offering Eid prayers in congregation. (Wikipedia has details.) Following the sermon, it is Islamic custom to exchange joyful greetings, present gifts to children and visit with family and friends. The events of Eid al-Adha last between one and four days, although in some regions, festivities may carry on longer. This year, it has been announced that the United Arab Emirates financial markets will halt trading on Friday, October 3 and resume on Tuesday, October 7, in commemoration of the Eid al-Adha holidays.

The custom of slaying a halal domestic animal for Eid al-Adha is that in doing so, the meat may be divided into three parts: one-third for the family, one-third to be shared with friends and neighbors and another one-third for the poor. 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. Today, more than 100 million animals are slain during Eid al-Adha for this purpose.

Eid al-Adha activities for kids (plus a great party idea): Young children may not easily grasp the magnitude of Abraham’s sacrifice, but they can begin understanding the basic concepts of Hajj and Eid al-Adha with these recipe and craft ideas, from Pinterest. Feeling more motivated? Try this sheep-themed Eid party, posted at My Halal Kitchen.

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.