The Eid ul-Adha is one of two major Islamic feasts celebrated each year. The name of the celebration differs in translation, but it is usually known as the "feast of sacrifice." The Eid ul-Adha, which typically lasts for several days, actually celebrates several themes, including self-denial, commitment, remembrance, and forgiveness. The second feast, Eid ul-Fitr, celebrates the end of Ramadan.
Origins of the Feast
Abraham, also called Ibrahim, is a celebrated religious figure in Islam as well as in Judaism and Christianity. According to tradition, he was called by Allah to sacrifice his son as a sign of his devotion. Ibrahim showed his commitment to Allah in his willingness to perform this sacrifice, and in turn, Allah stops him at the last moment and allows him to sacrifice a goat or lamb instead.
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The Eid ul-Adha celebrates the faith and obedience of Abraham/Ibrahim, and the mercy that Allah can show. In honor of the ending of the story, animal sacrifice is an important part of the feast. In accordance with Islamic beliefs, a goat or sheep is slaughtered by slicing its throat while saying the name of Allah. By following this tradition, people are reminded that all life is considered sacred. The animal is divided into thirds and shared between the family, given to friends, and donated to the needy.
The second important aspect of the festival is that it is the end of the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca for the year. Those who have made the Hajj that year may celebrate the occasion with particular joy.
When the Feast Begins
This celebration begins at sundown on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic year. Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, this day does not come at the same time each year on the Gregorian (Western) calendar. In 2010, for example, Eid ul-Adha began on 16 November, while in 2011, it began on 6 November.
Muslim countries sometimes calculate the beginning of the month in different ways. Although the month typically begins with the sighting of the crescent moon, it does not always appear at exactly the same time all around the world; bad weather can also block its sighting. In addition, a few countries calculate the date based on other observances of the moon. The differences in how the first day of each month is calculated mean that not every country always celebrates Eid ul-Adha on the same day.
Celebrating the Feast
To properly observe the holiday, Muslims are encouraged to attend a mosque or outdoor service in the morning. Special prayers are said in commemoration of the day, during which people pray for forgiveness and strength, and forgive others who may have hurt them. People are meant to take special care washing and dressing for the day, and usually wear their best clothing.
The animal sacrifice usually occurs on the first day of celebration, allowing the meat to be distributed during the following days. Traditionally, Muslims then spend the rest of the festival visiting friends and neighbors, sharing food, and offering gifts. People may also send special greeting cards bearing blessings and good wishes to relatives and friends in other parts of the world.
The food eaten during the festival focuses on the use of the sacrificial meat. Since the entire animal is used, the celebration is a chance for cooks to show off their skills with different preparations. Popular dishes include curries, stews, kebabs, and roasts. Sweets, such as pastries and puddings, are also very popular.
Eid ul-Adha Around the World
The feast may be called by different names in different Islamic countries. It is often called Hari Raya in Singapore and Malaysia. In West Africa, a Muslim might call it Tobaski, while a Moroccan might refer to it as Eid el-Kbir. Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis call it Id ul-Zuha, and more commonly refer to it as Bakr-Id, or Goat Eid. The traditions of prayers, sacrifice, and donations to the poor are common in most countries that celebrate the feast, but the length of the festival can vary from one to four days in different locations.
In all countries that celebrate it, the feast of sacrifice is a time of great joy. It is also a chance to reflect on obedience to Allah, and how to be a better Muslim during the coming year. As the story of Ibrahim suggests, trusting in Allah, even when a request seems impossible, ultimately shows the Muslim how faith is an unexpected path, and asserts the will of Allah as just and merciful.