Today, marks Eid ul-Adha, or Festival of Sacrifice, one of the major Muslim holidays.
The Festival of Sacrifice falls on tenth day of the month of Dhul Hijjah on the lunar Islamic Calendar. It comes right after the fifth pillar of Islam called the Hajj or pilgrimage. The Hajj commemorates the life and trials of Prophet Abraham’s family, upon them peace and blessings. Once in a lifetime, every adult Muslim who has the physical and financial ability is required to make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah, home of the Ka’bah, which Muslims believe was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael. Peace and blessings upon them both.
The Hajj pilgrimage is an extremely communal event as over two million Muslims, men and women of varied ethnicities and nationalities, dressed in simple white clothing symbolizing the equality of all people, perform identical rituals.
There is also an additional spiritual dimension to the occasion. The word Eid means to reconnect or to return.
In an online video, Shaykh Ahmed Saad, a notable Muslim scholar explained the term Eid as: "Return to connecting with God, and once we connect with God, we will connect with people, and once we connect with people we will connect with our family because charity begins at home. And once we connect with our family, we will be able to connect with ourselves...We should connect, and reconnect and reconnect every year with the essence of our deen(faith)."
Hence, Eid ul-Adha, or Festival of Sacrifice is not the end of Hajj, but an occasion to return to our heritage and reconnect to our creator, our families, ourselves and people around us to promote unity. During this holiday, Muslims express gratitude for His countless blessings and grace, following in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad and his family, and Prophet Abraham and his family, upon them peace and blessings.
Eid ul-Adha celebrations are similar to Eid ul-Fitr with the addition of sacrificing a lamb, goat or cow to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, who Muslims believe was miraculously replaced by a lamb, similar to the Biblical story. People share the meat of the sacrified animal with the poor and needy, relatives and friends.
The day begins with a special congregational prayer followed by a short sermon. People are dressed in their best clothing, and children traditionally receive new clothing as well as other gifts. My daughter Maryam, requested two new outfits, a cool boots, and a new Wii video game. I agreed after she fasts a day to give thanks and donate something she loves in sacrifice to the poor. Children are nurtured to give and receive.
Food, holiday congratulations, and festivities such as rides, balloons, and other fun activities for children follow the prayers. The holiday lasts for four days during which people usually visit or invite each other.
I wish everyone in all places at all times a blessed Eid Mubarak (Blessed Return). May Allah accept your good deeds and all your efforts during the blessed month of Dhul Hijjah.