Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of Sacrifice,” signifies the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim, known as Abraham in Christianity and Judaism, to sacrifice his son, Ismail as ordered by Allah. It is one of Islam’s most important holidays.
Usually lasting three to four days, and celebrated by millions of Muslims worldwide, the holiday begins on the 10th day of the Muslim calendar lunar month of Dhul-Hijja, at the time of Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. In the United States, Eid al-Adha 2022 is predicted to begin on the evening of July 9 (depending on sightings of the moon), and will end with the culmination of Hajj a few days later.
Considered the holiest of the two Eids, the other being Eid al-Fitr, or “Festival of Breaking the Fast,” that commemorates the end of Ramadan, it is one of two major Muslim holidays celebrated across the globe each year.
The Story of Eid al-Adha
In the Quran, Ibrahim has a dream in which Allah commands him to sacrifice his son, Ismail, as a sign of obedience to God. In the writing, Shaytaan, or Satan attempts to confuse Ibrahim and tempt him to not go through with the act, but Ibrahim drives him away.
However, as Ibrahim is about to kill Ismail, Allah stops him, sending the Angel Jibreel, or Gabriel, with a ram to sacrifice instead. The commemoration of the Adha, which is Arabic for sacrifice, takes place on the final day of the Hajj pilgrimage, the fifth pillar of Islam.
How Eid al-Adha Is Celebrated
Because Ibrahim was allowed to sacrifice a ram instead of his son, Eid al-Adha is traditionally celebrated on its first day, by those with means to do so, with the symbolic sacrifice of a lamb, goat, cow, camel or other animal that is then divided into threes to be shared equally among family, friends and the needy.
Muslim worshippers typically perform a communal prayer, or ṣalāt, at dawn on the first day of the festival, attend Mosque, donate to charities and visit with family and friends, also exchanging gifts.
The Hajj and Ka’bah
Eid al-Adha is celebrated on the final day of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, in western Saudi Arabia. All Muslims able to do so are asked to make the five-day Hajj journey at least once in their lifetime, and 2 million do so each year.
At Mecca, worshippers visit the Ka’bah shrine, Islam’s most important monument, in the Grand Mosque. Also known as the “Black Stone,” the Ka’bah is believed to have been constructed by Ibrahim and Ismail. Pilgrims also visit the Jamarat Bridge, where Ibrahim was believed to have thrown stones at the devil.
How Is Eid al-Adha Different from Eid al-Fitr?
In Arabic, “Eid” means festival or feast and there are two major “Eids” celebrated by Muslims.
The first, Eid al-Fitr, Arabic for “festival of the breaking of the fast,” occurs at the end of Ramadan, a month-long period when Muslims fast daily from sunrise to sunset. Also known as Sawm, it is also one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith. Ramadan marks the month Allah revealed the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad.
Eid al-Adha, generally considered the holier of the two Eid festivals, takes place about two months after Eid al-Fitr at the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. The dates of both holidays are the same every year according to the Islamic lunar calendar. The Western 365-day Gregorian calendar is about 11 days longer, causing the dates to change each year.
Muslims around the world have begun celebrating the annual festival of Eid al-Adha – the Festival of Sacrifice – which falls on the 10th day of Dhul Hijjah, the 12th and last month of the Muslim lunar calendar.
Eid al-Adha is the second major Muslim festival after Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting.
The occasion will be celebrated in most countries on Friday, July 31.
As the coronavirus pandemic rages, many Muslim-majority countries, including Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Algeria have announced restrictions on public gatherings.
Here are five things to know about Eid al-Adha:
Muslims believe the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) was tested by God who commanded him to sacrifice his first-born son, Ismail (Ishmail).
Ibrahim was prepared to submit to the command, but God stayed his hand. Instead, he was told to sacrifice an animal, likely a lamb or sheep.
The Torah and the Old Testament both recount a similar version of this story.
End of Hajj
The event also marks the end of Hajj, a five-day pilgrimage all able-bodied and financially capable Muslims are obliged to undertake once in their lifetime. The pilgrimage is believed to cleanse the soul of sins and instil a sense of equality, sisterhood and brotherhood.
Some 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world flock annually to the cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia for the ritual.
This year, however, Saudi Arabia announced it would hold a “very limited” Hajj because of the coronavirus pandemic, with only about 10,000 people living in the kingdom allowed to take part in the pilgrimage.
Performing extra prayers in the morning are how most Muslims begin celebrating Eid.
Mosques are packed with worshippers with outside arrangements made to accommodate large groups of people.
This year, however, mosques will limit the number of attendees, and large congregations will be banned in many countries to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Sacrificing an animal
The occasion is marked by the sacrifice of an animal that Muslims can eat – a goat, sheep, cow or camel – by those who can afford to do so.
In many parts of the Muslim world, special livestock markets are set up for people to buy an animal for the Eid sacrifice.
This year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, numerous apps and websites have appeared in countries such as India and Bangladesh, where animals will be sold online to limit exposure to the virus.
Distribution of meat
The animal sacrifice comes with an element of charity, as the person paying for the sacrifice is required to distribute part of it to others.
The meat of the sacrificed animal is divided among three groups: the person sacrificing it and their immediate family, extended family and friends, and those in need.
Some Muslims will pay the value of an animal to one of a number of Muslim charities around the world that collect funds for remote animal sacrifices, distributing the meat to underprivileged groups – including refugees, the elderly and disabled people.