Eid al-Adha, which translates to Festival of the Sacrifice, is the latter of the two official holidays celebrated within Islam. It honors the willingness of Ibrahim(Abraham) to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God’s command. Before Abraham could sacrifice his son, however, God provided a lamb to sacrifice instead. In commemoration of this intervention, animals are sacrificed ritually. One third of their meat is consumed by the family offering the sacrifice, while the rest is distributed to the poor and needy. Sweets and gifts are given, and extended family are typically visited and welcomed. The day is also sometimes called Big Eid or the Greater Eid.
In the Islamic lunar calendar, Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah and lasts for three days. In the international (Gregorian) calendar, the dates vary from year to year, shifting approximately 11 days earlier each year.
One of the main trials of Abraham’s life was to face the command of God by sacrificing his beloved son. According to the new narrative, Abraham kept having dreams that he was sacrificing his son Ishmael son of Hagar. Abraham knew that this was a command from God and he told his son, as stated in the Quran “Oh son, I keep dreaming that I am slaughtering you”, Ishmael replied “Father, do what you are ordered to do.” Abraham prepared to submit to the will of God and prepared to slaughter his son as an act of faith and obedience to God. During this preparation, Shaytaan tempted Abraham and his family by trying to dissuade them from carrying out God’s commandment, and Abraham drove Satan away by throwing pebbles at him. In commemoration of their rejection of Satan, stones are thrown at symbolic pillars Stoning of the Devil during Hajj rites.
Acknowledging that Abraham was willing to sacrifice what is dear to him, God the Almighty honoured both Abraham and Ishmael. Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) called Abraham “O’ Abraham, you have fulfilled the revelations.” and a lamb from heaven was offered by Angel Gabriel to prophet Abraham to slaughter instead of Ishmael. Muslims worldwide celebrate Eid al Adha to commemorate both the devotion of Abraham and the survival of Ishmael.
This story is known as the Akedah in Judaism (Binding of Isaac) and originates in the Torah, the first book of Moses (Genesis, Ch. 22).
How to Celebrate
During Eid ul-Adha, distributing meat amongst the people, chanting the takbir out loud before the Eid prayers on the first day and after prayers throughout the four days of Eid, are considered essential parts of this important Islamic festival.
Men, women, and children are expected to dress in their finest clothing to perform Eid prayer in a large congregation in an open waqf (“stopping”) field called Eidgah or mosque. Affluent Muslims who can afford it sacrifice their best halal domestic animals (usually a camel, goat, sheep, or ram depending on the region) as a symbol of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son. The sacrificed animals, called aḍḥiya, known also by the Perso-Arabic term qurbāni, have to meet certain age and quality standards or else the animal is considered an unacceptable sacrifice.
The meat from the sacrificed animal is preferred to be divided into three parts. The family retains one-third of the share; another third is given to relatives, friends, and neighbors; and the remaining third is given to the poor and needy.
Muslims wear their new or best clothes. People cook special sweets, including ma’amoul (filled shortbread cookies) and samosas. They gather with family and friends.