This week, millions of Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid al-Adha, an Islamic religious holiday commemorating Prophet Abraham’s loyalty to God after being put to the test by the unfulfilled order to sacrifice his son.
The holiday also marks the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. It’s different from another big Muslim holiday, Eid al-Fitr, which was recently celebrated in May to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Depending on the country, the celebrations will take place at different times. In the United States, most Muslims will celebrate Eid al-Adha on the evening of July 19.
Eid is a three-day celebration in predominantly Muslim countries. In the United States, most people observe only one day.
Under usual circumstances, Muslims visited mosques and organized large community gatherings. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the celebrations are a little different this year.
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What is Eid al-Adha?
According to Mohammad Hassan Khalil, professor of religious studies and director of the Muslim studies program at Michigan State University, Eid al-Adha falls on the tenth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the twelfth month of the lunar calendar. Islamic.
It is also celebrated during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, during which thousands of Muslims travel to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia to worship in the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam.
Khalil says the day of the celebration is determined by the observation of a new crescent moon at night. If people spot it, it indicates a new month. Eid al-Adha falls on the tenth day of this month.
“Since this holiday overlaps with the pilgrimage or Hajj to Mecca, which takes place in Saudi Arabia, many people will look to Saudi Arabia to determine the timing of this holiday,” Khalil told USA TODAY. “In Saudi Arabia there will usually be a small group of people looking for the new moon.”
The day of the celebration varies between countries and even communities. In the United States, most celebrations will begin on the evening of July 19.
The meaning of ‘al-Adha’
“Al-Adha” refers to the sacrifice, especially “the one in which God asked Abraham – as a test – to sacrifice his son, only for God to step in and replace a ram (or a lamb) instead” , Omid Safi, professor of Islamic studies at Duke University, said.
The sacrifice as described in the Quran (the Islamic holy text) has similarities to what is in the Bible, although according to most Muslims God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael, not Isaac.
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Nowadays, animals, usually goats, lambs or cows, are still sacrificed to mark the occasion. Khalil says that although there are Muslims who engage in this practice in the United States, some Muslims will work with a company to pay for the meat that will be distributed in other countries where there is a great need.
Meat from sacrificed animals is shared with the community and food banks in areas where there are impoverished or food insecure Muslims, said Anna Bigelow, associate professor of religious studies at Stanford University.
Safi said that for many poor Muslims, Eid al-Adha marks an occasion when they are given meat.
He added: “Since the notion of sacrifice initially referred to the sacrifice of what is precious (hence the test of offering one’s child to God), there is a long Muslim tradition of taking sacrifice at the symbolic level, implying that the real sacrifice is not killing an animal, but rather sacrificing one’s own selfish desires.
How will Eid al-Adha be celebrated this year?
Celebrations normally include spending time with friends and family, wearing new clothes, and giving gifts. Khalil says there is usually a large ceremony or community religious service, which includes a prayer and a sermon. In the age of COVID, there are exceptions.
“Every community is different. Some communities can cancel prayer, some can hold it outside with social distancing, while others can hold it inside, and so on,” Khalil said.
In commemorating the story of Abraham, Muslims will practice the act of Udhiya (or Qurbani), which involves sacrifice and the distribution of meat to the needy and family members.
In some countries or regions, there are dishes that are made to celebrate the holiday.
“Meanwhile, there are special desserts that are made in Egypt, where my family is from. But this will vary from country to country and region to region,” said Khalil.