Eid Al Adha: “The Feast of Sacrifice”
My readers will know one or the other of the following stories:
From the Holy Bible (Genesis 22)
God called to Abraham.
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. He set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
From the Holy Quaran (Surat Al-Baqarah, verse 196)
Ibraheem was instructed in a dream by Allah to raise the foundations of the holy Kaaba in Mecca. Immediately responding to the Lord’s call, Ibraheem set off for Mecca along with his wife and son, Ishmael. Ibraheem had to face many hardships on his way, but he supplicated Allah’s commands without complaining. In a divine dream, Ibraheem saw himself sacrificing his son Ishmael for Allah’s sake. When he told this to Ishmael, his son asked his father to carry out Lord’s commands without faltering, assured that he was completely ready to give up his life for God. Ibraheem could not bear to watch his son die so he covered his eyes by a blindfold. When he cut Ishmael’s throat and removed the blindfold, miraculously he was astonished to see that Ishmael was unharmed and instead, he found a dead lamb slaughtered in his place.
Christians know this story, but it is not something remembered through a religious holiday. For Muslims, however, this story demonstrates devout obedience to God (Allah) and is therefore a significant example of how to live a Godly life. To commemorate Abraham’s (Ibraheem’s) devotion, Muslims celebrate Eid Al Adha on the 10th day of the 12th month according to the Islamic lunar calendar. The exact day and time is determined by Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia, the seat of Islam.
A major part of the celebration is generosity, a way to express individual sacrifice. People begin the day with prayers, and then spend the rest of the day visiting family and friends, sharing both gifts and food. Lamb is one of the main dishes in the feasts.
The Arab world is still close to the source of food, as is evident in the tradition of animal sacrifice. The slaughter of sheep and goats follows strict ritual that demands the killing be humane and includes gratitude for its nourishment. Animal sacrifice is also done to recall and honor Abraham’s (Ibraheem’s) willingness to sacrifice his son according to God’s (Allah’s) commands.
Finally, it is interesting to note that Muslims divide the meat from the slaughter’s sheep/goat into three parts: one is for the family, one is for friends and relatives, and the last third is to be given to those less fortunate.