Two of the most important Islamic holidays of the year are Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. While the former marks the end of the long fasting month of Ramadan, Eid-ul-Adha marks the end of Hajj, the sacred pilgrimage to the holy city Mecca. Eid al-Adha is a commemoration of the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Ishmael for Allah. According to Islam, the son that Ibrahim was willing to sacrifice was Ishmael – who later became the forefather of the Arabs – and not Isaac as recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible. As Ibrahim was about to sacrifice Ishmael a voice from heaven stopped him and he was directed to sacrifice a ram instead.
This four day event starts on the 10th day of the lunar Islamic calendar month of Dhul Hijja. While Eid al-Adha is always on the same Islamic calendar date, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies each year. This is because the Islamic calendar is lunar and about ten days shorter than the Gregorian solar calendar. The beginning of Eid al-Adha is the day after the Muslim pilgrims descend from Mount Arafat at the end of Hajj. As the fifth pillar of Islam, Hajj is a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, an obligation that every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so must fulfill.
There are a number of traditions and practices related to Eid-ul-Adha which must be observed by followers of the Islamic religion. Men, women and children dress in their best clothing and attend a mosque to perform the Eid prayer. Those that can afford to do so will sacrifice one of their prime domestic animals in commemoration of Ibrahim’s sacrifice. This is symbolic of a Muslim’s willingness to make sacrifices in order to continue pleasing Allah. As the sacrifice is being made, participants recite the name of Allah along with an offering statement and supplication as a reminder that all life is sacred. About two-thirds of the meat is given to less fortunate people so that they can also join in the feast of Eid al-Adha. The balance of the meat is cooked as part of a celebration meal to share with family and friends.