With the end of the annual Hajj period fast approaching, Muslims today (as I write, Friday, October 26) are celebrating the first day of a major multi-day Islamic holiday.
The conclusion of the Hajj, or pilgrimage at Mecca, is marked by the celebration of one of Islam’s two most important holiday festivals, the one known as Eid al-Adha (“Feast of Sacrifice”).
(The other major Islamic holiday festival, Eid al-Fitr ["Feast of Fast-Breaking"] is celebrated at the end of the month-long fast during Ramadan, which occurred in August of this year.)
Bringing to a festive yet pious conclusion the events of the annual Hajj, Eid al-Adha is a three-day holiday celebrated not only in Mecca, but globally — by all Muslims everywhere (it’s not just for the pilgrims in Mecca alone).
On the Islamic lunar calendar, Eid al-Adha always runs from the 10th to the 12th days of the lunar month of Dhu al-Hijjah. This year, those dates coincide with Oct 26 – 28, 2012 on the Western or Gregorian calendar.
(Technically speaking, since the Islamic calendar reckons “days” as beginning and ending at sunset, Eid al-Adha actually began at sunset last night, on Thursday, October 25.)
Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, commemorates the faithfulness of the patriarch Abraham (Ibrahim in the Arabic of the Quran), who at God’s command was willing to sacrifice his own son (per the Quran, his first-born son Ishmael, rather than his younger son Isaac, as in the Bible) in a dramatic test of faith.
During Eid, Muslims worldwide will purify themselves, put on their best clothing, recite ritual prayers, and sacrifice an animal, thereby following the example set by Abraham when God substituted a ram in place of his son Ishmael as the sacrificial offering. The meat of animals sacrificed during Eid is eaten and shared communally with others, including the poor.
To Muslims everywhere, may I wish you Eid Mubarak (Arabic for “Blessed Eid!”) and Eid Saeed (“Happy Eid!”)