Festival of Sacrifice: The Past and Present of the Islamic Holiday of Eid al-Adha
Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, is the second of two annual Islamic holy festivals. It commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son to God. Muslims across the world use the Festival of Sacrifice as an opportunity to spend time with friends and family and reflect on their faith. Eid al-Fitr, the festival that celebrates the end of Ramadan, may be better known by non-Muslims, but Eid al-Adha is the holier of the two festivals.
How Eid al-Adha is celebrated has slowly changed over time, with some practices being changed or updated as needed. With the coronavirus pandemic and the need for social distancing, this year in particular will pose some unique challenges for those who celebrate.
What Does Eid al-Adha Commemorate?
According to Islam as well as the traditions of Christianity and Judaism, Ibrahim was ordered in a dream by God to sacrifice one of his sons. He told his son of the dreams and his belief that they were God's will. The son, who unlike in the Bible is not specified in the Quran, did not fight his father and told him he needed to do what God wanted.
Traditions and Practices
The Festival of Sacrifice begins on the 10th day of the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar and lasts for two to four days, depending on the country you live in. The exact date on the Gregorian calendar changes every year due to the Islamic calendar only having either 354 or 355 days in a year. The other festival in Islam, Eid al-Fitr, celebrates the end of Ramadan during the 10th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Eid al-Adha is considered the holier of the two festivals, however.
How Eid al-Adha Has Changed Over the Years
As with most religious holidays, Eid al-Adha has changed over the centuries. While some people still sacrifice an animal themselves (some parts of the world had or have problems with people sacrificing animals in city streets), many Muslims today buy meat that has been sacrificed by a butcher. In fact, some countries even have apps that allow meat to be ordered via smartphone. The meat arrives cut up and distributed equally into three parts.
Eid-al-Adha in 2020
Eid al-Adha is time for meeting with friends and family. However, that makes celebrating it particularly difficult in light of the coronavirus. In many countries, government officials are asking people to celebrate the holiday at home to avoid spreading COVID-19. Prayer sessions have gone online in many parts of the world or limited themselves to smaller groups. Experts are also encouraging people to wear masks if they travel to a market to purchase an animal for sacrifice.