November marks the month in 2010 when Muslims around the world will celebrate the feast of the Eid al-Adha. Also known as the “Greater Eid,” the Eid al-Adha is a festival unlike any other.
Set to fall around November 16 in 2010, the history of the Eid al-Adha, or the “Festival of Sacrifice,” is one riddled with religious practices, time spent with your family, and gratitude for the life and blessings around you.
However, many foreigners that are living in Egypt are unaware of what exactly makes this feast so special, and why it is earmarked as such an important religious festival for Muslims around the world.
Eid al-Adha is celebrated annually on the 10th day of the month of Dhu al-Hijjah of the lunar Islamic calendar. The Dhu al-Hijjah in itself is a sacred month in Islam; it is the 12th month in the Islamic lunar calendar, and coincides with the time during which Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. As this pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam, the importance of this practice should not be underestimated. The pilgrimage relates closely to the Eid al-Adha, as both are expressions of an individual’s devotion and faith in Allah, or God.
The story of the Prophet Abraham forms the backbone of the Eid al-Adha festival. Charged by God to kill his only son Ishmael as a testament of his faith in God, the Prophet Abraham set about to carry out the task set before him. During preparations to carry out God’s will, Satan appeared to the Prophet Abraham and his wife, Hagar, and son Ishmael. To drive away Satan, Ishmael and Hagar threw stones. To this day, Muslims will throw stones during the Hajj to represent the rejection of Satan.
When the Prophet Abraham was about to kill his only son to prove his faith in his Lord, Abraham was commanded by God to sacrifice a ram instead. Abraham had proven that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dear to him in order to submit to God, and it is this sacrifice that Muslim’s commemorate during the Eid al-Adha.
To this day, Muslims around the world will sacrifice animals during the Great Feast to commemorate Abraham’s trials and faith. However, the animals are not sacrificed in a haphazard way. Muslims are required to speak the name of God before slaughtering any animal, to remind them of the sanctity of life.
The meat from the sacrifice of Eid al-Adha is mostly given away to others. One-third is eaten by immediate family and relatives, one-third is given away to friends, and one-third is donated to the poor. The act symbolizes our willingness to give up things that are of benefit to us or close to our hearts, in order to follow God’s commands. It also symbolizes our willingness to give up some of our own bounties, in order to strengthen ties of friendship and help those who are in need. It is a recognition of the fact that all blessings come from God, and we should open our hearts and share with others.
Along with sacrificing meat, Muslims will attend prayers on the first day of the Great Feast. In addition, and in Egypt in particular, Muslims will dip their hands in the blood from the slaughtered animals and put their hand prints on cars, buildings, homes, front doors, and a number of other places. This is a form of protection against any evil spirits and the evil eye; many new buildings throughout Egypt will bear these handprints.
So during this special and holy time of the year, remember what the real history of the Eid al-Adha is.
Remember the sanctity of life, and the importance of humbleness and generosity. It will give you an additional insight into the Islamic faith, and the practices of every day people throughout Egypt!