Eid al-Adha celebrated by Muslims all over the world
The theme of Eid al-Adha is one of sacrifice – the holiday derives from the story of Abraham and his son, who, in Judeo-Christian lore is Isaac and in the Islamic world, Ishmael.
The idea that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son to God, and that his son consented, forms the basis for the idea of the Eid, in which it’s traditional for families or groups to slaughter a sacrificial animal, as was the practice centuries ago.
What happens to the meat of the animal is also a key part of the tradition: by custom, one-third of the meat goes to the impoverished, one-third to relatives and friends, and one-third to oneself and one's own family.
The Eid al-Adha holiday also includes public prayers and other events in the life of a Muslim community.
Importantly, it coincides with the hajj, or pilgrimage, that able Muslims are asked to make at some point in their lives to Mecca in the modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Hajj participants may celebrate Eid al-Adha at their destination – the remaining members of the Islamic community will practice it at home.
Although Eid al-Adha is something that is widely practiced in public, it’s a holiday that most Americans will never get a glimpse of at all. However, in some larger cities and other parts of the country, one can observe Muslims eating and praying and otherwise participating in this holy day.
For example, a story from Voice of America shows Thai Muslims and others from more traditionally Islamic nations sharing a meal in Azusa, California, and observing Eid al-Adha.
Yasir Mohamed lives and works as a mental health clinician in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and has contributed to local media stories that cover Islamic customs and traditions.
“We have a whole holiday based on this incident.” Mohamed said, describing the story of Abraham and Ishmael. The sacrificial animal, he said, varies. “It can be a goat or a cow, or a camel.” Mohamed said. “It varies from community to community.”
Regardless of the obvious difficulties of slaughtering an animal in today’s modern world, especially in a country like America, Mohamed said Muslims will find a way.
“Muslims will find some sort of outlet for observing,” Mohamed said, adding that much of the sacrificial slaughter, in the U.S. will take place in a certified slaughterhouse. The ritual, he said, must be performed by someone with expertise.
“It has to be somebody who knows how to slaughter the animal.” Mohamed said. “Somebody who is trained, who has a flair for it.”
In the local Lancaster County community, Mohamed said, there is at least one Amish man who helps with the logistics of butchering.
However, Mohamed said, the practice is often modernized by a process whereby families will contribute financially to a ritual slaughter taking place elsewhere – a third party may then distribute the meat to the poor in the service of the venerable tradition.
However it happens, Eid al-Adha is a very historic and cultural day that global citizens should know about and anticipate when living in a modern and cosmopolitan world.