Eid al Adha is considered to be the holiest event on the Islamic religious calendar. Known as the “Festival of the Sacrifice”, roughly 1.6 billion Muslims around the world get together with friends and family to celebrate the end of the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and the devotion and obedience of Ibrahim. So when and how is Eid al Adha celebrated?
Eid al Adha is the second of two Islamic holidays celebrated each year – the other is Eid al Fitr which concluded in June following the month-long fasting period of Ramadan.
Each year Eid al Adha is scheduled according to the Islamic lunar calendar, falling on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah.
Eid al Adha is celebrated when the Hajj takes place, and it lasts for four days in total.
The Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, and is an integral part of the Muslim faith.
According to the Koran, all Muslims who can afford to should make the journey to Saudi Arabia at least once in their lifetime.
In the international Gregorian calendar, the dates vary from year to year meaning it shifts by approximately 11 days earlier each year.
This year, the celebration of Eid al Adha began on Sunday, August 11, and will end four days later on Thursday, August 15.
However, public holidays vary around the world with Arab countries observing a nine-day public holiday.
The five-day holiday is centred on prayer and animal sacrifice with Muslims honouring the Ibrahim’s sacrifice.
In much the same vein as the stories of Abraham in Christianity and Judaism, Islamic scripture tells how Allah commanded Ibrahim to sacrifice his son as test of his devotion.
Despite his deep love for his son, Ibrahim prepared to carry out Allah’s command and at the last moment he was told to spare the boy and sacrifice something else instead.
To mark the day, Muslims gather to pray, enjoy feasts together and wear their best clothing.
Traditionally, they also exchange gifts and eat traditional foods.
Muslims may invoke an act of zakat and friendship by slaughtering a sheep and distributing its meat between three groups: one share is given to the poor and needy, another is kept for home, and the third is given to relatives.
The sacrifice is known as Qurbani and typically involves slaughtering a sheet or a goat.
All animals are required to meet certain standards in order to qualify for sacrifice – meaning they cannot be ill, blind, visibly lame and emaciated and minimum age restrictions apply.
In Pakistan alone, almost ten million animals are slaughtered on Eid, according to the International Business Times.
In the UK, anyone wishing to sacrifice a sheep has to make arrangements for it to be slaughtered humanely.
Muslims are also encouraged to be especially friendly and reach out to one another during this period.