Eid al-Adha, also called the “Greater Eid” or the “Festival of Sacrifice” is the second most important Muslim holiday after Ramadan.
Eid al-Adha takes place annually on the 10th, 11th and 12th day of the twelfth month of the Muslim calendar, Dhu al-Hijjah. The Muslim calendar is a lunar system, making the celebration take place on different days of the Gregorian calendar. The festival commemorates the attempted sacrifice of Ibrahim (Abraham) of his son Ishmael (in Hebrew Bible the son to be sacrificed is Isaac). Ibrahim prepares to kill his son but Allah stops him and gives Ibrahim a lamb to sacrifice instead.
The “Festival of Sacrifice” is traditionally celebrated by prayers, gift giving, visiting family and friends, and specific acts of charity.
Each day of the three day festival, the faithful should clean themselves and put on their newest or best clothes and perform the Salat al-Fajr or the pre-dawn prayer. Also Muslims must recite the Takbir in a group at dawn.
The Takbir translated into English is: “Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest, There is no deity but Allah, and Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest and to Allah goes all praise, (We) sing the praises of Allah because He has shown us the Right Path. (We) gratefully thank Him because He takes care of us and looks after our interests.”
Charity is a large part of the Eid al-Adha festival. Money and new clothes are popular for giving to the poor so that they can also be dressed in their finest for the celebrations. Those faithful that can afford it will sacrifice a domestic animal such as a cow, goat, sheep or ram. The animal sacrificed is called the Uhiyyah and is symbolic of Ibrahim’s sacrifice. The Uhiyyah must be a certain age and have no blemishes to be considered a proper offering.
In modern times, many Muslims will now purchase an animal and have it ritually slaughtered. Muslims too poor to afford an animal on their own will often join in clubs to purchase an animal for sacrifice and to have the meat distributed. The meat of the Uhiyyah is divided into thirds. One third stays with the family for the traditional Eid al-Adha meals. Another third is given to neighbors and friends and the last third is given to the poor.
Eid al-Adha is also a time to visit family and friends to share meals and give presents.