Two of the most important Islamic holidays of the year are Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. While the former marks the end of the long fasting month of Ramadan, Eid-ul-Adha marks the end of Hajj, the sacred pilgrimage to the holy city Mecca. It’s customary for every able Muslim (as prescribed in the Five Pillars of Islam) to go on a Hajj at least once during his lifetime. Also popularly known as the Festival of Sacrifice, this Muslim holiday Eid-ul-Adha commemorates Prophet Abraham’s unselfish act of sacrificing his own son Ishmael to the One God, Allah.
The history behind Eid-ul-Adha follows the story of the faithful Abraham, who was instructed by Allah in a dream to raise the foundations of Kaaba, a black stone, the most sacred Muslim shrine in Mecca (Saudi Arabia), which the Muslims face during their prayers (salat). Immediately responding to the Lord’s call, Abraham set off for Mecca along with his wife and son, Ishmael. At that time, Mecca was a desolate and barren desert and Abraham had to face a lot of hardships. However, he supplicated Allah’s commands uncomplaining. In a divine dream, he also saw himself sacrificing his son Ishmael for Allah’s sake. When he told this to Ishmael, the latter immediately asked his father to carry out Lord’s commands without faltering and assured that he was completely ready to give up his life for God. But miraculously enough, when Abraham was about to sacrifice Ishmael, Allah spared the boy’s life and replaced him with a lamb. And this is what Abraham ultimately sacrificed.
To commemorate this outstanding act of sacrifice (qurbani) by Prophet Abraham, people sacrifice a lamb, goat, ram or any other animal on Eid-ul-Adha and give the meat to friends, neighbors, relatives and the needy. People who are away from the holy pilgrimage, Hajj, also carry out this traditional sacrifice. Hence Eid-ul-Adha is also known as the Feast of Sacrifice or the Day of Sacrifice.
Eid-ul-Adha begins from the 10th day of the 12th Islamic month Dhul-Hijjah. But the date of Eid-ul-Adha depends on the visibility of the moon each year. Eid-ul-Adha is known by different names in different parts of the world. For instance, Eid-ul-Adha is known by the name Hari Raya Aidiladha in south-east Asia. In Singapore, the local name for Eid-ul-Adha is Hari Raya Haji and in Malaysia, people refer to this festival as Id al-Adha and have made it a national holiday there. Indians know Eid-ul-Adha as Id al-Adha or Idu’z Zuha. And in Bangladesh, Eid-ul-Adha is known as Eid-ul-Azha or sometimes even Id al-Adha. But whatever the name, the celebratory spirit of Eid-ul-Adha runs high among Muslims all over the world, the geographical variations notwithstanding.