The above sheep is arriving on the Palestinian side of a tunnel under the closed Rafah crossing (in 2008) between Egypt and the Gaza strip. All politics aside, to me this picture encapsulates the importance of Eid Al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, in the Muslim calendar. Eid Al-Adha is also called the Eid Al-Kebir, the Greater Feast, as the major holy day, in comparison to Eid Al-Fitr, or the Feast of Breaking the Fast, the Lesser Feast, and the other main Muslim holiday, the one that breaks the fasting of the month of Ramadan. Eid Al-Adha occurs after the pilgrims of the Hajj, or Pilgrimage to Mecca, have descended from Mount Arafat, and is part of the Hajj that Muslims around the world share in symbolically.
The sacrifice being celebrated is that of the Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his oldest son, Ishmael, in obedience to Allah’s command, and Allah’s grace in substituting a lamb in Ishmael’s place. Approximately 4000 years ago, Allah asked the Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his only son, Ishmael, in order to demonstrate his faithfulness and obedience to Allah. As the Prophet Ibrahim prepared to do so, Allah substituted a lamb, in recognition of the Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his only son which proved his submission to Allah. For this reason, the sacrifice of an animal is a major part of the feast throughout the Muslim world. Lambs, sheep, goats, calves, cows, and camels are among the animals sacrificed. For that reason, smuggling a sheep through a tunnel was part of Eid Al-Adha in 2008.
Eid Al-Adha begins with morning prayers at the mosque, and a sermon (khutba) reminding of the attitude of sacrifice for the love of Allah. These are followed by visits to family and friends, exchanging greetings and gifts. Later, the head of each household sacrifices an animal in a solemn manner, pronouncing the name of Allah over the animal in recognition of its life, and cutting across the major vessels in the neck with a sharp knife to end the animal’s life in a halal way. This may also be done at a local farm, or by the local butcher on the family’s behalf. The animal is butchered and the meat distributed--1/3 to the family, 1/3 to friends and neighbours, and 1/3 to the poor, either immediately or over the course of the next few days. Thus the family shares in the sacrifice of some of its wealth, and in supporting the less fortunate in the community.
The celebrations last 3 days or more, depending on the country, and have the same impact on family and friends that Christmas does in the Christian world. Many are off work, and spend their days taking in public entertainments, and visiting. The meat from the sacrificed animal is often served as part of the reception of guests, along with tea, coffee, and sweets.
Below are some photos from Eid Al-Adha in 2008 that convey the essence of the celebration throughout the Muslim world, or Ummah.
Boarding a passenger train in Dhaka, Bangladesh as millions exit the city for home celebrations
Taking the ferry home to Madura Island from Tanjung Perak Port in Surabaya, Indonesia
The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey at dusk on the 1st day of Eid Al-Adha
Praying in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Ferozshah Kotla Mosque, New Delhi, India during Eid Al-Adha prayers
2 Kenyan boys pray during Eid Al-Adha in Mombasa, Kenya
At the Reliant Center Hall, Houston, Texas, members of 19 area mosques gather for Eid Al-Adha prayers
Shia Muslims offer prayers at the grave site of loved ones, Najaf, Iraq, on the 1st day of Eid Al-Adha
Praying at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Praying Eid Al-Adha in Mumbai, India
Kyrgyz men offer prayers in Bishek, Kyrgyzstan
Members of the An-Nadsir sect praying in Gowa District, South Sulawesi Province, Indonesia
Praying Eid Al-Adha prayers in Dhaka, Bangladesh
At prayer in Abidjan, la République de Côte d'Ivoire
An imam leads prayers at a mosque in Suvorovo, Bulgaria
Iranian women pray Eid Al-Adha prayers at Teheran University
Smuggling a sheep through a tunnel under the Egypt-Gaza border at the closed Rafah crossing
A modest celebration in Rafah Refugee Camp, Gaza Strip--no animals to sacrifice except those smuggled in
On the eve of Eid Al-Adha in Mumbai, India
Offering prayers before sacrificing a goat in Allahabad, India
Chinese Muslims line up for lamb kebobs outside Huxi Mosque, Shanghai after Eid Al-Adha prayers.
Iraqi children enjoy free toys distributed for Eid Al-Adha in southern Baghdad's Doura District
Nigerian girl with henna designs on hand for Eid.
Palestinian children playing on a carousel in East Jerusalem, the 2nd day of Eid Al-Adha
What are your experiences of Eid Al-Adha?
What is it like to celebrate in a Muslim or a non-Muslim country?
Any other comments or thoughts?
Any other comments or thoughts?