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Haj the festival of sacrifice

“May Allah’s blessing light your way, strengthen your faith and bring joy to your heart as you praise and serve Him today, tomorrow and always.” Eid Mubarak!

Muslims all over the world anticipate the annual three-day celebration of a historical event that took place thousands of years ago during the time of Prophet Ibrahim.

This occasion is known as Eid-ul-Adha or the Festival of Sacrifice. It is a representation of two significant Islamic events such as the culmination of the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca and the sacrifice that Allah commanded to Prophet Ibrahim of his beloved son, Ismail.

Eid-ul-Adha is observed on the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar. While Muslims around the world celebrate this day, it has particular significance for the pilgrims performing haj. In Sri Lanka it is celebrated tomorrow according to the sighting of the moon.

Eid-ul-Adha is associated with Haj. Allah had made the Haj mandatory upon mankind initially during the time of Prophet Ibrahim. “And make a proclamation of Haj to mankind; they will come to you on foot and on lean camels from every distant quarter.” (Quran: Chapter: 22, Verse: 27).

The spread of idolatry across Arabia caused the rituals of Haj to become extremely distorted. With the advent of Islam and Prophet Muhammad, Allah restored Haj as the fifth pillar of Islam. Allah described the correct manner in which it was to be performed in the Holy Quran.

Allah has ordained that every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it must perform the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. Several main rituals constitute the framework of this experience.

Tawaf which means circulating the Kabah seven times, Sa’i which means walking between the mounds of Safa and Marwah seven times, supplicating to Allah at Arafat, the place where Prophet Muhammad gave his farewell speech, proclaiming the final seal of Islam, and where Muslims believe they will be resurrected on the Day of Judgment and stoning the pillars that symbolise Satan at Mina, the place where Satan repeatedly challenged Ibrahim to disobey Allah’s command to sacrifice his son.

Each of these prescribed acts is a step in the pilgrim’s difficult journey towards spiritual cleansing. When the pilgrim successfully executes these acts in the prescribed manner with utmost sincerity and humility, all his prior sins are forgiven.

Final ritual

The final ritual that pilgrims must perform, signifying the completion of these acts is the sacrifice of a domestic animal.

In addition to denoting the completion of haj, Eid-ul-Adha honours the monumental sacrifice that was to be made by Prophet Ibrahim. He was ordered by Allah to sacrifice his dearly-beloved son Ismail as a test of obedience.

Ibrahim willingly submitted to Allah’s command, wherein Allah, by His Mercy replaced Ismail at the moment of sacrifice with a lamb.

Ibrahim’s selfless act of obedience is commemorated by the sacrifice of a domestic animal such as a lamb, sheep, cow, or goat, the meat of which is then distributed to relatives, neighbours, and the poor. In parts of the world that preclude Muslims from personally sacrificing an animal, Muslims donate money to charitable organisations, which then sacrifice the animal on their behalf and distribute the meat to the poor.

In keeping with the following injunction of the Quran (22:27), “…and pronounce the name of Allah over the cattle which We have provided for them on the appointed days, then eat the meat themselves and feed the indigent and needy.”

Eid-ul-Adha exemplifies the charitable instincts of Muslims in their communal effort to see that no one is left deprived of the sacrificial meat. It embodies the values of discipline and self-denial, and submitting to the will of Allah.

Eid-ul-Adha is a joyous occasion marked with family traditions and celebrations. The festivities begin in the morning after Fajr prayer, where Muslims, dressed in their finest clothes, attend the congregational prayer followed by a sermon.

During the festival of Eid al-Adha and the days preceding it, Muslims recite the Takbir. This is particularly the case on the Day of Arafat. The Takbir is the term for the Arabic phrase Allahu Akbar usually translated as “God is the greatest.”

It is a common Islamic Arabic expression, used in various contexts by Muslims in formal prayer as an informal expression of faith in times of distress, to express celebration or victory, or to express resolute determination or defiance.

Upon completion of the services, people greet each other with the blessings of Eid: ‘Eid Mubarak’. Thereafter, Muslims often visit the homes of relatives and friends, partaking in delicious feasts customary to their native cultures and often exchanging gifts, and many eagerly anticipate the return of those friends and relatives who have made the journey for Haj.

Roots

Christianity, Judaism, and Islam- all trace their roots back to Prophet Ibrahim known as Abraham who is thus known as the father of the three monotheistic religions. Islam relates that Ibrahim had two wives, Sarah and Hajar, each of whom bore a son, Ishaq and Ismail. Although Hajar was initially Sarah’s maid, according to Islam, Hajar later married Prophet Ibrahim and bore him a son, Ismail.

The lineage of Prophet Muhammad is traced to Ismail, whereas Christianity and Judaism trace their roots back to Prophet Ishaq, the son of Sarah. The sacrifice by Ibrahim is of importance in all three monotheistic religions, although it is not commemorated by Jews and Christians in the same manner as in Islam.

Christianity and Judaism, however, maintain that Ishaq, rather than Ismail, was the promised son whom Allah had ordered to be sacrificed.

The sacrifice of the son of Prophet Ibrahim has historical significance. Muslims celebrate the event through the festivities of Eid-ul-Adha as customary to their native cultures.

Eid-ul-Adha is a time of remembrance of the trials of Prophet Ibrahim, a time to celebrate the end of Haj, and a time that men, women, and children of all ages greatly anticipate.

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