Millions of Muslims worldwide this week will celebrate Eid al-Adha, an Islamic religious festival commemorating Prophet Abraham’s faithfulness to God after being tested with the unfulfilled command to sacrifice his son.
The holiday also marks the end of the yearly Hajj pilgrimage. It is different from Eid al-Fitr, another major Muslim holiday celebrated each May to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Eid is a three-day celebration in Muslim-majority countries. But in the United States, it’s generally observed on one day.
In the United States, most Muslims will celebrate Eid al-Adha starting July 9 by visiting mosques and hosting large community gatherings. In other countries, celebrations take place at different times.
Here is what to know about the holiday:
What is Eid al-Adha?
Mohammad Hassan Khalil, a professor of religious studies and director of the Muslim studies program at Michigan State University, said Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar.
It is also celebrated during the annual Holy Pilgrimage of Hajj, in which thousands of Muslims travel to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia to worship in the Ka’bah, the most sacred site in Islam.
Khalil says that the day of celebration is determined by the sighting of a new crescent moon at night. If people spot it, this indicates a new month.
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What is al-Adha?
“Al-Adha” refers to sacrifice, specifically the “one in which Abraham was asked – as a test – by God to sacrifice his son, only to have God intervene and substitute a ram (or lamb) instead,” said Omid Safi, professor of Islamic studies at Duke University.
The sacrifice as depicted in the Quran, the Islamic holy text, has similarities to what’s in the Bible, though according to most Muslims, Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his son Ishmael, not Isaac.
Today, goats, lambs and cows, are sacrificed to mark the occasion. While there are Muslims who engage in this practice in the US, Khalil said, some Muslims will work with a company to pay for meat to be distributed in other countries where there is a great need.
The meat from the animals sacrificed is shared with the community and food banks in areas where there are impoverished or food-insecure Muslims, said Anna Bigelow, associate professor of religious studies at Stanford University.
How is the holiday celebrated?
Celebrations often include spending time with friends and family, wearing new attire and giving gifts. Khalil says there is usually a big communal religious ceremony or service, which includes a prayer and a sermon.
In commemorating the story of Abraham, Muslims practice the act of Udhiya (or Qurbani), which involves a sacrifice and distributing meat to the needy and family members.
In certain countries or regions, there are dishes and special desserts made to celebrate.
A “Super Eid” celebration is planned for July 9 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, which will mark the first time the event has been hosted since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Attendance is expected to eclipse the more than 30,000 people who attended in 2018, which could make it the largest Eid al-Adha celebration in the western hemisphere, Imam Asad Zaman, Executive Director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, told MPR News.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism