Eid al-Adha is the latter of the two official holidays celebrated within Islam. It honors the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Ishmael (in Judaism, Isaac) as an act of obedience to God’s command. Before Abraham could sacrifice his son, however, God provided a lamb to sacrifice instead. In commemoration of this intervention, animals are sacrificed ritually. One third of their meat is consumed by the family offering the sacrifice, while the rest is distributed to the poor and needy. Sweets and gifts are given, and extended family are typically visited and welcomed. The day is also sometimes called Big Eid or the Greater Eid.
In the Islamic lunar calendar, Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, and lasts for four days. In the international (Gregorian) calendar, the dates vary from year to year, shifting approximately 11 days earlier each year. Eid al-Adha is also pronounced Eid al-Azha and Eidul Azha.
The Arabic word عيد (ʿīd) means ‘festival’, ‘celebration’, ‘feast day’, or ‘holiday’. It itself is a triliteral root عيد with associated root meanings of “to go back, to rescind, to accrue, to be accustomed, habits, to repeat, to be experienced; appointed time or place, anniversary, feast day.” Arthur Jeffery contests this etymology, and believes the term to have been borrowed into Arabic from Syriac, or less likely Targumic Aramaic.
The words أضحى (adha) and قربان (qurban) are synonymous in meaning ‘sacrifice’ (animal sacrifice), ‘offering’ or ‘oblation’. The first word comes from the triliteral root ضحى (dahha) with associated meanings of “immolate ; offer up ; sacrifice ; victimize.” No occurrence of this root with a meaning related to sacrifice occurs in the Qur’an but in the Hadith literature. Arab Christians use the term to mean the Eucharistic host. The second word derives from the triliteral root قرب (qaraba) with associated meanings of “closeness, proximity… to moderate; kinship…; to hurry; …to seek, to seek water sources…; scabbard, sheath; small boat; sacrifice.” Arthur Jeffery recognizes the same Semitic root, but believes the sense of the term to have entered Arabic through Aramaic.
ORIGIN OF EID AL-ADHA
One of the main trials of Abraham’s life was to face the command of God by sacrificing his beloved son Isaac. According to the new narrative, Abraham kept having dreams that he was sacrificing his son Ishmael. Abraham knew that this was a command from God and he told his son, as stated in the Quran “Oh son, I keep dreaming that I am slaughtering you”, Ishmael replied “Father, do what you are ordered to do.” Abraham prepared to submit to the will of God and prepared to slaughter his son as an act of faith and obedience to God. During this preparation, Shaytaan tempted Abraham and his family by trying to dissuade them from carrying out God’s commandment, and Abraham drove Satan away by throwing pebbles at him. In commemoration of their rejection of Satan, stones are thrown at symbolic pillars Stoning of the Devil during Hajj rites.
Acknowledging that Abraham was willing to sacrifice what is dear to him, God the Almighty honoured both Abraham and Ishmael. Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) called Abraham “O’ Abraham, you have fulfilled the revelations.” and a lamb from heaven was offered by Angel Gabriel to prophet Abraham to slaughter instead of Ishmael. Muslims worldwide celebrate Eid al Adha to commemorate both the devotion of Abraham and the survival of Ishmael.
This story is known as the Akedah in Judaism (Binding of Isaac) and originates in the Torah, the first book of Moses (Genesis, Ch. 22).
SACRIFICE ON EID AL-ADHA
The tradition for Eid al-Adha involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat in three equal parts – for family, for relatives and friends, and for poor people. The goal is to make sure every Muslim gets to eat meat. The celebration has a clear message of devotion, kindness and equality.
In the Holy Tauret Book in the ‘Pedaish’, it is written that Allah created human beings in His image. The fruits which are have seeds in them, He ordered them to be eaten by humans, and animals are ordered to eat grass, and other vegetarian food. There is no order to eat meat. If there is any order to eat meat in the Qur’an, then it is not of Allah but is of the angel Jibril. Thus, God created the world in six days and sat on the throne on the seventh day.
However, the purpose of sacrifice in Eid al-Adha is not about shedding of blood just to satisfy Allah. It is about sacrificing something devotees love the most to advance the message of Eid al-Adha. In other words, the sacrifice can be something other than an animal such as money or time spent on community service. There are historical precedences of caliphs sacrificing items other than meat. After all, the animal sacrifice is only a sunnah, which is habitual rather than required. The Quran said that the meat will not reach Allah, nor will the blood, but what reaches him is the devotion of devotees.