Eid-ul-Azha is a joyous occasion. The whole Muslim Ummah celebrates Eid-ul-Azha together however, depending on the region, Eid festivities vary with each having its own unique cultural touch and flare. Muslims around the world are celebrating the start of Islam's biggest holiday, Eid-ul-Azha, the Feast of Sacrifice.
More than two million pilgrims are completing their ritual journey to the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, known as the Hajj. In the town of Mina, outside Mecca, pilgrims on Saturday participated in the "stoning of the devil" ritual by throwing pebbles at stone pillars, in a re-enactment of the story of the Biblical Prophet Abraham.
The festival commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to God, in a test of his faith. Muslims are supposed to make the journey to Mecca at least once in their lives, if they are capable of it.
In Bangladesh Eid-ul-Azha is acknowledged over a three-day public holiday. Educational institutions generally remain closed for an entire week during this time. Bangladeshis practice the holiday by performing the mandatory Eid prayers on the morning of Eid, visiting friends and relatives and giving zakat. Popular customs also include dressing up in new clothes, decorating one's hands with henna and having a good meal with family and friends.
Eid-ul-Azha is more commonly known as Eid el-Kibr in Egypt. The day starts off the same; Eid Prayers followed by a sermon which is then followed by family gatherings and a huge feast. The people of Egypt donate Qurbani meat very generously. The wealthy as well as numerous charity organizations give Qurbani meat and other food necessities to all those in need in order to honor the Sunna of Prophet Ibrahim.
The celebrations for Eid-ul-Azha are widespread, and if you are in a predominantly Muslim area, you should have no problem finding where the celebrations are being held by simply asking someone in the area to point you in the right direction.
Bali presents complications as it is one of the few islands in Indonesia where a Muslim majority does not exist, but in areas of western Bali like Medewi, there are certainly Muslim areas in which the festivities come to life. Conversely, a short plane ride from Bali to Java will land you in the heart of Indonesian Islam, and in just about every village on the island there is a ceremony to attend. Similarly in Oman, a Muslim country, celebrations will be a dime a dozen, and visitors should have no problem making their way to a celebration. Eid-ul-Azha, as do most days in Islam, starts off with a communal (jamaah) Morning Prayer, but proceeds in a much different way thereafter.
To represent and honor the sacrifice that Abraham was willing to make, Muslims will typically slaughter live animals in commemoration. This can be a gruesome sight for those with weak stomachs, and so it is recommended to keep your kids away from the activities, and possibly yourself if the sight of blood is unsettling.
Though don't be surprised to see hordes of local children laughing and playing games for the day, as this event is a yearly occurrence, and one that comes with major religious responsibility for all involved in the religion, whether young or old.
In the weeks building up to Eid-ul-Azha, Muslim families save to purchase either goats or cattle which are to be slaughtered on the big day, and so if you do find yourself in either the Middle East or Southeast Asia, don't be surprised to see a number of farm animals grazing lazily along the roads in unassuming groups.
On the day of the celebration, these animals are typically carted to town squares and local mosques where the families who purchased the animals gather. After they arrive, and the correct prayers and rituals are performed, one by one the animals are slaughtered, skinned and butchered.
But instead of wasting the animals by disposing of them, Muslims are required to adhere to a certain rule in which a third of the meat belongs to the family that bought the animal, another third belongs to family friends and kin, and the last third belongs to the poor and needy.
In the Philippines, Eid-ul-Azha has been a public holiday since 2002. The date is set by a proclamation each year, usually issued a week or so before the date.
In Turkey, the feast is known as Kurban Bayram? and is the most important religious festival of the year and is a four day holiday.
Europe and America
Many Muslims in the United States celebrate Eid-ul-Azha with prayers and social gatherings. The Eid-ul-Azha services can attract thousands of Muslims in various places such as Chicago (Illinois) and Orlando (Florida). Many Muslims of many heritages, including Pakistan, as well as Eastern European and African countries, wear traditional clothes and share their national dishes. It is a time for prayer, sharing meals, handing out gifts and wishing one another well.
Eid-ul-Azha follows from the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, in which Muslims are required to make at least once in their lives. Eid-ul-Azha is also known as the Feast of Sacrifice because it traditionally includes the sacrifice of an animal permitted for food (eg. a lamb) as an act of thanksgiving for God's mercy. Some Muslims seek out a farm where they can carry out the sacrifice, but many also send money to their native lands to help fund a sacrifice. Eid-ul-Azha lasts for up to three days and is a time to seek mercy from God.
Eid-ul-Azha is not a federal public holiday in the United States. However, some Islamic organizations may be closed or offer a reduced level of service and there may be some local traffic congestion around mosques. In New York City, the day is a holiday for public schools.
Many Muslims make a special effort to wear new clothes or their nicest outfits, attend a prayer service at a mosque and to listen to a sermon. They also personally greet or send paper or electronic Eid cards to family members, friends and business associates and give gifts to children.
Initiatives to improve the quality of life or opportunities in Muslim communities around the United Kingdom may be launched at Eid-ul-Azha. Some mosques also hold study days or lectures on aspects of Islam and Islamic history.
Some Muslims arrange to sacrifice or slaughter a cow, goat or sheep. The law in the United Kingdom only allows this in an official slaughterhouse. The meat is divided between family, friends and the poor. Other Muslims give money to charity to help poorer families and eat a meat based meal. Mosques or other groups may arrange communal meals.
In Malaysia, Eid is more popularly known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri where Hari Raya means 'Celebration Day'. It is mandatory for workers in the city to return to their home towns to enjoy with their families and to plead forgiveness from elders, parents and in-laws.
This is known as balik kampung or homecoming in Malaysia. It is filled with the sounds of musallahs, people usually filling the street and also chanting takbir and those of many muezzins chanting the takbir in the mosques. Pelita or oil lamps, which are no different from tiki torches, are set alight and placed outside and around homes in many parts of Malaysia, and particularly in the rural areas. Special dishes like rendang, ketupat, lemang, which is a type of rice cake cooked within bamboo, and other Malay also Nyonya delicacies such as various kuih-muih are offered during this day.
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