So what is Eid Al Adha all about?
The ‘Greater Eid’ referred to by various regions in Asia is the second holiday (the first being Eid al Fitr) observed by Muslims. When Eid Al Adha is interpreted in English, it means ‘Festival of the Sacrifice’. The appellation is a testament to Abraham’s commitment to God.
Abraham’s faith was tested when God commanded him to sacrifice his son who was, undoubtedly, his most beloved possession. Abraham’s unwavering faith and his love for God compelled him and his son to submit to God’s command. The sacrifice was to take place atop mount Arafat. As Abraham tried to cut his son’s throat, he was surprised to find his son unharmed and realized that he sacrificed an animal instead. Thereupon , Abraham passed the test and proved his faith in God.
Muslims honor this crucial act of sacrifice every year during Eid Al Adha. There are interpretations of this story in all monotheistic religions; it is to show that individuals should, under no circumstances, sacrifice a human life — especially not in the name of God. Some wealthy Muslims may sacrifice halal cattle or sheep and distribute a portion to the less fortunate; a sacrifice in commemoration of Abraham’s selfless act. Fast forward today, the financial cost for the sacrificed animals in the UAE in 2018 was more than $120 Million.
There are various traditions during this holy festival, including congregated Eid prayers, greeting exchanges of kindness and faith, and dress in formal attire. Special sweet pastries like Ma’amoul and Ka’ak El Eid are prepared in predominantly Arab households. However, the most prominent ritual of Eid Al Adha is the pilgrimage (Hajj). The Kaaba, in Saudi Arabia was built by Abraham and his son as, it is said, they were commanded by God. Consequently, this is why Muslims find Hajj more important as the journey and destination are composed of purity, faith and clarity. Muslims are encouraged to go to Mecca and perform pilgrimage once in their lifetime as long as their health and affluence permit.
In 2018, Saudi Arabia greeted two million Muslims for Hajj and the Saudi government had to limit the numbers of pilgrims from different countries to prevent overcrowding. This encouraged Saudi to boost real estate projects to accommodate the ever-growing number of pilgrims, which are expected to reach 30 million by 2030.
Eid Al Adha is celebrated universally by Muslims and by the various divisions of Islam, including the Druze, for whom Eid is the only religious feast. This Levant religious sect shares the same ideology as Muslims when it comes to Eid Al Adha. For both, it is a time for sacrifice, patience, and compromise. To the Druze, the Eid is meant to highlight the fragility of human life and how futile materialistic desires are because, more often than not, they disturb the faith. Unlike Muslims who practice Hajj, the Druze instead stress the importance of the 10 nights leading up to the Eid. During the ‘Ashour nights’, the Druze fast and pray daily. The days are viewed as a time where spirituality is tested, and one can engage in self-reflection, meditation and charitable acts.
While rituals may differ slightly between those who observe it, Eid Al Adha is a time of celebration, forgiveness and kindness. It is the perfect time to gather alongside other Druze family and friends to share food, gifts and laughter.