Expert Opinion

Eid ul Adha

Leeds Beckett University Casework Co-ordinator and Co-Chair of the Faith & Belief Forum, Rehana Bakhat, writes on the Muslim observance of Eid which will be celebrated on 31 July.

Eid ul Adha takes place on the 10th day of the final month of the Islamic calendar, which is known as Dhu-al-hijjah. This is the 12th month of the Islamic calendar. It is also the month that Muslims travel from all over the world to Mecca to perform the major pilgrimage called Hajj. This is the 5th pillar of Islam, which all Muslims are expected to complete once in their lifetime subject to conditions being met.

Prophet Ibrahim (who is also known as Abraham in the Judaeo-Christian traditions), was willing to sacrifice his son, Ismail, under the order of Allah. Just as Ibrahim was about to sacrifice his son, Allah replaced Ismail with a lamb, which was sacrificed instead. This act demonstrated Prophet Ibrahim's willingness and commitment to obey his Lord's command, without question. This story appears in the Quran and the Bible, which includes the Old Testament (albeit the versions are slightly different).

In following the footsteps of Prophet Ibrahim, all Muslims that are financially able to, sacrifice an animal. The animal can be a lamb, goat, sheep cow or camel. This is known as the act of ‘Qurbani or Udhiyah’ meaning sacrifice in Arabic. For this reason, Eid al Adha is commonly referred to as the "festival of sacrifice". The animal that is sacrificed is separated into three parts. One third of the meat from the animal must go to poor or vulnerable people. One third is kept for the family and one third is for the neighbours.

Meanwhile the actual hajj pilgrimage rites occur on the 8th - 12th days of the month. After the Morning Prayer on the 8th of Dhul hijjah, the pilgrims would leave for Mina and stay in camps there. Typically, they will have completed Tawaaf and Sa’aee prior to the 8th. The ritual of Tawaaf involves circumambulating seven times anticlockwise around the Kaaba. Tawaaf is then followed by sa'aee, which is running or walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah, located near the Kaaba. Sa’eee is the following the footsteps of Prophet Ibrahim’s wife Hajra (Hagar) when she was left with Ismail and found the water of Zamzam (holy water).

On the 9th day, which is known as the day of Arafat, Muslims on Hajj will go to the planes of Arafat, praying for forgiveness and for all their needs. Muslims around the rest of the world will fast. After sunset, the pilgrims leave Arafat for Muzdalifah. Returning from Muzdalifah, the Pilgrims then spend the night at Mina. On the 10th of Dhul ul hijjah pilgrims perform symbolic stoning of the devil (Ramy al-Jamarat) by throwing seven stones from sunrise to sunset at only the largest of the three pillars, known as Jamrat al-Aqabah. After the casting of stones, animals are slaughtered to commemorate the story of Ibrahim and Ismail.  On the same or the following day, the pilgrims re-visit the Sacred Mosque in Mecca for another Tawaaf, an essential part of Hajj. The 10th night is spent back in Mina. The 11th and 12th is when pilgrims continue the stoning of the devil. Most pilgrims will leave on the 12th unless there is a valid reason preventing this.

This Eid is celebrated over three days.

During the morning of Eid al-Adha, a special prayer called Salat al-Eid is recited in honour of the festival, ahead of the Dhuhr prayer at noon. Dressing in fine clothes in celebration of Eid al-Adha, families and friends would get together sharing food and exchanging gifts.

This year due to the pandemic, international Hajj has been cancelled and only a limited number of pilgrims resident in Saudi Arabia will be permitted to partake. Mosques are expected to be open for Eid prayer whilst maintaining social distancing.