Eid ul-Adha is the second of the two major religious holidays in Islam and it is tied to the Hajj pilgrimage. Performing Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and it obligatory on every Muslim who is able, once in their lifetime. The Hajj is performed in the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, Dhul-Hijjah and Eid ul-Adha is celebrated by Muslims all over the world on the 10th day of that month. It should be noted that the first ten days of this month have a special status in Islam and are known as ‘al-Ayyam ul-Ashr.’ In Surah 89 of the Holy Qur’an, Allah swears an oath by the ten nights, showing their incredible significance and importance. According to Sahih Bukhari, the Prophet Muhammad further verifies this in the following hadith: Ibn ‘Abbas narrated that the Prophet said: “There is no deed more precious in the sight of Allah, or greater in reward, than a good deed done during the ten days of Sacrifice.”
Of additional significance is the ninth day, called Yaum ul Arafah in which the pilgrims doing Hajj assemble on the plains of Arafat to engage in one of the largest singular religious gatherings in the world and give thanks to Allah for completing the religion of Islam. These ten days, and particularly Yaum ul Arafah are a day of uncountable hasanat or heavenly reward, days in which prayers are answered and furtive supplications are heard. It is further recommended to fast on Yaum ul Arafah as “Fasting on the day of Arafah is expiation for two years, the year preceding it and the year following it.” (Sahih Muslim) It should be noted that if you want to offer a sacrifice, you must not cut your hair or trim your nails from the beginning of the Ten Days until after you have offered the sacrifice.
It may surprise some people to know that the history of Eid ul-Adha and the sacrifice goes back to the time of Prophet Abraham, a major figure in Judaism and Christianity, as well as Islam. Eid ul-Adha commemorates the great event when Allah asked Abraham in a dream to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience. According to Surah 37 of the Holy Qur’an, the story goes as follows: And, when he [his son] was old enough to walk with him, he said, ‘O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you, so see what you think!’ He said, ‘O my father! Do that which you are commanded, if Allah wills, you shall find me patient.’” As Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, Allah revealed to him that his sacrifice had already been fulfilled. He had shown that his love for his Lord superseded all others and that he would make any sacrifice in order to submit to Allah.
Narrated by Al-Bara: “I heard the Prophet (p.b.u.h) delivering a Khutba saying, “The first thing to be done on this day (first day of Eid ul Adha) is to pray; and after returning from the prayer we slaughter our sacrifices (in the name of Allah) and whoever does so, he acted according to our Sunnah.” (Sahih Bukhari )
Eid-Ul-Adha is a day of remembrance. Even in the most joyful times, the Muslim makes a fresh start of the day by a session of congregational prayers to Allah in an open space. Muslims use the occasion to pray to Allah and to glorify His Name to demonstrate the remembrance of His Grace and Favours. Muslims also remember the deceased by praying for their souls to rest in peace. The needy and vulnerable in society are also remembered by showing them sympathy, consolation and offering them sacrifice meat. Children receive gifts and sweets on this happy occasion. In addition, like the pilgrims in Mecca, the Muslims who can afford to do so offer domestic animals as a symbol of Abraham’s sacrifice. This sacrifice is, in no way, a blood sacrifice to Allah but rather serves as an act of remembrance and religious symbolism.
Some people are confused and alarmed as to why Allah might have asked Abraham to slaughter his own son. Classical Islamic scholar, Ibn al-Qayyim explains that the purpose was not for Ibrahim to kill his son; rather it was to sacrifice him in his heart so all love belonged to Allah alone. Thus, it is a part of the Islamic tradition that during the blessed Ten Days of Dhul-Hijjah and on the day of Eid ul-Adha, we remember the sacrifice of Abraham. We reflect on what made him such a strong believer and one who was beloved to Allah, someone Allah blessed and made a leader of all the nations that were to follow.