Large family gatherings, vibrant cultural dresses, and early morning prayers symbolized the celebration of Eid al-Adha for Muslims across the globe on the first weekend of October. This Eid, the second of two this year, is generally celebrated around days 10 to 13 of the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah (or Dhul Hijjah), and usually lasts for three days.

Also known as the “Feast of the Sacrifice,” Eid al-Adha is a commemoration of the struggles of prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) and his subservience to God, seen through his willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail to fulfill God’s command. According to Islamic tradition, around four thousand years ago, Allah (God) commanded the prophet Abraham to sacrifice his own beloved son, Ismail. Upon seeing that Prophet Abraham’s loyalty and faithfulness towards Him superceded his love for his son, Allah replaced Ismail with a lamb that was sacrificed instead.

“It was a test of Prophet Abraham’s faith. When he continued with the sacrifice, he had passed God’s test. That’s why Eid is not just a time of celebration – it’s a replication of Prophet Ibrahim’s [Abraham] struggles and is symbolic of our past,” said Afrah Mubarak, a senior student at MGCI.

For many, the celebration is also marked by the sacrifice of goats, sheep, and cows as a reminder of the Prophet Abraham’s trials, God’s mercy, and one’s deference to God. It signifies one’s continued willingness to sacrifice anything for God as a portrayal of one’s faith and belief. After the sacrifice of the animal, the meat is divided into three sections: one-third to be retained by the family; one-third to be given to friends and neighbours; and the remaining third to be given to the poor.

Prophet Abraham’s devotion to Allah over his affection for his son and the continuity of sacrifice for God has since been celebrated by special prayers and large family gatherings throughout Muslim communities.

Many students at MGCI, a school ensconced between two communities home to a diverse Muslim population, also celebrated Eid al-Adha 2014. Zoya Feza, a Grade 12 student, said, “Muslims celebrate this wonderful occasion twice a year. As always, most of us will be celebrating it with our families and friends. Overall, waking up in the morning, going to Eid prayers and greeting everyone, is a feeling I don’t think anyone can even begin to describe. They’re beautiful moments.”

Muslims pick out an animal to sacrifice to show how they are willing to sacrifice anything for God. Photo: Khadija Jawwad

Saffiya Lulat, president of MGCI’s Muslim’s Student Association (MSA), said, “Eid is a celebration to remind us of the many sacrifices of our prophets and to remind ourselves that we shouldn’t love anyone more than God. It is a time for us to get together with our friends and family and have a good time.”

Eid also marks the end of Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that is mandatory for Muslims to carry out at least once in their lifetime. A five-day religious visit to the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia – to the house of God – it is a very important part of the Islamic faith, representing the strong belief in Allah of the Muslim people and their submission and deference to Allah.

The significance of Eid al-Adha is aptly expressed by the following phrase from the Quran, the holy book of Islam: “It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches Him” (Qur’an 22:37).