Why Eid Ul-Adha is considered the holiest Islamic festival
Eid Ul-Adha, which translates to the Festival of Sacrifice, is celebrated annually by billions of Muslims around the world.
One of the most important holidays of the Islamic calendar, Eid Ul-Adha marks the height of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Eid Ul-Adha is the second of two Islamic holidays celebrated worldwide each year – the other being Eid Ul-Fitr – and is considered the holier of the two.
It is based on the story in the Quran of God appearing to Ibrahim – also known as Abraham – in a dream and commanding him to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience.
Muslims believe that as Ibrahim was about to sacrifice his son, God stopped his hand and gave him a ram in place of his son.
A Biblical version of the story is also told in the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament.
To mark the occasion, Muslims slaughter their best domestic animal as a symbol of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son.
The animal is the divided into three parts – one portion is given to the poor and needy, another is kept by the family and the third is given to relatives.
Muslims begin the day with morning prayers in a congregation. Participation of women in the prayer congregation varies from community to community.
The prayers consist of two Rakats (units) with seven Takbirs in the first Raka’ah and five Takbirs in the second Raka’ah.
The Salat (prayer) is then followed by the Khutbah, or sermon, by the Imam.
At the conclusion of the prayers and sermon, Muslims embrace and exchange greetings with one another (Eid Mubarak), give gifts and visit one another.
Muslims wear their new or best clothes. Women cook special meals and the whole family and friends gather and eat together.
The four-day religious holiday begins on the third day of the annual Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims who are physically and financially able are required to undertake once in their lifetime
While Eid Ul-Adha is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar and the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar.
The lunar calendar is approximately eleven days shorter than the solar calendar.
The timing of the festival therefore depends on the sighting of the new moon, countries around the world sometimes celebrate it on different days, though most follow Saudi Arabia’s lead as it is the host of the Hajj.