What is Eid?
Eid literally means a “festival” or “feast” in Arabic. It is celebrated twice a year as Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr.
Why is it celebrated twice a year?
The two Eids recognize, celebrate and recall two distinct events that are significant to the story of the Islamic faith.
Eid -al-Adha, is the “feast of the sacrifice.” It commemorates the end of Haj, an obligatory annual pilgrimage by millions of Muslims to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Eid al-Adha recalls the story of how Allah commanded Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael as a test of faith (the story is of Abraham and Isaac in the Hebrew Torah and Christian Old Testament). The story, as narrated in the Quran, describes Satan’s attempt to tempt Ibrahim so he would disobey Allah’s command. Ibrahim, however, remains unmoved and informs Ishmael, who is willing to be sacrificed.
But, just as Ibrahim attempts to kill his son, Allah intervenes and a ram is sacrificed in place of Ishmael. This story has institutionalized the ideal of sacrifice in Islam and continues to be commemorated each year. During Eid al-Adha, Muslims slaughter an animal to remember Ibraham’s sacrifice and remind themselves of the need to submit to the will of Allah. Eid al-Adha is also known as the “Greater Bayram.”
When are they celebrated?
Eid al-Adha is celebrated on the 10th day of the 12th and final month in the Islamic calendar.
Eid al-Fitr is celebrated on the first day of the 10th month in the Islamic calendar.
Thus, Ramadan and Eid “rotate” through the Gregorian calendar and can be celebrated during different seasons in the Southern and Northern hemispheres. In 2017, for example, Eid al-Fitr was celebrated on June 26. In 2018, the date for Eid al-Fitr will be June 16. For Eid al-Adha, the date this year is September 2. In 2018, it will fall on August 22 in India
The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, and dates are calculated based on lunar phases. Due to this, the Islamic calendar year is shorter than the solar Gregorian calendar year by 10 to 12 days.
What customs are common during the Eid Ul Haj.
On Eid al-Adha, pilgrims in Mecca reenact Ibrahim’s rejection of Satan’s temptation. During the pilgrimage, Muslims cast stones at a pillar, which represents Satan. In remembrance of how Ibrahim was given a ram to sacrifice as a substitute for his son, they proceed to sacrifice animals such as goats, cattle, sheep or camels.
Those unable to go on the pilgrimage visit mosques and even family gravesites..
What is the spiritual meaning of sacrifice during Eid al-Adha?
The sacrifice represents how, like Ibrahim, pilgrims and practicing Muslims worldwide are willing to give up even their most precious possessions.
Charity to the poor is a highly emphasized value in Islam. The Quran says,
“believe in Allah and his messenger, and give charity out of the (substance) that Allah has made you heirs of. For those of you who believe and give charity – for them is a great reward.” (57.7)
So, as part of this practice, only around a third of the meat is consumed by the family or group of friends; the rest is given to the poor and needy.
Furthermore, the sacrifice of animals too is carried out through specific instructions that minimize their suffering. This is part of the moral obligation of Muslims.