In the Name of God, the Subtle, the Loving
This is my post on The Seeker blog about Eid Al Adha.
I could not believe my eyes when I saw it: Best Buy had printed in its weekly ad “Happy Eid Al Adha.” My heart was so very warmed, and it made me so very happy that Best Buy acknowledged the upcoming Muslim holiday. (And, it made me determined to make my next purchase there…) Of course, there were scattered angry online protests, with one person commenting that Eid Al Adha is a “Muslim goat throat slitting festivity.” This statement exposes the enormous ignorance about this major Muslim holiday.
Eid Al Adha, which is November 27, marks the end of the Hajj, or once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca which every able bodied Muslim must perform. The Hajj is a live re-enactment of the story of the Patriarch Abraham. After being childless for many years, Abraham was finally given a son. Soon after the child (Ishmael in Muslim tradition) was born, God commanded Abraham to leave him and his mother in the barren desert plain of Paran, which is modern day Mecca. Alarmed, his wife questioned him as to why he would abandon them, with little food and water, in the middle of the desert. He didn’t answer and kept walking. She then asked him, “Has God commanded thus?” He answered, “Yes.” She then said, “Then He will not lead us astray.”
Soon, however, the small amount of food and water ran out, and the young Ishmael began to cry. Frantic, his mother ran between two small hills seven times looking for any sign of food, drink, or civilization. When her search proved fruitless, she went back to her son, resigned to the terror of his imminent death. To her glee, a spring had burst forth at the young babe’s feet, which was dug by the Archangel Gabriel himself. Mother and child were saved.
Many years later, when that son became old enough, the Lord commanded Abraham to sacrifice that son for Him. The Patriarch told his son of his vision, and his son told him, “Father, do as you are commanded.” On the appointed day, the Devil tried to dissuade Abraham, and he stoned the devil seven times. When the Patriarch finally put knife to skin, it would not cut, and a voice called to him, “Abraham! You have indeed fulfilled the vision.” The Patriarch then offered an animal instead of his son.
All of the rituals of the Hajj – the running between two mountains, the stoning of the pillars representing the Devil, and so on – hearken back to this ancient dramatic story. On Eid Al Adha, all Muslims sacrifice an animal in commemoration of Abraham and his inspiring test of faith. The meat is largely distributed to the poor to help feed them.
Upon reflection, it is rather amazing, isn’t it, that one of the major, if not the major, Muslim festivals is about Abraham, a Prophet who is sacred and revered by both Judaism and Christianity? If we all took the time to learn about our respective traditions, we would realize that we are more similar than we are different, and our world would be a much better place because of it.