EID’L ADHA: The Feast of Sacrifice
EID’L ADHA: The Feast of Sacrifice
Eid’l Adha or ‘Feast of Sacrifice’ is the most important Muslim celebration in the Muslim calendar.
It commemorates and honors Ibrahim’s devotion to Allah as shown by his willingness to offer his son Ishmael. Eid’l Adha is the climax of Muslims’ five-day pilgrimage to Mecca or the Hajj. According to Islamic traditions recorded in the Quran, Allah tested Ibrahim’s obedience by commanding him to offer his firstborn son Ishmael as a sacrifice. Allah was pleased by Ibrahim’s obedience thus, he provided a ram in place of Ishmael, sparing the son’s life.
The Celebration: How the Feast is celebrated?
The feast lasts for three days. It opens by an early morning prayers after which an animal (sheep, cow, goat or a buffalo) is slaughtered (qurban, Qurbani) for those who can afford; chanting ‘God is the greatest’ (Allahu Akbar) three times. Meals are served, families and friends gather together to celebrate, they reconcile with those they have issues with, they give gifts, attend social gatherings, help the poor by giving foods, and wearing the best and clean clothes.
The meat of the slaughtered animal is divided into three parts, one third is retained by the family, another third is given to the relatives, friends and neighbors, and the last third is for the poor and the needy.
The story of Ibrahim (Abraham) is also recorded in the book of Genesis of the Jewish and Christian Bible. There are differences though, such as, in Islamic belief the son is Ishmael not Isaac, while in Christian tradition the name of the father is Abraham not Ibrahim.
In the Genesis account, the story is within a larger narrative of God not giving up on his plans for Israel and humanity as a whole. Right at the third chapter of Genesis we read about Adam and Eve’s sin which marred God’s good creation. Chapter 11 records another catastrophe – the story of Babel which in the words of Goheen and Barthlomew (2004:53), “is the highwater mark of sin in God’s good creation thus far.” At this point as, evidence that he is not giving up on mankind, God responded by focusing his interest to one man, Abraham.
God entered into a covenant with Abraham and promised him that he will be the father of many nations. His offspring will occupy the land of promise, Canaan. However, Abraham needs to muster enough faith because of the challenges that he has to surmount; he has to move out of his city Ur, settle in Egypt (where his life will be in danger because of his wife Sarah), and his wife barrenness. In chapter 12 Abraham cunningly saved his life by giving up his wife Sarah to be one of Pharaoh’s women and therefore risking the fulfillment of the promise of God. In chapter 16 Sarah, out of desperation urged him to take Hagar her handmaid, as his wife. Despite his initial hesitation Abraham gave in to wife’s prodding and went in to Hagar. hence Ishmael was born. After the birth of Ishmael, Sarah became pregnant and gave birth to their firstborn son, Isaac in her old age. As the boys were growing, the enmity between them and their mothers also grew. “In a moment of great sorrow, he (Abraham) obeys God’s command and sends off his son Ishmael to a new life in order to prevent any threat to Isaac.” (Boadt, 2003:141).
The ultimate test comes in chapter 22 when God commandment Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. This is the climax of the Abraham story. All these years he and his wife waited to have a son, and now they are about to lose him. As the narrative goes, Abraham obeyed God’s command and was deeply saddened that he doesn’t have the courage to tell it to his Isaac. He wanted the “horrifying moment to be private by sending his servants off” (Boadt, 2003: 143). The son on other hand, never doubted his father. After building altar and binding Isaac, he was about to kill his son, but was prevented by God. He looked around saw a ram trapped in a bush by its horn. He took the animal and placed it on the altar in place of Isaac.
Goheen and Bartholomew’s (2004:57) words about Abraham’s trust in God is very inspiring:
“We should not underestimate how hard it must be at times for Abraham to trust God. Abraham’s trust in God through this remarkable episode is rewarded in God’s strong reaffirmation of the covenant between Abraham and himself.”
New Testament writers look up to Abraham as the icon of faith (Romans 4:1-25). In Galatians 3: 6-9, he is regarded as the one who exemplifies belief in God’s promises even if one has never been part of the Jewish family. The author of Hebrews said, Abraham believed God’s promises even without seeing it fulfilled (Heb. 11:1-40).
It is just right for us to join our Muslim brothers in celebrating Abraham’s obedience despite our differences in beliefs and practices. Through him we became God’s children. “In Islamic traditions he is still called Khalil Allah, ‘the friend of God’” (Boadt, 2003:143).
Bartholomew, Craig G. and Goheen, Michael W. The Drama of Scriptures. Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Publishing Group, 2004.
Boadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament. Manila, Philippines: St. Paul Philippines
Fee, Gordon D. and Stuart, Douglas. How to Read the Bible Book by Book. Guided Tour. Manila, Philippines: OMF Literature, 2004.