Eid Al Adha – Feast of Sacrifice

Beginning at sunset November 6th and all through November 7th, Eid Al Adha is being celebrated by Muslims world-wide. Eid Al Adha is the second of two feasts that occur after Ramadan. This feast is the biggest and most important holiday of the Muslim year and concludes the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca and one of the five pillars of Islam.

Significant to Eid Al Adha is the sacrifice of an animal. A goat, sheep, camel and sometimes even a cow, is sacrificed and cooked to perfection, a feast for family and friends.

While living in Egypt our children had yearly experiences with Eid Al Adha that included a deep and lasting attachment to sheep. Every year a sheep was purchased by our neighbors and made it’s home in our stairwell. In the absence of a household pet, our children bonded with the sheep, delighted with the friendly “baa” that greeted us every time we came and went from our apartment. All the while my husband and I knew that this sheep was being held and fattened in anticipation of the Feast of Sacrifice. The leftover vegetables on our stairwell were indicative that this would be one fat sheep to slaughter. And so the day would inevitably arrive. The stairwell was silent as our children trooped downstairs. “Where’s the sheep? What happened to the sheep”. Every year the questions were the same.

As parents we were in a predicament. Not only did we know that the “pet” sheep had been sacrificed, we knew that we would be offered tasty meat from our neighbor’s kitchen later in the day. What do you tell your kids? Well, you tell them the truth. That it was never their pet, and that our family would be invited to share a feast with people who have graciously invited us to witness and celebrate something that means a great deal to them, and includes the sheep.

When you are raising children in a country where you are graciously received as a guest, you learn valuable lessons of what is important. As guests in the country of Egypt, we were treated kindly despite our frequent mistakes and gaffes in both language and culture. My own parents had modeled well respect and love for their adopted country of Pakistan so it was not difficult to remember what the bottom line was — and that is relationships and loving your neighbor as yourself. Growing up in Pakistan I don’t remember big religious debates, but I do remember a lot of tea being served, a lot of laughter, and some wonderful talks. It was this that was important as we celebrated Eid Al Adha with our neighbors and friends. Sheep were going to come and go but our neighbors and friends? They would be staying.

A common theme of this blog is communicating beyond difference. Celebrating the religious feast of another can be a tremendous act of bridge building. I have been grateful for those who have wished me a Merry Christmas or a “Blessed Big Day” even though they do not hold to those truth claims. Today, if you have Muslims in your world, remember this important celebration and wish them well. Bridges aren’t built in a day, but one days actions can bring about huge steps toward understanding.

11 thoughts on “Eid Al Adha – Feast of Sacrifice

  1. I’m in 2012! I have just heard on the radio a thoughtful “Thought for the Day” from a man called Abdul Hakim, speaking not mainly of Abraham nor Ishmael , but of Hagar and her courage and how God provided for her, a foreign single mother and her child. It seems she is specially commemorated at some stage during Haj.

    Good to be reminded in these hard, selfish times of our common humanity and also of God’s care for the marginalised.

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    1. Hi Rebecca! No – we are in the US. Our daughter is living there finishing up a masters degree. We go visit in a month. Very excited. Have been back several times but would live to live in that area again.

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  2. “Sheep were going to come and go but our neighbors and friends? They would be staying.”

    I am in love with this entire piece.

    It is one of the places where I think the United States is blowing it in terms of education. Sure, we know that Muslims are having a holiday… but we cannot really ask or learn about this (or any other holiday), its significance historically and what it means to people today — because we cannot dialogue about religion in our public schools.

    And what a missed opportunity.

    I’m so glad you and your children had that experience of living abroad.

    I wish everyone could so that we could all experience someone else’s worldview for a time.

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    1. Thanks so much for reading. I love hearing your perspective as a teacher – I have often thought exactly the same thing. What a great thing it would be if there could be a dialogue about religion in public schools and seeing through the lens of others. I think it would help kids, and adults, move beyond being just aware and sensitive of difference and actually gaining knowledge in order to function more effectively and learn how to articulate our beliefs. Missed opportunity indeed.

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  3. I am sure you must have learnt of the significance of the sacrifice Marilyn in Pakistan. It is related to Abraham and Ishmael. God asked Abraham to sacrifice what was dearest to him and his son was dearest to him. So Abraham led Ishmael to be sacrificed. In the Bible I think you have a similar story but with Issac. At the last moment when Abraham is about to sacrifice his son he is substituted by a ram.
    This is the sacrifice that Eid ul Adha commemorates.
    What is important to remember, is not the differences in our religions, but the strong faith of Abraham, that was willing to do anything that God asked of him. This is what we actually remember and celebrate on this Eid.
    In the Quran God asks Abraham and Ishmael to rebuild the Ka’aba in Mecca. There is a place called the place of Abraham or Maqaamey Ibrahim where Abraham prayed and even today we pray on the very same spot before the Ka’aba.
    During the Haj many rites are directly related to Abraham.
    As we Christians and Muslims both believe in what are basically Abrahamic faiths, I think this moment of remembering the depth of the faith that Abraham had in God, is something we all can reflect upon.
    Thanks for posting this, and Eid Mubarak to you too.

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    1. Thanks so much for commenting Pari – I know many readers are not aware of what Eid al Adha commemorates so I know many will appreciate learning. I hope you had a wonderful Eid.

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  4. Oh, Marilyn, such memories your blog sends flooding back! I’m most of all thankful that you have such positive memories from your childhood. I also remember some people in America asking, “How can you bring your children up in a country like Pakistan?” So thank you. Later today we’ll be wishing our friends at the Mall Eid Mubarak!

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    1. Someone told me once that the reason they read my blog is that they never know where I’m going to go. Cliff told me I should have named it “All Over the Map”. I think, just as faith is paramount to my life, so is it paramount to people with other beliefs. If I am not willing to listen to their claims of truth, why should they be willing to listen to mine. Does that make sense? Thanks for reading and responding!

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