Eid al Adha, loosely translated as the “festival of sacrifice”, is the second of two main religious “holidays” for Muslims. This day has multiple levels of meaningfulness. For us, this day honors the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), peace be upon him, to sacrifice his young first born son, Ismail (Ishmael), as an act of submission to Allah’s command, as well as Ismail’s willingness to be sacrificed by his father. Allah stopped Ibrahim and gave him a sheep to sacrifice instead. Muslims who can afford to will sacrifice a sheep and the meat would be distributed in 3 equal portions: 1 portion for the family of the person who performed the sacrifice, 1 portion for friends/relatives and 1 portion for the poor.
Muslims would go for Eid prayers in the morning at a mosque or a designated area. We will also recite the Takbir – loosely equivalent to “praises”. Halfway across the world, those on Hajj – or pilgrimage – would be doing the same, finishing a crescendo of the main bulk of Hajj physically and mentally demanding, but spiritually rejuvenating rituals they have been performing over the course of a week, rendering those whose pilgrimage was accepted as sincere, sinless, like a newborn baby.
I too joined in the celebrations that morning at the Islamic Center in Washington D.C., with mixed feelings. Sombre and full of repent over the weakness of my 23 year old soul. Yet, the day was purposeful as those who managed to fast the day (or days) before were promised great “rewards”.
The mosque is just beautifully decorated and the smell of musk and sweet Arab incense and the East-African architecture made me feel like I was in Fez, Morocco. Okay, maybe because there were many East Africans here. I struggled in conversations with what little Arabic I knew but the experience reminded me of my small pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. Everyone sat together, I was next to some Indonesian politicians; a secretary struggled to get his photo – I hope I was in the same frame. After a few short conversations with foreign service officers from different countries and a joke about how my Arabic sounded like I read from a children’s story book, Reza and I went out to eat an African rice dish given out for free to mosque visitors, Muslims as well as non-Muslims. We then walked down to Dupont Circle for some cake.
Eid al Adha is a day that holds deep meaning for Muslims who seek a relationship with their creator. Below is a video of the Takbir we recited: