Eid-al-Adha (عيدالأضحى) is also called the Hajj festival, Feast of the sacrifice, the Greater Eid and Eid e Qurban. It is the second religious holiday in the Islamic calendar and is celebrated by Muslims all over the world. The Hajj festival is commemorated by many Muslims with a pilgrimage to Mecca during the Hajj week. It is said that this is the largest gathering of Muslims in the world every year.
Significance of Hajj
It happened around four thousand years ago. Ibrahim (a prophet and apostle of Allah) was instructed by God to bring his wife Hagar and baby son Ishmael to Arabia from Canaan. Ibrahim had been asked by God to leave them in the desert. Leaving a large quantity of food and water he sadly left them behind and returned to Canaan. After their supplies diminished a desperate Hagar ran up and down between the two hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah seven times before collapsing with exhaustion and praying to God for help. Miraculously a spring of water gushed out from the earth at baby Ishmael’s feet. (Some records say that Angel Gabriel struck the earth and caused the spring to flow.) This was more than enough to provide for their needs, and today this well is known as the Zamzam Well.
Several years later, Ibrahim, on God’s instructions, returned to this place and built a stone and mortar structure known as the Ka’aba, to be a place of worship for Muslims to strengthen their faith. Centuries later, this site – Mecca, has become a thriving desert city thanks in no small part to this reliable water source, the Zamzam Well.
The Hajj festival also celebrates another very important occurrence during the life of Ibrahim. Allah appeared to him in a dream, requesting him to sacrifice the life of his own beloved son Ishmael as an act of submission to God’s command. Ibrahim as well as his son Ishmael willingly prepared to carry out this act. At the very last minute, God’s intervention saw a lamb being sacrificed instead.
The Hajj pilgrimage
The pilgrimage to Mecca is thought to date back centuries to the time of Ibrahim. It is one of the five pillars of Islam and is considered a religious duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to embark on at least once in his or her lifetime. The pilgrimage is a sign of both the solidarity among Muslims, as well as their submission to the will of Allah.
The Hajj pilgrimage includes several rituals that are performed by the thousands coming to Mecca for this purpose. Each one walks around the Ka’aba, (the cube-shaped building which Muslims turn to for their direction of prayer) seven times in a counter-clockwise direction. He / She would then run back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, drink from the Zamzam Well, stand on the plains of Mount Arafat in vigil and throw stones in a ritual known as ‘stoning of the devil’. Afterwards the pilgrims shave their heads and perform an animal sacrifice.
Eid-al Adha in Sri Lanka
On this festival day Muslims pray and visit the Mosque to listen to a sermon. Family members dress up in new clothes and visit relatives and friends. Giving money to poorer families in the community is also considered a good deed, enabling them to join in the celebrations.
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