What is Eid al Adha?
The Festival of the Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha) is one of two major Islamic celebrations and takes place on the tenth day of the Islamic month Dhul-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar.
Millions of Muslims from around the world make an annual pilgrimage to Makkah in order to worship Allah and to commemorate the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) to sacrifice his son Ismail in response to a command from God.
It was with a heavy heart that Ibrahim agreed to do so but was ready to show his commitment and loyalty to his Lord.
Ibrahim's son, Ismail, also recognised the importance of God's commandment and was happy to participate. Ibrahim drew his knife to slaughter his son but just as the knife drew near, God intervened and Ibrahim's child was replaced by a sheep.
Ibrahim was happy and relieved when he saw that his son was safe. God had asked him to sacrifice his son to test his faith and when Ibrahim proved that he was willing to do it, God did not need him to commit the slaughter of his own son, whom Ibrahim dearly loved.
The celebration of Eid al-Adha commemorates this event as Muslims all over the world sacrifice an animal during this Eid.
While pilgrims in Makkah re-enact this scene by slaughtering sheep of their own, Muslims who can afford it in the rest of the world also participate in this rite by slaughtering sheep, camels and cows.
One third of the meat is distributed to the poor, one third to neighbors and relatives while one third is kept by the person who offered the sacrifice for use within his or her own family.
This is done in the same period as the Hajj.
For Muslims, the Hajj is the fifth and final pillar of Islam.
Muslims believe the Prophet Ibrahim was told by Allah to build a shrine dedicated to him. Ibrahim and his son built a small stone structure (kaaba) which was to be the gathering place for all who wished to strengthen their faith in Allah.
In recent times the number of pilgrims making the journey to Mecca has risen dramatically and upwards of two million pilgrims are expected this year from as many as 70 nations.
Hajj takes place each year between the 8th and the 13th days of Dhul al-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Muslim lunar calendar.
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