Every nation has particular days of celebrations, commonly called National Day. Similarly, there are also some religious celebrations in almost every religion. Celebrations are an essential part of the life of a society or community. It may be a religious activity, such as Christmas, a day of religious celebrations for the Christian community. Or it may be a National Day, such as Pakistan Day, celebrated on the 23rd of March every year in Pakistan.

Likewise, Islam has two religious events celebrated across the Muslim community. The first holiday is Eid al-Fitr and the second is Eid al-Adha. The first Islamic celebration marks the end of the month of fasting (Ramadan). In contrast, the second one is celebrated to recall the great sacrificial act of Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, when he devotedly expressed his willingness to sacrifice his beloved son Ismail عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, on the Will and Command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. This historical religious event falls on the 10th day of Dhul Hajj, the last month of the Islamic Calendar.

The Concept of Eid in Islam

Eid is an Arabic word (عيد) that can be translated as “Festival,” “Feast,” “Day of Assembly,” or “Day of Feast.” The idea behind it is to provide an opportunity for people to celebrate a day of festivity, where they can have fun and entertainment and get together with families and friends.

As narrated by one of the close companions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, Anas Ibn Malik, when the Prophet migrated from Mecca and settled in Medina, he observed that the people of Medina used to celebrate two days of festivity and entertainment. On that occasion, the Prophet declared that Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى has marked two days of compulsory festivity for Muslims, the first being Eid al-Fitr (عِيدُ الْفِطْرِ or العيد الصغير), while the other is Eid al-Adha (عيد الأضحى or العيد الكبير).

Accordingly, the days of these two Eids were fixed as the 1st of Shawwal and the 10th of Dhul Hajj, for Eid-al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, respectively. Muslims are urged to celebrate and enjoy these two Eids while observing the religious norms and limitations.

Historical Background of Eid al-Adha

The history of Eid al-Adha and the slaughtering of sacrificial animals on this day dates back to the era of the Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ had a beloved son named Ismail. When Ismail was a young boy, Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ had a series of similar dreams where he saw himself sacrificing his beloved son Ismail. Being a Prophet, he realized the importance of these dreams and was convinced that these dreams were the Will of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, Commanding him to sacrifice his son. He shared his dreams with his son Ismail, who instantly agreed and offered himself to be sacrificed to fulfill the Will and Command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.

Eventually, Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ took his son along and laid him down to slaughter him. At this historical moment, Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى accepted his devotion and obedience and willingness to sacrifice his most beloved son in the name of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. Being pleased with the act of his servant Ibrahim, Allah sent a lamb from the heavens and Commanded Ibrahim to slaughter it instead of his beloved son.

The entire event is beautifully narrated in the Quran, in Surah As-Saffat, in verses 100 to 112:

Translation

(And he prayed:) “O Lord, grant me a righteous son.”

So We gave him the good news of a clement son.

When he was old enough to go about with him, he said: “O my son, I dreamt that I was sacrificing you. Consider, what you think?” He replied: “Father, do as you are commanded. If God pleases you will find me firm.”

When they submitted to the will of God, and (Abraham) laid (his son) down prostrate on his temple,

We called out: “O Abraham,

You have fulfilled your dream.” Thus do We reward the good.

That was indeed a trying test.

So We ransomed him for a great sacrifice,

And left (his hallowed memory) for posterity.

Peace be on Abraham.

That is how We reward those who do good.

He is truly among Our faithful creatures.

So, We gave him the good news of Isaac, apostle, who is among the righteous.

So, in memory of this historic and great sacrifice of the Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, Muslims celebrate this day as Eid al-Adha.  They also slaughter sacrificial animals to commemorate the historic sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim and his beloved son Ismail on this day, the 10th of Dhul Hajj.

Rituals on the Day of Eid al-Adha

Like every other religious event in Islam, Eid al-Adha has some rituals that Muslims must perform. The day starts with a special or additional prayer comprising two units (Rakah), known as Salat al-Eid al Adha. This special prayer must be performed in open places but can also be done in Mosques, depending on the local conditions.

After this prayer, the most significant part of Eid Al-Adha starts: the slaughtering of sacrificial animals in commemoration of the great act of sacrifice by the Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. The correct sequence of events on this day is to offer Eid Prayers first and then slaughter the animals. Slaughtering the animals before Eid Prayers is not allowed. This is explained in Hadith number 5545 of Sahih al-Bukhari.

Translation – Narrated Al-Bara:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said (on the day of Idal-Adha), “The first thing we will do on this day of ours, is to offer the (`Id) prayer and then return to slaughter the sacrifice. Whoever does so, he acted according to our Sunna (tradition), and whoever slaughtered (the sacrifice) before the prayer, what he offered was just meat he presented to his family, and that will not be considered as Nusak (sacrifice).” (On hearing that) Abu Burda bin Niyar got up, for he had slaughtered the sacrifice before the prayer, and said, “I have got a six month old ram.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, ‘Slaughter it (as a sacrifice) but it will not be sufficient for any-one else (as a sacrifice after you). Al-Bara’ added: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Whoever slaughtered (the sacrifice) after the prayer, he slaughtered it at the right time and followed the tradition of the Muslims.”

Though it is preferable to perform ritual slaughtering on the 10th of Dhul Hajj, it can be done on the 11th and 12th of Dhul Hajj as well.

Importance of Eid ul Adha

As explained above, Eid al-Adha, along with Eid al-Fitr, is a special occasion for Muslims. It was awarded to them by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ on the Command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى as a festive event. In fact, both these Eid are gifts for Muslims.

The importance of Eid al-Adha is based on various facts, some of which are summarized here:

  • It was fixed as a day of celebrations for Muslims by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
  • It is celebrated in the memory of the great sacrificial act of Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ
  • It reminds us of the devotion, obedience, and willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ to sacrifice the most beloved one in the name of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى to please Him.
  • It reminds us of the obedience and willingness of Prophet Ismail عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, who did not hesitate to offer himself to be slaughtered so his father may fulfill the Command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.
  • Eid al-Adha allows us to fulfill one of the important religious obligations of helping and feeding the poor and needy. One-third of the slaughtered meat must be distributed among the poor and needy segment of the community. So, it is an important event for Muslims in this respect.
  • Being a festive occasion, it also allows us to meet and greet each other, especially the extended family and friends.
  • This day is celebrated and enjoyed by every Muslim living in different parts of the world, per their local traditions, but essentially observing the norms and limitations of Islam.

Eid ul Adha – Sunnahs

Like any other religious event, Muslims would like to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Here are some of the Sunnah acts that we need to follow on this day:

  • Perform regular Fajr Prayers per your local time zone.
  • Clean your teeth, following the Sunnah using miswak.
  • Perform Islamic baths (Ghusl).
  • Wear the best of your clothes, preferably new ones. However, if new clothes are not available, you should use your existing clothes after properly cleaning and washing them.
  • Apply perfume on your clothes and body.
  • Do not eat before Eid Prayers.
  • Recite takbeer (اَللهُ أَكْبَرُ ، اَللهُ أَكْبَرُ، اَللهُ أَكْبَرُ، لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللهُ ، وَاللهُ أَكْبَرُ، اَللهُ أَكْبَرُ، وَلِلَّهِ الْحَمْدُ) on your way to and from the Eidgah (the place of offering Eid Prayers).
  • Take different routes from your home to the place of Eid Prayers and back home.
  • Listen to the Eid Khutba delivered by the Imam.
  • Meet and greet each other while saying Eid Mubarak.
  • Slaughter sacrificial animal after offering Eid Prayers. This is very important, as explained above. Slaughtering the animal is not allowed before offering Eid Prayers.
  • Divide the slaughtered meat into three equal parts: one for the poor and needy, the second for those neighbors or family members who could not perform slaughtering of animals for any reason, and the third for your consumption.

Conclusion

Eid al-Adha is a festive, as well as a religious occasion for Muslims. Both the Eids, Eid al-Fitr, and Eid al-Adha were awarded as the two days of festivity by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ so that the Muslims may celebrate and entertain themselves in an Islamic way.

The day is highlighted by the special Eid prayers, followed by the slaughtering of sacrificial animals, to commemorate the historic event of the great sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim, when he exhibited his obedience and devotion to fulfill the Command of Allah to sacrifice his most beloved son Ismail. Muslims worldwide celebrate this day following their local traditions while observing their religious obligations.