Eid ul Adha (عيد الأضحى) is the second holiday in Islam, the first being Eid ul Fitr. While Eid ul Fitr marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, Eid ul Adha is celebrated in commemoration of the Great act of sacrifice exhibited by the Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and his son Ismail, when the Prophet expressed his willingness to sacrifice his beloved son on the Command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.

Eid ul Adha is celebrated on the 10th of Dhul Hajj, the last month of the Islamic Almanac. Unlike Eid ul Fitr, which lasts for only one day, the celebrations of Eid ul Adha continue for 3 days, as far as the main event of sacrificing animals is concerned. Slaughtering of sacrificial animals is allowed to be done till sunset on the 12th of Dhul Hajj. Eid ul Adha is an Arabic term that means “festival of sacrifice” or “feast of sacrifice.” Other names of this event, popular in different Islamic Countries, are Eid-e-Qurban (عيد قربان) and Greater Eid (العيد لكبير).

The Two Islamic Holidays

One of the close companions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, Anas Bin Malik, narrated that after migration from Mecca to Medina, the Prophet observed that the people of Medina celebrated two holidays, where they used to enjoy and entertain themselves. 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).

Since then, Muslims worldwide have been observing two Holidays every year. The first holiday is observed on the 1st of Shawwal, at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The second holiday falls on the 10th of Dhul Hajj, the highlight of which is the slaughtering of animals.

What is Eid?

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.

Two types of festivity are observed in different parts of the world, one being the national festival day, commonly referred to as National Day, and the other being a Religious Festivity, a religious event in different Religions. The most popular examples of religious festivities are Christmas in Christianity and the two Eids in Islam.

Slaughtering Animals on Eid ul Adha – Historical Background

Slaughtering of sacrificial animals on Eid ul Adha is not without a reason. It is done to commemorate the historic act of sacrifice by the Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. That’s why it is also referred to as the Sunnah of Ibrahim.

It is believed that the Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ repeatedly had a dream where he was urged to slaughter his beloved son Ismail.  He shared these dreams with his son, who, without any hesitation, asked him to fulfill this divine dream and expressed his willingness to be sacrificed in fulfillment of the Will and Command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.

So, when both father and son reached the consensus that it is the Will of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, they prepared themselves for this historic event. When the Prophet was about to slaughter his son, their act got Divine acceptance. At this supreme moment, the Archangel Gabriel suddenly appeared on the site with a lamb, brought from the Heavens, and asked Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ to slaughter it instead of his son.

This great act of sacrifice is narrated in verses 100 to 109 of Surah As-Saffat:

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.

Almighty Allah so liked this act of sacrifice that it was made compulsory for Muslims to slaughter animals to recall this historic event. Muslims all over the world celebrate Eid ul Adha by slaughtering different sacrificial animals, such as lamb, sheep, goat, bull, camel, or cow. Since the bull, cow, and camel are relatively large animals, seven persons can share in their slaughtering, whereas the sheep, lamb, and goat can be slaughtered singly by each person.

The Festival of Sacrifice

The festival of sacrifice, Eid ul Adha, starts with a special prayer, the Eid Salah, which comprises two units. This special prayer is offered immediately after sunrise, preferably in open places. However, depending on the local conditions and limitations, it can also be performed in Mosques.

The highlight of the festival of sacrifice is the slaughtering of sacrificial animals. The correct and best time to perform this ritual slaughtering is after the Eid Prayers. This has been explicitly clarified 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, 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.”

Traditionally, the preferred day for slaughtering animals is the 10th of Dhul Hajj. However, it is also allowed to do so until before sunset on the 12th of Dhul Hajj.

Celebrations of the Festival of Sacrifice

Once the basic obligations of offering Eid Prayers and performing ritual slaughtering are done, Muslims are free to enjoy this religious holiday per their local cultural and traditional norms. However, Muslims are bound to observe the religious bindings and ethics while enjoying and entertaining themselves.

Cultural and social activities on this day largely depend on the local traditions. However, some of the main activities are common throughout the Islamic world. Here are some of them:

  • Preferably wearing new clothes. However, if it is impossible, they wear the best of their available dresses on this occasion.
  • Special arrangements are made for special and best dresses and shoes for women and kids.
  • Meet and greet each other. Special gatherings of friends, families, and community members are also managed.
  • Visiting close relatives and friends with families.
  • Making special festive meals for the guests.
  • Exchange of gifts between families.
  • Visiting recreation parks with kids and families.
  • Visiting graveyards is also quite common today, especially in South Asian Countries such as Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.

Sunnahs on the Festival of Sacrifice (Eid ul Adha)

Following the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is the most popular act with Muslims across the Islamic world. Here are some of the most popular Sunnahs observed on Eid ul Adha:

  • Offer regular Fajr Prayers.
  • Perform Islamic baths (Ghusl).
  • Wear the best of your clothes, preferably the new ones.
  • Apply perfume on your clothes and body.
  • 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 place of offering Eid Prayers.
  • Take different routes from home to the place of Eid Prayers and back home.
  • Listen to the Eid Khutba delivered by the Imam.
  • Meet and greet each other after the Eid Prayers.
  • Say Eid Mubarak to each other.
  • Slaughter sacrificial animal after Eid Prayers. Do not do this before Eid Prayers.
  • Divide the slaughtered meat into three equal parts.
  • One-third of the sacrificial meat should be distributed among the poor near you.
  • The second portion of the meat is for extended family members and neighbors, especially those who cannot slaughter animals for various reasons.
  • The third part of the sacrificial meat is for your consumption.

Conclusion

The festival of sacrifice, commonly referred to as Eid ul Adha is of second of the two religious holidays in Islam, the first being Eid ul Fitr. Observing religious or national holidays is a common practice across all countries and religions. These are the occasions when people can have fun and enjoy their day with families and friends.

The two Islamic holidays also provide opportunities for Muslims to celebrate, enjoy, and entertain themselves. However, being Muslim, they are expected not to violate any of their religious obligations. So, the day of the festival of sacrifice allows them to celebrate per their local traditions and culture but they have to fulfill the religious obligations as well.

The day starts with a regular Fajr Prayer and a special Eid prayer. Subsequently, the ritual slaughtering has to be done. But while having fun and entertainment on this day, they should never forget to perform the regular daily prayers and other worships as per their routine.