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Asking the Clergy: Why is Eid al-Adha an important Muslim observance?

From left, Faroque A. Khan of Interfaith Institute

From left, Faroque A. Khan of Interfaith Institute of Long Island, Mahmood Kauser of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and Sultan Abdulhameed of Muslim Reform Movement Organization at Brookville Multifaith Campus. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas; Mahmood Kauser; Linda Rosier

Muslims around the world will be celebrating Eid al-Adha for three days beginning on July 19 or 20 (depending on the visibility of the moon) with pilgrimages to Mecca or at home with social gatherings and prayer. This week’s clergy discuss how Eid al-Adha, which commemorates the Prophet Abraham’s sacrifice to God, unifies people of their faith.

Sultan Abdulhameed

Muslim Reform Movement Organization, Brookville Multifaith Campus

Eid-al Adha is a remembrance of Prophet Abraham, who offered to sacrifice his son Ishmael for God, but God accepted a ram instead. Abraham and Ishmael built the Kabaa, the cube-shaped temple in Mecca for the worship of one God.

Once a year Muslims from around the world gather in Mecca for the hajj pilgrimage. They take part in rituals over several days related to Abrahams’s life. Previously between 2 million and 3 million Muslims went for hajj, but attendance was restricted last year because of the pandemic. Eid al Adha is celebrated at the conclusion of hajj.

Everyone at hajj sacrifices an animal, such as a sheep or cow, to commemorate Abraham’s deep faith in offering to sacrifice his son for the sake of God and God’s mercy toward him. Millions of cattle are raised for this purpose annually and brought to Saudi Arabia. Following tradition, many Muslims around the world also sacrifice cattle to observe Eid-al-Adha. Several tens of millions of animals are sacrificed on that day worldwide. This is of environmental concern because raising cattle is a significant source of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

We have to find ways to reconcile tradition with the threat of climate change.

Mahmood Kauser

Imam, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community with mosques in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Amityville

During Eid al-Adha, more than 2 million people from around the world travel to Mecca, a desert city in Saudi Arabia, dressed in white garb, supplicating and chanting "God is the greatest, God is the greatest." They enter the sacred mosque, circling the Holy Kabaa, the most sacred site in Islam, with a single aspiration: to meet their Lord in this very life, to unite with the world in praising the divine.

Nearly 2 billion fellow Muslims across the globe also join in this celebration by chanting the same words with sacrificial offerings in hand. The Kabaa is the unifying center for the Muslim world, not because it possesses anything special in its brick and mortar, but because a single location unites all of humanity. Eid al-Adha is an extension of the hajj (pilgrimage), one of the largest and oldest unaltered single religious traditions on the planet.

The origins of the Kabaa, hajj and Eid begin with the story of Abraham, his wife, Hagar, and their son, Ishmael. They stand as a unique demonstration of love and sacrifice for the sole purpose of uniting family, neighborhoods and the world at large with the greatest love of all: that of God himself.

Faroque A. Khan

Chairman, Interfaith Institute of Long Island

Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, is a three-day festival that culminates the hajj — one of the five pillars of Islam — by recalling the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael in obedience to God’s command. Hajj symbolizes the simplicity of the faith and the belief in Islam that everybody is created equal. All men are dressed in two pieces of white cloth emphasizing the equality of all.

This holiday is celebrated during the 12th month of the Islamic Hijri calendar. After the completion of hajj, pilgrims are required to sacrifice an animal as an act of thanksgiving for God’s mercy. The meat is distributed equally among the poor, neighbors and family. Muslims in the United States and globally who are not performing hajj celebrate Eid al-Adha with prayers and social gatherings.

The Eid al-Adha morning prayer services on Long Island and beyond attract thousands of Muslims. Many Muslims of various heritages wear traditional clothes and share their national dishes. It is a time for prayer, sharing meals, handing out gifts to children, wishing one another well and sharing the meat from sacrifices with extended family and those in need.

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