Eid al-Adha is coming Celebrating the Festival of Sacrifice [Archives:2005/808/Culture]

January 17 2005

By Adel Al-Khawlani
[email protected]
Yemen Times Staff

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 Mecca in order to worship Allah.

The Festival of Sacrifice, Eid-al-Adha, immediately follows the Day of Arafat. Although only the pilgrims in Mecca can participate in the Hajj fully, all the other Muslims in the world join with them by celebrating Eid Al-Adha, or “Celebration of Sacrifice.”

On this day, Muslims around the world celebrate this feast of commitment, obedience and self sacrifice to Allah. This festival is celebrated throughout the Muslim world as a commemoration of Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice everything for God, including the life of his son Ishmael.

Because God spared Ishmael, substituting a sheep in his stead, Muslims commemorate this occasion by slaughtering an animal and distributing its meat among family, friends and the needy as a special act of charity for the occasion. Because of this, many poor Muslims are able to enjoy the unusual luxury of eating meat during the four days of the festival.

They wear their nicest clothes and attend Salatul-Eid (Eid Prayer) in the morning. This is followed by a short sermon, after which everyone socializes. Next, people visit each other's homes and partake in festive meals with special dishes, beverages, and desserts. Children receive gifts and sweets on this happy occasion.

In addition, like the pilgrims in Makkah, the Muslims, who can afford to do so, offer domestic animals, usually sheep, as a symbol of Ibrahim's sacrifice. The meat is distributed for consumption to family, friends, and to the poor and needy.

While performing the duty of hajj (pilgrimage), pilgrims keep on uttering this verse from the Holy Quran: 'Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death are all for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds.' Qur'an 6:162

During the annual pilgrimage (Hajj) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Muslims remember and commemorate the trials and triumphs of the Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him). The Qur'an describes Abraham as follows:

“Surely Abraham was an example, obedient to Allah, by nature upright, and he was not of the polytheists. He was grateful for Our bounties. We chose him and guided him unto a right path. We gave him good in this world, and in the next he will most surely be among the righteous.” (Qur'an 16:120-121)

And “We made him (Abraham) pure in this world and in the hereafter; he is most surely among the righteous. When his Lord said to him, 'Submit,' he said, 'I submit myself to the Lord of the Worlds.'” (Qur'an 2:130-131)

One of Abraham's main trials was to face the command of Allah to kill his only son. Upon hearing this command, he prepared to submit to Allah's will. When he was all prepared to do it, Allah revealed to him that his “sacrifice” had already been fulfilled. He had shown that his love for his Lord superceded all others, that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dear to him in order to submit to Allah.

During this celebration, Muslims commemorate and remember this incident, by themselves slaughtering an animal such as a sheep, camel, or goat. This action is very often misunderstood by those outside the faith.

Allah has given us power over animals and allowed us to eat meat, but only if we pronounce His name at the solemn act of taking life. Muslims slaughter animals in the same way throughout the year. By saying the name of Allah at the time of slaughter, we are reminded that life is sacred.

The meat from the sacrifice of 'Eid al-Adha is mostly given away to others. One-third is eaten by immediate family and relatives, one-third is given away to friends, and one-third is donated to the poor an needy. The act symbolizes our willingness to give up things that are of benefit to us or close to our hearts, in order to follow Allah's commands.

It also symbolizes our willingness to give up some of our own bounties, in order to strengthen ties of friendship and help those who are in need. We recognize that all blessings come from Allah, and we should open our hearts and share with others.

It is very important to understand that the sacrifice itself, as practiced by Muslims, has nothing to do with atoning for our sins or using the blood to wash ourselves from sin. This is a misunderstanding by those of previous generations: “It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches Him.” (Surah Al-Hajj 22:37)

The symbolism is in the attitude – a willingness to make sacrifices in our lives in order to stay on the Straight Path. Each of us makes small sacrifices, giving up things that are fun or important to us. A true Muslim, one who submits his or herself completely to the Lord, is willing to follow Allah's commands completely and obediently. It is this strength of heart, purity in faith, and willing obedience that our Lord desires from us.

The traditions practiced in India seem to be similar to what is practiced in almost all the Muslim nations in terms of paying visits to friends and performing prayers and other rituals.

India is home to approximately 150 million Muslims who celebrate the Eid in the same way as their non-Indian brothers and sisters in faith. It is a very happy time which is marked by special prayers, visits to family and friends, gifts to children and, of course by food.

For many families, it may be one of the few times during the year that they have the opportunity to enjoy meat, and only the best dishes are served.

Some rules associated with the sacrifice

It is recommended by the Sunnah for the one who wants to offer a sacrifice, once the new moon of Dhul-Hijjah appears, not to remove anything from his hair, nails or skin, until he has offered the sacrifice, because of the report narrated by the group except Al-Bukhari, from Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her), that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “When you see the new moon of Dhul-Hijjah, if any one of you wants to offer a sacrifice, let him leave his hair and nails alone.”

A version narrated by Abu Dawud and Muslim says: “Whoever has an animal to slaughter, when the new moon of Dhul-Hijjah appears, let him not remove anything from his hair or nails until he has offered the sacrifice.” This applies whether he is going to slaughter the sacrifice himself or he has appointed someone else to do it; but with regard to those on whose behalf the sacrifice is being offered [i.e., his family etc], that is not recommended for them because there is no report to that effect.”

For the person on whose behalf the sacrifice is offered, there is no blame on him if he removes anything from his hair or nails. The evidence for that is as follows:

1. This is the apparent meaning of the hadith, which indicates that the restriction applies only to the one who is going to offer the sacrifice. Based on this, the restriction applies only to the head of the household, not to the members of his family, because the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) connected the ruling to the one who is going to offer the sacrifice, so what is understood is that this ruling does not apply to those on whose behalf the sacrifice is offered.

2. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to offer the sacrifice on behalf of his household and it is not narrated that he said to them, “Do not remove anything from your hair or nails or skin.” If that had been forbidden for them, the Prophet would have told them not to do it. This view is the more correct opinion.

Eid and unity are interrelated

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “You are supposed to fast with people, and celebrate the `Eid with them, and perform sacrifice with the people.” In other words, even if you have sighted the moon, and the imam or the leader did not take into account your testimony, and decided on other evidences that he deemed fit, you must go by his decisions, even though he may be mistaken.

Imams of Islamic schools have unanimously stated that we must follow the Arafa day declared by the leader of the hajj even if the basis of his decision were to be proven wrong. And our hajj would be valid only if we were to abide by the decision instead of acting individually.

Moreover, it is important for us to understand that the unity and solidarity of the Ummah can be demonstrated through these rituals of Islam, such as `Eid celebration, Ramdan, and Hajj, etc. are far more important than avoiding mistakes in such a matter.

Is the 'Ud-hiyah compulsory?

This question was forwarded by a person from Denmark named Adil to Sheikh Ahmad Kutty a Senior Lecturer and an Islamic Scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario Canada.

For this question, Sheikh Kutty gave the following answer:

“Ud-hiyah is strongly recommended according to the vast majority of scholars. Only a minority of scholars consider it as obligatory or wajib. However, this does not mean that we should neglect; it is a great Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and it has been handed down as a tradition by Prophet Ibrahim.

Most of the rituals of hajj and `Eid-ul-Adha revolve around the faith and sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim and Isma'il; therefore, every leader of the family who can afford to sacrifice should do so.”

What is the best time for sacrifice?

With regard to this question, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, former president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and member of the Fiqh Council of North America, answers:

“Offering Udhiyah (sacrifice) during `Eid Al-Adha is regarded as Wajib (mandatory) according to Imam Abu Hanifah and a as Sunnah Mu'akkadah (stressed Sunnah) according to other jurists.

All those people who have the Nisab (payable amount) of Zakah should offer a sacrifice. The time for offering a sacrifice begins after the `Eid Al-Adha prayer. According to a Hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said that whosoever offered a sacrifice before the `Eid prayer, he or she just slaughtered an animal for meat, but whosoever made sacrifice after the `Eid Al-Adha prayer, he or she has offered a sacrifice. (Al-Bukhari, Sahih, Hadith no. 902)

Udhiyah (sacrifice) is an act of worship ('ibadah). As we have the times of prayers so we also have time for making a sacrifice during `Eid Al-Adha. The time of sacrifice remains until sunset on the 12th day Dhul Hijjah. It is not required for the head of the household to offer a separate Qurbani (sacrifice) for every member of the house, rather one sacrifice would be sufficient for the whole family. However, if other members of family own the Nisab of Zakah, then they must offer their own sacrifice. One goat, lamb or sheep is on behalf of one person, but seven people can share in offering one cow or camel.

The Udhiyah is the Sunnah of Prophet Ibrahim, Prophet Ismail and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them all) It has a meaning and significance. It reminds us of the great act of sacrifice that Prophet Ibrahim and Ismail were willing to do for the sake of Almighty Allah. Allah spared the life of Prophet Ismail, but He told us that “And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice.” (As-Saffaat 37:107).

The “momentous sacrifice (dhibhin 'athim) is the sacrifice of the billions of people who have been remembering this tradition for the last four thousand years. Other people who claim to follow Prophet Ibrahim have forgotten this tradition, but we Muslims have kept it alive without any interruption. We must keep this Sunnah and should not forget it.

There is no substitute for Udhiyah. However, if one wants to offer a Nafl (non-obligatory) sacrifice on behalf of oneself or one's deceased parents or some other relatives, one has a choice either to make Udhiyah or give the price of the animal in charity.

The meat of the Udhiyah should be divided in three equal portions: one for oneself and the family, one for friends, and one for the poor and needy. If there are more poor people, then it is good to give all of it in charity to the poor and needy. In some countries around the world, people may not need the meat that much, but in others great numbers of people do not get meat.

In some cases It is, perhaps, better to give the money to some dependable relief organizations in order to make Udhiyah on one's behalf; and to distribute the meat among the poor and needy in poor countries and in countries where people are suffering due to wars, economic sanctions or natural disasters.”