Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of Sacrifice,” signifies the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim, known as Abraham in Christianity and Judaisim, to sacrifice his son, Ismail as ordered by Allah. It is one of Islam’s most important holidays.

Usually lasting three to four days, and celebrated by millions of Muslims worldwide, the holiday begins on the 10th day of the Muslim calendar lunar month of Dhul-Hijja, at the time of Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. In the United States, Eid al-Adha 2021 is predicted to begin around July 19 or 20 (depending on sightings of the moon), and will end with the culmination of Hajj a few days later.

Considered the holiest of the two Eids, the other being Eid al-Fitr, or “Festival of Breaking the Fast,” that commemorates the end of Ramadan, it is one of two major Muslim holidays celebrated across the globe each year.

The Story of Eid al-Adha

In the Quran, Ibrahim has a dream in which Allah commands him to sacrifice his son, Ismail, as a sign of obedience to God. In the writing, Shaytaan, or Satan attempts to confuse Ibrahim and tempt him to not go through with the act, but Ibrahim drives him away.

However, as Ibrahim is about to kill Ismail, Allah stops him, sending the Angel Jibreel, or Gabriel, with a ram to sacrifice instead. The commemoration of the Adha, which is Arabic for sacrifice, takes place on the final day of the Hajj pilgrimage, the fifth pillar of Islam.

How Eid al-Adha Is Celebrated

Because Ibrahim was allowed to sacrifice a ram instead of his son, Eid al-Adha is traditionally celebrated on its first day, by those with means to do so, with the symbolic sacrifice of a lamb, goat, cow, camel or other animal that is then divided into threes to be shared equally among family, friends and the needy.

Muslim worshippers typically perform a communal prayer, or ṣalāt, at dawn on the first day of the festival, attend Mosque, donate to charities and visit with family and friends, also exchanging gifts.

The Hajj and Ka’bah

Prayers in Kaaba in Mecca.

Muslim worshippers pray around the Ka'bah, the holiest shrine in the Grand Mosque complex in the Saudi city of Mecca.

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Eid al-Adha is celebrated on the final day of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, in western Saudi Arabia. All Muslims able to do so are asked to make the five-day Hajj journey at least once in their lifetime, and 2 million do so each year.

At Mecca, worshippers visit the Ka'bah shrine, Islam’s most important monument, in the Grand Mosque. Also known as the "Black Stone," the Ka’bah is believed to have been constructed by Ibrahim and Ismail. Pilgrims also visit the Jamarat Bridge, where Ibrahim was believed to have thrown stones at the devil.

How Is Eid al-Adha Different from Eid al-Fitr?

In Arabic, “Eid” means festival or feast and there are two major “Eids” celebrated by Muslims.

The first, Eid al-Fitr, Arabic for "festival of the breaking of the fast," occurs at the end of Ramadan, a month-long period when Muslims fast daily from sunrise to sunset. Also known as Sawm, it is also one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith. Ramadan marks the month Allah revealed the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad.

Eid al-Adha, generally considered the holier of the two Eid festivals, takes place about two months after Eid al-Fitr at the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. The dates of both holidays are the same every year according to the Islamic lunar calendar. The Western 365-day Gregorian calendar is about 11 days longer, causing the dates to change each year.

Sources

What is Eid ul-Adha? BBC Bitesize

Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha: Why are there two Eids? BBC

Eid al-Adha: Muslims Around the World Celebrate Holy Festival, The New York Times

Here’s what you need to know about Eid al-Adha, one of Islam’s biggest holidays, CNN

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