Eid al-Adha, considered the more sacrosanct of the two Eids commemorated by Muslims — the other being Eid al-Fitr, at the end of the month-long period of fasting in Ramadan — is the second major religious holiday celebrated by Muslims around the world in sublime reverence and accompanied by ritual offerings.

Symbolizing the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, Ismail, in obedience to God’s command, Eid al-Adha comes from compounding the two words, ‘Eid’, which means festival, feast or celebration, and ‘Adha’, which denotes oblation, sacrifice or offering.

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

In commemoration of God’s intervention, animals, usually sheep,but also cow, goat or camel depending on the region, are sacrificed ritually during Eid al-Adha. Traditionally, one third of the sacrificial meat is partaken by the family offering the sacrifice, a part is kept for family and friends, while the remaining is distributed to the poor and needy so that they too can participate in this holiest of events.

Extending over a period of three to four days, the holiday begins on the 10th day of the Islamic lunar month of Dhu al-Hijjah, and is of special significance as the Day of Sacrifice marks the climax of Hajj or Pilgrimage, the fifth pillar of Islam. This annual pilgrimage to Makkah and Madinah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an obligation for every able-bodied and financially capable man and woman to undertake once in their lifetime.

The first day of Eid al-Adha begins with Muslims donning new clothes and visiting the local mosque or congregation ground for a communal prayer, or alāt, at dawn. In many parts of the world, Muslims greet each other on this day by saying “Eid Mubarak”, an Arabic form of greeting meaning ‘Blessed Eid’ and donate to charities on the day. It is customary for extended families to visit each other during these holidays, partake in feasts and exchange gifts and sweets to mark the occasion.

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