Every year Muslims all over the world celebrate two major festivals called Eid-ul-Fitr (lesser Eid) and Eid-ul-Adha (greater Eid). While Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of the month of Ramadan (wherein Muslims all around the world fast from sunrise to sunset for a whole month), Eid-ul-Adha or greater Eid marks the end of Hajj, the sacred pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. It is customary for a Muslim, whoever is capable of doing so, (according to the Five Pillars of Islam) to perform Hajj, at least once in their lifetime. This major festival, also called as the Festival of Sacrifice, commemorates the selfless act of Prophet Ibrahim or Abraham, when he agreed to sacrifice his only son Ismail or Ishmael to the one Almighty Allah (Exalted is He). And so, Muslims all over the world offer a sheep or a goat or a camel or a ram as sacrifice to the one God.
Not many people know that Eid-ul-Adha is celebrated for a great reason and that there is a hugely inspiring story behind the same – the story of Prophet Abraham. So, if, as a non-Muslim, you wonder why Muslims sacrifice or slaughter an animal on this occasion, let me tell you the story behind the greatest Islamic festival…
Also read: Eid time means sheer khurma and phirni time!
Abraham was a man of righteousness, who always asked questions, was very clever, and always helped the needy. Most of the people during his time, would worship idols and Abraham would not agree with them. He did not find it logical to worship idols that were made by man himself. Abraham had a very high concept of God. And unlike some other people of his time, he did not believe that God could do just anything as He pleases according to his arbitrary Will and nobody could question it. He did not have such a low concept of God. He knew and believed that God’s Will is always good and perfect in every way. God had promised him that he would be the father of many nations and kings, and that he would be blessed with a son soon. Although this made him happy, Abraham was concerned about how he would give birth to a son since he was old and his wife Sarah was barren. Yet he believed in the purity and omnipotence of God and trusted His promise. And it so happened, that Sarah asked Abraham to marry their servant Hajar and Ismail was born.
Ismail was the heir of Abraham and he loved his son very much. He was ever thankful to God for fulfilling His promise. But one night (when Ismail was almost a teenager), Abraham had a dream. He dreamt that Almighty God Allah told him to sacrifice his only son Ismail. Abraham thought that it was just Satan playing tricks on him. However, he saw the same dream again the next night. Then he knew that it was surely Allah Who had commanded that he sacrifice Ismail for His sake. Abraham was a man of reason and he knew that Allah would only command such a thing, having a good reason backing it. He also believed in Allah’s previous promise of him being father of many nations. So even though he loved his son Ismail dearly, he trusted Allah and agreed to sacrifice his only son. Indeed, he was unaware that Allah was simply testing his faith.
When Abraham related his dream to Ismail, he willingly agreed to be sacrificed in the name of Almighty Allah. Ismail too, was a righteous man and was to later become a great prophet. When the time came to sacrifice Ismail, Abraham blindfolded himself, so he would not have to see his only son being sacrificed. Then he did what he was commanded. But as soon as he opened his eyes, to his amazement he saw that his son Ismail was standing by his side and where he had sacrificed, lay a dead ram! Abraham was terrified for a moment, as he thought that he had disobeyed God. But then God spoke to Abraham and said that he need not worry as he and his son had passed a very difficult test. And God was pleased with them and that God looks after His creation.
Also read: Stylish ways to wear a scarf
And it is to commemorate this outstanding and unselfish act of faith and sacrifice, that Muslims all over the world sacrifice a lamb, goat, ram or camel in the name of Allah Almighty on the occasion of Eid-ul-Adha. Two-thirds of the meat of the sacrificial animal is to be given to friends, neighbours and the needy.