The Feast of Sacrifice: What is Eid Al-Adha?


Muslims around the world are celebrating a unique occasion on 4 October this year – Eid Al-Adha. This joyous four-day celebration is like Christmas, Easter and other celebrations of the monotheistic Abrahamic religions.

Residents and citizens of Egypt are the unwilling victims of horrendous traffic jams leading up to the festivities, as Muslims from all walks of life flock to the streets in preparation for the feast.

Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba and pray at the Grand mosque during the annual hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca ( Photo: Reuters)

What is Eid Al-Adha?

“Say:  ‘Truly, my (salat) prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah the Cherisher of the Worlds (mankind and all that exists).” Qur’an 6:162

‘Eid’ is an Arabic word referring to a celebration that is repeated annually.

There are two great ‘Eid’ festivals in Islam, ‘Eid Al-Adha’ – Festival of Sacrifice, which occurs on the tenth day of the last month of the Muslim year ‘Thul Hijjah’ and coincides with the last day of the Hajj pilgrimage.

‘Eid Al-Fitr’ – Festival of Breaking the Fast occurs on the first day of the month of ‘Shawwal’ following the month of ‘Ramadan’.

However, the Festival of Sacrifice is also regarded as the ‘Eid Al-Kabeer’ – the Great Festival, while the other is known as ‘Eid Al-Sagheer’ – the Small Festival.

Biscuits specially for Eid

The twelfth month of the Islamic Calendar, or the “Hijra” calendar, is “Thul Hijjah”.

This is one of the four sacred months of Islam, and is the month of Al-Hajj, in which millions of Muslims from around the world make an annual pilgrimage to Mecca in order to worship Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala, i.e. the Almighty, the Great).

It is an important duty upon every Muslim adult, who is financially and physically able to make the journey.

The duty originates back to the time of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him).

It brings together Muslims of all races and languages for one of life’s most spiritual experiences.

For 14 centuries, millions of Muslims from all over the world have made the pilgrimage to Mecca, the birthplace of Islam. In carrying out this obligation, they fulfill one of the five ‘pillars of faith’ of Islam, or central religious duties of the believer.


The Hajj celebrates the willingness of the Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) to sacrifice his son Ishmael (peace be upon him) after Allah commanded him to do so.

When he was prepared to do it, Allah revealed to him that his “sacrifice” had already been fulfilled by showing that his love for his Lord superseded all others and that he would give up his own life or the lives his loved ones in order to submit to Allah.

So Allah replaced Ishmael with a sheep at the last second and the sheep was slaughtered instead.

Here are descriptions of the Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) from the Qur’an:

“Abraham was indeed a model, devoutly obedient to Allah, (and) true in Faith, and he joined not gods with Allah. He showed his gratitude for the favors of Allah, who chose him, and guided him to a Straight Way. And We gave him Good in this world, and he will be, in the Hereafter, in the ranks of the Righteous.” (Qur’an 16:120-122)

“And who turns away from the religion of Abraham but such as debase their souls with folly? Him We chose and rendered pure in this world: And he will be in the Hereafter in the ranks of the Righteous. Behold! his Lord said to him: “Bow (thy will to Me):” He said: “I bow (my will) to the Lord and Cherisher of the Universe.” (Qur’an 2:130-131)

Egyptians celebrate Eid

How do Muslims celebrate?

While Muslims from all over the world celebrate Eid Al-Adha by slaughtering sheep, goats, camels or cows of their own, those who cannot afford it are not obligated to do so.

Muslims slaughter animals in the same way throughout the year, by slitting the animal’s throat in a swift and merciful manner, and by saying the name of Allah (In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful) at the time of slaughter.

This type of ritual is what makes food ‘halaal’, which is the Islamic word for ‘kosher’. In this way, they are reminded that life is sacred.

To clarify, sacrifice is not a pillar of Islam. It is not obligatory during Hajj, Eid Al-Adha, or Eid Al-Fitr. In Islam, all that is demanded as a sacrifice is an individual’s personal willingness to submit his/her ego, pride and will to Allah and become humble before Him.

“To every people did We appoint rites (of sacrifice), that they might celebrate the name of Allah over the sustenance He gave them from animals (fit for food). But your Allah is One Allah. Submit then your wills to Him (in Islam): and give thou the good news to those who humble themselves.” (Qur’an 22:34)

One third of the meat is distributed to the poor, one third to neighbours and relatives, while one third is kept by the person who offered the sacrifice for use within his or her own family.

This act symbolises the willingness to give up things that are of benefit to the person or close to his/her heart, in order to follow Allah’s commands.

It also marks the willingness of a Muslim to give up some of his/her own bounties, in order to strengthen the ties of friendship and help those who are in need.

During Eid Al-Adha (also Eid Al-Fitr) Muslims wear their nicest clothing and attend a special prayer gathering in the morning.

This is followed by a short sermon, after which everyone stands up to hug and greet one another.

The traditional ‘Eid’ greeting is “Eid Mubarak,” which means “blessed holiday or celebration”.

Afterwards, people visit each other’s homes and their family’s (after sacrifice on Eid Al-Adha) to take part in festive meals with special dishes, drinks, and desserts.

Children receive gifts and sweets; however, usually they receive money from everyone in their family, ranging from LE500 or more to a few pennies, depending on the financial status of the family.

Fata is the most famous Egyptian foods (photo: ayalina)

* Yusuf Ali’s interpretations of the Qur’an were used in this article