Eid Mubarak! Today marks the celebration of Eid al-Adha also known as the Feast of the Sacrifice, a non-working holiday for the benefit of our Muslim brothers and sisters. Since the Philippine population is predominantly Catholic, acknowledgment of the feast of the sacrifice as a legitimate holiday could have only been an afterthought. As a testament to this, Eid al-Adha was not given widespread recognition for many years up until former President Arroyo signed the Republic Act No. 9489 last July 27 2009, declaring the tenth day of Zhul Hijja, the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar as a national holiday. For those not belonging to the Islamic religion, it may just be another free day to wander around the mall, hang out with friends or stay at home. Be that as it may, the celebration of Eid al-Adha is not intended just to have a day off from school for it also commemorates an important Muslim feast that many Catholics can actually relate to.
The history behind the sacrifice
Eid al-Adha is one of two important Islamic feasts celebrated, the other Eid being Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, which happened last August 7. Eid al-Adha, a feast lasting four days, culminates the Hajj or the sacred pilgrimage – the largest gathering of Muslims held in Mecca, Saudi Arabia yearly. During Eid al-Adha, Muslims from all over the world remember the story of the Prophet Abraham as he was ordered by Allah to sacrifice his only son, a story familiar to many Catholics alike because of its inclusion in the bible. As Abraham obediently followed what was asked of him, Allah appeared before the prophet just as he was about to kill his son to tell him that his sacrifice had already been completed. Because of Abraham’s display of submission and loyalty he was given a lamb to sacrifice in place of his son. The story of Abraham’s sacrifice serves as a piece of history behind this Islamic celebration.
In the name of tradition
Following the ways of Abraham, Muslims all over the world celebrate Eid al-Adha by sacrificing an animal in the name of Allah. A tradition performed yearly, the act of slaughtering an animal is often misunderstood by people outside the Islamic religion. The sacrifice of an animal, be it a goat or a lamb, was found to symbolize the sacredness of life and the power that humans have over animals – a power bestowed upon by Allah to his people to take the life of an animal in a solemn way. The slaughter must be done in a manner acceptable to Islamic traditions and must qualify in the principles of halal. Upon sacrificing the animal in the name of Allah, the meat is typically divided among certain groups. Approximately one third of the meat is given to the family and the rest is portioned equally between friends and the less fortunate. For Muslims, sharing the meat is a way of showing a person’s willingness to help others and make small sacrifices in accordance with Muslim teachings.
Aside from offering an animal to Allah, Muslims also go to their local Masjids or mosques to pray on the morning of Eid al-Adha. To prepare for this, they must be dressed in their best attire and must have bathed to ensure they are cleansed of all dirt and impurities. After reciting the traditional prayers, it is customary for Muslims to meet with friends and family to extend greetings of Eid Mubarak, which directly translates to “blessed feast”. This is also followed by an exchange of gifts or Eidi to children in the spirit of the Eid, similar to how Christmas makes many Catholics and Christians alike to give gifts to their family and friends.
Even though it is a fairly new holiday observance, Eid al-Adha should not be regarded as just an excuse for a day off. It is a feast day stemming from centuries of Islamic tradition that is celebrated by Muslims both in and out of the country. On its fourth year of recognition in the Philippines, Catholics and Christians alike can take part in celebrating the feast of the sacrifice in the simplest of ways: by greeting our Muslim brothers and sisters with, “Eid Mubarak!” That will surely be a pleasant surprise.