Adeela: I remember learning that Eid al-Adha was the Greater Eid when I was younger and being confused by that. As a kid, Eid al-Adha seemed less important with less build-up, unlike Eid al-Fitr, which I always knew was coming and celebrated by indulging in good food and time with family, marking an end to the month-long practice of fasting for Ramadan. This year, however, I found myself really giving some thought to what this Eid is all about and the importance of breathing those values into my own life: sacrifice, strength of faith, and awareness.
We remember the story of Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) and how he was prepared to sacrifice his son, Ismail (pbuh), when he realized God was calling him to do so. We also remember Ismail’s obedience and submission to the will of God, agreeing to what his father had explained he felt commanded to do, and then, his reprieve when God instead asked Ibrahim to sacrifice a ram.
It’s about putting faith and trust in God, knowing that God will provide for you, even when it appears that you are destitute, impoverished, or lost. God is always there for us, always with us, always taking care of us. It’s about reflecting on God’s mercy to us all and thinking about the historical importance of what we’re celebrating.
This Eid occurs at the end of Hajj, when millions of Muslims, who are financially and physically able, make the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. They stand and walk together, side by side, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, tribe, income, age, etc. Everyone wears the same thing and prays in the same direction, reminding me again of how the many distinctions and distractions we make in this world do not actually matter. What matters is how our hearts turn to the Beloved and how we serve; by being kind, giving, honest, mindful, and humble human beings.
Many often also think of those with less this holiday, as the meat that is slaughtered is always shared, with a portion always given to the poor. There’s much thought to those who are suffering around the world and a need to make sure that everyone is fed on Eid. The symbolic act of sacrifice is done in God’s name, by Muslims showing gratitude for God’s guidance, love, and mercy, remembering each life is sacred.
In Surah Al-Hajj, verse 37, it says “Their meat will not reach Allah, nor will their blood, but what reaches Him is piety from you. Thus have We subjected them to you that you may glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and give good tidings to the doers of good.”
This Eid, I found myself a bit sad at first, as I was unable to be with other Muslims or attend a prayer at the mosque, due to transportation and timing. However, I soon remembered the lessons of this Eid - that God is always with me, that wherever I pray, those prayers reach God all the same, that the best way to serve, is to serve others, and that it’s important to be strong in faith and thankful, even when feeling discouraged or disheartened.
I spent my Eid volunteering with Faiths Act, thinking about issues of the environment, reforestation, poverty, and the current famine in the Horn of Africa. I felt so blessed to be able to spend Eid that way, remembering those less fortunate and a call to keep them in mind, in heart, and in action, while thanking God for all I’ve been given.
Carolyn: I never knew that Eid al-Adha observed a story so important to each of the Abrahamic faiths, and it has been very interesting learning about how it is celebrated in Islam. After hearing from Adeela, what really stands out to me is the focus on sacrifice and service.
I think the story of Hajj is particularly amazing, as all come together and set aside the divisions and barriers that might otherwise prevent them from gathering. They are there for a greater purpose, however, the pilgrimage as an act of service to God. It is my understanding that this trip to Mecca involves sacrifice as well. Individuals sacrifice money, food, and even pride to some extent through the giving up of class identity. What is most important is the devotion to God, putting aside distractions and being a willing and able servant to the Divine no matter what the requirement.
As Adeela mentioned, we spent this Eid in interfaith service, working with our hands to benefit others around the world. When we all got to working in the dirt, there was no need to talk about the things that divided us. What mattered was simply that we were there together to serve others, and the service became more important than anything else. When I reflect on this, it seems that there is no better way to act out our gratitude for the provisions of God than through sacrificial service to others. There are many ways to use our time, but if we use some of our time up for those in need at home and abroad, we can accept God’s call and serve his people.
As we approach Thanksgiving in the US, we often think about the provisions of food in our life, and being thankful for all that God has given us. Just as God provided for Ibrahim/Abraham, my hope this Thanksgiving is that I remember the provisions God has given me, and the sacrifices I am called to make in my own life in service to others. Join Faiths Act this season by signing the Faiths Act Declaration and partnering with individuals across faith lines in your community to serve those who are suffering from malaria in the world.