Muslim holiday, Eid Al-Adha, highlights need for cross-religious understanding

Syed Rizvi

Editor’s Note: “Peace be upon him” (abbreviated “pbuh”) is a salutation for the prophets of Islam. Who receives salutations depends on the school of thought. It is a mandatory practice per the Quran and hadiths.

Two weekends ago, Oct. 4 and 5, was Eid Al-Adha, a religious holiday for more than 1.7 billion Muslims across the globe, 5 to 12 million Muslims in America, and for thousands of Muslims in Austin. Eid Al-Adha occurs on the 10th day of Dhu Al-Hijjah, which is the twelfth and last month of the Islamic calendar and lasts for four days. It is during this month that Muslims from around the world make Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah. Islam requires all Muslims to perform Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, at least once in their lives, so long as they are financially and physically able. The Abrahamic rites of Hajj include going around the Ka’bah, the unifying point for worship, seven times, and then going between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times, as it is believed that Hagar (Hajir, Abraham’s wife) did during her search for water. Lastly, the pilgrims pray for God’s forgiveness while standing together on the plains of ‘Arafat. The conclusion of these rites is followed the next day by Eid Al-Adha.

Eid Al-Adha commemorates the Abrahamic story of Prophet Abraham, or Ibrahim (pbuh). The Islamic narration, which varies only slightly from Judeo-Christian teachings, follows that Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) had a dream that God commanded him to sacrifice his son. Initially, he thought it was the devil playing tricks, but he had the same dream again. Believing that God would not ask for such a thing without good reason, Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) took his beloved son Prophet Ismail (pbuh) to Mount Arafat, with a rope and knife ready. There, Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) explained his intentions to Prophet Ismail (pbuh) who responded with total submission to God’s will. Blindfolded, Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) took his knife to his son’s throat, but after removing his blindfold, he saw that a ram had replaced his son, who was standing unharmed next to his father. God then spoke, assuring them that they had not failed, but passed this very difficult test. 

It is from this story that the tradition of adhiya also known as qurbani, the sacrifice of an animal, has its roots. Depending on the traditions of your community and your affluence, people sacrifice a wide range of animals, mostly goats, but also cows and camels. The meat from these animals is used to feed the poor, the idea being that everyone on this holiday should have the opportunity to experience the holiday’s joy on a full stomach, once again reminding the people of the Islamic ideals of charity. For example, the people of Pakistan themselves have distributed over $3 billion worth of meat over the span of the holiday. 

The commemoration of the story of Prophet Abraham and Ismail (pbuh) is celebrated with great enthusiasm. The festivities often include a myriad of colors, sights and tastes. Since Islam is a global religion, the diversity of traditions are innumerable. The obligatory practice, regardless of race or ethnicity, is the Eid prayer, performed in the morning, much like the Christmas service. People come to the Masjid, or place of worship, donning their finest clothes and fragrances, and after the prayer, families and friends will often exchange gifts, go out to eat, and recite and listen to religious poetry. 

This holiday should serve as a reminder to both Muslims and non-Muslims that the Abrahamic traditions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — have common origins, stories and values. If you ask the common citizen what differentiates Islam from the other Abrahamic traditions, I can only imagine the discouraging responses. The violent and extreme actions of a few misguided so-called “Muslims” have taken control of the discourse, but it would be an injustice to simplify current global conflict as such. However, putting aside the conflict’s political-economic nuances, as Muslims, we share a responsibility in this violent reality; we acknowledge this, and we fear extremism. Quite frankly, we need your help. As much as we make the case for Islam as a peace-loving religion and the clear ignorance of extremists, our voices can only be heard from so far. Let us recognize our common ground and our shared values, and together with one resounding voice, tell the extremists that they will not win. They are wrong, and that our bonds of humanity are stronger than their decisive hate.

Rizvi is a government senior from Dallas.