Millions of Muslims around the world will this week celebrate Eid al-Adha, an Islamic religious holiday commemorating the Prophet Abraham’s faithfulness to God after he was tested with the unexecuted order to sacrifice his son.
The holiday also marks the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. It’s different from Eid al-Fitr, another major Muslim holiday celebrated every May to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Eid is a three-day celebration in Muslim-majority countries. But in the United States, it is usually observed over one day.
In the United States, most Muslims will celebrate Eid al-Adha from July 9 by visiting mosques and holding large community gatherings. In other countries, the celebrations take place at different times.
Here’s what you need to know about the holidays:
What is Eid al-Adha?
Mohammad Hassan Khalil, professor of religious studies and director of the Muslim studies program at Michigan State University, said Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar.
It is also celebrated during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, during which thousands of Muslims travel to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia to worship in the Ka’bah, Islam’s holiest site.
Khalil says the day of the celebration is determined by the sighting of a new crescent moon at night. If people spot it, it indicates a new month.
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What is al-Adha?
“Al-Adha” refers to sacrifice, specifically one in which God asked Abraham – as a test – to sacrifice his son, only for God to intervene and substitute a ram (or lamb) instead,” said Omid Safi, professor of Islamic studies at Duke University.
Sacrifice as described in the Quran, the Islamic holy text, bears similarities to what is found in the Bible, although according to most Muslims, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael, not Isaac.
Today goats, lambs and cows are sacrificed to mark the occasion. Although there are Muslims who engage in the practice in the United States, Khalil said, some Muslims will work with a company to pay for the meat to distribute to other countries where there is a great need.
Meat from sacrificed animals is shared with the community and food banks in areas with poor or food-insecure Muslims, said Anna Bigelow, associate professor of religious studies at Stanford University.
How is the holiday celebrated?
Celebrations often consist of spending time with friends and family, wearing new clothes and giving gifts. Khalil says there is usually a large ceremony or communal religious service, which includes a prayer and a sermon.
In commemorating the story of Abraham, Muslims practice the act of Udhiya (or Qurbani), which involves sacrifice and distribution of meat to needy people and family members.
In some countries or regions, there are special dishes and desserts made to celebrate.
A Celebration of “Super Eid” is scheduled for July 9 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, which will mark the first time the event has been held since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Attendance is expected to eclipse the more than 30,000 in attendance in 2018, which could make it the largest Eid al-Adha celebration in the Western Hemisphere, said Imam Asad Zaman, executive director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, said MPR News.