Eid al-Adha, the Arabic for Festival of Sacrifice or Greater Eid is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Abraham (Ibrahim) to sacrifice his son Ishmael (Isma'il) as an act of obedience to Allah, before the Almighty intervened by providing Ibrahim with a ram to sacrifice in place of Ishmael.
Incidentally, an account of this incident of Abraham trying to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and only left him after God provided a ram as a substitute is also in the bible.
Eid-el-Kabir, as it is mostly known in Nigeria, is the latter of two Eid festivals celebrated by Muslims, whose basis comes from Sura 2 (Al-Baqara) ayah 196 in the Qur'an. Like Eid ul-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, begins with a Wajib prayer of two Raka'ah followed by a sermon (khut.bah).
The word "Eid" appears in Sura al-Mai'da ("The Table Spread," Chapter 5) of the Qur'an, meaning 'solemn festival'.
Eid al-Adha is celebrated annually on the 10th day of the 12th and the last Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah in the lunar Islamic calendar. The celebrations start after the Hajj, when Muslim worldwide, observe the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, about 70 days after the end of the month of Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr.
"It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah. It is your piety that reaches Him." (Surat Hajj verse 37). It is the fear of Allah (SWT) that is mentioned in the verse that will assist a Muslim to be able to follow Allah's injunctions and the Holy Prophet's (Peace Be Upon Him) way of doing things. This includes sacrifice of animals for Eid-el-Kabir and for food.
Strict injunctions attend the ways of sacrificing the accepted animals and true Muslims know these.
The Almighty Allah instructed the Holy Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him) in the Glorious Qur'an, Chapter 108 verse 2 to "pray unto your God and sacrifice the animal."
Animals permissible for Eid-el-Kabir are ram, goat, sheep, cow and camel. Killing animal for any Islamic rite, according to the Sharia, must be done by Muslim faithful, man or woman by his/herself.
A Muslim who is unable to do this, can hire someone who is knowledgeable to do it at a price. It is good to get helpers for the blind, deaf and dumb as well as someone who does not know how to slaughter animal properly.
The person killing the animal must proclaim the intention by calling Allah, at least saying Bisimillahi, Allahu Akbar, meaning in the name of Allah, Allah is the greatest.
Killing animal for any Islamic rite, according to the Sharia, must be done according to Islamic standards, in compliance with the injunctions of Allah.
With the importance attached to the slaughtering of ram during Eid-el-Kabir, ram sellers are exploitative.
By saying the name of Allah at the time of slaughter, we are reminded that life is sacred.
The meat is mostly given away to others. One-third is eaten by immediate family and relatives, one-third is given away to friends, and one-third is donated to the poor.
The act symbolises our willingness to give up things that are of benefit to us or close to our hearts, to follow Allah's commands.
It also symbolises our willingness to give up some of our own resources, for more bonds in our relationships. The gifts are again about catering for those in need.
We recognise that all blessings come from Allah, and we should open our hearts and share with others.
Muslims who understand the importance of the sacrifice itself adopt it in real practice.
This festival is not about atoning for one's sin or washing away sin with the blood of the lamb. Its emphasis is on obedience to Allah, not minding the challenges of his injunctions. Ibrahim's example was set for the faithful to understand that Allah demands unquestioning obedience and where situations appear impossible, He will intervene.
Previously the symbolism of the sacrifice had been misunderstood, leading to the belief that it washed away sins. It is not the meat nor the blood that reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches Him. (Qur'an 22:37)
The symbolism is in the attitude -- a willingness to make sacrifices in our lives in line with the injunctions of Allah. Daily, the decisions we make in life calls on us to up a bit of us, if we are to live righteous life. The sacrifices are from the small to big ones. It is certain that life cannot be without sacrifices.
A true Muslim is one who submits completely to Allah. This submission involves to obey his commands completely and without excuses. What Allah demands from the faithful is a heart that is steeped in obedience to him, purity in the observance of the faith, and sacrifices that recognise the needy.
On Sallah day, the people assemble in the vast assembly outside the city, and being led by the Imam, recite two rak'ahs of prayer. Traditionally, after prayers the Imam ascends the mimbar, or pulpit, and delivers the khutbah, or oration.
The igdah is a large place, especially set aside for the large congregations, who will attend the special Eid prayer early in the morning and can be an open field or flat piece of ground. It is only used as such on festival days for congregational prayers, the proper place always being the mosque on other occasions.
As Muslim troop out in their millions to mark the Sallah, the standards that Allah expects from them have not changed. The message of unflinching obedience to Allah, sacrifice and selflessness remain among the calls that they will hear again in their worship places.
We wish Muslims, the world over, happy Eid-el-Kabir. May the lessons of the festival endure just as Allah's blessings endure.