Id al-Adha Festival
The Feast of Sacrifice
The Feast of Sacrifice, Id al-Adha, is the second of Islam's most important festivals. It is held on the tenth day of the twelfth month, the month of the Hajj, when Muslims go on pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca. To undertake this pilgrimage is the highest ambition in their life. Even those who stay at home join in its celebration, which centers on the sacrifice of an animal.
The sacrifice recalls the dramatic incident in Abraham's life when, according to Muslim tradition, he was about to sacrifice his son Ishmael in obedience to a command from God. At the last moment a divine voice stopped him from slaying his son and directed him to offer a ram in his stead. And this is the message of the festival: like Abraham, every Muslim must be prepared to obey God's wishes and to do so at all costs, no matter how great the sacrifice.
On the morning of the festival, Muslims sacrifice an animal, usually a sheep or a goat. Symbolically following Abraham's example, they express their readiness to give their own life whenever God demands.
The meat of the slaughtered animal is divided into three parts. One portion is kept for a family meal, the second is presented to friends, and the rest is distributed among the needy or handed to charitable institutions.
Although it is more serious in mood, Id al-Adha shares some customs such as visiting friends and giving presents - with the more joyous celebration of Id al-Fitr.