Eid al-Adha ( ’Festival of the Sacrifice’) is the latter of the two official holidays celebrated within Islam (the other being Eid al-Fitr or ‘Festival of the Breaking of the Fast’). It honors the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Ishmael (in Judaism, Isaac) as an act of obedience to God’s command.
Before Abraham could sacrifice his son, however, God provided a lamb to sacrifice instead. In commemoration of this intervention, animals are sacrificed ritually. One third of their meat is consumed by the family offering the sacrifice, while the rest is distributed to the poor and needy. Sweets and gifts are given, and extended family are typically visited and welcomed. The day is also sometimes called Big Eid or the Greater Eid.
In the Islamic lunar calendar, Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, and lasts for four days. In the international (Gregorian) calendar, the dates vary from year to year, shifting approximately 11 days earlier each year.
One of the main trials of Abraham’s life was to face the command of God by sacrificing his beloved second son Isaac son of Sarah. According to the new narrative, Abraham kept having dreams that he was sacrificing his son Ishmael son of Hagar. Abraham knew that this was a command from God and he told his son, as stated in the Quran “Oh son, I keep dreaming that I am slaughtering you”, Ishmael replied “Father, do what you are ordered to do.” Abraham prepared to submit to the will of God and prepared to slaughter his son as an act of faith and obedience to God. During this preparation, Shaytaan tempted Abraham and his family by trying to dissuade them from carrying out God’s commandment, and Abraham drove Satan away by throwing pebbles at him. In commemoration of their rejection of Satan, stones are thrown at symbolic pillars Stoning of the Devil during Hajj rites.
Acknowledging that Abraham was willing to sacrifice what is dear to him, God the Almighty honoured both Abraham and Ishmael. Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) called Abraham “O’ Abraham, you have fulfilled the revelations.” and a lamb from heaven was offered by Angel Gabriel to prophet Abraham to slaughter instead of Ishmael. Muslims worldwide celebrate Eid al Adha to commemorate both the devotion of Abraham and the survival of Ishmael.
The word “Eid” appears once in Al-Ma’ida, the fifth sura of the Quran, with the meaning “solemn festival”.