One of my earliest memories is from Eid-al-Adha. I was 3 years old in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Many people had gathered on my family’s property for the ritual Eid-ul-Adha livestock sacrifice. I remember running into the crowd and peeping out from behind my father’s lungi to see a sacrificed cow scattered across concrete. His blue silky entrails spilling out. My father scolded me for coming so near. I ran back inside haunted by the reality of where my food comes from.
Fast forward 33 years, let’s just say I want to give my children a lighter introduction to Eid-al-Adha.
I started to research how important animal sacrifice was to the holiday. Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) rarely ate meat and fasted from meat in the days approaching Eid. Yet, slaughtering livestock became a central part of the celebration. In the time of the Prophet there were two things driving that:
- The Eid al-Adha celebration stems from a familiar story in Judaism/Christianity/Islam, the story of Prophet Ibrahim (in Jewish tradition Abraham) and his son, Ishmael (in Jewish tradition Isaac). Ibrahim had a divine vision that God commanded him to sacrifice his beloved son. As he and his son were about to perform the sacrifice the angel Gabriel replaced the son with a ram. 1500 years later, followers of Muhammed symbolically slaughter goat/lamb/beef then serve 1/3 of it for Eid dinner, give 1/3 to friends, and donate 1/3 to the poor.
- The tradition of killing a goat/lamb symbolizes that ultimate sacrifice. For a family in 600 AD, killing one of their livestock then sharing it equally between family, friends, and the poor was a financial sacrifice. A typical sheep was worth $100-$400 U.S. dollars. The faith to sacrifice (something dear) for God is the greatest lesson here. And that the sacrifice strengthens your family, friends, and those less fortunate.
Don’t get me wrong, I love goat biriyani and lamb chops, and it’s even better when you get to share it with family, friends, and those less fortunate. But this year, I am going to start a few new traditions with my family.
1. Feeding the Poor
One of the main tenents of Eid-al-Adha is to feed the poor. Many people send money overseas for the animal to be sacrificed and shared. But sharing food with those less fortunate can also happen closer to home.
- Qurbani Eid Dinner + Food Drive: For those who love to host friends and family for dinner, you can amplify the giving by asking guests to bring food drive items.
- Volunteer To Feed Homeless: Many shelters have volunteer opportunities for people who want to come in and make a meal for the residents. I found one near me in Los Angeles called Homeful.LA.
2. Make A Sacrifice That Strengthens
What I respect the most regarding Prophet Muhammed’s (PBUH) mandate is that the actions strengthened your immediate circle and your greater community. Since we no longer count our wealth in goats/cows.
- Sacrifice What You Like To Do Something Good: To teach my kids “sacrifice” and giving. We are taking a break from television and smartphones on Eid day, to spend time together as a family doing something good.
3. Supporting Those Who Have Completed Hajj
My parents completed the Hajj last year. Alhamdulillah, everything went well for them. If you know someone who made the trip, take this time to celebrate this milestone. Here are a few cute Hajj Mubarak items I found online:
Traditionally, Eid day encompasses putting on a new outfit, attending morning prayers, and then visiting family and friends bearing food and gifts. Which will continue to be traditions in my household.
Peace & Salam,