Eid al-Adha: the celebration of generosity and gratitude

Eid al-Adha (pronounced “EED al UDD-ha”), considered the holiest of the two Eids, the other being Eid al-Fitr which commemorates the end of Ramadan, is a time to reflect and spend time with family, relatives and friends. Eid al-Adha celebrations last for three to four days, unlike Eid al-Fitr; however, the ways to celebrate may be similar, wishing for good fortune, praying for the lost ones, and meeting family and friends.   

Unlike Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha is more related to the culmination of the hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, which every adult Muslim must make at least once in their lifetime. The hajj is the fifth of the fundamental Muslim practices and institutions, known as the Five Pillars of Islam. All Muslims able to do so are asked to make the five-day Hajj journey at least once in their lifetime, and two million do so each year. For the longest time, it was so difficult to travel to Mecca that it was considered a privilege to return safely from the hajj. Even now, not everyone is capable of travelling to Mecca due to the costs associated with travel, border, immigration, political reasons and various other barriers. To mark the ending of the holy pilgrimage for the first time, when returning from hajj, the men shave their heads while the women usually cut their hair by an inch or two.  

I am glad to have been to Mecca and participated in the hajj five times, and just like me, those who participated in the pilgrimage are honourably called hajji. Eid, for me, is a time of reflection. Although I am not in Mecca this year, I am grateful for my health, family, kids, and privileges in Saint John. 

Growing up, I have always known that Eid al-Adha is the time when we give to charity. Eid al-Adha celebrates a story about the prophet Ibrahim (known as Abraham in Christianity and Judaism). Allah (God) told Ibrahim he had to sacrifice his son, Ismail (Ishmael), to prove his faith. Ibrahim decided to follow Allah’s command. The devil tried to convince him to disobey, but Ibrahim refused, throwing pebbles at the devil to make him leave. Ibrahim was about to sacrifice his son when he found that Allah had replaced Ismail with a ram. Ibrahim had proved his devotion to Allah, so his son was spared. Muslims celebrate to remember Ibrahim’s loyalty and obedience to Allah above all others. 

During Eid al-Adha, we customarily buy sheep, sacrifice them, and donate a portion to the needy. People from different cultures may sacrifice animals like goats, cows, or lambs as their customs. Everyone does charity in their capacity and choices, including sending money to their relatives back home in war-stricken regions, donating the money to buy sheep, or even donating to the local mosques. Here, we can donate money and other proceeds during Eid al-Adha to the Muslim Association of Saint John.  

My family usually drives to Sussex and looks for healthy sheep for Eid al-Adha. The process is more involving in Canada, and the drive makes it feel more fulfilling. In Saudi Arabia, we used to donate money during Eid to charitable organizations as they have a list of people in need of donations. 

Eid al-Adha is also a time for visiting friends and family and exchanging gifts. The YMCA Newcomer Connections Clients living in Crescent Valley have a beautiful tradition as a part of Eid al-Adha celebrations, where they collectively visit each other’s houses as a group, which helps build a local community in this distant land. 

On the first day of Eid, I pray at the local mosque. After the prayers, I greet everyone at the mosque, wishing ‘Eid Mubarak, may Allah accept your prayers and bless you.’ Later, we try to visit a couple of friends in the community for 10-15 minutes each, drink tea, eat sweets and enjoy the time of friendship. We wish for each other to be able to visit Mecca the following year. We pray for peace in the world and protection for every human being. In the evening, my family welcomes our friends to our home, and we share tea and dates.   

As a Saudi in Canada, my family prefers to wear the traditional attire from Saudi Arabia for Eid. It is a way to remind us of our culture and remind our children of our heritage. We use Oud perfume and cologne as a sign of starting afresh and new, greeting each other by being the best they are, the freshest we smell. We also purify our homes with Bakhoor (incense) when welcoming someone to our homes, and it is considered equivalent to welcoming someone to our abode with a red carpet. This tradition forms a cultural difference in Canada, as wearing beautiful fragrances and smelling fresh is considered a sign of prestige, and putting your best foot forward as a part of many traditions. 

Just the day before Eid al-Adha, we also fast, which is not required but recommended. We read the Quran and Duaa (A personal prayer of invocation, supplication or request to God). We also pray to Allah to guide us towards the right way behind the meaning of life, the reason for our creation, and the purpose of life so that we can obey God’s will to our presence on earth.