A Time for Sacrifice

Today is Kurban Bayramı (Turkish for Eid al-Adha), the Feast of the Sacrifice. It is one of the two most important Islamic festivals. In the words of my 8-year-old son, "it's like Muslims' Christmas because children get many gifts and money." My 10-year-old daughter says, "It's also like Thanksgiving because families get together over big feasts, but they eat lamb or beef instead of turkey."

It's hard to be in abroad when it's a full-blown holiday in your mother country. Unless your religious holiday is an officially recognized federal holiday in the U.S., nobody notices it. Even though you celebrate it with friends, it's not as exciting as it would be if you celebrated it with everybody in your town. If you are lucky, you may have a day off from your job on your festival day, but since most of your friends don't celebrate it, too, taking a day off alone doesn't help you turn a regular day into a holiday. Like many other joys of life, holidays are priceless when you have all your loved ones around you to celebrate with.

The sacrificial festival is with many social aspects: it is all about charity, community and family as well as the pilgrimage. During this holiday, people always visit their relatives and friends; family ties are strengthened and that gives children an opportunity to bond with the older generation. The sacrificial festival is a time for wishing one another well, exchanging gifts, having big feasts, donating and praying.

It is also a time to ask for forgiveness and mercy from God. Kurban Bayramı takes a place on the 10th day of the Islamic calendar's last month. It also concludes the annual pilgrimage to Mecca known as the hajj, a journey of dedication and purification.

For the sacrifice, an act of appreciation and gratitude for God's mercy, traditionally lamb, sheep or cows are slaughtered in memory of the ram sacrificed by Abraham in place of his son. The sacrificial festival commemorates the story of Abraham in the Quran. The Prophet Abraham, in a decisive act of obedience to the will of God, prepared to sacrifice his son Ishmael. However, God stopped him and instead sent a ram to be sacrificed in the place of Abraham's son. This is similar to the story of Abraham in the Old Testament and the Bible, except in the Bible, the son is Isaac, not Ishmael.

Even though the Feast of the Sacrifice is not a federal holiday in the U.S. yet, many American Muslims observe it to reaffirm their Muslim identity. Some send money to their motherland to help fund a sacrifice. Some perform the sacrifice in the U.S. Muslims get together to pray, eat and celebrate together.

According to Ercan Tozcan, the director of the Peace Islands Institute (PII), the sacrificial festival is not as well-known among non-Muslim Americans. Thus he invites Muslim Americans to be more active in social life to promote Kurban Bayramı. He suggests donating meat to the organizations like soup kitchens, which hand out fresh food to the poor.

Tozcan said: "During the holiday of "Bayram" from October 15th to 18th PII paid visits to local Food Pantries with some of the respected Legislators to donate fresh meat to celebrate the "Bayram", and to serve the NJ community." He emphases that PII brings together different viewpoints and voices with the spirit of mutual respect and acceptance in order to develop original and alternative perspectives on vital issues that our society is facing, generate solutions to these issues, support successful practices, and as such promote education, friendship, and harmony, hence be an island of peace for all peoples in the society with different ethnical, cultural and religious backgrounds.

With the many natural and man-inflicted catastrophic events affecting the lives of so many people in the world, there is no better time to be in the spirit of sacrifice and sharing than today. It's great time to progress diversity, pluralism and multiculturalism in the society and to be pioneer to lead the way for a transcultural generation in the future.

Since Thanksgiving Day is around the corner, to show our appreciation to the Creator, let's share, forgive and be happy for the sake of Kurban Bayramı.

Iyi bayramlar- eid Mubarak and happy holidays!

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