Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, is observed on from the evening of Sept. 23 to Sept. 24, 2015 in North America. One of two feast festivals celebrated by Muslims, Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of the Islamic calendar’s last month, Dhu al-Hijjah.
Eid al-Adha falls within the annual pilgrimage to Mecca known as the hajj. Determining the exact date of Eid al-Adha is a point of contention and some wait for an official announcement from the authorities in Mecca.
Muslims celebrate the holiday to commemorate their belief in Abraham's willingness to follow God's command to sacrifice his son Ishmael, and Ishmael's consent to being sacrificed. Today, it is is marked by slaughtering animals to feed the poor. Coming at the end of the hajj, a journey of dedication and purification, Eid al-Adha is understood as an opportunity for second chances.
According to the Quran, when Ishmael (known as Isma'el in Arabic) was 13, his father, Abraham (Ibrahim), began having inconceivable dreams in which God instructed him to sacrifice Ishmael (Quran Surah 37). Unbelievable as the dreams were, Abraham decided to follow Allah's instructions -- but not before asking Ishmael if he would agree to this. The son did not hesitate, showing ultimate submission to God's will by telling his father to go through with the sacrifice. But at the very moment that Abraham raised the knife, Allah told him to stop -- they had passed the test -- and to replace Ishmael with a sacrificial ram. In the Quran, Abraham is rewarded for his faith with a second son, Isaac.
Muslims observe and prepare for Eid al-Adha in a number of ways. Before the festival, the faithful acquire new clothing and visit with family and friends. At dawn on the day of Eid, Muslims recite the traditional declaration of faith, the Takbir, followed by the pre-sunrise communal prayer, Salat al-Eid, which is also said on Eid al-Fitr. Worshipers then greet friends with the traditional Arabic salutation of Eid Mubarak (“Have a blessed Eid”) and exchange gifts.
In a symbolic act, Muslims who can afford it slaughter a cow, goat, sheep or camel, keeping a portion to feed themselves and distributing the rest to friends, family and the needy. Those who can't afford it buy meat from a Halal butcher to distribute. Giving out this meat, in addition to the morning prayers, is considered an essential component of Eid al-Adha.
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