2016 Sep 12
by Azraa Killru
When we get hold of the New Year calendar, two Islamic festivalsare marked on it–Eid-Al-Fitr and Eid-Al-Adha. In layman’s terms, Ramadan festival and Hajj festival respectively. The holidays are beautifully highlighted in red (if it’s one of those regular calendars). However the dates vary according to the sighting of the Moon. This is exactly why if you work in the private sector, applying for leave ahead is a bit of a problem because you don’t really know whether Eid will be on that day or the next.
Eid-Al-Adha is the second Eid festival and lasts three days. It occurs on the 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, which is the last month on the Islamic calendar. Yes, there is an Islamic calendar, consisting of 12 months. Every new month begins with the new lunar cycle. The current year is 1437 AH. This is the reason why the dates vary in the Gregorian calendar.
This festival covers two main areas: commemoration of the sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and the end of Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah, Saudi Arabia).
Rewinding back in Islamic history, this began with one of the Prophets. Ibrahim (Peace Be upon Him) was commanded by God to offer his son Ismael as sacrifice. This was a test given to the Prophet, placed upon him to examine his devotion to God. He willingly accepted it. Ismael obliged. Miraculously, the knife that was meant to slaughter Ismael, didn’t kill him. That was when he was informed it was merely a test for him and instead he could sacrifice an animal.
Honouring this noble act of Prophet Ibrahim is what Muslims around the globe display by offering cattle for sacrifice on Eid-Al-Adha. The meat from the sacrificed animal is divided into three parts: first is for family, second is for relatives, neighbours and friends while the third is for the poor and needy.
What are the conditions for animal sacrifice?
This doesn’t come simple. Rules exist, which have to be carefully observed.
- It should be one of these animals: camels, cattle, sheep or goats
- It should be a matured animal
- The animal should be not have any defects such as illnesses, lameness that prevents it from walking properly, be an one-eyed an emaciated animal
- The animal should belong to the person who is offering the sacrifice. Theft, taking it by force or offering it on false claims makes the sacrifice null and void
- Any pledge on the animal by another person makes it ineligible to be taken as a sacrificial animal
- The sacrifice should take place at a specified time (duration falls between after the Eid prayers and the evening prayer of the third day)
There are five pillars of Islam, which are fundamental for the believers to adhere to. The last pillar is performing Hajj. It is required to be performed by every male and female adult Muslim, if they are financially and physically able to do it. It is crucial that they have a sound mind and the physical ability to endure the journey. Being debt-free is a compulsory obligation to be eligible to go on this pilgrimage.
The Hajj symbolises equality because it brings people from every corner of the world on an equal footing: Black, White, Asian, European, rich, poor, educated, illiterate, high class, low class, each and every one adorns the same white simple piece of clothing called Ihram and display their devotion and humility. It’s not just an attire but a spiritual state of abstaining from certain activities. Not being defined on their material possessions or social standings, but being recognised on their piety and righteousness is the underlying concept. This is a pilgrimage where the divisions are disintegrated and brotherhood promoted.
The day prior to Eid is known as the Day of Arafah. Considered a blessed day as this was when the religion was perfected and Allah’s favour completed, it is customary to fast (abstain from food, water and other prohibited acts) from dawn to sunset. Fasting on this day expiates one’s sins from the previous year and the following year.
So, what do the Muslims do on this Eid?
The day begins with Muslims attending Eid prayers in the Mosque or an open ground early in the morning, dressed in new clothing. Visiting family and relatives and partaking in the celebrations follow. Most of the women get mehendi (henna) done on their hands and palms as a part of the festivities. Since the festivities last for three days, this is a really wonderful opportunity for family bonding. Of course, wattalapam is made and distributed among neighbours and friends. Especially the Sri Lankan crowd never cease their appetite for this particular dessert and the first thing to expect from non-Muslim friends, right after Eid greetings is the phrase, “Ko Wattalapam?”