What Happens on Eid al-Aḍḥā Day?
The 10th of Dhul Ḥijjah is known as Eid al-Aḍḥā [the festival of sacrifice] and is a day of celebration for Muslims. In fact, the following three days of the 11th, 12th, and 13th are also an extension of the days of Eid.
This Eid is known as the ‘festival of sacrifice’ because it commemorates the incident where Prophet Ibrāhīm [Abraham] was ordered by God to sacrifice his son, and they both willingly submitted. No human sacrifice actually occurred, because it was only a test of obedience and devotion, and Ibrāhīm was told to sacrifice an animal instead as a symbol of his devotion [See Qur’an 37:100-110 and contrast with the Bible – Genesis 22:1-14]. It was a powerful reminder about the importance of sacrificing the things we love.
Praising Allah During these Days
There is a specific way to praise Allah during these days that is said out loud. The phrase to be said is known as the takbīrāt [glorifications]:
“allāhu akbar, allāhu akbar, lā ilāha illallāh, allāhu akbar, allāhu akbar, wa lillāhi l-ḥamd”
“God is great, God is great, there is no god besides Allah, God is great, God is great, praise belongs to him”
This formula should be said out loud by each person immediately after each and every one of the five daily prayers. It begins on the 9th of Dhul Ḥijjah [Thursday] after Fajr prayer and continues until the 13th of Dhul Ḥijjah [Monday] after ʿAsr prayer, making it a total of 23 times. The phrase must be said at least once but is recommended to be done more than that. It is common to say it three times. [There is some difference of opinion on this point]
The Eid Prayer
On the morning of Eid al-Aḍḥā on the 10th, it is recommended to:
- take a bath to be fresh and clean for the day and brush your teeth
- dress in your best clothes and try to smell nice by using some fragrance
- not fast on this day. In fact, it is prohibited for Muslims to fast on Eid because it is a day of celebration [which involves eating]
It is recommended for Muslims from different mosques to assemble together in a large area, if possible, and pray together. This Eid prayer is obligatory on adult men, but it is recommended for women and children to attend as well, even women who are not praying due to their period.
When a person leaves his house to attend the prayer, he should praise Allah on the way there by saying the takbīrāt out loud, as mentioned previously.
When arriving at the gathering place there are no extra prayers recommended nor is there a call to prayer [adhān] or commence [iqāmah]. A Muslim should continue praising Allah until the prayer is about to start.
The Eid prayer is identical to the Fajr prayer except that extra takbīrs [saying ‘allāhu akbar’] are added while standing. The Imām [prayer leader] begins the prayer as usual and recites the opening supplication inaudibly with his hands folded, and the people praying behind him do the same. Then he raises his hands like at the beginning of prayer, says ‘allāhu akbar’ and lowers his hands to his sides, and everyone follows suit. This is done a total of seven times in the first unit, so that there is one initial takbīr to start the prayer and seven additional ones after that. After the final takbīr, the hands are folded and the recitation of the Qur’an begins as usual. It is recommended to recite sūrah al-aʿlā in the first unit. When the imām stands for the second unit of prayer, there are five extra takbīrs added while raising the hands as was done in the first unit. Then the prayer continues as normal. It is recommended to recite sūrah al-ghāshiyah in the second unit.When the prayer is finished, the imām will stand and deliver two sermons like on Friday. It is important for people not to start talking or walk away during these lectures.
The timing for the Eid prayer begins fifteen minutes after sunrise and lasts until high noon. The mosque(s) organizing the prayer will set a specific time at which the Muslims will gather within this time frame. If someone misses the prayer, it cannot be made up.
After the prayer and sermons are complete, it is recommended for people to greet each other. There is no specific way of greeting, but many Muslims will shake hands, hug each other, say ‘Happy Eid’ [Eid Mubārak] or ‘May Allah accept from us and you’ [taqabbal allāhu minnā wa minkum].
It is highly recommended [and mandatory according to some scholars] for every able Muslim to slaughter an animal on Eid day. This can be done on the 10th, 11th, or 12th day of Dhul Ḥijjah. The animal to be slaughtered is a sheep or goat, or seven people can share in one camel or cow, since they are much larger animals.
It is recommended to give about one third of the animal in charity, feed friends and family with another third, and keep the final portion for oneself. However, it can be distributed all in charity or even kept all for oneself. For those who find it difficult to physically purchase and slaughter an animal, they may pay someone on their behalf to perform the sacrifice and distribute the meat. Here are some organizations that do this and distribute the meat to the poor and needy in various parts of the world: Islamic Relief, Islamic Relief USA, Helping Hand, Life, or Baitulmaal. Furthermore, since animal sacrifice has different prices for different countries, it is best to pay the amount that it would have cost you to do it in your own country by adding extra money for another animal. For example, if sacrificing a sheep would cost you $200 in the USA but $40 in Bangladesh, you should sacrifice five animals in Bangladesh if you live in the USA and earned your money there.
Sacrificing an animal is not an act of cruelty. Animals have been created by Allah for the benefit of humans. They exist for us to use, but not abuse. There is no doubt that due to greed and consumerism, many animals are being abused nowadays. Islam teaches the balance between benefiting from animals but not abusing or mistreating them.