Eid al-Adha II

“There is no deed more precious in the sight of Allah, nor greater in reward, than a good deed done during the ten days of Sacrifice.”

Prophet Mohammad reported by Ibn Abbas

Islamic Star and Crescent

[Published Dec. 9, 2008] It brings me great joy to write about Eid al-Adha today. Not just because it’s one of the holiest days of Islam, and one of only two Eids (Festivals).

It’s also because Eid al-Adha is the first holiday I wrote about for Every Day’s a Holiday, which means we’ve come almost full circle. Since the Islamic calendar is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, it hasn’t quite been a solar year, but we’re getting there.

I have learned so much about the Islamic calendar over the past year, my head hurts. I used to think, Why does the Islamic calendar have to be different from every other calendar in the world? Not all calendars are 365 days long, but at least they make some effort to correct themselves every few years. A leap day, leap week, leap month. Leap something! The Islamic calendar says, uh-uh. Pay no heed to seasons. A month observed in the summer 15 years ago is observed in the winter now, and vice-versa.

It struck me as counterintuitive. Or some kind of weird trick to play on kids. But now, after following the calendar through a full cycle, I see two reasons.

The first is that as all other calendars shift in relation to the Islamic calendar, Muslims get to share and contrast their celebrations and holy days with all other cultures.

This year, 1429 AH (2008 AD), Ashura was observed the between the Baha’i Faith’s World Religion Day and the first day of Christian Unity Week of Prayer.

The holiest third of the month of Ramadan just touched the ten days of atonement of the Jewish calendar, observed between the High Holy Days. Precisely as Muslims broke the fast with Eid al-Fitr, the Jews began the fast of Rosh Hashanah.

And Eid al-Adha this week coincides with the Catholic Festival of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), both of which speak to the bond between parent and child, and the bond between humanity and God.

Eid al-Adha, the Festival of the Sacrifice, commemorates the moment when Abraham nearly sacrificed his son at Allah’s request. And the moment the Lord stopped Abraham in time to offer him a ram to take Ishmael’s place.

It is this moment between Abraham and his son Ishmael, that the Prophet Mohammad set forth as the defining event of Islam, which means literally, “submission”. For this reason, the structure known as the Kaaba–where Abraham first introduced monotheism to the world–was sanctified by Mohammad as holiest site on Earth.

During Eid al-Adha Muslims strive to experience the oneness of God, beginning with a special prayer:

In the name of God
And God is the greatest
O God, indeed this is from you and for you
O God, accept from me

And just as when we make a sacrifice for a friend or a loved one, we find that the sacrifice was not from us, but for us.

Last year’s Eid al-Adha

Hajj: the fifth pillar of Islam

November 4-7, 2011

Today begins the Hajj to Mecca in which millions of Muslims around the world will leave their homes to embark on the journey that every financially and physically able Muslim must take once in their lifetime.

Destination: Makkah (Mecca), Saudi Arabia.

The Hajj to Mecca has been called the most diverse gathering of human beings ever assembled. Participants come from all countries, all races, and all walks of life.

Mecca is the city toward which, the rest of the year, Muslims pray five times a day. During Hajj millions converge on the Masjid al Haram, the holiest mosque in all Islam. The Holy Mosque’s open court can accommodate hundreds of thousands of worshipers, who circumambulate (I don’t get to use that word very often) around the centerpiece of the court: the Kaaba. The Kaaba is a stoic black cube which holds a sacred stone believed to have fallen from heavens in the days of Adam.

Kaaba in the middle of the Holy Mosque, circa 1880

It was here, thousands of years ago that Abraham and his son Ishmael introduced the world to monotheism, by building a small temple in the middle of the desert, as commanded by God. Abraham shouted out to the empty desert a welcome to anyone who would join him in prayer at the Kaaba. Each year during Hajj, millions answer his call.

Though the people of the Arabian peninsula have revered the site long before the days of Mohammad, it was the Prophet who set the stone in its final place. Muslims don’t worship the stone itself–Islam allows no idols of any kind. Rather, the place is revered for its connection to the Prophet Muhammad and to God.

This holy meteor has never been carbon-dated, but it was stolen once. According to www.lancashiremosques.com:

In 317/930 the Qarmatians raided Mecca; they captured the stone, and carried it off to al-Hasa or Bahrayn, where it was kept. Ransom was offered for it, which was ignored. Then in 340/951 it was thrown, the historian Juwayni relates, into the Friday Mosque of Kufah with a note: “By command we took it, and by command we have brought it back.”


During Hajj, pilgrims enter a state of Ihram. During Ihram one may not intentionally harm any living creature, and men must wear two pieces of unstitched cloth, one around their waist and one over their shoulders. As Kamran Pasha, author of Mother of Mother of the Believers: A Novel of the Birth of Islam, explains:

In this way, all pilgrims are dressed exactly the same, eliminating differences of race, culture and economic status. Whether we are kings or paupers, whether we wear suits and ties or dashikis in the world we left behind, we are all the same now – human beings standing equally before our Creator, devoid of manmade distinctions.

Hajj is a spiritual journey, but it is also one of visas and vaccinations. passports and paperwork. The more one prepares, the better. Saudi Arabia does its best to accommodate over a million foreigners crossing its borders for the pilgrimage, but travel prices can be jacked up four-fold during, and sadly, “A number of pilgrims have reported being unable to reach Mecca due to fraudulent travel agencies eager to cash in on the world’s largest religious pilgrimage.”

Circling the Kabah seven times is the most important part of Hajj, but not all of it. Pilgrims also follow the footsteps of Hagar and her son Ishmael as they searched for water in the desert millennia ago. It is said Ishmael struck his foot on the ground and water sprang forth from the sand.

One couple’s unforgettable first Haj

A Journey of Hajj: Recreating Genesis at the House of God

Millions of Muslims Prepare For Hajj 2009