The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in festivals, parties, concerts and more. But for many Americans, the cancellation of religious activities is perhaps the greatest inconvenience.
One of the most important Islamic holidays, Eid al-Adha, begins Friday, July 31. Normally it would entail large gatherings, going to mosque and serving the less fortunate.
This year, though, families have to find new, smaller ways to participate.
“On the day of Eid, we go and pray and basically distribute the meat among poor, friends, neighbors and relatives. And at night, we have a huge feast among family members where we all just come together and celebrate,” Wylie native Subul Khan, 24, explained. “But due to the pandemic, we won’t be doing that this year, sadly.”
Eid al-Adha commemorates the prophet Ibrahim (or Abraham when Anglicized)’s near-sacrifice of his son Isma’il (or Ishmael). The Qur’an describes how when Allah (God) commanded Ibrahim to sacrifice Isma’il to prove his faith, Ibrahim obeyed.
He took his son to Mina – in modern-day Saudi Arabia – to perform the deed, but when it came time to sacrifice Isma’il, he found that Allah had replaced him with either a ram or lamb, depending on the translation.
The same story is also told in the Jewish Torah and Christian Old Testament, though it’s Isaac that Ibrahim nearly sacrifices in those versions, not Isma’il.
For Eid al-Adha, Muslims take care of and sacrifice an animal. A third of the meat – usually lamb, goat, cow or camel – goes to the needy in town, a third goes to neighbors and friends, and a third stays with the family.
“We basically take care of the goat/cow, like feed it everyday and take care of it, and this way we get close to the animal,” Khan said. “But when the time comes to sacrifice it, we realize that we need to give it up in name of Allah and we know that in return we will receive a greater reward.”
Since not all Muslims have the means to raise and kill an animal at their homes, many turn to meat markets. This is the Khan family’s strategy; they place an order of their preferred animal in advance, and on Eid al-Adha, it’s killed at the meat shop and they pick it up.
In Pakistan, where they’re originally from, they would take care of a goat for the month before the holiday themselves. Khan moved to Wylie with her parents and older brother during her freshman year of high school.
She graduated from Wylie East in 2014 and University of Texas at Austin in 2018, where she’s currently in the Pharmaceutical Sciences graduate program.
Eid al-Adha also marks the end of Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam. The pilgrimage, required by the Qur’an for all healthy adults with the means to travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, typically draws more than 2 million people. It was highly restricted this year to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
To mark the beginning of Eid al-Ahda, Muslims performing Hajj throw pebbles at nearby Mina, where Ibrahim is said to have thrown pebbles at the devil.
By Morgan Howard • [email protected]