Today is the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha (“Festival of Sacrifice” or “Greater Eid”).
It is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Abraham (Ibrahim) to sacrifice his son Ishmael (Isma’il) as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a sheep to sacrifice instead. The basis for this event comes from Sura 2 (Al-Baqara) Ayah 196 in the Qur’an. This is very similar to the story related in the Book of Genesis where Abraham was also to sacrifice his son, although the Christian scriptures indicate it was his son Isaac.
Eid al-Adha celebrations start after the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia by Muslims worldwide. In keeping with the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims are encouraged to prepare themselves for the occasion of Eid. Men, women, and children are expected to dress in their finest clothing to perform Eid prayer (ṣalātu l-`Īdi) in a large congregation in an open waqf field called Eidgah or mosque. Those Muslims who can afford to sacrifice their best domestic animals – usually a cow, but can also be a camel, goat, sheep or ram depending on the region. The sacrificed animals, called Uḍhiyyah, have to meet certain age and quality standards. This tradition accounts for more than 100 million slaughtering of animals in only 2 days of Eid.
The meat from the sacrificed animal is divided into three parts. The family retains one third of the share; another third is given to relatives, friends and neighbors; and the other third is given to the poor and needy. The regular charitable practices of the Muslim community are demonstrated during Eid al-Adha by concerted efforts to see that no impoverished person is left without an opportunity to partake in the sacrificial meal during these days.
During Eid al-Adha, distributing meat amongst the people, chanting the Takbir out loud before the Eid prayer on the first day and after prayers throughout the three days of Eid, are considered essential parts of this important Islamic festival. In some countries, families that do not own livestock can make a contribution to a charity that will provide meat to those who are in need.