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Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)

Posted on 17th July, 2021

Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)

Eid al-Adha commemorates the obedience of Abraham who, at the command of God, was ready to sacrifice his son. The Qur’an describes this event:

When Abraham’s Lord tested him with certain commandments, which he fulfilled, He [God] said: “I will make you a leader of people.”  (Q 2:124)

What this test was is related in a later passage of the Qur’an:

He [Abraham] said: “I will go to my Lord: He is sure to guide me. Lord, grant me a righteous son, so we gave him the good news that he would have a patient son. When the boy was old enough to work with his father, Abraham said: “My son, I have seen myself sacrificing you in a dream. What do you think?” He said: “Father, do as you are commanded and, God willing, you will find me steadfast.”

When they had both submitted to God, and he had laid his son down on the side of his face, We called out to him: “Abraham, you have fulfilled the dream.” This is how we reward those who do good – it was a test to prove [their true character] – We ransomed his son with a momentous sacrifice, and We let him be praised by succeeding generations. ‘Peace be upon Abraham!”  (Q 37:99-109)


When these verses are compared to the account given by the Bible (Genesis 22:1-14), we can notice that the Qur’an does not mention the ram that had been caught in a bush by its horns and that served for the sacrifice. More importantly, it does not mention the name of the son who was to be sacrificed. Because sura 37 of the Qur’an, after speaking of this sacrifice, continues by saying:


We gave Abraham the good news of Isaac – a prophet and a righteous man – and blessed him and Isaac too (Q 37:112-113).


Since the name of Isaac is mentioned only after the episode of the sacrifice has been related, most Muslims identify the son to be sacrificed with Ismael, Abraham’s first born. 

However that may be, the real point of Eid al-Adha is to celebrate the submission (islam) of Abraham to the will of God. In the passage from the Qur’an first quoted above (Q 2:124) the term translated “leader” could also be translated “model”. Abraham is indeed a model of belief in God and of obedience to God, not only for Jews, Christians and Muslims who relate together on the basis of their reverence for Abraham, but also for all believers.


Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the Pilgrimage Month, which is the last month of the lunar calendar followed by Muslims. The sacrifice observed by the pilgrims to Mecca at the conclusion of the rites of pilgrimage, is celebrated by Muslims all over the world. It includes the sacrifice of an animal; a portion of the meat, usually one third, is consumed by the family offering the sacrifice, the rest being given to the poor. There is a special prayer on this day, and greetings and gifts are exchanged. Though it is considered the most important feast of the year (al-‘id al-kabir, the great feast), it is in fact less popular than Eid al-Fitr (al-‘id al-saghir, the lesser feast) which is celebrated at the end of Ramadan.


Just as it is good for Christians to accompany Muslims during Ramadan, so we can accompany them as they celebrate Eid al-Adha. With this in mind, greetings have been sent to local communities of Muslims “from the priests and people of St Vincent de Paul church, L1.

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