This week Muslims commemorated the largest festival of the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha, the Festival of The Sacrifice. This festival, or Eid, occurs upon culmination of the Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place once a year, during which Muslim pilgrims converge on Mecca and fulfil rituals relating to certain traditions mentioned in the Quran. The Hajj pilgrimage and the Festival of The Sacrifice, which marks its culmination, both centre around the figure of Abraham, who is referred to in the Muslim tradition as Ibrahim. The Quran tells of how Ibrahim, in his capacity as one of Allah’s most beloved prophets and messengers, was put through trials and tests. One night, Ibrahim dreamt that Allah ordered him to sacrifice his son Ismail (a.k.a. Ishmael in the Bible). When Ibrahim sought to dutifully carry out such a difficult commandment, he discovered that it was merely a test, and was instructed by Allah to sacrifice an animal instead.
From Morocco in its westernmost edges, to Indonesia in its east and Mecca, the site of the Hajj pilgrimage at its centre, this ritual is repeated across swathes of the Islamic world. Livestock is specifically bred for the purpose. In the weeks leading up to Eid al-Adha, the festival markets are abuzz, until the day the ritual slaughter takes place. Animals are slaughtered according to the traditional halal method and the meat is freshly butchered. While some is kept in the household, the major proportion is distributed to those who cannot afford meat. In today’s globalised world, this means a charity event on a global scale. Instead of household butchering, many Muslims commemorate this Eid al-Adha by donating money to charities providing meat to those who are otherwise unable to afford it and lack the basic nutrition of protein from their daily diets. UK-based Muslim charities that provide this service include: Islamic Aid, Muslim Hands, Islamic Relief, Islamic Help & Minhaj Welfare, among many others.