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Opinions of Thursday, 31 August 2017

Columnist: Ali Maigida

Celebrating Hajj and Eid al-Adha

Friday, September 1 is the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, and it is a national holiday in Ghana.

Eid al-Adha is the more significant of the two main Muslim holidays—the other being Eid al-Fitr, which is the festival to mark the end of the fasting of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Eid stands for “feast” and Eid al-Adha means “the Feast of the Sacrifice.”

This holiday mainly commemorates historical events that took place around the prophet Abraham.

According to Islamic tradition, Abraham was old and had no children. His wife Sarah gave her maid Hagar to Abraham in marriage, and she soon bore him a son, Ishmael. God ordered Abraham to move Hagar and Ishmael from Canaan to present-day Saudi Arabia. He settled them in the valley of Mecca, a dry, rocky, and uninhabited territory. Soon the food and water Hagar and Ishmael had been given were gone.

At one point, Hagar ran up and down between two hills, Safa and Marwa, in desperate search of water and cried to God for help. God answered her prayer and made a spring of water to burst out from the earth. This spring became known as the Zamzam Well. Hagar and Ishmael survived by trading the water with passing nomads for food and supplies.

Some eight years later, God had Abraham return to Hagar and Ishmael in the valley of Mecca. God further tested Abraham’s devotion by asking him to offer his only son, Ishmael, as a sacrifice. Satan tried to tempt Abraham to refuse God’s request, but Abraham threw pebbles at Satan and drove him away.

At the last minute, God stopped Abraham and instead presented a ram for the sacrifice. It is important to note here that all human life is sacred in Islam. Through this test, God pushed Abraham to demonstrate the depths of his devotion to God, but at the same time provided an alternative sacrifice to reinforce a key Islamic teaching: one should never take the life of another human, especially not in the name of God.

Abraham had passed God’s test, and God rewarded him with the promise of a second son by Sarah. God further instructed Abraham and Ishmael to build a house of worship near the Zamzam Well. This temple of God was called the Kaaba, and became the gathering place for all who wished to strengthen their faith in God. In time, God anointed Ishmael to be a prophet to the nomads of the desert, and with the reliable water supply from the Zamzam Well, Mecca became a thriving desert city and a major centre for trade.

Islam is based on five foundations called the Five Pillars of Islam:

1) Belief in God and Prophet Muhammad as His Messenger;

2) Performance of prescribed daily prayers;

3) Contributions towards the poor and the needy;

4) Fasting and spiritual self-purification during Ramadan; and

5) Undertaking the Hajj pilgrimage in a lifetime, if you can.

Eid al-Adha is a component and culmination of Hajj

Hajj

The Hajj pilgrimage consists of a series of rites performed in and around the city of Mecca, between the eighth and the 13th days of the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. In 2017, the dates fall on August 30 to September 4 for Hajj, and September 1 for Eid al-Adha.

The prominent rituals of Hajj include the following:

• All pilgrims wear simple white garments in an egalitarian atmosphere, symbolizing equality among all people, regardless of social position or wealth. Aside from being a form of worship, Hajj teaches equality by bringing people from all races and cultures to one place to stand shoulder to shoulder in prayer and worship in the same manner.

• Muslims around the world face the Kaaba when they pray. To demonstrate reverence to this sacred place and to bring attention to its significance as a focal point for all Muslims, pilgrims at the site perform the ritual of walking around the Kaaba.

• Pilgrims will run between the hills of Safa and Marwa to recall Hagar's frantic search for water for her infant Ishmael.

• Prayers are offered at the spot where Abraham stood and prayed, and pilgrims drink water from the blessed Zamzam well.

• Pebbles are thrown at pillars representing Satan, driving home the idea that everyone should reject and shun the devil in their own life.

• From noon to sunset, Muslims stand in prayer and devotion at the Plain of Arafah and Mount of Mercy, where Prophet Muhammad delivered his Last Sermon to Muslims everywhere.

• At the conclusion of Hajj, most pilgrims also visit Medina to pray at Prophet Muhammad’s mosque and grave.

Eid al-Adha

The third day of Hajj is Eid al-Adha. It is the biggest day of the Hajj and considered the holiest day in the Islamic Calendar. It is the day of “the sacrifice” and occurs over four days known as “Days of remembrance.” On this day, the Hajj pilgrims in Mecca and Muslims around the world offer animal sacrifice to God to mark Abraham’s sacrifice of the ram God provided.

The offering serves to thank God for his generosity and blessings and allows the more fortunate to share their blessings with those less fortunate. It also reminds Muslims that, like Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his son, a Muslim is willing to give up all worldly quests for God’s cause and good. In some countries, families may make a monetary contribution to a charity that will provide meat to those who are in need.

On the morning of Eid al-Adha, Muslims groom themselves and put on their best or newest clothes for the Eid. Eid prayers take place at the mosque or at an open, outside space before noon. After a sermon is given to conclude the prayers, Muslims embrace and congratulate each other with the words, “Eid Mubarak” (Blessed Eid). Family and friends visit with each other, parties are held and there is gift-giving. Sweets are popular presents especially to children.

There is sharing of meat and festival food. Many Muslims also invite their non-Muslim friends, neighbours, co-workers and classmates to participate in the festivities.

The regular charitable practices of the Muslim community are clearly demonstrated during this special time through concerted efforts to see that everyone is happy and taken care of during Eid al-Adha.

EID MUBARAK!

(Wishing you a Blessed Eid)