For travellers making their way to Muslim enclaves around the world this September, be on the lookout for one of Islam’s holiest days – Eid Al-Adha. A day that fills itself with community, sacrifice, religious devotion and understanding, one would be wise not to miss this highly important religious celebration.
This September marks a special month for Muslims around the world, and for those traveling to either Oman or Indonesia this month, they may well be in for a treat as they have the opportunity to observe one of the holiest Islamic holidays, Eid Al-Adha, which falls on 24 September this year. Also known as the Festival of Sacrifice, this holy day is a day that celebrates the act of Abraham as he prepared to sacrifice his own son for the powers that be. What’s more is that the holiday also correlates to the Hajj, or pilgrimage that all Muslims must make (if able) to the holy land of Mecca. Typically falling on the days subsequent to the pilgrims’ return from the Hajj – based on the lunar-based Islamic calendar – the day brings about a festive, albeit somewhat graphic, atmosphere in the Islamic enclaves that are prevalent in both the Middle East as well as Southeast Asia.
“… so if you do find yourself in either the Middle East or Southeast Asia don’t be surprised to see a number of farm animals grazing lazily along the roads in unassuming groups.”
The celebrations for Eid Al-Adha are widespread, and if you are in a predominantly Muslim area, you should have no problem finding where the celebrations are being held by simply asking someone in the area to point you in the right direction. Bali presents complications as it is one of the few islands in Indonesia where a Muslim majority does not exist, but in areas of western Bali like Medewi, there are certainly Muslim areas in which the festivities come to life. Conversely, a short plane ride from Bali to Java will land you in the heart of Indonesian Islam, and in just about every village on the island there is a ceremony to attend. Similarly in Oman, a Muslim country, celebrations will be a dime a dozen, and visitors should have no problem making their way to a celebration.
Eid Al-Adha, as do most days in Islam, starts off with a communal (jamaah) Morning Prayer, but proceeds in a much different way thereafter. To represent and honour the sacrifice that Abraham was willing to make, Muslims will typically slaughter live animals in commemoration. This can be a gruesome sight for those with weak stomachs, and so it is recommended to keep your kids away from the activities, and possibly yourself if the sight of blood is unsettling. Though don’t be surprised to see hordes of local children laughing and playing games for the day, as this event is a yearly occurrence, and one that comes with major religious responsibility for all involved in the religion, whether young or old.
In the weeks building up to Eid Al-Adha, Muslim families save to purchase either goats or cattle which are to be slaughtered on the big day, and so if you do find yourself in either the Middle East or Southeast Asia, don’t be surprised to see a number of farm animals grazing lazily along the roads in unassuming groups. On the day of the celebration, these animals are typically carted to town squares and local mosques where the families who purchased the animals gather. After they arrive, and the correct prayers and rituals are performed, one by one the animals are slaughtered, skinned and butchered. But instead of wasting the animals by disposing of them, Muslims are required to adhere to a certain rule in which a third of the meat belongs to the family that bought the animal, another third belongs to family friends and kin, and the last third belongs to the poor and needy. As such, the animals which are stripped and cleaned within several minutes are then packaged and on their way to people who will not allow the sacrificial meat to go to waste. Having participated in the event twice before, I can say that the meat is fantastic, as it is as fresh as anything, though it can be a bit difficult to stomach after watching much of the former actions merely minutes before.
Perhaps my favourite thing about Eid Al-Adha, however, is the communal aspect that comes with it. When the animals are brought to the local mosque or town square, the entire village gathers and conversation and chatter is heard between any and every one, while kids smile, play football, and pet the unsuspecting cows before their moment of truth. Though violent, it isn’t without reason, and while perhaps unsettling, when one takes the time to understand the reasoning behind it all, it makes sense. On top of all of that, the fact that the meat is oftentimes equally distributed amongst the villagers adds a flair of generosity and caring that seems oft-forgotten in this ever-changing world.
An opportunity for the religiously devout to further their commitment within the religious world, this holiday is certainly a spectacle to behold for outsiders, and for those within the faith, this time of the year is rarely topped in terms of religious importance. Coming in on 24 September this year, if you happen to find yourself in either the Middle East or Southeast Asia, and have the stomach and fortitude to visit, Eid Al-Adha is certainly a celebration not worth missing.
(Featured image: Islam’s most sacred mosque, Al-Masjid Al-Haram, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is where Muslim pilgrims find the pinnacle of their Hajj. Circumventing the Kaaba counter-clockwise seven times, this procession is the last in their holy journey before Eid Al-Adha. The Kaaba is also the point to which Muslims around the world are expected to face when performing prayer or salat.)