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Islamic miniature painting of a white man and a boy with a sheep

Eid al-Adha: an Islamic image of Abraham and Ishmael

What is Eid al-Adha?

Eid al-Adha is an Islamic holiday. It falls a few months after the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr. These two celebrations are the two most important holidays of the year for Islam, and of the two, this holiday is the more important one. So Eid al-Adha is the most important Islamic holiday of all.

What is Ramadan?
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The Sacrifice Feast

People also call Eid al-Adha the “Sacrifice Feast”, because people often sacrifice a goat or a sheep (or a lamb) for this holiday. This holiday is a celebration of the day when Allah (God) ordered Abraham to sacrifice his own son, Ishmael. (He’s Isaac in the Jewish version.)

Abraham and Isaac

At the last minute Allah saved Ishmael and sent a sheep for Abraham to sacrifice instead. So people kill a sheep to remember Allah’s mercy and kindness.

History of sheep

Pilgrims set off to go to Mecca on the haj.

Pilgrims set off to go to Mecca on the haj.

Charity, neighbors, and family

Traditionally, people divide the meat from the sacrifice into three parts. One third goes to charity, one third goes to relatives and friends and neighbors, and the last third is for the family to have a feast. So the holiday is a reminder that people should also be kind and generous.

Going to Mecca for the hajj

If Muslims are going to Mecca for the hajj, they often go right before Eid al-Adha, so the end of their pilgrimage to Mecca is this holiday and the sacrifice. That’s because in Islamic tradition, Ishmael and his mother Hagar were the ones who started the city of Mecca and the Kaaba.

More about the hajj

Zamzam well in Mecca today

Zamzam well in Mecca today

What’s the story of Zamzam well?

Hagar’s prayers caused Allah to create the great Zamzam well, in Mecca. The Zamzam well provided water for the whole city, and made Mecca rich because travellers and traders stopped there to fill up their water bags.

When is Eid al-Adha?

Because the Islamic calendar doesn’t match up exactly with the European calendar, or with the sun’s year, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr move slowly around the calendar year, and can fall in any season. Right now, Eid al-Adha is in the early fall, but every year it will come a week and a half earlier.

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