Hanukkah and Christmas are just around the corner. But the first holiday of this December happens to be a Muslim festivity, known as Eid al Adha, or the day of sacrifice. It marks the last day of the Muslim pilgrimage, known as the Hajj. Many Muslims start this day by heading to the mosque for prayer and reflection. After that, the fun begins.
Families and loved ones gather for good food and celebrations. In predominant Muslim countries, you will find schools and businesses closed and the streets filled with fun and games. Everyone is supposed to be dressed in his or her finest and newest attire picked out just for the occasion. All the children receive money or gifts from their parents, aunts, and/or uncles. Adults however do not exchange gifts or money to one another. Instead of Christmas gifts, my friends and I dub these presents as "my eid money," or check out my new "eid boots," or even my "eid kitten." However this holiday is about so much more than "eid gifts", it's ultimately about the gift of sacrifice.
Muslims believe this holiday dates back to Prophet Abraham, who had a dream that God commanded him to sacrifice his son Ishmael, as an act of obedience to God. Despite the tremendous love for his son, Abraham was preparing to carryout God's command. But in the nick of time, God revealed a sheep to Abraham as a sacrifice instead of his son. Enter Eid al Adha -- where Muslims remember Abraham's obedience to God.
Based on this event Muslims around the world, who are financially able, will donate money and food to the hungry and impoverished. They will sacrifice a sheep or lamb to the poor, symbolizing their obedience to God. But don't misunderstand me - it's not like you have a bunch of people running around trying to catch a lamb to kill. Money is given to professionals like butchers to distribute the meat to the hungry. According to Islam, Muslims should donate a third of the sacrifice to their immediate family and relatives, another third to friends and neighbors, and the rest to the poor. But if your immediate family and friends are not in dire need of the meat, then it all goes to the impoverished.
If you live here in the United States it might be harder to stop by your local butcher and ask him to sacrifice a lamb to feed the needy like you can in the Middle East. But there are some great trusted organizations in the US that will do that for you like Islamic Relief. You can also donate money to the poor as a substitute for meat.
We could all do some good sacrificing during these hard economic times. For some of us we may have no choice but for those of us that do -- let's all make a little sacrifice for the ones less blessed than us.