Eid al-Adha 2018: We asked Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan to tell us about the significance of Bakrid, the festival of sacrifice.
What is Bakrid? When is it celebrated?
The religious name of Bakrid is Eid al-Adha, which means the festival of sacrifice. It is celebrated every year in Dhul Hijja, the last month of the Hijri calendar (a lunar calendar consisting of 12 months in a year of 354 days).
How do you wish someone on this day?
On this day, people say to each other, “Eid Mubarak!” This means: May you have a blessed Eid! It can also mean: A happy Eid to you!
On the day of Eid al-Adha, Muslims go out of their homes, gather at a place of worship and interact with other people. During all these activities, they always greet people with these words: Assalamualaykum—May peace be upon you! In their prayer on Eid al-Adha and in their daily prayers, Muslims always conclude by saying: Assalmualaykumwarahmatullah—May peace and blessings of God be upon you! When they utter these blessings, they turn their heads to the right and the left. In doing so, they convey the message of peace to all mankind throughout the world.
What is the story of Eid al-Adha or Bakrid that one can tell children?
The story of Eid al-Adha is that Prophet Abraham had a dream in which he was sacrificing his young son, Ishmael. Abraham, a great believer in God, took his dream literally and wanted to sacrifice his son, who was about 10 years old at the time. But, according to tradition, God Almighty sent his angels and asked him to sacrifice an animal instead of his son. The real sacrifice according to God’s planning, was that Abraham had to settle his son along with his mother, near Makkah, which at that time was nothing but a vast desert. This kind of settlement would require great sacrifice on the part of this family. However, the settlement of this small family in the desert was the beginning of a new phase. After some years had lapsed, a caravan passed by and Ishmael married a girl from that caravan. This was the beginning of a new generation called the Ishmaelites. God has wanted a new generation of people to grow in the environment of nature so that these people would be devoid of the corruption and immoralities which are found in people who live in cities and become materialistic. It was in this generation later that the Prophet Muhammad was born. Also, from this generation of people, the Prophet found many Companions and followers who accepted his message and together this group ushered in a peaceful revolution in the world.
Eid al-Adha is a symbolic reminder of what occurred 4,000 years ago; it demonstrates that the sacrifice of a small group of people can create a new beginning for all of humankind.
How many days does it last?
Eid al-Adha marks the final day of Hajj, the annual pilgrimage Muslims are required to undertake to Makkah once in a lifetime. Some Muslims observe this Eid for three days.
How is it different from Eid?
Eid al-Fitr means the festival of the breaking of the fast and is celebrated at the end of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Hijri calendar. On this festival too, as in Eid al-Adha, Muslims offer two units of congregational prayer, visit their neighbours, family and friends and exchange sweets and gifts. However, there is no sacrifice of the animal, as happens on the day of Eid al-Adha. This differentiates the two festivals.
Can you tell us about the ritual of sacrifice? Is it compulsory? What does the Quran say?
Eid al-Adha literally means the Eid of sacrifice. Muslims sacrifice an animal on this day, a symbolic sacrifice that reminds us of the real sacrifice required throughout life. This sacrifice is of our negative emotions such as malice, hatred, negativity and pride. Sacrifice of the animal does not remain confined to physically sacrificing an animal, rather it should produce deep spiritual feelings in a person. He must think that he too has to sacrifice his negative attitude and other wrong habits for the sake of God. So, basically, the act of animal sacrifice symbolised the sacrifice of one’s own self. In making such a sacrifice, the believer indicates his willingness to forsake everything for God.
About the animal sacrifice, the Quran says: “Their flesh and blood do not reach God: it is your piety that reaches Him.” (22:37) This implies that merely sacrificing the animal without observing the spirit behind this ritual is of no use. One has to adhere to and adopt the spirit behind this ritual, which is to be spiritual, pious and righteous in life.
There is variation among different schools of thought among Muslims about the sacrifice. The Hanafi school of thought, which is predominant in the Indian subcontinent, considers it obligatory or essential. However, the majority considers it as a good voluntary act, but not an obligation.
What are the practices that make it significant?
Basically, two practices are performed by Muslims on the day of Eid al-Adha: congregational prayer in the mosque and the sacrificing of an animal. These two practices reflect the basic spirit of the occasion, a combination of two important states of mind—spirituality and dedication. Prayer is an expression of spirituality and sacrifice is an expression of dedication.
The meat from the sacrificed animal is preferred to be divided into three parts. The family retains one-third of the share; another third is given to relatives, friends, and neighbours; and the remaining third is given to the poor and needy. Though the division is purely optional wherein either all the meat may be kept with oneself or may be given away to poor or needy.
What are the lessons to learn from Bakrid? Any message for children?
One of the greatest needs of mankind is the promotion of brotherhood among different groups of society. Eid provides one such occasion. On the day of Eid people meet, greet each other, exchange gifts and sweets. This is a time when people from different religions and backgrounds come together, interact with each other and develop solidarity amongst themselves. This is one of the very important means of promoting peace, harmony and coexistence in society.