By Lauren Herber, Editor-in-Chief
Eid Mubarak, T-birds! This past Monday was Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest Muslim holidays of the year. Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of the Sacrifice, occurs at the end of hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, a journey that the Koran recommends all able-bodied Muslims make at least once during their lifetime.
This year, I had the privilege of celebrating Eid for the first time with some of my T-bird friends. Soukaina Lamrani (MAGAM ’17, Morocco), Abe Sharif (MAGAM ’18, Palestine), and Soukaina’s friend Abdullah (from Abu Dhabi) and sister Iman (from Morocco) prepared a traditional Eid feast of lamb and rice and explained to us the origins and meaning of the holiday.
While Iman and Soukaina were preparing the meal, I chatted with Abdullah and Abe about what exactly Eid represents. They shared with me the religious history of the holiday. Eid al-Adha celebrates the story of Ibrahim, who took his son Ismail up the mountain to sacrifice him as Allah commanded. “Three times, Ibrahim attempted to sacrifice his son,” Abdullah recounted. “And three times, the knife was dulled and did not kill Ismail.” After that, Allah provided a sacrificial animal, a lamb, and commanded Ibrahim to sacrifice the lamb instead of his son. Eid al-Adha is a celebration that honors Ibrahim’s devotion to Allah.
Traditionally, Eid al-Adha is a four-day-long festival, but today the celebration of the public holiday varies by country. Curious about this variation, I asked several Thunderbirds how they and their families celebrate Eid in their home countries. They all start the holiday with prayer. In Kenya, Faduma-Dhool Mohamed (MAGAM ’17, Kenya) told me, they hold the prayer in the early morning on open grounds. I learned from Bandar Tahlawi (MAGAM ’18, Saudi Arabia) that there is a special Eid prayer that is only performed for Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr. After the prayer, the feast begins with the sacrificing of an animal, which is representative of the animal that Ibrahim sacrificed in the place of his son. There are many animals that can be used for the sacrifice: sheep, goat, camel, or cow. In Saudi Arabia, Bandar informed me, most families sacrifice a sheep, as it is the most common meat and fairly inexpensive. Faduma’s family also begins the feast with a sacrifice, but they choose the plumpest goat from their farm instead of a sheep.
In Saudi Arabia, the sacrifice is traditionally divided into three parts. One part is for the home/family, one part is for friends, relatives, and neighbors, and the last part is donated to needy people. Bandar’s family eats the liver and part of their portion of the meat for breakfast and then enjoys a long nap. In the evening, families, friends, and neighbors come together for a traditional dish of rice and sheep. In Kenya, Faduma and her family celebrate Eid somewhat differently. “The day would be filled with visiting family and friends’ houses, dressed in our finest gowns, nibbling on halwa (a dense, sweet treat) and sipping hot coffee,” Faduma told me. Abdullah related a similar experience that emphasized spending time with friends and family.
Hearing about these traditions was fascinating, and it made me more curious: what is it like to celebrate Eid in the U.S., so far from home and in a country that is not Muslim-majority? “It feels very different,” said Faduma, “and I particularly feel homesick during this holiday as it reminds me of home.” Fortunately, however, Faduma has found a second home in Thunderbird. “I celebrate this day by educating my non-Muslim friends on what this day means,” she said. “I share this day with my T-bird friends, whom over the past year have become my second family.” Abdullah, Bandar, and Abe agreed: it’s difficult to be far from home and family during Eid, but they do their best to maintain as many traditions as possible, such as performing the special morning prayer, going to a farm to sacrifice an animal, and celebrating in the evening with a feast shared with friends. “Eid al-Adha is like your Thanksgiving or Christmas,” Bandar told me. “It’s a time to be social and celebrate with people. If you can’t be with your family, then you spend time with friends.” One thing that Bandar has enjoyed about celebrating Eid in the U.S. is the diversity of Muslims here. “There are people from every Muslim country,” he told me. “It’s very impressive. You see different countries, cultures, and ethnicities come together to perform the Eid prayer.”
Lastly, I asked these friends and T-birds what Eid al-Adha means to them personally. For Abdullah, it’s a time to reflect on and honor Ibrahim’s devotion to Allah and spend time with loved ones. “To me,” shared Faduma, “Eid al-Adha is a joyous occasion with family and friends, filled with feasts, kindness to the less fortunate and the weak within our community; a time that brings Muslims around the world together.” Bandar also loves the social aspect of Eid. “First and foremost,” he said, “Eid is a religious holiday. It represents sacrifice for God and reminds you of the importance of following God’s commands. But I also love these events because I love to be around people. I love to be social and spend time with family and friends, especially because everyone is so busy. It gives us an opportunity to come together.”
I am so thankful to be here at Thunderbird, where I’ve had the opportunity to learn about Eid al-Adha from many different perspectives and even participate in the celebrations myself. It is a beautiful thing to be able to share in the joy of friends whose culture is different from yours or who are from a country that you have never been to. In a world that is currently stricken with fear of all that is different, I am grateful to live in our tiny multicultural microcosm where openness, curiosity, trust, and respect are fostered and encouraged.
Until next year, “Kul ’am wa inta bekhair!” (May every year see you in good health!)