Minnesotan Muslims joined their brothers in faith, estimated at 1.5 billion globally, in an annual ritual of sacrifice on Saturday December 30 as they celebrated Eid el Hajj, or Eid el Ad’ha. The former name is associated with the end of the annual pilgrimage to the Muslim holy shrines in Mecca and Madina in Saudi Arabia, while the second name simply means “celebration of sacrifice.”
The sacrifice ritual dates back to the days of Prophet Abraham who was ordered by God to slaughter his son (Ismail) for sacrifice; and when he obeyed this command; God sent him a lamb in place of his son. Since then, Muslims who go for pilgrimage (hajj) and those who celebrate hajj at home have to slaughter a cow, camel, goat or ship in observance of the Abraham ritual. Those who do not make it to Hajj are to slaughter an animal and divide it into three parts: one third of it to be given to neighbors, the second part is to be given to the poor while the third portion is for consumption by family members.
Pilgrims to the holy cities range, in different years, between1.6 million to over 3.0 million people. One can only imagine the amount of protein food available during hajj in Saudi Arabia! The Saudi Arabia government which oversees the holy shrines of Islam sends plenty of refrigerated meat to famine-stricken areas of the world as the meat is superfluous for Saudis during this season and has to be shared globally.
One Muslim scholar asserts that: “Eid el Ad’ha is a great and unique occasion of joy and celebration. Ironically, this joy and celebration revolves around sacrifice. For believing Muslims, the joy of giving that touches others’ lives is far greater and deeper than the joy of receiving.”
According to Islamic teachings, mother Hajar, Ibrahim’s second wife after Sarah, was left in a desolate barren valley of Mecca. Hajar was left there with her infant son Ismail. As Ismail cried for water, his mother walked between the hills of Safaa and Marwah in search of water when Arch-Angel Gabriel, emerging through divine intervention, brought a spring of water called zamzam to quench Ismail’s thirst. It is at this spring that pilgrims drink to this day! Ibrahim returned later and laid the foundation of Ka’aba (the Muslim niche of prayer). With water in the area, people started settling there and thus the town of Mecca took root and so did the Arab nation being off-springs of Abraham through his son Ismail. Abraham’s second son Isaac, son of Sarah, gave rise to the Jewish people. Jews and Arabs are cousin brothers linking up with Abraham, the father of prophets. Ismail is the great-great grandfather of Prophet Muhammad, (pbuH) may the peace of Allah be upon Him. There is a black stone at the Ka’aba known as hajaril’aswad and is known to contain the remains of sand that Gabriel collected from which God created Adam. Thus Islam, the universal religion and a religion of peace, connects to God through all the prophets from Adam to Muhammad (pbuH). Islam means total submission to the will of Allah.
Some hajj rituals are performed in Mecca while others are performed in Medina where the prophet’s tomb lies. Other rituals take place at Mina, Muzdelfa and Arafa. It is at Arafa where Adam and Eve met after they had lost paradise and were looking for each other and reunited after 40 years of separation. Arafa is the climax site of pilgrimage and all Muslims on hajj have to spend part of the afternoon and evening there for the hajj climax day to complete the pilgrimage.
Another Muslim scholar asserts that the coming together of so many Muslims from around the world is not merely an occasion for socialization, but it goes beyond that, as all pilgrims have the same simple two-piece white cloth (for men) drowning class distinction and displaying man’s equality and common destiny before God. It is an occasion for Muslims around the world to share information and build strong ties as brothers in faith. The prophet of Islam Muhammad (pbuH) is quoted to have said that all Muslims are one brethren in terms of sharing joys and pain. They have a common duty to take action to promote justice and remove corruption, using their hands, speaking against it or simply condemning it in their heart.
By far the largest congregation of Muslim hajj prayers in Minnesota took place in the morning hours of Saturday at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The Imam who read the two Eid sermons called on a packed assembly of believers to be generous to the poor, visit the sick and be good husbands, wives and children on this occasion of Eid el hajj. He said believing Muslims must follow the guidance of the Quran which spells out good deeds which please God and avoid bad deeds which annoy Allah like drugs, alcohol and hypocrisy which will end us in hell fire. He called on Muslims to follow the path of Prophet Muhammad (pbuH) and maintain daily prayers (salat), pay zakkat (2.5 % of one’s annual income as tax), fast during Ramadhan and make a pilgrimage to the holy Muslim shrines at least once in their lifetimes. Pilgrimage is for those blessed with the financial means and good health.
Muslim scholars have argued that the social dimension of hajj is to help Muslims refocus their energies so that they do not forget what is happening the world over and take time to examine their situations as one community (Umma).