Eid Mubarak, also known as Eid al-Adha, was celebrated across the globe this past Sunday by the Western calendar October 5 2014. At Ohio University, I was able to partake in the festivities with some of my Muslim friends who, with a community of other Muslim women from Saudi Arabia, celebrated the Eid here on campus. I began learning Arabic last year and became friends with Amna, a young woman from Saudi Arabia. Ever since we became friends, I have been learning about Saudi Arabian culture and the religion of Islam. Attending the Eid, prompted me to share my experience and research the history behind one the most important Muslim holidays.
The roots of the tradition lie in a story told in the Qur’an about the father of the religion, Abraham or in Arabic pronounced as Ibrahim. Ibrahim almost sacrificed Ishmail, his son, but God/Allah stopped him just in time. Allah wanted to test how much Ibrahim loved him (If this story sounds familiar to the Christian or Jewish readers, it is because this exact story is told in the bible except instead of Ishmail it was Isaac who Abraham was going to sacrifice to God). Therefore, Muslims immolate the same act of sacrifice but with sheep that they later turn into delicious dishes of food after a period of fasting.
In the Islamic calendar, the celebration of Eid Al-Adha occurs on the 10th of the last month of the year known in Arabic as “Dou alheja”. Eid al-adha is the second-out of two Eids- celebration in the Islamic calendar. This celebration lasts for four days unlike Eid Al-fitr which only lasts a day. All Muslims practice religious rituals like morning prayers (i.e. Eid prayer) on this day. They will gather at the mosque together and say prayers. The men would kill the goat and cook a meal for friends, family, and poor. This holiday also marks the end to the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) and commemorates the obedience to the individual Muslims to God.
What I experienced at the ceremony was much different than I had anticipated and what is constructed by Western media. The festival I attended was about delicious, traditional dishes of food, laughter, faith, and dance. The ceremony was held in the ballroom and many Muslim women arrived to celebrate on this religious and happy day of Islamic year. Since it was a women only type of get together, the women took off their abaya, their nikab, and removed their hijab to reveal beautiful dresses. It may have been an unorthodox Eid but it was still an amazing time and gave me a good idea of what the Eid is all about. Loud music played and there was even a dance floor. My friends tried to teach me to dance and before long I was out on the dance floor among the women (Interestingly enough the most revered dance was an Egyptian dance that only few of the women had mastered.). After some dancing, a large amount of Middle Eastern dishes were laid out. It was the best food I have had since being back at college! I had spiced chicken, lamb, rice, hummus, pita, salad, and baklava for desert. And after dinner, dancing began again and the beat picked up as women-including clumsy, non-coordinated me- swayed across the dance floor. The video below is a dance similar to what was happening at the Eid.
Being with Arab, Muslim women during the holiday was a great experience and I am very thankful I could participate. I was taken in like any other woman at the ceremony. I can only explain the atmosphere by a feeling of family, friendship, community, and a passion for the faith. This Islamic holiday is very traditional and held close to the hearts of Muslims around the world.