Ritual Sheep sacrifice at the Aid El Kabir

Aid el Kabir is one the oldest and most important religious festivals of the Islamic world and is also referred to as the "Sacrifice Feast"

Ritual Sheep sacrifice at the Aid El Kabir

Festival Essentials

When: Annually, dates based on the Muslim calender
Where: Throughout the Islamic world, particularly North Africa
What to bring: A sharp knife
What not to bring: Vegetarian cook book

Aid el Kabir is one the oldest and most important religious festivals of the Islamic world. The festival celebrates the willingness of Abraham to obey God and sacrifice his son Isaac, but also honours the giving of gifts, keeping of promises and making of sacrifices.

It is also referred to as the “Sacrifice Feast”, and is the second of two Muslim holidays celebrated worldwide each year, and considered to be the holier of the two. It honors the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son, as an act of submission to God’s command. Before he sacrificed his son God intervened by sending his angel Jibra’il (Gabriel), who then put a sheep in his son’s place. The meat from the sacrificed animal is divided into three parts: the family retains one third of the share; another third is given to relatives, friends and neighbors; and the remaining third is given to the poor and needy.

As Aid El Kabir is a festival of sacrifice, each Muslim household that can afford to do so, will sacrifice an animal – usually a sheep. The head of the household will turn the animal’s head toward Mecca before slitting its throat. No part of the animal is wasted as all are turned into brochettes and eaten, with the exception a few small pieces of the heart and liver which the women of the household cast into the corners of each room in order to keep away evil. Special prayers are said on the day of the festival and the holiday is a time for giving gifts and visiting friends and family. Islamic law also says that some of the meat of the sacrifice must be shared with the poor.

Aid el Kabir usually takes place around March every year in Muslim communities throughout the world. In the Islamic lunar calendar, Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah and lasts for four days until the 13th day. In the international (Gregorian) calendar, the dates vary from year to year drifting approximately 11 days earlier each year.

main image: A panorama in 12 folds showing Muslims returning from their Mosques after Eid prayers in the Mughal Empire

By Susi O’Neill

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