Muslims in Sri Lanka celebrate Hajj festival on August 22, as decided by the Colombo Grand Mosque in association with the Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs and the All Ceylon Jamiayathul Ulama (ACJU). Eid-al-Adha or Hajj Festival as it is popularly known is considered the ‘Festival of the Sacrifice’. It is also known as the Greater Eid, Eid e Qurban and is the second most significant religious holiday in the Islamic calendar, celebrated with great spirituality by the Muslims the world over.
Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the five pillars of Islam and is hence a once in a lifetime obligation for Muslims who are physically fit and financially able.
In what is said to be the largest gathering of any single group in one place and a remarkable spiritual congregation, more than two million Muslims from every corner of the globe go to Mecca each year to perform, Hajj, the rites of which include circling the Ka’aba seven times and going seven times between the hillocks of Safa and Marwa, as Hajara, wife of Prophet Ibrahim did during her search for water for her baby son. In performing Hajj, a pilgrim follows the order of ritual that Prophet Muhammad performed during his last pilgrimage.
Following this, the pilgrims stand together in Arafa and ask God for His forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Day of Judgment. The end of the Hajj is marked by Eid al-Adha on the 10th day of the month of Dhul Hajjah, which is the last month in the Islamic lunar calendar.
Two significant events took place in the history of Islam which represents Hajj. They are, the culmination of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and the sacrifice that Allah commanded Prophet Ibrahim of his beloved son, Ismail.
Allah had made the Hajj mandatory upon mankind initially during the time of Prophet Ibrahim. The spread of idolatry across Saudi Arabia caused the rituals of Hajj to become extremely distorted. Allah described the correct manner in which it was to be performed in the Holy Quran.
There are several rituals which constitute the framework of Hajj. These include, performing Tawaf, i.e. circulating the Ka’aba seven times, Sa’i, walking between the mounds of Safa and Marwa seven times, supplicating to Allah at Arafat, the place where Prophet Muhammad gave his farewell speech, proclaiming the final seal of Islam where Muslims believe they will be resurrected on the Day of Judgment and stoning the pillars that symbolise Satan at Mina, the place where Satan repeatedly challenged Ibrahim to disobey Allah’s command to sacrifice his son.
Each of these rituals is a step in the pilgrim’s difficult journey towards spiritual cleansing. It is said, a pilgrim’s prior sins will be forgiven when he or she executes these acts in a prescribed manner.
The final ritual the pilgrims must perform is the sacrifice of a domestic animal. It signifies the completion of these acts and is known as Qurban. In addition to denoting the completion of Haj, Eid-al-Adha honours the monumental sacrifice that was to be made by Prophet Ibrahim, who was ordered by Allah to sacrifice his son Ismail as a test of obedience.
Eid al-Adha marks the holy ritual when Prophet Ibrahim was going to sacrifice his son to God. Prophet Ibrahim was tempted by Satan to abandon his sacrifice, but showed the willingness to carry through the act and cast the devil away with stones.
However, upon preparing the sacrifice Allah replaced his son with a ram. Pilgrims at Hajj travel back to Mina and throw stone pebbles at pillars, which act resembles casting away the temptations of the devil. Then after meeting with family and friends, Muslims slaughter a sheep, goat, cow or camel to complete the re-enactment when Prophet Ibrahim went to sacrifice his son, only to find God had placed a ram there to be slaughtered instead.
Muslims give a third of the meat to the poor, a third to friends and relatives, and keep the final third for their household as a gesture of parting with something precious.
In some countries with large Muslim populations the festival is a national holiday and can extend for three days, but can also be longer depending on the nation. Eid-al-Adha exemplifies the charitable instincts of Muslims and embodies the values of discipline, self-denial and submitting to the will of Allah. It is a joyous occasion marked with family traditions and celebrations.
During the festival of Eid al-Adha and the days preceding it, Muslims recite Takbir, particularly, on the Day of Arafat. Takbir is the term for the Arabic phrase ‘Allahu Akbar’ translated as ‘God is the greatest’.
Eid-al-Adha is a time of remembrance of the trials of Prophet Ibrahim, a time to celebrate the end of Hajj, and a time that men, women, and children of all ages look forward to.