Friday, December 29, 2006

Four days of Eid-ul-Adha

Saturday marks the start of the Muslim's four-day (for the Sunni, anyway) holiday, Eid-ul-Adha, the "festival of sacrifice." According to various internet sites, the celebration marks Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael -- that's right, Ishmael, not Isaac as the bible recounts -- in God's test of his faithfulness. God stopped him and gave him a substitute, a sheep, to sacrifice in Ishmael's place. Muslims typically sacrifice a sheep or goat, and then share the meat among family, friends, neighbors and the needy to eat that day. This sacrificial animal is called a Qurban -- a consecrated gift to God (equivalent to the Corban in Jewish ritual).

In recent weeks, Saddam Hussein referred to himself as a "sacrifice", in apparent reference to his imminent execution ostensibly scheduled to coincide with Eid-ul-Adha.

The first day of Eid-ul-Adha is a holiday when everyone dresses up in new and beautiful clothes to attend Salat (prayers) in the morning. The service is followed by socializing at the mosque, and then people visit each other's homes and "partake in festive meals with special dishes, beverages, and desserts."

According to ReligiousTolerance.org, Eid-ul-Adha is a time when Muslims "pray for forgiveness from God and strength of faith. They, in turn, forgive others, releasing any feelings of enmity or ill feeling towards others. Many Muslims exchange greeting cards at this time."

The web site goes on to dispel a notion that the Day of Sacrifice is a time when Islamic passions and violence are fueled. The site instead claims it is a time when Muslims "concentrate on spiritual matters and their forgiveness of those who have wronged them. To claim that many Muslims will resort to violence on this day would be analogous to claiming that many Christians will become violent at Christmas time, or Easter."

Eid-ul-Adha... a time when Muslims everywhere release any feelings of enmity or ill feeling towards others. A time when they send each other greeting cards instead of mortars.

At least for four days.

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