History of Eid al-Adha: The Feast of Sacrifice


Eid al-Adha or the Feast of Sacrifice, is celebrated by Muslims all over the world as a major holiday for a period of three to fours days. The majority of Muslims will attend the special prayers held at different major mosques and Islamic centers all over the world.

Muslims usually wear new clothes and some exchange gifts while children are entertained and take a day off from school, including college students. Many Muslims also do not go to work on that day.

When asked about the origin of Eid al-Adha, The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, is reported to have said, “It is a tradition that has come down to us from Ibrahim.”

The Feast of Sacrifice dates from the historic event when Prophet Ibrahim was commanded by Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala, in a form of a dream vision, to sacrifice his son, Ishmail. But while he was in the act of sacrificing his son, Subhanahu wa ta’ala sent the Angel Gabriel with a huge ram. Gabriel informed Abraham that his dream vision was fulfilled and instructed him to sacrifice the ram as a ransom for his son. The story is mentioned in Chapter #37 of the Holy Qur’an.

Eid al-Adha enjoys special significance because the Day of Sacrifice marks the climax of Hajj or Pilgrimage, the fifth pillar of Islam. This annual pilgrimage to Makkah and Madinah in Saudi Arabia is an obligation only for those men and women who are physically and financially able to perform it once in their lifetime.

The Story of Eid al-Adha

In the Quran, Ibrahim has a dream in which Allah commands him to sacrifice his son, Ismail, as a sign of obedience to God. In the writing, Shaytaan, or Satan attempts to confuse Ibrahim and tempt him to not go through with the act, but Ibrahim drives him away.

However, as Ibrahim is about to kill Ismail, Allah stops him, sending the Angel Jibreel, or Gabriel, with a ram to sacrifice instead. The commemoration of the Adha, which is Arabic for sacrifice, takes place on the final day of the Hajj pilgrimage, the fifth pillar of Islam.

How Eid al-Adha Is Celebrated

Because Ibrahim was allowed to sacrifice a ram instead of his son, Eid al-Adha is traditionally celebrated on its first day, by those with means to do so, with the symbolic sacrifice of a lamb, goat, cow, camel or other animal that is then divided into threes to be shared equally among family, friends and the needy.

Muslim worshippers typically perform a communal prayer, or ṣalāt, at dawn on the first day of the festival, attend Mosque, donate to charities and visit with family and friends, also exchanging gifts.

The Hajj and Ka’bah

Prayers in Kaaba in Mecca.

Eid al-Adha is celebrated on the final day of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, in western Saudi Arabia. All Muslims able to do so are asked to make the five-day Hajj journey at least once in their lifetime, and 2 million do so each year.

At Mecca, worshippers visit the Ka’bah shrine, Islam’s most important monument, in the Grand Mosque. Also known as the “Black Stone,” the Ka’bah is believed to have been constructed by Ibrahim and Ismail. Pilgrims also visit the Jamarat Bridge, where Ibrahim was believed to have thrown stones at the devil.

How Is Eid al-Adha Different from Eid al-Fitr?

In Arabic, “Eid” means festival or feast and there are two major “Eids” celebrated by Muslims.

The first, Eid al-Fitr, Arabic for “festival of the breaking of the fast,” occurs at the end of Ramadan, a month-long period when Muslims fast daily from sunrise to sunset. Also known as Sawm, it is also one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith. Ramadan marks the month Allah revealed the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad.

Eid al-Adha, generally considered the holier of the two Eid festivals, takes place about two months after Eid al-Fitr at the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. The dates of both holidays are the same every year according to the Islamic lunar calendar. The Western 365-day Gregorian calendar is about 11 days longer, causing the dates to change each year.


The Prophet Ibrahim (as) had a series of dreams where he was being instructed to sacrifice his beloved son, Ismail (as). He was deeply disturbed by them, and confided in his son, Ismail (as). Prophet Ismail (as) comforted his father and encouraged him to follow the commands of Allah (swt).

“Oh my father,” Ismail (as) told Ibrahim (as), “Do that which you have been commanded, Insha’Allah you shall find me among the patient ones.” (37:102)

Once on Mount Arafat, Prophet Ibrahim (as) decided to blindfolded himself while he carried out the slaughter, so to ease his own pain. When Ibrahim (as) removed his blindfold, he saw that by the divine grace of Allah (swt) Ismail (as) was safe beside him, and a ram lay in the place of his son!

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “It is the Sunnah of your father Ibrahim (as). For every hair of the Qurbani you receive a reward from Allah (swt).” (Trimidhi)

Just as the Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was rewarded for his devotion, Allah (SWT) will generously reward any Muslim who completes their Qurbani obligations with full hearts and good intentions.

We remember that sacrifice, every year, during the month of Dhul Hijjah, last of the holy calendar, when Muslims from around the world perform Qurbani  – sacrificing an animal, as Ibrahim (as) did – preferably a goat, sheep, cow or camel. Thus we echo Ibrahim’s (as) deed long ago to demonstrate our own devotion, obedience, and submission to Allah (swt).

Prophet Muhammad (saw) said of the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah: “There are no days on which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days” (Bukhari).


Despite the knowing how much it would have hurt him, Ibrahim (as) followed Allah’s (swt) command and was willing to sacrifice his beloved son, Ismail (AS) out of devotion. Allah’s (swt) divine intervention saved Ismail’s life, and in doing so revealed to Ibrahim what he truly wanted from this act of devotion, and a sacrifice of worldly attachments. It was never Allah’s (swt) desire for Ibrahim (as) to sacrifice and lose his son, but instead to slaughter his earthly attachments. “It is neither their flesh nor their blood that reaches Allah, it is your piety that reaches Him.” (22:37)


What is Eid ul-Adha? BBC Bitesize

Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha: Why are there two Eids? BBC

Eid al-Adha: Muslims Around the World Celebrate Holy Festival, The New York Times

Here’s what you need to know about Eid al-Adha, one of Islam’s biggest holidays, CNN

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