Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) is one of the most important days on the Muslim calendar and is celebrated in the UAE and all over the Muslim world.
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In the UAE, as in many Muslim countries, Eid al-Adha is a time of family and religious devotion. Considering that eid means “solemn festival,” it is not surprising that Eid al-Adha has a distinctly religiousness to it, with morning prayers at the mosque, listening to a sermon on the importance of sacrifice, wearing new clothes, and animal sacrifice (called qurbani) constituting a major part of how it is observed.
Eid al-Adha generally lasts for four days straight, beginning on the 10th day of the Islamic month Dhul Hijja. Also note that the exact date is never set in stone until a government moon-sighting committee officially declares it.
Eid al-Adha commemorates the Quranic account of Ibrahim unquestioningly offering up Ishmael on Mount Moriah in obedience to Allah’s command. Allah then sends an angel to stop the sacrifice short, allowing Ishmael to live, and assures Ibrahim that his sacrifice “has already been accepted.”
Muslims who can afford it, both in the UAE and elsewhere, often go on pilgrimage to Mecca at this time of year to take part in symbolic remembrances of Ibrahim’s sacrifice. Others, however, sacrifice an animal in their home country, usually a cow but sometimes a camel, sheep, goat, or ram.
Sacrificial animals must meet halal standards, be the best the owner has to offer, and pass inspection by religious authorities. In the UAE, for health reasons, it is illegal to sacrifice animals at home or in public. Instead, they must be taken to one of the nation’s four official slaughter houses.
For those who cannot afford to buy a sacrificial animal on their own, family and group purchases are common. The meat from the sacrificed animal is traditionally divided into three parts. A third is kept by the family, a third is given to friends and relatives, and a third is donated to the poor.