Origins Of Eid-ul-Adha And Its Traditions In Australia
Eid-ul-Adha takes place on the 10th day of the last month of the Islamic calendar- Dhu al-Hijjah.
However, depending on the country, Eid-ul-Adha celebrations can last between 2 to 4 days. The Islamic calendar follows the lunar calendar, where dates of annual holy days vary in accordance with the phases of the moon. Hence, the predicted dates of Eid-ul-Adha may be corrected at the start of Dhul Hijja. Dhu al-Hijjah is also the most sacred month of the Islamic year, during which Muslims travel to Mecca to complete the annual Holy Pilgrimage of Hajj. Although Eid-ul-Adha has no direct relation to the Hajj Pilgrimage, it is a day after the completion of Hajj and therefore has significance in time.
Eid-ul-Adha, also known as the Feast of Sacrifice or Festival of Sacrifice, is an Islamic festival to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim’s devotion to Allah. Ibrahim, also known as Abraham in Christian and Jewish traditions, was willing to obey Allah’s command and sacrifice his son, Ismail. As they reached Mount Moriah and was just about to complete the sacrifice, an angel stopped him and Allah replaced Ismail with a ram, which was sacrificed in place of his son. Allah’s command was a test of Ibrahim’s devotion and commitment, and this festival is celebrated to honor and commemorate not only sacrifice, but also devotion towards and willingness to obey Allah.
Allah states in the Quran:
“Their meat will not reach Allah, nor will their blood, but what reaches Him is piety from you. Thus have We subjected them to you that you may glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and give good tidings to the doers of good.” (Surah Hajj:37)
Eid-ul-Adha is aimed to guide Muslims to become more virtuous in their deeds; being free from selfish desires as to elevate them from anything that would hinder their ability to fulfill responsibilities as a Muslim who has submitted to the will of Allah.
In Australia, Eid-ul-Adha is not celebrated as a nationwide public holiday and usual businesses retain normal opening hours. However, some Islamic organizations are closed or offer reduced levels of service. Eid-ul-Adha is recognized as a special opportunity to hold social gatherings among family and friends and these celebrations are often held in mosques and other local community venues.
The 10 days preceding Eid-ul-Adha hold great significance as they are aimed to motivate and encourage Muslims to complete maximum Ibadat- worship and acts of devotion, in which Eid-ul-Adha is celebrated as an expression of reward.
The Eid-ul-Adha festivities are surrounded by a special atmosphere of peace, respect, giving and receiving, as well as sharing and caring. The festival begins with Muslims uniting in prayer and listening to a sermon at a Mosque or other appropriate venues. They are dressed in new or their clothes and thank Allah for all the blessings that they have received. The Eid-ul-Adha prayer is performed any time between the sun’s complete rise up and the initial entering of Zuhr time- the fourth of five daily prayers. The act of Qurbani (sacrifice) is then carried out, performed in congregation at the nearest Mosque in the morning. Traditionally, the day is also spent alongside family, friends, and loved ones, exchanging gifts and celebrating feats together. Muslims will also make donations to charities and those in need, so that they are able to eat a meat-based meal and celebrate Eid-ul-Adha too.
Eid-ul-Adha is most commonly known as ‘salty Eid’, where the food eaten during the festival is predominantly savory in taste. Most Muslims will consume red meat, including the animal which is sacrificed during the observance; usually lamb, goat or cow. The meat is often roasted, barbecued or cooked in a curry.
A traditional dish popular in Middle Eastern countries is the maqluba, which consists of fried vegetables, meat (chicken, turkey or lamb) and rice, cooked together in a pot which is then flipped upside down as a large savory cake. Celebration feats are also likely to include a range of vegetarian or meat curries, tagines and stews, depending on the cuisine of where the celebrations take place.
In Afghanistan, Bolani is also a popular celebration food, consisting of flatbread stuffed with an array of fillings, from potatoes to green pepper. It is usually baked or fried to create a thin crust before being served with yoghurt.
Arabian pastries called Ma’amoul are also eaten; they are made using ingredients including dates and nuts, and are often served in a ball or cookie shape.
However, in South Asia, celebrations tend to be based more on sweet rather than savory foods, and the Seviyan Kheer is often eaten for breakfast after the Eid prayer. It is made by cooking vermicelli with butter, milk and sugar, as well as an array of spices, nuts or saffron.
The Eid-ul-Adha is also known as the Feast of Sacrifice because it traditionally includes the sacrifice of an animal, as an act of thanksgiving for God’s mercy. Qurbani, is the act where Muslims symbolically sacrifice an animal, in remembrance of Ibrahim’s sacrifice for Allah, where the animal represents the ram that was replaced in position of Ibrahim’s son. In some traditionally Muslim countries, families may purchase an animal known as udhiya- usually a goat or sheep in which they sacrifice. However, this is not legal in many parts of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States etc. Instead, families from those countries will purchase an entire carcass from the butcher or slaughterhouse and divide it amongst themselves. Or, they will purchase generous portions of meat for a communal meal.
Qurbani lasts for a total of 3 days, from the 10th to the 12th of Dhu-al-Hijjah. The sacrificial animal must be a sheep, lamb, goat, cow, bull or camel. It must also be in good health and over a certain age in order to be sacraficed, in a “halal”, acceptable Islamic tradition. The Qurbani meat will then be divided into three equal portions of per share; one-third donated to those in need, one-third shared out amongst friends, and the final third cooked and eaten by the family.
Imam, which also means ‘leader’ or ‘model’ and ‘to stand in front of’ in Arabic, refers in a general sense, to a person who leads Muslim worshippers in prayer. In a group of people, one of them may volunteer or be selected as the Imam for that prayer. In countries such as Brunei, Singapore and Malaysia, the family member who leads the prayers within the home when praying together is also called the imam. Within the home, one family member serves as the Imam. This honor is usually given to an older member but can also be granted to younger children in order to encourage their spiritual growth.
However, in a global sense, an imam refers to the head of the Muslim community. This title can be found several times in the Quran in reference to leaders and Ibrahim. Imams hold both intellectual authority and political leadership. After the death of the Prophet Muhammad, the Imam was entrusted with the guardianship of Muhammad’s accomplishments and the continuation of his leadership. The imam was to teach men the truths of the Quran and guide them through their existence in society.
The origin of the imam is conceived differently by various sectors of the Muslim community, hence contributing to the political and religious split into Sunni and Shia Islam. Sunni Muslims consider and imam to be someone with strong faith in Quran and Sunnah. They primarily serve as prayer leaders in mosques. However, although they may provide spiritual guidance, the overarching authority to interpret and guide Muslims’ way of living lies with the Ijma (consensus) of the Muslim community.
However, Shia Muslims believe that imams are divinely appointed by Allah to be perfect examples for those who are faithful. They must be followed since they were appointed by God and are free from sin. Hence, they hold the highest level of power and authority and are deemed infallible leaders who are the only divine legates and legitimate interpreters of the Quran. They are treated as God’s appointed representatives on Earth. The largest sect of Shia Islam is known as The Twelvers, as they believe that twelve divinely appointed Imams descended from the Prophet in the line of Ali and Hussein, led the community until the 9th century.
In most smaller cities, an Imam is selected by members of the Muslim community, and is considered to be knowledgeable and wise. In other communities, they may be specifically recruited or hired and undergo some form of specialized training. It is expected that the Imam should be able to understand, and recite the Quran correctly. There is no official clergy in Islam as Muslims believe in a direct connection with Allah without the need of an intercessor. The Imam is simply a respected leadership position, selected from amongst the community members.
The primary responsibility of an Imam is to lead each of the five daily prayers in Islamic worship services at the mosque. The Imam recites the verses and words of prayer, either aloud or silently depending on the prayer, and other worshippers will follow his movements. During the service, he stands in front of and facing away from the worshipers, towards the direction of Mecca. On Friday, imams also deliver the khutba (sermon) and may lead the taraweeh (nightly prayers during Ramadan). They do this either alone or with a partner to share the duty. Imams lead all other special prayers including those for funerals, rain ceremonies, eclipses and more. In a broad community, Imams are usually men. In groups of mixed genders with men and women, prayers must be led by a male imam. However, when a group of women pray without men present, a woman may serve as the Imam of that prayer.
Imam is an Islamic leadership position and in addition to leading Islamic worship services, they serve as community leaders, and provide religious guidance or spiritual advice. An Imam stands at the head of Islamic society and conveys to men the divine laws of Allah and to implement them. He preserves the collective identity and dignity of Muslims from decline and moral corruption.
In addition to being a prayer leader in worship services, the Imam also serves as a member of the larger leadership team in the Muslim community. Their counseling may be sought in personal or religious matters. Such include asking for spiritual advice, assistance with a family issue, or guidance in other times of need. The Imam may also be involved in visiting the sick, engaging in interfaith service programs, officiating marriages, and organizing educational gatherings in the mosque.
The Imam a leader and exemplar whose intellectual power and insight guide those who follow Allah. His conduct and mode of life in devotion towards Muslim ethical and social precepts, furnish a pattern that Muslims imitate. He is perceived to be the living exemplar for the development of Muslim self and society; a model of virtue for the Islamic community.
In a modern era and especially overseas in non-Muslim dominant countries, Imams are positions that increasingly educate and reform youths from radical or extremist viewpoints. Especially in Australia, Imams reach out and inspire them in peaceful pursuits, teaching them the Quran and conducts of life in hope that they will not succumb to misguided teachings nor resort to violence.
In Australia, the Australian National Imams Council has been formed as the central and only Islamic body which holds key representation to Australian-based Muslim communities. Established in 2006, the ANIC consists of Imams located in every Australian state and territory. ANIC is governed by a General Assembly and on the executive board, which is solely elected by its members. The ANIC members are involved in the day-today affairs of the Islamic Community and addressing the affairs and concerns of the growing Muslim community. The ANIC’s mission is to provide religious leadership, rulings and services to the Australian Muslim community by supporting local Islamic organisations, developing educational, social and outreach programs and fostering good relations with other religious communities and the wider Australian society. The council seeks to promote harmony, cooperation and successful integration within mainstream society. There are currently over 150 registered imams that are active in working with the Muslim Community and Australians are able to contact them through the official ANIC webpage for more information.