The religious festival of Eid Al-Adha gives us a chance to reconnect with our loved ones and the global community. This important and ancient festival, celebrated by Muslims worldwide, is all the more appealing because of the simple, relaxed and localized traditions that have developed around it. And as our world becomes faster-paced and more complex with each new day, the celebrations of Eid as they are practiced in Madinah offer some respite, and a connection with the things and people that really matter to us. We begin with Eid prayers at the Prophet’s Mosque or Quba mosque, which provide the sacred focal point for the people of Madinah in which to anchor the day.
We may not always think about it now, but this Eid festival — is one of the most ancient festivals of all, as it harkens back to the time of our forefather Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and is solidly rooted in agrarian life. In farming societies that flourished thousands of years ago, and which would so profoundly shape human experience and development, the most meaningful sacrifice one could make was that of an animal. Livestock represented food, wealth, livelihood, and earthly life itself. To sacrifice one to God was a simple and powerful act of good faith.
Today, while we still enact a version of Ibrahim’s sacrifice, we are somewhat removed from it. Usually a local butcher does it on our behalf — but how fitting it is, then, that so many people in Madinah celebrate Eid by spending time with their families and friends on a farm!
The timeless rhythms of life on a farm have much to teach us. One has to spend time there to appreciate how much the simple routine and processes of farming life make every day different and unique. Whether it is on an actual working farm where the date trees grow, or simply by spending the day in a private garden, this deeply spiritual holiday offers as one of its gifts the opportunity to reconnect with nature at the same time that we reconnect with family and friends. The lamb meat and rice dishes that are traditionally served in Madinah for Eid are a variety of simple, hearty and delicious foods that are also timeless. Through all of these elements — the food, the place, and the people, we are brought back to basics and we reflect on who we are in the world. And at the same time, the holiday is not predominantly solemn. In the natural outdoor setting, freed from our regular school and workday routines, games, sports and recreation come as naturally as rest and relaxation. This is leisure time at its best.
And it’s not insignificant that those sacrificed animals are, today, processed to provide meat for the needy, keeping alive the spirit of generosity and altruism that feeds both the body and the spirit. In celebrating Eid, the entire Muslim world is united in this peaceful, philanthropic gesture. The mode of celebration popular in Madinah connects us with our most ancient history as well as our closest loved ones.