The official moon-sighting body in Saudi rang in the twelfth and final month in the Islamic calendar (Dhu al-Hijjah or Month of the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca) when the crescent was sighted on 14. September. This also determined that Eid Al-Adha will start on Thursday, September 24th. So earlier this week Bahrain confirmed that ministries, government departments and public institutions will be closed from Arafat Day tomorrow (Wednesday, 23rd September) until Monday, 28th. This means that the kids will be off school but not necessarily all parents will be given the same time off if they are working in the private sector. And for those whose husbands work in Saudi it might mean that they have the whole week off.
So what are Muslims all around the world celebrating?
First things first, tomorrow is not the Eid. It is however the Islamic Holy Day called ‘Arafat Day’. This day marks the second day of the Hajj pilgrimage and the day when Muslim pilgrims will make their way to Mount Arafat where Prophet Muhammad gave one of his last famous semons in the final year of his life. Some Muslims will be fasting on that day.
The day after, one of the most important celebrations in Islam the three-day Eid al-Adha celebrations commences. ‘Eid’ in Arabic means celebration and ‘Eid al-Adha’ is the ‘Festival or Celebration of Sacrifice’.
It commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim (also known as Abraham) to follow Allah’s (God’s) command to sacrifice his son Ishmael (also known as Isaac). Some of you might also have come across this story in the Old Testament and so will know that instead of his son, Abraham sacrificed a ram. This is where the custom has come from for Muslims to sacrifice an animal, usually a goat or a sheep. The meat is then divided into three parts: one part for the family, one for friends and relatives, and the final part for the poor and needy. Eid Al Adha is an important time for charity, and those who can afford it make an effort to ensure they help those less fortunate.
Muslims celebrate this special time by putting on their best (new) clothing, offer Eid prayers and visit family and friends.
And in case you are wondering why so many stalls have popped up alongside the roads selling little baskets made out of palm leaves with grass sticking out. It is a very old tradition here in Bahrain called ‘Heya Beya’ and was a means to entertain children of parents who were doing the Hajj. Children planted the seeds when their parents set off on their Hajj and took care of them until they were fully grown. The evening before Eid Al-Adha, children then went to the seashore singing ‘Heya Beya’ to send their little baskets towards Mecca as a sign of sacrifice and good wishes for their parents to return home safely.