Eid ul-Adha is the second of two “Eids”, or festivals, that Muslims celebrate every year. It marks the end of the Hajj which is the pilgrimage to the city of Makkah that all devout Muslims must complete at least once in their lifetimes. Whether they are on Hajj or not, all Muslims celebrate the festival as an expression of community. Its main themes are sacrifice and obedience to Allah.
Muslims celebrate Eid ul-Adha at the end of the Hajj to remind themselves of the importance of community, sacrifice and obedience to Allah.
Ibrahim & Isma’il
The Story of Eid ul-Adha
This story was written by the creators of the fantastic website, TrueTube; the full resource is available here.
Hajar held her baby close and rocked him gently. They were lost and alone in the scorching desert. They had eaten the last of their food and drunk the last of their water. The situation was getting desperate, and Hajar’s husband Ibrahim was nowhere to be found.
“Shhh Isma’il, don’t worry, I’ll find us some water,” Hajar whispered to her baby. Reluctantly, she laid him down on the sand and ran up a nearby hill. She searched the horizon for any passing travellers, but there was no one to be seen. She looked for signs of an oasis but there was no glint of light on water, no vegetation, no circling birds overhead. Hajar ran back down into the valley and up a hill on the other side to look in the opposite direction, but there were still no travellers to be seen and still no sign of water. In a state of near panic, Hajar ran seven times between the two hills, looking for someone, anyone to help. Eventually, the heat got too much. She gave up the search and returned to her son.
Isma’il had been getting hotter and thirstier as he lay on his back in the sand. He began to cry, waving his arms and kicking his legs in frustration. Hajar knelt down beside him, exhausted from her search and upset to see her son in distress.
“Help us! Please! If there’s anyone there to help!” she cried out and Allah heard her prayer. Isma’il kicked his heels into the sand and suddenly water gushed out of the ground where his foot had struck. At first Hajar stared in astonishment as the water pooled around them. Then she scooped some into her hands and gulped it down. It tasted delicious. She put some drops on her fingers and let Isma’il suck on them to slake his thirst. Soon the water was running everywhere, so Hajar dug around the spring to create a shallow well.
A while later, a tribe of nomads were crossing the desert nearby. One of them pointed up into the sky.
“Look!” he said, “Birds circling ahead!” The whole caravan stopped and gazed up at the birds in amazement. They all knew that birds only gathered where there was water, and there was no oasis for miles in any direction. They rode up the valley until they found Hajar, Isma’il and the new well. They were amazed and grateful for the opportunity to rest, so they asked Hajar’s permission to camp nearby. Hajar agreed.
When Ibrahim finally found his wife Hajar, he was overjoyed. She and Isma’il were safe and living at the centre of a small community that had quickly grown up around the well. It was the beginning of the city of Makkah.
Ibrahim thanked Allah for looking after his family. To show his gratitude, he built a cube-shaped structure near to Hajar’s well so that all the people who came to Makkah could worship there and know about Allah. It became known as the Ka’ba, which means “cube” in Arabic.
Isma’il was the most precious thing in Ibrahim’s life, and when the boy was old enough he began to work with his father, looking after their herds of sheep. One night Ibrahim had a dream in which Allah told him to sacrifice Isma’il. Ibrahim was distraught. Human sacrifice was not unusual amongst the idol-worshippers of Arabia, but Ibrahim could not understand why Allah would want him to kill his own dear son. The next night he had the same dream, and again the night after that. Finally he decided that he could not ignore Allah’s instructions.
“Isma’il, I am so sorry, but Allah has commanded me to sacrifice you,” he said.
“Then there must be a reason for it,” said Isma’il, “You must do what Allah commands and I will try to be brave.” So with a heavy heart, Ibrahim and Isma’il walked out into the desert towards a place called Mina.
As they walked, Shaytaan shimmered out of the heat haze in front of them.
“Don’t do it Ibrahim!” said the Devil, “Surely your own son is more important to you than Allah?” Ibrahim was tempted, but he and Isma’il picked up some stones and pelted Shaytaan with them until he vanished. But when they were about halfway to Mina, Shaytaan appeared again.
“Don’t do it Ibrahim! Think of how Hajar must be feeling! Surely your wife is more important to you than Allah?” Ibrahim and Isma’il were both tempted this time, but again they threw stones at the Devil and he disappeared. But when they were nearly at Mina, Shaytaan appeared one more time.
“Don’t do it Isma’il! If your father really loved you, surely he would disobey Allah!” Again, Ibrahim and Isma’il were tempted, but they hurled stones at the apparition until it was gone.
At long last, they arrived at the place of sacrifice. Isma’il knelt down with his forehead to the floor in complete submission to Allah’s will. Slowly, carefully, Ibrahim drew his knife and tested the edge to make sure it was as sharp as possible. He raised it above his head, ready to strike.
“Stop Ibrahim!” said a voice, “You have done what I told you to do. You have passed the test and I will reward you.” Ibrahim lowered his knife, Isma’il got to his feet and they embraced, crying with relief and joy. When they parted, they found that a ram was stood where Isma’il had been kneeling. They killed it and cooked it, sacrificing it to Allah and then shared the meat with their family, their friends and the poor people of Makkah.