How do British Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha?

How do British Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha?

August 11, 2019

Today is Eid al-Adha, which roughly translates as ‘The Festival of the Sacrifice’. It’s a celebration of the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac.

Along with the festival which takes place after Ramadan called Eid al-Fitr, it’s the most important occasion in the Muslim calendar. So how is it celebrated? To find out, we spoke with a number of British Muslims.

Taahir, 31, tells us his family celebrate the day in a traditional way. ‘We don’t do anything weird or kooky,’ he says.

‘We wake up super early and eat something sweet before going to the mosque. I usually eat dates to be extra traditional but anything sweet will do.’

After going to the mosque, the family go to the cemetery.

Taahir adds: ‘It’s always full of people visiting loved ones, which I think is nice — you wouldn’t go to a graveyard on Christmas Day, would you? And it’s not somber or sad. It’s more like “happy Eid, grandad! We miss you!”‘

‘Afterwards, we get our food ready and then take the dishes to the house of whichever family member is hosting. We eat, swap presents and then usually all the teens go home and get changed into their new Nikes or whatever.’

Taahir’s feast is usually based around lots of lamb, because of the festival’s links to the story of Abraham.

He adds: ‘Not very woke! But there is a vegan Muslim trend that’s moving away from that.’

As well as observing Islamic tradition, many British Muslims have arrived at their own, more idiosyncratic ones.

Tallahassee, 24, explains: ‘Every year since 2015, I take a photo with something out of my freezer.

‘Just for the banter — Eid is a good day for banter. It’s one of the few religious events in the Islamic calendar for you to really enjoy yourself — otherwise, it can be quite serious. So you make the most of it.

‘My family often go to Pizza Express to celebrate the occasion, which is fun. We only started going when we found out they use halal chicken, and we only found that out when the tabloids started freaking out about it on the front page.’

One of the other cornerstones of Eid-al-Adha is the sacrificing of an animal, or ‘qurbani, (in commemoration of the Abraham story.) For Taahir, it’s not something his family does personally.

‘Few people do it themselves in the UK. We pay someone in India to do it — that way the person performing the sacrifice gets paid and is able to distribute the meat among those that need it most.’

Tallahassee, similarly, takes part in qurbani but doesn’t actually do it himself.

‘It’s advised quite heavily in the Quran so most people who have the financial means to do it almost always do. Even a single chicken qualifies for sufficient qurbani in some cases. But bear in mind you need to share the meat three ways — between family, friends and the poor. In the UK we don’t do it ourselves because of health and safety laws, so we pay for someone in a slaughterhouse to do it on our behalf. Coughing up the cash is considered a sacrifice.’

It’s worth noting that not all Muslims celebrate Eid-al-Adha.

‘My family never went in for it,’ Aisha, 29, tells me. ‘My mum would tell us “any day without sin is Eid” so that’s basically why. They just do some Eid prayers but they pray so much anyway that that’s not exactly exciting.’

This year, Aisha isn’t doing anything. She says: ‘It’d be a bit sad celebrating it on your own — I feel like it’s quite a family orientated thing.’

In all her years of not observing Eid-al-Adha, Aisha tells me that the saddest was the time when she celebrated by eating a single boiled egg with brown sauce.

If you are celebrating Eid today, we hope it’s a good one — and less bleak than Aisha’s!

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