What Is Eid al-Adha?

Eid al-Adha (عيد الأضحى‎, Feast of the Sacrifice), also called the “Festival of the Sacrifice“, is the second of two Islamic holidays celebrated worldwide each year (the other being Eid al-Fitr), and considered the holier of the two. It honors the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God’s command. But, before Abraham could sacrifice his son, God provided a lamb to sacrifice instead. In commemoration of this, an animal is sacrificed and divided into three parts: one part of the share is given to the poor and needy; second part is for the home, third is given to relatives.

In the Islamic lunar calendar, Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah. In the international (Gregorian) calendar, the dates vary from year to year drifting approximately 11 days earlier each year.

 Goats Young Pasture Meadow Brown White Brown Goat

Other names

Blessings for Eid al-Adha

In languages other than Arabic, the name is often simply translated into the local language, such as English Feast of the Sacrifice, German Opferfest, Dutch Offerfeest, Romanian Sărbătoarea Sacrificiului, and Hungarian Áldozati ünnep. In Spanish it is known as Fiesta del Cordero[2] or Fiesta del Borrego (both meaning “festival of the lamb”). It is also known as عید البقرةʿĪd al-Baqarah in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and in the Middle East, as عید قربان Id-e Qorbān in Iran, Kurban Bayramı (“Holiday of Sacrifice”) in Turkey,[3] কোরবানীর ঈদ Korbanir Id in Bangladesh, as عید الكبير ʿĪd el-Kebīr in the Maghreb, as Tfaska Tamoqqart in Jerba Berber, as IduladhaHari Raya AiduladhaHari Raya Haji or Qurban in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, as بکرا عید Bakrā Īd (“Goat Eid”) or بڑی عید Baṛī Īd (“Greater Eid”) in Pakistan and India, Bakara Eid in Trinidad and as Tabaski or Tobaski in Senegal and Odún Iléyá by Yorúbà People in Nigeria West Africa [4][5][6][7] (most probably borrowed from the Serer language — an ancient Serer religious festival[8][9][10][11]).

The following names are used as other names of Eid al-Adha:

  • Īd al-Azhā / Īdul-Azhā / Iduladha (transliterations of the Arabic name) [12] is used in Urdu, Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, and Austronesian languages such as Malay and Indonesian.
  • ʿĪd al-Kabīr /ʿĪd el-Kebīr meaning “Greater Eid” (the “Lesser Eid” being Eid al-Fitr)[13] is used in Yemen, Syria, and North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt). Local language translations are used in Pashto (لوی اختر Loy Axtar), Kashmiri (Baed Eid), Urdu and Hindi (Baṛī Īd), Bengali (বড় ঈদ Boro Id), Tamil (Peru Nāl, “Great Day”) and Malayalam (Bali Perunnal, “Great Day of Sacrifice”) as well as Manding varieties in West Africa such as Bambara, Maninka, Jula etc. (ߛߊߟߌߓߊ Seliba, “Big/great prayer”).
  • ʿĪd al-Baqarah meaning “Eid of Cows (also sheep or goats)” is used in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. Although the word baqarah (بقرة) properly means a cow, it is also semantically extended to mean all livestock, especially sheep or goats. This extension is used in Hindi and Urdu as a very similar name “Bakra-Eid / Bakrid” meaning “Goat Eid” is used for the occasion.
  • Qurbon Hayiti meaning “Eid of Sacrifice” is used in Uzbekistan.
  • Lebaran Haji[4][5][6](“Hajj Feast”) is used in Malaysian and Indonesian, in the Philippines.


The word عيد ʻīd means “festival,” “celebration,” “feast day,” or “holiday.” It comes from the triliteral root عين ʻayn واو wāw دال dāl, with associated root meanings of “to go back, to rescind, to accrue, to be accustomed, habits, to repeat, to be experienced; appointed time or place, anniversary, feast day.”[14][15] Arthur Jeffery contests this etymology, and believes the term to have been borrowed into Arabic from Syriac, or less likely Targumic Aramaic.[16]

The word ًأضحى ‘aḍḥan means “sacrificial animal.” It comes from the triliteral root ضاد ḍād حاء ḥā’ واو wāw, with associated meanings “daylight… to appear, to appear conspicuously… sacrificial animal, to sacrifice.”[15] No occurrence of this root with a meaning related to sacrifice occurs in the Qur’an. In modern Arabic, the verb ضحّى ḍaḥḥā means “to sacrifice,” and a ضحيّة ḍaḥiyyah is a sacrificial offering.[14]

The first element in the Persian name عيدِ قربان Id-e Qorbān is identical to Arabic ʻīd, above. The second is from Arabic قربان qurbān, meaning “offering, sacrifice.” Christians use the term to mean eucharistic host. In the Islamic Arabic tradition, it is held to derive from the root قاف qāf راء rā’ باء bā’, with associated meanings of “closeness, proximity… to moderate; kinship…; to hurry; …to seek, to seek water sources…; scabbard, sheath; small boat; sacrifice.”[15] Arthur Jeffery recognizes the same Semitic root, but believes the sense of the term to have entered Arabic through Aramaic.[16]

Turkish Kurban Bayramı uses the same first element as the Persian قربان qorbān. Bayram means “holiday” in Turkish, with close cognates in other Turkish languages. Its ultimate etymology is contested.[17][18]


One of the main trials of Abraham’s life was to face the command of God to sacrifice his dearest possession, his son.[3] The son is not named in the Quran, but the earliest Islamic traditions identify Isaac as the son who was sacrificed, in agreement with the Bible. Upon hearing this command, Abraham prepared to submit to the will of God.[19] During this preparation, Shaitan (the Devil) tempted Abraham and his family by trying to dissuade them from carrying out God’s commandment, and Abraham drove Satan away by throwing pebbles at him. In commemoration of their rejection of Satan, stones are thrown at symbolic pillars during the Stoning of the Devil during Hajj rites.[20]

When Abraham attempted to cut his son’s throat on mount Arafat,[19] he was astonished to see that his son was unharmed and instead, he found an animal [3] which was slaughtered. Abraham had passed the test by his willingness to carry out God’s command.[21][22]

This story is known as the Akedah in Judaism (Binding of Isaac) and originates in the Tora,[23] the first book of Moses (Genesis, Ch. 22). The Quran refers to the Akedah as follows:[24]

100 “O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)!”
101 So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear.
102 Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: “O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!” (The son) said: “O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me if Allah so wills one practicing Patience and Constancy!”
103 So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice),
104 We called out to him “O Abraham!
105 “Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!” – thus indeed do We reward those who do right.
106 For this was obviously a trial–
107 And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice:
108 And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times:
109 “Peace and salutation to Abraham!”
110 Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.
111 For he was one of our believing Servants.
112 And We gave him the good news of Isaac – a prophet – one of the Righteous.

— Quran, sura 37 (Aṣ-Ṣāffāt), āyāt 100–112[25]

Abraham had shown that his love for God superseded all others: that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dearest to him in submission to God’s command. Muslims commemorate this ultimate act of sacrifice every year during Eid al-Adha. While Abraham was prepared to make an ultimate sacrifice, God ultimately prevents the sacrifice, additionally signifying that one should never sacrifice a human life, especially not in the name of God.

The word “Eid” appears once in Al-Ma’ida, the fifth sura of the Quran, with the meaning “solemn festival”.[26]

Eid prayers

Eid prayer at the Badshahi Mosque

Devotees offer the Eid al-Adha prayers at the mosque. The Eid al-Adha prayer is performed any time after the sun completely rises up to just before the entering of Zuhr time, on the 10th of Dhu al-Hijjah. In the event of a force majeure (e.g. natural disaster), the prayer may be delayed to the 11th of Dhu al-Hijjah and then to the 12th of Dhu al-Hijjah.[27]

Eid prayers must be offered in congregation. Participation of women in the prayer congregation varies from community to community.[28] It consists of two rakats (units) with seven takbirs in the first Raka’ah and five Takbirs in the second Raka’ah. For Shia Muslims, Salat al-Eid differs from the five daily canonical prayers in that no adhan (call to prayer) or iqama (call) is pronounced for the two Eid prayers.[29][30] The salat (prayer) is then followed by the khutbah, or sermon, by the Imam.

At the conclusion of the prayers and sermon, Muslims embrace and exchange greetings with one another (Eid Mubarak), give gifts and visit one another. Many Muslims also take this opportunity to invite their non-Muslim friends, neighbours, co-workers and classmates to their Eid festivities to better acquaint them about Islam and Muslim culture.[31]

Diagram indicating the order of Hajj rituals

Traditions and practices

Cookies of Eid (ma’amoul)

During Eid al-Adha, distributing meat amongst the people, chanting the takbir out loud before the Eid prayers on the first day and after prayers throughout the three days of Eid, are considered essential parts of this important Islamic festival.[32]

The takbir consists of:[33]

الله أكبر الله أكبر
لا إله إلا الله
الله أكبر الله أكبر
ولله الحمد

Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbar
lā ilāha illā-Allāh
Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbar
walillāhi l-hamd[a]

Men, women, and children are expected to dress in their finest clothing to perform Eid prayer in a large congregation in an open waqf (“stopping”) field called Eidgah or mosque. Affluent Muslims who can afford it sacrifice their best halal domestic animals (usually a cow, but can also be a camel, goat, sheep, or ram depending on the region) as a symbol of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son.[34] The sacrificed animals, called aḍḥiya (أضحية‎), known also by the Perso-Arabic term qurbāni, have to meet certain age and quality standards or else the animal is considered an unacceptable sacrifice.[35] In Pakistan alone nearly ten million animals are slaughtered on Eid days costing over US$2.0 billion.[36]

The meat from the sacrificed animal is preferred to be divided into three parts. The family retains one-third of the share; another third is given to relatives, friends, and neighbors; and the remaining third is given to the poor and needy.[34]

Muslims wear their new or best clothes. Women cook special sweets, including ma’amoul (filled shortbread cookies). They gather with family and friends.[27]

Eid al-Adha in the Gregorian calendar

While Eid al-Adha is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar and the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar. The lunar calendar is approximately eleven days shorter than the solar calendar.[37] Each year, Eid al-Adha (like other Islamic holidays) falls on one of about two to four different Gregorian dates in different parts of the world, because the boundary of crescent visibility is different from the International Date Line.

The following list shows the official dates of Eid al-Adha for Saudi Arabia as announced by the Supreme Judicial Council. Future dates are estimated according to the Umm al-Qura calendar of Saudi Arabia.[1] The Umm al-Qura is just a guide for planning purposes and not the absolute determinant or fixer of dates. Confirmations of actual dates by moon sighting are applied on the 29th day of the lunar month prior to Dhu al-Hijjah[38] to announce the specific dates for both Hajj rituals and the subsequent Eid festival. The three days after the listed date are also part of the festival. The time before the listed date the pilgrims visit the Mount Arafat and descend from it after sunrise of the listed day.

Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest,
There is no god but Allah
Allah is greatest, Allah is greatest
and to Allah goes all praise.[27]


  1.  “The Umm al-Qura Calendar of Saudi Arabia”. Retrieved 7 March2017.
  2.  (in Spanish)La Fiesta del Cordero en Marruecos, Ferdaous Emorotene, 25 November 2009
  3.  Staff, Writer. “Abraham”britannica.
  4.  Bianchi, Robert R. (11 August 2004). Guests of God: Pilgrimage and Politics in the Islamic World. Oxford University Press. p. 398. ISBN978-0-19-029107-5.
  5.  Sheikh Ramzy (2012). The Complete Guide to Islamic Prayer (Salāh)AuthorHouse. p. 310. ISBN978-1-4772-1530-2.[self-published source]
  6.  Jain Chanchreek; K. L. Chanchreek; M. K. Jain (1 January 2007). Encyclopaedia of Great Festivals. Shree Publishers & Distributors. p. 78. ISBN978-81-8329-191-0.
  7.  Kazim, Ebrahim (2010). Scientific Commentary of Suratul Faateḥah. Pharos Media & Publishing. p. 246. ISBN978-81-7221-037-3.
  8.  Diouf, Niokhobaye, « Chronique du royaume du Sine », suivie de notes sur les traditions orales et les sources écrites concernant le royaume du Sine par Charles Becker et Victor Martin (1972), . (1972). Bulletin de l’IFAN, tome 34, série B, no 4, 1972, p. 706-7 (p. 4-5), p. 713-14 (p. 9-10)
  9.  « Cosaani Sénégambie » (« L’Histoire de la Sénégambie») : 1ere Partie relatée par Macoura Mboub du Sénégal. 2eme Partie relatée par Jebal Samba de la Gambie [in] programme de Radio Gambie: « Chosaani Senegambia ». Présentée par: Alhaji Mansour Njie. Directeur de programme: Alhaji Alieu Ebrima Cham Joof. Enregistré a la fin des années 1970, au début des années 1980 au studio de Radio Gambie, Bakau, en Gambie (2eme partie) et au Sénégal (1ere partie) [in] onegambia.com [in] The Seereer Resource Centre (SRC) (« le Centre de Resource Seereer ») : URL: http://www.seereer.com. Traduit et transcrit par The Seereer Resource Centre : Juillet 2014 [1] p. 30 (retrieved: 25 September 2015)
  10.  Brisebarre, Anne-Marie; Kuczynski, Liliane, « La Tabaski au Sénégal: une fête musulmane en milieu urbain », KARTHALA Editions (2009), pp 86-7, ISBN9782811102449[2] (retrieved : 25 September 2015)
  11.  Becker, Charles; Martin, Victor; Ndène, Aloyse, « Traditions villageoises du Siin », (Révision et édition par Charles Becker) (2014), p 41
  12.  “Eid Al Adha (Sacrifice Feast of Muslims) – Prayer Times NYC”Prayer Times NYC. 8 August 2017. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  13.  Noakes, Greg (April – May 1992). “Issues in Islam, All About Eid”Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  14.  Oxford Arabic Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2014. ISBN978-0-19-958033-0.
  15.  Badawi, Elsaid M.; Abdel Haleem, Muhammad (2008). Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur’anic Usage. Leiden: Brill. ISBN978-90-04-14948-9.
  16.  Jeffery, Arthur (2007). The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān. Leiden: Brill. ISBN978-90-04-15352-3.
  17.  Aksan, Yeşim; Aksan, Mustafa; Mersinli, Ümit; Demirhan, Umut Ufuk (2017). A Frequency Dictionary of Turkish. London: Routledge. ISBN978-1-138-83965-6.
  18.  Öztopçu, Kurtuluş; Abuov, Zhoumagaly; Kambarov, Nasir; Azemoun, Youssef (1996). Dictionary of the Turkic Languages. London: Routledge. ISBN0-415-14198-2.
  19.  Bate, John Drew (2009). An Examination of the Claims of Ishmael as Viewed by Muḥammadans. BiblioBazaar. ISBN978-1117148366.
  20.  Firestone, Reuven (1990). Journeys in Holy Lands: The Evolution of the -Ishmael Legends in Islamic Exegesis. SUNY Press. p. 98.
  21.  Elias, Jamal J. (1999). Islam. Routledge. p. 75. ISBN978-0-415-21165-9. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
  22.  Muslim Information Service of Australia. “Eid al – Adha Festival of Sacrifice”. Missionislam.com. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  23.  Stephan Huller, Stephan (2011). The Real Messiah: The Throne of St. Mark and the True Origins of Christianity. Watkins; Reprint edition. ISBN978-1907486647.
  24.  Fasching, Darrell J.; deChant, Dell (2011). Comparative Religious Ethics: A Narrative Approach to Global Ethics. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN978-1444331332.
  25.  Quran37:100–112Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation
  26.  Quran5:114. “Said Jesus the son of Mary: “O Allah our Lord! Send us from heaven a table set (with viands), that there may be for us—for the first and the last of us—a solemn festival and a sign from thee; and provide for our sustenance, for thou art the best Sustainer (of our needs).””
  27.   H. X. Lee, Jonathan (2015). Asian American Religious Cultures [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. p. 357. ISBN978-1598843309.
  28.  Asmal, Fatima (6 July 2016). “South African women push for more inclusive Eid prayers”Al Jazeera. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
  29.  “Sunnah during Eid ul Adha according to Authentic Hadith”. Scribd.com. 13 November 2010. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  30.  حجم الحروف – Islamic Laws : Rules of Namaz » Adhan and Iqamah, retrieved 10 August 2014
  31.  “The Significance of Eid”. Isna.net. Archived from the original on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  32.  McKernan, Bethan. “Eid al-Adha 2017: When is it? Everything you need to know about the Muslim holiday”.independent.
  33.  “Eid Takbeers – Takbir of Id”. Islamawareness.net. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  34.  Buğra Ekinci, Ekrem. “Qurban Bayram: How do Muslims celebrate a holy feast?”dailysabah.
  35.  Cussen, V.; Garces, L. (2008). Long Distance Transport and Welfare of Farm Animals. CABI. p. 35. ISBN978-1845934033.
  36.  “Bakra Eid: The cost of sacrifice”. Asian Correspondent. 16 November 2010. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  37.  Hewer, Chris. Understanding Islam: The First Ten Steps. SCM Press. p. 111. ISBN978-0334040323.
  38.  “Eid al-Adha 2016 date is expected to be on September 11”www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 14 August 2016.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia