Millions of Muslims worldwide this weekend celebrated Eid al-Adha, one of the two Islamic holidays of the year. Celebrated this year between July 30 and Aug. 3, Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of Sacrifice,” is a holiday meant to commemorate the story of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). During the holiday, Muslims worldwide sacrifice an animal—most often a goat, sheep, or cow—to distribute the meat to a family in need. The holiday is marked by the end of Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia—one of the core Islamic pillars of faith. Those who are able to both afford the five-day trip of Hajj and physically able to complete it without hardship are required in Islam to do so at least once in their lifetime.
Each year more than 2 million Muslims visit the kingdom for Hajj and even more, approximately 7 million, visit during the time of umrah. Amidst fear of spreading the novel coronavirus, Saudi Arabia temporarily closed its doors to foreign pilgrims in March. In June, it announced that it would allow up to 1,000 individuals, all from within the kingdom, to attend Hajj. The news devastated millions who planned trips and possibly spent years saving for the religious pilgrimage.
According to the Saudi Health Ministry, there have been no cases of COVID-19 among this year’s pilgrims. Those attending Hajj were not only tested for the virus but had their movement monitored using electronic wristbands and were required to quarantine both before and after Hajj.
But Hajj isn’t the only thing that has changed amid the pandemic: Globally, Muslims observed Eid al-Adha differently as well.
Many mosques across the world remain closed to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Where the weather permitted, a majority of Muslim American communities held Eid prayers outside in open spaces, including local parks and parking lots. For those mosques that remained open for the obligatory morning Eid al-Adha prayer, social distancing limits were in place for how many could attend and how close they could be. In my mosque specifically, three prayers were held at different times in order to observe social distancing and allow for a capped number of individuals in each session.
Attendees had to pre-register at least a week in advance. Prior to entering the mosque, temperatures were checked and individuals were handed plastic bags to place their belongings in, with additional paper sheets (the kind often found in the doctor's office) to place on the ground for praying purposes. We were not allowed to bring our own prayer mats or rugs. Those who did not register were unable to enter the building and prayed outside despite the rain. Like Eid al-Fitr, in which no prayers took place in person, prayers were recorded live and streamed for those at home to watch and participate in.
While I was lucky enough to attend a socially distanced prayer and experience that aspect of Eid al-Adha, other parts of the holiday remained unfulfilled. Having no family in the U.S., my local Muslim community has become my adopted family. On days like Eid al-Adha, we all gather together, house-hopping from one home to another, enjoying meals with each other. We wear what we consider to be our best clothes and spend time with the community, being thankful for both one another and the ability to give back to those in need.
This Eid al-Adha, while I dressed up and spent time with my parents and siblings, I was unable to see anyone or wish them an Eid Mubarak in person. Like Eid al-Fitr, this Eid I relied on technology to well-wish and celebrate with friends, another privilege many people may not have. Similarly, Muslims across the globe took to Zoom to celebrate with the family members and friends they were unable to see. Many shared their photos on Twitter under #ZoomEid.
Each Eid is a social event where Muslims come together and celebrate despite any differences. It’s marked by unity and the presence of community, but between the inability to see one another and many unable to even go home to celebrate with family both domestically and abroad, this year has been different. Not only has the novel coronavirus made celebrations and social gatherings difficult, but it has “pushed millions of people around the world closer to the brink of poverty,” the Associated Press reported. The price of livestock and meat has significantly increased in various countries around the world, making it difficult for many to afford them and practice the Eid al-Adha traditions they’d normally observe.
During Eid al-Adha, Muslims who are able to do so purchase livestock and, upon sacrifice, distribute the meat into three portions, including one for their family, one for their community, and one for those in need. Most Muslim Americans sponsor these sacrifices to occur in countries abroad, with the meat distributed to poor communities there. Amid hardships resulting from the pandemic, many Muslims were unable to complete this practice. “I could hardly buy food for my family,” Abdishakur Dahir, a civil servant in Somalia, told the AP. “We are just surviving for now. Life is getting tougher by the day.” Dahir shared that this Eid al-Adha was the first time he was unable to afford a goat.
It’s times like these that the small blessings we have come to mind. While Eid was not the same this year for me as it always has been, I am thankful to have had the ability to purchase food for those in need in addition to having a fully stocked fridge and family members to celebrate with. Alongside losing the ability to purchase meals, people across the world have lost family members and friends amid this pandemic. While we may not be able to celebrate the way we used to, it is important to remember the blessing we have, the severity of this virus, and how many people have been affected by it.
Wishing you all an Eid Mubarak—a blessed day, from my family to yours.
Want to see how Muslim Americans dressed up and celebrated Eid al-Adha? Check out #COVEid on Twitter! If you have any photos you’d like to share, please feel free to do so below!