Muslims from all over the world celebrate Eid al-Adha together in West Chester

WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- One could stage a pretty good United Nations summit, Ashraf Traboulsi said Friday morning, by drawing from the worshippers gathered at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati's morning Eid al-Adha prayer.

Two thousand Muslims from across the Tri-State region and the world arrived for holiday prayer services wearing kufi and Nike; leather jackets over thawbs; hijabs in yellow and pink and blue beside sequin-spangled khimar and sober black niqab.

Immigrants from West Africa exchanged greetings of Eid Mubarak with Traboulsi, a Syrian native; Indian immigrants sat next to American-born Muslims who took advantage of prayer breaks to peek into one another's Snapchat stories.

"What we remember today is that we are all one," Traboulsi said, addressing them. "Eid reminds us of the importance of community."

Eid al-Adha commemorates both the end of the Hajj, the annual period of worldwide pilgrimage to Mecca, and the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his beloved son (Ismail in Muslim tradition; Isaac in others) at God's request. At the final moment before Ibrahim's dagger touched his son's throat, God took mercy on the prophet and replaced the boy with a ram, which Ibrahim sacrificed instead.

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Muslims undertaking the Hajj travel to the spot where the sacrifice is thought to have occurred while Muslims in other parts of the world honor Ibrahim's obedience to God by sacrificing a goat, lamb or cow -- or, far more commonly in modern times, paying a halal butcher or charity to do so -- and donating a portion of the meat to the hungry.

All, whether in Mecca or elsewhere, strive to set aside boundaries of class, race and nationality to focus on the things that unite them.

"Eid al-Adha is a reminder for us that everything we have is a blessing from God," Traboulsi said. "And it's a reminder that we might get tested in life, but the test will eventually be overcome."

It's also a time for friends and family within the community to connect and celebrate with one another, said Islamic Center president Shakila Ahmad. Eid is a three-day celebration, Ahmad added, meaning worshippers will spend Labor Day weekend attending dinner parties heavy on lamb dishes and grateful reflection on their good fortune in life.

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For Ahmad, who has been part of West Chester's Muslim community for 40 years and exchanged countless as-salamu alaykum with worshippers on their way into the center, it's a deeply moving experience.

"I think we have a great community," she said. "They're diverse, they're caring. Some people you see every week, but others you only see once or twice a year, so it's great to see them come out for this."

This is the Islam Ahmad, Traboulsi and the thousands of people who worship at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati know and practice. Despite misconceptions held by some non-Muslims in their township -- a handful of protesters picketed the Islamic Center in June -- it is the Islam they are determined to share with the world through kindness, involvement and acts of charity.

"The real Islam is equal for everybody," Musir Mustafa, who attended the second morning prayer service, said. "You know, when the hurricane hit in Texas, it didn't hit only Jews, only Christians or only Muslims. Our job is to form a human community."

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