As we count down the hours to Labor Day, 35,000 Muslims in Cincinnati are getting a head start to the long weekend.
The annual festival of sacrifice, known as Eid-ul-Adha in Arabic, is a chance for members of the Muslim community to dress in their “Christmas” best, come together for prayer service and feast with family and friends in celebrations spread out over three days.
Here is an explanation of what Eid-ul-Adha is.
Why do Muslims celebrate Eid ul Adha?
According to Islamic tradition, Eid-ul-Adha celebrates the occasion when Allah -- Allah is the Arabic word for God -- appeared to Abraham in a dream and asked him to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God. The devil tempted Abraham by saying he should disobey Allah and spare his son. As Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, Allah enabled him to sacrifice a lamb instead.
According to the BBC, this story is also found in the Jewish Torah and the Christian Old Testament. Here God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, his son with Sarah. Ishmael was his son with Hagar.
How do Muslims celebrate this occasion in Cincinnati?
The day usually starts with families getting up early in the morning and attending prayer services in the mosque with the larger community as well as friends and family. At the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in West Chester, the management committee planned for an additional prayer service to accommodate the throng of thousands of worshippers expected.
After the prayer service, Muslims traditionally visit family and friends to celebrate the occasion and host “open houses,” where everyone in the community can drop by a house in the evening, have tea or dinner and then move on to a different house to repeat the same.
If you can afford it, Muslims also sacrifice a sheep -- or sometimes a goat -- through a slaughterhouse as a reminder of Ibrahim's obedience to Allah. They share out the meat among family, friends and the poor, who each get a third of the share of the meat.
What is the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati?
The Islamic Center is an 18-acre facility, which is architecturally inspired by the Omayad Dynasty of 8th century Syria as well as the Moorish Dynasty of 12th century Islamic Spain. The facility includes a mosque, recreation center, including basketball courts and a school.
The mosque has an open-door policy and about 6,000 visitors per year come for tours. Among the notable elements to enjoy in person, the various water fountains, the “mihrab” or prayer niche in the mosque, the marble stars on the outside of the buildings and the mosaic pieces, which have all been handcrafted in Syria.
Why is the Muslim community in Cincinnati so diverse?
The Muslim community, especially women, dress in bright, colorful, traditional clothes from all over the world on this festive day. That’s because Muslims in Cincinnati come from all over the world; including India, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Mauritania, West Africa as well as African-American and Caucasian Muslims.
As with holidays in other faiths, Eid is an opportunity for Muslims to dress to impress, spend time with family and express gratitude for all their blessings.
Bilal Lakhani loves writing, traveling and talking to strangers. He is a recipient of the James A Wechsler Award for International Reporting and a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.