Muslims all over the world celebrate Eidul Azha, or Festival of the Sacrifice, at the end of Haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. Eidul Azha is celebrated on the 10th of Zilhaj, the 12th and final month of the Islamic calendar.
This Eid commemorates the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice what was dearest to him as a test of faith when he was commanded by Allah to sacrifice his son, Hazrat Ismail. Pleased by his obedience, Allah replaced the boy with a ram that got
sacrificed instead. In Pakistan and other Muslim countries, this Eid is marked with congregational Eid prayers and the sacrifice of animals, such as camels, sheep, goats or cows. The meat is then distributed among neighbours, family members and the poor. People dress up in new clothes, visit relatives and friends, and hold feasts.
But have you ever wondered how Muslims in non-Muslim countries celebrate this very important festival? What hardships they face and how their Eid day is different from our Eid celebrations?
Let’s have a glimpse of how people in various countries celebrate Eidul Azha, where culture, religion and laws are different from Muslim majority countries. It is important to note that because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Eid celebrations this year will probably be low-key, marked by lockdown restrictions and social distancing imposed to stop the spread of the virus.
Eidul Azha in Canada
Canada has a Muslim population of about one million people and most Canadian Muslim families are immigrants from various Muslim countries. To celebrate Eidul Azha, people can go to a farm to pick an animal and wait for their turn to do the sacrifice. They are given a token number and have to come back later to pick up the meat. Usually, the queues are so long that it takes up the whole day to move from one counter to another. That is why most people prefer to send money to their native countries instead of sacrificing the animal.
Buying an animal, bringing it home, and taking care of it and even adorning it with bells and henna are all childhood memories that Muslim children in foreign countries can never relate to.
But one thing that is very common in Canada and seldom seen in Pakistan is that the whole family goes to the mosque for Eid prayers — men, women, children, young mothers with babies and the elderly. There are designated rooms for babies and toddlers, supervised by mosque volunteers. The place is very inviting for young children, well stocked with toys so their mothers can listen to the Eid sermon and pray in peace.
People dress up in their traditional colourful clothes for Eid. Everyone greets each other in the mosques and Islamic centres. After the prayers, people gather in each other’s homes for scrumptious lunch. Since the pandemic, it has been difficult to celebrate Eid get-togethers but people exchange gift baskets to keep the excitement alive for children.
Eidul Azha in England
Eidul Aha in England is different in various areas, depending upon the Muslim population of the city. In areas with a large Muslim population, Eid is somewhat similar to Pakistan, because the markets and shops sell desi goods like mehndi, glass bangles, khussay and traditional clothes. Neighbours, friends and families pray together in big mosques, open grounds and Islamic centres and visit each other with gifts and sweet dishes.
However, in areas where there are fewer Muslims, Eid is quiet unless people decide to travel or celebrate Eid in the nearest Islamic centre. Since people can’t keep sacrificial animals at home, they prefer to pay the cost of a sacrificial animal to a charity organisation that distributes meat to impoverished Muslims in other parts of the world. Muslim families try to organise Eid fairs which are open to the community. Parents have to make an extra effort to make the Eid special for children with Eid decorations, Eid gifts and lighting up the house.
Eid is not an official holiday like it is in Pakistan, so people try to take one or two days off to enjoy the day with their families.
Eidul Azha in Japan
Muslims living in Japan come from diverse backgrounds — many are immigrants and others are students who are enrolled in various universities. There are very few proper mosques in Japan and people usually gather in rented buildings for prayers and Islamic rituals. Because of very low Muslim population in Japan, people make the Islamic centres their home away from home to keep their religious traditions alive.
Muslims in Japan depend upon social media alerts from their nearest Islamic centre for notifications regarding prayer timings, study sessions, weddings and other social gatherings and travel by bus, train or cycle to reach at the correct time. After Eid prayers, they usually eat together and it is quite common to see food from dozens of Muslim countries in a single buffet.
While praying, an Indonesian Muslim might be standing next to a Pakistani Muslim and a Sudanese Muslim shoulder to shoulder with an Arab Muslim, while the Imam may be from Bangladesh or even be a Japanese convert. On such occasions, one can see the true image of Muslims as one ummah, standing all together regardless of ethnicity, colour, race and country of origin. Eid celebrations in Japan tend to be brief as most students and immigrant workers need to return to work or study.
Eidul Azha in Germany
There are about six million Muslims in Germany and some 2500 mosques. Germany’s Muslim population is very diverse, with people from Turkey, Syria, Morocco, Afghanistan and Iraq making up a large proportion. Many Muslim families are refugees from war-affected countries.
One of the biggest hardships Muslims in Germany face is getting time off from work or school and Eid celebrations may have to wait until the weekend if the Eid falls on a weekday. People usually gather in their community centres for Eid prayers and then eat a festive meal together. Usually they try to arrange a fun fair on Eid day so that others can get to know more about Muslim culture.
In schools, Muslim parents are sometimes invited to talk about their religion and festivals. They make an effort to introduce their traditional clothes, music and food to young German children so that they can understand the culture of their Muslim classfellows. Like in other non-Muslim countries, actual sacrifice is not done there, but money is sent to native countries to buy and distribute the sacrificial animal.
Eidul Azha in Australia
Muslims in Australia are a small but dynamic group, consisting of diverse cultural and ethnic communities from different nations. Eidul Azha in Australia is usually marked by family gatherings, with friends and relatives staying overnight in one place. Women and girls get intricate henna designs painted on their hands, traditional clothes are worn and special meat dishes are cooked.
For those who want to sacrifice an animal, sheep or goat can be slaughtered in a halal way in government approved abattoirs. Many rich Muslims pay for meat to be cut, frozen, packed and shipped to poor countries or war-affected refugee camps around the world.
However, for many Australian Muslims, the festival is more than just about slaughtering animals. They try to come up with new and unique ways to celebrate their religious festival and try to include the whole community in the festive spirit. For example last year, Muslim community centres arranged hampers filled with essential food items, hand sanitisers, masks and toys to be given to needy families on Eid, irrespective of their religion. These hampers were packed and distributed by mosque volunteers. There is a lot of emphasis on following the rules and everyone follows the government issued SOPs.
Whether you live in Pakistan or in any foreign country, the lessons to learn from Eidul Azha celebrations are your complete faith, trust and submission to Allah. It is about spreading joy and including those who are less fortunate in our homes and hearts.
Published in Dawn, Young World, July 17th, 2021