Eid al-Adha is the second most important religious celebration in Islam. It is celebrated to commemorate the sacrifice that the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) was asked to make by Allah in order to prove to Allah his total and absolute submission to Allah’s will.
The prophet Ibrahim was asked to sacrifice his son Ismail (Ishmael) to prove his total acceptance of Allah’s will. The prophet willed himself to obey God after consulting with the son that he was to sacrifice, who absolved his father of any recriminations by agreeing that Allah’s will must be done.
As the prophet was readying himself to sacrifice his son for Allah’s sake, Allah replaced the son with a kibas (a type of sheep) and told the prophet that he had proven his obedience and he need not sacrifice his son but to sacrifice the kibas instead.
Therefore, from that day forward the Eid al-Adha celebration is celebrated by Muslims all over the world to commemorate the prophet Ibrahim’s act of obedience to Allah: that he was willing to sacrifice his son in the name of Allah.
To this day, sacrificing an animal on the day of Eid al-Adha is a ritual that is observed every Qorban (another word for sacrificial and also another word for Eid al-Adha) day.
Eid al-Adha also coincides with the Muslims’ yearly pilgrimage to Mecca, and the beginning of the pilgrimage also started with the trials and tribulations dictated by Allah on the prophet Ibrahim.
Years before the occurrence of the sacrificial incident, the prophet Ibrahim had to leave his wife Hajar and his son Ismail in the dessert. After the food and water supply ran out, Hajar went back and forth between two hills called Al-Safa and Al-Marwah for seven times looking for water, until she collapsed from exhaustion. At this point she prayed for deliverance from Allah and, miraculously, water burst forth from the ground and Hajar and her son Ismail were saved from certain death.
This miraculous spring is known as the Zamzam Well.
Years later Allah commanded the prophet Ibrahim to return to that spot to build a place of worship where the faithful can visit to strengthen their faith in Allah. The stone and mortar structure is the Kaabah – the central focal point of Muslims’ prayers and the place where, yearly, Muslims head for their pilgrimage.
The pilgrimage ends on the day of the Eid al-Adha celebration and, in Malaysia, that is why Eid al-Adha is also known as “Raya Haji” (Celebration of the Hajj) and also “Raya Qorban” (Celebration of the Sacrifice).