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Eid-al-Adha is considered one of the most important annual festivals in the Islamic calendar and is celebrated to mark the end of Hajj. It’s the second of two annual observances by Muslim faithful, the first being Eid-al-Fitr, which marks the conclusion of the holy month of Ramadan. More than one billion Muslims around the world observe these festivals as days of celebration.

Also known as the ‘Festival of the Sacrifice,’ Eid-al-Adha celebrates the obedience by prophet Ibrahim who was prepared to sacrifice his son under Allah’s order. Just as he was about to do it, a lamb was provided instead, ensuring Ibrahim’s son was spared. This devotion is celebrated annually in the last month (Dhu al-Hijjah) of the Islamic calendar with special prayers, giving of gifts and a feast among the faithful.

Eid-al-Adha was observed from the 11th of August until the 15th of August in 2019. The dates are calculated annually based on the Islamic calendar, which is a lunar calendar that depends on the phases of the moon. More specifically, Eid-al-Adha is celebrated on the tenth day of the 12th month, which also happens to be the most sacred month for Muslims. It’s during this month that devoted Muslims travel to Mecca (Saudi Arabia) for Hajj. At least once in their lifetimes, those who are capable of completing Hajj are expected to do so.

Since Eid-al-Adha celebrates a sacrifice, Muslims typically observe the day by carrying out a sacrifice of an animal (goat, cow, camel or sheep), with the meat divided into three portions. One third is kept by the family, the second is given to the poor or needy in the community, and the last piece is given to neighbours or relatives. In the morning of the actual day, a special prayer is recited, and people typically dress in beautiful clothes.

Eid prayers generally are offered by a congregation at the mosque. Depending on the community, women can be part of the group. A sermon is also part of the prayers, and afterwards, congregants embrace and exchange gifts. Some Muslims take this opportunity to invite their colleagues, neighbours and friends, even those who are not Muslim, to share in the celebration and learn more about the Islamic faith.

Around the world, variants of the Eid-al-Adha name are used to define the holiday. Eid-ul-Azha is more common in South Asia, particularly in countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh. Turkey and Tajikistan call it Kurban Bayram, while Uzbekistan calls the festival Kurban Hayit. Singapore and Malaysia use the name Hari Raya Haji.

In the UK, the festival was acknowledged by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who called on the nation to celebrate the contributions of the Muslim population in the UK. He pointed out that they have made an impact on modern British life, and that their contributions were visible in aspects such as government, media, sports, culture and public services.

Mr. Johnson’s remarks came at a time he was battling controversy over previous statements made regarding Muslims in 2018. While he did apologise for the comments, they were, understandably, not well received by many, including the Muslim Council of Britain, who called out Mr. Johnson and noted that his remarks could fuel hate crime.

Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters and Founder of Tell MAMA (the National Hate Crime Monitoring project), was among those who spoke up at the time. He noted that with the Eid-al-Adha speech, Mr. Johnson struck a more conciliatory note, perhaps as an effort to spread the message of unity and inclusivity, and also make Muslims feel part of the political process.