There are two key Eid’s (Celebration Festivals) in Islam: Eid-ul-Fitr, which signifies the completion of the Holy Month of Ramadan; and Eid-ul-Adha, the greater Eid, which follows the completion of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, at the time of Qurbani (sacrifice).
Although Eid-ul-Adha has no direct relation to the Hajj Pilgrimage, it is but a day after the completion of Hajj and therefore has significance in time.
Muslims believe the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) was tested by God who commanded him to sacrifice his first-born son, Ismail (Ishmail).
Ibrahim was prepared to submit to the command, but God stayed his hand. Instead, he was told to sacrifice an animal, likely a lamb or sheep.
End of Hajj
The event also marks the end of Hajj, a five-day pilgrimage all able-bodied and financially capable Muslims are obliged to undertake once in their lifetime. The pilgrimage is believed to cleanse the soul of sins and instil a sense of equality, sisterhood and brotherhood.
Some 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world flock annually to the cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia for the ritual.
Sacrificing an animal
The occasion is marked by the sacrifice of an animal that Muslims can eat – a goat, sheep, cow or camel – by those who can afford to do so.
In many parts of the Muslim world, special livestock markets are set up for people to buy an animal for the Eid sacrifice.
Distribution of meat
The animal sacrifice comes with an element of charity, as the person paying for the sacrifice is required to distribute part of it to others.
The meat of the sacrificed animal is divided among three groups: the person sacrificing it and their immediate family, extended family and friends, and those in need.
Some Muslims will pay the value of an animal to one of a number of Muslim charities around the world that collect funds for remote animal sacrifices, distributing the meat to underprivileged groups – including refugees, the elderly and disabled people.