What are the differences between Eid al Adha and Eid al Fitr?

Muslims around the world are all set to celebrate Eid al Adha, which is one of the two main celebrations in Islam, another being, Eid al Fitr. While the current festival is believed to symbolise the ultimate sacrifice by Ibrahim – known as Abraham in the Hebrew texts – to show his love and devotion to Allah/God, the latter is a celebration to mark the end of Ramadan/Ramzan, the holy month of fasting.

While both festivals are identified as Eid, which means ‘feast’ in Aramaic and Arabic, what makes them different is the reason behind the celebrations, as well as the way the festivities unfold. While Eid al Fitr is celebrated on the first day in the month of Shawwal, and literally means ‘Feast of the Breaking Fast’; Eid al Adha is celebrated on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, and means ‘Feast of the Sacrifice’.

The two also have colloquial names – Eid al Fitr is called ‘Meetha Eid’ because of the primary focus on a vermicelli based sweet dish called sewwaiyyan that is savoured and distributed among family and friends. Eid al Adha on the other hand, is called Bakrid, or Bakri Eid, because of the sacrificial lamb/goat which is deemed a sacred offering to God.

Although fairly well-known, for those who might not know of the story behind Bakrid, it’s a story of Abraham’s willingness to perform the ultimate sacrifice – that of his son Isaac – at the command of God. According to the Hebrew Bible, Genesis 22, God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son on Mount Moriah. Abraham, who was utterly devoted to God, began to carry out God’s command when his son was miraculously replaced by a lamb. In the Quran, this same story is narrated in reference to Ibrahim and his son Ismail, which is why Muslim followers around the world follow this ritualistic and symbolic sacrifice to show their devotion to Allah.

This ritual has been further elaborated upon in the Hadith, which dictates that the person/family sacrificing the goat will keep one-third of the meat, while another share is given to friends, family, and neighbours, and the rest is to be distributed among the poor and the needy.

This is a bit similar to the ritual of Zakat that is followed during Ramadan and Eid al Fitr, in which Muslims are required to give 2.5 per cent or 1/40th of their annual savings to those in need. This action of giving to the poor in kind and in money can be seen as both a similarity and a difference.

Yet another important aspect of Eid al Adha is that it also marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which is a mandatory religious journey undertaken by Muslims to the holy place of Kabbah. It is believed that their sins are washed away once they complete the journey and they are then referred to as Hajjis.

While these are the principal differences between the two Eids, Mushtak Khan of Sahapedia explains that there are variations in the way the two Eids are celebrated as well. Eid al Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan/Ramzan is also known as ‘Bada Eid’. It is celebrated with much more fanfare, as families come together to break their fast with a huge feast. Part of the festivities also include wearing new clothes (which is not so much a custom in Eid al Adha) and the practice of ‘meetha moonh’ or having something sweet (usually sewaiyyan) as a mark of good luck before leaving the house for the main namaz. Contrary to this, Muslims are meant to conduct the sacrifice of the lamb/goat during Eid al Adha on an empty stomach.

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