On my recent trip to Karachi, Pakistan, I received the chance to experience the Eid-ul-Adha holidays. I hadn’t been to Pakistan during this time for over 20 years so this was quite a momentous and special occasion. For those few of you who don’t know what Eid-ul-Adha is and why Muslims celebrate it today, please read on. I will also write a comparison of my experiences of Eid-ul-Adha in Pakistan vs. the USA.
The celebration of Eid-ul-Adha is two-fold. The first aspect of the holiday is for those who make the pilgrimage to Kaaba to celebrate the completion of an important pillar in Islam – Hajj. The second aspect is for those who couldn’t make the important trip. These people celebrate the holiday by commemorating the sacrifice Prophet Abraham had to make to show his faith in Allah. Prophet Abraham was experiencing some very important challenges and he asked Allah for help. Allah’s response came in the shape of a vision and a dream. He was told all his troubles will be solved but was asked to sacrifice his only son in return. During his trip to the mountain to make the sacrifice, he was stopped by Satan 3x, but he didn’t listen and carried on. And when he was just about to sacrifice his son, a sheep appeared in his place. And so the tradition of “sacrifice” continues on Eid-ul-Adha. Those who perform the Hajj pilgrimage can do the sacrificial honor as well.
A very cute aspect of Eid-ul-Adha is the livestock animals that are bought for children a few weeks prior to the day. The children spend those few weeks taking care of the animals by feeding them, bathing them, and of course giving them water. The goats and cows are decorated in the most darling tasseled décor as well. And on early morning hours of Eid-ul-Adha, the animals are secretly taken away and donated to poor families around the world who need them to survive. It is quite heartbreaking to part with them, hence seeing this act as a sacrifice. A rather odd tradition (which came from Pakistani Hindus trying to celebrate the holiday and adding their own twist to it) is to scare children that their temporary pets are actually killed on this day. Some of these families participating pour red colored water down the streets as “proof” the sacrifice has been made. But that is far from true. When I was a child, Pakistani Muslims tried to be more inclusive of Pakistani Hindus so they agreed to let them incorporate the color aspect of the holiday. But no respecting Muslim actually performs such as an act on Eid-ul Adha.
Eid-Ul-Adha In The United States
Spending this holiday in the United States is quite different than Pakistan for obvious livestock regulation related reasons. Unlike Pakistan, which allows to house goats, cows, even camels in your neighborhood, you cannot really do that in the United States. However, there are many ways Muslims can participate in the festivities. The first act a Muslim must do is to donate money for Qurbani aka sacrifice (see above). Organizations like Helping Hand (See HERE) and Islamic Relief USA (See HERE) facilitate this process so impoverished people can get everything from actual livestock to halal meat for food. The next part is dressing up. I usually have clothes made when I travel to Pakistan for this holiday or have my aunt send them to me via mail. It is really fun to lay out your Eid clothes the night before and take pictures (it’s 2018 after all) for Instagram. My mom and sister usually host a family dinner. Some families like to have potlucks! These are untraditional practices, but imperative in the USA where you can get only one day off from school and work.
Eid-ul-Adha 2018 in Pakistan
I arrived in Karachi a week prior to Eid-ul-Adha and had the most fabulous time playing with the neighborhood livestock. There were literally goats and cows everywhere. I only saw two camels altogether. Some of the fun memories I have brought back with me is seeing the cute goats and cows congregate together in a huddle and eat grass or wheat seeds. Most families decorate their “sacrifice” with embroidered neck straps and tassels hanging down. Some goats even had anklets. Cute. Families also hire caretakers for animals to bathe them, feed them, guard them, and take them on walks so they don’t get bored. I personally did not get to see the livestock mart, but I did get to see goats being transported on mini trucks, which was precious because you can clearly see how much they were enjoying the ride. The highlight of Eid-ul Adha was having my “friend” surprise me by leaving two sheep in front of my aunt and uncle’s house without telling me. I spent a good 15 minutes wondering who they belonged to until someone told us they are for me. Smiling here! It felt really special so I took a whole lot of pictures with them 😉 The rest of the week was eating mithai aka sweets like Gulab Jaman, Halwa, and Labe Sheereen, which means “sweet words”.
On the day of Eid-ul-Adha, the children are asked to stay inside. I woke up early and saw that all the animals were gone! Not a peep guys. There was a house in front of us clearly with a family from the Hindu religion who oddly enough had no animals standing in front, but managed to hire people to “pretend” real animals were being killed. It was an ominous sight to see a river of red liquid with crows flying around, but Hindus adore color, especially red, so it is understandable why they like to participate in Eid in their own ways.
The rest of my Eid-Ul-Adha was spent no differently than the one I spend in the United States. I took a bath, dressed up in my new Eid-ul-Adha clothes from Generation PK (See HERE) and took pictures to share. My aunt cooked dessert for Niaz, a very Shia practice. Giving Niaz aka saying Quranic prayers is a way to remember and include our Islamic ancestors in holidays and celebrations like Eid. The rest of the day was spent talking to family in the United States and sleeping.
The only difference was seeing that frightful red river and spending the entire Eid day in my Eid clothes. This last tradition is actually quite personal to me. The only year I got an animal in Pakistan I started the tradition of wearing my Eid clothes the whole day to show my gratitude to get the animal and show how happy I was to Allah. I don’t this in the United States for some reason, but here I did it after such a long time. A great experience!