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TEL: Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787, 202-744-7726 (c)
NOTE: Eid ul-Adha is expected to begin January 21, depending on the
sighting of the new crescent moon.
MUSLIM HOLIDAY HONORS ABRAHAM
By Nihad Awad
Word Count: 610
When Muslims mark the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, or Hajj, later
this month, the central figure in their religious celebrations will be the
Prophet Abraham, not the Prophet Muhammad as one might suppose.
That fact offers an excellent opportunity for Muslims, Christians and Jews
to recognize their shared religious heritage and to promote a common future
as people of faith.
Each year, Muslims in American and around the world conclude their Hajj
with a holiday called Eid ul-Adha (eed-al-ODD-ha), or "festival of the
sacrifice." Eid ul-Adha signifies not only the end of the pilgrimage, which
is expected to include some 10,000 American Muslims among 2-3 million
pilgrims, it also commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son
at God's command. (Muslims believe it was Ishmael that God asked to be
One of the central rites of Hajj, the largest and oldest annual gatherings
on earth, is the stoning by the pilgrims of three pillars representing
Satan's temptation of Abraham and his rejection of that enticement. The
stoning indicates the pilgrim's similar rejection of evil deeds.
Other Hajj rites also focus on Abraham and his family. Pilgrims circle the
Kaaba, the simple stone building Muslims believe was originally built by
Abraham and his son Ishmael. The Kaaba is viewed as the first sanctuary on
earth dedicated to the worship of the One God. It is a symbol of unity for
Muslims because all prayers, wherever they are performed, are oriented in
Pilgrims also perform the Sa'i, or "hastening" between two small hills near
the Kaaba, to commemorate Hagar's desperate search for water to offer her
Muslims call Abraham the "friend" of God. The Quran, Islam's revealed text,
states: "Who can be better in faith than one who submits his whole self to
God, does good and follows the way of Abraham, the true in faith? For God
did take Abraham for a friend." (4:125)
Another verse in the Quran portrays Abraham as the "father" of all
believers. "Strive in the way of God as you ought to strive with sincerity
and discipline. He has chosen you and has not laid upon you any hardship in
the observance of your faith - the faith of your father Abraham." (22:78)
Yet another verse confirms that Abraham is part of the brotherhood of God's
prophets. "(O Muhammad), We have sent revelations to you just as We sent to
Noah and the Prophets who came after him. We also sent revelations to
Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, his descendants, Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron,
and Solomon, and to David We gave the Psalms." (4:163)
Muslims also mention Abraham along with the Prophet Muhammad in their daily
It is sometimes easy to focus on the very real differences in faith and
religious practice. But we all need to make the effort to find out what we
have in common and to communicate those shared beliefs.
People claiming to speak in the name of their faith sparked the recent
downward spiral of interfaith mistrust and hostility. It is time for the
majority of Muslims, Christians and Jews to stand up and say they will not
let the fringe of any faith group dictate how they view and interact with
As always, it is up to people of good will to avoid easy answers and
instead do the hard work of confronting the kind of ignorance that can lead
to religious bigotry.
Through Hajj, Abraham has united Muslims from all over the world for more
than 14 centuries. The real challenge is for all of Abraham's children -
Muslims, Christians and Jews - to unite for the common good of humanity.
Nihad Awad is executive director of the Washington-based Council on
American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights
and advocacy group. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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