MAKKAH (Pakistan Tribune): Joy and celebrations are sweeping across Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Dubai, and other gulf countries on Sunday as Muslims observe Eid-ul-Azha with religious fervour to commemorate the sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim.
Over a billion Muslims from around the world are celebrating Eid-ul-Azha, which is also known as the “Festival of the Sacrifice’.
In Saudi Arabia, tens of thousands of Muslims have arrived at Masjid-e-Nabvi and the Grand Mosque in Makkah for offering Eid-ul-Azha prayers.
Millions of pilgrims, who spent the whole night in the open sky offering prayers in Muzdalifa have started moving towards Mina.
After reaching Mina, they will perform stoning at Jamarat Al-Aqba, sacrifice animals, shave their heads and then leave for Makkah to perform Tawaf Al-Ifada and Sai , two other pillars of Haj.
In the remaining days of Haj, pilgrims will perform the only ritual of stoning at each of the three Jamarat in Mina.
The annual Islamic festival, which this year has begun on August 11, sees Muslims offer a sacrificial animal (typically a goat or a sheep) in gratitude for Allah’s blessings.
Eid-ul-Azha is named after the sacrificial ritual, one of the rites of the Haj in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, where more than two million Muslims from around the world have gathered for the annual occasion.
In the UAE, Eid-ul-Azha is being celebrated as a four-day public holiday, from Saturday (August 10) to Tuesday (August 13).
At this moment, Muslims visit each other’s homes for Eid greetings and for a variety of dining, entertainment and enjoyment.
In many countries, cattle markets and abattoirs have already prepared days in advance for the Eid rush to buy and sacrifice livestock.
Besides, it is considered as a common practice to gift some of the sacrificial meat, donate a part to charity and consume the rest at home.
The sacrificial rite is preceded by the Eid congregational prayer held in large numbers at mosques and open areas shortly after sunrise.
Pilgrimage is also the backbone of a Saudi plan to expand tourism under a drive to diversify the kingdom’s economy away from oil. The haj and year-round umrah generate billions of dollars in revenue from worshippers’ lodging, transport, fees and gifts.
Officials aim to increase the number of umrah and haj pilgrims to 15 million and 5 million respectively by 2020 and the umrah number to 30 million by 2030.