MECCA (AP) – Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid al-Adha, a religious holiday which in Arabic means the “festival of the sacrifice”.
The festival marks the end of Hajj, the five-day pilgrimage Muslims undertake to Islam’s holiest city, Mecca, and surrounding areas of western Saudi Arabia to cleanse the soul of sins and instill a sense of equality and brotherhood.
Eid al-Adha commemorates the story of Prophet Ibrahim’s test of faith when he was commanded by God to sacrifice his son, Ismail.
The belief holds that God stayed his hand, sparing the boy and placing a ram in his place.
The day is marked with the sacrifice of an animal, usually a goat, sheep or cow, and the distribution of the meat among neighbors, family members and the poor.
Much of Asia, including Indonesia, Pakistan and India – the three countries with the largest Muslim populations in the world –observed the holiday on Sunday.
In Saudi Arabia, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims rose at dawn to trek to Mina, a wide valley ringed by barren mountains where Prophet Muhammad stopped on his route some 1,400 years ago.
One million Muslims from around the world flocked this week to the holy city of Mecca, the largest pilgrimage since the pandemic upended the annual event.
All Muslims who are physically and financially able to complete the spiritual journey are supposed to do so at least once in a lifetime.
It is a joyous occasion of which food is a hallmark. But amid soaring food prices that have caused widespread hardship across the world, many say they cannot afford the livestock for the ritual sacrifice.
Desperation over the cost of living has undercut the typically booming holiday trade in goats, cows and sheep.
In cash-strapped Afghanistan, there is usually a shopping rush for prime animals ahead of the holiday.
But this year, galloping global inflation and economic devastation after the Taliban takeover have put a purchase of great religious importance beyond the reach of many.
From Kenya to Russia to Egypt, throngs of worshippers prayed shoulder to shoulder, feet to feet.
“I feel very happy that all these people came to pray,” said Sahar Mohamed in Cairo, smiling widely.
“There is love and acceptance between people.”