Eid-Al-Adha, “The Feast of Sacrifice”: Meaning, Purposes, Rules and Practical Questions

Eid-Al-Adha, “The Feast of Sacrifice”: Meaning, Purposes, Rules and Practical Questions

The first day of Eid-Al-Adha (1444-2023), “The Feast of the Sacrifice”, will be Wednesday, June 28, 2023. This festival, which commemorates the memory of Abraham (Psl), and marks the end of the period of pilgrimage to Mecca, results in France in the slaughter of more than 100,000 sheep, over a period of between 1 and 4 days.

We will try to answer in this text all the questions about the meaning, the purposes and the rules of this rite, to which many French citizens of the Muslim faith remain culturally and religiously attached.

How many festivals are there in the Muslim religion?

The Muslim calendar has two major holidays: Eid-Al-Fitr celebration, “the feast of breaking the fast”, also called Aïd al-Seghir, “the little feast” which marks the end of the month of Ramadan and the Eid-Al-Adha celebration, “the feast of the Sacrifice”, also called Eid al-Kabîr, “the great feast”, which marks the end of the period of pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the five pillars of Islam.

What is the meaning of the Feast of Sacrifice for Muslims?

This feast commemorates the sacrifice that God asked of Abraham (as) to test and prove his faith. In the Muslim tradition, Abraham (Psl) the father of the prophets is called “Abraham Al-Kalil”, that is to say the faithful friend of God. He was the faithful friend of God and yet it is to him that God will make live the most difficult test that is: to sacrifice his only son Ishmael (Psl), born of his wife Hajar (Agar) in the name of his faith .

It is much more than sacrificing oneself; it is more than experiencing a life ordeal, a failure, a tragedy, even an accident; it is much more difficult than a separation, an illness or the loss of a loved one. Abraham (as) and his son united to submit to the will of God.

Abraham then tries to immolate Ishmael (Psl) before being stopped by the archangel Jibril (Gabriel) and Ishmael was replaced by a ram. Abraham (as) had to choose between the love of God and the love of his only child, at this precise moment. He chose the love of God who gives him back his son Ismaïl (Pls). Muslims commemorate this ordeal of two loves by sacrificing an animal.

What is the status of the Feast of Sacrifice in Islam?

The majority of Muslim scholars are of the opinion that it is a non-binding tradition. In the Malikite school, in force in the Maghreb countries and in West Africa, sacrifice is considered a prophetic tradition highly recommended for Muslims who have the financial means to do so. The Muslim does not have to go into debt to buy an animal for sacrifice. For the Hanafi school, in force in Turkey in particular, the sacrifice constitutes an obligation.

How is the date of the Feast of Sacrifice determined?

Muslim holidays are fixed according to the lunar calendar[1]. The feast of the sacrifice is celebrated on the tenth day of the last month of the lunar year, the day after the gathering of millions of pilgrims[2] on Mount Arafat[3]in Mecca. The date of Eid al-Kabîr, like that of the beginning or the end of Ramadan, “moves back” by around eleven days each year in the civil calendar.

Do Muslims all celebrate Eid on the same day?

Theoretically yes, because it is Saudi Arabia, where the rites of pilgrimage take place, which fixes the 1st day of the feast of the sacrifice. The date of this feast which marks the end of the pilgrimage and which is fixed by the lunar calendar is only known and confirmed about ten days before.[4]. That being said, for some countries like Turkey that have adopted scientific computing, the date is known in advance. In France, it is the CFCM which fixes the date of the first day of the sacrifice. He has always aligned himself with Saudi Arabia.

At what time of the day should the sacrifice begin?

The sacrifice should begin on the morning of the feast day, after the special Eid prayer which begins about 20 minutes after sunrise. The animal killed before the Eid prayer is not considered a sacrifice, even if it remains halal and therefore suitable for consumption. It is permissible to sacrifice day or night, but it is better to do it during the day.

How many days does the party last?

Eid-al-adha is a celebration that lasts 3 days. In France, it is more commonly celebrated on the 1st day by families of the Muslim faith, but it can also be spread over the 2nd and 3rd day following the special Eid prayer, including the slaughter of the animal. As a result, more and more families accept for logistical reasons to recover the slaughtered animal on the 2nd or 3rd day.

What are the merits of sacrifice for Muslims?

To get an idea of ​​what this feast represents for Muslims, it suffices to read these words of the prophet: “There is no work more pleasing with God that man can accomplish on the day of sacrifice than to sacrifice a beast. This one is brought on the day of the resurrection with its horns, its hairs and its hooves; his blood reaches a high place with God, even before it touches the ground. Rejoice!”.

What kind of animals should be sacrificed?

In the Muslim tradition, the choice of animals that can be sacrificed during the festival is multiple: Muslims can kill an ovine (sheep, ewe or ram), a bovine (cow, bull or calf), a goat (goat or goat) or another camelid (camel or dromedary).

What are the choices of Muslims in France?

In France, it is generally a sheep or a goat for Muslims from the Maghreb and West Africa and a calf for those from Turkey.

Is it possible for several families to join together to sacrifice a single animal?

Islam allows a group of seven families (at most) to associate to sacrifice a calf or a cow.

What specific characteristics must animals meet?

Animals must meet conditions related to age and physical integrity. Thus, the animal must be more than 2 years old for cattle and at least six months old (preferably more than a year) for sheep. She must not be sick, old, thin, one-eyed, blind, lame, or completely amputated of her tail and have all her limbs.

Beasts having no horn or tail naturally and “castrated” males are authorized for the sacrifice. The horned ram, with the extremities of the black legs, the black belly and the surroundings of the black eyes is particularly prized by the Muslims of France.

Who should make the sacrifice?

Tradition commands the head of the family to kill the animal himself, if the law of the land allows it. Otherwise, he can appoint another person to do it for him.

Should he attend the killing of the animal?

Its presence is not obligatory but recommended. On the other hand, the agent must, as far as possible, cite the name of the owner of the animal at the time of the killing of the animal.

What do we do with meat?

Placed under the sign of sharing and solidarity, the Eid el-Kébir festival is an opportunity for Muslims to meet and strengthen ties between members of the community and especially those who live in need. (poor, needy, orphans). During this festival, the tradition is that the 1st third of the meat is given to the poor and needy, the 2nd third to friends and neighbors (Muslim or not) and the 3rd third to the family.

What about animal welfare?

It is necessary to minimize the suffering of the animal which must be treated gently, without brutality or violence. The sacrificer must drain the beast of its blood, without knocking it out and using a sharp, well-sharpened knife, which must only be taken out of its sheath at the last moment to avoid exposing it to the beast.

Is it possible to order the beast from a butcher?

Yes, many Muslims do. You just have to check with the butcher that the animal has been killed after the Eid prayer.

Is it possible to order the beast in a supermarket?

Yes, provided that the slaughter is done after the Eid prayer, which is not necessarily the case for large surfaces.

Is it possible to replace the slaughter of an animal with a donation?

Many Muslim scholars accept the principle of substitution, that is to say replacing the slaughter of an animal with a gift. Thus, Muslim charitable organizations offer the faithful to collect a donation instead of sacrificing a sheep to direct it to needy families. However, many French citizens of the Muslim faith remain culturally and religiously attached to the practice and symbolism of this rite.


[1]The lunar year has 354 or 355 days instead of 365 for the solar year. The lunar months are 12 in number and have 29 or 30 days. Friday is the most important day of the week. Believers gather at the mosque to pray together.

[2]About 3 million Muslims from all over the world make the pilgrimage every year.

[3]Mount Arafat, also called the “Mountain of Mercy” is a hill east of Mecca. At the end of the pilgrimage rites, more precisely on the ninth day of the last month of the lunar year, the believers all gather at this place. It is a symbolic day to honor the Last Judgment. It is also the day to ask God for forgiveness. The station at Mount Arafat is one of the pillars of the pilgrimage.

[4]Every year, Muslim leaders in France await the announcement of the 1st day of the month of Dhou al Hijja (12th lunar month) by the Saudi Supreme Court, which relies on ocular vision. The CFCM and the mosques then announce to the faithful the date of the 1st day of the feast of the sacrifice which corresponds to the 10th day of this lunar month.