Eid al-Adha in Arabic literally means the ‘festival of the sacrifice’ [Willy Kurniawan/Reuters]
Millions of Muslims around the world are celebrating the Eid al-Adha religious holiday on Sunday.
Eid al-Adha, which in Arabic literally means the “festival of the sacrifice”, commemorates the story of the Muslim Prophet Ibrahim’s test of faith.
Muslims believe Ibrahim 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.
In the village of Mina, near the Muslim holy city of Mecca, it marks the day on which millions of pilgrims perform the symbolic stoning of the devil.
They will then circle the cube-shaped Kaaba in Mecca, Islam’s most sacred site, before departing.
The Kaaba represents the metaphorical house of God and the oneness of God in Islam. Observant Muslims around the world face towards the Kaaba during the five daily prayers.
The day is marked with the sacrifice of an animal, usually a goat, sheep, or cow, and the distribution of the meat among neighbours, family members, and the poor.
The holiday also marks the end of Hajj, the five-day-long pilgrimage Muslims undertake to cleanse the soul of sins and instil a sense of equality and brotherhood among Muslims.
Any Muslim, who has the financial means to undertake the pilgrimage, is expected to take part in it at least once in their lifetime and constitutes one of the five pillars of Islam.
During the last three days of Hajj, male pilgrims shave their heads and remove the white terrycloth garments worn during the pilgrimage. Women cut off a small lock of hair in a sign of spiritual rebirth and renewal.
According to the Saudi General Authority for Statistics, almost 2.5 million Muslims took part in this year’s Hajj, with more than 600,000 coming from outside Saudi Arabia.