Kurban Bayram, The Feast of Sacrifice

Kurban Bayram, also known as the Feast of Sacrifice, is the holiest Islamic Feast of the year. It is very special for Muslims all around the world. Not only does Kurban Bayram marks the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It also is the time Muslims sacrifice an animal to show their dedication to Allah and to honor the prophet Ibrahim. Here is what you need to know about the biggest Islamic feast of the year.
What is the meaning behind Kurban Bayram? 

During Kurban Bayram, Muslims who can afford it, buy a sheep, cow, goat or even camel to sacrifice. The animals are being ritually slaughtered in honour of the prophet Ibrahim. Ibrahim was willing to sacrifice his son at the request of Allah. The story is as follows: one night, Ibrahim had a dream where Allah spoke to him and said that he had to sacrifice his beloved son Ishmael (Isaac in the biblical version). Devout as Ibrahim was, he called for Ishmael and he told him his heart breaking task. Ishmael told his father not to mourn: if it was Allah’s will, it had to be fulfilled and he walked with his father to the sacrificial place. Just as Ishmael went on his knees and his father held his knife ready, it turned out that Allah just wanted to test Ibrahim’s faith. As he passed the test, Allah sent a Ram to Ibrahim which he was allowed to sacrifice instead of his son.

When is Kurban Bayram celebrated?

The Feast of Sacrifice is celebrated on the 10th day of the last month of the Islamic calender called Dhu al-Hijjah. This is the pilgrimage month in which Muslims travel to Mecca. This is called Hajj. Because the Islamic calendar follows the cycle of the moon, the Islamic year is 10 or 11 days shorter than our Gregorian-calendar year. The Feast of Sacrifice is therefore celebrated every year 10 or 11 days earlier than in the previous year.

What does hajj mean?

During the pilgrimage month, millions of Muslims from all over the world pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of the Islam and every Muslim who is healthy and disposes of sufficient financial means, is obliged to go on the journey at least once during his or her lifetime. The Hajj takes place from the 8th until the 12th day of the Islamic month Dhu al-Hijjah.

How is Kurban Bayram celebrated?

Like every bayram, also Kurban Bayram is a time for friends and families to get together. Every Muslim who can somewhat afford it, needs to sacrifice an animal. One third of the meat is eaten at home, one third is for family and friends and one third for the poor. A portion of the meat of the sacrificed animal is given to the poor. Nowadays, instead of sacrificing an animal, sometimes an amount of money is paid for the poor. The mosque is visited and people often wear neat and new clothing.

Are there special rituals and rules for the slaughtering?

Yes. There are several very specific rules which Muslims have to follow when sacrificing an animal. The most important thing to remember is that meat eaten by Muslims has to be halal. This means that the animal have to be slaughtered according to Islamic Law – which is partially based on the Koran. Only animals that are said to be halal, are allowed to be sacrificed: cows, goats, sheep and camels. The animal has to be treated well before the slaughtering.

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