Friday, November 27, 2009

Gurban Bayrami (“Eid-al-Adha”, Festival of Sacrifice)

Gurban Bayrami (“Eid-al-Adha”, Festival of Sacrifice) is celebrated in Azerbaijan this weekend. Eid-al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice is celebrated in commemoration of the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismayil on Mina Mountain as an act of his love and obedience to Allah. As Ibrahim was about to sacrifice his son, the knife didn’t cut and Allah instead provided a lamb as the sacrifice. This is why today all over the world Muslims sacrifice an animal (usually a goat or a sheep), as a reminder of Ibrahim’s obedience to God. The festivities begin 70 days after the end of Holy Ramadan and last for three days. The meat of the sacrificed animals is divided into three shares, one share for the poor, one share for relatives and neighbors, and the last to keep for oneself. In the evening people usually get together for a festive meal with family, friends and neighbors. It is customary then to remember all deceased relatives and friends. Since it is a deeply religious holiday, there is a special Holiday Namaz in mosques on that day.

A few days before the holiday we started to notice small herds of sheep along the highway and on the street that leads to a butcher shop. Some of these sheep were marked with red paint or had red ribbons tied around their horns. I was told that our neighborhood butcher shop will be very busy these days and I am torn between the desire of taking photos and inability to witness slaughter of the animals.
Speaking with various people I gathered that there are very specific rules on how to sacrifice an animal and how to divide the meat. A knife for sacrificing must be sanctified by a mullah; thean animal is supposed to be positioned between East and West, the points of the sun rising and setting; the blood of the animals is used for marking children’s forehead with a small red dot as a reminder of Ismayil.

Since not everyone can afford to buy a whole sheep, people often buy it together. The meat is divided in such a way that each person receives every part of the sacrificed animal - – i.e. if there are 10 people who share a sheep – each of them has to receive a part of a heart, liver, etc . It is sinful to sell meat of sacrificial animals; it has to be shared, and it is forbidden to drink alcohol during the feast of Eid al-Adha.

With all its layers it is a fascinating holiday – it’s essence is deeply religious; it satisfies physical hunger with a traditional feast; it provides a sensory overload with visuals of sheep being slaughtered; and it is deeply humane – it encourages people to share their riches with the less fortunate. It has the same spirit with Thanksgiving – giving something to others, be it in thanks or in food.

Along the highway

Neighborhood Butcher Shop

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good one