Muslims will be bowing their heads in prayer tomorrow morning all across Orange County, joining global celebrations of Eid al-Adha – one of the holiest times of the year in the Islamic faith.

What Does Eid al-Adha Commemorate?

Eid al-Adha is one of the most holy times in the Islamic calendar, commemorating the Muslim prophet Ibrahim’s obedience to God.

Muslims believe God tested Ibrahim’s devotion by commanding Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismael. As Ibrahim was about to do so, God provided a ram for him to sacrifice instead.

During this time, many Muslims will have an animal, usually a lamb, slaughtered by a butcher, and will distribute meat to those in need.

There are two Eids, or festivals, that Muslims celebrate: Eid al-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha celebrated on the third day of Hajj, the annual time for the holy pilgrimage to Mecca. 

Like fasting during the month of Ramadan, the holy pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the five pillars of Islam. All Muslims who are able to do so must make the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetimes.

“We, as a faith, try to base our moments of celebration around moments in worship,” said Azeem Syed, chair of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella organization of mosques and Muslim organizations that operate in the region.

Syed said the number of Muslims in Southern California who make the pilgrimage varies between hundreds to thousands of people every year.

Last year, Hajj was limited to people already in Saudi Arabia due to the coronavirus. This year the pilgrimage has been limited to 60,000 vaccinated Saudi residents because of the pandemic, according to Al Jazeera.

Sacrifice – The Lesson of Eid al-Adha and COVID-19

Eid al-Adha translates to the “festival of sacrifice” and lasts three days. It commemorates the obedience of the prophet Ibrahim, who Muslims believe was willing to sacrifice his son, Ismael, for the sake of God. 

Before the prophet did so, God replaced Ismael with a ram.

Syed said the lessons Muslims can take from Ibrahim’s story are threefold: sacrifice, sincerity towards God and solidarity. 

These lessons, he said, can also be learned from the pandemic.

Owaiz Dadabhoy, president of the Islamic Center of Yorba Linda, said that during the last year and a half, Muslims have lost time together, making a sacrifice in order to quell the spread of the virus.

“We’re understanding the value of it much more,” he said about spending time together. “We’re getting back the very same thing that we had before but it feels that much sweeter because we know what loss looks like now.”

Like other Muslims in the county, Sean-Habib Tu, president of the Islamic Center of Santa Ana, also noted the small sacrifice of isolation this past year and a half for the common good.

“The thing that we can learn from it is that we revert from the essence of community back to the family rejuvenation,” he said. “We sacrificed going to the mosque, but at the same time we gained by praying together in the family circles.”

He also said the lesson of Eid al-Adha is also one of sacrifice.

“Our prophet Ibrahim – he is willing to sacrifice his son. That is the ultimate sacrifice,” Tu said. “If we can sacrifice a little bit of time helping out each other, that will really, really ease the burden from everyone around us. That’s the most important thing for me to take in.”

Amina Sen-Matthew, who is part of a volunteer women’s group at the mosque, agreed.

“That kind of reminds you sometimes you have to make sacrifices and those sacrifices can bring good and betterment to the community,” she said.

Orange County Mosques Prepare For Morning Eid Prayers

Like Eid al-Fitr, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha with morning prayers at the mosque and sharing space together as a community. 

 “For Muslims, any day of celebrations starts off with prayer,” Dadabhoy said.

Eid prayers will kick off Tuesday, July 20 and will once again be held in person after being disrupted last year because of the pandemic. Some places will do multiple rounds of prayer, while others will hold only one prayer.

But this year still won’t be like Eid prior to the coronavirus. Those who go for prayer will have to wear masks and some prayers will be held outside. Some Muslims are still hesitant to congregate.

The Islamic Center of Yorba Linda will be holding its Eid al-Adha prayer at Nathan Shapell Stadium at Yorba Linda High School. Those who attend are encouraged to bring their own prayer rugs.

Because of the pandemic, the Islamic Center of Yorba Linda did not hold Eid al-Adha prayers last year.

On July 23, a carnival will be held with food vendors, a photo booth, face painting and other activities at the mosque from 4-8 p.m.

Garden Grove’s Islamic Society of Orange County, one of the largest mosques in Southern California, will be holding two rounds of Eid prayer tomorrow.

The mosque will then hold a carnival on Friday, July 23 from 5-9 p.m. and ticket information can be found online.

The Islamic Center of Irvine will be holding its two rounds of Eid prayers at the Great Park in Irvine.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Center of Fullerton will be holding its prayer at St. Philip Benizi Church. During Eid al-Fitr, the church also allowed the mosque to pray at its campus in the parking lot.

“Our mosque is very small so we don’t have enough room to accommodate a lot of people in there,” said Mohammad Raghib, president of the center. “I reached out again to (Father Dennis Kriz)  and he again opened up his door and he said, ‘if you guys ever have a problem accommodating your prayers, you’re most welcome to come over here.”

Raghib said they’re asking attendees to bring their own prayer mats, not to embrace people physically and wear their masks.

Fullerton’s Islamic Center will also be holding an Eid potluck style picnic at Craig Regional Park on July 24 from 11 a.m to 4 p.m.

In Santa Ana, Eid prayers will be held at the local Islamic Center started by the Cham community with those praying inside having to wear masks, while for those praying outside wearing a mask is optional.

Tu said the Cham community in the area usually get together for Eid al-Adha, but because of the pandemic, it couldn’t last year.

“When you couldn’t get together for the community prayer, it changes the whole dynamic of Eid because for me Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr (are) about that communal prayer to celebrate together,” Sen-Matthews said.

Celebrating Eid is more than just morning prayers and a good meal. Kids receive gifts and get money. But it is also about sharing space as a community and spending time together, which people couldn’t do last year.

Families celebrate Eid al-Fitr at the Islamic Center of Santa Ana in May after a one year hiatus because of the pandemic. Credit: Photo courtesy of Sean-Habib Tu

On July 25, the mosque will be holding a community potluck style picnic at Irvine Park from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

“Kids are looking forward to celebrating Eid. The toys bring excitement. We’re going to have toys and we’re going to have games and we’re going to have food and socialize,” Tu said.

Uplift Charity’s Meat Distributions

Uplift Charity, a Muslim nonprofit, usually hosts an Eid al-Adha carnival offering free food and toys, games, henna tattoos and a petting zoo, as well as free health screenings and dental hygiene classes.

Last year, the charity held a drive-through carnival instead because of the pandemic. This year no carnival will take place, and instead the charity will distribute toys and food at Al-Ansar mosque in Anaheim.

Along with the carnival, the nonprofit also distributes meat for people in need. 

Part of Eid traditions is for those able to donate money for an animal to be butchered so families who typically cannot afford to eat meat get a chance to have meat as part of their celebrations.

“Some of them donate the entire animal,” said Ahmed Almukhtar, Uplift Charity’s director of operations. “Some will pay so a third goes to their family, a third for their neighbors and ties and a third to be distributed to people less fortunate than themselves.”

Almukhtar said the nonprofit plans to donate 5,000 pounds worth of meat to applicants and have prepared freezers at its offices for the task. The group distributes the meat as it receives it.

It’s not just for Eid. Uplift Charity also distributes the meat of two to four lambs on a monthly basis.

Where to Attend OC Eid al-Adha Prayers and Festivities

Both takbeerat and prayer times are listed. Takbeerat is a declaration that “God is great,” recited out loud numerous times as a group before the Eid prayer. It is one of the biggest traditional practices of Eid al-Adha.

Islamic Center of Fullerton

Prayers on July 20
Where: St. Philip Benizi Church, 235 S Pine Drive, Fullerton
Takbeerat: 7:15 a.m.
Prayers: 7:30 a.m.

Eid Potluck on July 24
Where: Craig Regional Park, 3300 N State College Blvd, Fullerton
When: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Islamic Center of Irvine

Prayers on July 20
Where: OC Great Park, 8000 Great Park Blvd., Irvine
Takbeerat: 7:00 a.m and 8:30 a.m.
Prayers: 7:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.

Islamic Center of Santa Ana

Prayers on July 20
Where: 1610 E First St., Santa Ana
Takbeerat: 7:30 a.m.
Prayers: 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.

Eid Potluck on July 25
Where: Irvine Regional Park, 1 Irvine Park Rd, Orange
When: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Islamic Center of Yorba Linda

Prayers on July 20
Where: Nathan Shapell Stadium at Yorba Linda High School, 19900 Bastanchury Road, Yorba Linda
Takbeerat: 7:00 a.m.
Prayers: 7:30 a.m.

Eid Carnival on July 23
Where: Islamic Center of Yorba Linda, 4382 Eureka Ave, Yorba Linda
When: 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Islamic Society of Orange County

Prayers on July 20
Where: 1 Al-Rahman Plaza, Garden Grove
Takbeerat: 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.
Prayers: 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.

Eid Carnival on July 23
Where: 1 Al-Rahman Plaza, Garden Grove
When: 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Orange County Islamic Foundation

Prayers on July 20, pre-registration required
Where: 23581 Madero Mission Viejo
Takbeerat: 6:15 a.m., 7:30 a.m. and 8:45 a.m.
Prayers: 6:30 a.m., 7:45 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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