Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Eid al-Adha

If you’re just finding out about this Eid, then… you missed it. But! You can blame me and still participate in some visiting and coffee, I’m sure.

This Eid, or Festival, is, as far as I can tell, the most important in Is. It concludes the Hajj, or the important pilgrimage to Mecca (one of the five pillars of Is.). Eid al-Adha, or Festival of Sacrifice, is an important commemorative holiday where Mus. around the world remember the prophet Abraham’s obedience and celebrate it by following suit. It’s much like the story I have in my Good Book, but with a few alterations. In their holy book, Mus. believe that Abraham had some outrageous dreams from Allah to sacrifice his son, Ishmael. Abraham is obedient in doing the unthinkable and Ishmael is willing to be sacrificed—both really great Mus. because of their submission to God’s will. [Instead of Isaac being his chosen son, Ishmael is the one who’s lead to the slaughter, only to be rescued by God’s provision of a ram.] In their book, Abraham is awarded for his faith with another son, Isaac. [Hmmm….] In the weeks between Rama and Eid al-Adha, there are billboards and other ridiculous advertisements on TV and the streets for sheep. Yes. I’m not even lying to you. Ads to buy a sheep for your family for about $150. What a deal.

Today, most Mus., ya know, the secular ones, really just celebrate and explain the Eid as one to give to the poor. Preparation for the Eid is much like Christmas, for lack of a better comparison. All shops put on outstanding sales as everyone gets new clothes and toys, everyone you KNOW visits you and you them.

But back to the sheep: they slaughter them. Openly. Like, seriously, on the side of the road. I have substantial video footage for this. [If you can’t afford a sheep yourself, you may go in with your relatives and split it, since you might only make $300/month, this sheep would be half your monthly income. Or, maybe, instead, you’ll slaughter a goat. Or a cow. Or a camel. Whatever. If you still can’t afford an entire animal, you’ll buy a portion of meat from a butcher to distribute. The important part is that you are somehow responsible for handing out some meat.] Traditionally, you’ll keep 1/3 for yourself, give 1/3 to your family or friends and the last 1/3 goes to the Mosque to distribute to the needy.

Dude’s got a Fedora and a meat cleaver. Classy.

Well, I wanted to see this. With my own eyes and with my Flip video camera. So some adventurous friends, all American women, all who speak MUCH better Arabic than me [that’s important for the story] get into a van, two nights in a row, to track down a butcher station. For a week now we’d been seeing sheep penned up alongside the road with their shepherds. They have numbers spray painted on them and they’re dumb and happy, eating whatever there is to eat on a deserted lot in the desert city.

Roommate and I hop into a van just before sunset. We figure that the slaughtering will go on after sunset prayers and we’ll catch the action. We drive around to where each of us have “thought” we’ve seen something, only to find nothing. Finally, after calling several of our Arab friends for help, I suggest we ask some men standing around where we can find some sheep. “Great idea, Sarah! Roll down your window!!”

“Hey! Wait! How do I ask??!”

“You know the words—do it!” comes their taunting encouragement.

Our lovely driver pulls up to a man and I hang my head out the window, my blonde hair out the window, a semi-smile on my face [at this point I have no idea how to smile at men anymore] and say, in my really terribly preschool-like Arabic: “Peace be upon you. Excuse me, sir. Where are sheep, please?”

Yeah. That’s what I say. My three “friends” explode into laughter.

He gets a little nervous, wishes blessings back on me and asks me to clarify.

“Oh, Sheep. So… today is Eid al-Adha, right? I want I see sheep. Sheep. Do you know where are sheep, please?”

With the car still giggling, he realizes that I’m doing my best and that I’m totally serious. He doesn’t know where any are, but you can’t EVER say that in Arabic—it’s like a life-requirement to give directions even if you have no idea. So, I thank him profusely, bid him farewell and he wishes God’s protection on my travels. [Shukran.]

This same procedure happens about 6 times. Sometimes I get out of the van, sometimes I try to talk to women who avoid me like the plague and sometimes I just stick my head out the window and start flirtin’, hoping to draw a crowd where some kid paid attention in English class and can help a Shagra out.

With two failed night excursions under our belts, we decide to try daytime. Pretty much the same ordeal, even though my morale grows dim from all the laughter and rejection, and the basic, very real fact that I look like a crazy, foreign woman on drugs, wandering the streets calling for sheep. [And juice. What? I got thirsty.] Just when we’re about to give up on our daytime traversing of the city, literally from one end to the other, we pick up a woman in her 50’s on the side of the road and give her a ride. We drop her off and what to my wondering eyes would appear, but a pen full of numbered sheep!!!

We found our spot. We watched their little set up. How they so methodically and efficiently butchered the animals. Nothing went to waste.

Families, or men and their sons, would come, pick a sheep, pay for it and watch it slaughtered. Have it skinned, cut up, put into plastic bags and take it home for their wives, mothers and daughters to prepare. [Some people get a sheep delivered to their homes and actually slaughter it there—on the patio, in the bathroom—but we watched it on the side of a road.] It was gross, but somehow really normal to me. It’s a family event and brings a lot of joy. They’re performing their religious and societal duties and it’s a time of celebration. An old man who sat by and watched the sacrifices for hours that day. Maybe one of the butchers was a grandson?

Traditions are important in this land. Families carry these sacred traditions from generation to generation. They believe that they are honoring God in these ways, and I can respect that. I had a few conversations with close friends about our Great Sacrifice and how we need Him.

Pray for our friends,
that in these days of celebrating obedience
through messages in dreams,
that they’ll come to know the One, True Sacrifice.

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