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This morning, I looked out my window and saw a goat. Actually, four goats.
Today is Eid al Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice. One of Islam’s two major religious holidays, it is celebrated by Muslims around the world.
The major ritual of this holiday involves slaughtering a goat or a sheep or a camel to commemorate Prophet Abraham’s obedience to God after he was divinely ordered to sacrifice his son.
The ritual also recalls the mercy of God, who provided Abraham, known in Arabic as Ibrahim, with a ram to sacrifice instead of his son.
Ibrahim’s obedience to God’s will is something Muslims are encouraged to imitate.
The feast of Eid al Adha is always celebrated amid the annual pilgrimage that draws millions of Muslims from around the world to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city in western Saudi Arabia.
Today is the third day of the 2009 pilgrimage, which so far has gone smoothly. The only disruption was a huge rainstorm on the first day that left many pilgrims wet and muddy.
Saudi Arabia has about 8 million foreign workers and a huge number of them are Muslim. They come from such countries as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
Here, at the compound where I live in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, most of the staff are foreign workers. They are maintenance men, electricians, cleaners, landscapers. These men cannot bring their families with them to Saudi Arabia so they live in a singles dormitory on the compound. They get around the sprawling compound on bicycles.
The goats I saw this morning out my window were purchased by the compound’s Muslim workers at a market in Riyadh in order to comply with their religious obligation on Eid al Adha. Each goat cost $150.
After noon prayers at a nearby mosque, the men slaughtered their sacrificial animals in an empty lot next to their dormitory.
They will cook the meat in their communal kitchen, and distribute it to all their fellow workers. And they’ll wish each other “Eid Mubarak,” or “Blessings on the Feast.”
Tradition calls for meat that is not eaten to be given to friends, neighbors and the poor.