Editor's Note: Christmas isn't the only December holiday celebrated by Columbia County residents. The Columbia County News-Times has focused on several of this season's holidays, including their history and those who observe them. In today's fourth installment, we examine the Islamic festival of Eid ul-Adha, which concludes the holy pilgrimage known as the Hajj.
Martinez residents Dr. Mohamed Al-Shabrawey and his wife Amany say this December should serve to unite three of the world's great religions.
This year the Gregorian, Hebrew and Islamic Lunar calendars aligned to place some of the holiest days in Christianity, Judaism and Islam within days of each other.
Christians have Christmas, Jews celebrated Hanukkah and today begins the festival of Eid ul-Adha which marks the culmination of the Hajj, the holy Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
"All of these different religions have religious holidays this month and that should be something to bring unity and our hearts together at this time," said Mohamed Al-Shabrawey, an assistant professor at Medical College of Georgia whose family immigrated from Egypt.
The closeness of these major religious observances "reminds us from time to time that we come from the same source and we have the same God," he said.
As one of the Five Pillars of Islam, every able-bodied Muslim is called to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime. During the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah, millions of Muslims travel to Mecca to pray to Allah and perform a series of rituals over several days.
It is considered one of the ultimate expressions of devotion in the Muslim faith.
This morning, the Al-Shabraweys, their three daughters and Muslims from across the CSRA are gathering at the Islamic Society of Augusta mosque, in Martinez, for prayer and fellowship in observance of Eid ul-Adha.
More than 1 billion Muslims worldwide celebrate the four-day festival, which commemorates the prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Upon seeing Ibrahim's devotion, Allah showed compassion and allowed him to give a lamb as an offering instead.
During the observance of Eid ul-Adha, Muslim families that are able offer God the sacrifice of a lamb, goat or cow, with a third of the meat given to the poor, a third to friends and the remainder kept for the family.
Often, Mohamed Al-Shabrawey said, Muslims in the United States who are able arrange this religious observance through a farm or slaughterhouse.
During Eid ul-Adha, families and friends will worship together and share food, and children receive gifts of money from their families.
"We get to see everybody on this one day," said Haidi, 10, the Al-Shabrawey's oldest daughter. "We forget about everything in the out-world around us and just gather around."
Amany Al-Shabrawey said Muslim celebrations are very similar to Jewish and Christian observances and that the faiths share many common bonds, including belief in many of the same prophets.
"We all come from the same God," she said.
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