WILLMAR -- Hundreds of Muslims in Willmar joined millions of Muslims around the world to celebrate the holiday of Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice). The holiday began Sunday morning and will last for three days.
On the first morning of Eid al-Adha, Muslims attend morning prayers at their local mosques, or in this case, in the Willmar Middle School gym. People gathered between 8 and 9 a.m. Prayers began at 9 a.m. and lasted about 10 minutes.
According to the website Islam.about.com, prayers are followed by visits with family and friends, and the exchange of greetings and gifts.
The holiday is celebrated at the end of the Hajj (annual pilgrimage to Mecca). During the Hajj, Muslims remember and commemorate the trials and triumphs of the Prophet Abraham. One of Abraham's main trials was to face the command of Allah (God) to kill his only son.
Upon hearing this command, he prepared to submit to Allah's will. When he was prepared to do it, Allah revealed to him that his "sacrifice'' had already been fulfilled. He had shown that his love for his Lord superceded all others and that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dear to him in order to submit to God.
During the celebration of Eid al-Adha, Muslims commemorate and remember Abraham's trials by themselves slaughtering an animal such as a sheep, camel, or goat. Members of the family will visit a local farm or otherwise will make arrangements for the slaughter.
One-third of the meat is eaten by the immediate family and relatives, one-third is given away to friends, and one-third is donated to the poor, symbolizing the willingness to help others in need and strengthen ties of friendship.
One of those participating in Sunday's local celebration was Abdullahi Olow, school success coordinator at the Middle School since the 2009-2010 school year. He said almost everybody who is a Muslim locally would be participating in the celebration. The celebration is not tied to race, he said.
"It's not about Somalis. It includes many Muslims, some black, some white, some Arabs, different races but all under one religion: Islam,'' he said.
Olow said Eid al-Adha is one of two big holidays in Islam. The other marks the end of Ramadan, a month-long period of prayer, fasting, charity and focus on self-sacrifice and devotion to Allah. Ramadan ended at the end of August.
"It's one of the teachings in the religion that you have to observe,'' he said. "It is for sure one of the big holidays in our religion.''
When Olow asked what he would like people to know about Muslims, he said Muslims are good and friendly people who love peace and co-existing.
"We love diversity, living with different people from different cultures, getting to know them. It's good for our community to learn our culture, our society. We are all welcoming, generous people,'' he said.
"And we are learning the American culture, everyday showing us new things from people we work with from people we interact with. From all corners we learn new aspects of life everyday.''