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Welcome to the David Victor Vector blog. This is blog that covers religious observances around the world international affairs and global business. This blog describes religious holidays for most major religions as well as raising issues dealing with globalization, international business ethics, cross-cultural business communication and political events affecting business in an integrated world economy. I look forward your discussion and commentary on these articles and subjects. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Eid al-Adha 2021

I2021, beginning on the evening of Monday, July 19 and concluding on the evening of Tuesday, July 20 at sunset(depending on the sighting of the moon) is the first day of the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha or the Festival of the Sacrifice. For many Muslims, the holiday lasts for three days. Students, staff and faculty should be accommodated for observance of the holiday. Some debate exists as to whether the holiday should be marked by when it occurs over Mecca or when it occurs in the location in question (for instance, North America).   For some, therefore, the holiday may begin on July 18 at sunset. I take no stance on this, and am merely stating that some differences may exist in interpretation.

Dating the Holiday

The holiday actually begins every year on the 10 Dhu al-Hijjah in the Islamic calendar.  However, since the Gregorian calendar (the one used in the secular United States) is a solar calendar and the Islamic calendar is a lunar one, the date of Eid al-Adha (as with all Islamic holidays) appears to travel within the Gregorian calendar. 

About Eid al-Adha

Eid al-Adha is Arabic for the Festival of Sacrifice, and is named in remembrance of the readiness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son. In the Koran (37:99–111), the son whom Ibrahim is willing to sacrifice is not named; however, in Islamic tradition, the son is believed to be Ismail (Ishmael), not (Ishaq) Isaac as in the Jewish and Christian versions of the story.  In Islam, both sons are considered prophets. 

Another name for the holiday is Eid al-Kabir or the Greater Eid (in contrast to the earlier Eid al-Fitr, the Lesser Eid that marks the end of Ramadan). Eid al-Kabir is the name more commonly used in North Africa, Yemen and Syria. Because of this, in French, the name of the holiday is Aid el-Kebir. In Turkish, the holiday is called Kurban Bayrami and as a result, the holiday is called by some variant of Kurban in many of the languages of those nations formally under the rule of the Ottoman Empire including Kurdish, Albanian, Serbo-Croatian and Azeri as well as borrowed from the Turkish in many other languages including Russian, Pashto, Sindhi, Kazakh, Farsi, Pashto and Tatar. 

Association with the Hajj

Eid al-Adha also marks the end of the Hajj to Mecca (Makkah). The Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, required of every Muslim once in his or her lifetime. For this reason, the holiday is sometimes called the Festival of the Hajj (Hari Raya Haji in Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malaysia). 

The Hajj 2020 and the Coronavirus Pandemic

The 2020 Hajj and 2021 will be remembered as two of the most unique in history because of  the Pandemic. In 2019, the Hajj saw over 2.5 million pilgrims. In 2020, in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the Saudi government limited the Hajj to a mere 1000 pilgrims and with no visitors allowed from outside the kingdom. Although plans are not firm yet at the time of this writing, it appears likely that the Saudi government will once again repeat the strict limitations for 2021. 

​In 2020, the city of Mecca itself allowed no more than 10,000 people allowed into the city  As explained in the Arab Weekly:
This year’s event, in fact, has been limited to about 1,000 pilgrims from within Saudi Arabia, 70% of whom will be foreign residents of the kingdom. The remaining 30% will be drawn from Saudi healthcare workers and security personnel who have recovered from the coronavirus, as a gesture of thanks for their sacrifice. https://thearabweekly.com/pandemic-casts-shadow-hajj-eid-al-adha

The 2020 Hajj
Pilgrims during the Hajj Pilgrimage in Mecca, 2018

Those attending the 2020 pilgrimage have practiced strict social distancing and wear masks over their noses and mouths.

The contrast between the crowds are evident in the photos here -- with 1000 people in 2020 and 2.37 million in 2018,
Coronavirus precautions in force during the 2020 Hajj

The Return to Over 2 Million Pilgrims 2017-2019

To understand the significance of the Saudi handling of the 2020 Hajj, it bears summarizing the history of the Hajj for the last two decades. 

Last year was the culmination of Saudi Arabia's carefully controlled and masterfully organized crowd management effort 2019, the Hajj attracted over 2.5 million worshippers.  In fact, the Hajj accommodated 2 million or more pilgrims every year from 2017-2019. This is all the more remarkable considering the difficulties (explained below)  that began with the 2013 Hajj and continued until reforms several years later. 

The Hajj in 2017 had already broken that record when the Saudi government recorded over 2.35 million pilgrims. This was the first time the number of pilgrims had been allowed to once again pass the 2 million mark after a series of restrictions had been in place. The number grew again if only slightly in 2018, when the number of pilgrims exceeded 2.37million.   In each, the Saudi authorities were able to ensure a safe and efficient handling of the huge influx of people This is all the more remarkable when considering the disasters that occurred in earlier years.

The Years of Unmanaged Growth 2001-2012

The numbers of pilgrims allowed to participate in the Hajj grew rapidly from the beginning of the 21st Century. For over a decade, with only one exception (2003), each year set a record over the previous number of pilgrims. In 2000 and 2001, the Hajj fell just short of 2 million visitors with 1.91 and 1.94 million pilgrims respectively. That 2 million mark was passed in 2002, when 2.04 million pilgrims took part.  By 2007, the Hajj had reached 2.45 million people. The Hajj numbers had regularly grown but reached its apex in 2012 when 3.2 million worshippers participated in the pilgrimage, the largest Hajj ever.

This decline was notable since the number of pilgrims had consistently risen before the 2013 concerns. For each year, the number of visitors had marginally though steadily grown (for instance, 2.8 million in 2010; 2.9 million in 2011). 

During this time, though, the Hajj was afflicted with crowd control issues and deaths by trampling.  
  • 2001  35 pilgrims trampled to death
  • 2003  14 pilgrims were crushed to death in the crowds.  
  • 2004  244 people were killed in less than 30 minutes in a stampede
  • 2005 3 pilgrims killed in stampede (but note how the Hajj went relatively smoothly)  
  • 2006   346 pilgrims killed and hundreds others injured in largest stampede in Hajj history

The Saudi authorities began to implement controls after this, and the Hajj ran smoothly from 2007-2015, at least from a crowd management perspective.  

The Disease Fear Years 2013-2014

This was not without controversy as numbers were dropped markedly with the 2013 MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) that spread across the Arabian peninsula. This was the first major coronavirus outbreak -- an unheeded warning of the COVID-19 pandemic that was to break out 7 years later. Because MERS was seen as localized to the Middle East, the drop in pilgrims resulted more from the fear of going to Saudi Arabia than from Saudi limits of pilgrims coming to the Hajj. That said, Saudi officials DID curtail pilgrims based on fears from another virus -- the Ebola outbreak. The Saudi government banned pilgrims from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, effectively preventing 7400 Muslims scheduled to come from those nations. Combined, the fear of MERS and Ebola saw the number of pilgrims fall to just 1.98 million (with 1.38 million from outside Saudi Arabia). Even greater restrictions followed so that 2014 was among the smallest pilgrimages in years: 1.4 million from abroad and 700,000 from within Saudi Arabia.

The Troubled Years 2015-2016

In 2015 saw much greater numbers of pilgrims. While there were still fears over MERS, Saudi concerns regarding the Ebola outbreak had lessened notably. As a result, in 2015, the Hajj saw 1.95 million pilgrims, just shy of the 2 million mark. While this represented an increase of 600,000 visitors, this was still far short of the figures reached before Saudi authorities began placing greater restrictions on the number of visitors. 

Unfortunately, the increased number of pilgrims coupled with inadequate crowd control resulted in two disasters: the Mecca Crane Collapse and the Mina Stampede. First on September 11, 2015 in the days leading up to the hajj, a crane collapsed on a crowd of worshippers, killing 111 and injuring scores of others. The crane, ironically, had been working to improve the safety of Mecca's Grand Mosque. Far worse, though, came during the 2015 hajj itself. At approximately 9:00 AM on September 24, 2015 for reasons still not clear, pilgrims began to stampede. The uncontrolled crowd panicked and when it had subsided, at thousands of pilgrims had died from suffocation or being crushed or trampled to death. The figure provided by the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera was 2177 dead. Iran's government announced that over 4700 people had died (although they provided no evidence for their claim). http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/10/19/hajj-disaster-death-toll-over-two-thousand.html 

In 2016, the hajj pilgrim numbers fell again, though only slightly to 1.86 million pilgrims. This may have been in response to the 2015 disaster, and officially limiting numbers. So when the numbers rose -- and did so smoothly from 2016 to 2019, the safety of pilgrims was rightly seen as a great success. This places the 2020 COVID-19 into perspective.

Nature of the Hajj

The Qaabah
The Hajj itself runs for five days, starting on the 8th of Dhu al-Hijjah (that is, beginning two days before Eid al-Adha begins) and continues through the end of the Eid on 12 Dhu al-Hijjah. The Hajj involves many rituals and special prayers, and this overview makes no effort to fully describe them.  Among the most notable of these is the Tawaf. The Tawaf is the counterclockwise circling seven times of Islam’s holiest site, the Qaabah (or Kaabah). The Qaabah is a large granite, cube-shaped structure which Muslims believe that Ibraham and Ismail built together after Ismail moved to Mecca. The Qaabah is covered with black silk and gold.  Inside the Qaabah is the Black Stone (al-Hajr al-Aswad) which is the focal point of the Tawaf. Many Muslims believe that the Black Stone was given to Adam and Eve to tell them where to build an altar. The Black Stone was then placed in the Qaabah by Abraham and Ismail. The Black Stone was already an object of worship when the Prophet Mohammed first visited it and kissed it. Following the Prophet’s example, pilgrims traditionally kissed the Black Stone on each of the seven circuits around the Qaabah. As the throngs of pilgrims grew, this has largely become impossible so today the pilgrims point toward the stone with their hand as they near it. The movement of the pilgrims during the Tawaf is felt to symbolize the unity of ummah (the community of all believers) as they worship the unity of Allah.  

Another important ritual is the Ramy al-Jamarat or Stoning of the Devil.  Islam views the sacrifice as a test of Ibrahim and Ismail. During this test, Muslims believe that both Ibrahim and Ismail were tempted by Shaytaan (Satan).  Ibrahim and Ismail threw stones at Shaytaan, and this is re-enacted by pilgrims at the Hajj in the ceremony of the stoning of the jamarat. Pilgrims throw pebbles at three pillars in Mina, each of differing size and symbolically representing Shaytaan’s temptation of  Ibrahim, Hagar (Ismail’s mother) and Ismail to stop the sacrifice. 

While the pilgrims on the Hajj are at the center of the most significant observance on the Eid al-Adha, it is by no means limited to them alone. Indeed, Muslims the world over celebrate Eid al-Adha.  On the Eid, Muslims bathe in the morning and then traditionally dress in their best clothing before going to the mosque for special prayers. The services usually conclude with a khutba (or speech) with a spiritual message usually encouraging those listening to give up any grudges or ill will. After this, it is customary for worshippers to hug one another and to wish one another a Happy Eid. 

Eid al-Adha Traditions and Food

In most traditions, believers, if (they can afford to do so) sacrifice an animal (usually a goat or sheep, although traditions vary) in commemoration of the animal God provided to Ibrahim for sacrifice in place of his son. Indeed, in West Africa the holiday is called Tabaski after this sacrifice. (For a video of Eid sacrifices on Tabaski, please see http://jangawolof.wordpress.com/2007/12/19/happy-tabaski/). Where animals are sacrificed, the meat is shared with others, particularly those who are less fortunate.  Many Muslims also donate food of all sorts – not just the sacrificed animal -- to the poor on the holiday.
"Good Tabaski to all..."

Sheer korma
Traditions vary somewhat around the world for Eid al-Adha. In Pakistan and India after special morning Eid prayers, Muslims traditionally eat a dish called sheer korma. 
Sheer korma is a mix of sweet milk, dates and vermicelli. Later in the day, South Asian Muslims also often eat dishes made from the sacrificed animal, with mutton biryani (sheep with saffron rice), mutton korma (sheep stew) and kofta (meatballs in special gravy).  

Moroccan boulfaf
In Morocco, the post-prayer breakfast is customarily herbel (wheat porridge with sugar, milk, honey and orange-flower water). The main meal of the day usually includes lamb, especially boulfaf (grilled lamb liver kababs). 

Bosnian Lonac
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, people traditionally follow morning services with a large lunch of Bosnian lonac (vegetable and meat stew made in a clay pot), dolmas (stuffed onions with paprika) and sarmas (stuffed cabbage). This is usually followed by sweet desserts such as baklava.

USPS first Eid stamp (2001)
In the United States, traditions greatly vary with people often dressing in clothes and eating foods from their ethnic origin. Eid al-Adha, as with other Islamic holidays, has received greater public attention in recent years. In 2001, the US Postal Service began releasing Eid stamps (covering both Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha). The stamps continue to be sold each year at Eid.

In 1999, then-First Lady Hilary Clinton hosted what became a tradition of Eid dinners at the White House. In 2003, George W. Bush was the first President to publicly wish Happy Eid from the White House. This tradition continued under President Barack Obama. In 2017, President Donald Trump discontinued the dinner, although he and First Lady Melania Trump continued the tradition of sending formal Eid greetings from the White House. (For more on the White House Eid dinners, please see Trump breaks "White House Eid dinner tradition," BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-40402211

As always, I welcome your corrections (or praise) and any other input.  In closing, let me wish you all an Eid Mubarek and a Blessed Eid!

Want to Learn More?

For more detail on all aspects of the Hajj, look at the Saudi government website from the Ministry of the Hajj :



For official Hajj statistics see the "Hajj Statistics," Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's General Authority for Statistics site at: https://www.stats.gov.sa/en/page/93 
For more on the 2013 situation, please see http://www.ummah.com/forum/showthread.php?379857-Hajj-2013-Statistics   http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article529551.ece and http://blogs.voanews.com/breaking-news/2011/11/05/saudi-arabia-hosts-nearly-3-million-hajj-pilgrims/ . For more on the 2014 hajj including Ebola concerns, please see: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29461229 

For figures over time, see, Number of Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia 1995-2019, Statista: https://www.statista.com/statistics/617696/saudi-arabia-total-hajj-pilgrims/ )

Clipart Sources
For the image of boulfaf http://0.tqn.com/d/moroccanfood/1/I/H/4/-/-/boulfaf.JPGE
For the Coronavirus precautions in force during the 2020 Hajj:https://thearabweekly.com/pandemic-casts-shadow-hajj-eid-al-adha
For the 2020 Hajj:https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/22/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-hajj-mecca-pilgrims.html

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