Son Bayan Tarhoni feeds the lamb before the feast. | Submitted photo

August 22 marked the Muslim holy day called Eid al-Adha. Forest Park resident Imad Tarhoni and his family kept the day along with over three million Muslims living in the U.S. by sacrificing a lamb and remembering the story of the prophet Ibrahim, his wife Hajar and their son Isma’il.

Like Christians who remember the birth of Jesus on Christmas and Jews who recall the miraculous freeing of the Hebrew slaves from bondage in Egypt at Passover, Eid is a special occasion in which Muslims remember part of their sacred story, how Allah tested the faith of Ibrahim when he asked him to sacrifice his son Isma’el.

Tarhoni said the story begins with giving birth to Ibrahim’s first born son Isma’el and then continues with Allah commanding Ibrahim to take Hajar and her newborn son into the Arabian desert and leave them there—at the place where the present holy city of Mecca now is located. Allah miraculously takes care of Hajar and her child, while Ibrahim travels back and forth between Mecca and Palestine where his other wife Sarah and her son Isaac are living.

Then when Isma’il is a young man, Allah commands Ibrahim to sacrifice his first-born son as a kind of test of the prophet’s faith and total commitment to God. Tarhoni said Ibrahim agrees to sacrifice Isma’il, and that Isma’il also agrees and says the family should obey Allah. The two prepare for the sacrifice but, at the last minute, Allah intervenes. paraphrased the Quran’s Arabic as he told the story behind Eid al-Adha.

“We will provide an animal from the sky,” said Allah, according to Tarhoni’s translation of the Quran’s Arabic.  

It was a test of faith and commitment, said Tarhoni, for both father and son. Islam, it should be noted, means “submission,” submission and obedience to God’s will, so this story remembered on Eid al-Adha gets to the heart of what it means to be a Muslim.

Like rituals in other religions, Eid al-Adha is an opportunity for Muslims to not just remember the story in their heads but to somehow live in the story thousands of years after it first took place.

Tarhoni said that his family celebrated Eid al-Adha by visiting a farm near Elgin about two weeks ago and buying a lamb, which they treated well but eventually slaughtered at the farm last week.

“Our kids know what is going on,” Tarhoni said.  

When the time for the sacrifice came, the children were taken away, and Tarhoni took the lamb out to the backyard and slaughtered it in the traditional way, which is virtually painless. “We treat the animal very well,” he said.  “For example we don’t permit other animals to watch the slaughtering because it would scare them.”

After the lamb was killed and dressed, the children were brought back along with members of his extended family and the grilling of the meat began along with the preparation of other parts of the meal.  

Eid al-Adha takes place in the last month of the lunar year, a month when literally millions of Muslims are making the hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca, which is one of the five pillars of Islam required of every Muslim who is financially and physically able to do it.  So, while the Tarhonis were keeping the Holy Day in Forest Park, an estimated three million believers were gathering in Mecca, in the same location in the desert where Ibrahim left Hajar and Isma’el thousands of years ago.

When asked what he wanted readers to know, Tarhoni replied that Eid al-Adha is about the testing of Ibrahim and Isma’il and their submission to God, and also about Allah providing an animal for the sacrifice.

It’s also about family. It often becomes the occasion for a family reunion.

And finally, in response to vegetarians and people to whom sacrificing animals seems inhumane, he said, “we eat one-third of the meat, give another third to neighbors and friends, and give one-third to the poor.”