Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Muslims offer Eid al-Adha prayers on a street in Surabaya, East Java province, Indonesia, on July 20.

ANTARA FOTO/Reuters

Muslims around the world were observing Tuesday another major Islamic holiday in the shadow of the pandemic and amid growing concerns about the highly infectious delta variant of the coronavirus.

Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of Sacrifice,” is typically marked by communal prayers, large social gatherings, slaughtering of livestock and distributing meat to the needy. This year, the holiday comes as many countries battle the Delta variant first identified in India, prompting some to impose new restrictions or appeal for people to avoid congregating and follow safety protocols.

The pandemic has already taken a toll for the second year on a sacred mainstay of Islam, the hajj, whose last days coincide with Eid al-Adha. Once drawing about 2.5 million Muslims from across the globe to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the pilgrimage has been dramatically scaled back because of the virus.

Story continues below advertisement

This year’s hajj has been limited to 60,000 vaccinated Saudi citizens or residents of Saudi Arabia. On Tuesday, pilgrims wearing masks and maintaining physical distancing performed the symbolic stoning of the devil in the valley area of Mina – using sterilized pebbles they received ahead of time.

“This is [a] very, very, very big moment for us, for me especially,” said pilgrim Arya Widyawan Yanto, an Indonesian living in Saudi Arabia. He added he was happy he had the chance to perform the pilgrimage. “Everything was conducted under very strict precautions.”

Mr. Yanto said he hoped for the pandemic to an end and for all Muslims to be able to perform the pilgrimage in a safe way.

Indonesia marked a grim Eid al-Adha amid a devastating new wave of coronavirus cases in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. Vice-President Ma’ruf Amin, also an influential Islamic cleric, appealed to people to perform holiday prayers at home with their families.

“Don’t do crowds,” Mr. Amin said in televised remarks ahead of the start of the holiday. “Protecting oneself from the COVID-19 pandemic is obligatory.”

The surge in new cases is believed to have been fuelled by travel during another holiday – the Eid al-Fitr festival in May – and by the rapid spread of the Delta variant.

In Malaysia, measures have been tightened after a sharp spike in infections, despite a national lockdown since June 1. People are banned from travelling back to their hometowns or crossing districts to celebrate. House visits and customary trips to graveyards are also banned.

Story continues below advertisement

Healthy worshippers are allowed to gather for prayers in mosques, with strict physical distancing and no physical contact. Ritual animal sacrifice is limited to mosques and other approved areas.

Malaysian Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah has urged Malaysians not to “repeat irresponsible behaviour,” adding that travel and celebrations during Eid al-Fitr and another festival on the island of Borneo led to new clusters of cases.

“Let us not in the excitement of celebrating the Feast of Sacrifice cause us all to perish because of COVID-19,” he said in a statement.

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin urged Muslims to stay home. “I appeal to you all to be patient and abide by the rules because your sacrifice is a great jihad in Allah’s sight and in our effort to save lives,” he said in a televised speech on the eve of the festival.

Eid al-Adha recalls the Quranic tale of Prophet Ibrahim’s test of faith and his willingness to sacrifice his son as an act of submission to God.

In Egypt, Essam Shaban travelled to the southern province of Sohag to spend Eid al-Adha with his family. He said ahead of the start of the holiday that he planned to pray at a mosque there on Tuesday while taking precautions such as bringing his own prayer rug and wearing a mask.

“We want this Eid to pass by peacefully without any infections,” he said. “We must follow instructions.”

Mr. Shaban had been looking forward to pitching in with his brothers to buy a buffalo for slaughtering, going door to door to give some of the meat to the poor, and to the traditional festive meal later in the day with his extended family.

“It’s usually boisterous with laughter and bickering with the kids,” he said. “It’s great.”

But others will be without loved ones.

Story continues below advertisement

In India, where Eid al-Adha starts Wednesday, Tahir Qureshi would always go with his father for prayers and then to visit family and friends. His father died in June after contracting the virus during a surge that devastated the country, and the thought of having to spend the holiday without him is heartbreaking.

“It will be difficult without him,” he said.

India’s Muslim scholars have been urging people to exercise restraint and adhere to health protocols. Some states have restricted large gatherings and are asking people to observe the holiday at home.

Meanwhile, the pandemic’s economic fallout, which threw millions of Indians into financial hardship, has many saying they cannot afford to buy sacrificial livestock.

In Indian-controlled Kashmir, a disputed, Muslim-majority region, businessman Ghulam Hassan Wani is among those cutting back.

“I used to sacrifice three or four sheep, but this year we can hardly afford one,” Wani said.

Story continues below advertisement

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies