MINA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Muslims around the world are holding celebrations and slaughtering sheep and other livestock to give meat to the poor in the biggest holiday of the Islamic calendar.
In Saudi Arabia, some 2 million Muslims on the annual hajj (hahj) pilgrimage performed a rite of throwing pebbles at a series of walls representing Satan in a symbolic gesture of stoning the devil, rejecting sin and temptation. Afterward, they shaved their heads — or cut off a lock of hair — to show the renewal of their faith and the purification of their souls.
The rites kicked off the festivities of Eid al-Adha (eed al-AHD'-hah) — or "festival of sacrifice" — for Muslims around the world. The holiday commemorates the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim — or Abraham, as he is known in the Bible — to sacrifice his son in accordance with God's will, though in the end God provides him a sheep to sacrifice instead. Muslims believe the sacrificial son was Ishmael, not Isaac as the Bible teaches.