Wednesday, December 11, 2013
PORTLAND – Hundreds of Muslims gathered on the turf of Fitzpatrick Stadium on Friday morning to celebrate Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, one of the holiest celebrations in Islam.
Muslims from dozens of countries who now call southern Maine home gathered for prayers and fellowship, many of them wearing their finest traditional clothes.
"People from A to Z -- Afghanistan to Zimbabwe -- are all here," Muse Ali, an imam who read prayers during the observance, said afterward. "This is the beautiful diversity we have. We are so happy we all made our home Portland."
Participants gathered in two groups, women near midfield and men closer to an end zone, all facing the imam, who recited prayers while standing in front of a soccer goal and football goal posts.
Afterward, families took pictures, some with the field's large American flag in the background.
The celebration marks the occasion when God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael as a test of his faith. In the Koran, as in the Bible, God stops Abraham once the patriarch demonstrates his willingness to sacrifice his son, and his son's acquiescence.
"When Abraham was tested by God about his son, but his son was saved, we remember that," said Ali, who is originally from Somalia. "Abraham connects us all. He is the father of the major three religions," Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
Eid al-Adha coincides with the end of the Hajj, when millions of Muslims make the pilgrimage to the faith's holiest shrine, the Kaaba in Mecca.
The Eid al-Adha celebration lasts three days and includes celebratory meals for families and friends.
Families who are able are instructed to sacrifice a goat or sheep and share the meat. The observance also is marked by charitable giving for the less fortunate.
The date for the celebration varies because it is traditionally based on when religious leaders in Saudi Arabia see the crescent moon. Mohamud Barre, an organizer of this year's celebration, said that can make it difficult to plan for the event.
Barre said organizers originally planned to hold it at the University of Southern Maine, but the venue would have been too small to accommodate everyone and they did not want to disrupt classes.
Instead, because the weather was fair Friday, they were able to hold the celebration outdoors.
Ali said an outdoor observance is preferable.
"There is really nothing like it when we do it outside," Ali said, although the fog-shrouded fall morning was a little cool for his taste. "It's a beautiful gathering which kind of wraps up the year. This is the last month of the Islamic calendar."
For people who grew up in predominantly Muslim countries, Ali said, the celebration in the U.S. is unusual. In his native Somalia, as in other Muslim countries, virtually everyone is involved, he said, and during prayers, the streets are deserted.
Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: