Eid al-Adha is the latter of two Eid holidays celebrated by Sunni and Shia Muslims, the former holiday being Eid al-Fitr. The basis for the Eid al-Adha comes from the 196th verse of the 2nd sura of the Quran. The word "Eid" appears once in the 5th sura of the Quran, with the meaning "solemn festival". The 3 days and 2 nights of Eid al-Adha are celebrated annually on the 10th, 11th and 12th day Dhu al-Hijjah (ذو الحجة), the twelfth and last month of the lunar Islamic calendar. In the international Gregorian calendar, the dates vary from year to year, drifting approximately 11 days earlier each year.
Like Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha begins with a Sunnah prayer of two rakats followed by a sermon (khuṭbah). Eid al-Adha celebrations start after the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia by Muslims worldwide, descent from Mount Arafat. The date is approximately 70 days (2 Months & 10 days) after the end of the month of Ramadan, i.e. Eid al-Fitr. Ritual observance of the holiday lasts until sunset of the 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah. Eid sacrifice may take place until sunset on the 13th Day. The days of Eid have been singled out in the Hadith as "days of remembrance". The days of Tashriq are from the Fajr of the 9th of Dhul Hijjah upto the Asr of the 13th of Dhul Hijjah (5 days and 4 nights). This equals 23 prayers: 5 on the 9th-12th which equal 20 and 3 on the 13th.
According to Islamic tradition, approximately four thousand years ago, the valley of Mecca (in what is now Saudi Arabia) was a dry, rocky and uninhabited place. Abraham ('Ibraheem in Arabic) was instructed to bring his Egyptian wife Hajir (Hāǧar) and Ishmael, his only child at the time (Ismā'īl), to Arabia from the land of Canaan by God's command.
As Abraham was preparing for his return journey back to Canaan, Hajar asked him, "Did God order you to leave us here? Or are you leaving us here to die." Abraham turned around to face his wife. He was so sad that he couldn't say anything. He pointed to the sky showing that God commanded him to do so. Hajar said, "Then God will not waste us; you can go". Though Abraham had left a large quantity of food and water with Hajar and Ishmael, the supplies quickly ran out, and within a few days the two began to feel the pangs of hunger and dehydration.
Hajar ran up and down between two hills called Al-Safa and Al-Marwah seven times, in her desperate quest for water. Exhausted, she finally collapsed beside her baby Ishmael and prayed to God for deliverance. Miraculously, a spring of water gushed forth from the earth at the feet of baby Ishmael. Other accounts have the angel Gabriel (Jibrail) striking the earth and causing the spring to flow in abundance. With this secure water supply, known as the Zamzam Well, they were not only able to provide for their own needs, but were also able to trade water with passing nomads for food and supplies.
Years later, Abraham was instructed by God to return from Canaan to build a place of worship adjacent to Hagar's well (the Zamzam Well). Abraham and Ishmael constructed a stone and mortar structure —known as the Kaaba— which was to be the gathering place for all who wished to strengthen their faith in God. As the years passed, Ishmael was blessed with Prophethood (Nubuwwah) and gave the nomads of the desert his message of submission to God. After many centuries, Mecca became a thriving desert city and a major center for trade, thanks to its reliable water source, the well of Zamzam.
One of the main trials of Abraham's life was to face the command of God to devote his dearest possession, his only son. Upon hearing this command, he prepared to submit to God's will. During this preparation, Satan (Shaitan) tempted Abraham and his family by trying to dissuade them from carrying out God's commandment, and Ibrahim drove Satan away by throwing pebbles at him. In commemoration of their rejection of Satan, stones are thrown at symbolic pillars signifying Satan during the Hajj rites.
When Ishmael was about 13 (Abraham being 99), God decided to test their faith in public. Abraham had a recurring dream, in which God was commanding him to offer his son as a sacrifice – an unimaginable act – sacrificing his son, which God had granted him after many years of deep prayer. Abraham knew that the dreams of the prophets were divinely inspired, and one of the ways in which God communicated with his prophets. When the intent of the dreams became clear to him, Abraham decided to fulfill God's command and offer Ishmael for sacrifice.
Although Abraham was ready to sacrifice his dearest for God's sake, he could not just go and drag his son to the place of sacrifice without his consent. Ishmael had to be consulted as to whether he was willing to give up his life as fulfillment to God's command. This consultation would be a major test of Ishmael's maturity in faith, love and commitment for God, willingness to obey his father and sacrifice his own life for the sake of God.
Abraham presented the matter to his son and asked for his opinion about the dreams of slaughtering him. Ishmael did not show any hesitation or reservation even for a moment. He said, "Father, do what you have been commanded. You will find me, Insha'Allah (God willing), to be very patient." His mature response, his deep insight into the nature of his father’s dreams, his commitment to God, and ultimately his willingness to sacrifice his own life for the sake of God were all unprecedented.
Abraham could not bear to watch his son die so he covered his eyes by a blindfold. When he cut Ishmael's throat and removed the blindfold, he was astonished to see that Ishmael was unharmed and instead, he found a dead ram which was slaughtered. Abraham had passed the test by his willingness to carry out God's command.