Please excuse any inaccuracies based on my own observations. No offense
is meant to anyone.
In the first couple of weeks we were in Senegal there was the Muslim holiday of Eid, which I understand to be called Korite in Senegal. It is called Aid-el-fitr in other Muslim countries. It is the end of the fasting of Ramadan.
I’ve learned things along the way about Ramadan, about Korite, and about the Brotherhoods that play an important role and the marabout that are spiritual leaders. After all, the country is estimated to be 94% Muslim.
This past Friday was also an important Muslim holiday, called Tabaski here in Senegal, Aid-el-Kebir elsewhere. School was closed for the day, most people travel to their family, and all stores are closed. My friend Gaucher, a Senegalese Muslim, wrote the following information for the ISD staff to help us understand the holiday’s importance a little bit better. I’m sharing it with you.
TABASKI (AID EL KEBIR)
Aid El-Kebir, literally means “the big holiday”. It’s one of the most important events of Islam. The Islamic name is the “holiday of the sacrifice”. Aid el-kebir is called Tabaski in many West African countries (Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Côte d’ivoire, Benin, Burkina). In Northern Africa, the berbers call it Tafaska.
Tabaski is a “sunna” (reinforced prophetic tradition). Some argue it’s a mandatory requirement and not doing it, may be equivalent to a sin. However, any Muslim who doesn’t have the means is not obliged to follow such recommendation.
This important event commemorates Abraham who accepted to sacrifice his eldest son (Ishmael, according to Muslim tradition, or Isaac, according to the Bible, the Quran does not explicitly give the name of the son) to show his genuine submission to God.
The prophet Mohamed “peace and salvation be upon him” said:
“Any Muslim who spends his money to fulfill this tradition and, in so doing, buy a sheep without any physical handicap, without any other pretension than pleasing God and following His recommendation, will see erected a long wall between him and hell in the day of judgment and therefore, will not enter hell incha’allah. “
Who is eligible?
- Any Muslim man or woman is required to sacrifice an animal.
- All young Muslim who has the means is required to do it (in that case, the tutor makes the necessary arrangement on his behalf).
- Even a “crazy man” is required if he has some means available (the tutor will take over).
Every Muslim family sacrifices an animal (sheep, goat, sheep, cow or camel) by lying it on the left side and slaying it, the head facing Mecca. A big portion of the sacrificed animal will go to the poorest among Muslims to reinforce solidarity and mutual assistance as prescribed by Allah (God).
Tabaski is a day of reconciliation where everyone is invited to forgive wrong doings from others.
The animal conditions of eligibility
If it’s a sheep, it must have at least 1 year of age and entering his second year. For those who can’t get a sheep, followed are other means that might replace the sheep and still meet the conditions:
– A goat: at least 1 year of age + 1 month.
– A cow: at least 3 years old and entering his fourth year.
– A camel: at least 5 years old and entering his sixth year.
Four “rules” to observe:
– The animal should have no physical handicap.
– Respect of the age requirements.
– The ritual must be done only after the Imam’s own sacrifice (This occurs after the prayer led by the Imam).
– The sacrifice must be done during daytime (usually in the morning).
A Muslim is not allowed to share “the sacrificed animal” by giving financial or any kind of contribution in order to celebrate it as one group. It’s a personal action provided you have the means necessary.
However, if a Muslim wishes to associate other people in the sacrifice, he should proclaim that intention/wish to God and make sure the 3 conditions below are met:
- Those people you want to associate in your sacrifice should leave in the same house as you.
- They should be under your responsibility
- It’s possible to buy another sheep with the intention of doing the sacrifice for those people (regardless of the number)
In Senegal, Most Muslim families prepare the event by trying to get the biggest and most expensive sheep possible for a matter of prestige. It’s a question of pride for the head of family (Husband) and for the children regarding the neighborhood and the extended family as well.
Women manage to wear the most expensive and most beautiful outfits to impress friends, family and neighbors. Some of them are ready to spend days in tailors’ shops to make sure their outfits will be ready on time. Those women are ready to put colossal amount of money to get the top fashion for this special day.
On Tabaski day, Men (Dad and children) go to the mosque (usually a clean and empty space that can host a big number of people) for the morning prayer and women get ready for the big lunch and other related items. Whenever the prayer is over at the mosque, Muslims rush back home to kill their sheep and then, the fiesta starts.
Usually, Muslim men are busy in the morning helping women in the preparation of the animals after they have been killed and eating non-stop with family and friends as well. In the afternoon, everybody dresses up nicely to go visit neighbors, friends and extended families to reinforce the bonds. This goes all afternoon until late at night.
In this country where there exists a genuine communion between Muslims and Christians, it’s very natural to have them at home with us to share the good food or the meat. And this goes the same way during Christmas or Easter holidays when Christian brothers and sisters celebrate their holidays.
These past few years, the general trend is dwindling bit by bit due mainly to the difficult living conditions of the Senegalese people. Presently, we are less tempted to make such extravaganza. Senegalese people try hard to make ends meet by just getting the minimum necessary now.
So Simon was invited over to his friend’s home (our next door neighbor) for Tabaski. I was still in South Africa, so this is from what I remember of his accounting to me.
He was invited to attend his friend’s home in the morning. The family went to the roof to sacrifice the sheep (Mom, did you know that all those animals we thought were goats are actually sheep? No, Simon, I did not.) It was about 10 a.m. The sacrifice was done over the drain and was performed by a man who goes from home to home performing the service. The sheep was prepared along with other foods for part of a big feast. The family brought over a platter of goat meat for Maggie and our family to share.
I asked the housekeeper Martine (in French-pretty proud of myself) if she had celebrated Tabaski with any of her friends who are Muslim (she is Catholic), explaining that Simon had been invited over to his friend’s home next-door. She said she had been invited to friends’ homes and that at Christian holidays, she invites them over to her home.
Overall, I think it’s been a great learning experience for all of us to try to understand the world from another’s point of view and religious beliefs.