Why is Eid al-Adha a day after Arafah?

Muslims all over the globe hold two opinions about when to observe Eid al-Adha. Some celebrate it on the 10th of Dhul Hijjah according to their local lunar date and others follow Hajj announcement by the authorities in Makkah and celebrate the Eid a day after the Day of ‘Arafah.

The Fiqh Council has grappled with this issue for some time. After careful study and consideration, the Council has reached the conclusion that Eid al-Adha will be following the Day of Hajj as announced in Makkah. This is also the conclusion of the European Council of Fatwa and Research. Following is a summary of my detailed paper on this subject.

The institution of Hajj is very old, coming all the way from the time of Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH). The Hajj ceremonies were well known to the Arabs long before Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The Prophet (PBUH) himself performed Hajj before receiving Nubuwwah (Prophethood). The Prophet (PBUH) also used to observe fasting during the month of Ramadan even before receiving the Qur’anic revelation. It was during the month of Ramadan that he received the first Qura’nic revelation while at the Cave of Hira. He initiated the two Eids after his migration to Madinah to denote start and end of the Hajj season.

The months of Hajj begin with the first day of Shawwal and Hajj ends with the Wuquf of Arafah. That is perhaps the reason that the Prophet (PBUH) introduced two days of festivities to celebrate beginning and end of the Hajj season, as Imam Ibn Taymiyyah has clearly stated. Even the month of Dhul Hijjah is named after the institution of Hajj. The Qur’an and Sunnah both glorify the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah. They are the most sacred days of the year, even more sanctified than the month of Ramadan, because they are connected with the most virtuous of all Islamic Ibadaat, the rituals of Hajj. Therefore, the two Eids are not independent institutions. They are closely connected with two pillars of Islam: annual fasting and pilgrimage to Makkah. The Prophet (PBUH) was guided by Allah SWT to specify these two days as Eids because of their deep connection with two of the most significant acts of Islamic worship i.e., fasting and Hajj.

The sequence of the Qura’nic verses in Surah al-Baqarah (2:183-203) may be cited as supportive evidence for this position. The Qura’n first elaborates the obligation of Ramadan fasting and then goes on to establish sequential Hajj rituals. The commandment of animal sacrifice (Udhiyah or Qurbani), one of the most important ritual of Eid al Adha day, is primarily addressed to the Hujjaj and through them to the Muslims at large. (Surah Hajj: 28; 36) Even the Takbeerat of Tashreeq are default for Hujjaj (Surah al-Baqarah 203) and the ordinary Muslims follow Hujjaj’s lead in these commandments. Many classical jurists have particularly highlighted this connection between the rituals of Eid al-Adha and the rites of Hajj. Imam Ibn Taymiyyah, for instance, makes a significant observation regarding this connection. He maintains that the animal slaughter at Mina is the default rule and all other localities are to follow Makkah in their acts of animal sacrifice. He squarely connects the Ummah’s rituals with those of the default rituals of Hujjaj at Mina. He argues that Eid al-Adha is the greater of the two Eids because it follows the most sacred day of the Muslim calendar (Day of Arafah), observed at the most sanctified place on the face of the earth, by the most honored of Allah’s guests, in the most meritorious act of Ibadah (Hajj) culminating in the global Muslim observance of Eid in commemoration of that noble assembly. It is called the Day of al-Nahr (Sacrifice) and the Day of Great Hajj (Yawm al-Hajj al-Akbar) because Eid al Adha is connected with the sacred timings of Hajj and with the sacred place (Arafah). The famous Hanbali Jurist Hafiz Ibn Rajab explains that Eid al-Adha prayer should be performed within the time frame of the movement of Hujjaj from Muzdalifah to Mina. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal maintains that Eid al-Adha prayer should be offered within the time period when the Hujjaj move from Muzdalifah to Mina and throw pebbles. Imam Ahmad clearly states that the ordinary Muslim’s Eid prayer has to follow the Hujjaj’s movement and actions.

Imam al-Bhaghawi states that Ibn Abbas, Imam Malik and Imam Shafa’i are of the opinion that Muslims all over the globe are to follow the timings of Hujjaj vis-à-vis Takbeerat of Tashreeq. Imam al-Khazin attributes this opinion also to Ibn Umar. Imam al-Sarkhasi reports that Imams Shafa’i and Abu Yusuf were of the same opinion. This indicates that many established authorities within the four known schools of Islamic Fiqh agree that Muslims all over the globe are to follow the Hujjaj in the Takbeerat al-Tashreeq timings as the original Qur’anic ruling of Takbeerat al-Tashreeq is primarily addressed to the Hujjaj and through them to the Muslim Ummah (Surah al-Baqarah 203; Surah al-Hajj 28).

Though there are dissenting opinions, the above Fiqhi sources are presented to substantiate that many jurists maintain that Eid al-Adha rituals such as Eid prayer, act of animal sacrifice and even Takbeerat al-Tashreeq are directly connected with and are performed in subordination to the acts of Hujjaj. Therefore, it is wrong to argue that Eid al-Adha is an absolutely independent Islamic institution, totally detached from Hajj. This is far from truth. The juristic and historical evidence proves the opposite. It indicates that Eid al-Adha was and is always attached to the institution of Hajj. It is celebrated precisely to imitate and commemorate the acts of Hajj. Unlike Eid al Fitr, Eid al-Adha is as much connected with the sacred places as with the sacred timings.

During the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah, the rituals of Hajj and the acts of Hujjaj in and around the city of Makkah become paramount to the Muslims all over the globe. Many jurists have maintained that the Day of Arafah and the Day of Eid al-Adha are to be determined by the actual stay of Hujjaj in the plain of Arafah and their slaughtering the animals in Mina. Some contemporary jurists argue that this rule is specific to the Hujjaj but others insist that the rule is generic and applies to all Muslims. To the later the Day of Arafah is when Hujjaj stay at the plain of Arafah and Eid al Adha is when the Hujjaj slaughter their animals. Some jurists even go further than that. They maintain that this rule applies even if the Hujjaj mistakenly stood at Arafah on a wrong day, say a day before or later than the real 9th of Dhul Hijjah. This is the position of all the known Muslim jurists. Imam Ibn Taymiyyah narrates that there is a consensus among the Muslim jurists that the acts of Hajj and the month of Eid al-Adha must be observed in unison. No jurist has ever allowed that those who sighted the Moon should go by their sighting and do the Wuquf in Arafah or slaughter the animals according to their actual sighting. They must go with the Imam and with the majority of Muslims. Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali goes further than that. He, like many other Hanbali, Maliki and Shafa’i jurists, concludes that the Day of Arafah is not the exact day of the 9th of Dhul Hijjah but what was celebrated by Muslims as the Day of Arafah by staying at the place of Arafah. There is not a single Hadith or Qur’anic texts which states that the Day of Arafah is on the 9th of Dhul Hijjah. The early Muslims knew it to be the Day of Wuquf at Arafah. Likewise the Day of Eid al-Adha is not the exact day of the 10th of Dhul Hijjah but the day after Hajj to the best of their knowledge even if it was proven to be on a wrong day. They derive this rule from the authentic Hadith of the Prophet (PBUH) that, “Eid al-Fitr is when you celebrate breaking your fast and Eid al-Adha is when you slaughter your animals…”

Therefore, Eid al-Adha is not disconnected from Wuquf of Arafah and Hajj as some of the contemporary scholars contend. Hajj and Eid al-Adha are mutually intertwined. The two Eids were not prescribed by the Prophet (PBUH) out of the blue. They were directly connected with completion of the acts of Ramadan and Hajj. The Prophet (PBUH) linked start of the new month with actual moon sighting as it was the only authentic method available at that time to confirm the month. He did not depend upon news of sighting from Makkah for the first 8 years of Hijrah as the Ka’abah was occupied by the Polytheists and they were not careful about the Hajj dates. In fact, they arbitrarily changed Hajj dates to suit their political and economic interests. Following their lead would have meant nothing to the Prophet (PBUH). Likewise, the Shari’ah did not require Muslims of later generations to explore exact dates of Hajj and Arafah to avoid unnecessary hardship to the Ummah. However, it is clear that wherever Muslims could figure out the real Day of Wuquf, they had preferred to fast on that day and celebrated their Eid and sacrificed their animals on the following day. The reason is that the increased reward for fasting the Day of Arafah has more to do with the global gathering of Muslims and performance of Hajj rather than the day of Eid or Eid prayer itself. The global Muslim community in reality follows the assembly of the righteous at Arafah by their local Eid gatherings.

It is pertinent to note here that even though there is no clear cut Qur’anic or Hadith text which requires all Muslims to celebrate Eid al-Adha after the day of Hajj, there are plenty of indirect references in the Qur’an and the Sunnah that connect this day of festivity with the acts of Hajj and Wuquf of Arafah. Furthermore, there is no text whatsoever, neither in the Qur’an, Sunnah nor in any authentic classical book of Fiqh, that remotely indicates that the Prophet (PBUH), his Companions or any classical Muslim scholar has ever required to go, knowingly, against the established day of Wuquf of Arafah as announced by the Hajj authorities. Hajj is an expression of Muslim unity in addition to being a source of many spiritual reminders. It has political as well social dimensions. These aspects can be fulfilled only if the Muslim Ummah is united in observing the Hajj especially during this age of instant communications and countless social media platforms. We are in a position to watch all rituals of Hajj in the safety of our homes. Currently there is no justification, under any fiqhi rule, to go against the Day of Hajj. Observing Eid al Adha the day after the Day of Arafah is more beneficial (Maslahah) than celebrating it independently of Hajj. And Allah SWT knows the best.

Written by Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah

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