Members of Yellowknife’s Muslim community gathered Friday afternoon in Rotary Park to celebrate Eid Al Adha, the Islamic holiday of sacrifice.
Nazim Awan, chair of the Yellowknife Islamic Centre, has been organizing the Eid Al Adha barbecue for close to 10 years. He says more than 200 people in total attended the event, making it the largest crowd they’ve seen so far.
Eid Al Adha commemorates the biblical story of the prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac to God. The sacrifice was a test, and before Abraham could sacrifice his son, God intervened with a lamb instead, according to scripture. That’s why on Eid Al Adha, it’s traditional to slaughter an animal.
Nusrat Iqbal, a mother attending the barbecue with her family, recalls being able to purchase an animal at the market back in Bangladesh, and bring it home to slaughter. In Yellowknife however, participating families purchase the animal from Edmonton and have the meat shipped up.
Once the meat arrives, Awan explains, each family keeps one third, gives one third to their friends and extended family, and donates the last third to organizations like the Salvation Army, the Women’s Centre, and others in need. Although he says many families donate all of their meat.
“Muslim or not Muslim, a hungry person is a hungry person,” he says. “The sacrifice is not to get it and then store it in the freezer.”
Awan, like many of the Yellowknife families celebrating Eid, buys meat for his family in Yellowknife, but he also participates with his family back in Pakistan. He says for him, it’s important to celebrate locally because his family is here. But he has family in Pakistan too, and some people may feel a stronger connection to Eid through their roots.
Thirty-two Yellowknife families participated in Eid with over 500 lbs of meat distributed from the Edmonton shipment – that’s the most the Yellowknife Islamic Centre has seen so far.
With about 60 Muslim families in town, Awan hopes the celebration continues to grow. He emphasizes the collaboration of putting on an event like this, and he expresses immense gratitude to the volunteers from the Centre, the sponsors who donated food and supplies, and all of the people who came together to help out.
“It’s about community,” he says. “It’s important that everyone who comes feels like family.”
Iqbal moved to Yellowknife with her husband and son 12 years ago. She has been coming to the Eid Al Adha celebrations since the beginning and has been bringing her parents too since they arrived from Bangladesh in 2017.
She says the celebration is especially lively this year as people are excited for the opportunity to be social.
“Because of Covid, people are stuck at home,” she says, “so it’s nice to see friends and catch up.”
Eid Al Adha is the second yearly Eid – meaning Muslim festival – after Ramadan. Annual dates vary, as Islamic holidays follow the lunar calendar. This year, Eid ran from the evening of July 30 to Aug. 3.