For some, a day to fast — not feast

While many Americans gorged themselves Thursday, others chose not to eat in honor of a worldwide religious observance.

Friday, about 1,000 Muslims from around the Midwest gathered at Wichita's Century II Convention Hall to pray and celebrate Eid al-Adha. The three-day "Festival of Sacrifice" is one of the most sacred Islamic holidays, and many begin it by fasting.

Eid al-Adha celebrates the story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to God, a story shared in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The Eid follows the lunar calendar. This year, it happened to begin on Thanksgiving Day in America.

"While everyone else feasted, we fasted," said Hussam Madi.

The Eid, which means festival, follows hajj — the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, a holy city in Saudi Arabia that is the center of Islam.

"It's fallen on Christmas Eve before," said Mazen Aburahmeh of Dallas, visiting family in Wichita. "Because it follows the moon, it falls 10 to 12 days earlier each year."

Fasting is optional during Eid but symbolic to the theme of sacrifice. Some celebrated both their Thanksgiving and religious traditions.

Afshan Khan, 19, who is of Pakistani descent, went to her grandmother's house for Thanksgiving and attended Friday's Eid al-Adha with her immediate family.

Across the world, people will sacrifice animals for food as part of the holiday. A third of the food they will give to help feed the poor. They also give a third to extended family, neighbors or friends and keep the remaining third for themselves. Others will donate money to food banks and charities.

"Some make arrangements to have the sacrifice given overseas," Aburahmeh said.

Parts of the Middle East, Aburahmeh said, don't have charities and social services like those available to help people in need in the U.S. In those countries, meat can cost as much as a family's annual household income.

Wichita's celebration drew people from several states with family ties to Pakistan, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Jordan.

"This is one of the most central locations for Eid, so people come from all over," Khan said.

They wore their best clothes, which some families buy especially for the occasion.

Some men wore button-down suits. Others wore thobes, traditional garments flowing to their ankles. Women wore brightly colored hijabs draped over their heads and matching abayas — their gowns.

Khan wore a hijab given to her by relatives in Pakistan.

Friday morning's ceremony opened with a prayer, called salah, followed by a sermon, or khutbah.

Mohamed Alhilali a Wichita resident by way of Yemen, preached on the story of Abraham and Hagar, which appears in both the Quran and the Bible.

"Islam is mercy and caring," Alhilali said.

He cited the practice of helping feed the poor.

"It is the real-life practice of how we should live with each other," said Alhilali, who is director of Islamic affairs for the Islamic Society of Wichita.

Afterward, people mingled and families hugged and shared doughnuts and fruit drinks.

Some men would visit a farm later in the day, where they would slaughter their own lambs in a more traditional symbol of sacrifice.

By Friday morning, the time for fasting had ended.

"Today," Madi said, "we eat."