CAIRO - Thousands of Canadian Muslims in the southern Saskatchewan province have celebrated `Eid Al-Adha, one of the two major Muslim feasts, in an impressive display of unity and compassion to the wider community.
"The whole idea of this is to show our unity and you see one person leading the prayers and thousands praying after him," Muhammad Mustafa Mustaan, vice-president of the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan, told The Star Phoenix.
"This is the whole spirit of Islam."Arriving from early hours in the morning, throngs of Muslim men, women and children representing Saskatchewan Muslim community gathered at the SaskTel Sports Centre, one of the only spaces in the city large enough to accommodate such crowds.
Long rows of prayer mats were rolled out, with men and women praying on separate halves of the large soccer pitches.
Mustaan said Saskatoon's Muslim community is comprised of people from 70 different nations.
Despite these diverse ethnic backgrounds, Saskatoon's Muslim community comes together in observance of their faith, he added.
`Eid Al-Adha, or "Feast of Sacrifice, is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations, together with `Eid Al-Fitr.
The four-day `Eid, which started on Friday, October 26, marks the end of hajj season.
After special prayers to mark `Eid Al-Adha, Muslims offer udhiyah, a ritual that reminds of the great act of sacrifice Prophet Ibrahim and his son Isma`eel were willing to make for the sake of God.
Festivities and merriment then start with visits to the homes of friends and relatives.
Traditionally, everyone wears new clothes for `Eid, and the children look forward to gifts and the traditional `ediya (cash).
Marking the end of hajj season, `Eid al-Adha ignited Muslims passions towards the life-time journey to the holy city of Makkah.
"If you go there you will know, God is there," Ahmed Yar Malik, who completed the Hajj in 2002, said.
"You will say bismillah: Allah is great."
Malik said that the pilgrimage left a powerful impression and that other Muslims are interested to hear about his experiences at Makkah.
`Eid festivities, including giving udhiya meat to the poor, also showed the true message of Islam.
"We are eating, we are cooperating with the poor people and helping them," Malik, who hails from Punjab in Pakistan, said.
"That is our Eid."
A financially-able Muslim sacrifices a single sheep or goat or shares six others in sacrificing a camel or cow as an act of worship during the four-day `Eid Al-Adha.
The ritual commemorates Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail to Allah as an act of obedience and submission.
The Udhiyah meat should be divided in three equal parts, one each for one's own family, friends and the poor.
It is permissible that someone in another country could perform the sacrifice on one's behalf.
Muslims make around 1.9 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the north-American country.
A survey has showed the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian.