At different times in our lives, we all need to celebrate. Celebrating serves as a reminder of how fleeting life is and how important it is to cherish every moment before we depart. Ileya festival is one of those events that allow us to celebrate and rejoice in the beauty of life, God, and everyone around us.
“Ileya” is a cultural event with a lot of moral significance. The word ‘Ileya’ in Yoruba means ‘it’s time to go home’. The name simply advises that wherever you are, when it is time for Sallah, go home and celebrate. In celebration of Sallah, Muslims from around the world unite in celebration. It is the second of two Muslim holidays celebrated worldwide each year.
According to the Quran, Ibrahim was commanded by Allah to sacrifice his son. A sudden voice from heaven stopped him when he was almost sacrificing Ishmael. Ibrahim then sacrificed a lamb instead. This is why Ileya is celebrated by Muslims every year.
Eid-el-Kabir and Eid-al-Adha are popular names for the festival. It translates to ‘Feast of Sacrifice’ or ‘Sacrifice Feast’ in English. The festival is observed by all Muslims. Eid al-Adha can be celebrated with non-Muslims in a number of ways, including inviting them over for celebrations and sharing food.
As of today, the meat of the sacrificed animal is divided into three parts. A third of the share is retained by the family, another third goes to relatives, friends, and neighbours, and the remaining third goes to the poor and needy. Muslim faithful and their families sacrifice an acceptable domestic animal each year (usually a ram, cow, goat, camel, or camel, depending on the region and their ability to afford it).
This festival holds special significance because the Day of Sacrifice marks the crescendo of the Hajj, Islam’s fifth pillar. During the festival, rams are slaughtered all over the world. Celebrations usually continue for about three to five days after the festival day, with visitations to friends, families and recreational sites, as well as with the exchange of pleasantries saying ‘Eid Mubarak’ or ‘Barka de sallah’.
Observers will, on Eid morning, wear their best clothing as they display the sanctity of the festival by visiting the Eid grounds to offer a special two-rakat prayer to commemorate the hajj pilgrimage, which falls before the Sallah day. After listening to a sermon from the Imam, they can then proceed to slaughter their animals. It is undeniable that Eid al-Adha, which is known to Yoruba Muslims as Ileya, is a time when merrymaking is a central element.
As a manifestation of charitable practice, the Muslim community makes sure that no impoverished member is denied the opportunity to partake in the sacrificial feast during Eid-el-Kabir. It has been recorded that in Saudi Arabia, the meat from the slaughtered rams of each pilgrim is packaged and conveyed to the needy across borders of the world.
For Muslims, celebrating the occasion calls to mind the importance of obedience to what Allah has demanded from them as believers. It is a testament to the fact that no sacrifice made in this world goes unrewarded. Muslims celebrate this occasion with non-Muslims by sharing food, visiting houses and engaging in recreational activities. It fosters cooperation and understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Ileya not only signifies the sanctity of obedience to the creator but also represents an avenue for us to be charitable to our friends, family and people in need. It is, more often than not, a day of great joy (and sallah meat, of course).