Saskatoon’s Islamic community came together Wednesday to mark one of the Muslim world’s holiest days.
Eid al-Adha is held each year to celebrate the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca each Muslim is supposed to undertake at least once in their lives, known as the Hajj.
Millions of pilgrims travel to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj each year, while the end of the season is marked by Muslims worldwide with prayer services and celebrations.
“It’s very uplifting. When I first came to Canada, which was 20 years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to fill a hall like this,” Shabir Mia said as he looked out at the crowd gathering for prayers at Saskatoon’s Prairieland Park.
Mia said the prayer service in Saskatoon brought him back to his own journey to Mecca, undertaken several years ago.
He explained that the various steps of the pilgrimage are meant to retrace the route taken by Abraham.
“It’s physically very challenging, because you undergo lots of hardships during a five, six-day period when you’re there. But it’s also very spiritual.”
He said Eid al-Adha is a joyful day for those just wrapping up their pilgrimages, as well as their families.
“It’s a once-a-lifetime trip, so it’s a source of joy and happiness and many people (here) will have family members who will be in Saudi Arabia at the moment,” he said.
After morning prayers, Mia said most worshippers will likely spend the day with family and friends. Some would likely be headed to farms in the area around the city to sacrifice an animal, he said, generally a sheep.
With between 8,000 and 10,000 people gathering for the morning ceremony, Mia said he was happy to answer questions on behalf of the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan.
“What we really are always hoping for is that people will interact with ordinary, day-to-day Muslims,” he said.
“We might pray a little bit differently, sometimes we dress differently, but all our aspirations and the things that we do on a day-to-day basis are not really different from any other Canadian.”