Al Jazeera – Muslims around the world have begun celebrating the annual festival of Eid al-Adha – the Festival of Sacrifice – which falls on the 10th day of Dhul Hijjah, the 12th and last month of the Muslim lunar calendar.

Eid al-Adha is the second major Muslim festival after Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting.

The occasion will be celebrated in most countries on Friday, July 31.

As the coronavirus pandemic rages, many Muslim-majority countries, including Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Algeria have announced restrictions on public gatherings.

Here are five things to know about Eid al-Adha:

Origins 

Muslims believe the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) was tested by God who commanded him to sacrifice his first-born son, Ismail (Ishmail).

Ibrahim was prepared to submit to the command, but God stayed his hand. Instead, he was told to sacrifice an animal, likely a lamb or sheep.

The Torah and the Old Testament both recount a similar version of this story.

End of Hajj

The event also marks the end of Hajj, a five-day pilgrimage all able-bodied and financially capable Muslims are obliged to undertake once in their lifetime. The pilgrimage is believed to cleanse the soul of sins and instil a sense of equality, sisterhood and brotherhood.

Some 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world flock annually to the cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia for the ritual.

This year, however, Saudi Arabia announced it would hold a “very limited” Hajj because of the coronavirus pandemic, with only about 10,000 people living in the kingdom allowed to take part in the pilgrimage.

Eid prayers

Performing extra prayers in the morning are how most Muslims begin celebrating Eid.

Mosques are packed with worshippers with outside arrangements made to accommodate large groups of people.

This year, however, mosques will limit the number of attendees, and large congregations will be banned in many countries to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Sacrificing an animal

The occasion is marked by the sacrifice of an animal that Muslims can eat – a goat, sheep, cow or camel – by those who can afford to do so.

In many parts of the Muslim world, special livestock markets are set up for people to buy an animal for the Eid sacrifice.

This year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, numerous apps and websites have appeared in countries such as India and Bangladesh, where animals will be sold online to limit exposure to the virus.

Distribution of meat

The animal sacrifice comes with an element of charity, as the person paying for the sacrifice is required to distribute part of it to others.

The meat of the sacrificed animal is divided among three groups: the person sacrificing it and their immediate family, extended family and friends, and those in need. 

Some Muslims will pay the value of an animal to one of a number of Muslim charities around the world that collect funds for remote animal sacrifices, distributing the meat to underprivileged groups – including refugees, the elderly and disabled people.

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