Albany Times Union (Albany, NY)
April 29, 1996
Byline: SARAH CHRISTIAN Associated Press
NEW YORK — Thousands of New York Muslims celebrated Islam’s holiest day on Sunday by praying and giving to the poor.
Eidul Adha, the festival of charity, commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael when he was asked to do so by God. Christian theology holds that Abraham was asked to sacrifice a younger son, Isaac.
“Today is the big day,” said Imam Abdel-Rahman Osman at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York. “We offer special prayers. It is a feast day — a little like Christmas. Families are together, we go visiting, there are gifts for the children.”
Although they were on the Upper East Side, the hearts of many of the worshippers were in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where an estimated 2 million Muslims are making an annual pilgrimage called the hajj. Every able-bodied Muslim must make the trip at least once in his life.
“Next year, God willing,” many worshippers at the Islamic Cultural Center said about making the trip.
The imam, a Muslim clergyman, made his hajj in the late ’60s, he said.
“It was really very beautiful. You feel everything, you can’t control your emotions,” Osman said. “There are people from all over the world. Maybe they can’t talk to each other, but you can feel the unity.”
The festival of charity is held 40 days after the fast of Ramadan and toward the end of the hajj.
At the Queens offices of the Islamic Circle of North America, Muslims donated thousands of pounds of meat for the needy.
“This is part of the holiday, charity,” said Shaik Ubaid, secretary-general for the Islamic Circle. “We have been doing this for years, but not on such a big scale.”
Ubaid said he expected to collect 10,000 pounds of meat to distribute this week to the poor and homeless in New York and on Long Island.