Celebrating Sacrifice


Muslims from across Orange County gathered at the Anaheim Convention Center on Thursday to usher in Eid al-Adha, the three-day Feast of Sacrifice.

“We celebrate great deeds of righteousness,” Muzammil H. Siddiqi, director of the Islamic Society of Orange County, told about 5,000 worshipers gathered for a holiday that commemorates Abraham’s willingness 4,000 years ago to sacrifice his son to God.

“We believe that the greatest success comes from devotion to Allah, from following righteous principles and from doing good deeds,” Siddiqi said.


He also led the group in prayer for at least 343 Muslims killed in Saudi Arabia earlier this week when a fire swept through the tents they were occupying during hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

The tent city fire is believed to have started from exploding canisters of gas being used for cooking. Some of the victims were trampled to death as the crowds fled the flames that destroyed 70,000 tents.

“The accident was tragic, and we are sorry for it,” Siddiqi told the worshipers, some dressed in traditional turbans and others in Western business attire.

“Hajj is the safest journey, but accidents do happen. What gives us condolence is that those who died shall have a special blessing.”

The issue of safety during the trek is particularly resonant to lay Muslims because all followers of Islam whose health and finances allow are obligated to make a hajj at least once. The holy journey, with as many as 2.5 million pilgrims annually, is one of the largest gatherings of human beings in the world.

The convention center worshipers were among an estimated 15,000 Muslims attending special prayer services countywide to mark the beginning of the annual observance.


“It reminds us that we too have to make sacrifices,” Siddiqi said of the holiday.

“Sacrifice is an important principle of unity. Unity comes when people are willing to sacrifice for the sake of others.”

Following the service, Muslims traditionally spend the day feasting with friends and symbolically sacrificing animals--these days generally purchased from supermarkets--to give to the poor.

Participants Thursday said they derive great spiritual enrichment from the holiday.

“We realize that this is what the prophet did, and we are going to do the same thing,” said Sakib Kureshi, 31, of Anaheim, owner of a trucking firm. “This is the day we revive ourselves and ask for forgiveness.”

Rashid Zaidi, 50, of Rancho Santa Margarita described the occasion as “emotional and sacred. . . . I feel renewed--it’s a big thing.”

Buena Park resident Shabana Tailor, 19, said she welcomes the heightened sense of community during the holiday.

“It’s beautiful to see all these Muslims together,” said Tailor, a college student majoring in psychology. “It makes you happy to be part of your religion. Everyone here is like my brother and sister.”


Times staff writer Abigail Goldman contributed to this report.