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Muslims celebrate holy day

Herb Mathisen
Northern News Services
Published Friday, December 12, 2008

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Monday was a day of celebration for Muslims in Yellowknife and around the world.

Around 80 people got together for prayer and speeches at the city's mosque at 41 Street and Franklin Avenue to commemorate the annual feast of sacrifice called Eid-ul-Adha.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Imam Abdalla Deabes led prayers and offered a speech on Monday morning at the feast of sacrifice, an Islamic holy day. Deabes has been in Yellowknife for nearly seven months and is not surprised to see so many practising Muslims in the community. - Herb Mathisen/NNSL photo

"It's one of our two feasts each year," said Abdalla Deabes, the mosque's imam - or leader - through interpreter Yousra Abdelmegid.

"Coming here today, it's a great occasion for Muslims to get in contact with each other," he said. "It gets people closer to each other."

At the mosque, residents prayed and then heard a sermon by Deabes, which centred around the respectful treatment of oneself and others, said Abdelmegid.

Following the speech, families got together for desserts and kids ran around laughing.

"It's mostly for the kids," said Abdelmegid of the treats. "It's a holiday today."

The day of sacrifice was held on Dec. 8 this year and occurs approximately 11 days earlier for every calendar year. The holiday is observed annually on the lunar calendar, which is 11 days shorter than the Western calendar year.

The holy day recognizes Abraham's devotion, as demonstrated by his willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah, though Allah stopped Abraham at the last minute and substituted a ram instead.

Muslims often offer an animal as a symbolic gesture and have large meals at their homes over the course of the day, with offerings of food made to those who are less fortunate.

The feasts accompany the fifth pillar of Islam: a pilgrimage to Mecca, made by Muslims all over the world over a three- or four-day period every year.

In the days preceding the feast of sacrifice, Muslims can voluntarily choose to fast from sun-up to sun-down.Abdelmegid said most Muslims fast the day before the feast of sacrifice. He acknowledged fasting may be easier in the North this time of year, with the increasingly shorter days.

Deabes, who teaches at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, has been in Yellowknife for nearly seven months and travels around the world as an Islamic scholar.

Deabes was not surprised to see such a thriving, united community - with people hailing from Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Egypt, Palestine and Morocco - practising Islam so far north.

"His job is to meet with Muslims all the time," said Abdelmegid. "When he goes anywhere, he knows there are Muslims everywhere.

"It's not new for him."

The mosque in Yellowknife has been open since Aug. 14, 2000.