By Rory James
On Friday 1st September, Muslims around the world celebrated “Eid Ul Adha”, the “Sacrifice Feast”, which is one of the holiest events in the Islamic calendar. It honours Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah, and because of his loyalty and devotion to the word of Allah, he was given a sheep to sacrifice instead. Thus, in keeping with the story, the festival celebrates both the strong devotion Muslims have toward Allah, as well as the sanctity of human life. Traditionally, the celebration would be marked by the slaughter of a sheep, by way of homage to the original tale; however, modern Eid celebrations tend to substitute this literal sacrifice for the metaphorical sacrifice of donating money to various charities.
As Friday showed itself, I rolled out of bed at 6 o’clock in the morning to make it to the celebration on time with a cup of coffee in one hand, a notebook in the other and the gradual subsidence of my early morning haze. This was my first Eid celebration, and, having come from a secular household which was largely unaware of the principles of the Islamic faith, I had no idea what to expect from the morning’s proceedings. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. The first thing that struck me was simply how welcoming the Islamic community in Swansea is. We were welcomed with open arms, and allowed to sit in on one of the holiest ceremonies in their calendar, and take pictures as they prayed. A number of high-profile people showed up to the celebrations, such as Geraint Davies the local MP, and the High Sherriff of Glamorgan, as well as the President and Welfare Officer of the Student’s Union. During the celebration, the Imam talked about unity within the community, and called on all attending to work together harmoniously, regardless of background or religion: a message that really hit home especially in the turbulent times that we find ourselves in.
After the wonderful service, we managed to speak to a number of the people present. Geraint Davies said that Eid is “a great multi-faith celebration in Swansea, thousands of people come together to enjoy it for not just spiritual renewal, but to have family time and to bond with new and old friends”, going on to state that “it’s not just a journey of time and space, but also of the heart”. The High Sheriff echoed this sentiment, saying that “the principles of each faith are common to us all, no matter what the religion”, and praised the welcoming kind-heartedness shown by all who were present. “As a non-Muslim, I can understand what’s going on. I think it’s just that commonality and how we live and respect each other. I felt very privileged to be a part of it.” We also managed to speak to some of the elected officers of the Student’s Union, in order to get their take on the proceedings. Shona, the Welfare Officer, said “It was really nice, there were a lot of inspirational speakers and there was just a really pleasant overall atmosphere”. Chisomo, the president of the SU, echoed a similar sentiment, saying “it was really nice to be a part of the celebrations, diving into people’s cultures and learning more about Eid”
Overall, it was an enlightening experience, and one that I would recommend to anybody considering whether to broaden their cultural horizons. The Swansea Islamic community were nothing but kind and welcoming to us outsiders, and the celebration itself was eye-opening to say the least. I would like to thank everybody involved in making this happen, and by way of closing statement: Eid Mubarak!