Africa Islam

Eid Experience in The Gambia: The Smiling Coast of Africa

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Eid al-Adha is one of two Islamic festivals celebrated yearly by Muslims around the world. It is a festival that represents a time for prayer, reflection, joy and happiness. Eid al-Adha is celebrated by offering the Eid prayer, sacrifices and distributing the meat to others. This Eid primarily commemorates the sacrifices made and embodied by Abraham (as) and his son Ismael (as).

Undoubtedly, the experience of celebrating Eid al-Adha in the Gambia comes with special and unforgettable moments. The atmosphere on this day is totally different from all other days, friends invite friends and families invites families for meals.

Nevertheless, when we retrospect on the background of this great institution in Islam, we are left with no choice but to attest to the fact that, indeed, Eid has an ulterior purpose, bigger and profound than all the Eid buffets that are enjoyed on this special day.

Eid has a very humble beginning, hailing from the time of Prophet Abraham (as) who is also known as the father of all prophets and the founder of all the three Abrahamic religions in the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. At an old age, Abraham (as) earnestly prayed to God Almighty to be granted a son. His prayers were graciously accepted by Allah the Almighty in the form of a son, Ismail (as).  

Moreover, interestingly the Prophet Abraham (as) was commanded by God to sacrifice his only son, Ismail (as). Abraham (as) never doubted this divine commandment that he received from God Almighty. He immediately consulted his son Ismail (as), who also accepted the divine will to be carried out literally since it was an order from God.

As Abraham (as) took Ismail (as) and was literally about to carry out this divine commandment, when God commanded him not to carry out the physical sacrifice, but instead the intention behind the sacrifice had been accepted and that instead of Ismail (as), an animal should be sacrificed in his place. One breathtaking lesson from this incident is that it was also meant to eradicate the existing human sacrifices that persisted among the people at that time for so long. This one incident shaped the history of human sacrifice in the world forever.

The Prophet Abraham (as) established an amazing example, by showing his willingness to accept the divine decree of sacrificing his only son, whom he had at an old age of life after continuous prayer. No doubt there would have also been the natural attachment between father and son. Despite this Abraham (as) was completely ready to sacrifice his only son in the way of God.

Eid al-Adha indeed has a great significance in the lives of every Muslim, since the primary purpose of its celebration is to reminiscence and emulate the great sacrifices made by Prophet Abaraham (as), his wife Hagar (as) and son Ismael (as) during the trying moments of their lives.

The Promised Messiah (as) and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community beautiful expounded the real importance of the institution of Eid-Adha in Islam, he states: ‘Abraham, peace be upon him, was even ready to slaughter his son to fulfil the commandment of God Almighty. This was a hidden indication of the fact that man ought to become wholly devoted to God; and one’s own life, and the blood of one’s children, and one’s kith and kin, ought to appear insignificant in the face of God’s command.’ [1]

The Gambia is joining the Muslim world in celebrating Eid al-Adha on this day. The Gambia is the smallest country in mainland West Africa, it has a border with only one country Senegal. It has a small population of just 2 million people.

The Gambia is undoubtedly a very religious nation; its moral codes and values are greatly influenced by religious doctrines. All the people of different religious denominations that live in the Gambia co-exist in peace and harmony.

Islam came to the Gambia at a very early stage, as early as 11th century.  According to historic accounts, North African Muslims merchants were a conduit for the introduction of Islam to the indigenous Gambian people. [2]

Since the time of Islam’s introduction in the Gambia to this extent, its noble teachings have had a great influence on the Gambia through history, and continues to impact its culture, society and politics.

Today, Islam is the major religion in the Gambia, and is predominantly a Muslims nation with 95% of its 2 million population as Muslims. Gambia has a small population of Christians who also join Muslims to celebrate this special day together.

Eid in the Gambia is celebrated in a typical Gambian style, people sew new dresses for themselves and for their families. Eid al-Adha has many names among different tribes in the Gambia, in Fullani they call it Eid Mawdo (The big Eid) and in the Mandingo language they call it Banna Salo which also means Big Eid.

In the Gambia, we have a tradition called Salibo which means Eid gifting. People give Eid gift to their friends, families, children, loved ones and even to people whom they don’t know in person, all in a spirit of fostering brotherhood, love, kindness and unity.

Since the Gambia is a majority Muslim nation, one can fathom the enthusiasm and gusto Eid is celebrated with. Well, the preparation for this anticipated day, begins weeks and months earlier before the actual date of the Eid approaches, as most people in the Gambia start purchasing sacrificial animals from the market very early.            

On Eid Day in the Gambia, Muslims wear their new or best dresses and proceed to the mosque for the saying of the Eid prayer. Immediately as the prayers are done, people flock back to their homes to start sacrificing their animals.

As for Ahmadi Muslims in the Gambia, one of the specialities of the Eid is that in the late afternoon, we anxiously anticipate the live Eid sermon of our beloved Caliph, the fifth successor to the Promised Messiah (as) and Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) which he delivers from the UK and which is broadcast throughout the world on MTA International.

May Allah the Almighty accept all the sacrifices we make on this day of Eid. May he remove the difficulties that mankind is facing today in the world. May Allah the Almighty enable us as Ahmadi Muslims to live up to the expectations of the Khalifa of the Promised Messiah (as), His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba). May the Allah Almighty give the world and its leaders the wisdom and humility to listen to the voice of God through His chosen and appointed Caliph in this precarious global situation. Ameen!!

About the Author: Ali Fatty is a graduate from the International Ahmadiyya University of Theology and Scholastic Sciences in Ghana