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Muslims celebrate Festival of Sacrifice

November 06, 2011, 2:51 UTC+3

Now, there are more than 20 million Muslims in Russia

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MOSCOW, November 6 (Itar-Tass) —— Russian Muslims are celebrating the Festival of Sacrifice, which is called Kurban Bairam by Russian and Central Asian Muslims, on Sunday.

Islam is Russia’s second religion in terms of the number of believers. Islam was brought to Russia back in the 8th century by Arabic tribes.

Now, there are more than 20 million Muslims in Russia. Islamic population prevails in such republics as Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia, and North Ossetia. There are more than one million Muslims residing in Moscow. Some 7,500 mosques are open across Russia.

Muslim population in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States numbers about 70 million, or about a fourth of the entire CIS population. About 70 percent of Kazakhstan’s population of 15 million are Muslims. Some four million Islam believers live in Kyrgyzstan. Muslims account for 90 percent of Turkmenistan’s population of about 6.7 million, and 98 percent of Tajikistan’s population of 6.4 million. About 20 million of Uzbekistan’s 26 million citizens profess Islam. In Azerbaijan, also a Muslim state, Kurban Bairan has been a state holiday for the past ten years.

Islam is one of the world’s three major religions, along with Christianity and Buddhism. It originated in the 7th century in Western Arabia. More than 1.5 billion people across the globe profess Islam. It is a state religion in almost all countries with prevailing Muslim population.

The Festival of Sacrifice is a three-day holiday in commemoration of Prophet Ibrahim's readiness to sacrifice his first born son Ishmael on Allah's orders. The history of Kurban Bairam takes its origin from the biblical story of Patriarch Abraham who wanted to offer his son Isaac to God in sacrifice. The Muslim tradition substitutes the biblical “Isaac” with “Ismail,” Abraham’s elder son. According to the Muslim beliefs, Isaac is considered to be Abraham’s younger son.

Kurban Bairan comes the day after the pilgrims on Hajj, the annual pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, descend from Mount Arafat. The Festival of Sacrifice is celebrated on the 10th day of Zul-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Muslim lunar calendar, in the period of hajj, the sacred journey to Mecca, the home town of Islam’s founder Prophet Muhammad. Some two million Muslims make a hajj to Saudi Arabia annually.

The celebration of the Festival of Sacrifice begins early. After washing themselves and putting on clean clothes, Muslims have a collective prayer at mosques. They read the Koran and listen to Imams’ sermons, which tell them about the origin and the significance of the ritual of oblation.

After the prayer, they perform the ritual of sacrifice. First, a prayer is said over the animal prepared for sacrifice. Next, the sheep is laid on the ground with its head towards Mecca and its owner, or a hired hand, cuts the victim’s throat.

Those Muslims who can afford sacrifice their best domestic animals (usually a cow, but can also be a camel, goat, sheep or ram depending on the region). The sacrificed animals have to meet certain age and quality standards or else the animal is considered an unacceptable sacrifice. The meat from the sacrificed animal is divided into three parts. The family retains one third of the share; another third is given to relatives, friends and neighbors; and the other third is given to the poor and needy. The regular charitable practices of the Muslim community are demonstrated during Eid al-Adha by concerted efforts to see that no impoverished person is left without an opportunity to partake in the sacrificial meal during these days.

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