Look out your car window! If you are anywhere in Nigeria—especially the Northern part of the country, where Muslims are predominant— this is the time of year where you observe flocks of rams everywhere in the display. In case you are wondering why this is in preparation for the great festival known as ‘Eid-Kabir’, ‘Big/Great Festival’, or ‘Babban Sallah’ in Northern Nigeria.

Eid Kabir is the most important festival among the three grand festivals celebrated annually by Muslims worldwide, Northern Nigeria inclusive. The other two are “Eid Fitr” and “Eid Maulud.” Eid Kabir is also celebrated to mark the ending of “Hajj”, the pious pilgrimage to the city of Makkah, observed on the very last day of the religious journey. The festival is celebrated on the tenth day of ‘Dhul Hijjah’, which is the twelfth and last month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The dates shift approximately eleven days early each year in the Gregorian calendar. This celebration of Eid Kabir goes on extending up to the thirteenth day of Dhul Hijjah.

Origin/History and Significance of Eid Kabir to Muslims

Eid Kabir, known also as Eid Qurban or Eid ul-Adha, both meaning “Festival of the sacrifice”, trace its origin from the story of Prophet Ibrahim according to the Quran. Prophet Ibrahim had made prayer and promise to God to sacrifice a child of his own if blessed with children. After being granted his wish by God, the oath prophet Ibrahim made visited him in his dreams where he dreamt he was slaughtering his first son Ismail. He then informed Ismail about the dream, who insisted that his father fulfill God’s command.

Ibrahim then took Ismail to ‘Mount Moriah’ where he intended to carry out his intentions. The devil (Shaytan) however, did not like the decision Ibrahim had made to obey God. So he tried persuading him not to.

But the prophet did not listen. With the help of ‘Angel Jibreel’, he threw pebbles at Shaytan to drive him away from the scene. After he succeeded and Shaytan was gone, Ibrahim proceeded further to carry out his intended act.

However, God in his infinite mercy looked upon the dutiful heart of Ibrahim and sent Angel Jibreel with a ‘ram’ to replace Ismail for the intended sacrifice. Hence, Ismail was saved.

Eid Kabir since then has been celebrated annually by Muslims across the world to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son in obedience to God’s command. Each year, Muslims on the tenth day of Dhul Hijjah sacrifice rams to celebrate this festival. Or in its absence, sacrificed cows, goats, and camels.

Eid Activities in Northern Nigeria

Festivals are a time to play songs people know and are looking forward to hearing.

Scott Hutchison

Eid Kabir—also known as ‘Babban Sallah’ or ‘Sallan Layyah’— is celebrated by Muslims before and during the festival in so many ways Here in Northern Nigeria. The whole atmosphere turns into a cheerful and festive mood where northerners engage in the following;

1. Beautification of self

Starting from a week to Eid Kabir, the complete and thorough beautification of the body is common among Northern Nigerian Muslims.

As observed, practices among women include grooming of toe and fingernails, Styling and braiding of hair, and “Lalle”. Boys/men similarly engage in grooming of nails and barbing of hair.

Ladies all ready for Eid

Both parties busy themselves purchasing fabrics and handing to tailors to make beautiful outfits for them which they wear throughout the festive period.

Markets become full and orders are made online. Generally, everyone is in feverish excitement to buy clothes and accessories to adorn himself/herself with to look their best on the occasion.

2. Purchasing of sacrificial rams/animals

Sacrificial Lambs

As earlier said, Eid Kabir is a time where Muslims everywhere are striving to purchase rams or other animals that they are to use for sacrifice, starting mostly from a fortnight to it.

Although the sacrifice itself is not made until the marked day, the purchasing—mandated for those who can afford— is mostly done beforehand as rams then are generally cheaper. This means that the earlier you buy them, the cheaper they will be.

Men can be seen everywhere buying and transporting rams in preparation for the big day.

3. Attending communal prayer (Eid prayer)

Young and old, male and female, are seen on the morning of Eid Kabir in large and countless congregations making their journey noisily and vibrantly in new attires to attend communal prayer/Eid prayer nearest to them.

Attending the communal prayers is strongly recommended

This Eid prayer, also known as ‘Salat al-Eid’, is a special morning prayer after sunrise, offered to commemorate two Islamic festivals. The first is offered on Eid Fitr while the second is offered on Eid Kabir.

Although this prayer is not exactly mandatory, it is highly recommended for Muslims considering the huge reward associated with it.

Normally, Eid prayer is offered in large congregations in open fields separating the women from the men. Two ‘Raka’ats’ are prayed. Eid Kabir’s prayer unlike Eid Fitr is offered in an earlier and more hastened manner as the slaughtering of rams at home come immediately after the prayers.

Common religious practices of Muslims on Eid day concerning this prayer include:

  • Taking of ritual bath before going to the mosque
  • Wearing one’s new or best outfit
  • Going on foot to the prayer ground using different routes for the journey to and fro.
  • Eating only upon returning from Eid prayers.

4. Slaughtering of rams and sharing of meat (Layyah)

Eid Kabir is all about sacrificing an outlined animal and giving out parts of it in charity. Without this, the festival is meaningless.

As such, the most important moment everyone is waiting for comes right after the offering of Eid prayers on the first day of Eid Kabir; which is why in Egypt, they refer to it as the ‘Meat Festival’.

After the sacrificial animal is slaughtered, men can be seen engaging themselves in butchering the animal. Right after, women in the households take over, preparing the meat in various ways through frying and making of ‘Dambu’.

Families will normally engage the services of ‘Mahauta’ to butcher the animal. But before that, the person to offer the sacrifice—who is financially able, of sound man and reached the age of puberty—will slit the animal’s throat after offering some prayers.

The skin of the slaughtered animal is then given in charity to mosques, whereas the meat of the animal is divided into three parts and shared in charity among the needy, neighbors, and owner’s immediate family.

5. Cooking and sharing food and snacks in large quantities

Of course, no festival is complete without the attestation of the stomach. For a wedding or naming ceremony, it is grand. But for Eid Kabir, it is even grander.

Northern women are marvelous when it comes to preparing food. During the first and second day of Eid, they can be seen setting up firewood or otherwise under the wide-open sky; where they chat, joke and laugh while preparing Rice, ‘Tuwo’, ‘Waina’, ‘Sinasir’, or any other food or snack of their choice.

Food and drinks prepared are served to anyone visiting on the Eid period or sent to family and friends elsewhere.

Also, this food is distributed to neighbors, typically by children of the house, who are more than happy to attend this errand to receive the customary ‘Goron Sallah’, one of the biggest highlights of Eid for them.

6. Visiting of family and Friends (Yawon Sallah)

Festivals are happy places and you don’t want to enjoy them on your own.

Anonymous

A common practice during Eid Kabir in Northern Nigeria. If you are not visiting anyone on the day of Eid, be sure to expect visitors streaming in casually at all times. Why? because Eid is a period where neighbor’s relatives, friends, and colleagues casually drop in to check on one another and share in the celebration and also give or receive “Goron Sallah”.

In northern Nigeria, celebrating Eid Kabir alone is unheard of. These visits happen mostly in the next three days after Eid and may continue up to a week.

7. Attending Cultural Parades and Durbars

Among the Hausa people, ‘Hawa’ meaning ‘Mounting’, is what makes Eid special in Northern Nigeria. It also distinguishes it from other Eid celebrations across the country and world.

Hawa is a cultural event where colorfully dressed horsemen mounted on colorfully decorated horses, march across streets while being cheered on by large crowds of Muslims dressed in beautiful attires.

Hawan Bariki and Hawan Daushe are examples of this parade observed on the second and third days of Eid Kabir respectively, each one having its cultural importance. These are popular during Eid Kabir in Northern Nigerian states including Kaduna, Kano, and Katsina.

They have been passed on from generation to generation and are held in very high esteem by the northerners that even members of the royal households including the king partake in this parade. The king waves and smiles at the people as he progresses slowly on his richly dressed horse escorted by palace members.

This rich tradition has made it annually possible for people to be linked up or reunited on the streets as they witness this parade. Also, it is a chance for the king to have close contact with his subjects and share in their celebration. In addition to that, every year, it keeps the traditions and culture of the Hausa people alive.

8. Going on family outings or organized events

If you are a restaurant, bakery, ice cream, or any food/confectionary or event center owner, then it is the time of year for you to smile. Be sure to step up your game because family/friends outings, funfairs, school reunions, and other social events are all there to patronize you during Eid celebrations.

Families go out to eat

Because Eid Kabir is a public holiday period, social events such as kid funfairs and adult school reunions among others are a part of activities planned and enjoyed during Eid in Northern Nigeria. Families can be seen swarming in eateries to have good quality time.

9. Watching of religious T.V shows.

Apart from sermons and T.V shows, The message—a biographical movie of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H)— is displayed annually during Eid Kabir. Popular among Muslims in northern Nigeria, it is an epic historical drama chronicling the life and times of the messenger of God. This is shown every year to serve as a lesson to all and remind of those already familiar with it.

Since Eid Kabir also marks the end of the Muslim annual pilgrimage in Makkah, their activities are displayed also on T.V. It has become part of Eid celebrations for Muslims in Northern Nigeria to sit down and watch these shows.

10. Taking of pictures

Click! Smartphone cameras have replaced the traditional way of visiting photo studios to take photos during Eid. Although some people still maintain this tradition, most people prefer to conveniently take pictures with their phones at every step of their Eid celebration. This they keep for memories or to share with their family and friends.

Taking of pictures are common during Eid celebrations

In this 21st century and the era of the internet, especially social media platforms like WhatsApp, Twitter Instagram, and Snapchat, become very busy with people uploading and sharing experiences of themselves and others. Women especially busy themselves with sharing photos of their hennas. All in a jolly mood to keep the spirit of Eid alive days on after the celebration has ended. This internet saga enables people separated by a large distance and unable to visit one another to continually share in each other’s celebration.

Looking back at these activities carried out by Muslims in northern Nigeria to celebrate. Eid Kabir, one automatically feels like dropping by to actively share in the joyous mood and experiences of this period; which is a time of sharing and caring.

Visit Northern Nigeria, share in the hospitality of the Eid period, and tell us your own experiences of celebrating Eid Kabir in northern Nigeria. It is evident however with the raging COVID-19 pandemic, celebrations this year will turn out to be different. What is your opinion on celebrating Eid Kabir in 2020 under the stern chains of COVID 19?

Glossary

Eid: Arabic word meaning ‘festival’.

Angel Jibril: One of the angels of Allah also titled ‘Angel of Revelation’ (Biblical Gabriel).

Sallan Layya: Hausa term meaning ‘Feast of Sacrifice’.

Babban Sallah: Hausa term meaning ‘Big Feast’.

Raka’at: Prescribed movements and words followed by Muslims while offering prayers to Allah.

Mahauta: Hausa term for ‘Butcher’.

Tuwo: A form of swallow and dish of Hausa people.

Sinasir: A traditional dish of Hausa people.

Waina: A traditional dish of Hausa people.

Dambun Nama: Hausa term for “Mashed meat” or ‘meat floss’.

Goron Sallah: Hausa term for a token mostly in the form of money given during Eid.

Yawon Sallah: Hausa term for visitation of friends and family during Eid.

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