Belarusian Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha

Every year, Muslims around the world celebrate the Festival of Sacrifice. The main ritual of Kurban Bayram (Eid al-Adha) is not for the faint-hearted. The journalists of went to the Muslim capital of Belarus to see with their own eyes one of the most unique and ancient traditions that the Belarusian Tatars follow.

On the Kurban Bairam, Muslims of Iuye gather at the mosque in the early morning. The Festival of Sacrifice is considered a family feast. Those who work in other cities, try to come to the prayer, then to eat a family dinner.

This is one of the most important holidays in the Islamic calendar. Its peculiarity is that on this day Muslims around the world sacrifice animals: a bull, a lamb, a goat or a camel. This is one of the most ancient traditions of mankind, which still has a very profound symbolic meaning for Muslims. And the Belarusian Tatars are not an exception.

“There is a story in the Quran about the prophet Ibrahim. In a dream, the prophet heard the voice of Allah, who ordered him to sacrifice his first-born child. In the morning the prophet asked his son what to do. The son said that he must listen to the will of Allah. Twice Ibrahim tried to sacrifice his child, but the knife would not cut his throat. The third time Allah had mercy, sank the knife and sent Ibrahim a lamb, which he had to slaughter in place of his first-born child. Therefore, today we sacrifice the animal as a sign of God-fearing and humility to Allah,” explains the mule of the Iuye mosque Adam Radetsky on his way to prayer.

Today, the mosque has many foreign guests: from Minsk, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Azerbaijan. Prayer begins early enough, at eight. There are different entrances to two separate rooms for men and women.

In the mosque women and men pray in separate rooms. Photo – Vasily Molchanov / Belsat

During the prayer, the head of men and women must necessarily be covered. Women put on a headscarf, and men put on a skull cap or cap. Everyone carries a bag or basket with a treat. This tradition is called “sadaga”, when they sacrifice prayer for the dead in return for something sweet — sweets, rolls, apples or pears.

The believers take off shoes and enter the building. People barely fit into the rooms.

Mullah falls to his knees and in Arabic begins to sing surahs from the Quran. Everyone who knows the words, prays with him. the Catholic priest Aleg Yanovich, who has served in Iuye for three years,also came to the prayer with a bouquet of flowers and sweets.

“This is a tradition here. We invite Muslims to our holidays. They come to us at Christmas and Easter, and today it’s our turn. Usually, an Orthodox priest also comes, but today he has a confession,” the priest explains.

“The bull must be chaste”

Outside, a bull and a lamb are waiting for their fate. It is customary: every family in Iuye seeks to make such a sacrifice at least once. According to the law of Islam, it must be a lamb, bull, camel or goat.

Ritual killing of animals that were raised for this purpose. Photo – Vasily Molchanov / Belsat

“You must not let the bull to the cow. But it happens. This creature is hard to watch. The lamb should also be clean,” explains David, who this year will cut the bull.

“He who makes a sacrifice must fast for 10 days. This person can only eat at night. You are not to drink vodka before this, it is a big sin. In the past, the people, when they fasted, did not even drink water during the day. An old man would go to the field for a day to mow grass, and he would only moisten his lips, but wouldn’t drink. Those people were really patient.”

“In general, after women cook either dumplings, or a soup, or cutlets from this sacrificial meat, these dishes cannot be eaten with vodka. No way. And even if the dog would not eat such a bone, you cannot leave it like this. It is necessary to bury this bone,” adds Yahya who helps with this sacrifice.

“Man who knows how to kill the animal must do it, not to torment it”

An hourly prayer ends and people slowly begin to leave the mosque. All congratulate each other on the holiday, share the Sadag. Men are preparing for the ritual. The bull-calf is held by about 10 people. An experienced person should cut it, in order to ease the death of the animal as much as possible.

Ritual killing of animals that were raised for this purpose. Photo – Vasily Molchanov / Belsat

“Don’t you feel sorry for the bull?” I ask David.

“I’ve seen it done since my childhood. The bull-calf was raised for this. Someone has to do it. It is necessary that men hold it firmly, because its neck skin is thick — about two fingers. Usually three incisions are made: towards yourself – from yourself – again towards yourself,” the man explains.

It is believed that this sacrifice is made for the deceased, so that the person in the next world has enough to be happy there.

The slaughtered bull-calf will be divided into 230 equal parts, which will then be given to the 230 families living in Iuye. The sacrificial meat is usually used to make cutlets, large dumplings or “soup” – Tatar soup, which is brewed on beef.

“Earlier, grandfathers said that they simply gave this sacrifice to the poor. And we already have such a routine that we divide it into 230 families, who live here. Everyone here is poor,” says David.

“We are far from home, so at least we will celebrate here, we will share it with people. This ritual is practiced by all Muslims. In Azerbaijan the lamb is sacrificed in every family,” Hasan explains.

As the trader said, they have been coming to Iuye for 10 years in the summer. Just at this time in Azerbaijan, the tomato season ends, while in Belarus it is in full swing. And, as it turned out, it’s much easier and cheaper to transfer such goods to Russia from Belarus than it is from Azerbaijan.

“If it tickles in your throat, tough it out”

The holiday of Kurban Bayram lasts four days. On the second day of the holiday, Iuye Muslims usually visit the Mizar – a Tatar cemetery. You should not work on a holiday, especially on the first day.

“Of course you mustn’t. We even try not to go to the bazaar, but if you need to gather tomatoes, then you have to do it. And some people do work. My son from Minsk was not allowed to work. They said they would fire if he took a day off. They say that our country is democratic, but this is a violation of our rights as a national minority,” Yahya notes.

“It depends on your boss. If you have a good one, then they would let you go. I celebrated the day before yesterday, and today you can celebrate it. In general, there are four holidays. But as it turns out. But you mustn’t drink vodka on the first day. As my father said, if it tickles in your throat, tough it out, “adds David.

Photo gallery:

Paulina Valish,

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