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Eid Ul-Adha - Muslim festival of sacrifice (15 October 2013)

To consider the meaning of sacrifice.

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Reception / Key Stage 1


To consider the meaning of sacrifice.

Preparation and materials

  • Eid ul-Adha marks the end of the Hajj, which is the annual pilgrimage for Muslims to Mecca. It is a day of happiness when Muslims, making the pilgrimage or not, celebrate the meaning of sacrifice as told in a story in their holy book, the Qur’an. This is the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, also told in the Bible in Genesis chapter 22. Muslims, however, know Abraham as Ibrahim and believe that it was Ishmael, the son of his servant Hagar, who was to be sacrificed, not Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah. Note: in order not to confuse these differences between the two faiths, the father’s and the son’s names are not mentioned in the story set out below.
  • Many start the day by going to the mosque where special prayers are said. Friends and fellow believers are then greeted affectionately, presents are exchanged and special meals and festivities go on in people’s homes.
  • You will need a teddy or other soft toy that is special to someone in the assembly, perhaps even a teacher, and for that person to say during the assembly why it is important to them. Also, the story Dogger by Shirley Hughes, some slices of cold lamb, a tin of rice pudding, a parcel wrapped up, a balloon and a firework. These should all be hidden in a bag and shown one at a time.


1. Show the teddy or other soft toy and ask its owner to relate why it is important to him or her.

2. Show the children the book, Dogger, with which many are likely to be familiar. Review the story of Dogger. This could be done by selecting key ideas, as given in the examples below, and showing a few of the pictures in the book.Dave was very fond of Dogger. He took him everywhere. Dave’s big sister, Bella, took seven teddies to bed with her every night, but Dave liked only Dogger.Dogger was nowhere to be found. Dave was sad and missed him very much.Bella won a huge yellow teddy bear, wearing a beautiful blue silk bow.Dave found Dogger at the back of a stall, but a little girl had already bought him. Bella did something very kind. She offered to give the little girl her big new teddy in exchange for Dogger. She knew how much Dave loved Dogger.

3. Tell the children how Bella gave up something very special for something even more important – to see her brother reunited with his special toy and happy again. This is called making a sacrifice. Because Dave was so happy again, she was happy, too! I particularly like the picture of Bella somersaulting in the bedroom and you might like to show this picture to the children to convey how happy she was.Bella loved her brother Dave very much  . . .  but she also loved the brand new, huge teddy with the blue bow!Giving up something for someone else can be very hard.
4. Explain to the children how, every year, people of the Muslim faith celebrate a special festival called Eid ul-Adha. During this festival they listen to a certain story, a story that is quite similar to what happens in Dogger. Ask the children if they can listen to the following version of the story and identify any similarities. The story is about a man who was asked to give up something very special for God. The man was a friend of God. God had once asked him to leave his home and city behind and follow him to a new land and the man had done that to please God. The man had waited a long, long time to have children and, when a baby son finally came along in his very old age, he was overjoyed. The boy was the pride of his life. Then, one day, God whispered something in the man’s ear.‘I want you to sacrifice your son to me. I want you to offer him to me.’The man was stunned. Surely not! Surely God wasn’t asking him to kill his own dear son. How could that bring God pleasure? The thought and the feeling that this was what God wanted him to do persisted, however, so, one day, he set off with his son (I don’t think the mother knew anything about this or she would surely have tried to stop him.)The road was long and hard for the man and his son must have sensed that there was something troubling his father.‘We don’t have a lamb to sacrifice, Father’, he said.‘Don’t worry, son, God will provide a sacrifice.’Of course, the son never thought for a moment that the sacrifice might be him, until his father tied his wrists and laid him on a flat stone and took a knife  . . .‘STOP!’ said a loud voice from heaven.‘Look over there, I have provided a lamb for you to sacrifice.’I bet the man was very relieved, as was his son!God was also very pleased with the man that day. He had shown that he loved God more than anyone else and he trusted in God’s goodness. That was very important for God to know.

5. Allow the children to share any similarities they spotted between the two stories. These might include that both the stories have good endings. Both teach us that to sacrifice something for others can be a difficult decision to make at first, but, when we choose to bless others before ourselves, then we find joy, too.

6. The Muslim festival of Eid ul-Adha, therefore, even though it is about sacrifice, is a day of happiness. Muslims listen to the story of the man’s sacrifice once again and are glad. Then you can say that there are other things that make the day special and show the children the items in the bag. Mention hugging friends and fellow Muslims who come to visit, food – the lamb and rice pudding – presents, balloons and even fireworks.

Time for reflection

Think of a time when you gave up something for someone else.How did you feel to begin with?How did the other person react?How did you feel afterwards?

Dear God,Thank you for the story about the man and his son. Thank you that he loved and trusted you so much, he was willing to give you the most precious thing in his life.Thank you that you then blessed his life with many good things.Help us to surrender things that are very special to us for the good of others, because this also pleases you.


'Thank you, Lord, for this new day’ (Come and Praise, 32)

Publication date: October 2013   (Vol.15 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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