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Thousands of local Muslims observe Islamic holy day at Buffalo’s Front Park

The grass at Buffalo’s Front Park still was wet with dew Thursday morning when more than 2,000 local Muslims unfurled prayer rugs and spread blankets to celebrate the holy day of Eid al-Adha.

Also known as the Festival of Sacrifice, it commemorates the life of the Prophet Ibraheem (also known as Abraham) and the obedient spirit of him and his son Ismail (Ishmael). Ibraheem was commanded by Allah to sacrifice his son by shedding his blood as a test of faith. Both father and son were ready and willing to obey, but in the end, Allah allowed Ibraheem to sacrifice a ram instead.

Muslims still sacrifice an animal, which becomes part of their meal and is shared with the poor.

Local Muslims have gathered at Front Park to celebrate the end of Ramadan (which this year ended in July) since 2009, when just a handful attended. But the gathering Thursday was the first in the park for the Festival of Sacrifice.

“People are coming more and more,” said Yahye Y. Omar, program director for HEAL International, a charitable organization that helps new arrivals to this country.

“It’s a joyful day; it’s a happy day,” added Abdul Farah, who coordinated the event for HEAL (Helping Everyone Achieve Livelihood).

Many wore new clothing, which is part of the celebration.

Facing east toward Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, lines of men and boys were separated from women, girls and babies by the width of a soccer goal.

Many of the men and boys wore new Western-style clothing – including slacks, vests, dress shirts and ties. But there also were some in pastel colored, traditional garb.

The women and girls were dressed for a celebration, wearing clothing in rich jewel tones and bold paisley patterns. Their headscarves were of varying styles, many decorated with sequins and rhinestones.

In the front row of women was Zaimah Habeeb of Buffalo and her 5-year-old daughter, Bayena.

Raised as a Muslim, Habeeb said she didn’t know how the festival might be celebrated elsewhere.

“According to our prophet, this is what we do,” she said. “I guess the fact that we’re sitting on grass instead of sand would be different.”

The logic of the prophet stands today, Habeeb said.

Speaking in Arabic, an imam led prayers and then gave a sermon. A translator repeated the sermon in English.

“It’s very, very important that we do not forget the lesson of Hajj and the prophet,” the translator said, in part. Hajj refers to the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, which every Muslim is expected to undertake at least once; Eid al-Adha is celebrated at the end of the Hajj.

The translator referred to Allah’s message of unity.

“When a baby cries, it doesn’t cry in Arabic, it doesn’t cry in Chinese ... it cries in the same universal language,” the translator said.