COLUMBUS (WCMH) – As the Islamic world celebrates Eid Al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, some say the pandemic makes the sentiment of the holiday especially poignant.
“Last year it was a disaster for us because, as you see, people love to come together. This is the community,” explained Abdel Moneim Dobal, the Imam at the Noor Islamic Cultural Center based in Dublin.
The Imam led close to 7,000 people in prayer Tuesday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Visitors were encouraged to wear a mask and avoid the gathering if they were sick. Many in attendance noted the difference in this year’s holiday, compared to 2020’s limited capacity and physically distanced celebration.
“Finally, we’re able to get most of the people out in a safe environment,” said Ashar Masood, the Executive Director of Noor Islamic Cultural Center.
Families prayed with some friends and neighbors they haven’t seen in months.
“It feels much better. I feel like it’s better with a group of people,” remarked Iousif Alothman, 12, who was attending the service with his father and younger brothers.
Eid Al-Adha is traditionally celebrated during the 10th day of Dhul Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It marks the culmination of the pilgrimage to Mecca and honors the Prophet Abraham’s sacrifice of his son at God’s command.
The Imam explained it’s a time to make personal sacrifices, perform acts of service and pray for others.
He said, “Salam means peace. To say ‘salam’ means you pray for somebody to have peace in his heart, in his house, in his family, in his community.”
Tuesday’s gathering also included a COVID-19 vaccine clinic, hosted by Columbus Public Health. Faith leaders have joined the health experts in calling for everyone to get vaccinated and follow other health measures.
“I was telling people it’s very important to take the vaccine for these days,” said Imam Dobal. “Just save yourself, save your community, save your country.”
The prayer service is one of many in-person events returning to the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Staff says large-scale gatherings are back at the facility on a regular basis.