The chanting from the Mosques went on all night, uninterrupted, unlike the customary allotted times that mark the call to prayers for the faithful. The day was marked as a national holiday, something significant was due to unfold.

Most people dressed in Muslim attire were dealing with goats and cows, not a common sight in the streets of Jakarta, but it was 70 days after the end of Ramadan—an important day in the lunar Islamic calendar.

It was Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, the religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Isma’il as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a ram to sacrifice instead. In the annual re-enactment of the ritual, goats, cows and camels are acceptable alternatives to rams or children. However, it isn’t just one beast that is sacrificed as an act of obedience, but one per individual who can afford to buy it and has the right sacrificial attitude in their heart.

Needless to say that in the most populous Muslim country in the world Eid al-Adha becomes a blood bath. Mosques are filled with families participating in the festivities, sharing greetings, food and good wishes, praying and witnessing the sacrificial slaughter.

As a virtue of my ‘otherness’, I too was offered a front row seat to observe the proceedings—the tying of the beast and the devotional actions of the Tujangiacal (not sure of the spelling), slicing the throat of the dazed creatures.

The acrid smell of blood and the quivering sound of a body on its last breath, so ubiquitous of death, were greeted with delight as the meat was divided into three parts to be distributed to others—the family who donated the beast retaining one third of the share, one third going to relatives, friends and neighbours, and the remaining third to the poor and needy.

I quietly slipped through the back before the end of the ritual, to avoid the possible embarrassment caused by the refusal of a share of the meat, which would have most likely been generously offered to me unbeknown of my vegetarianism.

As I walked away, I recalled a quote I had heard long time ago: ‘no one kills happier than those who do it in the name of God’.

Fotos: Eid al-Adha 2010