NEW DELHI: Mohammad Altaf is busy packing qurbani (sacrificial) meat and sending it to relatives and friends, including some who are Hindu.
“Some of my Hindu friends are vegetarian so I don’t send them meat, but I send some to those who aren’t vegetarian,” he told Arab News.
For Altaf and his father Sahabuddin Saifi, the first day of Eid Al-Adha in New Delhi has been hectic since morning.
They have offered Eid prayers at the 17th-century Jama Mosque in Old Delhi almost every year.
The mosque “has a different feel, and we don’t mind traveling 15 km to this place to offer our prayer,” said Altaf, who took his 10-year-old son Aaniq this year for the first time. “The whole ambience is different.”
There is a sizable Muslim population in Old Delhi, where traders come from neighboring provinces to sell goats.
Jama Mosque leads the Eid prayer, followed by other mosques in Delhi. The adjacent Fatehpuri Mosque holds one of the largest prayer congregations during Eid, which is an official holiday in India.
Once the prayer is over, worshippers start preparing for the sacrifice: Mostly goats, followed by lambs. For Eid, Altaf has reared three goats that he intends to sacrifice in the next three days.
Saifi told Arab News: “We try to offer sacrifice away from the public glare. Some people don’t like killing animals, and we don’t want to hurt their feelings.”
Altaf said: “Some of my Hindu friends ask why I sacrifice animals. I try to explain. Some get convinced, some not. But they come to my house to eat meat.”
He added: “Eid might be a Muslim festival, but in India no festival is isolated. You have the active participation of other religious people. Eid strengthens interreligious and societal bonds.”
Altaf’s Hindu neighbor Vijayant comes to his house to greet him, and is invited to dinner. Altaf said he has invited at least six Hindu friends to partake in Eid.
Verma, a Hindu who has known Altaf since they became neighbors three years ago, told Arab News: “I really look forward to having dinner at a Muslim friend’s house on both Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha. It’s a way of renewing the bond.”
Verma added: “At a time when Muslims are subjected to a deep sense of insecurity by Hindu rightwing forces, it’s all the more important to participate in their festivities.”
Delhi-based journalist Andalib Akhtar told Arab News: “The religious way of celebrating Eid is universal, but in India the joy is doubled when friends and acquaintances belonging to other religions come to us to share our festivity.”
He said: “It’s really disturbing that Muslims in India today are the target of politics, but this can’t be a norm.”
He added: “Interreligious bonding is so strong in India that no amount of polarization can damage the bond.
Akhtar said: “Sometimes I get surprised when a Hindu friend knows more about Eid than some of my fellow Muslims.”
Delhi is home to more than 10 million Muslims. Some areas are Muslim, while others are mixed.