Most days, Mamadou Toure works under contract with the Bureau of Land Management, monitoring vegetation growth where the Soda Fire swept through parts of Idaho and Oregon last year.
But on Monday, Toure spent an hour bowing and praying along with 600 other Treasure Valley Muslim observing Eid al-Adha, a major Muslim celebration that reminds followers of obedience to God.
“It is great beyond explanation,” Toure said. “It’s emotional and also very spiritual ... a blessing to be here.”
Millions of Muslims around the world celebrated along with Toure the story of Abraham, who was asked by God to kill his son. But God spared Abraham’s child at the last minute. The story talks about obedience, said Said Ahmed-Zaid, who attends the Islamic Center of Boise and contributes to the Statesman’s religion column.
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Abraham’s story appears in Islam, Judaism and Christianity. In Islam, Abraham is asked to sacrifice his son Ishmael. In Christianity and Judaism, it is his son Isaac. The difference is small, Ahmed-Zaid said. “The moral of the story is just the same.”
To Toure, the story and holiday means “submission to recognition of what Abraham went through. It’s a reminder of how tested we are. We are lucky we are not to be tested that way.”
The worship time is short, just over 20 minutes. Muslims alternately stand, bow and kneel on top of prayer rugs.
They listen to words from the Quran, Islam’s holy book, and recite “God is the greatest” in Arabic, Ahmed-Zaid said.
Eid al-Adha is celebrated at the same time that millions of Muslims make their pilgrimage to Mecca, Those who stay home observe the holiday, which is as important as Easter or Christmas in the Christian world, Ahmed-Zaid said.
Eid al-Adha translates as “festival of the sacrifice,” and observing obedience is about more than Abraham.
Toure, 26, who grew up in Senegal in West Africa, came to the United States just over a decade ago. He’s been in Boise about five months and doesn’t routinely run into Muslims. So celebrating Eid al-Adha creates a sense of community.
“You have that feeling of great joy,” Toure said. “You have this family unity in the community and the sense people are more forgiving, softhearted.”
At a time when Muslims face sharp criticism based on accounts of people who commit terrorist acts in the religion’s name, community grows in importance for the traditions it holds dear.
“I am coming and I am meeting people who keep who we are,” Ahmed-Zaid said.