This year more than three million Muslims in the UK will be celebrating Eid-ul-Adha with their loved ones today.
Last year we celebrated both Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha under Covid restrictions, which meant the usual traditions were put on hold.
We were not allowed to attend the mosque and instead we spent the day within our bubbles, so it was fair to say the day was pretty mundane.
Although the mosques reopened in time for Eid-ul-Fitr in May this year, lockdown restrictions were still in place.
But now that restrictions have been lifted as of yesterday, most of us will be celebrating with friends and family – it will be the first time since 2019 we’ve been able to do so.
We celebrate two Eids a year: Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, when Muslims fast for 30 days from sunrise to sunset.
And Eid-ul-Adha marks the end of the annual pilgrimage to Hajj in Saudi Arabia and commemorates the sacrifice made by the prophet Ibrahim.
As the pandemic spread through the world in 2020, Saudi Arabia only invited 1,000 pilgrims to perform Hajj, which lasts 10 days.
It was a stark contrast to the usual two million pilgrims a year and was the first time in several decades that international pilgrims were barred from entering the country for Hajj.
It was incredibly sad but also we understood why the heartbreaking decision was made.
Now this year, as restrictions began to ease across the globe, there were 60,000 pilgrims invited to perform Hajj but again unfortunately these were only Saudi residents and nationals.
Those who were fortunate to perform Hajj were permitted to follow social distancing guidelines and were forbidden from touching the Kaaba (the most sacred place of worship).
I always say to people, Eid is a bit like Christmas; we attend the Mosque for Eid prayers in the morning, the house is decorated with lights and decorations, we wear sparkly clothes, put henna on our hands and indulge in nice food.
Last-minute rules in August last year meant all our plans for Eid-ul-Adha were cancelled when Boris announced the new restrictions just 24 hours before Eid.
This was really devastating as I hadn’t seen my family for six months and all our delicious Eid food had been cooked. However, we distributed it to neighbours.
I always like to get my neighbours involved in our celebrations because education and diversity is so important.
While I fully appreciated why the restrictions were put in place, I am really thankful to be celebrating with my family and friends today.
There will be a house full of children, good food and laughter, something we have all yearned for.
If anything this pandemic has made you realise the importance of your loved ones and not to take anyone for granted.
This morning after Eid prayers, we will be eating a breakfast full of traditional foods, including the must-have delicious seviyan. It is a milk sweet dish made from vermicelli, topped with nuts and it is guaranteed that it will be made in every Muslim household.
I will be visiting my family, although we don’t usually exchange gifts on Eid-ul-Adha, we do receive money from our elder relatives.
In the afternoon, we will all be tucking into a homemade feast of delicious foods together such as roast chicken, meat biryani, lamb kebabs, dahi baray (a Pakistani yoghurt dish) and a variety of homemade chutneys and snacks.
This will be followed by a dessert table of cakes, halva, gulab jamun (all traditional Pakistani dishes) and Arabic baklava. We love to combine our British, Pakistani and Arabic cultures in our home.
During the month of Dhul Hijjah, (the month of Eid-ul-Adha), Muslims in the UK are permitted to give a certain amount of money to a registered charity, which goes towards the slaughter of an animal.
The meat is then distributed to less fortunate families, this is called Qurbani. This reflects the Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail, for the sake of God.
In Ramadan, we give Zakat (giving to the needy), which is one of the five pillars of Islam. Charity for Muslims plays a big part in our everyday lives.
Remember to give your loved ones a hug this Eid because there are so many people less fortunate, those who don’t have a family, or a roof over their heads or food.
Make a prayer for everyone who has lost their lives in this last year.
Wishing all Muslims around the world Eid Mubarak.