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Pakistani Muslims Mark Eid al-Adha Holiday

This week marks the Muslim Festival of Sacrifice, or Eid al-Adha, celebrated on Thursday or Friday, depending on the country. Businesses and governments in many countries are shutting down for the holiday.

Goats are everywhere on the streets of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, as families prepare for the ritual feast of Friday's Eid al-Adha holiday.

The festival commemorates the religious story of Ibrahim, who was told by Allah to sacrifice his son, Ismail, as a sign of faith. Muhammed Yusuf Farooqi, the head of Pakistan's Sharia Academy, explains that Ibrahim was rewarded for his willingness to make such a sacrifice.

"And then Allah accepted his [Ibrahim's] devotion, his commitment to follow his instruction," said Muhammed Yusuf Farooqi. "And then he replaced Ismail with a sheep, and the sheep was slaughtered in the place of Ismail."

The holiday also marks the end of the annual pilgrimage period to Mecca, Islam's holiest place, visited by millions of worshippers each year.

Central to the holiday is the slaughtering and eating of goats and sheep, or sometimes cows and other animals, to commemorate the story of Ibrahim and Ismail.

The animals are expensive, with the average price of a goat running about $135. So those who can afford to buy an animal are expected to share their meat with the poor.

For days ahead of the celebration, livestock markets in many countries with large Muslim populations are packed with animals and would-be buyers. Families dress in their best clothes to visit friends and relatives during the holiday period.

In Indonesia, however, celebrations are expected to be a bit more subdued, as the nation continues to mourn the more than 160,000 people who died in last month's earthquake and tsunami. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. The country's Aceh province, in the north, was the area worst hit by the disaster.