BURKE, VIRGINIA - American Muslims on Tuesday marked the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca with the four-day festivities of Eid al-Adha, one of Islam's most important religious holidays.
As did fellow Muslims around the world, many Muslims in the United States started their celebration with a morning prayer at mosques and Islamic centers.
However, some Muslims near Washington, D.C., found themselves in a church Tuesday morning.
The Peace Islamic Center in Burke, Virginia, could not accommodate the large numbers of people who wanted to come for prayers. As it did in past years, the center arranged to hold large gatherings at nearby St. Andrew's Episcopal Church.
Yousef Zerwal, a Moroccan-American Muslim, welcomed the idea of the Eid prayer in a church.
"We were able actually to pray and accomplish our Eid prayer and our goal of getting closer to God, even though it is actually in a church. So personally, I am proud to be part of this message that, if anything, shows tolerance that exists in this community," Zerwal said.
For the Rev. Tim Heflin, the second rector of St. Andrew's, sharing the church space is a way to open up interfaith dialogue and foster tolerance.
"We are all people of the book — Jews, Muslims and Christians. And so for me, it is very easy to welcome people of the book, who worship God into our place," Heflin said.
Eid al-Adha, the "Feast of Sacrifice," follows the Hajj, or pilgrimage. It commemorates Prophet Ibrahim's test of faith.
Muslims believe Ibrahim's faith was tested when God commanded him to sacrifice his only son, Ismail. Ibrahim was prepared to submit to the command, but God spared his son with a sheep to be slaughtered instead. The teachings of both Christianity and Judaism also honor the prophet's test, although he often is called Abraham in their holy books.
For the holiday, Muslims slaughter livestock and distribute part of the meat to the poor. Eid is a time for prayer, sharing meals, handing out gifts and wishing one another well.
Omar Wali owns a halal meat company. He provides animals to be slaughtered according to Islamic teachings.
"We bought the lambs, goats and cows about a month ago and prepared them for everybody to slaughter for Eid al-Adha," he said.
Many are using the occasion of Eid to remember Muslims suffering in conflicts from Yemen to Syria and Iraq to Nigeria.
Islamic relief organizations encourage Muslim Americans to spread the joy of Eid to Muslims living in such regions.