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Celebrating Tabaski in Senegal

By Gaucher Kadam

Tabaski is one of the most important holidays for Muslims in Senegal, and around the globe. Tabaski, somtimes called Eid El-Kebir, literally means "the big holiday" or “holiday of the sacrifice.”

Tabaski is a “Sunna”, a reinforced prophetic tradition. Some argue it’s a mandatory requirement, and not doing it, is considered a sin. However, a Muslim who doesn’t have the means is not obligated to follow such recommendation.

This important event commemorates Abraham who sacrificed his eldest son (Ishmael, according to Muslim tradition, or Isaac, according to the Bible, the Quran does not explicitly give the name of the son) to show his submission to God.

Our prophet Mohamed said: "A Muslim who spends his money to fulfill this tradition and, in so doing, buy a sheep with no physical handicap and with the only and genuine purpose to please God, will see a protection wall placed in between him/her and hell on the judgment day. Insha’Allah."

What is required and who is eligible?

Each family should sacrifice an animal (sheep, goat, sheep, cow or camel) by laying it on the left side and slaying it, the head facing Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Then, a big portion of the sacrificed animal should go to the poorest among the Muslims to reinforce solidarity and mutual assistance as prescribed by Allah and also to non-Muslims.

This practice is followed by:

  • Any Muslim man or woman is required to sacrifice an animal.

  • A young Muslim who has the means is required to do it, in which case, the tutor makes the necessary arrangement on his behalf.

The Animal should be a sheep, of 1 year of age and entering his second year. In case one can’t get a sheep, the following animals might replace it and still meet the conditions:

  • Goat - 1 year of age at least + 1 month.

  • Cow - 3 years old at least and entering its fourth year.

  • Camel - 5 years old at least and entering its sixth year.

FOUR Rules to Observe:

1. The animal should have no physical handicap.

2. It should respect the age requirements.

3. The ritual must be done only after the Imam’s own sacrifice (After the prayer at the mosque where a sheep will be brought for him).

4. The sacrifice must be done during daytime (in the morning around 9- 9:30am).

A Muslim is not allowed to share “a sheep” with a group of people. It’s a personal initiative.

However, if a Muslim wishes to associate other people in the sacrifice of his sheep, he should proclaim that intention/wish to God and make sure the following 3 conditions are met:

  • Those people you want to associate leave in the same house as you.

  • They are under your responsibility

  • Also, you buy a second sheep with the intention of doing the sacrifice for those people (regardless of the number)


In Senegal, most Muslim families prepare the event by trying to get a big and expensive sheep for a matter of prestige. A question of pride for the head of the family and for the children regarding the neighborhood and the extended family as well. However, due to the country’s economic situation, this tendency is dwindling.

Women wear their most expensive and most beautiful outfits to impress friends, family and neighbors. Some of them spend several nights in the tailors’ shops to make sure their outfits will be ready on time. Senegalese women put colossal amount of money to get the top fashion for this special day.

On Tabaski day, men go to the mosque or a clean and empty area in the neighborhood for the morning prayer, while women already get busy for breakfast / lunch preparation and other related items.

Whenever the prayer is over at the mosque, Muslims rush back home to kill their sheep and then, the celebration starts.

Usually, Muslim men and children are busy helping women prepare the animals’ bowels, bones etc. in the morning and later on, after a delicious lunch, everybody dresses up nicely to go visit neighbors, friends and extended families. This goes all afternoon until late at night.

Relationship between religions in Senegal

In Senegal, there is a genuine and natural connection between Muslims and Christians. The tradition is to have Christian friends at home to share meals or send some raw meat to them.

And this goes the same way during Christmas or Easter holidays when Christian brothers and sisters celebrate their holidays.

Happy Tabaski.

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