ISTANBUL, Turkey — At the Piyalepasa animal bazaar there is a sense of anticipation. Buyers carefully make their way through crowds of people and livestock, the ground sodden with blood.

Millions of sheep and cattle were slaughtered in Turkey over this past long weekend of Eid al-Adha — in Turkish, Kurban Bayrami. Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, is a three-day festival that is celebrated after the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.

To mark this, Muslims all over the world sacrifice an animal, typically a goat, sheep or cow. The practice is, first and foremost, a form of worship — a way of honoring Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to Allah.

There is a social side to the practice as well. By tradition, the meat is shared equally between the poor, neighbors and relatives, and the person who offered the sacrifice.

The market is a ragtag collection of tents thrown up in a parking lot in the heart of Istanbul, bright yellow tarps provide shelter and, perhaps, shield those just passing by from the butchery taking place inside. Just a few minutes away lies Taksim Square, the heart of modern Istanbul. But the scene at the market is one of tradition and reverence.

The sacrifice of an animal commemorates Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to Allah.
(Nichole Sobecki/GlobalPost)

In the past few years, however, many Turks are finding new ways to perform their religious obligation that are more in line with what they see as a modern, urban lifestyle.

While the backyard slaughters remain common, Turks are more and more often turning to technology over getting their hands dirty. Organizations that accept donations via phone and the internet are becoming increasingly popular. These organizations perform the sacrifices themselves and then distribute the meat to lower-income neighborhoods and community centers around the country.

The increasingly global nature of Turkish Islam is also changing the way the animal sacrifice is performed — and more importantly, where it is performed. Doctors Worldwide-Turkey is one of the most popular of such organizations, distributing meat to nearly 40,000 poor families last year. The 40,000 families were not, however, Turkish. Instead, the money collected from religious Turks went to feed families in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“It is a county traumatized by malnutrition,” says Professor M. Ihsan Karaman, the head of the organization, in a letter posted to the organization’s website. “They need this food more than anybody else.”

Others, such as the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation, perform sacrificial slaughters in over 100 countries, including Kenya, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Cuba, Palestine, Thailand and Vietnam.

Despite the evolving methods of this age-old tradition, the fervor of the Piyalepasa animal bazaar maintains its same feverish pitch. The pungent, earthy smell permeating the market a pointed reminder of the reality of this sacrifice. From Istanbul’s high-rise apartment buildings to Turkey’s most humble village, it seems that there is more than one way to share in the traditions of Eid al-Adha this year.

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