For Jamillah Aquil, her head covered by a lacy white shroud, the beauty of Islam's holiest day was in seeing Muslims from all cultures united in a shared faith.
The 41-year-old Trinidad native on Saturday joined thousands of other Muslims--among them Iraqis, Kuwaitis, Pakistanis and African-Americans--to mark the Feast of Sacrifice in an early-morning prayer service at the Islamic Center of Southern California.
"It's a good feeling to know you can go to one place with so many different people from so many different worlds and feel such unity," Aquil said, as she stood outside the Los Angeles mosque on Vermont Avenue. "In there, everybody is equal."
The holiday, which is considered the most sacred of the year for Southern California's 400,000 Muslims, commemorates the prophet Abraham's offer to sacrifice his son to God. The event, known in Arabic as 'Id al-Adha, coincides with the pilgrimage, or hajj, that annually draws more than a million faithful to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Although the Persian Gulf War divided many of the world's Muslims, the focus for Aquil and her fellow congregants was on spirituality, not politics. Likewise, President Bush and Saudi Arabian leaders issued statements Saturday calling for world peace and unity, but did not refer to the recent war with Iraq.
"Today, millions of Muslims in America and around the world commemorate the absolute faith and unquestioning obedience of the prophet Abraham--who was ready at God's command, to sacrifice even his own son," Bush said. He called on "people of all faiths to live in peace and freedom, everywhere in the world."
The hajj is a once-in-a-lifetime requirement for all able-bodied Muslims. Hussein Qadri, who was selling religious texts and "I love Islam" key chains outside the Islamic Center, made his trek in 1980.
"It is better to do it when you are a young man," said the 45-year-old immigrant from Pakistan. "Now I am happy just go to the mosque."