Thousands of Muslims crowded onto the field of U.S. Bank Stadium, and still more came down the steps Saturday morning as a religious leader sang Allahu Akbar in honor of the Islamic holiday Eid.
"Brothers and sisters, inshallah — we are going to pray the Eid salah," a voice boomed across the field. "The facility is full. We can no longer allow any more people to enter, so we want to … not delay."
Everybody rose. They listened to the prayer, knelt and touched their heads to the ground. Then the stadium roared in silence.
"Wow," Imam Abdirahman Kariye told the organizers afterward. "That was amazing … that was the biggest gathering of Eid I have seen in my life."
Forty-five thousand Muslims filled the stadium for their biggest holiday in grand fashion starting just after sunrise. Families dressed in their finest came to honor Eid al-Adha — the second and holier of two Eids, it commemorates Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to Allah, who gave Ibrahim a ram to kill instead. It also recognizes completion of the annual hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca.
Organizers dubbed Saturday's event "Super Eid."
One of them, Abdulahi Farah, recalled that in 2018 some Muslim leaders planning Eid said it was better to "kind of lay low and hide" for fear that a large gathering could be targeted.
"It was like no," Farah said, "what does that do to our identity and claiming our voice in Minnesota, who we are?"
Instead, they decided to plan their biggest Eid yet that year at the stadium, drawing 36,000 people. This Eid's sequel was even bigger, reuniting many who hadn't seen each other during the lull of the pandemic and replicating how their Muslim brethren in Somalia and other countries honored the day — by gathering in the biggest spot they could find.
Eid is also a time to give to the less fortunate, and speakers urged the mainly Somali American crowd to donate money for millions of people who face famine because of the drought in Somalia.
Vendors sold toys and books: Gift-giving is traditional on Eid, and Farah's 9-year-old daughter removed her new doll's hijab and diligently brushed her hair as the adults talked. Political campaigns dropped off fliers. Boys and girls showed off elegant new outfits as they darted around the crowd.
"Yesterday we were at the Roseville mall, and it was like the day before Christmas — everyone was running around trying to get their Eid outfit together," Salma Hussein said .
Her 4-year-old daughter Suhayr Al-Said looked like a princess in her sparkly new blue dress and bejeweled white hijab. Mother and daughter had decorated their arms and hands with henna, as is the custom for Eid, and Suhayr was at an age when she could start understanding the holiday.
"This is her first Eid where she's old enough," Hussein said happily.
The event — open to the public and non-Muslims — was so large that leaders held the prayer four times, quickly ushering out each group to accommodate the next.
There was suspense, too: Who would win the raffle and drive away in the donated BMW crowned with a red bow on display?
"We'll be announcing the winner in about two minutes!" said Kariye, imam of Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington.
Leaders spun a computerized wheel three times and called out the winning number. Nobody stepped forward to collect. It turned out that the man who won had been in the first round of prayers and had already departed. Somebody left him a voicemail.
Nadir Hussein walked up to the men standing near the car, playfully lamenting that he hadn't won. "My third round I lost," the Blaine resident said, holding his baby niece. This was his first Super Eid, and celebrating with this many people, he said, "was so beautiful."
Stadium-goers left to share feasts with their families and enjoy the rest of the day at the Mall of America, Valleyfair or an afternoon carnival outside the stadium at Commons Park with bounce houses, ice cream and obstacle courses.
"We did it!" volunteer Khalid Omar cheered as the stadium crowd thinned.
He'd been setting up there since 5 in the morning.
"We hope we can continue doing Super Eid every year going forward," Kariye said. "I think everyone likes coming out; it's a different experience, and it creates great memories. And nothing beats this beautiful Vikings stadium, you know?"