A guide to understanding the 2 Hari Raya festivals in Singapore

Tomorrow, Muslims around the world will be gathering to celebrate Hari Raya Haji. If you’re wondering how that is any different from Hari Raya Puasa, then you’ve come to the right place.

Here is a quick guide to help you better understand the two major Islamic festivals celebrated by Muslims in Singapore.

Background
Hari Raya Puasa
On the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, also known as Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, drink and tobacco from sunrise to sunset. After 30 days of contemplation and prayer, Muslims celebrate Hari Raya Puasa (Eid al-Fitr) to mark the end of the holy fasting month.

Hari Raya Haji
On the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, also known as Dhu al Hijja, over 2 to 3 million Muslims embark on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Hari Raya Haji (Eid al-Adha), which falls on the 10th day of Dhu al Hijja celebrates the end of the Hajj. At the same time, Muslims also commemorate the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, Ismail in an act of obedience to God. For this reason, Hari Raya Haji is also known as the Great Day of Sacrifice.

According to the Quran, Ibrahim told his son that he had received visions to offer him as sacrifice to God, to which Ismail bravely asked his father to do so. Right before the moment of sacrifice, Ibrahim was stopped, and a goat was sacrificed in Ismail’s place.

What happens during these festivals?

Joyous celebrations
Hari Raya Puasa is a joyous time of family reunions and feasting. Some families even prepare months ahead by redecorating their homes and shopping for goodies. Colour coordinated outfits are a must because WE ARE FAMILY!

The day typically starts with morning prayers and sermons before families gather at friends and relatives’ homes. It is a month where all concerns for the waistline are temporarily shelved and people open their home to feed all who come with generous servings of beef rendang, ayam merah, lontong and more!

Festival of sacrifice
On the other hand, Hari Raya Haji takes on a more spiritual nature as it marks the end of the Hajj. While social engagements are deemphasised, the holiness of the festival is elevated through elaborate rituals such as the Qurban.

Qurban, which means sacrifice in Arabic is a ritual where something valuable is offered to become closer to the divine. In this case, livestock such as cows, sheep and goats are humanely sacrificed upon reciting a prayer at a mosque.

As there is not always enough livestock for the local Muslim community, many hire companies to help them perform Qurban rites in other countries such as Indonesia, Cambodia and Somalia. The meat will then be distributed to the needy Muslims there.

While Qurban is not compulsory, Muslims who can afford it are encouraged to do so. Some Muslims who offer sacrifice follow the practice of not cutting their hair or nails on the first ten days of Dhu al Hijja to follow the pilgrims on the Hajj.

Fasting on the eve of the festival may take place although it is not compulsory. On the day itself, people who have paid for a Qurban ritual will proceed to their designated mosque to collect their meat. A third of the portion is usually kept for themselves, the other third will be shared with friends and/or relatives with the rest being distributed to the needy.

Taking several notches down from Hari Raya Puasa, Hari Raya Haji celebrations take place over four days instead of a full month. Families will prepare lesser dishes, usually with the Qurban meats. Meals will be just as scrumptious with flavourful pots of mutton curry, lamb stew and roasted lamb.

How should I wish my Muslim friends?

Eid Mubarak, which means ‘Have a blessed Eid’ is appropriate for both Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji. And if you’d like to be a bit more creative, you can download this image we have created especially for you to send to your Muslim friends!

On this beautiful eve of Hari Raya Haji, we would like to wish all our Muslim friends Eid Mubarak. May you and your family be blessed with joy, peace, happiness and prosperity!

References:
Qurban or korban (sacrifice)
Hari Raya Haji | Infopedia
Hari Raya Puasa | Infopedia
What is Hajj and Umrah | Hajj Facts – Islamic Help
S’porean Muslims take sacrificial ritual overseas, Singapore News – AsiaOne

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