20 July marks Hari Raya Haji in the year 2021. In Singapore, we celebrate Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji as public holidays. What are these celebrations about? Are they one and the same or do they commemorate different things?
Photo by Muktasim Azlan on Unsplash
What is Hari Raya Haji about?
Known as Hari Raya Korban (sacrifice), the festival involves prayer and the humane sacrifice of livestock to commemorate the sacrifice of the prophet Abraham. The meat is then donated to the needy.
It also marks the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Islam’s most sacred mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
It is a day of both giving and receiving forgiveness, as well as a reminder of those in need in the community.
Photo by Adli Wahid on Unsplash
What is the significance of the Hajj?
The Hajj is just 1 of the 5 pillars of Islam. The other pillars include:
Sawn, or fast.
Salat, or prayer.
Zakat, or alms.
Shahada, or the profession of faith that Allah is the only God.
Muslims who are physically and financially able to are encouraged to go on the Hajj at least once in their lives. It involves various rituals, such as circling the Ka’abah (a building in the middle of the mosque) 7 times. The Ka’abah is also where Muslims face for prayers, wherever they may be in the world.
What are some similarities shared between Hari Raya Haji and Hari Raya Puasa?
Many of us are familiar with the idea of fasting during the month of Ramadan leading up to Hari Raya Puasa. Although it is not compulsory, Muslims may choose to fast on the eve of Hari Raya Haji, too.
On the morning of both Hari Raya Haji and Hari Raya Puasa, Muslims typically make their way to the mosque for sermons and prayers.
Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash
What is the difference between Hari Raya Haji and Hari Raya Puasa?
While Hari Raya Haji (Aidiladha) marks the end of the Hajj, Hari Raya Puasa (Aidilfitri) marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Since Hari Raya Haji has a more spiritual focus, it places less importance on feasting as a main part of the celebrations like Hari Raya Puasa. However, one can still expect to see tables lined with traditional food in Muslim homes on Hari Raya Haji.
Hari Raya Haji is also known as Hari Raya Korban (sacrifice). Muslims pray and sacrifice livestock, usually sheep, humanely to commemorate the sacrifices made by the prophet Abraham. The meat is then donated to the needy. On Hari Raya Haji, the korban is carried out after morning prayers. Then, Muslims visit family and friends to share food and gifts.
Hari Raya Haji Amid Covid-19
In view of the endemic, the way Hari Raya Haji is celebrated has changed. The yearly Hajj has been deferred for the second time in a row to 2022, and gathering in large groups with loved ones is not allowed so as to curb the spread of the virus.
Pre-Covid-19, the korban ritual had been performed in various mosques, including those in Singapore. This year, however, the ritual will be performed in Australia yet again after last year, and the sheep’s meat will be packaged and shipped to Singapore. This is organised by various mosques in Singapore. A portion of the meat will also be distributed to the Zakat beneficiaries of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, Muis.
A common misconception about Hari Raya Puasa is that it’s the Muslim New Year. Hari Raya traditionally falls on the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar. It varies each year because it’s dependent on the lunar calendar.
Photo by Raveen Wijetilleke on Unsplash
Selamat Hari Raya Haji!
Wishing all our Muslim friends a blessed celebration with loved ones, abundant with kindness, forgiveness and solidarity. At the same time, we hope that non-Muslim members of our community take some time this holiday to extend their well wishes to our Muslim friends and to understand the significance of Malay and Muslim customs and festivals!