Hari Raya Puasa is the most prominent of all Muslim festivals in Singapore and Malaysia. Hari Raya is Malay for "Grand day of rejoicing". It is also known in Arabic as Edil Fitri. Edil Fitri or Hari Raya Puasa is a celebratory occasion following a month of fasting. The month of fasting is known as Ramadhan.
Date Of Hari Raya Puasa
According to the Muslim calendar, Hari Raya Puasa falls on the first month of the Muslim month of Shawal. Shawal is the 10th month in the Muslim calendar. The Muslims follow the lunar calendar as opposed to the solar calendar and therefore the dates on which Hari Raya Puasa falls varies each year. Hari Raya Puasa therefore should not be mistaken for the first day of the Malay or Muslim New Year.
The Fasting Month Of Ramadhan
Ramadhan falls on the 9th month of the Muslim year. Puasa is Malay for "fasting", which commences at 5:30 am and ends at 7:00 pm. The month of Ramadhan is spent in fasting, prayer and the internal cleansing of the soul. The duration of fasting in a day lasts from dawn to dusk. It is also a time where Muslims abstain from sensual and worldly pleasures. During Ramadhan most Muslims read the Quran (Muslim holy book). Muslims learn to appreciate the finer aspects of life and incline towards giving to the less fortunate.
Fasting is expected of all adults with the exception of very old people, the sick and women who are expecting and breast feeding. Travellers are permitted to eat during the period of fasting provided they make up for lost days later on. Fast is broken after sunset when it is time for the evening meal known as Iftar. Fasting is broken slowly with light dishes of dates or apricots soaked in sweetened water or with a special drink made of spicy milk. This seems the method by which Prophet Mohammed broke fast. A big meal follows the break of fast when Muslims can eat and drink as they wish till the hours before dawn. Children are trained to fast by the time they are 6 years old. They fast for half a day in preparation for full fasting when they become adults. Muslim converts also train with half a day's fasting before they take on full scale fasting.
The break of fast is followed by tarawih prayers which brings family members closer. Friends take turns to exchange invitations to break fast known as majlis berbuka puasa meaning "breaking of fast" as one big happy family. In Geylang and Jalan Bussorah (behind Masjid Sultan), streets are brightly lit with all sorts of Malay culinary specialities that go on sale for the breaking of fast.
The Festival of Hari Raya Puasa or Edil Fitri
Hari Raya Puasa marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan. Prayers followed by a thanks-giving feasts are held in mosques on the morning of the occasion. It is a time of forgiveness within the Muslim community and a time for strengthening of bonds amongst relatives and friends. New clothes, decorated houses and exchange of invitations between friends and relatives commemorate Hari Raya Puasa. Children salam (greet) their parents on the morning of Hari Raya Puasa and ask for forgiveness and blessings.
Of importance are the two out of the five tennets of Islam that mark Hari Raya Puasa. Fasting encapsulates the third pillar and Zakat Fitrah, or "tithing", encapsulates the fourth pillar of Islam. Zakat in Islamic law prescribes 2% of property or 1/40th of income be distributed to the poor. By the eve of Hari Raya Puasa most Muslims would have paid their taxes by distributing money to the needy and less fortunate.
The asking of pardon amongst family members signifies the renewal of old ties. Government and commercial buildings are brightly lit whilst oil lamps light up Muslim homes.
The celebration of the festival extends to a month where importance is placed on the first three days. During the three days Muslim homes have an "open house" policy where friends and relatives visit. It is also customary during this period that graves of departed souls are visited and they are remembered in prayers. Seven days prior to Hari Raya Puasa a small oil lamp is lit in front of every Muslim home. Each day an additional lamp is added and finally by the seventh day there are seven lamps lit in a complete row. These lamps are meant to welcome the souls of the departed who are supposed to be visiting their families in the night. This ceremony is known as Malam Tujoh Likur , meaning "all soul's night".
On Hari Raya Puasa the Malays in Singapore have a lavish spread of all sorts of food over their dinning table. They would have specialities such as beef rendang (a spicy dish of beef that is like a dry curry), ketupat (rice cake wrapped in coconut leaf) and lontong (rice cake immersed in coconut gravy). Along with these would be cookies cakes and pineapple tarts. Amongst the Indian Muslims such as the Pakistanis, Khojas and Dawoodi Bohras the dinning tables would be laden with spreads of curries, biryani (savoury rice cooked with meat or chicken ) and dates cooked in milk.
The Malays would greet each other with Selamat Hari Raya, which means "happy day of joy" and the Indian Muslims would say Eid Mubarak, meaning "blessings of the holy day". Hari Raya Puasa is a public holiday in Singapore and Malaysia.