What Hari Raya Aidilfitri Is All About

Image source: The Star online

Image source: The Star online

Ever wondered how Hari Raya Aidilfitri is celebrated in Malaysia? A writer shed some information on what this festival is all about on his article here; or you may read the extracted copy below:

 

“The biggest celebration in Malaysia, Hari Raya Aidilfitri is almost upon us again!

What’s it like during Hari Raya? For those of us who aren’t Muslims (like me), we see and hear fireworks in the night sky. We taste and smell the wonderful dishes served at open houses. And while we enjoy driving the empty streets of Kuala Lumpur, we feel happy seeing people reunite with their families at kampung.

Ask a little deeper into what Aidilfitri means though, and I’ll bet many of us don’t know very much.

So, in the spirit of interfaith harmony, I decided to do some research and find out more. The below are my findings, in the form of a quick guide – which hopefully can educate everyone a little more about this wonderful celebration.

Now, being a non-Muslim myself, I can’t claim that the below is fully accurate. Rather, it’s a collection of personal experience, what I’ve learned from living in multireligious Malaysia over the years, and research on the Internet.

So, please comment below if I’m wrong on anything, or if you’d just like to invite me to your open house.

 

What does “Aidilfitri” mean?

Aidilfitri comes from the Arabic word “Eid al-Fitr”. It means “festival of breaking the fast”. Also known as “feast of breaking the fast”, “sugar feast”, “sweet festival” or the “lesser Eid”. It is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations.

The other one is “Eid al-Adha”, also known as Hari Raya Haji or Hari Raya Aidiladha in Malaysia.

 

How is it different from “Hari Raya Haji”?

Aidilfitri is celebrated to signify the ending of the holy month of fasting, Ramadan.

On the other hand, Aidiladha is celebrated in honor of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael as commanded by God. Abraham was fully prepared to go through the sacrifice, but God intervened at the last moment – preparing a young lamb to be sacrificed instead. As such, this festival is often known as Hari Raya Korban.

 

What is “Ramadan” and “Syawal”?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and the month in which the Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad. Muslims all over the world perform fasting during this holy month.

Syawal (Shawwal in Arabic) is the tenth month. Aidilfitri falls on the first day of Syawal.

 

What is the purpose of fasting?

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, which are basic mandatory acts for all Muslims.

Fasting is not just abstinence from food, drink and sexual activity from dawn to sundown. It’s about self-control, increasing one’s piety, and seeking nearness to God. Hence, things like smoking, thinking lustful thoughts and losing one’s temper should also be avoided.

Fasting also helps people empathize with less fortunate members of society who do not always have food to eat.

 

How do Muslims celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri?

In Malaysia, most people “balik kampung” (return to hometown) to gather with their relatives prior to Hari Raya.

Traditional dishes like ketupat, rendang (my favourite), and lemang are prepared the day before. Houses are also prepared and decorated for celebrations.

On the first day of Aidilfitri, everyone dresses up in new, traditional clothes. After asking for forgiveness from parents and family members, they head to the mosque for prayers. This is often followed by visiting graves of loved ones who have passed on.

Finally, everyone then proceeds to visit friends and extended family. It’s a wonderful time of reconciliation and strengthening personal ties.

 

What’s unique about Hari Raya in Malaysia?

Without doubt, it’s the tradition of open houses, where people of various religions and races gather. To wish each other well and eat together. Just beautiful.

Please, let’s never move away from this tradition.

 

How can I wish my Muslim friends the best for Hari Raya?

“Selamat Hari Raya. Maaf zahir dan batin (Forgive me for any physical and spiritual wrongs)”.

“Selamat Idul Fitri” for Indonesians.

“Eid Mubarak” is the most common greeting in the rest of the world.

If you’re going for an open house, remember to dress conservatively in respect. Shaking hands with members of the same sex is encouraged. For members of the opposite sex, wait to see if he/she initiates. A smile, a nod and a small gift are always welcome.

Tapau-ing (taking away) open house food is embarrassing. Don’t do it! Although you’ll be sure to get some laughs if you say “your food is so good I want to take some away :) ”

 

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eid_al-Fitr

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eid_al-Adha

http://islam.about.com/od/ramadan/f/eid_fitr.htm

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/ramadan1.html

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/eid-ul-fitr/eventcoverage/15545091.cms

http://itc.gov.my/tourists/discover-the-muslim-friendly-malaysia/ramadan-eid-ul-fitr-in-malaysia/

 

We at The School would like to wish all Muslims “Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir dan Batin!” To everyone else, Happy Holidays and drive safely!

The School at Jaya One