Hari Raya Puasa

The festival of Eid, known in Singapore as Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Hari Raya Puasa, falls on the first day of Syawal, the 10th month of the Hijrah (Islamic) calendar. It is a celebratory occasion following a month of fasting, which is known as Ramadan. Hari Raya is Malay for "grand day of rejoicing". In Singapore, it is the most prominent of all Muslim festivals.

Date Of Hari Raya Puasa
According to the Hijrah calendar, Hari Raya Puasa falls on the first day of the 10th month of Syawal. The Hijrah calendar is a lunar calendar and therefore the dates on which Hari Raya Puasa falls varies each year.

Hari Raya Puasa should not be mistaken for the first day of the Islamic New Year.

The Fasting Month Of Ramadan
Ramadan falls on the 9th month of the Islamic year. Puasa is Malay for "fasting". Fasting in Islam means abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking and indulging in any form of behaviour that serves to nullify the fast. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and perform religious duties, such as reading the Quran.

All Muslims are required to fast, with the exception of children who have not reached puberty, feeble elderly, the sick whose health is likely to be severely affected by fasting, expectant mothers and women nursing their children. Women who are menstruating can take a maximum of 10 days off. However, they must make up for each day taken off at another time. Travellers are also permitted to eat during the period of fasting provided they make up for the lost days later on. Fast is broken after sunset when it is time for the evening meal, which is known as Iftar.

The breaking of fast can be performed individually or as a group. When breaking fast communally, individuals can take turns to undertake the necessary preparations for the majlis berbuka puasa (gathering for the breaking of fast). In Geylang and Jalan Bussorah (behind Masjid Sultan), streets are brightly lit with all sorts of Malay culinary specialties that go on sale for the breaking of fast.

It is desirable that, during the nights of Ramadan, Muslims perform tarawih prayers in addition to their daily prayers. Tarawih prayers are performed only during Ramadan and are conducted after the Isyak (night) prayers, the last of five obligatory prayers of the day for Muslims. While tarawih prayers may be conducted alone at home, Muslims are encouraged to join the congregation at the mosques or temporary prayer halls at the void decks of housing flats.

During Ramadan, every Muslim is obliged to give to the poor the zakat fitrah (religious tithe). The tithes are usually paid according to amounts stipulated by the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS). Many Muslims also choose this time to pay an obligatory yearly amount of 2.5% of their annual savings. Zakat literally means purification and growth. In Islamic law, the zakat prescribes 2.5% of property or 1/40th of income to be distributed to the poor and needy. By the eve of Hari Raya Puasa, Muslims would have paid their zakat at authorised collection centres, mostly in mosques around Singapore.

The Festival of Hari Raya Puasa or Aidilfitri

Hari Raya Puasa marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. 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.

The first day after Ramadan is a busy one. A visit is made to the mosque and the recitation of special prayers is a practice that Muslims observe on the morning of Hari Raya Puasa to celebrate the end of the month-long fast. Other practices include asking forgiveness from elders and visiting relatives and friends. Visitations usually begin with the parents' home as the first destination. It is a custom among many Muslims to ask forgiveness from their parents for the wrongs they have committed in the past year. Although it is not required for Muslims to visit the cemetery during Hari Raya, many do so as a remembrance of those who have left them.

Hari Raya Puasa is a public holiday in Singapore. On this day Muslims in Singapore have a lavish spread of food on their dining table. They would have specialties 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.

In the past, homes were lit with lampu colok, a small kerosene lamp that was usually homemade. The trend now is to use decorative, flickering lights.

Hari Raya Puasa 1996-1998
From 1996 to 1998, Hari Raya Puasa and Chinese New Year fell on the same week. There was a double celebration of the festivals within the Chinese and Muslim communities. The term 'Gongsi Raya' is a creolised term originating from Malaysia and accepted in Singapore to commemorate the two festivals. Gongsi Raya, or 'Kongsi Raya', became a derivative of this "shared celebration". The occasion brought about a shared experience of respect for ethnic diversity and tolerance of cultural difference. Both Muslims and the Chinese kept their homes open to visitations from friends and relatives, bringing closer ties.

Hari Raya Puasa 2004-2005
In 2004, Deepavali fell on November 11, just three days before Hari Raya. In 2005, Deepavali and Hari Raya Puasa fell on 1st and 3rd November respectively. This led to the coining of the term 'Deepa Raya' that was used both in Singapore and Malaysia.

Mazelan Anuar & Heirwin Mohd Nasir

A day for prayers and forgiveness. (1992, April 4). The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 Sep, 2009, from Factiva database.

A Pillar of Islam. (1999, January 7). The Straits Times, Life!, Home, p. 52.

Countdown to Deepa-Raya. (2005, October 31). The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 Sep, 2009, from Factiva database.

Fast facts for Ramadan. (2005, October 12). The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 Sep, 2009, from Factiva database.

Festival of Eid following fasting of Ramadan. (1995, August 28). The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 Sep, 2009, from Factiva database.

Food for the soul. (1986). Goodwood Journal, 2nd Qtr., 11-15.

Hari Raya celebrations- Thousands throng Sultan Mosque. (1995, August 28). The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 Sep, 2009, from Factiva database.

Hari Raya Puasa. (1983). The Singapore Heritage, 1.

Ida Bachtiar. (1991, April 8). Doing God's will. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 Sep, 2009, from Factiva database.

Leong, G. (1992). Festivals of Malaysia (pp. 35-45). Petaling Jaya: Pelanduk Publications.
(Call no.: R q394.269595 LEO)

Noor Aini Syed Amir. (1991). Malaysian custom and etiquette (p. 37). Singapore: Times Books International. 
(Call no.: RSING 395.09595)

Reme Ahmad. (2004, October 28). Happy Deepa Raya. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 Sep, 2009, from Factiva database.

Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1994). Muslims in Singapore: A shared vision (pp. 35-41). Singapore: Times Editions for Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura.
(Call no.: RSING 305.697105957ZUR)

Further Readings
Abdul Jalal Ajmain. (1960). Adat2 Melayu [Malay customs] (p. 81). Singapore: Educational Book Centre.
(Call no.: RCLOS 390.09595 ABD)

Kerven, R. (1997). IId-ul-Fitr (p. 7). Texas: Raintree Steck Vaughn.
(Call no.: J 297 KER)

Twice the celebration. (1996, February 20). The New Straits Times, p. 10.

The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Philosophy, psychology and religion>>Religion>>Islam
Islamic New Year
People and communities>>Customs>>Festivities
Ethnic festivals
Ethnic Communities>>Festivals and Celebrations

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