A Wish to all my Muslim Readers and Friends

Posted by M ws On Tuesday, August 30, 2011 0 comments
At this point of time, my Muslim friends and blog readers all over the world must be busy either heading home or are at home finalizing the preparations for Hari Raya Puasa. Despite being a non-Muslim, I believe that this festival has deep significance and is a very meaningful one to Muslims.

Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the Malay term for the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Fitr. Hari Raya is also known as Lebaran. This festival is celebrated by Muslims in Malaysia and other Muslims throughout the world. If we were to look at the term, "Hari Raya" literally means "Day of Celebration". Usually, the main greeting used in Malaysia when greeting each other is "Selamat Hari Raya" which means "Happy Eid" in Malay.

For the benefit of foreign readers, here's some information to help you to better understand HariRaya. The month leading up to Hari Raya is known as Ramadhan and during this time, Muslims must to fast from dawn to dusk. All Muslims except those who are young, old or the infirm must fast. Muslims must also abstain from pleasures such as smoking cigarettes and intimate activities during the daylight of the fasting month.

Hari Raya Aidil Fitri is actually a joyous occasion for Muslims as it signifies the personal triumph of the believer and the a victory of self-restraint and abstinence from food for a month. Symbolically, it symbolises purification and the renewal. It is not easy to fast - honestly. I have the greatest respect for Muslims because of the willpower, commitment and discipline to fast ffrom dawn to dusk for one whole month. Fasting is definitely a very good practice and is encouraged in Christianity and other religions as well. When fasting, one concentrates on God and attention is diverted from worldly things. I am very sure that after the fasting period, my Muslim friends are definitely renewed in their minds and bodies and for sure, the celebration is a joyous one.

For my country Malaysia, the period of fasting ends when the new moon is sighted on the evening of the last day of Ramadhan which could be today as indicated by the lunar calendar. The actual sighting is conducted by state appointed religious officials at various vantage points (usually at hilltops) throughout the country. Once the crescent is sighted, there is an official announcement made over the air in the evening to declare the following day as the first day of Aidil Fitri - the beginning of the 10th month of the Muslim calendar Syawal.

Even though Aidilfitri is celebrated for the whole month of Syawal, in Malaysia, only the first two days are observed as public holidays. This year, regardless of whether it falls or Sunday or Monday, Malaysians enjoy Monday and Tuesday off. Public schools are closed for ten days and many Muslims take the first week off from work to make their annual pilgrimage to their hometowns in a journey popularly called balik kampung (which means return to the village) to be with parents, relatives and old friends. Places like Kuala Lumpur will be relatively quiet during the festive season of Aidil Fitri.

On the morning of the first day Hari Raya, Muslims congregate at mosques for morning prayers. decked out in their traditional best to mark the special occasion after which they will enjoy breakfast at home with the family, followed by a visit to the cemetery where deceased loved ones are remembered; graves are cleaned and cleared of overgrowth, and prayers are offered to Allah.

Children and old folks are given duit raya or gifts of money, in small green packets. (Chinese do the same during Chinese New Year except these are given in red packets). Usually, the first three days are busier as many Muslims including Ministers and political parties, hold 'open house' throughout the month, where friends and neighbours of other races are invited to join in the celebrations. During such occasions, an array of Malay delicacies such as rendang (a dry beef curry which is cooked over a slow fire for many hours) and ketupat (picture above), serunding, traditional dishes and cookies are served. Visiting each other regardless of colour or creed is a Malaysian practice that certainly binds us together as Malaysians.

Personally, I believe that Hari Raya Puasa, as well as the other festivals of other Malaysians, is a very beautiful and meaningful festival because it is a time of reflection, a time of forgiveness and reconciliation, a time to reunite and to strengthen not only family ties but also to forgive and forget past quarrels with friends and loved ones. Muslims greet each other with "Maaf Zahir Batin" which means "I seek forgiveness (from you) physically and spiritually". It is an act to ask for pardon which is done in order of seniority. The younger members of a family approach their elders (parents, grandparents etc) to seek forgiveness, to salam (Muslim equivalent of a handshake), then kiss the hands of the older person as a sign of respect, truly a very beautiful act indeed.

I would like to wish all my Muslim friends, blogger friends, blog readers/visitors and relatives "Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri". May you all have safe journeys to and fro wherever you may go and may you be blessed with meaningful moments with your loved ones.

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