When non-Malays think Hari Raya, it immediately conjures images of mega pasar malams, home-cooked beef rendang and Malay families donning on new clothes in vibrant colours. Then after all the buzz and fanfare of the ‘first Hari Raya’ another quieter ‘second Hari Raya’ takes place. The first is actually Hari Raya Puasa and the second one is Hari Raya Haji and in fact, they are two completely different Islamic holidays.
Hari Raya literally means Great Day of Rejoicing and refers to a day of celebration so it can mark any festive occasion. The keyword that sheds light on the holiday is the word after Hari Raya.
Puasa means fasting in Malay and it marks the end of the month-long fasting period. Hari Raya Puasa is also a time for forgiveness. Muslims visit their parents and elders to ask for forgiveness and some visit the cemetery to pay respects to departed family members. Hari Raya Puasa marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. It is also a time for strengthening of bonds among relatives and friends.
Haji, on the other hand, celebrates the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca. A more sombre day with stronger religious significance, one of the festival’s key activity, animal sacrifice (Korban ritual), commemorates Ibrahim’s (an Islamic Prophet) obedience to Allah and his willingness to sacrifice his son for Allah. However, animal sacrifice happens within mosques and religious schools and therefore the festival bears a lower profile.
Timing and Duration
Puasa happens just 1 Day after Ramadan (9th month of the Islamic Calendar) to celebrate its end. It falls on the 1st Day of Syawal (10th month of the Islamic Calendar) and happened on 15th June for 2018. Hari Raya Puasa is celebrated for up to a month. But for practical reasons, most families celebrate over the weekends.
Haji takes place 70 days after Ramadan and falls on the 10th Day of Zulhijjah (12th month of the Islamic Calendar). In 2018, Hari Raya Haji is taking place on 22nd August 2018. Hari Raya Haji, on the other hand, is celebrated for up to 4 days.
For Hari Raya Puasa, fasting happens 30 days before the celebration and is compulsory for all except children and the elderly. The day begins with morning sermons and prayer at the mosque. In new traditional clothing, Muslims then visit their families and enjoy huge home-cooked feasts. Also during this period, pasar malams are buzzing in the heartlands with the largest and most popular one happening in Geylang Serai.
Hari Raya Haji also begins with morning sermons and prayers at the mosque. It is then followed by the Korban ritual where livestock like sheep, goats and cows are humanely killed at mosques and religious schools. Traditionally, one-third of the meat goes to the person who sacrifices the animal, a third goes to families and friends and a final third for the need. In Singapore, most of the meat is usually distributed to the needy.
GIF Credit: MunahHirziOfficial
Knowing a little goes a long way. With a basic understanding between Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji, you now know at least what to expect at each season and no longer have to see your Muslim friend roll his eyes to questions like “Why got two Hari Rayas huh?”.