Hari Raya Haji is upon us and to the majority of Singaporeans, it spells a public holiday and a long weekend.
But for the Muslim community, it is the second biggest festival of Islam and is known by many names including Eid-Al-Adha and the Festival of Sacrifice.
It honors the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his only son, Ismail, as an act of obedience to God’s command.
However, God intervened before the sacrifice was made, and replaced Ismail with a ram, thus sparing Ibrahim’s son’s life.
But with its own unique story, Hari Raya Haji is very different from Hari Raya Puasa, which culminates a month of fasting among Muslims.
Here are 7 things you need to know about Hari Raya Haji:
1. It’s pegged to Dhu al-Hijjah
Hari Raya Haji is celebrated on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of the Muslim calendar, and marks the end of the pilgrimage or Hajj which Muslims make to the holy city of Mecca.
It’s never fixed on a specific date because the Muslim calendar and the Gregorian calendar differ by about 11 days and both calendars are not synced.
So in a nutshell, the festival gets celebrated about 11 days earlier than the preceding year, every year.
2. It marks the end of the holy pilgrimage to Mecca
Hari Raya Haji marks the end of Hajj, a holy pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are expected to make at least once in their lifetime.
The festival also serves as a reminder of the sacrifice that the Prophet Ibrahim was willing to make.
3. It’s a short celebration
Hari Raya Haji is a simpler celebration than Hari Raya Puasa, and lasts only four days at most.
4. Fasting is only for a day – and it’s optional
Fasting in Islam refers to abstaining from eating and drinking from dawn to sunset. Muslims are also expected to stay away from smoking or indulging in any form of behavior that might nullify the fast.
Before Hari Raya Haji, Muslims only have to fast for one day on the eve of the festival. Although recommended, this day of fasting remains optional.
5. You don’t need to give out green packets
This is a relatively new tradition for Hari Raya Puasa but isn’t practised during Hari Raya Haji.
It probably stemmed from the “hong baos” given by the Chinese during Chinese New Year and many Muslim children look forward to receiving green money packets from relatives during their house visits in the Hari Raya Puasa celebrations.
6. The korban
Prayers are followed by celebration and feasting during Hari Raya Puasa, but during Hari Raya Haji, it is followed by korban.
Korban refers to the slaughtering of livestock such as sheep, goats, lambs and cows, in a “halal” way. This is done in honor of the sacrifice that the Prophet Ibrahim made.
The “halal” way of slaughtering an animal requires several conditions to be fulfilled: the butcher must be Muslim, the name of God must be called when the animal is being slaughtered, and the cut has to be a swift motion done in a particular way.
7. It’s not so much about feasting
Hari Raya Puasa is known to many as a period of feasting, so one can expect lots and lots of food.
But for Hari Raya Haji, it isn’t so much about eating.
While Muslim families keep a portion of the meat from the livestock that’s been slaughtered, the rest of it is donated to the needy.