Hari Raya Haji: Celebrations in Singapore

What is Eid ul-Adha, or more commonly known as Hari Raya Haji in the region?

Hari Raya Haji is one of the most important celebrations in the Muslim calendar (even more important than Hari Raya Puasa!). Hari Raya Haji marks the completion of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, with the ritual sacrifice of an animal (usually a sheep, or a cow), following Eid prayers.

The celebration commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s devotion to send trust in God, and his acceptance and willingness to sacrifice his son when God commanded him to. Although Prophet Ibrahim was heartbroken to lose his son, Ismail, he placed his trust in God and believed that God’s commandments were paramount. At the moment of sacrifice, however, with Prophet Ibrahim having passed the enormous test that God had put in place for him, God replaced Ismail with a ram, which was then to be slaughtered in place of Ismail. Thus began the ritual of ritual sacrifice, to commemorate this ultimate sacrifice that Prophet Ibrahim had been willing to perform for God.

What is the Hajj?

It must be noted that the ritual sacrifice is not the only aspect of the Hajj and of Hari Raya Haji. The Hajj consists of several rituals, to be completed by Hajj pilgrims in Mecca. These pilgrims converge in Mecca from all over the world.

The Hajj is a fardh, or a religious requirement for Muslims, being the last of the Five Pillars of Islam. However, this requirement only applies to Muslims who are physically and financially capable of going for the Hajj. Furthermore, going on the Hajj requires a Hajj visa, issued by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). KSA issues only a certain number of visas to each country every year. In Singapore, the number of applicants far outstrips the number of issued visas, which makes going for the Hajj even more special to Singaporean Muslims.

Hajj rituals include performing the tawaf (walking counter-clockwise around the Kaaba, which is a cube-shaped building in Mecca and in which direction Muslims pray to every day), spending a day on the plains of Mount Arafat, and performing the symbolic Stoning of the Devil, amongst others.

The ritual sacrifice of a sheep, or a cow, however, can be performed by any Muslim around the world, even if they are not a pilgrim in Mecca. You can pay to have an animal sacrificed anywhere in the world, and also in Singapore, too. You do not have to slaughter the animal personally (and in fact, Singapore does not allow you to, unless you are a trained slaughterer).

One of the requirements, following the slaughter, is that a portion of the animal that you slaughtered must be donated to the needy. In affluent Singapore, many people choose to donate the entire animal to the needy. Not all mosques carry out the ritual sacrifice in Singapore, but for the mosques that do, you will be able to see lines of people queueing for the meat at these mosques, following the Eid prayers in the morning. However, due to Covid, the ritual sacrifice is still not being performed in Singapore at the moment.

When is Hari Raya Haji celebrated?

Eid up-Adha, or Hari Raya Haji, is celebrated on the 10th of the month of Dzulhijjah in the Islamic calendar. In Singapore, this falls on 10 July 2022. However, other countries may celebrate it on 9 July instead, including Saudi Arabia.

The difference in celebration dates is due to the different methods employed by the different countries, in order to determine the start and end of the different calendar months (since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar), which can include moon-sighting, and/or astronomical calculations. Singapore uses a certain set of astronomical calculations, and according to those calculations, we celebrate on 10 July this year.

We hope this has helped you learn more about Muslim culture and tradition!

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