BEGINNING Sept. 20, Muslims all over the world celebrate the Eid, more popularly known in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei as Hari Raya Aidil Fitri or Hari Raya Puasa.
It is the biggest annual event for Muslims in the region, in contrast with many other places in the world which places more significance to the fest of Aidil Adha (which commemorates the Haj and the sacrificial act of Prophet Ibrahim on his son, Ismail).
The festive Aidil Fitri normally precedes with a huge temporary migratory pattern of Muslims, from big metropolitan cities to rural areas to celebrate the occasion with family members because the majority of them have their roots in the rural areas.
This annual happening is known as balik kampung , meaning going back to the hometown.
Aidil Fitri is determined by the sighting of the crescent moon at the end of the Ramadan fasting month. And, as soon as the sighting is confirmed, a nationwide announcement is made and congregations in mosques, suraus and family groups at home will chant the takbir.
This will mark the start of the Syawal month and a new season of triumph and self-cleansing of mind, body and spirit.
To forgive and start anew
Thus, you will hear Muslims greeting each other with the words, “Selamat Hari Raya, Maaaf Zahir Batin’ which, translated loosely in English means, ‘Let’s have a happy celebration. Do forgive me for all my wrong doings, in deeds and in thoughts.’
This is because Aidil Fitri is not just a celebration of liberation from a month-long abstinence from worldly desires but also a time when Muslims ask for forgiveness for wrongdoings that may have been committed against family, friends and fellow Muslims – whether intentionally or unintentionally, real or imagined – over the past year.
The day starts with family members extending their hands in salam and embracing each other, asking for forgiveness.
The family then attends the special Aidil Fitri prayer and, after that, it is common for them to visit graveyards and pray for the salvation of departed loved ones.
At home, special dishes like ketupat, dodol, lemang and rending as well as other Malay delicacies (also called kuih Raya) are served.
Ahead of the Aidil Fitri fest
Ahead of this auspicious day, shopping malls and bazaars are filled with people buying and selling clothes, accessories, food and home décor materials to add a festive cheer to their homes.
Also during Ramadan, it is not unusual to see the faithful packing mosques and suraus to attend the special night prayers of terawih, holding sessions of Quran recitals (or tadarus) and a host of religious activities.
A few days or a week before Aidilfitri, many homes are lighted with coloured bulbs and, in the villages, their compounds glow with pelita, panjut or lampu colok (forms of oil lamps).
While it is essentially a Muslim festival, the whole nation goes into celebration mode with a public holiday across the land and non-Muslims share the joy of giving and caring as much as their Muslim brothers and sisters do.
While Malaysia has a multiracial mix, it has become a customary practice for Muslims in the country to wear outfits peculiar to the Malay culture, particularly on the first day of the celebration.
Therefore, you will see the men and boys wearing baju Melayu, together with kain samping (often of songket textile) and songkoks or kopiah covering their head.
The women will wear fashionable baju kurung, baju kebaya or the more trendy fusion of the two attires, called baju kebarung. Some opt for the more conservative jubah.
Non-Muslims too enjoy the day
Non-Muslims visiting their friends who observe the ‘rumah terbuka’ practice of keeping their homes open on Hari Raya, often wear similar Malay costumes.
Their Muslim hosts, however, are not particularly fussy about the clothes worn by their guests, which could be informal or casual. More important, they appreciate their presence.
During these ‘open house’ occasions, it is common for the host or other elders in the house to give young visitors small packets of money (duit Raya); an act that is much looked forward to by children and mothers with babies.
The rest of the day is spent visiting relatives or serving visitors.
In general then, Aidil Fitri is a very joyous day for both adults and children, steeped in religious, traditional and social values.
It is spiced with rituals of showing respect to both, the old and young, remembering the poor and needy, seeking reconciliation and preserving as well as restoring harmonious relations. – Malaysian Mirror