This religious festive celebrated by Muslims, Hari Raya Haji in Malay, also known as Aidiladha, or the Great day of Hajj. Also known as the Great day of Sacrifice, this Holy Muslim festival falls on the 10th of Zilhajj. Zilhajj or Zilhajjah is the 12th month of the Islamic Calendar, which marks the end of the year and the end of Hajj – Muslim’s annual Pilgrimage to Makkah- the holy city in Saudi Arabia where every year, Muslims from all over the world come to perform Hajj. Hajj is the memorial of Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail in the name of Allah as an act of obedience to Him.
Hence, one of the main rituals of the festival is the sacrifice, also known as the Korban. This involves slaughtering of livestock. This marks one of the two main Muslims festivals celebrated in Singapore. These also mark the public holidays. While this is known as Hari Raya Haji, the other festival is known as Hari Raya Puasa.
Hajj marks the end of the Muslim Pilgrimage, leading to an event known as Hari Raya Haji. Hajj is set obligatory for all the Muslims, men and women, those who can afford. Hajj is considered to be the 5th pillar of Islam. Hajj should be performed at least once in a lifetime during the month of Zilhajjah, the 12th month of the Islamic Calendar.
The Festival of Aidiladha commemorates the incident of Ibrahim and his son Ismail. It is said that both of them together laid the foundations of Kaaba under the Divine Guidance of Allah. Kaaba is a small room made of stone in the form of a square right in the center of the great mosque. This is considered the holiest of sites by the Muslims. The significance of Kaaba can be further identified by the fact that all the prayers are supposed to be offered in the direction of the Kaaba.
One day, Allah commanded Hazrat Ibrahim, in his dream, to sacrifice his son Ismail. The purpose of which was to test his obedience. Both Ibrahim and Ismail agree to it willingly and just as they are about to carry out God’s command, He intervened and stopped the sacrifice and instead ordered the slaughtering of a sheep instead of his son. It has been since then that the slaughtering of the livestock was made an important ritual of Hari Raya Haji, also known as Korban.
Hari Raya Haji Rites & Rituals
In Ramadan, the Muslims are required to fast for an entire month, or 30 days consecutively. This fast would last from Dawn till Dusk. However, in Hari Raya Haji festival the fast is observed for only one day. This is known as Wukuf and it is not a compulsory fast. On the festive of Hari Raya Haji, all the Muslims all across the world dress in their finest clothes and congregate in mosques, as early as 7am, where they offer their Aidiladha prayers and listen to sermons, followed by carrying out a Korban.
Considered as Sunnah muakkad, Korban is strongly recommended even though not compulsory, hence marking one of the most significant rituals of the Aidiladha festival. All the Muslims who can afford it are encouraged to perform the sacrifice. The Korban can be done individually or in a group.
The ritual of sacrifice begins by laying the animal facing to the Kaaba, uttering a prayer and smoothly cutting the jugular vein of the animal. The throat is slit in a jiffy to avoid the animals from suffering, pain and ensure instant death. This process usually takes less than a minute. The animal is let still till all the blood is out and then skinned and its meat carved. The meat is divided into three portions. One is to be distributed among the poor, the second part is for the relatives and the last one is for your own sake.
Korban, basically, means to sacrifice anything which is valuable. It is usually livestock, which includes goats, sheep, cows, etc.
The Korban is performed by the patron at their private homes or in the slaughter houses where the animal is slaughtered by the appointed butchers. However, in Singapore this ritual takes place in religious schools or mosques.
After the ritual has been done, Muslims pay social visits to parents, families and friends, and relax over a meal together. This is also a major holiday for Muslims to visit each other and give gifts to the children.
There is little explicit feasting or celebration – this is one festival that is more about spiritual needs than physical ones.
The popular Mosques in Singapore
Muslims all over Singapore in all of the 68 mosques to offer their Aidiladha prayers. Some of the popular mosques in Singapore are:
Abdul Gaffoor Mosque (Sultan Mosque)
Singapore’s most beautiful mosque, with its enormous prayer hall and the golden domes, Abdul Gaffoor Mosque Singapore has a dome base made of glass bottles. These bottles were donated by the worshippers during the establishment of the mosque.
Hajjah Fatimah Mosque
This mosque boasts an unusual tower – distinctive not because of its European design but because it leans about six degrees off centre.
Jamae Chulia Mosque
Prominent for its heterogeneous construction – the mosque vaunts a South Indian ingress, tiles that are Chinese and Tuscan pillars. Visitors inevitably venerate this house of worship’s convoluted citadel disguise, with its cross-shaped windows and minuscule doors.
Calculation of the Date
The date is not fixed for Hari Raya Haji, since the days may vary based on the varying astronomical calculations. These calculations further rely on the moon sightings and thus varies from year to year.
However, to avoid the confusion there is an Islamic Religious Council in Singapore. This Islamic Religious Council is also known as the Majlis-e-Ugama Islam Singapura or MUIS in short. This council is responsible for determining the date of the festival each year. For its significance, Hari Raya Haji is marked as a public holiday in Singapore.
Tracing for Korban livestock:
One of the chief concerns that has inundated Hari Raya Haji merriments in recent years is the transportation of the livestock required for the ritual, Korban. The batches were deferred, many times, resulting in the annulment or the adjournment of Korban.
In 1992, the importing of animals for Korban was taken over by MUIS. However, the organization handed over the duty to the mosques after announcing in June 1997 that it would no longer source for the animals needed for the ritual. Nonetheless, MUIS will continue providing guidelines regarding the Livestock import.
Performing Korban ritual overseas:
The trend of carrying out the rituals overseas has taken its toll ever since many Muslims in Singapore turned towards donating the livestock for the ritual to both non-Islamic and Islamic states as a part of their humanitarian efforts and charity. The purpose of this kind of Korban is the distribution of meat among the most needy and poor ones in those countries.
Similarly, a cattle were donated by the group of Muslims in Singapore to the residents of Banda Aceh for Korban. The only purpose of this was to help the Tsunami victims of this afflicted area that lost almost everything in the unfortunate event of December 2004. This sad incident had occurred just one month prior to Hari Raya Haji that year.