Hari Raya Haji in Penang

Hari Raya Aidil Adha is a religious festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide to mark the time when one of its prophets, Nabi Ibrahim, was tested for his overall patience and unquestioning faith in Allah. Also known as Hari Raya Haji, the festival commemorates the period of time when Mecca is open to pilgrims performing their Haj annually. This year, 2015, Hari Raya Haji is celebrated on 24 September and it is the second most important Muslim celebration in Malaysia. In the Muslim calendar, it is celebrated during the month of Zulhijjah.

Its History
As was translated and relayed from the Quran, during the time of Nabi Ibrahim, Allah decreed a test of his patience, love and unwavering faith in the religion and to Allah itself. In this test, Nabi Ibrahim was to sacrifice his only son, Ismail who later became a prophet himself. According to the Quran, Ibrahim was about to carry out the sacrifice unquestioningly when Allah intercepted, sure of Ibrahim’s faith and patience, and replaced his son with a four-legged animal instead.

Till today, throughout history, during this festival, the sacrifice of cows or goats is carried out during Hari Raya Haji to symbolise and in remembrance of Nabi Ibrahim’s unshakeable belief in Allah’s greatness and the great sacrifice he was ready to perform due to it. To this day, Nabi Ibrahim is remembered as one of the five cardinal prophets of Islam and his exemplary behaviour.

Its Rituals
Like all Muslim festivals, the day will begin with a prayer at mosques where Muslims congregate to mark the day. The main and most marked ritual of Hari Raya Haji is the korban or the sacrifice of cows and, at some countries, goats to symbolise the test Nabi Ibrahim went through all those centuries ago.

Done on the premises of mosques, the sacrifice is done accompanied by prayers and part of the meat is then cooked for the consumption of the village or community. A big portion of the fresh meat is given away to the needy, making the ritual a mainly charitable deed. The meat is considered berkat or (loosely translated) blessed and its consumption by Muslims is encouraged.

Unlike Hari Raya Aidil Fitri also known as Hari Raya Puasa that celebrates the end of Ramadan and is therefore more festive and food-centric, Hari Raya Haji is a more sombre, contemplative and religious festival. Donning new clothes, however, is not an uncommon practise during this time and this ritual certainly lends a festive air to the day.

Image credit: Leonard Selva