Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Selamat Hari Raya Haji ...

Hari Raya Haji, or the "pilgrimage festival", marks the end of a Muslim's pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Also known as the Festival of Sacrifice, it commemorates Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail in an act of obedience to God. In Singapore, Hari Raya Haji is a public holiday.

Hari Raya Haji (Aidil Adha) falls on 10 Zulhijjah, the 10th day of the 12th month of the Muslim calendar. The Muslim calendar, with the months alternating between 29 and 30 days, is 11 days shorter than the 365-day Gregorian calendar.

On this day, which is also known as the Festival of Sacrifice, Muslims worldwide sacrifice sheep, cows or camels for the sake of religion and community. It is done in remembrance of the sacrifice undertaken by Prophet Ibrahim, who was ready to sacrifice his son Ismail, but a ram appeared in his place at the last moment.

Hari Raya Haji also marks the end of the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. Muslims gather in Mecca to perform the pilgrimage, which is the fifth pillar
of Islam.

Male volunteers at mosques or Muslim institutions usually perform the sacrificial slaughtering after the Hari Raya Haji congregational prayers. This sacrificial slaughtering, also known as korban, is a voluntary act. Sheep, goats and cows are ritually slaughtered as sacrifice. The meat is then distributed to the community, neighbours and relatives, with special attention to the needy and poor, as a reminder to share one's wealth with others. Muslim Singaporeans are increasingly doing korban with Muslim associations and mosques, locally and abroad.

During the sacrifice, prayers are uttered and the sheep's throat is slit with razor-sharp knives. This act must be done with confidence and quickly, so as to minimise the animal's suffering. This is in accordance with Islamic law, where halal does not literally mean that the food contains neither pork nor lard, but it has to be prepared properly according to Islamic requirements.


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