Hari Raya Puasa, or Eid al Fitr (festival breaking the fast), is a Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan (sawm) or Puasa, the season of fasting and prayer. The period of Ramadan lasts 29-30 days and is one of the five pillars of Islam. Once it is finished, Muslims are not allowed to fast on the day of Hari Raya Puasa.
The holiday is held on the first day of Syawal, on the Hijrah Calendar, and on October 15, 2013 on the Gregorian Calendar. Many Muslims attend communal prayers, listen to khutba (sermons) and give zakat al-fitr (charity in the form of food) during the ceremony. It is a time of forgiveness, of letting go of old grudges. Participants take this opportunity to clean their homes, and to buy or make new clothes, as symbols of their new found purity. Eid is observed in Asia, Africa, and many places throughout the world – countries with a predominate Muslim population.
Hari Raya, literally meaning “celebration day” is a period of feasting and celebration, of respite after the month of sacrifice.
Because it is forbidden to fast on the day of Hari Raya, as decreed by the Prophet, on the morning of the festival, Muslim participants have a small breakfast before heading off for traditional prayers. It is said that the prophet prayed the Eid el Fitr prayer when the sun was approximately 6 meters above the horizon. In the way of the Prophet, Muslims pray an Eid prayer, a salat in a large communal hall. Muslims are expected to go into public in their best dress on this day.
Before performing the prayer, Muslims are obliged to give Zakar, a charitable donation, usually in food. This is done for happiness and gratitude to Allah.
Afterwards, the people typically leave the Mosques and community halls to visit the grave sites of their family members, to offer prayers on their behalf and to leave small gifts. When they return home, they will speak to their living family members, to ask for forgiveness, and to fellowship with one another. It is time of feasting and celebration, and gifts as well as sweet biscuits and baklava are baked and shared. The themes of the day are prosperity, gratitude, and forgiveness. Frequently, there will be spontaneous worship to Allah in the form of the Takbir “Allah al Akbar,” or “Allah be praised.”
In Africa, Hari Raya is primarily celebrated in the Northern Regions, namely Tunisia, Egypt, Somalia, South Africa, and Nigeria. Here, the holiday spans for 3-4 days, and participants greet each other with the common phrase “Eid Mubarak,” which means Blessed Eid. Large groups and families will come together to feast and give gifts to one another.
The night before the holiday of Eid, Muslims in India will celebrate “the Night of the Moon” by going out to buy new clothes for the coming festivities. The best place to witness Eid ceremonies in India is in Hyderabad, the capital of the state Andhra Padesh, which has a strong Muslim population. Ritualistically, woman will paint themselves with henna, because color is a sign of beauty, and you are supposed to look your best at Eid.
Singapore and Malaysia
Some of the most impressive displays of Islamic devotion for Hari Raya are found in Singapore, Brunei, and Malaysia. Their particular celebration is called Hari Raya Puasa, the celebration of the end of fasting. They decorate their homes ornately and main streets ornately, accented by oil lamps and dazzling lights of many colors. Many bazaars pop up in major cities, selling bright clothing and delicious food. A favorite Malay dish during Hari Raya is called the Ketupat, a rice dumpling typically served with Satay and spices.
Indonesia possesses one of the most densely populated Muslim communities on earth, and their Eid al Fitr for them is called “Lebaran.” It is a national holiday, and every employee receives a mandatory bonus from their employer, as mandated by the government. Employers who do not adhere to this rule are severely punished.
Hari Raya throughout the world is a beautiful, peaceful holiday. In many places, there will be performances of Muslim culture in association with its regional variety. Ultimately, during this time, people will be gracious, and thankful to have overcome their month of hardship.