What is the significance of Hari Raya Haji?

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Festivals are an aspect of human society that makes it colourful and multifaceted. One place where you can see this is in the Lion City that is Singapore. Being home to a variety of different cultures and races who hold different religious beliefs. One of the religions that is part of Singapore’s cultural tapestry is Islam. Furthermore, one of the major Islamic festivals that is also a public holiday in Singapore is Hari Raya Haji. That being said, are you aware of the significance of Hari Raya Haji? If not, then let us begin our journey of discovery together.

The meaning of the name Hari Raya Haji

First off, let us begin by discussing the meaning of the name Hari Raya Haji. The word comes from the Malay language and means the Day of the Pilgrimage or Hajj (in Arabic). Furthermore, it refers to the pilgrimage that Muslims undertake to the city of Mecca. The undertaking of the pilgrimage to to Mecca is one of the Pillars of Islam. Hari Raya Haji marks the end of the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca. 

Eid al Adha or Day of Sacrifice

Another name for Hari Raya Haji is Eid al Adha. The name comes from the Arabic language and means the Day of Sacrifice. The meaning and significance of this term is connected to the story of the Prophet Abraham known as Ibrahim in Islam and his offering up his son to Allah as a sacrifice. There are different interpretations alongside narrative traditions/Hadith regarding which of the Prophet Ibrahim’s sons was offered as sacrifice and whether or not it was Ismail/Ishmael or Ishaq/Isaac. Nevertheless, it is generally said that it was Ismail who was offered up as  a holy sacrifice. 

The story goes on to say that Allah accepted Ibrahim’s faith in Him and said that this was a test with regards to the degree of the Prophet Ibrahim’s submission to the Divine and His Decrees. While the Quran does not mention that a ram was offered up as a sacrifice instead of the Prophet Ibrahim’s son, other Islamic Literature describing the histories of the different Prophets of Islam mention that a ram was sacrificed in place of the Prophet Ibrahim’s son. One such source is the History of the Prophets and Kings by the historian Al-Tabari.

When does Hari Raya Haji take place?

We now move on to the question of when Hari Raya Haji takes place. It takes place on the tenth day of the twelfth month of the Islamic Calendar. The name of that month is Zulhijjah. In the year 2021, Hari Raya Haji will be celebrated on 20 July in Singapore. It must also be said that the date for Hari Raya Haji varies in accordance with the Islamic Calendar. 

How is Hari Raya Haji celebrated?

With regards to how Hari Raya Haji is celebrated, it is celebrated in a variety of ways. One way involves the slaughtering of an animal such as a sheep or goat as a sacrifice known by the term Korban in Arabic. The name Korban means Sacrifice in Arabic. The meat of the slaughtered animal is then divided into three parts and shared among immediate family members, relatives and the needy. Beyond this, other practices such as doing good deeds in the form of service to the wider community is also undertaken by Muslims. On top of that Muslims also offer prayers to Allah on this day.

Some final thoughts

As we have gone on this journey we have learnt many things which include:

  • Learning about the meaning of the terms Hari Raya Haji and Eid al Adha and what they refer to.
  • An introduction to the story of the Prophet Ibrahim’s sacrifice of his son to Allah, which is significant to this festival.
  • We got to know when Hari Raya Haji takes place.
  • An introduction to some of the practices that Muslims undertake on Hari Raya Haji.

Based on what you have discovered, hopefully it has given you a new perspective on the festival of Hari Raya Haji. Till our next journey together, keep on  learning for it is a lifelong process.

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