With the coronavirus pandemic affecting countless households across the globe, many festivities and public events around the world have been affected indefinitely. While some have griped about celebrating their birthdays at home without their friends or relatives, the local Malay-Muslim community may have had it worst instead.
Considering how the Singapore government had earlier announced the extension of the circuit-breaker till June 1 following regulations that forbid the congregation of people in public spaces—including religious institutions throughout the months from March till maybe June and the annual Ramadan Bazaar—, Hari Raya, which takes place on May 24 this year, celebrations have most certainly been upended.
In fact, some two weeks ago, the MUIS (Islamic Religious Council of Singapore) released a press release stating that visitations and gatherings across Muslim households during Hari Raya will be prohibited, while also noting that local populations should adhere to governmental restrictions following the circuit-breaker extension.
The press release also had some suggestions for the local Malay-Muslim families to follow, including reciting takbir (communal prayer calls) at homes with their families on the eve of Hari Raya, joining the “live” takbir via Warna 94.2 FM and performing the Aidilfitri prayers at home in the morning of Hari Raya.
In the month prior to Hari Raya, otherwise known as the month of Ramadan or fasting month, healthy adult Muslims would fast from dawn till dusk as an act of worship or become more compassionate to those in need. Put simply, it is a time of spiritual obedience, love and essentially, a celebration where Muslims show gratitude and appreciation for all that they have.
“Ramadan serves two purposes. For individuals, it is a moment to practice self-discipline and piety through a month-long fasting. For the Muslim community, Ramadan is an opportunity for us to reinvigorate our bonds with each other. This is done either by praying or volunteering at mosques,” says Thaqif Ismail in his blog post on ‘Ramadan in the time of COVID-19’.
And on Hari Raya Puasa, which marks the end of Ramadan, Muslims would head to mosques to pray and visit their families and friends, often in new (and matching) clothes, to celebration. There, houses, which have been cleaned and newly furnished, will be stocked with traditional delicacies and snacks that are shared by everyone, with pockets of laughters and greetings in between.
“It’s a time where everyone gets together—all dressed up in our traditional clothes—and enjoys traditional food. Not only that, it’s also a time where we seek forgiveness from our elders for all the wrongdoings,” says Nurul Asyiqin Diyanah, a food scientist at NamZ Pte Ltd, in an interview with hoolah. “If I was younger, I would definitely be looking forward to all the green packets coming my way!”
But in the time of the coronavirus, families are now forced into a new normal with a new routine. And unlike celebrations of yesteryear, Hari Raya Puasa this year seems to have taken a sombre and subdued tone. Earlier today, President Halimah Yacob also took to Facebook to commiserate with fellow Muslims.
“I understand how members of the Muslim community feel without large family gatherings and visiting this year. Nevertheless, this should not diminish the joy or meaning of our celebrations,” she says. “We can leverage technology to stay connected and celebrate together, despite being apart. Some would have made plans to organise e-Open House to welcome guests while donning matching traditional clothes and enjoy Hari Raya meals as a family through video conferencing.”
Last week, online media platform Muslim SG posted a heartwarming, short film on Facebook, titled “Jauh Di Mata, Dekat Di Hati” (which translates to “Far in Distance, Close at Heart”), showing how local Malay-Muslim families could celebrate Hari Raya this year through teleconferencing.
In an interview with hoolah, Nur’Ashikin, an Admin Manager at a publishing house, echoes a similar celebratory manner. “My parents and siblings are staying together so I have discussed with my siblings and relatives that we will host a ZOOM video together on the first day of Hari Raya,” she says. “In the past, we would usually order from food caterers to serve our guests, but since there won’t be any visitations from our relatives, I have decided to cook up a few staple Hari Raya dishes myself.”
Ashikin, who had given birth earlier this year, also added that this year’s Hari Raya would be exceptionally memorable for her son in the years to come. She says, “But I will definitely miss catching up with my cousins and checking out each others Raya outfits!”
“This year’s Hari Raya might be different because we’re all far apart but no matter what, we’re always close to each other in our hearts,” Diyanah tells me. “Selamat Hari Raya Maaf Zahir Dan Batin. Stay home and stay safe. Once the situation gets better, we will meet again.”
hoolah would like to also take this opportunity to tell our fellow Muslim friends and their families, “Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri.”