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Friday, October 26, 2012

Hari Raya Haji - A Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving

Today is the public holiday of Malaysia. It is the Raya Haji Day, 26/10/2012. Hari Raya Haji, which is celebrated about 2 months after Hari Raya Puasa, marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage season in Mecca. Hari Raya Haji starts off with morning prayers at the mosque and the sacrificial slaughter of cows and goats.

Hari Raya Haji may seem to be a more subdued celebration in Malaysia compared to Hari Raya Puasa but it is still a very important day for Muslims to reaffirm their faith in God and give thanks to the blessings He has showered upon them.

What's the Hajj Pilgrimage About?
All Muslims who are financially and physically able are required to perform the hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia during the Hajj season at least once in their lifetime. This is one of the five tenets of Islam. After the completion of the pilgrimage, the men will earn the title 'haji' and the women 'hajjah'. The end of the pilgrimage culminates in Hari Raya Haji - festival of the pilgrimage.

During the week of the Hajj, hundreds upon thousands of pilgrims from all over the world congregate in Mecca to perform a series of rituals such as walking counter-clockwise seven times around the Ka’abah (the cube-shaped structure covered in black cloth which serves as the Muslim prayer direction), kissing the Black Stone in the corner of the Ka’abah, going back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marway, drinking from the Zamzam well, standing in vigil at the plains of Mount Arafar, throwing stones as a symbolic act of Stoning the Devil, shaving their heads, sacrificing an animal and celebrating Hari Raya Haji.

Muslims may also perform these rituals in Mecca on other times of the year. This is known as Umrah or the lesser pilgrimage. Pilgrims who perform the Umrah are still required to perform the Hajj at some point of their lives if they are able to.

Tell Me More About The Sacrificial Slaughter

The sacrificial ritual is performed in nearly every mosque or Muslim community in the country which starts at about 11am till noon. It is done to commemorate Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his beloved son Ismail as an act of obedience to God. At the very last moment, God gave a ram in place of Ismail.

The slaughter, also known as korban, is performed by male volunteers at mosques or Muslim institutions. Cows and occasionally goats are slaughtered as an act of sacrifice. The animals are usually donated by individuals, families and also the state government.

During the sacrifice, certain rites and prayers have to be said and performed to expel toxins from the animal in accordance to the halal laws. To minimise the animal’s sufferings, the slaughter is done quickly and efficiently. A portion of the meat is kept for the family while the rest is distributed to the community and relatives, especially to the poor and needy.

What's The Dress Code If I Want To Visit A Mosque?

For men, wear long pants. For women, wear head scarves and clothes that cover the arms and legs (long-sleeved blouses and pants). No shoes are allowed inside the mosque.

Lastly, I would like to wish all the Muslims to have a Happy Haji Day!!!

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