Thursday, 24 September 2015

Hari Raya Haji 2015

Happy Eid Al Adha

Festival of Sacrifice

Exactly 70 days after the holy month of Ramadan, Singapore's Muslim community celebrates Hari Raya Haji. Families gather and celebrate over a 3-day event.

Hari Raya Haji, also known as the "Festival of Sacrifice" or the "Pilgrimage Festival" marks the end of Hajj, the annual holy pilgrimage to Mecca and commemorates Prophet Abraham, considered as the father of Islam. The story tells that God asked him to sacrifice his son but placed a sheep under his hand when he was about to use the knife. Abraham trusted God blindly with his son’s life and was reassured in his belief. Since that day, Muslims all around the world follow the path of Abraham and sacrifice a sheep.

In Singapore, where all races and religions are well respected and in harmony, Hari Raja Haji is a public holiday. Male Muslims meet at the mosques for prayers after which they sacrifice livestock to Allah. Out of respect for Indian residents, the sacrificed animals are always sheep or goats but never cows. The meat is then shared within the family, distributed among relatives and the poor.

In the evenings, many people, both locals and travelers, visit the area around Kampong Glam, Arab Street and Haji Lane where cafes invite to enjoy a chat with friends while tasting Mint Tea and smoking Shisha.

With an open-minded community in Singapore, anyone is always welcome to join the festival. Its custom for Muslims to wear new clothes on these days and children get money from their parents and adult family members.

Visit the areas around Geylang Serai and Kampong Glam with it's beautiful Sultan Mosque and enjoy the busy bazaars with many fancy decorated stalls offering colorful clothes, decorations and – of course – popular dishes. It is a great occasion to learn about the ethics and practices of Islam and a reminder to share with the less fortunate.

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Hari Raya Haji

Muslims in Singapore remember their faith with prayer and reflection during Hari Raya Haji, also known as the Festival of Sacrifice.

Lasting four days, Hari Raya Haji commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s (Abraham's) complete faith and trust in God.

This is recounted in the story of God commanding Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismail (Ishmael), a commandment that Ibrahim responded to with obedience. God stopped him, and provided him with a sheep to substitute as a sacrifice, instead of his son.

Prayer and sacrifice - During this period, the faithful dress in their finest clothes and congregate in mosques to listen to sermons and offer their prayers.

But the most important ritual observed here is that of 'korban' (sacrifice). Worshippers contribute live sheep, lambs, goats and cows, which are slaughtered by a quick slit to the jugular as prayers are recited.

This act reminds worshippers of the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim to offer up even his own flesh and blood to God. The animal is then cleaned and the meat carved up and distributed.

Sharing and caring - The tradition is that the person who paid for the animal gets one-third of the meat and one-third goes to family and friends. As this festival is about compassion, sharing wealth and remembering blessings, the last third is usually distributed to the poor and the needy.

After this, Muslims pay social visits to parents, families and friends, and relax over a meal together.

There is little overt feasting or merrymaking – this is one festival that is more about spiritual needs than physical ones.

Pilgrims’ progress - Hari Raya Haji also marks the end of 'hajj', which is the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This arduous journey retraces the steps of the Prophet Muhammed and concludes with a series of symbolic rituals once the faithful have reached the holy city. The 'hajj' is considered the fifth pillar of Islam, and every able-bodied Muslim with financial means is expected to complete it at least once in his or her life.

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Hajj stampede death toll rises to 769

The death toll from Thursday’s deadly stampede outside the holy city of Makkah during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage has climbed to 769, the Saudi Health Minister Khaled Al-Faleh said on Saturday.

The known number of injured now stands at 934, he said in a press conference adding that the Hajj season was void of any epidemics or disease.

A crane collapse in Makkah’s Grand Mosque which claimed the lives of 111 people in the days leading to the pilgrimage posed the first challenge to the Saudi Ministry of Health during this year’s Hajj, Al-Faleh said.

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717 killed, 863 injured in Mina stampede

Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, emir of Makkah and adviser to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and chairman of the Central Haj Committee, visited the scene of stampede in Mina.

Some 717 pilgrims were killed and 863 injured in the stampede that took place at 9 a.m. during the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual.

Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, security spokesman at the Ministry of Interior, said the causes for crowding that led to the deadly stampede on Mina Street 204 are yet to be ascertained.

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All Singaporean haj pilgrims safe: Yaacob Ibrahim

All Singaporean pilgrims who are on their haj pilgrimage are accounted for and are safe, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said. 

In a Facebook post on Thursday (Sep 24), Dr Yaacob said he was saddened by the news of the stampede in Mina, where more than 300 deaths have been reported so far. 

"I understand from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) that all our Singaporean pilgrims are accounted for and are safe," Dr Yaacob wrote. 

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