Hari Raya Haji, otherwise known as the “Festival of Sacrifice”, is celebrated over a period of four days by Muslims in Islamic countries. It commemorates Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham)’s unwavering faith and trust in God, demonstrated through his willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail (Ishmael) as an act of submission to God’s command. According to the Islamic calendar, this festival starts on the 10th day of the month of Zulhijjah.
Aside from this, the theme of sacrifice is also salient in how Hari Raya Haji marks the end of Hajj. The largest annual pilgrimage in the world, Hajj sees thousands of pilgrims converging on the Holy Land of Mecca to perform a series of symbolic rituals. The journey to Mecca is an arduous one, and thus calls for pilgrims to make significant physical and spiritual sacrifices. The journey also demonstrates the powerful unity between Muslim brotherhood and sisterhood as pilgrims come together in solidarity. The Hajj is considered the fifth pillar of Islam, and is a religious obligation for able-bodied Muslims with the financial means.
During Hari Raya Haji, which is also a public holiday, male volunteers congregate in the mosques to offer their prayers and reflect upon the sermons that are read out. This day, which is set aside to observe the ethics and practices of the Muslim community, serves as a reminder to share one’s wealth with the less fortunate. After performing the customary Hari Raya Haji prayers, these volunteers then sacrifice sheep, goats and cows – which is symbolic of the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his own flesh and blood for God. Following which, the cattle meat is packed and distributed among the Muslim community, especially to families who are less fortunate.
After a long day of carrying out customary practices, the Muslims would then pay a visit to their parents, families and friends, and come together for a hearty meal.