Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir dan Batin!

ALL our Muslim brothers and sisters throughout Malaysia must be now bubbling with excited anticipation because they will be celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

Hari Raya will celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan, which all Muslims spend in prayers, meditation, acts of kindness, and self-discipline by fasting from sun-up to sun-down everyday.

It is also the celebration of this month-long devotion to the total submission to God, the spirit that lies at the core of Islam.

By now, in all the Muslim households, the housewives would have more or less finished preparation for the Hari Raya festivities. All the traditional cakes and delicacies would have been made or purchased, and the new clothes for adults and children alike would have been ready.

The house, the surrounding yard and garden would have been scrubbed and cleaned. Our Malaysian Muslims are particularly house-proud; they love to decorate their house for this occasion with a fresh coat of paint, new curtains, new table clothes, decorative lights, and new furniture for those who can afford it.

In many Muslim communities in Malaysia, people like to light up their house and the footpath leading to the front door with oil lamps known as pelita or panjut. The long line of flickering lights especially in the kampong setting has the effect of heralding the joyous festive mood in the days to come.

There is only the matter of getting ready for the sumptuous feast to offer visitors during open house on the Raya day itself. The lady of the house will make sure there would be plenty of ketupat and rending dishes for visitors and children alike.

The children will be the most excited members of the Muslim family as the Hari Raya festivities draw near. Many older children would have joined their elders in fasting for a month. And now they have passed the test and they look forward to their rewards for their month-long spiritual journey.

They will have new clothes and new shoes, and adults will be giving them Duit Raya in green envelopes. A mountain of delicious food and drink awaits them. Even now, after the sun has gone down, and after prayer and opening of fast, they can play with their sparklers.

Once again, we have to remind parents to warn their children not to play with firecrackers. For a child to lose a finger or a face is a great spoiler on this happy occasion.

For those who drive home to celebrate Hari Raya with long separated loved ones, we advise utmost caution on the road because this is one of the most dangerous times for motorists on the Sarawak Trunk Road system.

In Malaysia, whenever people greet one another, they usually say, ‘Selamat Hari Raya’, to be followed by ‘Maaf Zahir dan Batin’, which translates loosely to “I seek forgiveness (from you) physically and spiritually”. Hari Raya Aidilfitri would indeed be a day for reconciliation and the renewal of family bond and friendship with others.

Islam is indeed a great religion of peace. Unfortunately, peace has eluded a great many parts of the Muslim world.

In Indonesia in recent days, the Malaysian born terrorist Noordin Top and his top aides have just been killed by Indonesian police. Elsewhere, in war torn Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and Pakistan, many Muslims would not have much to celebrate for this Hari Raya. Likewise, the Muslim refugees from the civil war in Yemen have just become the latest forgotten victims of civil strife in the world.

In the past year in West Malaysia, we have witnessed some disturbing controversies surrounding racial and religious issues. Fortunately for us, Malaysians have always proven to be a moderate Muslim nation, and most people of all faiths have always demonstrated maturity, restraint, and respect when it comes to inter-faith relation.

Sarawakians have always been exemplary in our inter-faith relation, and the kind of vitriolic religious narrative that plagues West Malaysia has yet to touch our shores. When the Hari Raya day itself arrives, Sarawakians of other ethnic origins are bound to visit their Muslim friends in common celebration of the true spirit of peace, mutual respect, and sharing of festive joy.

We wish all Muslims in Sarawak Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir dan Batin!

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