Coming of Syawal: Understanding Hari Raya tradition in Brunei


AFTER the passing of the fasting month of Ramadhan, it's the time to celebrate the coming of Syawal and month-long Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations. The festivities only begin after the sighting of the new or crescent moon, which occurs after 29 days of fasting. The sighting takes place in several locations in Brunei. Officials from the State Judiciary Department, Ministry of Religious Affairs, State Mufti Office and the Ministry of Development's Survey Department will sight the moon at Bukit Ambok and Padang Tembak Bukit Agok in Tutong, Bukit Lumut in Belait and Bukit Shahbandar in the Brunei-Muara district.

If the moon is sighted, the next day will be the first day of Syawal, but if not sighted, then Muslims will continue to fast for another day.

The night before Hari Raya, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam will address the nation with a titah, and convey his greetings and that of the Royal Family to the people of Brunei.

As soon as it has been determined that the new moon has been sighted, the firing of 12 shots of the cannons at Taman Hj Sir Muda Omar 'Ali Saifuddien by the Royal Brunei Armed Forces heralds the end of the month of Ramadhan and the beginning of the month of Syawal.

At the mosques, the recitation of the special Takbir Hari Raya will take place instead of the tarawih prayers. The mosques will also receive those who wish to pay zakat fitrah, or obligatory alms, which is required of those who has reached puberty and owns a certain amount of wealth. This is then redistributed to the poor and the needy. The period for obligatory payment is between the end of Ramadhan and before morning prayers of Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

On the first morning of Aidilfitri, the men will wake up early to bathe and attend the special prayers at the mosque.

This is usually followed by a sermon, which is a necessary requirement (wajib) while the khutbah is being delivered.

It is a tradition in Brunei for Muslims to wear new or beautiful clothing on the morning of the first day to celebrate the victory of enduring the fasting month. Women will tidy and prepare their homes to receive guests, decorating their homes with green and gold motifs and ketupat. The ketupat or Malay rice dumpling, has become synonymous with celebration of Hari Raya as it is traditionally served alongside rendang or satay at open houses. When the men return from the mosque, the family will gather to wish each other forgiveness.

During the celebrations, which last throughout the month of Syawal, it's not uncommon to see fireworks lighting up the sky. In fact, it has become a tradition for many in Brunei to begin setting off fireworks after the positive announcement of the moon sighting. Some may even continue to celebrate until late in the evening, though it is discouraged and illegal to do so as it disturbs the neighbours. Children will enthusiastically play with "badil bawang", a small type of snapping firecracker which bursts with a loud sound when thrown onto the ground, as a safer alternative to fireworks.

Hari Raya is a beautiful and festive time in Brunei, and is not only enjoyed by the muslims, but all who reside here, as during the celebrations all races and religions will visit their muslim neighbours homes and are welcome to do so. Its this mutual understanding and close cultural relations in multi-cultural Brunei amongst muslims and other religions that truly makes the country the "Abode of Peace."

The Brunei Times

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