Hari Raya Puasa

Singapore Infopedia

by Mazelan Anuar and Heirwin Mohd Nasir and Sharon Koh


Eid al-Fitr ("Festival of breaking fast" in Arabic), known in Singapore as Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Hari Raya Puasa, falls on the first day of Syawal, the 10th month of the Hijrah (Islamic) calendar. It is a celebratory occasion following a month of fasting, which is known as Ramadan.1 The term hari raya is Malay for “big (or grand) day of rejoicing”.

According to the Hijrah calendar, Hari Raya Puasa falls on the first day of the 10th month.3 The Hijrah is a lunar calendar and therefore the dates on which Hari Raya Puasa falls vary from year to year.4 Hari Raya Puasa should not be mistaken for the first day of the Islamic New Year.5

Fasting month 
Ramadan falls on the ninth month of the Islamic year.6 Puasa is Malay for “fasting”.7 Fasting in Islam means abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking and indulging in any form of behaviour that serves to nullify the fast. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset and perform religious duties, such as reading the Quran.8

All Muslims are required to fast, with the exception of children who have not reached puberty, the feeble elderly, the sick whose health is likely to be severely affected by fasting, expectant mothers, and women nursing their children. Women who are menstruating can take a maximum of 10 days off. However, they must make up for each day taken off, at another time.Travellers are also permitted to eat during the fasting period provided they make up for the lost days later on.10 Fast is broken after sunset when it is time for the evening meal, which is known as Iftar.11

The breaking of fast can be performed individually or as a group. When breaking fast communally, individuals can take turns to undertake the necessary preparations for the majlis berbuka puasa (gathering for the breaking of fast).12 As part of the Ramadan tradition, mosques around Singapore also distribute bubur lambuk (rice porridge). In Geylang and Jalan Bussorah (behind Masjid Sultan), streets would be brightly lit with a wide variety of Malay culinary specialties on sale for the breaking of fast.13

During the nights of Ramadan, it is desirable for Muslims to perform tarawih prayers in addition to their daily prayers.14 Tarawih prayers are performed only during Ramadan and are conducted after the isyak (night) prayers, the last of five obligatory prayers of the day for Muslims.15 While tarawih prayers may be conducted alone at home, Muslims are encouraged to join the congregation at the mosques or temporary prayer halls at the void decks of residential flats.16

During Ramadan, every Muslim is obliged to give zakat fitrah (religious tithe) to the poor. The tithes are usually paid according to amounts stipulated by the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS). Many Muslims also choose this time to pay an obligatory yearly amount of 2.5 percent of their annual savings. Zakat is a symbol of Islamic social justice that purifies and grows one’s wealth while eradicating poverty. In Islamic law, the zakat prescribes 2.5 percent of one’s property or 1/40th of income to be distributed to the poor and needy.17 By the eve of Hari Raya Puasa, Muslims would have paid their zakat at authorised collection centres, mostly in mosques around Singapore.18

Hari Raya Puasa

Hari Raya Puasa marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. It is a time of forgiveness within the Muslim community and a time for strengthening of bonds among relatives and friends. New clothes, decorated houses and exchange of invitations between friends and relatives commemorate Hari Raya Puasa.19

The first day after Ramadan is a busy one. On the morning of Hari Raya Puasa, to celebrate the end of the month-long fast, Muslims would visit the mosque and recite special prayers. Other practices observed include asking forgiveness from elders and visiting relatives and friends. Visitations usually begin with the parents’ home, where it is a custom among many Muslims to ask forgiveness from their parents for the wrongs they have committed in the past year. Although it is not required for Muslims to visit the cemetery during Hari Raya, many do so as a remembrance of those who have left them.20

Hari Raya Puasa is a public holiday in Singapore. On this day, Muslims have a lavish spread of food on their dining table. They would have specialties such as beef rendang (a spicy dish of beef that is like a dry curry), ketupat (rice cake wrapped in coconut leaf) and lontong (rice cake immersed in coconut gravy). Along with these would be cookies, cakes and pineapple tarts.21

In the past, homes were lit with lampu colok, a small kerosene lamp that was usually homemade. The trend now is to use decorative, flickering lights.22

Hari Raya Puasa 1996–1998
From 1996 to 1998, Hari Raya Puasa and Chinese New Year fell on the same week.23 There was a double celebration of the festivals within the Chinese and Muslim communities. The term Gongxi Raya was coined and used in Malaysia and Singapore to commemorate the two festivals. Gongxi Raya, or Kongsi Raya, became a derivative of this “shared celebration”. The occasion also brought about a shared experience of respect for ethnic diversity and tolerance of cultural differences.24 Both Muslims and the Chinese kept their homes open to visitations from friends and relatives, bringing about closer ties.25

Hari Raya Puasa 2004–2006
In 2004, Deepavali fell on 11 November, just three days before Hari Raya. In 2005, Deepavali and Hari Raya Puasa fell on 1 and 3 November respectively. The following year, Deepavali fell on 21 October and Hari Raya Puasa on 24 October. This led to the coining of the term Deepa Raya that was used in both Singapore and Malaysia.26


Mazelan Anuar, Heirwin Mohd Nasir & Sharon Koh


1. “Festival of Eid Follows Fasting of Ramadan,” Straits Times, 28 August 1995, 12. (From NewspaperSG); "Eid al-Fitr: Islamic festival," Encyclopaedia Britannica, last updated 23 March 2023, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Eid-al-Fitr.
2. Haron A. Rahman, “Joy and Feasting after Fasting,” Straits Times, 12 July 1983, 4. (From NewspaperSG); “Ramadhan in Singapore,” Oman Daily Observer, 1 July 2016 (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website); David Tay, “Common Threads That Bind Us,” Straits Times, 11 July 2016, 18–19. (From NewspaperSG)
3.”After the Fasting, Comes the Joy of Hari Raya Puasa,” Straits Times, 25 April 1990, 21. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Shaik Kadir, “Countdown to Deepa-Raya,” Straits Times, 31 October 2005, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
5. “Joy of Hari Raya Puasa.”
6. Zuzanita Zakaria, “Fasting for the Very First Time,” Straits Times, 7 January 1999, 30; Grace Chng, “Ramadan: Time for Kindness, Peace and Perseverance,” Straits Times, 3 June 1984, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
7. “Holy Month, Sacred Duties,” Straits Times, 22 September 2008, 30. (From NewspaperSG)
8. “Fasting for the Very First Time”; Chng, “Ramadan; “Holy Month.”
9. “Facts for Ramadan,” Straits Times, 12 October 2005, 15. (From NewspaperSG)
10. “Not all Muslims will Fast,” Singapore Free Press, 16 June 1950, 5; Chng, “Ramadan.”
11. “How to Fast,” Straits Times, 8 April 1991, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Tuminah Sapawi, “A Date for the Family,” Straits Times, 2 March 1993, 12; A. Hamid Besih, “Keluarga ‘Besar' Sama Meriahkan,” Berita Harian, 24 December 1998, 17 (From NewspaperSG); Zuraidah Ibrahim, Muslims in Singapore: A Shared Vvision (Singapore: Times Editions for Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, 1994), 35. (Call no. RSING 305.697105957ZUR)
13. Nazrul Amri, “Food Bazaars Flourish in the Fasting Month,” Straits Times, 25 April 1988, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
14. “Festival of Eid Follows Fasting of Ramadan,” Straits Times, 28 August 1995, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “Frequently Asked Questions on Ramadan,” Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS), accessed 2 November 2016; Gateway to Malay Culture (Singapore: Asiapac, 2003), 28. (Call no. RSING 305.89928 GAT)
16. “Festival of Eid.”
17. “About Zakat,” Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, accessed 2 November 2016; Nazrul Amri, “Zakat – Muslim Way of Sharing Wealth,” Straits Times, 3 May 1988, 4 (From NewspaperSG); “Zakat on Savings,” Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, accessed 2 November 2016.
18. Haron A. Rahman, “Preparing for the Big Day,” Straits Times, 9 June 1986, 24. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Tuminah Sapawi, “Celebrating with Feasting, Forgiveness and Solemn Prayer,” Straits Times, 9 February 1997, 2; “Celebrations in Singapore,” Straits Times, 24 September 2009, 58. (From NewspaperSG)
20. “A Day for Prayers and Forgiveness,” Straits Times, 4 April 1992, 20; Norazah Ahmad, “Keeping Cemeteries Clean Before That Hari Raya Visit,” Straits Times, 4 June 1985, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
21. Sapurah Arshad, “Traditional Meals, Western Tidbits,” Straits Times, 9 June 1985, 16; Tuminah Sapawi, “Hari Raya: Traditional Practices Retain their Grip,” Straits Times, 19 February 1996, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
22. “Festival of Eid.”
23. Ang Wan May, “Hoping to Get Away this Season? Here’s What’s Left,” Business Times, 16 February 1996, 2; Lim Pui Huen, “‘Kongsi Raya’: Celebrating Togetherness,” Business Times, 30 March 1996, 26; “Celebrating with MPs, Grassroots Leaders,” Straits Times, 17 February 1997, 27; “Pelan Awal Diatur Jamin Keceriaan,” Berita Harian, 29 September 1997, 13; “Gongxi Raya Decorations That Hit the Spot,” Straits Times, 24 January 1998, 39; “East Meets East,” Straits Times, 21 January 1998, 20. (From NewspaperSG)
24. Lai Ah Eng, “Gongxi Raya, Goodwill and Harmony,” Business Times, 31 January 1998, 9; “Ministers and MPs Join in Gongxi Raya Twin Celebrations,” Straits Times, 9 February 1998, 26; “Gongxi... Gongxi... Selamat Hari Raya...,” Berita Harian, 28 January 1998, 8; A. Rahman Basrun, “Semangat Muhibah Usah Terbatas Pada Gongxi Raya Sahaja,” Berita Harian, 7 February 1998, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
25. Shaik Kadir, “Next Gongxi Raya Occurs in 2028,” Straits Times, 4 February 1998, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
26. Reme Ahmad, “Happy Deepa Raya,” Straits Times, 28 October 2004, 29 (From NewspaperSG); “Countdown to Deepa-Raya”; Tracy Sua, “Many Turn Deepa-Raya into Long Break.” Straits Times, 15 October 2006, 11. (From NewspaperSG)

Further resources
Abdul Jalal Ajmain, Sim Chee Wing and Sim Hock Hye, Adat2 Melayu [Malay Customs] (Singapore: Educational Book Centre, 1960), 81. (Call no. Malay RCLOS 390.09595 ABD)

Rosalin Kerven, Id-ul-Fitr (Texas: Raintree Steck Vaughn, 1997), 7.

“Twice the Celebration,” New Straits Times, 20 February 1996. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)

The information in this article is valid as at 2018 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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