Celebrating Hari Raya with Our Muslim Community

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Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Do you know the term "Iftar"?

I didn't. Not until May 12, when BWM lecturer Jennifer Goh invited me along to Ace the Place Community Centre to interact with members of other faiths.

May 12 was an incredibly eventful day. For the non-believers, it was Mother's Day and Kindness Day. For Buddhists, we also celebrated the birth of Prince Siddhartha -- our Buddha-to-be. For the Muslim community, May 12 marked the eighth day of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar.

The month of Ramadan is better known to outsiders as a time when their Muslim friends begin fasting. By fasting from food and drink while the sun is up, Muslims are in fact practicing self-restraint and discipline, gratitude, and compassion for the less fortunate, a friend once told me. They also avoid all forms of immoral behaviour, including body (for example, abstaining from sexual activities), speech (such as gossiping, lying and arguing) and mind (such as impure and unkind thoughts).

In retrospect, it reminds me very much of the time when I took the eight precepts!

But while I was required to fast from food till sunrise the following day, Muslims have iftars, which refer to the evening meals they enjoy when breaking their Ramadan fast every day at sunset. This important meal was what we were invited to on Sunday, and I feel so honoured to have been part of the ritual now that I know what it means.

We gathered with Mr Vikram Nair, MP for Sembawang GRC, and our friends from other faiths -- namely believers of Christ and Allah -- in the hall at Ace the Place Community Centre about an hour before sunset. There, we enjoyed traditional performances by the Muslims and took turns to share more about our individual beliefs and cultures, inviting them to our Vesak day celebrations too. 

Time passed really quickly. After a simple stretching exercise, the announcement came for Muslims to end their fast and we joined them for iftar, enjoying vegetarian meals specially prepared for us by the organisers, who made the effort to cater to our diets. 

This session opened my eyes to a whole new world and reminded me how little we knew of each other's cultures and how similar we really are despite our different faiths. So take full advantage of Singapore's unique characteristic of being a hodgepodge of different cultures, and spend more time now to understand your friends from other faiths better.

It will be fun. I promise.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to all our Muslim Friends!