Over the last two years, the Hari Raya celebrations have been relatively muted and limited to our nearest and dearest due to the pandemic. We welcome the news on the easing of Covid-19 measures with open arms as we are now able to extend the joy of Hari Raya celebrations to a larger group of family and friends, albeit considering the safety and wellbeing of hosts and visitors.
This also means that we're able to meet people over delicious food. As humans, we crave interacting with people the same way we crave food.
Living in a plural society, it is common for us Singaporeans to exchange greetings and gifts during festivities among our friends, colleagues and even neighbours. Islam encourages us to extend our Rahmah (compassion) towards humankind – regardless of race or religion.
Read: What Does Islam Really Say About Muslim-Christian Relations
The Prophet s.a.w mentioned,
واللَّهِ لا يُؤْمِنُ، واللَّهِ لا يُؤْمِنُ، واللَّهِ لا يُؤْمِنُ. قيلَ: ومَن يا رَسولَ اللَّهِ؟ قالَ: الذي لا يَأْمَنُ جارُهُ بَوايِقَهُ
“By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe.” It was asked, “Who is that, O Rasulullah?” He said, “One whose neighbour does not feel safe from his evil (wrongful conduct).”
From the Hadith above, we can find that Islam teaches us the importance of maintaining a good relationship with neighbours even if they may not share the same faith or ethnicity as us. For many of us, extending our joy and Raya celebration to our neighbours is part of the many ways we can build the relationship or make amends for any shortcomings, even the ones we may not have realised yet.
This Hari Raya celebration is indeed an excellent platform to forge ties not only with our family members but also with other religious communities through simple yet meaningful gestures, such as the sharing of food and gifts.
Just as how we expect people of other faiths to be mindful of our dietary requirements as Muslims, we should also take into account their dietary needs, which may be religious or health-related, when preparing food for them.
For example, if we are cooking rendang and intend to share it with our Buddhist and Hindu neighbours, we will need to replace the beef with other proteins to ensure that they are able to enjoy this dish that we have thoughtfully prepared for them.
Check out our Food and Faith video series.
Likewise, if we know the person we are sharing the Hari Raya dishes with has a peanut allergy, we may want to omit the satay sauce, etc. Such small yet thoughtful considerations with the intention of respecting other faiths and needs will further strengthen the ties we already have with our non-Muslim colleagues, friends and neighbours.
Read: The Importance of Social Cohesion in Islam
During the festivities, exchanging gifts is a common practice to promote social cohesion among our circles. When we receive gifts from neighbours and friends, we ought to observe good akhlaq by thanking them for their kind and thoughtful gesture.
If there is a need to check on the Halal status of the food gifts from our friends of other faiths, we can do so - but certainly not in their presence! Within the comfort of our personal space such as home, we may put into practice the knowledge and tips on verifying the Halal status of the food items.
Read: What is Halal?
As we begin to reopen our homes to family and friends this Hari Raya, we may also experience more social interactions in our workplaces, given the recent ease of Covid-19 measures. As Muslims, it is important not to exclude ourselves from such gatherings in the spirit of camaraderie and being part of a bigger team.
Wherever possible, it is best and much easier to have such gatherings at Halal-certified establishments. However, if there is no possibility for such a choice and the eatery happens to be one that is non-Halal, you may observe the following tips:
· Choose either seafood or vegetarian options
· Request for no alcohol or animal fat to be used in the cooking
If there is fear of the mixing of utensils with non-Halal food, there are other scholarly opinions to consider as shared in Episode 2 of ASMR (Asatizah Share Masakan Ramadan).
However, if you are uncomfortable consuming the food, you may choose to instead consume a halal beverage.
Forging good relations with others starts from home. Through good interactions and nurturing of values by example, the next generation is able to continue our journey in maintaining a harmonious diverse society. The spirit and celebration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri then are not only known by Muslims but its beauty can also be witnessed by people of other faiths.
As we continue to improve our relationship with Allah s.w.t. (Habluminallah), let us not forget an equally important relationship that we should upkeep, with our fellow humankind (Habluminannas).
May Allah s.w.t. accept all our good deeds. Selamat Hari Raya!
 Psychology Today, accessed 28 April 2022, <https://www.psychologytoday.com/sg/blog/neuroscience-in-everyday-life/202103/we-crave-interacting-people-the-same-way-we-crave-food>