7 Things We Do Not Know About Malaysia Puasa Culture
Ramadan falls on the ninth month of the Islamic year, a holy month which Muslims use to purify their souls and become closer to God. Healthy adult Muslims around the world will participate in Ramadan and they will abstain from eating and drinking during the day. Through fasting, they believe that one learns self-control and develops empathy toward what the poor undergo on a daily basis.
- When Can They Eat?
In Malaysia, the sun rises and sets at nearly the same time each day. The fast begins right after (Sahur) the pre-dawn meal, which is around 5:40am. Normally, Sahur is served around 4:30am, but this depends on which state, because in east Malaysia states like Sabah and Sarawak, the break of dawn is earlier, so as the Sahur time. Buka Puasa, is the breaking the fast of (Iftar) meals happen around 7:30pm. Fast times are published daily in newspapers, announced on TV and can even be found online. Ramadan is when families get together, and many try to make sure they breakfast together.
- Where Do They Eat?
Malaysians live to eat! The local characteristics of Ramadan are most notable at Iftar time. Every family has their own tradition of breaking fast, some cook at home, some eat out, some buy meals from Ramadan bazaars, and some eat at the local mosque. Many hotels and restaurants offer lavish Ramadan buffets, and sometimes you may see non-Muslims to join the breakfasting. It is all about sharing and giving.
- You See Delicacies Everywhere!
Ramadan bazaars or Pasar Ramadan is where you find local traders selling all sorts of delicacies for the breaking of fast. Keep a look out for famous dishes like ayam percik, cendol, ketupat, rendang, and even bubur lambuk that is only available during this time.
- Mosques Are Always Lively
Also, during the month of Ramadan, it is quite common to see the mosques occupied with people all the time. This is the time throughout the year you will hear the Tarawih Prayer being recited at night after the Isha prayer. Usually, after the prayer, there will be some religious lectures that is also open to the public.
- Preparation for Hari Raya
When it is towards the end of the month, people start preparations for Hari Raya Puasa or aka Hari Raya Aidilfitri. On the to-do list are new clothes, delicacies, as well as new furniture and decoration for the houses. Lights and decorations in green, yellow, and gold are put up in shops, offices, and even on the streets. Prior to this day, Muslims located in the cities typically balik kampung (return to their hometowns) in order to celebrate Hari Raya with their families. This day is usually also a national holiday, so school children and working adults can spend time with their family without worrying about formal obligations.
- Celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri
The day itself opens with an early-morning prayer at the mosque, where Muslims give thanks for their blessings. They also seek forgiveness from family and friends for any trespasses, believing that peace and harmony is the way for all. Some families may also choose to visit the graves of departed loved ones, in order to pray for their souls, and more traditional communities may also light up the pelita (lamp) in their homes.
- Raya Open House
Malaysians embrace in the beloved tradition of Raya open house events. Malay families invite their family and friends (including non-Muslims) into their home to partake in traditional delicacies like the ketupat, rendang, dodol, and satay. This invitation is extended in the spirit of love, harmony, and community. If you happen to be invited to one – it’s a good time to say yes!
It is a day of joyous celebrations, and we live in a multi-racial country, where we celebrate together. Each one of us practice different beliefs and have different cultures, and because of this, we understand and respect each other’s culture and even sharing the joy together!
However, because of the pandemic, it is better to avoid large gatherings and have Sahur and Iftar individually or with family at home. The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised using virtual alternatives, where possible, for social and religious gatherings. We all acknowledge that our Muslim brothers and sisters are making great sacrifices this fasting month, especially during the movement control order (MCO). However, the spirit of Ramadan does not diminish! We hereby wish all Muslim friends Selamat Berbuka Puasa, Selamat Bersahur Stay Safe and most importantly, Stay Healthy!
Written by: Jasmine Lim
(Love Earth Nutritionist)
[Bachelor of Science Degree in Dietics (major) &
Food Science (minor) lowa State University, USA]