When Muslim SG released its annual short film for Hari Raya last week, there was no shortage of likes and shares on social media.

Many of my friends on Facebook, and myself, shared it on our timeline with a crying emoji.

Indeed, it is a touching one.

The film follows an elderly mother as she tries to coax her family to keep to Hari Raya traditions like baking kuih-muih and tailoring new clothes even during the circuit breaker period.

However, the actions of her son, who works in the healthcare sector, and her daughter seem to indicate that they aren’t interested. The mother also gets disappointed when she finds out that the rest of her family and grandchildren would not be visiting her on Hari Raya.

When the day finally arrives, it is revealed that her children were planning to surprise her and had been secretly organising a virtual gathering with the rest of the family all along. The family even coordinated to wear matching blue traditional outfits, moving their mother to tears.

The Facebook video has since garnered 1.2 million views and almost 26,000 shares.

No Hari Raya gatherings this year

Everyone has their own experience of Hari Raya. For some, it is a happy occasion to meet close cousins and savour all the delicious traditional Malay dishes and cookies. For others, it may be a poignant reminder of the family they have lost over the years.

I have always looked forward to Hari Raya because of the good food and joyful atmosphere at the gathering of my extended family. Even though my cousins and I rarely meet (we just catch up on social media), I look forward to seeing them on Hari Raya all grown up and some even with cute babies of their own.

Unfortunately, no Hari Raya gatherings are likely to happen this year.

No mass gatherings for Hari Raya 2020
Image source: Shutterstock / Prostock-studio

Muslim SG’s post prompted many netizens to share their thoughts.

Some wrote from overseas, like Dean Kadir: “Since living abroad, this is the only time of the year I feel alone and sad. As you get older, family is the most important thing in the world. Selamat Hari Raya to all. Salam dari Cape Town.”

Others were closer to home, yet still felt the distance. Like Anisah Salim: “I’m in tears now…missing my aged parents. Been sending food for iftar at their door and waving to them from afar. My mask covers my smile..😔😢”

It wasn’t just Muslims who conveyed their well-wishes.

Said Julyn Elizabeth, who was moved to tears: “I cried terribly when I watched the video. It’s really painful and sad during the festive season away from families. I feel for all of you. Please try your best to enjoy the festival. My love to all.”

While others chose to see strength in familial bonds, as Yee Eugene shared: “Very touching video 👍 May the essence of Hari Raya, the strength of kinship and family bond remain strong and stronger even in this unprecedented times. Stay safe my Muslim friends. Together we can overcome. Stay safe, healthy and positive! 👍”

A time to come together

A time to come together for Hari Raya 2020
Image source: Shutterstock / Odua Images

Recently, a post by Facebook user Hazwan K. Mohamed had Singapore’s Malay-Muslim community divided on whether we should rethink Hari Raya in a time of Covid-19.

The main point he was trying to bring across was for the community not to let cultural practices like “Hari Raya is celebrated throughout the month” and “Hari Raya is a time to seek forgiveness” cloud our judgment about going out to celebrate with family members not living in the same household.

While he raised valid points – including avoiding gatherings even after circuit breaker is over – the delivery of his message could have been worded better as it felt condescending in some parts (which, to his credit, he later admitted in an update).

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In a time where our seniors are feeling lonely and isolated, it would be kind of us to practise some self-awareness and empathy when discussing the topic of not being able to visit on Hari Raya.

Before the announcement disallowing Hari Raya visits during the circuit breaker, my parents had asked me if I would be coming over so that they could prepare a spread for us. Although my mouth watered at the prospect of a feast, I could only reply then with a brief “see how”. After I shared and explained the new regulations, my parents now respect why the no-visiting rule has to be enforced – for our own safety. However, I assured them that we can still schedule a Zoom call on Hari Raya itself.

Similarly, we can be respectful of each other’s sentiments toward the festival. It is a cultural and religious holiday, but this does not exempt us from following the laws and regulations of the country that we live in. Surely we can find a balance on how to celebrate during the circuit breaker?

Have your kuih and eat it too

Have your kuih and eat it too
Image source: Shutterstock / mentatdgt

Hari Raya may be different this year, but we can still practise our Hari Raya customs like baking traditional cookies and cooking a feast for those living with us or even to share with our next-door neighbours.

We can still shop for new traditional outfits online and wear them when video-calling our friends and family to wish them blessings of the day.

And don’t forget the selfies! We can still post them on social media to recreate the festive mood online.

Instead of arguing on social media, let’s take this year’s Hari Raya as a time to reflect and chill. A community is stronger when we look out for each other – and that means staying home in this pandemic.

As how one Facebook user Ganesh Sundram wrote in a post which has been shared over 6,800 times:

“I feel we can all learn something so powerful from the Muslim community during this Covid-19 period…
For a race that sees going to a mosque to pray as a must do…
For a race that sees going to Hajj as a sacred thing and also a must do…
For a race that has always promoted family togetherness and reunions…
For a race that takes a lot of pride and joy in their religious festivals and ceremonies…
I swear when I say this…
I have yet to see any form of complaining about anything from any Muslim… either on social media, in person or in any other way…
Their mosques are shut, their Hari Raya bazaar is not on. Their Hari Raya is around the corner and they’re all gonna spend it silently at home…
Trips to Hajj are gonna be deferred this year…
And they are just quietly going about their business…
In a world where we complain about why the sun is so hot…
I have never seen such unity, obedience, tolerance, patience, maturity and understanding…
I am completely floored by the behaviour displayed by the Muslims in Singapore…
You guys put a lot of people to shame for complaining about trivial issues and you are setting such a good example…
Thank you…”

Wishing all those who celebrate, a Selamat Hari Raya.

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Top Image: YouTube / MuslimSg