`Eid celebrations in Malaysia is a colorful display of Malay traditional dresses accompanied with lots of food and delicacies prepared for guests who seldom miss the open houses, a very Malaysian custom.

In Malaysia, millions of Muslims will gather early in the morning at mosques for the `Eid prayers wearing their traditional Malay dresses which come in a choice of colors.

Malay males wearing the songkok, a black headgear shaped on the Ali Jinnah cap, shirts and pants that forms part of the “Baju Melayu” or Malay traditional dress which is accompanied by the “kain samping’, a short piece of richly colored cloth wrapped around the hip, would rush to the nearest mosques for the prayers and the khutbah.

Unlike other Muslim countries in Asia and Africa or Arabia, Malaysian Muslims does not practice the traditional Islamic hug, which has become the trademark of Yasser Arafat, the besieged leader of the Palestinians.

Instead, the Malays and other Muslims in this country would shake hands in a very solemn manner and touch their chest in a sign of respect.

It is common for ladies to take part in the `Eid prayers, though not all the ladies would do so. The womenfolk would wear a completely white “telekung” or ‘prayer dress’ that covers the body completely leaving only the face to be seen.

Since the `Eid marks the end of the 30 days of fasting and prayers, the Muslims ask for forgiveness when they meet each other exchanging the specific phrase “Maaf Zahir dan Batin” which means “forgive me for all wrong doings”.

On the day of `Eid, Malaysian Muslims organizes what is called “open house”, a local tradition of opening the house to neighbors who live in the same vicinity.

Muslims, Chinese, Indians and sometimes foreigners too will join in the open houses to have a nice meal, enjoy the local pastries and traditional food.

“`Eid al-Fitr will be a bore without the food, the clothing and the atmosphere of friendship that arise when the people gather,” Moktar Ali said.

Ali will be organizing an open house, inviting some dignitaries of the Indian community and his neighbors for a fiesta of rich food. He will cater for Muslims and non-Muslims, especially vegetarians.

Member of a local Non-Government Organization (NGO) and a part time publisher Ali make it a must to hold the open house and invite as much people as possible for the meal.

”This is the spirit of `Eid in Malaysia. As a multicultural nation we show our friendship and we ask everybody to come and drink and eat in our house,” he added.

Food is always a plenty in Malaysia with locals saying, “no one will ever die of hunger in this country” which is on the verge of becoming the first Muslim country with a developed status.

In Malaysia the favorite food for `Eid is made of local dishes such as Ketupat, Rendang, Lemang and Sambal Goreng. Among the pastries there will be Kueh Lapis, cake kukus, cookies and other western cakes. The Ketupat is the Malaysian national food for the `Eid. It is composed of rice cooked in bamboo leaves wrapped into a diamond shape. 

Lemang and Rendang are also favorite traditional food in Malaysia. Lemang is rice mixed with coconut milk and cooked in bamboos. Rendang is mostly made of beef cooked in a special mixture.

Children and adults have a real time eating at different houses which they will be visiting in their home towns. The house of the parents will be the focus where the children with their offspring’s will be heading to on the first day of `Eid.

“This is a sign of respect for Muslims. Visit the house of the parent’s first then visit the rest of the family. In our case, it will be a hectic day on the day of `Eid, no less than 30 people including kids will be in my father house for `Eid,” Kamarul Zaman said.

This year, Kamaral has already purchased the traditional `Eid dresses for his family of four kids. He has also painted his house and bought new curtains on the insistence of his wife, a teacher in an elementary school in Kuala Lumpur.

“My kids love to go visiting during the `Eid, they will plan where to go on the first day in order not to miss the money hand out called “Duit Raya” given by parents, grandparents and uncles etc to children on `Eid,” he added.

The “Duit Raya” is carefully folded and inserted in small, colorful envelopes with graphics of the Ketupat or other representations of Islam printed on them.

Ali on his part intends to visit the modern and upcoming capital city of Malaysia, Putra Jaya where the Malaysian Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir will hold an open house a few days after the `Eid celebrations.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly of non-Muslim faiths enjoys the open house organized by the Prime Minister for the `Eid celebrations, saying their visit is a sign of respect and gratitude towards the leader.

 “Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir Batin,” will be the most popular phrase one would hear throughout Malaysia a few days before the `Eid. This will be the favorite phrase uttered by Muslims for a month.

”Raya or `Eid is celebrated on a month long period. Children love to say it covers for the 30 days of fasting and sacrifice,” a grinning Ali said.

By Kazi Mahmood – Kuala Lumpur