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While different aspects of Hari Raya have changed over the years, there’s one element of Raya that remained pretty much the same. It’s the memohon maaf on the morning of the first Raya, where people shake hands and apologize to each other for the wrongdoings of the past year. In fact, apologizing is like the corporate slogan of raya:
“Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri! Maaf Zahir dan Batin!” – like, every Raya greeting ever.
“Selamat Hari Raya! Kosong – kosong tau!” – milennials celebrating Raya.
For a little bit of context, on Hari Raya, Malays will get up early, get dressed in their baju raya and go to the mosque for an early morning Raya prayer. After coming home, usually before breakfast (although the timing doesn’t really matter) members of the family will gather and have an apology session. Siblings will line up and apologize to their parents, in order of seniority. If grandparents and a few aunts and uncles are staying over as well, it could become quite a lengthy affair.
Usually it’s just a simple apology, something along the lines of
- “<name> minta maaf dari hujung rambut sampai hujung kaki,” (I’m sorry from the tips of my hair all the way to the tip of my toes), and
- “<name> minta halalkan makan minum selama ni,” (asking that the food and drink consumed all these while will be given away freely to them with no strings attached)
but people can apologize for practically anything. For the younger ones, this is one of the events where they can get duit raya, after apologizing.
To explore whether other races/religions also have a day where they apologize to each other, we asked our Chinese colleagues, and they responded with
“Not specifically. Even on Chinese New Year we just take the ang pow and say thank you only,” – most of the Cilisos team.
When we asked our Indian friends, they revealed that apologizing is done during Deepavali.
“After our prayers, we’ll apologize to our parents and ask them for their blessings, and then we’ll receive new clothing from them,” – Kanmani Jaikrisnan, service and sales executive.
Our friends at Soscili had a discussion and managed to list down nine funny/sad/weird minta maaf stories on Raya morning, from both them and their friends.
1. “I accidentally called my mom a demon.” – Iqbal
One Raya morning, I woke up to noises outside my room. When I got out of bed and looked outside, I saw that everyone was already in the process of dressing up in their Raya attire. I was the only one who hadn’t even showered yet.
On my way to the shower my mom called me and asked me to come and have the apology session first and shower later, since everybody else was already dressed and waiting. I said I wanted to shower first, but my mom kept on asking me to join them first, saying I can always shower after the session. But still I insisted on showering first.
That disagreement escalated to a fight that Raya morning, and because I was so annoyed with her, I accidentally screamed out “AKU NAK MANDI LA SETANNNNNNN!” (setan being a contracted form of ‘syaitan’, the Malay word for demons), right in front of the whole extended family, which included my grandpa.
After that we didn’t talk to each other for the whole day, until finally I apologized at night. In my defense, I was only in Standard 2 at that time.
2. “I ruined the Raya apology session for everyone else.” – Qayyum
This story happened a few years ago, back when I was just laid off from this company in Putrajaya. So I was feeling pretty down and useless at that time. I was unemployed until that year’s Raya. On Hari Raya morning, as usual, after the Hari Raya prayers me and my brothers lined up to ask for forgiveness from our parents. I wasn’t really in the mood for neither celebrating nor apologizing, but hey, tradition.
After 20 or so years of apologizing on Hari Raya, I already had a script for it and proceeded to recite my usual apologies when my turn came. However, after I was done, my parents seemed to be waiting for something more. And so began the most dramatic Raya apology of the century.
“I’m sorry for ever being born… for sharing the ground that I step on with the other more successful, functioning adults… Sorry that the both of you had to spend so much money raising a useless piece of trash… Just sorry for everything… I’m sorry… *tears up*”
There was an awkward silence for a while, but thankfully my little brother broke the silence and proceeded with his apologies. The rest of the day went normally enough. My parents seemed like they wanted to say something to me all day, but they didn’t. Nobody mentioned the sudden drama ever again.
The year after that, when I woke up on Raya morning, the apology session had already went on without me. Erm.
3. “I completely failed at acting calm and collected.” – MK Zainal
Our family has always spent the first day of Raya with just each other, without the cousins and aunties and uncles and grandparents all, so it’s usually a comfortable holiday. As for the apologizing to each other tradition, it was something that we did every year just for the heck of it before continuing to veg out in front of the TV while eating lemang.
Last year, as usual, Kak Ngah (usually she’s the one who’s overly excited about things) called for all our siblings to line up and apologize to out parents. While she was kneeling down and apologizing in front of mom, she suddenly started crying. She’s such an emo, I thought to myself while I waited calmly at the back of the line, thinking about which joke I was going to tell my parents that year. But when my turn came…
“Mom… I’m sorry because I can’t tell you what I’ve been struggling with all this time… I actually inherited a lot of your qualities… Not just your beauty, but your sensitivity as well. I’m really sorry, mom…”
And suddenly I wept buckets. My cool meter vanished just like that. Mom just smiled when she heard that, and she just replied with “Come home more often…“
4. “I was too kancheong to confess a lie I’ve been keeping.” – Zahid
Writer’s note: Zahid is a good kind of kid, and people can’t stay angry at him for too long.
A few months before Raya, I was in a road accident where I fell off my friend’s huge scooter. My knee was torn up pretty badly, but only my mom knew the real reason why my knees were torn. Dad didn’t at the moment, because I was too scared to tell him.
Dad thought that the reason my knees were torn was because I fell off a skateboard, which was the lie I told him. So I sort of lied to him for a few months. But I promised myself to come clean during the next Raya.
When Raya finally came, I was a nervous wreck from the moment I woke up, all through the Raya prayers and up to the time the family’s all gathering and lining up to minta maaf.
I’m the youngest, so my turn to apologize was the very last. I was sweating like hell while I waited for my turn to come, thinking about all the bad things that might have happened. But when it finally came, I apologized steadily enough.
“I’m sorry dad for my wrongdoings, from the tip of my hair all the way to the tip of my toes. I’m sorry for lying to you before. The real reason my knee was torn is because I fell off my friend’s scooter,”
It seemed like it wasn’t such a big deal after all, because Dad just patted me on the shoulder and said “That’s fine, I forgive you.“
5. “I accidentally rubbed someone’s butt.” – Zee
I don’t know how common these aunties are, but I’m sure you’ve met one of those aunties who are too generous with their touches when you salam with them. They’ll rub your arm, pat your back and do all sorts of touching that makes giving them a handshake feels like going through airport security.
This wasn’t the first time it has happened to me, but last year I shook hands with an auntie who was obviously pretending to be close to me… or even knew me for that matter. One of her hands was shook my hand, while the other was busy patting down my body, holding my arm, rubbing my back and all. That’s when I thought that this auntie had crossed the line.
I decided to copy what she did and began rubbing her back as well, but my hand accidentally slipped all the way down her back, to her butt. Oops. But I guess that’s okay, because now she knows how it felt to be treated that way. Maybe now she’ll know what regret is…
6. “I quoted someone’s tweet.” – Adi
This story happened last year, when I was asking for forgiveness from Ayah Su, my mom’s youngest sibling during Raya. I had just graduated university at that time but I still hadn’t started working, because I wanted to travel first… and jobs were hard to get anyway.
While we were shaking hands, he sort of hinted that I won’t be getting duit raya that year, by asking me: “You’re already working now, aren’t you?”
I responded spontaneously with something I saw on Twitter the other day.
“I’m still studying lah,” – because students, even university students, are usually still eligible for duit raya.
“How come you’re still studying?” he asked in confusion, probably because I’ve already posted my graduation pictures on Facebook the other day.
“Yep. Still studying (learning) from my mistakes,” I replied, looking sheepish.
“Oh… I see,” he replied and proceeded to distribute duit raya to my other cousins. Later, he smiled as he handed me an envelope that confirm got at least RM50 inside. You’ve got to play smart guys, play smart :B
7. “I *finally* came clean about a lie I’ve been keeping.” – Zulhilmi
I was still studying at that time. And when you’re in uni, you’ll surely get exposed to all sorts of peer pressure as you’re mingling with friends from different backgrounds. I’m only human, so some of the peer pressure got to me.
The first one would be smoking weed and getting high. I wasn’t really into it, but idk (it wasn’t that serious). Then I got to drinking. There was this one time I was drinking in public and somebody saw me. That somebody turned out to be related to one of my relatives, so story got out that this so-and-so’s son was getting drunk in KL.
I only knew about that when my mom called me up and asked me if the rumors were true. I didn’t know what to say at that time, and I started to feel guilty about it.
“Where are you hearing all this from? Don’t you trust your own son?” I replied.
So the issue was left at that, until Raya comes around. When it was time for me to apologize, I took my mother’s hand and confessed all about it.
My mom then asked me, “Are you still doing it?” and I replied “Nope,” since I really wasn’t drinking or getting high anymore. So mom was OK with that and I thought she had forgiven me.
But now that I’m a working man, and there’s company functions I have to go to, my mom would send me a message on WhatsApp saying “Don’t get drunk,”. Man, that stung. I’ve truly repented.
8. “I wasn’t sure if I should shake hands or not.” – Azida Azreen
This story was recounted by Azida, a girl who had acted and looked like a boy ever since she can remember.
During last year’s Raya, some neighbors visited my house. One of them is a pak haji (pious man) who lived nearby. I went out of my room and welcomed all of them in.
Upon entering, the pak haji offered his hand for a handshake, but I’m a bit conflicted at that time. If I were to take it, it would kind of be a sin (non-related males and females aren’t encouraged to make skin contact with each other). Plus it would have cancelled out his ablution if our skins were to touch. But if I didn’t take his hand, people might have said that I was being rude to the elderly.
Finally I just shook hands with him, although I felt pretty guilty about it. At least it’s just a handshake, and no air kisses on the cheeks. So after that I just went into the kitchen and helped with the refreshments.
Actually, nobody needs to wait until Raya to apologize
The Hari Raya is considered to be a day of victory after one whole month of successfully controlling one’s desires and urges. That’s why every Muslim, no matter the background, are highly encouraged to celebrate it in some way. In Malaysia, this is done by visiting each other, stuffing your guests full of kuih raya and other celebratory foods, and by spending time with your extended family.
However, as should be evident by now, Hari Raya isn’t all ketupats and duit raya. Besides being a celebration, it is also the day where people save up all their apologies for all the major wrongs committed during the last year.
But that doesn’t mean that people should only apologize during Raya. There’s a lot of occasions where saying sorry right away can make a difference. Plus, nobody really knows for sure if they are going to make it to next year’s Raya in one piece, so it’s better to say sorry while we still can.
Regardless, we from Cilisos and Soscili would like to wish all our Muslim readers Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, and Maaf Zahir Batin! See you guys after the holidays!