Muslims mark Hari Raya Haji with prayer, korban

Muslims in prayer at the Darul Makmur Mosque in Yishun on Hari Raya Haji yesterday morning.
Muslims in prayer at the Darul Makmur Mosque in Yishun on Hari Raya Haji yesterday morning.ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJA- SEGERAN

More than 200,000 Muslims spent the early hours of yesterday in prayer at 69 mosques across Singapore to commemorate Hari Raya Haji, the Festival of Sacrifice.

At 21 mosques, Muslims also observed the Islamic ritual of korban - including 3,700 at the Darul Makmur Mosque in Yishun. The event almost did not take place here last year after Australia introduced rules to ensure the welfare of sheep it exported to Singapore.

Retired nurse Habersah Samson, 60, observed korban at the Masjid Al-Mawaddah near Sengkang after paying $757 for a Canadian lamb - $300 more than a sheep from Down Under.

"The price does not matter because it is the meaning behind the sacrifice and the ritual itself," she said. "I am glad that I can share the happiness with my family, friends and the needy."

Under Australian rules, mosques are required to pass an audit guaranteeing, among other things, that each animal's holding pen has enough ventilation and lighting.

To explore alternative sources, a korban review committee was formed last December with officials from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

Some 500 Canadian lambs, which arrived last Saturday and were sold out by Monday morning, were part of a trial.

They supplemented the 2,000 sheep imported from Australia that sold out at a price of $455 each on Sept 22 - 10 days after registration opened.

The Australian imports were handled by 16 mosques which passed the audit last year.

Five other mosques, which comply with AVA standards, undertook korban rites with the Canadian lambs. Another 300 Australian sheep were also handled by Malay/Muslim organisations.

Before the new rules kicked in, a yearly average of 45 mosques conducted the ceremony on site.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, who took part in Hari Raya Haji prayers at the Darul Makmur Mosque yesterday, said that overall operations for korban this year were successful.

"The Canadian source has proven to be quite worthwhile," he said, adding that he hopes korban will continue to be carried out in Singapore every year.

Dr Yaacob said the Malay/Muslim community also understood that the price difference is largely due to the cost of flying the animals 13,000km from Canada and the small consignment brought in. "Over time, we will be able to increase supply, and the unit cost will come down," he said.

In a post on his Facebook page yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he was "glad that Muslims can continue carrying out korban rites here to celebrate the spirit of compassion and charity".

melodyz@sph.com.sg