Why Duit Raya Is An Important Tradition In Celebrating Hari Raya

Whether it's RM1 or RM100, any amount will suffice in this economy, hehe.

Cover image via Dollars and Sense & The Current

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Remember when you were a kid during Hari Raya, adults would randomly approach you and give you duit raya and you'd wait till no one's around before you can open the packet and see how much is inside?

You would wake up early in the morning to salaam your parents, ask for a year's worth of forgiveness after Eid prayers, and they'd slip a packet of money in your palm as you kissed their hands.

Sometimes they won't even bother putting it in packets and just hand you the notes.

You would wait for guests to leave or till you're in the car before checking how much money was inside the collection of duit raya packets you've received for the day, and have a smug smile on your face when you calculate your grand total. If you were lucky, it could amount to hundreds of ringgit.

Ah, the little joys of life.

Image via GIPHY

Sadly, as you grow older, the amount of duit raya you receive gradually declines, and suddenly you find yourself as the one handing out Raya packets to your little relatives

Image via Cilisos

Have you ever wondered why and how the tradition came about? Why is it so important during Hari Raya? And who should be the one giving and getting duit raya?

Let's talk about it.

The tradition of giving out duit raya, especially in the Malaysian context, possibly took after the Chinese tradition of giving out ang pow during Chinese New Year

There actually isn't any record in history that states when, where, and how the tradition of duit raya came about in Malaysia, nor is there any substantial evidence saying it is a mandatory practice.

However, some people believe that Malays borrowed the Chinese tradition of giving out ang pows or red packets with money to children and unmarried adults as a token of good luck and prosperity.

Speaking to the New Straits Times, Associate Professor Dr Norazlina Mohd Kiram from Universiti Putra Malaysia states that even the practice of putting duit raya in packets was possibly adopted from the Chinese.

Image via The Malay Post

Regardless of its origins, Muslims agree that the tradition was based on the Islamic values of sadaqah and zakat, or giving charity and paying alms

The act of giving charity is one of the most emphasised practices in Islam, and zakat fitrah is mandatory for Muslims to pay at least once during Ramadan, ideally on the last day of the fasting month, after Fajr prayers and before Eid prayers on the first day of Syawal.

According to Sinar Harian, the Mufti of the Federal Territories, Datuk Dr Luqman Abdullah stated that giving out duit raya can be as charity, as a gift, or as hibah (the act of giving something voluntarily out of good intentions without expecting anything in return), depending on the giver's intentions. If the intention was for charity, it is encouraged to give out duit raya to the asnaf (those eligible to receive zakat) before giving it out to relatives.

The practice, with the right intention, aligns with the religious teachings of Islam in the celebration of Eid, which is to bring joy to those around you. If the act of giving out duit raya makes the receiver happy, then blessings will be bestowed upon the giver, according to Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, the Mufti of Perlis. He added that the act is also praiseworthy as it includes elements of charity, which is encouraged in Islam as mentioned before.

It's interesting to note that the duit raya tradition is also present in other Muslim countries such as Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Qatar, and countries in the Middle East. 

Giving out duit raya holds a lot of symbolism, and it differs with different people

Similar to the Chinese reasoning for giving out ang pows, the Malays give out duit raya as a symbol of blessing and generosity. It is not, however, limited to this reason.

Some believe that giving out duit raya, especially to kids, helps cultivate saving and wise spending habits. Others believe that it is an act done to strengthen existing family ties, especially when relatives come together from far and wide once a year during the celebration.

What is agreed upon by all is that the tradition has to be done out of the purity of one's heart, and should not be imposed upon as something compulsory. 

Duit raya is typically given to kids, but there's nothing that says adults can't receive it too

There's no rule that tells you what age you stop receiving duit raya, though the general perception is that you're still eligible to receive it until you start working or until you get married.

If giving out duit raya is done as an act of charity, the obvious eligible receiver would be families or children who are in need of financial aid. If not, then there's no age limit. Some people stop giving out duit raya to kids past the age of 15, whereas others believe university students should still be eligible to receive it despite some being in their 20s. 

Image via Sinar Plus

However, the practice should be done based on the financial capability of the giver. If one can afford to give out duit raya, and is sincere in doing so, then they are encouraged to do it. It is not, and should not be, a compulsory act especially when one may not be able to carry it out.

Parents play a huge role in instilling gratitude in children to be respectful of any amount they receive in their Raya packets. Not only does this help in good behaviour, it also helps them grow into humble human beings.

Now that you know more about duit raya, check out other traditions you probably didn't know about the biggest festival in Islamic culture:

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