Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hari Raya Idul Fitri on 24 October 2006

Both the Singapore and Indonesia governments have announced that Hari Raya Idul Fitri falls on Tuesday, 24 October 2006, this year.

In Singapore, the Singapore's Mufti has announced that based on hisab estimation, the crescent moon cannot be sighted after today's sunset because it's just 1 minute over the horizon. Therefore, tomorrow (Monday, 23rd of October 2006) will be the completion (30th day) of the Ramadhan fasting month, and that the Hari Raya will fall on Tuesday, 24th of October 2006.

The Indonesian government also announced today that Hari Raya Idul Fitri will fall on Tuesday, 24th of October 2006 because the results of rukyat in 29 places in Indonesia show that the hilal (crescent moon) cannot be sighted during sunset at those 29 places, with hilal of between zero degree and 30 minutes below horizon and one degree over the horizon.

The results are different from Muhammadiyah's announcement, which has decided that the Hari Raya will fall on Monday, 23rd of October 2006 based on its hisab estimation. In this case, the government of Indonesia expressed hope that such differences will not cause any frictions among Muslims in Indonesia.

Meanwhile, the government of Saudi Arabia has announced that the Hari Raya Idul Fitri will fall on Monday, 23rd of October 2006, not because they also have sighted the hilal, but because they have started their Ramadhan fasting month one day earlier, based on the crescent moon sighting result for the start of the Ramadhan month. So today (22nd of October 2006) would be their 30th day of fasting month, and since there's no such thing as fasting for 31 days, they will celebrate their Eid ul-Fitr tomorrow.

Again, I would like to wish all Muslims all over the world, a Happy Eid ul-Fitr celebration. Eid mubarak, Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitri, mohon maaf lahir dan batin.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Zakat Fitrah

Earlier today, I and Irza went to the Ar-Raudhah Mosque at Bukit Batok East, about 10 minutes drive from home, for us to pay zakat fitrah for this year. This is the first time we paid our zakat fitrah in Singapore, since we will be celebrating Hari Raya Aidil Fitri in Singapore. In the past 6 years during our stay in Singapore, we always went back to Indonesia for Hari Raya, and paid our zakat fitrah there.

Zakat, or paying alms, is the third of the Five Pillars of Islam, and refers to spending a fixed portion of our wealth for the poor or needy. The payment of zakat is obligatory for all Muslims. There are two main types of zakat:
  • zakat on traffic (zakat-ul-fitr, also known as zakat fitrah in Indonesia), which is a per person payment equivalent to cost of around 2.25 kilograms of the main food of the region (this may be wheat, rice or dates, depending on the place), which is paid during the month of Ramadhan by the head of the family for himself and his dependents to the zakat collector (amil).
  • zakat on wealth (zakat-ul-mal, also known as zakat maal or zakat harta in Indonesia), which comprises all other types of zakat, such as on business, savings, income, crops, livestock, gold, etc.
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) has appointed some mosques in Singapore (but not all mosques, take note) to become zakat collection centres where we can pay for our zakat fitrah there. The list of the appointed zakat collection centres can be found here. We can actually make zakat payment over the Internet (using the e-payment function), but in my opinion, it's best and more afdhal if we just go to the nearest mosques and pay for the zakat directly to the amil.

We can come to any of the mosques which has been appointed as a zakat collection centre, and look for the "Pungutan Zakat" sign. Note that the head of the family will have to pay for the zakat, meaning it's best for the father (instead of the mother) to come to pay for the zakat. The signage will lead us to a room where the amil will then collect the zakat money and give us the zakat receipts. We also have to read the niat (intention) script, which is provided by the amil, in Malay (bahasa Melayu).

For this year, the zakat fitrah rate in Singapore is $3.50 per person for normal rate (based on average grade rice price), and $4.50 per person for premium rate (based on superior grade rice price). The zakat fitrah has to be paid before Hari Raya, otherwise the zakat payment will become sadaqah. Therefore, we need to ensure that we pay for the zakat fitrah before Hari Raya, especially for those who intend to celebrate Hari Raya on Monday instead of Tuesday.

Hopefully this article is useful to those who want to pay zakat in Singapore.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Happy Diwali and Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitri

Wishing all my Hindu, Jain and Sikh friends a Happy Diwali.

Wishing all my Muslim friends, Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitri 1427H, mohon maaf lahir dan batin.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Haze in Singapore Worsened

Channel NewsAsia reported that the haze level in Singapore went into the unhealthy range starting from today (Saturday, 7 October 2006) morning. The 3-hours PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) reading first entered the unhealthy range at 8am with a PSI reading of 101, and then climbed up as high as 130 at 10am, before going down to 115 at 12 noon.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) of Singapore reported that the smoke haze situation has deteriorated overnight, and the prevailing winds have remained southerly to southwesterly overnight and they have brought smoke haze from southern Sumatra to Singapore.

It is reported that the same problem currently is also affecting Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur, forcing most Malaysians in KL to stay indoors. The haze has choked the region, and even spreading across Pacific. On Thursday, the haze had even spread 3,600 kilometres (2,250 miles) to smother islands in the western Pacific, authorities there said.

It's confirmed that the forest fires in Indonesia, particularly Sumatra and Kalimantan (Borneo), are the main culprit of the haze that choked the South East Asia region. Not only that this matter has prompted "condemnation" from Singaporean and Malaysian bloggers, some Indonesian bloggers based in Singapore have also voiced out their concerns as well.

Nisa said:

it was not pleasant living with this kind of air. and all because some people back home we burning trees to make profit for themselves. talking about being greedy and selfish!


so please government of my country, not only you should step up in whatever you do but do take more serious action on this greedy people

Rani said:

And we're like, thousands of kilometers away from the smoke source. I wonder how it feels to live in Pekanbaru or other cities in Sumatra.

The effect of the haze is no joke. Nisa is right when she said that we shouldn't make a joke of it. This issue really has given Indonesia a very bad name. The government of Indonesia should take actions more seriously in handling this matter.

Update - 8 October 2006, 05:54hrs SGT:

The haze situation in Singapore got even worse on Saturday evening, with the 3-hour PSI reading reached 150 at 9pm yesterday evening. Currently, the PSI reading is 128.

The Singapore government has expressed its concerns about the situation to Indonesia, stressing the urgency to suppress the forest fires which are causing the haze. Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said: "I just hope that next year, the Indonesians will understand our concerns and do something about the haze."

They also have offered
assistance to Indonesia to fight the problem. This includes cloud 'seeding' operations to induce rain as well as table-top exercises to help farmers deal with land clearing. "It's up to the Indonesian government and its people whether they want to take the offer", said Dr. Yacoob Ibrahim, Singapore's Environmental and Water Resources Minister. Hmm... let's see whether the Indonesian government would take up that offer.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Najib Tun Razak mentioned that ASEAN countries must take joint actions to tackle this haze problem. This includes setting up a sizeable fund to tackle the problem of open burning which is seen as the cause of the haze in the region. This statement indirectly depicts the shameful inability of the Indonesian government to handle the problem, i.e. to even prevent those greedy Sumatran land farmers to use open burning to clear their lands.

It is, indeed, shameful.

[Indonesian version]

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Flight to Batam Diverted to Pekanbaru

Detik.Com reported yesterday that some flights to Batam was being diverted to Pekanbaru due to bad weather and haze. It was reported that a Batavia Air flight from Medan to Batam was forced to land at Pekanbaru at around 13:20hrs West Indonesian Time (or 14:20hrs Singapore time) yesterday (Saturday, 30 September 2006), while another flight, which is a Lion Air flight from Jakarta was also diverted to Pekanbaru and landed there about 10 minutes later.

This is a bit strange, considering the location of Batam's Hang Nadim airport, which is not too far from Singapore, only about 20km away. It's true that the PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) level in Singapore is a bit high in the last couple of days, however there were no reports of very high haze level or very bad weather which can cause any flight disruptions. A check on yesterday's flight information at Changi airport's website also does not show any cancellations on flights arriving in Singapore during the specified period.

Couldn't be that 20km distance can make such a big difference in terms of weather? Or, could it be?

Update on 3 October 2006, 2:15pm SGT:

In the past two days, the haze has thickened over the skies in Singapore. Forest fires in Sumatra is again becoming the culprit. Let us hope that the Indonesian government can do the necessary actions to prevent this issue from getting worse.