After weeks of speculation, Malaysians finally know the date of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, which this year falls on Saturday (22 April 2023). Unlike last year, neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and Thailand would be welcoming 1 Syawal on the same day as us.
For reference, Aidilfitri was celebrated in Singapore a day after Malaysia last year, meaning that Johoreans can cross the Causeway to celebrate Har Raya twice. As bizarre as it sounds, such an occurrence, while not common, does happen from time to time.
In fact, there have been instances in the past where Malaysian states celebrate Aidilfitri on different dates. The last time this happened was in 1983 when Johor and Perak celebrated Hari Raya a day earlier than the rest of the country.
This was possible because Islamic affairs in our country are under the purview of the state and not the federal. However, since 1983, the date of Hari Raya has been standardised nationwide thanks to a ruling from the Conference of Rulers a year prior.
So, how did this come to be? Here’s everything you need to know:
Religious affairs are under the purview of the state government
As mentioned earlier, Islamic affairs in our country are under the authority of the State. Article 3 of the Federal Constitution established Islam as the religion of the federation and that every state except Melaka, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak would have its Ruler as the Head of the religion of Islam.
Article 3(2) of the Federal Constitution reads as below:
Furthermore, Article 3(3) of the Federal Constitution prescribed for the constitution of the states of Melaka, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak to confer the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the Head of the religion of Islam in the state. Article 3(5) then established the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the Head of the religion of Islam in the Federal Territories.
Besides that, the Federal Constitution clearly prescribed Islamic Laws as being under the purview of the State as per “List II — State List” of the Ninth Schedule. Accordingly, given that determining the dates for the Hijri calendar is also part of Islamic religious affairs, the authority to do so is vested with the state Ruler.
The consensus at the 125th meeting of the Conference of Rulers
During the 92nd meeting of the Conference on 15 and 16 March 1972 chaired by the Sultan Pahang Sultan Abu Bakar Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mu’adzam Shah ibni Almarhum Al-mutasim Billah Abdullah at the Istana Negara, the Malay rulers reached a consensus that the dates for the start of Ramadan, Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Hari Raya Aidiladha to encompass the whole of Malaysia. According to the official website of the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal, the first-ever national observation of the crescent-shaped new moon in determining the start of Ramadan was held on 7 October 1972 in Teluk Kemang, Port Dickson in Negeri Sembilan.
However, the implementation of this consensus faced a hiccup in 1983 when, as we’ve mentioned previously, both Perak and Johor determined the start of Ramadan and Syawal to be one day earlier than other states in Malaysia. Nevertheless, as such never happened again after 1983, with all of the important Hijri dates being uniformed all across Malaysia.
This was thanks to another decision made at the 125th meeting of the Conference of Rulers held on the 13 and 14 October 1982 at the Istana Negara that was chaired by Sultan Kedah Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah ibni Al-marhum Sultan Badlishah. According to a Bernama interview with the current Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal Datuk Seri Syed Danial Syed Ahmad in 2014, the Malay rulers reached a consensus for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to decide on the dates of 1 Ramadan and 1 Syawal and for it to be standardised for the whole of Malaysia.
The consensus was in accordance with Article 38(2)(b) of the Federal Constitution below:
Syed Danial further elaborated that since 1983, the dates for the start of Ramadan and Syawal have been standardised and announced by the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal live on RTM. Fast forward to 2023, Malaysians have just witnessed another announcement by Syed Danial for the date of Hari Raya Aidilfitri this year live on RTM.
With that being said, we here at Ahmad Danial Iswatt & Luqman Advocates & Solicitors would like to wish all Malaysians Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri. For more insights into the Malaysian legal system such as this, do make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram or visit our official website. You can also read our articles on the popular Malaysian news aggregator app Newswav here.