Circumcision & Khatam Al Quran


Circumcision, known as either bersunat or berkhatan, is one of the most important ceremonies in Malay society, apart from those related to marriage and death.

The circumcision, performed by the designated expert known as the tok mudin, usually takes place when a boy is between six and 10 years old. The parents would fix the date for the circumcision, sending out invitations to relatives, friends and neighbours, for the two-day ceremony.

On the first day, the boy's hair is cropped in a ceremony called berandam, before he is taken in a procession around the village, which ends when he is placed upon a dais (pelamin). He is usually required to dress appropriately in baju Melayu with a sampin or short sarong.

On the second day, the actual circumcision takes place, usually early in the morning. Before the tok mudin arrives, a few items are made ready - a length of white cloth, a jar of water, a live cockerel, a banana tree stem, a tepak sirih (betelnut set), and a small amount of money, intended as symbolic payment for services rendered by the tok mudin.

Once the tok mudin arrives, he would recite a spell (jampi) over the water in the jar, before proceeding to bathe the boy - who is made to stand on the top rung of a short ladder - with the water.

Following this, the boy who is dressed only in a sarong, sits astride the banana tree stem. The actual circumcision then takes place with the tok mudin using a blade to make the incision. The ceremony ends once the wound is dressed. However, the tok mudin will continue to check on the boy in the following days until the wound heals.

It is believed that the boy's potential sex life can be determined using the cockerel, which would then tell whether he would marry more than once. The bird, together with the length of white cloth and the betelnut set containing the money, are then handed over to the tok mudin as gifts.

In the past, this ceremony was greeted with a festive air in Malay villages, as large groups would attend. Group circumcision ceremonies were commonplace.

Today however, this traditional ceremony is a rarity as more and more parents are opting to send their children to clinics and hospitals.

Khatam Al Quran

The Khatam al-Quran marks the completion of reading of the entire Quran, the holy book of Islam. This ceremony often precedes circumcision, depending on whether the boy has completed his course in the reading of the holy book (mengaji). It is usually held after the procession for the circumcision ceremony, before the actual circumcision takes place.

However, the Khatam al-Quran can be celebrated as an altogether separate ceremony, in which the boy is required to read verses from the 30th and final section of the Holy Quran before his parents, his Quran teacher and invited guests.

Once the boy completes his reading, he kisses the hands of his Quran teacher, his parents, and each of the guests in that order. The boy then descends from the dais (pelamin) where he was seated while reading the Quran, to join the prepared feast.

Following the feast, each guest is presented with a bunga telor, a boiled egg attached to a stick, decorated with floral designs.

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