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Can a Ponggal boiling pot affect your faith?

Can a Ponggal boiling pot affect your faith? Yes, says the Education Ministry!

Can a Ponggal boiling pot affect your faith? Yes, says the Education Ministry!

This Ponggal, I pray for common sense to prevail among our leaders in promoting unity. Now, let’s learn what is the intention behind my prayers.

Ponggal is a three-day harvest festival celebrated in India, and the Indian diaspora across the globe. It is celebrated in the winters when the sun reaches its southernmost point according to the Hindu calculations.

Derived from a Tamil word, Ponggal means ‘to boil’. On this auspicious day, rice is boiled in milk and offered to the sun first, cows and then to the family and friends. Technically, it is a harvest festival and is more of a cultural festival and not a religious festival.

However, a top officer from the Education Ministry seemed to have a different understanding of Ponggal and declared it as haram for Muslims to participate in.

The circular, issued and signed by Education Ministry deputy director general Adzman Talib on Jan 13 goes like this:


With all due respect I refer to the case above.

2. With respect to the declaration made at the 100th Meeting of the Shariah Panel of Experts from the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) , which convened on 8 and 9th April 2019, has decided on conditions for Muslims participating in Ponggal festivities.
3. Ponggal is a celebration of the Hindu community, as such, Jakim has decided that it is haram for Muslims to take part in the celebration, especially participating in cooking the rice milk.

4. Jakim is also said that Muslims are disallowed from:

4.1 Wearing clothes that depicts the Hindu religion, especially attire such as worn by Hindu priests
4.2 Wearing any ornaments that represents other religions such as the red dot (pottu) on one’s forehead and flower garlands.
4.3 Engaging in any rituals performed in any manner
4.4 Entering temples or places of worship where ritual ceremonies of the religion is ongoing
4.5 Insulting and mocking Gods and deities of the particular religion
4.6 Extending wishes to friends and neighbours in a manner that may sideline Islam

Now, I am not sure whether to laugh or cry about the circular. To me, the content of the letter was outright ridiculous and obviously issued with ignorance spread all over it.

And I would like to clarify that the Indians, particularly the Hindus, do not dress up as “sami Hindu” ourselves. In fact, no one dresses up like ‘sami Hindu’ to celebrate Ponggal.

The most mind-boggling thing is prohibiting Muslims from stirring a pot of sweet rice. Can someone enlighten me on how stirring a pot filled with milk and rice would weaken one’s akidah? Am I missing something here?

The only thing I can think of being weakened by stirring a pot with rice and milk is your energy level, if being a couch potato is your primary duty.

And for those who consume too much sweet rice during Ponggal, you may need to check your sugar level.

So to Jakim and Adzman, I have question for both of you. Is your faith in your religion that weak that an earthen pot can crack it?

And how would simple and polite greeting sideline Islam? Is there a scientific research paper on this that I may have missed reading?

For one’s information, Ponggal is celebrated for three days. It celebrates the relationship between us human beings to nature, which nourishes us and sustains us.

Those involved in agriculture use these days as a get-together and connect with family and friends.

Closer to home, Ponggal is very much like the Pesta Kaamatan celebrated In Sabah. It is grand festivity celebrated by Kadazandusuns and so far, everyone irrespective of faith join in the fun and no ridiculous rules are imposed to those participating in it.

As of press time, The Leaders Online was unable to get Adzman to clarify his circular.

So for now, I would like to invite all my Malaysian friends to join in the Ponggal celebration, which falls tomorrow.

Happy Ponggal to all!

Hema Subramaniam is Editor in Chief at The Leaders