Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ramadan reflection #3: The shortest terawih.

Last week the Dutchman and I were really happy to be invited to break our fast with our friends in Leiden (It gets so lonely in the W-straat you know?) Their parents are Moroccan and along with their other sisters, were still in Morocco for vacation (and Ramadan), because face it, the Ramadan atmosphere here can't begin to compare with Morocco (or even Singapore, sob).

Although the hegemony of a supermarket Albert Heijn is surprisingly tactful of the existence of this holy month. Or maybe it's just because 90% of their evening shifts are covered by youth of Moroccan descent. :)

It was my first iftar Moroccan-style, with dates (of course!) harira soup, popiah/loempia, and hard-boiled eggs. I didn't know it was typical until the Dutchman showed me the Ramadan-journaal on Dutch TV -- they were eating the same things. Haha!

At about 11.30pm we set off to the nearby Al-Hijra mosque, squirreled away in a small road and just like the first European mosque I ever saw in France, it looked just like an apartment from the outside. I still fondly remember that mosque in Bordeaux (and the nice director who let me sit in his chair!), being only 16 and (already) searching for mosques in Bordeaux and in Paris. Which turned out to be educational for my host family as well.

Sitting in the women's section on the ground floor (rumour has it that the men's section is beside and above, but since I never saw it I can't definitively tell you so, haha) at the back, we had what I thought was a couple of minutes before terawih would start. I looked around at the women: one was reading the Quran, some of the older ones were sitting on chairs, and some were giving out murtabak-like pancakes and plastic cups of water.

At that moment, I missed going to the mosque for terawih prayers. Back in Singapore, a few years ago I would faithfully cycle to Al-Istighfar mosque on most nights of Ramadan to endure an hour and a half of sweaty and crowded prayer, makciks telling me to sit closer, cover my feet, pin my headscarf, etc.

But I loved being in a space that I was familiar with, sometimes meeting people I knew (or vaguely knew -- friends of parents or some distant relatives) or sometimes seeing kids dashing across the carpeted floor and falling helter-skelter, unhurt. Even though you had to get there early to get a good spot in the carpeted area within a good distance of a fan (a must in non-airconditioned mosques) or else you'd have to kneel and prostrate on plastic woven tikar (mats) on the hard tiled corridor. Ouch!

I didn't understand most of what was being said in Arabic and Moroccan dialect by a man over the PA system. I turned over to my friend and asked her.

"He's asking for money to build the new mosque. Last night he talked for one and a half hours, I really hope it's not going to be the same tonight," she answered warily.

It was already midnight and it was surreal to be in a mosque! I once stayed overnight for qiyam ul-lail (night prayer) with fellow volunteers in a mosque in Singapore and that felt more like a sleepover than a spiritual experience. It was the same this time around: the novelty of being in a mosque so late at night completely overcame the absurdity of this man talking for one and a half hours, asking for funds.

Finally at 1.00am, after a round of coffee and some gentle coaxing from the imam, this man got off the microphone and the imam started the prayer. He led only 4 raka'at (units of prayer) because it was already late and we left the mosque at 1.30am, passing people on the streets on their way back from Saturday night partying.

For the longest time I ever spent in a mosque, that was the shortest terawih ever!
P/S: If you'd like to donate to the construction of a new Al-Hijra Mosque in Leiden, the Netherlands, visit their website!
Dutch donors, you can transfer directly to ABN-AMRO t.n.v.: Stichting Moslimgroep te Leiden.
Overseas donors, IBAN: NL70ABNA0421650249BIC: ABNANL2A or contact me by leaving a comment below if you wish to transfer to a Singaporean bank account.

1 comment:

Suhaimi (a musli-mat in SG) :D said...

Its common to hear 8 or 20 rakaats terawih plus additional 3 rakaats witr in spore but 4rakaats terwaih is the first i heard of. Aniway, thers nothing for me to dispute though. :D


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