Salute to the humble bubur masjid
I love bubur masjid (directly translated as “mosque porridge”) which is available only once a year in Ramadan.
Bubur or spiced rice porridge is a traditional food item for iftar (breaking of the Ramadan fast). Fasting in Ramadan is the third of the five Pillars of Islam.
I break my fast most of the time at home with my family members but my sister who lives near the Ansar Mosque in Chai Chee would get a packet of bubur for me twice or three times in the month.
And Ramadan, commonly referred to as the fasting month, is here again, starting from 18 June. Muslims all over the world fast from dawn to dusk the whole of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. And I shall get to taste bubur masjid soon.
The soft and tasty bubur is the starter or even the main food item for breaking fast at the mosque, and soon after they would rush into the prayer hall to join the congregational maghrib prayer, the fourth prayer of the day, performed just after sunset.
In fact, it is the azan (prayer call) of the maghrib prayer that Muslims, whether at home, in restaurants or the mosque, were waiting for, with bubur and other food items spread before them and not eating anything yet, until they hear the azan. The azan signals the exact time for breaking fast.
Traditionally, Muslims break their fast by eating a couple of dates first because of the fruit’s nutritional value and then drink any soft liquid or warm milk before taking bubur or any other food items.
The bubur is not only for those breaking fast in the mosque but also for sharing with the neighbourhood residents breaking their fast at home. Bubur is often distributed at about 4:00 pm. Even non-Muslims who queued up for the bubur would be entertained.
When I lived in the kampung in the late 1950s and the 1960s, iftar was a private family affair. Still, people would pass a plate of whatever they had cooked to share with their chosen neighbour of the day – for generosity and renewing neighbourliness and friendship.
Sharing of food is charity. Eating together with family members, or with relatives and friends, promotes interaction and togetherness.
Some new converts who fast for the first time usually say that they were unable to fast for the full day in the first few days of the fasting month. Some of them gave up their fast by 4 pm., not so much because of hunger but because of extreme thirst. Some would drink water, and this, of course, would nullify the fast. But it is okay for new converts to give up if they were unable to carry on fasting the whole day. It fact, they can begin by fasting half a day for a few days, like most Muslim children do as a start.
In multi-religious Singapore, the spirit of Ramadan in sharing food has been extended to non-Muslims. They are invited for the iftar at some public location or the mosque. This aims at encouraging interaction among people of different faiths and promoting racial harmony.
Iftar has also been held in the most well-known building in the world – the White House. In recent years, the White House has been holding iftar sessions during which invited Muslim and non-Muslim Americans and dignitaries ate together.
Organising iftar gatherings for multi-religious attendance is a positive move. For instance, in Singapore, these iftar sessions attended by people of different faiths have greatly helped in fostering understanding and respect for one another. It is indeed a positive development.
5 June 2015