East Coast Ramadan Night: Togetherness and bonding in iftar and solat
More than 300 multi-racial, multi-religious residents from the East Coast GRC (Group Representation Constituency of Bedok, Changi Simei, Kampong Chai Chee and Siglap) had three-hours of interaction as they made salad designs and ate nasi ambeng at an iftar gathering last Sunday evening dubbed “East Coast GRC Iftar 2018”.
The breaking of the Ramadan fast or iftar function was held at the Changi Simei Community Club on Sunday, 27 May.
Organised by the East Coast GRC, the event carried the theme “Let’s stay healthy together”. It was held from 5 pm to 8 pm starting with a salad-designing competition and short welcoming speeches by each of the four Members of Parliament who were the Host Advisers of the function.
Salad designing contest
The function aims at spreading joy to the needy Muslim and non-Muslim residents and to promote understanding of religious and cultural knowledge among the various races of Singapore as well as to understand the importance of eating healthy food to fight against diabetes.
Sound of azan
Many of the non-Muslim attendees wondered why the Muslims were not eating when the food was already served and placed on the table after the salad competition ended. But soon they learned that the Muslims have to follow a strict disciplinary rule – not eating until the arrival of the breaking fast time.
In Singapore, the breaking of fast time can be read from an Islamic calendar or heard over radio (Malay station) or in person for the maghrib prayer, the just-after dusk or the fourth prayer out of the five prayers of the day.
Soon, an ustaz (religious teacher) went to the microphone and made the azan (prayer call) and the Muslims started to break the fast, usually by first eating one or two dates, the fruit that gives a lots of energy, which has also been served. The rice (nasi ambeng), mixed brown and white rice – usually white rice only – plus lots of three types of vegetables and chicken were served in a big plate for the ten people to a table to relish.
Many Muslims, after eating the dates and drinking some mineral water left their tables without disturbing the other diners to perform their maghrib prayer. Two adjacent rooms, one for men and the other for ladies, were made available for the prayer. Shortly they returned to relish on their iftar meal.
Salad designing results
The results of the salad-making completion were announced, and the following were the winners: Bedok (first), Kampong Chai Chee (second), Changi Simei (third) and Siglap (fourth).
A few questions regarding Islamic practices were posed and answered by an ustaz for knowledge sharing with the non-Muslim participants. Two of the questions related to mosques and prayers are:
(1) Why is that more Muslims are at the mosques in Ramadan?
Mosques are crowded in Ramadan because of the following four main reasons:
(a) In Islam, congregational prayers build bonds and also there is more merit or spiritual rewards in praying in congregation than alone at home unless his family members desire him to lead the prayer,
(b) Bubur or spiced rice porridge is distributed free at about 5 pm, after the asar prayer (the late afternoon and third obligatory prayer of the day),
(c) The iftar or breaking of the Ramadan fast is held for any Muslim to break their fast when the azan (prayer call) for the maghrib is made. This happens at around 7 pm. and
(d) The performance of terawih prayers, the long night-time prayer after the obligatory isyak prayer, starting at around 8:45 pm.
(2) What is terawih prayers?
Terawih (or solat terawih) is a prayer performed only in Ramadan. It is a night prayer performed after the fifth and last obligatory prayer of the day, the isyak prayer which consists of four rakaats (units). The terawih prayer is a long prayer consisting of eight or 20 rakaats (units) plus three additional ones which can be performed in the mosque, in any available clean and quiet space like in the void deck of an apartment block or at home.
Unlike the daily five prayers which are obligatory, the terawih prayers are not compulsory but spiritually beneficial to perform as advised and performed by Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) himself.
Terawih with Dr Maliki
At the end of the “East Coast GRC Iftar 2018” function, some of attendees, including Dr Maliki Osman, went to perform the isyak and terawih prayers at the void deck of a close-by HDB block, Block 116 Simei Street. This void deck has been used as a terawih prayer place for many years throughout Ramadan.
Ramadan porridge, commonly called “bubur masjid”, as distributed in all mosques and other places, is also distributed at this void deck for the neighbourhood residents to collect for breaking their fast.
The terawih at this void deck ended at 9:30 pm.
Dr Maliki’s schedule
Dr Maliki will perform the isyak and terawih prayers on the following Ramadan nights and venues:
1) Tonight, 29 May): Al-Taqua Mosque, Jalan Bilal (See photo below taken after the terawih in this mosque.)
2) Sunday, 3 June: Blk 107 Bedok North Road
3) Friday, 8 June: Blk 775A Multi-purpose Hall, Bedok Reservoir View
4) Sunday, 10 June: Al-Ansar Mosque, Jalan Bilal
Ramadan will soon end and non-Muslims might visit their Muslim friends on Hari Aidil Fitri. One of the questions asked at the iftar event earlier was: Can non-Muslims greet their Muslim friends with the phrase “Happy New Year” on Hari Raya?
Hari Raya is celebrated on 1 Syawal of the Islamic calendar, that is, the day after the last day of Ramadan. Syawal is the tenth month of the Muslim calendar, not the first. The Muslim New Year is three months later, on 1 Muharram.
The first day of Syawal, called Eid ul-Fitr (Celebration of Charity) or Aidil-Fitri in Malay, is a special day to celebrate the victory of having attained a month of total day-time fasting – no food, no drink, no smoking, no making love with the spouse but doing heightened righteousness like performing extra voluntary prayers, giving charity and helping the poor.
So, non-Muslims, just as Singapore Muslims do when meeting their relatives and friends, should instead greet their Muslim friends with the greeting “Selamat Hari Raya” or “Selamat Hari Raya Aidil-Fitri” or “Eid Mubarak” (Have a blessed Eid).
Have a blessed Ramadan.
29 May 2018 (Inserted photo taken at the Al-Taqua Mosque on 30 May)
(Photo credits: Some of the photos in this article were contributed by Mr Najib Ahmad, Ms Suryani Nasiruddin, Ms Noorliah Hawdi and Ms Sri Zuraida.)