Last Sunday, my wife (FCT) and I took the LRT ride from Kelana Jaya to Masjid Jame. For senior citizen the return fare is only RM2.20 each. The nearby Masjid India area was the focal point of my pre independence or childhood days. Those days the road was called Malay Street and the present Jalan Tun Perak was called Java Street which later became Jalan Mountbatten. Two very famous English owned department stores Robinsons and Whiteway Laidlaw were situated there.
Masjid India was a kampung style wooden building on stilts. The imam (priest) of Masjid India and his two brothers, the imam of Masjid Jalan Haji Salleh and the imam of other mosque, were the key figures among south Indian Muslims. The north Indian Muslims were more associated with the High Street and Campbell Road police stations mosques and the Karamat or a religious person’s shrine near Victoria Institution. However, Masjid India was the popular choice of all Indian Muslims because the mosques at the Police Stations were much smaller.
Like an old record, once again I repeated my cherished memories to FCT about the good old days, when the river there was clean and everything orderly.I told her that on two Fridays I repeated like a parrot the prepared speech before the Friday prayer sermon to collect money for the Islamic school. The congregation was really generous because we collected a lot of money as I was speaking. Of and on the Islamic school students would come to clean up and beautify the mosque area. Some afternoons, I would be reciting the Quran at the mosque using the microphone for people to hear.
All these stopped when on the urging of some of my rich friends I lied to my dad that I would be at the mosque when in real fact I went to see a Hindustani movie with them. Believe me, my father too came to see the same movie and his seat was next to mine. I would never forget the whacking I got for that. It was also a turning point because after the incident I was taken out from the religious school and I went to a normal English school.
Today, Masjid India is not the same. The congested road and all the small stalls around is actually choking the place. The foreigners are in total control of all the businesses there.
Last Sunday at around lunch time the Sikhs were distributing free air bandung (a syrup drink) to all the pedestrians to celebrate one of their Guru’s birthday. Some people even refused to accept the drink. In contrast, those days the Sikh temples were famous for their free vegetarian lunch which people of all race and religions would enjoy. Masjid India was also famous for this kind of activities on special Islamic occasions. They even gave packed oil rice or briyanis to passer-by.
There were many Indian Muslim businesses like MS Ally, Naina Mohd, Ubaidullah and other big names to sponsor such generosities. Today even Ramadhan charity is big business. Mosques put up their food expenses list that runs to thousands in advance. Imagine the scenes of Ramadhan food bazaars mushrooming everywhere, the impression is Ramadhan is a time for over- indulgence, greed and waste of food. Is this the purpose in Allah’s command for Muslims to fast during Ramadhan?
Those days the halal/haram distinction was at face value based on trust. Unlike today, there is so much inter race and religious suspicion about very small things. I wish the same suspicion is applied to big things like corruption and other wrongs in society.
Just sitting there looking at the activities taking place in its true form is more exciting than visiting our Museum where history is manipulated with addition and omissions based on the current political landscape. Let me leave this topic before I get too emotional.
If this article sees daylight in Harakah, it will already be Ramadhan. Indeed we have a lot of political news all round to distract us and maybe even pollute our ‘puasa’. Apart from hunger and thirst, there is a need to control emotions and thoughts in terms of anger, hate, dislike and support or speak out against something that is wrong. This challenge is really huge because how to avoid all these when one sees the supermarket bill. There is an item of expense - GST that was not there before April 1? It even make the RM500 for civil servants and pensioners look more a big fraud because GST continues to take back more. It is like the Along giving loan by deducting the interest in advance.
Ramadhan is a good time to call a ‘time-out’ about all political differences and confrontations because a ‘hungry person can easily become angry and irritable’. Let the month of Ramadhan with full of prayers and charity be a time to look at lives and events in a calm and serene atmosphere.
It is also an opportunity to reflect on how to bring Islamic norms of behavior found in the Quran, into our daily lives. How do we learn these things from the Quran when we read it in a language, we do not understand. One every important things I learned in my research for Med. (TESL) was, ‘Reading without understanding is like barking at words’. I find FCT, who reads the Quran in Chinese asking me many relevant questions about things, which I did not know is stated in the Quran. Believe me, with understanding the meaning, your love for Islam and the Quran will increase many folds. Try it during this Ramadhan. Selamat Berpuasa’, may the blessings of Allah be on all.