The Raya Race

Ahhh…the things we take for granted. My Singaporean self is so used to celebrating Eid or Hari Raya on the same day, yesterday’s hulla-bulloo was a tad overwhelming and regardless, very exciting!

It started the moment I parked my car at Kerrisdale, heart leaping with joy as I was about to hop myself to Pier 1 Imports to get me some nice cookie containers and Fall accents for the house. DH and I planned to drive to Mission on Raya Eve to sleepover and spend Raya there – so our house has to be ready before we take the long drive. Eve of Raya is not till the next day, so I was patting my own back for being one day early in my prep.

That’s when my phone ring (yes right after I got out of the car, typical dramatic point!) and it was MIL. She said the mosque nearest to the Mission house is celebrating Raya the next day ! What ? But I am not ready, I said ! So she asked what method are we following – and I told her I have to call her back in an hour while I consult the resident ‘ustaz’ in my house, DH.

As I stood there flustered by the prospect that I may not be having my first ever Raya abroad with my only family here – my in-laws, I understandably could not find any coins to insert into the parking machine. Darn. This is not a good time to park illegally in Kerrisdale, I thought. The street was very busy and I need to get my shopping done. But if Raya is the next day, I also need to get home so we can get to Mission on time.

Then as if on cue, the (sometimes) annoying Blackberry had a red light. An email came from a good friend here, and the title? “Eid Tommorrow”, or something like that. Arrggh!! Is this serious?! Eid is suppose to be on Saturday, not Friday – the day before I need to go shopping leisurely! I called her and had a yakkety yak about my own confusion, and she did a quick briefing of the different methods – global and local sighting, and how DH and I have to basically decide which method we follow. The reason? Mosques in Vancouver (and mostly Canada and US) differ in the methods – so it depends on which method you are comfortable with. She follows the global sighting method.

So I called DH, who took my call with the most calm and unperturbed manner when it comes to Eid-Day excitement. Typical engineer self versus bohemian social science person.

Me ? I was so excited I must have spoken so fast, that I can barely understood myself. I wanted to know when WE are celebrating Eid. Basically – are we global sighters or local sighters, I asked. “Why is that a question?”, he said. “We follow local sighting, no question. So we have to wait until the local sighting mosques make an annoucement”. Wait? Did I hear WAIT ? But there is no waiting in Singapore! We just KNOW when Raya is and plan our lives way ahead of it!!

The next 2 hours of my life, between Kerrisdale and my place – my mind was whirling with all the “Why must this happen to me on my first Raya abroad ?? ” thoughts. Yes, negative ones. You see, as a virgin on celebrating Raya abroad, I was calculated in taking care of not being too sad about being away from my own family and friends. I thought that hey, just don’t be in 2 minds about wanting to be in 2 different places for Raya, celebrate with the in laws and the Malay Muslim families in Vancouver and I should be able to forget the ‘missing Singapore’ bit. But if Raya is to be celebrated on Friday as announced by that 1st mosque, I am in danger. Because I assumed that most Malay Muslim families and my in-laws would follow THAT mosque since it is very near their homes. And so my celebration fantasy will dissapear into thin air. I had initially wanted to celebrate Raya with my friend and her family too, but since she has planned to visit some families in Victoria (an offshore island off Vancouver), I had meticulously erased THAT celebration fantasy off my head. I am left with the in-laws and Malay Muslim families as my respite, so they cannot be celebrating a day ahead of me!

Yes, yes, I know. Selfish minds. It is called pain management, ok.

The long wait finally came to a close when I educated myself with what the global sighting and local sighting method is, by reading, making calls and reflecting. It was the fastest discourse I have ever done when it comes to religious matters, but I concur with DH’s decision on using the local sighting method. So now that my heart is rested well about WHEN Raya will be for us, we waited for the big announcement if there were any local sighting of the Syawal crescent in Western Canada.

When in anxiety, you should zikir yes? Well I did, for a few minutes. My hand then picked up the phone to call who else but ? Yes, Mak. Told her about the hulla-bulloo and she was so amused by it and how I am ‘suffering’. Thank God Mak has a sense of humour. If she has been the bawling type who waxes lyrical about oh-why-must-you-be-so-far-away-on-Raya-day , then I would be in tears faster than an F1 pit stop. Her cheerfulness cheered me up, so I was upbeat again. Another respite came from a close friend in Singapore who called and after hearing out my rapid-fire anxiety of uncertain Raya celebration, she said, “Oh dear !! Oh dear !! Major dilemma for you, man ! Jalan Raya fun or completing Ramadan!”. Darn. Hit home like nail. I thought I grew up.

A few hours passed and finally announcements were made by other mosques about when Eid will be. No crescent was sighted locally so Raya will be on Saturday. MIL decided to follow local sighting too and so my entire in-laws family will be having Raya on Saturday, yay! So its back to Plan A – clean up the house, drive to Mission, cook up a storm with MIL, gorging on the Kuih Makmur and Kuih Tat that SIL and me made over 6 hours that day, etc etc. Raya will be on Saturday and I assume the Malay Muslim families on that part of Vancouver are doing it then too. Ah bliss.

After our last terawih together, DH and I went to the supermarket to get last minute supplies – yes fresh flowers included. I may not have the fun of ‘stealing’ leaves from the Chinese cemetery in Singapore with my kookoo cousins this year, but heck, I am paying for them this time.

Selamat Hari Raya everyone.

The Art of Terawih

Many eons ago when Madonna was hot and wearing leg warmers (even in tropical heat!) was a fashion statement, I used to wonder what the Terawih prayers was about. I couldn’t wrap my head around praying for more than 4 rakaats (in Terawih, the minimum is 8) in Ramadan especially when you were feeling exhausted from fasting the whole day. I would stay home, watch TV and sleep before my family returned from the mosque. Mak, bless her for her unimposing ways – had always reminded me to go for Terawih prayers when I am ready, but reminded me more sternly that my wajib prayers have to be perfected first.

Therefore, my love of doing Terawih during Ramadan only started in my young adult years. I remember it was in my early 20s, and there was a group of us (very close friends) who frequented Hard Rock Cafe often enough to get ‘special entry’ from the back door. It was Ramadan, and we all decided to pray more. Mak was our pillar then, she guided us every step of the way even if she knew that we were going through a phase. My friend (who was the only one who drove then) would pick all of us up in his 2 door sports Fiat, my mum included. And even though she would have preferred to go to the nearby Al Ansar mosque where most of her friends were, my friends and I insisted that we wanted to pray Terawih at a more ‘hip’ mosque – the Masjid Kampung Siglap. And so she would oblige our whims and young fancies, never once did she seem unsupportive of our new spiritual journey. After every prayer, she would accomodate and follow us to eat supper at a nearby coffee shop, and answered all of our silly questions about religion and how do to our this and that right.

When I moved to Tampines, I observed how my mum would walk (even when she is limping) to the mosque with her plastic water bottle in hand, to do the Terawih every single night. I would follow suit, but while Mak would be doing 20 rakaats, I would be doing the minimum 8. My nieces and nephews do Terawih effortlessly too, and it made me think about how young they start doing such beautiful prayers during Ramadan. I am so proud of them.

And during the last 10 days of Ramadan, Mak would be hobbling again to the mosque at 3 am in the morning for the Qiyammulail prayers and I would wonder again. I observed, asked all the questions I need to ask and as expected, she answered in her most patient manner and usual soft spoken ways (yes, I did not inherit this personality trait. I am loud, many says a surefire sign that I am my father’s daughter!). When I finally went for the Qiyammulail for the first time, my goodness…what did I miss ! Qiyam is an experience on its own that everyone MUST try at least once in their life.

Now being so far away from her, my spiritual journey is my own. I don’t have her to lead by example and for me to ask questions to, but both DH and I still think of her first when we have a question to ask about religion. We do our Terawih at different mosques to experience Canada’s diversity, and I feel blessed with all the different imams who have been leading the Terawih this Ramadan. I have never had a series of Terawih done with different styles of reading the surah’s all in one Ramadan. Because of the different mazhabs, there are also little differences on how we all do our prayers, but I have learnt to tolerate, educate when asked and inform when someone is learning.

I seriously think that if left on my own, I wouldn’t have the wisdom to be as patient and unimposing, especially when it comes to religion. I learnt that from Mak, as I now realised how patient she has been with me in my growing years.

God knows how I miss her.