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.


  1. salam kakteh,

    Selamat Hari Raya to you and yours and all the meowerS, from me and mine and our meower as well 🙂

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