Being buddies the Muslim way!
Last Ramadan, as my family gulped down our iftar meal, scrambled to the toilet to get ready for tarawih and later piled in the car to get to the mosque, my brother always pleaded “Please don’t go to Sultan Mosque. Go somewhere else.” Lest you think his appeal was to escape a 20-rakaah tarawih, or the Imam who read the surah slowly and dragged the night, rest assured that the piety of my brother should never be questioned.
What he was worried about however, was the location of the mosque. Sultan Mosque is smack in the middle of a bustling ‘halal’ night life for the youths in Singapore. With its wide array of eateries that open till late, and its many cafes that offer good Middle Eastern food accompanied with music the likes of Nancy Ajram, Amr Diab and Ehab Tawfiq, it is no wonder then why Arab Street is almost always filled with youths at night.
For this reason, my brother dreads the possibility of bumping into any of his newfound friends. He had only recently started his tertiary education and with his new friends, sensitive issues like scale of piety, prayers and partying had not yet been established. If he could easily call up his old friends from his secondary school to meet at the mosque, things were not quite so clear with his new ones and he was not about to ruin his non-existent reputation in his first month of school.
“We’ve been going to Sultan for years and I will see to it that we keep that tradition this Ramadan as well,” my father chided him. Next to me, my brother slumped in the car seat, trying to make himself as invisible from the outside as possible.
“What’s the matter with you? They probably come here to pray too. And even if they’re not the praying type yet, maybe they would start praying if you lead the way,” I said with full belief in my brother’s influence and charm.
“Don’t be nuts. Playing pool, staying out late, catching the Manchester United match at Simpang Bedok is cool, going to Sultan with your parents for tarawih is not! Not where I live at least,” he retorted.
“Oh come on! Display some semblance of esteem please! First of all, if they think tarawih is not cool, they are not cool. And if they think that you’re lame for going with your parents, then they’re not cool enough to be your friends!” I insisted.
“You don’t understand ok?” Before I could say anything else, we had reached the mosque and the night was spent standing in prayer listening to the mellifluous voice of the Imam reverberating through the mosque and streets and I soon forgot about my brother’s dilemma.
About a week later, I saw him grunting and rummaging through his bookshelf, sieving through his many books. “Need help?” I asked.
“Erm have you seen the book on prayers that we had since we were kids?”
“By Ustaz Syed Ahmad Semait?”
“Yes, that one!”
“Why would you need that for? You’ve been praying for years!”
“It’s not for me silly. Someone wants to borrow it.”
After much prodding, he finally admitted that one of his new friends saw him going into Sultan Mosque and had sent him a message on Facebook asking if he could come along. He had also asked for explanations on tarawih, the sequence and what were the Arabic words that the jemaah usually read together.
“I knew it! I told you you could influence them and make them cooler!”
“Okay okay, just help me find the book. I got a mission to complete – someone wants to learn to pray!” My brother exclaimed, his eyes gleaming with excitement.
In the final week of Ramadan, we had someone else in the backseat with us, and we now prayed that this new tradition will be held for a long time to come insyaAllah. That night, the Ustaz had a short tazkirah and he expounded on this hadith: “The example of a good companion in comparison with a bad one is like that of the musk seller and the blacksmith’s bellows (furnace); from the first you would either buy musk or enjoy its good smell while the bellows would either burn your clothes, or you get a bad nasty smell thereof” [Bukhari]
I took out my phone and texted my brother: “Salaam musk seller” with a wide smile on my face, knowing his new friend must now be sitting next to him on the blessed Ramadan night, and I prayed that when next Ramadan comes, it wouldn’t only be the 2 friends, but a whole group of them. Ameen.