Monday, December 06, 2004

thinking of old surau

Except for the mosque, most if not all the old suraus in my village were built by individuals. Thus they were known as ‘Surau Haji Awang’, ‘Surau Pok Su Mat’, ‘Surau Pok Teh Ali’ or ‘Surau Pok Su Jusoh’. These individuals too became the imam and sometimes were the ‘siak’ and ‘bilal’ as well. The suraus served as a place for prayer and ‘mengaji Quran’ for the children as well as a place to borrow ‘kawoh’, ‘tuku’, and ‘pinggang-makuk’ come time for ‘makang pulut’. Without government’s money, the structures were modest and the facilities were basic. A well and a toilet were about all there were. Inside, few pieces of ‘sejadah’ normally for the front ‘saf’ and the floor if covered with ‘tikar getah’ was considered a luxury. For the times when ‘jemaah’ increased, normally in Ramadan or when there was a ‘ratik’ (with some ‘makang’ of-course) the rolls of ‘tikor k’uang’ sufficed. Modernism saw the tikor k’uang replaced by plastic ‘tikor gulong’. If anything else, the suraus were clean and well looked after. Haji Awang, Pok Su Mat, Pok Teh Ali and Pok Su Jusoh were important individuals, they were the village elders, next in importance only to the ‘Tok M’ulu’ or ‘Tok T’ua Kapong’. Their attendance at any functions were a must, be it for ‘makang pulok’, ‘ratik’, ’bace yasing’, ‘semayang ajat’, ‘s’unak’, and occasionally even to help to ‘semelih ayang’. For us children, surau was an important place of rendezvous. It was the place that parents would not object and a perfect excuse to leave the house. Well there was a river near Surau Pok Su Jusoh and a dip after the ‘mengaji’ was almost a must despite the scare of ‘broya k’atok’.

Perhaps it was the simplicity of the surau, or maybe the simplicity of the people that us children were tolerated despite our noise and annoyance. ‘Teraweh’ in Ramadan was a fun time. Always there were some ‘kueh’ and ‘kopi O’ for the jemaah but ‘makang’ was delayed until after the completion of the ‘twenty-one rakaat’. The ‘p’ala pengak’ among us would take a peek under the ‘tudong saji’ and loudly declare the feast. Normally it was a simple serving of ‘roti canai’, ‘pulok nyor’ or ‘wajik’. On lesser days it would be ‘biskuk balok’ je’, someone would proclaim. Not joining the ‘terawikh’ prayer’ however was not an excuse for not joining in the ‘selawat’. But ‘Sal’Allah wassalam Allaihi’ became something else. Sometimes it became ‘soh lah buleh makang wajik’ or at another time, ‘Pok Lah wi salang Pok Ik’. Such ‘daja’ were we.

Time changes everything. The suraus now are much nicer, built with government money, in brick and concrete. Now a ‘jawatankuasa’ runs them. Because there are now ‘luxury’ items, speaker system, clock, good carpets etc. inside, the suraus are often locked, at times at prayer time too. No longer are suraus ‘open’ physically and spiritually. Children are somewhat inadmissible with some suraus ‘inappropriately’ displaying a ‘no children allowed’ sign at the entrance. When allowed, they were at prayer time relegated to the back rows and noises are frowned upon. Once I saw a man actually lifting a boy to the back ‘saf’ when he (the boy) had already started praying. I look at these changes feeling sad.

My children, outspoken as they were, complained when they were asked to leave the front ‘saf’. Amir even retorted when told that kids were regarded as unclean. ‘Bakpe???, Amir ‘sunak mase umor lima tahung kang!’ (What? I was circumcised when I was five!). ‘Did you not tell me that we should aim to be early for prayer and the front ‘saf’ accord the greatest pahala?’ he may add.

I may be very much a ‘jahe’ when it come to religious matters but think my sadness is warranted. In our over-zealousness to protect the sanctity of the suraus and mosques we are instilling in the children’s mind a kind of aloofness that could later psychologically distance their heart from the house of Allah. A friend even remarked that such over-zealousness is turning our suraus and mosques into temples and shrine; a remark unkind but true in a sense. Maybe I should add that I saw in Masjidil Haram, children treated with remarkable kindness, families were actually having ‘picnic’ during Ramadan or on the fasting days of Mondays and Thursdays. The children of Quran classes in Masjid Nabawi in Madinah were equally noisy. Fact is children are children the world over. Are we too not once children ourselves?

Perhaps if we care once again to open our suraus to the children, we may be ‘vaccinating’ against future social disorder. For that, all our mosque and surau officials, the imams and bilals should once again be like ‘Tok imang’ Haji Awang or Pok Su Jusoh; for that matter.

Kawoh; kawah; couldron
Tuku; tungku; three legged steel stove
pinggang-makuk ; pinggan-mangkuk; bowls and plates; utensils
makang pulut; makan pulut; kenduri; feast
ratik ; ratib; tahlil; group rememberance (zikr’)
makang; makan; feast
p’ala pengak ; kepala pengat; a term to denote leader of the ruffians
tikor k’uang; tikar mengkuang; mengkuang mat
tikor gulong; tikar gulung; rolled mat normally of plastic
Tok M’ulu; Tok Penghulu; villages’ group (mukim) headman
Tok T’ua Kapong; Tok Ketua Kampung; village headman
bace yasing; baca Yasin; majlis bacaan Yasin; Yasin (a chapter in the Quran) reading session
semayang ajat; sembahyang hajat; special prayer
s’unak; bersunat; berkhatan; circumcision
roti canai; roti canai; what else ?
pulok nyor; pulut kelapa; glutinous rice with grated coconut
wajik; wajik; another type of pulut cooked in brown coconut sugar
biskuk balok; biskut balak; dried bread
Pok Lah wi salang Pok Ik; Salam Pak Lah untuk Pak Said; Greeeting from Pak Lah to Pak Said
Daja; dajal; devilish
Jahe; jahil; ignorant

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