Monday, June 27, 2005

the mosque in our heart

Yesterday 25th June 2005 was a remarkable day. I came face to face with a live street demonstration. At forty-something, I had managed to walk away from them all, not even in the tumultuous days of September ‘98. But yesterday was different, the demonstration was held in the middle of Kuala Terengganu banking district, and I had to be at the bank. What was remarkable was that the demonstration was done by the members of the ruling party. I thought only oppositions demonstrate. I was wrong.

The purpose of the street demonstration was, I was told, to counter one held by the opposition few days earlier. I didn’t know about that either. Maybe I was too busy with my own thing. The opposition demonstrated on allegation that the government tore down a mosque in Kampung Bujal somewhere. The pro-government demonstrated to say that they did not. Who then was telling the truth? I didn’t know that either. Both I think has been saying a half truth. Those, I mean the issue, was politics.

The subject of mosques, especially the old, neglected or broken down bring to mind the days when I was a student, going around the country, looking and documenting the remnants of once a splendid architecture. I remember a day in particular, when Adam and I, together with our architecture history lecturer Che’ Jak and his faithful little Suzuki, drove from Jalan Gurney (now Jalan Semarak) across the Banjaran Titiwangsa to Temerluh and Lancang. In Temerluh, it was a visit to a riverside village and to Lancang a small old wooden mosque. Both were similar that both were abandoned. The villagers in Temerluh had moved away to a new settlement to get away from the annual flood. The muddy mark on the wall indicated that flood level had often reached above the floor. And mind you the houses were on tall stilts. The mosque was abandoned because a new mosque had been built. The houses in the village and mosque were both built in timber. Time will see that it falls down ‘menyembah bumi’.

Che’ Jak in his usual manner said that the mosque, any mosque for that matter resides in our heart. There will always be a mosque whenever and wherever we are. It is within that ‘mosque’ in our heart that we prostrated at least five times a day, to pray. That mosque will never be old and abandoned, far will it be ever demolished. To destroy that mosque in the heart is to destroy the virtue of prayer. On the same analogy, the little wooden mosque was abandoned because it was not anymore in the heart of the people. Their heart was in the new building. So that’s where they went to pray.

The street demonstration I encountered or the one before that will never solve any problem. The difference between the two demonstrating groups was like black and white and like ‘langit dan bumi’. The one who called the ruin a mosque will always say that it was a mosque because that was what in their heart and they believe so. The other side will always say it wasn’t. It was not one to them.

One day in a freer time, I would love to revisit the old mosque in Lancang again. But that first visit was twenty one years ago. I doubt if it is still standing.

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