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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Prayer Room

     As a muslim, one of our duties is to say our prayers five times a day regardless of the situation we are in, as long as we are still conscious.  May be we feel unhealthy, we still have to say our prayers.  We are unable to get up from bed, we stil have to say our prayers.  If you cannot stand while performing them, sit up, or sit down.  If you cannot sit, lie down.

     In the Malay version of my posting dated Monday, June 13, 2011,  I wrote about my surprise at finding that the prayer room that I had used a few minutes before was not the type of prayer rooms found in my home country.  In Malaysia, we call these prayer rooms 'surau' (the malay word which means a place where muslims perform their prayers five times a day.)  When I, or any other muslim traveller wants to perform our prayer at a RnR (an accronym for 'Rehat Dan Rawat' or stop to rest) on our journey along the PLUS highway, there is always a surau for us.  Non-muslim travellers do not go there or, if they happen to go, they do not perform their prayers in this place.  After seeing the prayer room in Changi Airport, I have opened my eyes wider.  Now, a prayer room in Malaysia may not serve the same function as a prayer room in Singapore, or probably many other countries around the globe.
Part of a praying room situated at the north-south highway

     Before writing about my experience at Changi Airport, let me explain about the 'prayers' I used to see Chinese people performing when I was small.  In the good old days, I used to see Chinese people waving a handful of burning sticks (now I know they joss sticks) in front of their shophouses while citing or mumbling something that I couldn't hear.  Soon they finished their prayers and put those still lit sticks (they produced a kind of typical smell, mind you) into a piece of container. 
Joss sticks
      Now let us go back to my experience at Changi Airport.  After performing my Maghrib and Isya' prayers in the praying room at the airport, I waited for my son who was still doing his duties.  While waiting, I looked around and soon my eyes fell on the noticeboard by the door of the room.  On it was written "Multi-Religion Prayer Room  1.  Passenger of any religion may use this room to pray or meditate..."  What I read surprised me because I realised that a prayer room in Singapore means a room where travellers of all faiths can use it either to perform their prayers or meditate.  I don't mind sharing the room with other travellers if they, who happen to be non-muslims meditate while I was performing my prayers.  However, I don't know whether I would feel comfortable when my Chinese co travellers acted out their prayers like what I have described above since the incense coming out from the stick would make my nostrils suffer and as a result, I would not be able to concentrate on what I was doing.
The notice board
     In addition, a place where muslims pray must not only be clean, it also should be cleaned according to the procedures required  in Islam.  This requirement is too abstract to be described, therefore I choose not to illustrate it in this limited space.  What I would like to suggest to fellow muslims is, probably we can bring along our praying mat where ever we go, and pray on that mat when the need arises.  Is that okay, dear brothers and sister?  Tarra for now.  Salam alaik!

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