‘Ramadan itself was festive, not only during Eid’

Malaysian expat describes Ramadan in the 1970s in his country as a time for celebration of family togetherness

Dubai: For most Malaysian families, the observance of Ramadan has not changed much over the years except for people’s preference in the way they have iftars.

Captain Othman Bin Mat Taib, 57, fondly remembers observing Ramadan and ending their fast in the 1970s and 1980s in Malaysia in the comfort of their own home.

“The standard Islamic way of observing Ramadan is we go to the mosque to pray. Iftar normally is done in the house. Seldom do we do it in the mosque, not like here where they do a lot of iftar in the mosque,” Othman said.

While Ramadan is a time for fasting from sunrise to sundown, it is also one of the many festivities in the Southeast Asian nation.

“We hold food festivals, in a sense, during Ramadan, which we call Pasar Ramadan. This starts normally at 5pm and [hawkers] remain open just before iftar so people can buy food and home-cooked meals to prepare for the iftar,” he said.

For someone who started fasting at the age five, fasting has never been considered a burden but a delight.

“My father never forced us but he encouraged us to fast. After Ramadan, we got our Eidiya — one ringgit (Dh0.92) for each day we fasted,” he said.

Despite the daylong fast, Taib and his friends never ran out of energy. They played football and had activities until midnight or 1am before going to sleep.

“Ramadan itself was very festive, not just during the Eid.”

Malaysians consider this season as the month to be closer together as a family and a time for forgiveness,” Taib said.

“Not much has changed. But some families are doing it much better now because of the distances — our village is far from the city and everybody is staying in different places. The only time we would meet is before and after the Eid. We would normally gather at our grandparents’ house and it would be like a feast.”

Taib said Ramadan continues to be a season of giving, reflection, and of faith.

“Many concentrate a lot on reading the Quran, giving lectures, doing congregational prayers, and additional prayers every night. It’s continuous until the end of Ramadan. People are more patient and are more kind. But this should be all year round, not just during Ramadan.”


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