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Ramadhan Around the World: Madinah

Credit: Idan Zainol

In this edition of Ramadhan Around the World, we’re headed to a special country - the holy land of Madinah Al-Munawwarah! MasyaAllah, imagine spending your Ramadhan in the most sacred land on earth; personally it’s something to be envied.

We hear from Khalisah Hafiz, a 26-year-old Singaporean who moved to Madinah Al-Munawwarah with her husband who is currently studying at the Islamic University of Madinah.

“Where its residents are predominantly Muslim, Ramadhan in Madinah is a month of much celebration and sharing. Walking or driving down the streets of Madinah nearing iftar, one would most likely encounter many people distributing free food and drinks to break fast with.

On the first day of Ramadhan, while journeying back from Makkah, we were given iftar boxes filled with drinks, dates, muffins and bread. We also see posters, billboards and lights lined up along highways and roads in celebration of the holy month, offering well wishes and greetings.

During the day, the city is tranquil and quiet as most shops and businesses are closed for rest, especially during the midday heat. However, as soon as iftar draws near, the city comes back to life and the roads return to their bustling state. Sometimes, these restaurants and cafes open until sahur. Even our neighbourhood grocery store is open till 3 a.m., probably to cater to some last-minute grocery runs!

Our Iftar go-to is usually simple home cooked dishes! Since we are now living away from family, we have been learning to whip up recipes that are close to home. We’ve tried cooking shepherd’s pie, nasi goreng kampung, chicken rice and buttermilk chicken, just to name a few. Once, we even tried cooking Hari Raya dishes like ayam masak merah and rendang way ahead of time because that’s just how much we miss Malay food!

Even though it’s hard to find familiar food here, it’s okay because we do get to try cuisines from other countries too.

I was thrilled to discover that we have neighbours from Indonesia, Morocco and Myanmar apart from the Madinah locals. Similar to how it was in Singapore, we would exchange food with our neighbours. I look forward to that every evening!

Our sahur go-to would be a glass of banana and dates smoothie or whatever leftover food there was from iftar.

It is always crowded throughout the whole month in Masjid Nabawi as it receives Muslims from all over the world. It would get so jam-packed that they provide many extra rows of praying areas outside the mosque itself in the courtyard, and even then, those areas are completely filled, MashaAllah.

There are many people from different countries and continents, but once we start the jemaah prayers, it truly feels that we are all one ummah with the sole purpose of getting closer to Allah in this Blessed month.

Also, we do 10 rakaats in Taraweeh here, half of the usual 20 rakaats due to Covid19 measures.

I recalled my first Taraweeh prayer beside a very lovely Iraqi makcik. While waiting for azan Isya’, we got to know more about one another as we conversed in Arabic. Truth be told, I struggled a little bit as my spoken Arabic is rather basic but through hand gestures and simple vocabulary, we understood one another perfectly. That night, we stood in prayer together, shoulder to shoulder, as though no barriers of nationality, language or appearance were between us.

This may be my first Ramadhan alone in a foreign country but people around me have been so kind, warm and sweet that I do not feel as lonely as I thought I would be. Alhamdulillah.

Sadly, we don’t really see any bazaars here as compared to Singapore! But we do see random pop-up booths after iftar right outside houses and by the streets. Usually, these booths sell homemade fried items like potato fries or nuts. Some booths also offer tea or coffee straight from the kettle.

Credit: Idan Zainol

The Muslim community here has similar activities as we do in Singapore. Namely, Ramadhan food distribution drives for the poor, mosque lectures and many more.

However, there is more emphasis on giving students here more time for ibadah and prayers in the mosque (for Qiyam or I’tikaf). As such, a nationwide holiday for schools starts from the last ten days of Ramadhan till the end of the first week of Syawal.

Lastly, what’s one thing you missed most about Ramadhan back home?

Dendeng! Okay just kidding hahaha.

We definitely miss spending time with our family and friends back in Singapore and breaking fast together with them during Ramadhan.

We also miss the whole ‘kecoh’ (chaotic) atmosphere of getting the house ready for visitors when Hari Raya comes.

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