Last week saw a friend of mine sign us up for the Ramadan Trail hosted by and held at the Masjid Mosque (Sultans Mosque) in Kampong Gelam. We were privileged to be shown around this most famous of Singaporean mosques and have Ramadan explained to us simply along with the prayers. This Trail has happened for a few years now,during the month of Ramadan celebrated by Muslims across the world. The trail takes place during Ramadan from 2 -23 July 2014 on every Mon, Wed and Thursday and is free taking in total about 1 - 1 1/2 hours. Please register just inside the main gates at 17:30 for the tour to start at 18:00.
We were a mixed group of nationalities many locals but also South Americans, Scandinavians and British. We were taken inside the grounds and had explained to us how Muslims clean themselves before entering. One kind gentlemen showed us how he washed his head, face, ears, nose, mouth, arms, hands and feet, each 3 times before entering.
Once inside men will use the prayer room on the ground floor of the mosque whilst the ladies are separate and use the upstairs. The reason we were told for this separation was that you don't want to be distracted by the opposite sex whilst thinking and praying. At the entrance to the prayer hall above the door is a digitalised display showing the times in which they should pray on that day, between which hours also the time of dawn and that of dusk that day which coincides with the 4th prayers of the day. Muslims are encouraged to pray at least 5 times a day.
During the month of Ramadan Muslims fast from dawn to dusk so depending on where you are on the planet the daylight hours can vary quite considerably between 12-17 hours. Singapore is quite fortunate that they aren't too long. Greenland and northern Scandinavian are the longest hours.
From here we were taken upstairs onto the roof of the mosque, something they haven't done in the past so we felt very lucky to experience this, Some great views and photo opportunities lent themselves from here as dusk was beginning to descend. One interesting fact which was pointed out is if you look carefully at the base of the main gold dome you will notice that the banding is made up of old used bottles. A great form of recycling!
Down from the roof we were taken into a small auditorium where we were introduced to a brief explanation on Muslims, Allah, and Ramadan. Informative and interesting. We had explained to us that the dates of the month depends on the new moon and that throughout this month times is spent with the family, homes are cleaned and new items bought, much is given to charity and many good deeds performed. It doesn't matter if you have no money as just to give someone a smile is a gift. All good deeds throughout this month are believed to be magnified. At the end of the month it culminates in the end celebration of Hari RayaPuasa/ Eid-al-Fitr. The reason Muslims fast during this time is to attain "God consciousness" known as Taqwa - closer to God. All are expected to fast apart from children, the unwell (physically and mentally) menstruating women, pregnant and breast feeding women.
Masjid Sultan - Sultans Mosque is probably the most important mosque in Singapore. When Sir Stamford Raffles planned Singapore he designated the area of Kampong Gelam to Malays and Muslims. Sultan Hussein built his palace (istana) in the area and therefore decided to build the mosque next to it. It was built between 1824-26 with money from the East India Company and until 1879 was managed by one of the Sultans grandsons when it was then passed to 5 community leaders. In 1914 it was given a 999 year lease and 1924, with the community vastly growing and the mosque in a poor state of repair it was decided it should be rebuilt and this was completed by 1928. In 1975 it became a national monument.
Now as sunset arrived we were invited by our guides to Buka Puasa (break fast) with them. We first started with a date which settles the stomach after a day of fasting followed by water as you would be dehydrated. We then sat on the floor and ate traditionally with just our fingers on our right hand a meal of fried rice, curried chicken and vegetables followed by some sweet cakes. Although it was unusual for us to use just our hand I don't think I made too much of a mess! The most difficult thing for me personally was sitting on the floor to eat. My legs took a while to work again and my back to straighten out! Saying that I really appreciated being asking to join them and to be allowed to experience this. We couldn't of ask for more friendlier and informative guides - thank you 😊
3 Muscat St