Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Stories from the surau

Of late, I have been regularly absent from the weekly tazkirah at the Malaysia Hall surau.  I have been missing a lot of events organised by Ustaz Erfino, mainly because I had taken on work commitments that require me to work those evenings.  But from friends who attended, I hear news from the surau.

Recently, while preparing a much delayed lunch, my BB signalled that there was a message.  The number was not a familiar one; a number from Malaysia.  The message was simple, asking for someone's name he said he had forgotten.  The name of the sender was printed below.  It was Haji Zainal, our bilal.  My heart leapt with joy upon receiving his message.  He had left for Malaysia to look after his ailing mother.  Being an only child, the task falls on him; and what a noble task. 

We had not said a proper goodbye before he left and so, replying his sms, I said a simple "I missed your takbir".

Haji Zainal's was the takbir that still rings in my ear; the takbir and call to prayers everytime we congregate at the Malaysia Hall surau for the weekly tazkirah, the nightly terawikhs and Hari Raya's and other religious occassions.  His was the melodious and soulful call to prayers that accompanied Ustaz Anwar, Ustaz Abdul Rahim and now Ustaz Erfino. It was his call to prayer that I listened to when I started finding my way to the Malaysia Hall surau in old Bryanston Square and later in Queensborough Terrace. Haji Zainal was every Ustaz's right hand man. The one to witness the solemnisation of a marriage, to witness the conversion of a new brother or sister in Islam, or to replace Ustaz when he wasn't around.  He was always around whenever we had a death in the community.  A familiar figure, offering comfort and the hand of friendship.

He was also the one to come with extra food and drinks to the lady's room at the end of the tazkirah or moreh, to see if we needed anything more.  But he is there no more.

I told him so and I think we both shed a tear or two from both sides of the ocean.

Our families had known each other for as long as we have been here in London.  His wife Nariman, is a dear old friend I had befriended on a ship anchored on the Thames.  We were invited for dinner on the ship one evening and there we were: two young lasses still with no children to call our own. 

Later as fate would have it, we were booked at the same hospital, the same maternity ward for the delivery of our second child.  But again as fate would have it, she had to return to Johore but we both gave birth on the same date.  Our children remain very close friends. 

After the meals following the tazkirah, we'd find Hj Zainal, usually in his faded batik shirt and Javanese cap, outside enjoying his cigarette.  He'd say: where's my menantu? referring to my daughters.  It has always been a standing joke. And then he and Nariman would drive off in their van bearing the words JOWO TURUNAN and proudly flying the Malaysian flag.

Nariman told me recently, that without fail, Hj Zainal would sms Ustaz during every tazkirah.  He too misses the congregation, and by sms'ing Ustaz, it was as if he was there too.

Recently, I missed the Maulud Nabi which I heard went very well, with Ustaz Erfino reciting the Quran and the younger members of he surau reading a text about our beloved Prophet.

To make up for the missing Thursdays, I attend a weekly tazkirah on Saturdays at Tuk Din's, which is just as well as I gather the congregation at the Malaysia Hall is growing larger, Alhamdulillah, with the student community joining the congregation there. 

But there are other familiar faces missing too.  Haji Amin, my husband's close surau mate has been away and in hospital recovering from an operation.  Last Sunday, I busied myself in the kitchen, making sardine rolls when I heard that he could start eating normal food now.  Usually after every tazkirah, he'd sit talking to my husband and sensing my presence, he would jokingly say: Bila nak dapat makan sardine rolls pulak?

And so, with sardine rolls straight from the oven, I made my way to St Mary's hospital with Tuk Din and Midah last Sunday.  Haji Amin, Alhamdulillah was in good spirit, especially when he heard that we brought chicken soup and sardine rolls.

I heard that also missing is Kak Puteri - an old member of the Malay community in London, whose banter
with Ustaz Erfino, will be much missed.  She has gone back for a very long holiday. Still etched quite vivid in my mind is Kak Puteri taking Chef Mail to task over the issue of bolied eggs!

Pak Mat Abu and Kak Siah are also missing.  Pak Mat, once popularly known as the only Malay tube driver in London ( for he drove the tube on the Jubilee Line), had phoned me to say he and Kak Siah were going back to Malaysia as he needed treatment after his stroke.  Sadly, I couldnt make it to see him before he left and I hope he will be back shortly fully recovered.                                                       

Just writing about the congregation and the activities at the surau, makes me realise how fortunate we are to have such regular meetings.  Our ustaz for the Saturday tazkirah is a young but wise one; imparting his knowledge to us much older members of the congregation.  Alhamdulillah, we have not been short of learned ones willing to share their knowledge with us.

Kak Teh's other tale from the surau:


Naz said...

Salam Kak Teh,
You are so blessed to be surrounded with so many good people. I would give anything (well, almost!) to be a part of that.
Am making the best of my present situation, though :)

Take care and keep warm.
(err...jadi ke? I mean all that menantu talk????) ;D

Kak Teh said...

Salam Naz, I know and am grateful for that. I will email you something about my present 'companion' and i can assure you that you will find this useful. Well, short of a tazkirah, that it.
I found the congregation quite late - but it is better late than never.

The menantu?? errr, we can plan, but they have their own plans. Well, spike is only 14, kan? wait a few more years!:)

D said...

This piece shows how much London is your home now and how friendships have been woven into very close relationships.

Bless you, Kak Teh!

Kak Teh said...

D, it is true. Move down south laa!
We can have our 'meetings' at Tuk Din's. aaaah, i have an idea. You know that meeting with Gerry? well after that we can have our own meeting.hehe!

Ms B said...

Alaa Kak Teh, now I miss him as well. He always asks me "mana cucu saya?" referring to the young lady. I am there are many who miss his presence, ustaz in particular.

So now if I want to eat sardine rolls, I have to go to TukDin's? ;-)

Kak Teh said...

MS B, Sardine rolls must be specially ordered! very much like LaDuree's macaroons, these are handcrafted to perfection! hehe! Enjoyed our extended tea that day. Will meet again before you disappear.

Naz said...

Kak Teh,
Thanks in advance :)
The kids want to stay with me sampai tua. I'll remind them of that when they started to hint about leaving the nest ;)
The menantu thingy...kalau jadi, jangan lupa jemput we all OK. I bagi satu bekas (brown cheese)!

Kak Teh said...

naz, budak2 ni masa kecik promised everything.The moon, kaau boleh!

anyway, kalau ada apa-apa kenduri di sini, kalau sudi naz serombongan mai, kecik tapak tangan, talam besark alluminum kak teh tadahkan!

Atok said...


The sticker on Wak Zainal's VW van windscreen actually says 'Jowo Turunan'. He brought that old banger back home... he said, lagi murah dari nak beli new kapcai :)

I've chatted with him a few times @ FB since he went back.

Kak Teh said...

thanks for the correction atok! Ya,now i ingat - Jowo Turunan. I just sms'ed him. Wah sekarang dia ada fesbook. Dia kata nearest town nak check email 20 batu!!

pakmat said...

..for such is life..and home is where the heart is..:) for strangers are friends once we get to know them and take them into our hearts..it makes this old man feels good reading about taskirah and congregation amongst fellow muslims in cities thousands of kms away from home..cheers..

Ailin in Stockholm said...

Salam Kak Teh,

Nice story to anchor me down at the moment.

Lots of love

Kak Teh said...

pakmat, Alhamdulillah. We make the best out of what is presented before us. Saturdays Tazkirah is a small room above the restaurant, but company and food, Alhamdulillah. Thursdays is a much bigger affair , sometimes with congregation members spilling out into the corridors to listen to Ustaz Erfino.

Insyaallah wherever we are we try to be near HIM.

Kak Teh said...

Salam Ailin, be strong. We all need our anchors all the time. You know where to find me.

DrSam said...

salam Kak Teh. That surau congregation in London really bring many good hearts together. Your surau tale really reminded me to 'mengimarahkan' our local surau of which seems a bit 'soulless' sometime.

Lyana Mauseth said...

i wish Trondheim also had malaysia hall...the muslim society here purchased a 3 stories shoplot and convert it into a mosque...but always ada masalah..once the imam suruh my husband jd middle man sbb semua AJK gaduh2...imams are from algeria, sudan, bosnia and AJK pun all countries in the world yg tegar dgn culture depa...pening kepala..last year smp jd kes mahkamah, all the ajk kena resign and now a norwegian convert, perempuan lagi tu, yg in charge!!

anyway, ehem, bila kak teh nak timang menantu ni? :D

Cat-in-Sydney said...

Mother of Tabby,
We live quite far from the Malaysia Hall in Sydney but try to do tarawikh or Eid prayer there at least once a year...hahaha...so teruk! But the Muslim community here is quite robust and so many mosques for us to choose from. In our suburb alone, there are three masjids. purrr....meow!

NanaDJ said...

Kak Teh,

Reading this piece make me realise that you have build a life there with other Malaysians. I am happy for you and family at least you are not as lonely as my brother and family in upstate New York where there are no Malaysians and very few Muslims around.
Nak dapat menantu? When? Will try to go there and assist you if I can.

Kak Teh said...

DrSam, there's nothing like a bit of nasyid or azan competition esp amongst the youngsters to start the activities again. We had quite a response for azan from the young ones. Very encouraging indeed.

Kak Teh said...

Lyana, what happened in trndheim is similar to what happened in Taufiq's surau. see Tales from the surau. These surau or mosque politics are everywhere. Sayangnya.

Kak Teh tergolek2 baca lyana tanya bila nak menimang menantu? kalau menantu tu a six footer and weighs a few tons, susahlah kak teh. Biasanya orang menimang cucu dan menyambut menantu. hehe!

Kak Teh said...

Cat-in-Sydney, sometimes it is better to have few mesjids but they are full , than to have many mesjids tapi kosong, kan? Buat di rumah pun boleh tapi sekali sekala nak jugak berjemaah, kan?

Kak Teh said...

NanaDJ, i dont deny that. It is home where I walk quite freely and know where to go. I meet people who are friends making similar journey.

Oh nanadj nak jadi wedding planner ka? bolehlah naz datang dari norway jadi mak andam. hehe. Tak adalah cuma bergurau2 saja. They have their own plans and until they tell me i dont make any move.

LifeBloom said...

Salam K Teh

Thanks for this piece which speaks to my heart. I have just been "awakened" after going for a tafsir class some weeks ago and every week I look forward to the gatherings and of course the "ilmu" that comes with the tazkirah/tafsir sessions.

You are so blessed with having the presence of so many wonderful people in your life and vice versa.

An example for us to aspire to :D.

Kak Teh said...

LifeBloom, I have also found something which I have shared with some of my close friends...I was given the e-quran and with its translation, it has become my close companion. Alhamdulillah!

Lyana Mauseth said...

hahaha baru perasan silap teknik!! takpa lah kak teh, timang menantu mesra skit kot :D

Kak Teh said...

lyana, haha - gangguan teknikal sementara. jangan betulkan keyboard anda.