Its the 4th day of Syawal today and we are in Johor Bahru for the festive season. Festive season? What festive season, some might ask.
Well, to answer that question, we Muslims are currently in the blessed and festive month of Syawal. But to know the significance of Syawal, you need to know of the significance of Ramadan first and the pertinent question is, whats the significance of Ramadan?
As for Ramadan, it is the holy month when the Quran was revealed. It is also the month when Muslims all over the world, young and old, male and female, observe the command of fasting, from day break til sunset.
There are exceptions of course, like the sick, the pregnant, as well as Muslims who are engaged in either ‘heavy labour’ or in maintaining national security and its integrity via land, sea and air. They are given the option to be exempted from fasting, due to the physical demands on their well being from their observance of fasting.
These people who are given exemptions can still fast IF they want to and should they wish to. However, most opt to fast as long as they can under their circumstances with some choosing to go all the distance rather than to forego the observance.
The case of the Muslim footballers from Liverpool FC, Mohamad Salah and Sadio Mane, is a good and public case in point. The duo chose to fast all the way despite playing in the final of the European Champions’ League, although they can be exempted as playing football as a professional is, without doubt, their livelihood.
They only broke fast when it was time to and according to Madrid time ie where the final was being held, the breaking of fast was during the 38th minute of the game itself. For the record, Liverpool won 2-0 against their final opponents, fellow English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspurs, for their sixth Cup win. Not bad huh?
Now that we know what Ramadan is all about (well not all but a significant part of it), now we turn our attention to the holy month of Syawal.
The significance of the blessed month of Syawal is that Muslims, after observing a month of fasting, are commanded to celebrate the first day of Syawal with prayers and ‘feasting’ as a means of giving thanks. So significant is the first day of Syawal, that Muslims are forbidden to fast on this very day.
All over the Muslim world, the first day of Syawal is often referred to as the ‘Eid Fitr’ or ‘Eid Mubarak’ whilst in Malaysia, its commonly referred to ‘Hari Raya Aidil Fitri’. The Eid Fitr celebrations are supposed to last for a month, which basically allows most Muslims to plan and make their customary (some say obligatory) visits to their parents, in-laws, siblings, relatives and other loved ones.
In addition to the customary visits to loved ones, the month of Eid celebrations also allow corporate and political bodies to organize Eid get-togethers where attendees, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, attend and be feted with all the delicacies that one could think of.
And as most Malaysians would and could tell you, these Eid get-togethers are events to look forward to on the local corporate calendar. The food, the networking and the corporate gossip, all conducted in a very relaxed and joyous atmosphere. Lethal combination that.
Now that Ramadan and Syawal has been explained, what has all this got to do with the 4th day of Syawal, you might ask. Besides it still being part of the Eid Fitr celebrations, that is.
The truth is…….absolutely nothing. As is during any joyous celebrations, we are expected to make merry, have our fill of the various dishes and be joyous. Or something close to that.
But truth be told, since both myself and my better half were not feeling too bright for the last few days of Ramadan and for the first few days of Syawal, we just wanted to get out and about, take in more than just a few lungfuls of fresh(?) air and maybe grab a coffee or two.
We both had a very bad case of the acids and it really made us both very uncomfortable, to say the least. My wife more than I, as a matter of fact.
The acids were so bad that we consciously forego the many delicious dishes served. For a couple who like tasting and testing many and different types of food, that is a lot of sacrifice especially on her part. I’m the follower.
The first destination we had in mind was the ‘Muzium Tokoh Johor’ located at Bukit Senyum. Managed by Yayasan Warisan Johor (YWJ), I have heard so much about it, what with the building being the residence of Dato’ Jaafar Mohamad, the first ‘Menteri Besar’ of modern Johor, during the reign of Sultan Abu Bakar (1886-1895).
If ever there was a political dynasty in Johor, this is it. Three of Dato’ Jaafar’s sons also became Johor Menteri Besar, with one to later become one of the founding fathers, if not the founding father, as well as the first president of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), Dato’ Onn Jaafar. From Dato’ Onn’s lineage, the 3rd Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Hussein Onn, and his son, the former Defence Minister of Malaysia, Dato Seri Hishamuddin Hussein, also came into being.
But alas, despite it being mentioned otherwise online, it was not opened for visitors. So we made our way to another place of interest, where we could have a quiet sit-down, with the option of having a quiet meal to go with drinks.
Located in Taman Pelangi, not far from Bukit Senyum, we proceeded to pay this place a visit : a nice and cosy place which met our requirements, a thematic cafe my better half had read online about.
Called the Cafe Racers, its exterior gives little evidence of what lay inside and should you had driven past it and not realized it, it would not have come as a surprise.
If you think the cafe is all about formula racing, think again. The cafe pays homage to the two-wheelers and not necessarily those GP super bikes. Instead, its Vespas, scooters and other forms of two-wheelers that takes pride of place.
After soaking in the atmosphere that is Cafe Racers, both of us ordered and shared a quiet meal : a bowl of nachos and a BBQed lamb dish. Our ‘date’ was like a blast from the past, a trip back down memory lane, taking us back like thirty years when we were dating and still finding our way around and with each other. And young. Very important that : youth.
Now, thirty years and five boys on, we are still finding our way around and with each other, but with much more confidence and maturity as compared to thirty years ago.
The topics of our conversation have also evolved over the years, and titles of movies that we used to laugh at and say ‘it can’t happen to us’ have suddenly begun to take on a life of its own, like that one starring Matthew McConaughey, ‘Failure to Launch’.
We used to have a mighty good laugh at that one and we still do today whenever we talked about the subject. But our laughter is today slightly tempered with a hint of dread, what with the ever rising costs of living nowadays.
Thus far, one has been launched but seems to head to port every so often for refuelling and minor repairs. No problems that. Just that rumours abound with the impending return to dock for long-term repairs.
A dose of impending reality? Of millennial expectations not met by millennial reality? Hmmmm.
They say that time flies, especially when you are having a good time. True to form, it was not long before it was time to pay the bill and make our way out of Cafe Racers, and head on to other destinations in and about town.
Well, what is the 4th of Syawal that makes it special? Not much really, except that some twenty seven years ago, on the 5th day of Syawal coinciding with the 10th of April, two people agreed to live a life and start a family together, through the different and many trials and tribulations, in sickness and in health, and for richer and for poorer.
Happy 5th of Syawal anniversary Yang, and thank you.
Disclaimer : All the food consumed were paid for by ourselves. No publicity fees were received nor solicited.