I still recall my first Ramadan in the Middle East. One of many things I love about Ramadan is the act of performing night prayers called Tarawih. Tarawih is special because it's only practiced during Ramadan immediately after obligatory solat Isha and recommended to be done at a mosque in congregation. One may also perform it at home.
As a background, Tarawih prayer is established in 2 raka’at. Some mosques perform the total of 8 raka’at and some perform 20 raka’at. The closing prayer is called Witr raka’at, ending the overall Tarawih prayers. Long recitation of Quran is observed during the standing part and because Ramadan is the month of Quran, the imam of the mosque will aim to finish reciting the Quran - which means to complete reading 1 Juz (an equal part of the Quran) in one night of Tarawih.
Back then, Ramadan fell in the middle of the hot summer season (August) and Muslims in the region fast for about 15 hours. Being just relocated to the desert, I didn’t manage to get transportation part sorted out, so while I didn’t worry about fasting and getting thirsty during the hot day (around the high 30s to mid 40s degrees Celcius), I was a bit unsure about walking my way to the closest mosque for Tarawih during hot summer night.
But I did walk in the hot sauna for few nights to the mosque and they weren’t too bad at all, apart from my sweaty abaya (loose over-garment traditionally worn by Muslim women in the Gulf region). The mosque is less than 2 kilometres away from where I lived - a local neighborhood mosque with a little eatery beside it.
One night, before prayer began a lady said hi to me thinking I was her neighbour but we established later on that we weren’t. On the way back while walking home in the hot summer night, a car stop by. Turned out it was the lady I was chatting to, and her husband offered a ride back home.
The first ride was not the last. Phone number exchanged and we made a point to contact each other for mosque carpooling.
What I love about Ramadan is the spirit of sharing, and how we discussed about the bless month together based on our experiences. We talked about the Tarawih pace at the mosque, how Quran being recited, and the power of Imam’s du’a during Witr prayer. Of course, the topic about which car model to buy also hot under discussion especially given the Ramadan deals were going on!
The carpooling has led to a coffee invitation post-Tarawih prayer on one night and then followed by an evening of lovely Iftar at the house where I met the extended family. One night after Tarawih prayer, we even went to the wholesaler market to get some fruits and vegetables. Beyond my expectation, I clearly experienced truly Arabian hospitality.
For most nights we returned to the same mosque for Tarawih. It’s a great feeling to go to mosque together with friends. Doing good deed together with a common goal only strengthens the spirit of the ummah. A sincere random act of kindness is core to a sound and honest society - which lead to a strong ummah. The Tarawih prayers amplify the spirit of spirituality and unity.
Like any Ramadan, it felt very quick as time flies when our physical and soul busy with the act of worship. The nightly practice felt like boot camp drill – I did not only refer to how the long Tarawih made me feel good physically about moving and doing a little exercise after an Iftar meal. Tarawih provides a sense of spiritual endurance that it increased concentration and overall obedience after many repetitions. The saying of the more you do, the better you are really applying here in my opinion.
Towards the end of Ramadan around the last 10 nights, the mosque usually busy with worshipers – it’s always wonderful to see. The mosque we went (which perform 20 raka’at) finished the Quran reading on the 27th night of Ramadan. I recalled this night vividly, and how it was a special night of blessing. My friend’s husband said before he entered the car, "that’s it, Taqaballa Allahu minna wa minkum" - which mean "May Allah accept from us, and from you."
On the night of 27th Ramadan, I was dropped at my apartment after the Tarawih prayer. Feeling of deep sad of how Ramadan was ending filled me. But I was very much grateful and thankful for everything that Ramadan offered beyond words can describe.
The bless of Tarawih prayer with many virtues being showered upon night after night is one of many things to be grateful for. Examples are of being sin wiped out, being rewarded like performing prayer in Masjid Al Haram, Mecca. Being rewarded with safety in this world and next. Being rewarded as though we were with Moses when he fought Pharaoh. And there are many more which I recommend you to dig further - not only inspire you to perform Tarawih but to appreciate how most generous and merciful Allah is to us.
It was one of memorable Ramadan, being the first year in the Middle East. I learned a lot about Arabian hospitality, culture, and spirit which till today is part of my life. Making new acquaintances and having a Ramadan ride for Tarawih prayers were a bonus like sweet Turkish delights. Bless the family who opened so many doors – from their car to their house. May door of Jannah is open for them, Ameen.
I may not walk to the mosque anymore, but I cycle to the local mosque here in Singapore for Tarawih. That’s for next Tarawih story, insyaAllah.
Make the most of remaining Ramadan and the bless of Tarawih - as well as Tahajjud (night vigil) prayers too.
Love and Peace.
P.S. Check out the app call Terawhere for carpooling opportunities in your area in Singapore for going to the mosque for Tarawih.