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A visit to Masjid Sultan

We visited Singapore for the first time in March/April 2011

Singapore, the island, is 683 km², has about 5.2 million inhabitants and is actually made up of 63 smaller islands in total.
To compare: Prince Edward Island (the smallest Province in Canada) is almost 8.5 times larger and has only 141,000 residents!
About 16 % of the population is Muslim, roughly 832,000 people.
English is one of the four official languages spoken.
It is a very prosperous country and it has so much beauty to offer (my third favourite place in the world).

Singapore is warm and humid all year round; the humidity is immense, throughout the year between 83 and 86%; a tropical rainforest climate. There is no cool season; the temperature is always about 32 degrees C. So whatever I was wearing, it was too hot, I moved around with parasol, fan and a large handbag with the vital waterbottle and of course my camera, I felt like a juggler and whenever possible I would flee into an air conditioned area just to catch my breath. But that was not always possible and maybe not even a wise thing to do, because the difference in temperature between outside and inside was sometimes too big and could lead to a sore throat or a cold.
I really tried to let my body adjust to the humidity, but in the end I had to give up and just had to admit that a warm climat is never going to fit me. My body longs for snow and ice and I have to give up hope for that to ever change, or let me rephrase: my husband has to give up hope, for he is the exact oposite, he loves the heat and the sun and can't stand the winter and he would only be too happy if I were made of the same heat-resistant material or at least could be upgraded.
But give me a face numbing snowstorm anytime and I couldn't be more content.
Allah made us all different and that must be for a reason!

We arrived at our hotel and checked in, when we entered our room we had a pleasant surprise, besides the flowers and the fruit basket, there was a prayer rug, a printout with the local prayertimes for the whole month and an arrow with the direction of Kibla on a table waiting for us, somebody must have known that we are Muslims. This was certainly a welcoming first.

As our custom while abroad, we searched for Mosques on the local map and while we took the "hop-on hop-off bus" we discovered an Islamic district (Arab street) with lots of shops and a beautiful mosque (Masjid Sultan) and we decided to return on Friday for Jummah.
That Friday we decided to spend more time in Arab street and to have lunch after Jummah. We arrived early and entered the Mosque.

I sat among the women upstairs and looked around.There were different nationalities and I saw different prayer wear, different colours and styles. And while I was scanning the rows all of a sudden I noticed a sister, right in front of me, with a drawing of Magica De Spell (a character in the Donald Duck tales), big as life, on the back of her blouse.
Wow, that was totally unexpected. Her clothes were modest enough; hijab, long skirt and a blouse with long sleeves, but then there was this duck.
Maybe she was not aware that that duck was on her blouse when she donned it this morning? Or, maybe she was not aware that it is not customary to have depictions of anything alive (execpt for plants) on prayer wear? How to address this sister without offending her? That was a delicate problem.
I noticed other sisters noticing the duck and was curious how they would approach this.
The sister with the duck was clearly not of Arab or Asian descend, she was probably a new Muslima. She appeared to be with a friend. My first question was of course; didn't the friend notice the duck or did she chose not to say anything? Depending on the moment she noticed of course, because not everybody has extra clothes with them. And then I saw an other sister aproaching the sister with the duck, she tapped her on the shoulder and said: "That drawing realy scares me" she was clearly trying to aproach the problem with a joke, but the sister didn't get the joke because she didn't react. Her friend was making faces, signaling the other sister not to pursue her remarks. That made me interprete that she herself must have noticed and maybe already mentioned it to her friend or was planning to do so later. And then the imam started Jummah and everybody sat down and listened.
And while praying, nobody stood behind the sister with the duck, a gap behind her in the line said it clearly, nobody wanted to bow to an image and this was the easiest solution, but not one that would prevent anything like this to happen in the future.
Because this was only my one time visit to this mosque I have no idea if the subject was going to be a topic of a lecture in the near future. But I don't think that would be a solution because the lectures in this mosque are in the native language.

After Jummah we found a nice halal restaurant, I think it was Indonesian because I recognised a lot of the dishes. It was delicious, but spicy! We realy enjoyed it and especially the deserts. So much choice.
It is a treat to be able to choose a dish from a menu without having to wonder about its ingredients.

August 2012

Info: www.muslimpopulation.com/asia/ 2011