THE Solat Terawih (Terawih prayers) are very special. While they are not compulsory, they are strongly encouraged and only performed during the holy month of Ramadan in the Muslim calendar.
This is the time when families, in their prayer garbs, go to the mosque or surau at night for the prayers.
Consultant general, upper GI and laparoscopic surgeon Dr Mohd Faisal Jabar is a father who makes it a point to encourage his children to go with him and his wife for Terawih prayers.
The women and men pray separately in the mosque, and this is the time when his only son Johan is next to him as they perform the prayers.
With four daughters and one son, Dr Faisal has been taking Johan for Terawih prayers since the boy was able to understand what it is all about. This was at around the age of nine.
“We have been doing this for some years now. I think it’s a good idea to start getting him to go. He doesn’t always want to go. Now that he’s bigger and is in secondary school he doesn’t have excuses anymore. When he was in primary school and he didn’t want to go, I’d just leave him be.
“At least twice a week or so we go now. I don’t go every evening either, doing the kind of job that I do. Even the last two evenings, I’ve had to spend time in the hospital, unfortunately.
“Johan started doing the obligatory Muslim prayers from the age of five onwards,” says Dr Faisal.
While it would be wonderful to be able to go to the surau or mosque daily for prayers, being a doctor makes it rather difficult.
Dr Faisal often leaves the house at 7.30am and only returns home at about 9 or 10pm. If he does go, it’s more likely to be the Subuh prayers (around 5.40am) rather than Isyak (around 8.40pm).
Unfortunately, Johan can’t go with him for Subuh prayers because he has to prepare for school.
However, the family makes up for it by performing the obligatory prayers together at least once a day.
“That happens on most days when everybody is around. We tend to do it for the evening prayers and for the Subuh prayers. So it’s not unusual for him to come for the obligatory prayers in a group as such,” says Dr Faisal.
While the Terawih prayers are not compulsory, they are special and a good opportunity for fathers to pass on the tradition and inculcate the religious values and rituals to their sons.
It is something that Dr Faisal himself used to do with his own dad when he was growing up in Johor.
He reveals that that is probably part of the reason why he wants his son to go with him for Terawih.
“I grew up in Johor and most Muslim boys went to two schools – the government primary school and the religious school (sekolah agama). If we went to the government school in the morning, sekolah agama would be in the afternoon, and vice versa. So, you would have a different set of friends at both schools.
“It’s not just religious. There’s a cultural element to it, too. I used to enjoy going because you see people your own age, your school friends, going for Terawih prayers as well. We used to be in the last row of the mosque and nudge each other playfully, not being too serious about the prayers per se,” he reveals, laughing.
“The nice thing about our Terawih prayers in Johor was that my father made it a bit more fun. We did like a ‘mosque crawl’, if you like. We didn’t just go to the same mosque or surau all the time. We went from one place to another. We got to see different mosques in different places and at the end of the prayers, there tended to be a small simple meal of cakes. That made it somewhat interesting,” says Dr Faisal.
Unfortunately, Dr Faisal has not been able to replicate this experience completely today as his family lives in Kuala Lumpur and it’s not as easy to visit different mosques regularly because of timing and the traffic jams.
However, he and his wife do try to take the family to a few mosques and surau in the surrounding areas.
Speaking of how he got his son Johan to follow him for Terawih prayers, Dr Faisal says, “He could see that I tended to go on most occasions and I think initially he was just curious to see what it was about. He would see images on TV and people talking about it and both mum and dad going off to the mosque for prayers. There must be something fun happening there. And, his sisters started going as they came of age. So, eventually he came along.”
Unlike the other prayers throughout the day, the Terawih prayers are longer, and typically end by around 10.30pm. Sometimes there is even a talk in between.
The only times that Johan, now 13, is exempted is if he has homework or it is exam time.
“It’s not compulsory after all. I just want him to absorb the cultural values and perhaps a bit of religiousness to that as well.
“It is a sort of bonding time as he will be praying next to me and there are prayer rituals to perform, which he learns at the mosque itself. You don’t get taught these things at school, actually. Sometimes during the ride in the car I will teach him why things are done this way and not that way, based on what my father taught me and from my own reading of the subject.
“Terawih is just the ritual part that is linked to the fasting month and doesn’t occur in any other month of the year. Going for Terawih has that sense of being part of the community. We are fairly religious and not that liberal. My wife wears a headscarf and so do the girls (from as soon as they hit puberty). We would like to think that we are moderate Muslims,” he says, explaining that they are a boisterous and vocal family. “No quiet person in the house!”
The family that prays together also enjoys watching movies together!
With the eldest pursuing an economics degree in Chicago and the second at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) studying medicine, there are just the youngest three, all in secondary school, at home now.
“It’s more a sense of being part of the Muslim community in our local area, and perhaps for him to impart similar things to his children later on in life,” says Dr Faisal, informing that the children often police each other during Ramadan.
Not all parents bring their children for Terawih. Perhaps it is also harder in the city where there is more likelihood of parents working long hours and going home late.
Dr Faisal encourages other parents to take their children for Terawih as it is the easiest time, place and occasion to imbibe their religious values and to carry on their traditions.
On a personal level, Dr Faisal aims to finish reciting the Quran.
“I see them read, but they don’t have to do that at all. As long as they practise the fasting and can do it without too much hardship. It’s not really too much hardship, to be honest,” he says.
Importantly, for the holy month, Dr Faisal would just like to see his children practising being good Muslims.
“The fast is not just stopping you from eating and drinking, but not doing anything that is not expected of you as a Muslim. It’s not just limited to the fasting month. Be yourself and be decent, and perhaps do a bit more prayers than you would do on normal days.
“We are just mere mortals at the end of the day.”