Thursday, July 29, 2021

Ramadan on the ocean waves

In Pulau Ketam, a small island off the coast of Port Klang in Selangor, an Orang Asli community observes the Ramadan fasting month in their village, constructed on stilts over the waters of the Melaka Strait.

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Kamarul Abdullah, from the Mahmeri tribe, is their leader or Tok Batin. It’s his job to take care of the villagers and to make sure their needs are met.

He and his wife Nor Shiela Ali, from the Temuan tribe, grow their own vegetables in a small shaded hut behind their house.

The villagers also depend on the fish that they catch from the sea below their homes.

Even the youngsters in the village are involved in the fishing activities although Kamarul also encourages them to go to school, telling them that life will be harder if they do not have an education.

A boy watches as Kamarul shakes out a net to be used for the day’s catch.

Today, they are lucky – Kamarul manages to net a 1.5kg daun baru fish which he brings home for dinner, when he and his family will break their fast together.

His wife, Nor Shiela, is all smiles as she gets the wok ready to cook the fish.

She is a good cook and knows just how her family likes to eat the fish, which she cleans in her humble kitchen near the vegetable garden.

With dusk fast approaching, she works quickly in order to get dinner cooked on time.

Meanwhile, Kamarul rests in the living room where the television, one of the family’s few luxuries, hangs on a wall near the window.

When it comes time to perform his prayers, he goes to the village’s small surau, washing himself with water from a barrel outside before he enters.

As the village’s Tok Batin, he is also chairman of the surau for which he is responsible.

Kamarul issues the azan or call to prayer for Muslim villagers who flock to the surau for the congregational prayer.

Villagers head to the surau which, like the rest of the village, is built on stilts over the water.

Even children come when they hear the call to prayer. Nine of the 21 families in the village are Muslim.

The congregational prayer is led by 18-year-old Zaihan Rasib. Kamarul (third from left) encourages the Muslim youth in his village to live good lives.

Zaihan also leads the small group in reading prayers outloud.

Afterwards, they sit and chat together while waiting to break their fast.

It’s a quiet and peaceful life for these villagers who, although poor, have an ocean view with which few can compete.

A woman rinses some plates with water on the porch of her house.

Villagers wait in their homes for dusk, when they will break their fast together.

When the moment arrives, Kamarul and his family pray before proceeding to enjoy Nor Shiela’s delicious cooking.

Elsewhere, a family breaks fast together on the porch, where they eat overlooking the water. A mosquito coil burns nearby to keep the insects at bay.

After dinner, Kamarul returns to the surau where he witnesses the conversion ceremony of his grandfather – the happiest moment of the Ramadan season for him.

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