Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Ramadan lights shine through Covid cloud

Muslims in Malaysia from every walk of life prepare to mark another Raya under Covid-19 lockdown, observing age-old traditions as best they can according to health SOPs.

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Customers stroll through a Ramadan bazaar in Jalan Raja Alang, Kampung Baru in Kuala Lumpur. These bazaars, a popular option for those looking to break their fast during the Ramadan month, were eventually cancelled in some states following spikes in Covid-19 infections.

Elsewhere, even corporations tapped into the Ramadan spirit by holding bazaars in unlikely locations including KLIA in Sepang. Several personnel from the flagship carrier Malaysia Airlines order some food from a stall selling kuih to KLIA staff and domestic passengers.

Ramadan looks quite different for the Orang Asli community back in Pulau Ketam. They don’t have much but they receive donations of food from activists and volunteers who transport trays of eggs and other foodstuff to the island by boat.

In Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur, volunteers gather at the mosque to cook a traditional favourite – bubur lambuk. Kampung Baru is famous for its bubur lambuk, about 4,000 packets of which are distributed for free after dusk.

It takes some muscle to stir this huge pot of bubur lambuk. This is the fifth generation of volunteers to be making the dish at the mosque in Kampung Baru.

Once the porridge is cooked, more volunteers ladle it from the pots into bags to be tied up and distributed to those who come.

Just outside the mosque, a father pushes his two wheelchair-bound sons down the road after collecting some Aidilfitri donations at the hall in Kampung Paya. The boys, who are twins, were born with spinal problems and have celebrated Hari Raya several times from the hospital.

Children from a home in Shah Alam try on pairs of jeans at a mall in Subang Jaya. The new clothes will help bring some festive cheer to them as they celebrate Hari Raya at the orphanage.

Masjid Jamek in Kuala Lumpur is normally bustling with activity during the Ramadan and Raya period. This year, though, it stands almost entirely empty as Covid-19 SOPs keep most people at home.

Still, a few come to read the Quran and pray.

Few celebrations are complete without food, and Ramadan is no exception. Restaurant operators and those in the food and beverage industry see the fasting month as a time to tempt customers with their delicious dishes.

Children from the home in Shah Alam wait while food is ladled onto their plates.

In Pulau Ketam, meanwhile, a family breaks their fast on their porch overlooking the water of the Melaka Strait. Many of the villages on the island are built on stilts above the waves.

Muslims come together for congregational prayers, a key part of the Ramadan month.

At this home in Kuala Lumpur, a family prays in the living room. With Covid-19 case numbers rising across some parts of the country, many mosques and suraus have had limits placed on the number of people allowed in.

Badri Jamaluddin, a retired soldier, drills holes through a bamboo pole which he will turn into lanterns to be hung at the Sri Melaka flats in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.

When dusk falls, the candles in the pole light up the surrounding area, lending a festive atmosphere.

Children gather at the courtyard of the Sri Melaka flats in Cheras to play with sparklers by the light of the lanterns Badri has made.

Dressed in their Raya clothes, they light their sparklers with the candles stuck into the bamboo poles.

Playing with the sparklers brings for them a small moment of relief from the reality of the pandemic.

As they play, they hope for brighter days ahead.

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