On 31 July 2013 a group of Malaysians of different faith joined their Muslim sisters and brothers for a day of fasting in the month of Ramadan.
This noble act of solidarity demonstrated our desire to reach out in friendship and respect for each other’s beliefs and not to be influenced by discriminatory remarks and accusations. On 16 September 2009 (Malaysia Day), people of different faiths and ethnicities did a day of fasting alongside their Muslim friends with a pledge “Fast for the Nation: Peace for Malaysia” after the cow head incident.
We cannot afford to stand by and watch our respect and appreciation for each other’s culture and traditions crumble before our eyes just because a group of insensitive Malaysians made wild accusations and discriminatory remarks. We need to embrace compassion in order to attain harmony among humanity.
I invited some friends to join me for sahur (pre-fasting meal) at 4.30 am and to buka puasa (breaking fast) that evening. We had lively discussions on a wide range of topics from significance of Ramadan, polygamy, hijab, snatched thieves, religious intolerance, Muslim & Christian views on Creation, fasting by people of different faiths and the Japanese occupation.
On reflection, it never crossed my mind that my friends are of different religion and ethnicity. I see them as friends and fellow human beings sharing the same aspirations and dreams.
– Sharifah Zuriah Aljeffri (Kak Zu)
Reflections on the Sahur
I was at my pc doing some work on Wednesday night when Ka’ Zu called to say “ are you coming for sahur?” I had some mixed feelings about driving so early in the morning to Segambut to be with her. So, I thought maybe I should sleep in her guest room and give her a helping hand with her preparations for the morning meal. So, there I was at Ka’ Zu’s doorsteps before 12 midnight.
Upon arrival I saw that Ka’ Zu had prepared the dining table for 8 of us to have our sahur. There was’nt much to do as she had already pre ordered nasi lemak, bread and fruits. So, we decided to go to sleep and cut the fruits when we wake up. We were in bed before 12.30 am.
At 4am Ka’ Zu knocked on my door and asked me to join her in the kitchen. I did and helped cut the papaya, watermelon and oranges. I had to heat up the bread and buns and prepare the hot drinks. Meanwhile Ka’ Zu had already prepared her nasi lemak ready to be served when the time comes.
At 4.30 our non-Muslim guests arrived – Yuet Mee & Venu (of Bahai faith), followed by Ahmad Yazid(film-maker), Tia and Haridas (of Hindu faith) and Yati – the last to join us. We enjoyed our meal together and who would imagined having a most engaging conversation so early in the morning! We covered a wide range of topics from polygamy, Quran, second wives and touched on the latest happenings in Malaysia on religion, dressing and sex bloggers.
For me it was a real change from my usual routine of a bowl of Whole Grain weetbix with milk and a cup of coffee for sahur. I would then go to my pc to attend to my emails and wait for the azan to do the first prayer for the day. Usually I’ll stay on to do my work till noon when I may take a short nap.
This idea of a Fast 4Malaysia is most laudable – an initiative that was triggered by the recent happenings that tend to suggest that there are cracks in our intercultural relationships among the many races in the country. We are so diverse in our outlooks on so many things. Not a day passes by where we do not read and hear about some critical encounters that reveal our lack of empathy and understanding of those who are different from us in terms of religion, culture and worldviews. We have come to a stage where our brand of unity and multiculturalism has to be deconstructed in view of our current realities. How can we promote unity among the groups and what criteria should we use to measure national unity? What is our brand of multiculturalism? What features of our multiculturalism can we model to the world? Obviously our ideal response would be one where there is true integration where we are allowed to preserve our own cultural identity but we are also attracted and curious of the others. By eating together we can begin to have some common experience and learn about one another and in the process – enlarge our circle of intercultural friends.
So, let’s find opportunities to do things together. We can start by having a meal together and learn about one another when we celebrate our many festivals and religious rituals. After all, we Malaysians love to eat. It’s one sure way of building relationships! So let’s find many more ways when and where we can meet, talk and eat together more often.
Yuet Mee Ho & Venu Nambier
Thank you for inviting us to join you in ‘To Fast for Malaysia’. What an inspirational and positive way to express such a desire for change! We all know fasting from food is not an end in itself but a symbol, an act which when carried out devotedly, helps us spiritually refresh and reinvigorate and helps us make the adjustments we desire in our lives.
The food was scrumptious and the company most fascinating. It was a gathering of like-minded people early in the morning dawn of that new day. Diverse in our cultures, professions and interests, yet each purposeful and socially responsible in his or her own space, and each passionately believing that through participation in constructive discourse with neighbours, co-workers, friends and acquaintances, we can contribute to the advancement of our nation and our people. The conversation around the table that morning really resonated with us as Bahá’ís too believe that no deed in the world is nobler than service to the common good, and that all of us are given the opportunity to arise and energetically devote ourselves to the service of humanity as we all share the right and duty to contribute to creating a better society.
Venu and I left your lovely home that morning feeling spiritually refreshed and feeling so proud to be Malaysians. Also felt really blessed to have friends like yourself Zuriah…
Haridas & Tia
It was a wonderful morning to spend with our Muslim friends in Ka’ Zuriah’s home and to have shared a meal prior to beginning of fasting. Tastefully prepared Nasi Lemak combined with meaningful conversations with others who came added to the richness of the morning. For us it was a shared Malaysian experience which we cherish.
Reflections on Buka Puasa
For about ten years, I fasted with my Muslim colleagues every Ramadan in the spirit of muhibbah–but that was many years ago.
I was happy to join #Fast4Malaysia and fast for such a worthy cause.
It was a privilege to buka puasa with friends of all faiths. I believe our fasting together and praying for the country will have a positive effect..
Thanks Ka’ Sharifah Zuriah for arranging a fast during the holy month of Ramadan for peace for Malaysia at your house. This concept needs to be promoted widely in Malaysia. Being at your house this evening reminded me of the school days when we used to be with our Muslim friends without invitation. I hope I’ll be around next year with many more of us breaking fast with friends of different faiths.
This is the least we can do for a happy and prosperous life for all Malaysians. Wishing you a very happy Hari Raya. The greatest gift is to have love in us. May God’s blessing be upon all Malaysian.
Fast for Malaysia is a very unique concept and for us to get together to share our love, peace & harmony. I feel we are truly Malaysians and that we can live together in harmony even though we come from different culture & religion. From time to time we learn to understand our different lifestyles and to show our appreciation to one another. The greatest gift is the love within us. May God’s blessing be on all Malaysians.
It was lovely meeting old friends and new last night. Many thanks, Zuriah who made all this happen.