A Malaysian's Fasting Experience In Denmark

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By Shanika Abdul Latib

KULIM (Kedah, Malaysia), June 5 (Bernama) -- “I would usually wake up around 2 or 3 am to prepare food for ‘sahur’ (pre-dawn meal). It would, of course, be slightly noisy, with the clang of pots and pans as well as the beeping of the microwave.

“I was once reprimanded by my neighbour because of it,” said Rohaya Saad, who currently lives in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The 40-year-old smiled at the memory, one of her many experiences fasting overseas.

Rohaya has been staying in Copenhagen since January 2000 with her husband Haizan Ismail, 52, who works in a restaurant and their two children Manissha, 18, and Daniel Irfan, 15.

"We live in an area where the majority are locals and non-Muslim, so preparing food at 2 am can be quite a feat. We cannot open our windows no matter how hot it gets inside because our neighbours have complained of the noise.

“Some have even complained to the neighbourhood leader and asked the imam at the local masjid to advice us to not make so much noise when cooking during sahur,” she told Bernama through WhatsApp when sharing her experience celebrating Ramadan in Denmark.

This writer came to know Rohaya through her best friend, who is now residing in Hamburg, Germany.

USED TO THE LONG HOURS

Rohaya’s home is located right across the Hamad bin Khalifa Civilisation Centre, better known as the Grand Mosque of Copenhagen.

"Every Ramadan, the mosque will come alive with many activities including mass iftar (breaking of fast) with dishes sponsored by the public as well as wealthy donors from Qatar,” she said.

Rohaya, who hails from Malaysia’s northern state Penang told this writer that one of her most enjoyable memories in Copenhagen was fasting during the winter of 2000.

“Sahur time ended at 6.30am that year while the time for the breaking of fast was at a little after 4 pm. It barely felt like we were fasting. Fasting this year, however, lasts almost 20 hours and is made more challenging by the increasingly warm weather starting from the first day of Ramadan.

"The only difference compared to last year is that the weather was slightly colder back then and it rained more frequently as well. The celebration of Ramadan, however, was just as lively,” she said.

BIGGEST MOSQUE IN EUROPE

The Hamad bin Khalifa Civilisation Centre is the biggest mosque in Europe and opens its doors to visitors of all faiths intending to learn more about Islam.

Rohaya said it touched her deeply to see non-Muslims walking into the mosque.

"Muslims here are very grateful that even though Denmark is not a Muslim country, we are allowed to build a mosque as big as this. The mosque welcomes visitors of other faiths who wish to know more about Islam or to just take a look inside,” she said.

The mosque’s opening in 2014 attracted a lot of visitors from other faiths, including teachers who come in with their students.

“Sometimes I look out my window and see non-Muslims walking into the mosque. This, to me, is a pleasing sight as it indicates an opportunity for them to address any misperceptions they might have about Islam,” she said.

Having a home just across the mosque also afforded her other opportunities.

“I look forward to the call of prayer, as then I would be able to see tourists from all over the world coming there to pray, including those from Malaysia. Having the chance to talk to fellow Malaysians helps me somewhat cope with the homesickness I feel during Ramadan,” she said.

-- BERNAMA