KUALA LUMPUR – Azira Aziz has been living in Oslo, Norway, since 2011. Her husband Faizul Akmal Ahmad Rodi works as an engineer there and they celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri each year with the local Muslim community.
This year, they received an invitation to attend a Raya gathering at the Indonesian Embassy in Oslo.
“On the first day of Syawal, we will perform our Hari Raya prayers at a mosque here. After that, we will attend the function at the Indonesian Embassy. Later that day, we will host an open house for our friends here,” Azira, 39, told Bernama via an interview on WhatsApp, adding that she plans to cook and serve delicacies such as chicken rendang, daging masak hitam, instant lemang, nasi himpit with peanut sauce, nasi lemak, bakso, cendol and various types of cookies.
She said their Raya celebrations are usually over after the first day as most Muslims residing in Oslo are from Middle Eastern countries who pay more importance to observing the month of Ramadan.
“But for those of us from Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore, we keep the festive spirit alive by visiting each other. The excitement is there but, of course, it’s not the same as celebrating in Malaysia,” added the mother of two special children aged 12 and nine.
FASTING CAN BE CHALLENGING
Azira, who hails from Parit, Perak, and can speak the Norwegian language fluently, admitted that fasting can be a rather challenging affair especially if Ramadan falls during the summer months.
“I’ve in the past fasted for up to 20 hours a day with temperatures ranging from 21 to 31 degrees Celsius, which caused my skin to become dry.
“This year, the fasting month coincides with the winter-spring transition period so I fasted for about 14 hours on the first day. But on the last day of Ramadan, fasting will extend to about 18 hours,” she said.
She said currently in Oslo, temperatures range from as low as minus five degrees Celsius to 11 degrees Celsius, adding that she finds fasting more comfortable during the colder months as she tends to feel less hungry and thirsty.
Asked what she missed most when celebrating Raya in Norway, Azira said it was lighting oil lamps at the compound of her house in Malaysia, performing the tarawih prayers with her friends at the mosque and playing with fireworks.
Meanwhile, freelance tour leader Irwan Dahnil, 47, who has been observing Hari Raya in Scotland ever since he left for the United Kingdom in 2015, is celebrating the auspicious festival with his family in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, this year.
The former Universiti Malaysia Sabah lecturer, who also provides homestay and transport services to tourists and students in the United Kingdom and Europe, said back in Glasgow, Scotland, where he is based, the Malaysian Malay community there would usually have a potluck meal on the first day after performing the Aidilfitri prayers in the morning.
“It’s a unique experience and we all feel the excitement even though our group is small. And, all of us would prepare whatever delicacies we can make such as ketupat, rendang, lemang and traditional kuih, which remind us of home and help us to overcome our longing for our homeland,” said Irwan, adding that what he missed the most were the lontong, chicken rendang and hirisan dendeng his mother would cook during Hari Raya.
He said he also felt nostalgic when he heard the takbir Raya as it reminded him of his childhood in the kampung when he and his friends would visit their neighbours to collect duit Raya.
“We would all smile joyfully while we count our ‘takings’. But times have changed and this practice no longer exists, particularly in urban areas,” he said.
Sharing the rigours of fasting in Scotland, Irwan said there had been times during summer when he had to abstain from eating and drinking for over 21 hours. “Imagine breaking my fast at 10 pm and then rushing to perform my maghrib and isyak prayers before the tarawih prayers… and then having to start fasting again at 3.30 am!” He said at the mosque in Glasgow where he broke his fast, he and fellow Muslims of various races would be served just rice and milk.
“At moments like this, I realise the truth that Islam is a beautiful religion. There I was breaking fast with Muslims who have different skin colours and speak different languages. Fasting overseas really taught me the meaning of sufficiency,” he added.
Azlin Mohamed, 43, who has been staying in Madinah al-Munawwarah in Saudi Arabia for nearly 10 years, meanwhile, feels blessed to be able to observe Ramadan and celebrate Hari Raya in the land where Nabi Muhammad SAW once lived.
The father-of-three moved to Madinah with his wife Norhasimah Nimat, who is a nurse at Hospital Madinah, in 2014 and he currently provides catering services to umrah and haj pilgrims from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Brunei. Azlin, who is from Baling, Kedah, said Madinah becomes more lively during Ramadan as people go all out to worship and perform good deeds such as distributing alms to the needy.
“In Saudi Arabia, working hours are from 10 am to 3 pm and schooling hours from 9 am to noon during Ramadan. The shorter working hours are to allow people to perform their tarawih prayers at night,” he said.
He added that on the first day of Raya, he and his family would usually invite their friends to their house after the morning prayers.
“We would serve traditional Malay treats such as rendang and ketupat,” he said.
However, since two years ago, Community Malaysia Madinah has been handling the Hari Raya celebrations there.
Azlin, a committee member of Community Malaysia Madinah, said the celebrations are usually held on the second day of Raya and the venue for this year’s celebrations is the Aryaf Tayban date plantation. “We would normally invite all Malaysians in Saudi Arabia for the celebrations, including the umrah pilgrims celebrating Raya in Madinah,” he added – BERNAMA