In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, 'Selawat' (blessings) and 'salam' (peace be upon) Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.
"And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me. I do not want from them any provision, nor do I want them to feed Me." (Surah Adh-Dhariyat 51: 56-57)
BACK to square one - while readying myself for the mass 'isyak' (late evening) prayers at a 'masjid' near my house recently, I glanced at the attendees; congregators only filled the first 'saf' (row), perhaps there were only 15 men.
That scenario contradicted with the merry atmosphere of Ramadan especially during its early stage. During 'isyak' mass prayers congregators filled every space in the 'masjid'; one night I turned up when the 'azan isyak' (call of prayers for 'isyak') was on air but failed to get a place in the 'masjid'. After a 'frantic search' I only managed to find a space at its veranda.
If during Ramadan there were hundreds perhaps a few thousands of congregators but nowadays for the five times 'fardu' (compulsory) prayers attendees were very poor...the question is 'where have all those people gone to'?
During Ramadan, for 'isyak' prayers the 'masjid' was full capacity, sometimes congregators 'spilled' to the ground area but nowadays as many as 95 percent of the congregators failed to turn up for the same 'fardhu' prayers; why it is so?
Perhaps during Ramadan, the people wanted to perform the yearly 'solat sunat tarawih' (recommended tarawih prayers) which was held in mass soon after 'solat isyak' thus they have no choice but to perform 'solat isyak' in mass first but after Ramadan, many people were back to square on.
An 'ustaz' (religious teacher) during his 'tazkirah' (lessons) recently which I attended, claimed that many of us perform our religious obligations without having proper knowledge about it.
Many were from the 'ikut-ikutan' (following others) type; they went to the 'masjid' at night during Ramadan, they follow suit. People said Ramadan is a 'barakah' (blessed) month, they too would like to seek for that 'barakah' but they failed to understand which of the 'solat' is more important that the other.
"Of course 'solat isyak' which is a 'fardu' must be paid more attention than the recommended 'solat tawarih'. A 'sunat' obligation cannot surplus a 'fardu' one. Men are supposed to perform 'solat isyak' in mass at the 'masjid' during Ramadan and outside Ramadan, but many of us concentrate doing so in Ramadan but 'forget' it altogether in the remaining 11 months.
"Thus it is a must for a Muslim to seek for knowledge; Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him - s.a.w.) always encouraged Muslims to acquire knowledge as is clear by his famous statement: “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave,” said the 'ustaz'.
Why was attendees at 'masjid' full during the night of Ramadan especially during the first ten days? A scholar, Idris Tawfiq said it was because we have made the effort during the day to fast, we feel inspired to commit ourselves even more. This is why Ramadan is such a special time.
How quickly we get back into the routines of life; thus Idris recommended us to do some reflection; among others:
* Remember going to pray late at night in the 'masjid' in Ramadan and finding many other people there, too?
* Remember getting up to pray Fajr (subuh or dawn) in the 'masjid' and having to get there early enough to find a space near the front?
* Remember all those verses of the Qur'an we recited?
So what happened? Where have all those people gone? No sooner is Ramadan over than we have gone back to the way it was before.
During my discussion with my mother regarding 'the empty 'masjid' syndrome after Ramadan; she pointed up that many people were attracted to do 'solat tarawih' because it is an annually event - people get exited to 'new things'- for example people's appetite are good if we serve them KFC once in a while but "who could eat KFC for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday?"
People too 'get excited and attracted' to perform the 'solat sunat Aidilfiitri and Aidiladha' (Eid recommended prayers) but many distance themselves from performing the weekly compulsory 'solat Jumaat' (Friday prayers) whats more the five times daily prayers. We could witnessed congregators spilled out of 'masjids' during Eid prayers.
My mother said people get bored eating or doing the same things over and over again. As for the daily five times compulsory prayers (subuh, zuhur, asar, maghrib and isyak), not many people could tirelessly perform them whats more at earliest time possible and at the 'masjid' in mass.
"Perhaps you could not take KFC every time you are at the dinner table but you could have rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yes you could eat it and the next day you still crave for rice. You do not feel bored with rice; you need it everyday...
"'Solat tarawih' is like taking KFC while the five times daily prayers is like taking rice...if your body is designed to take rice a few times in a day, you soul too needs to be 'refresh' every now and then...then 'solat' (prayers) is the answer to calm up your soul...Only in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find peace!"
Allah says: “Those who believe and whose hearts find tranquility in the remembrance of Allah, verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find tranquility.” (Surah Ar-Radd: 28)
Another 'ustaz' explained 'the phenomena' by saying that many Muslims lack 'istiqamah' (consistently) in their 'ibadah' (acts of devotion to Allah SWT). "We must maintain our good deeds even small at all times until we were called by Allah SWT. There is no such thing such as boring in performing good deeds."
He said, other than the compulsory 'ibadah' such as performing our five times 'fardu prayers' and giving 'zakat', there are many other 'sunat' (recommended) good deeds - say if we were tired of performing recommended prayers we could switch to reading the Qur'an and then change to saying our 'zikir' (dhikr). We can also go out of our home to visit unfortunate people and give away money as part of our recommended good deeds (sadaqah).
The 'ustaz' also recommended all Muslims to go to 'masjids' to see for themselves what activities are in store for them other than the mass five times daily prayers. It it might include works of charity and if there is not an existing group perhaps you could suggest to other congregators or to the 'imam' that you would like to start one.
During Ramadan, 'masjids' have 'successfully' attracted a good number of people during 'isyak', but outside the holy month, where have they all gone to...?
An old man I knew had concentrated to say his prayers at home; a worker had been busy at work (during Ramadan he was given permission to go home early), a man was busy attending his 'pasar malam' (night market) business and a couple was seen 'romantically' having dinner at a 'tomyam' restaurant! Hopefully they would say their prayers latter on...it is better doing it late than never!