Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Muharam 9, 1443: 'Not just any Tijah, Bedah...'

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.


The Declining Day (Al-'Asr)

1. By the declining day,

2. Lo! Man is in a state of loss,

3. Save those who believe and do good works, and exhort 

one another to truth and exhort one another to endurance.

DURING my visit to Turkey, one story that touched my heart was regarding the long and tedious preparation of a 'traditional' Turkish girl before she get married - she had to learn and mastered the art of making carpets or kilims. 

During the process she readied her own 'special' (dowry) carpet which perhaps she took years to complete it. In Turkey, dowry' carpets that brides-to-be have woven for their betrothed, is a woven symbol of the bride and groom's lifelong connection.

The most valuable carpets in the Turk homes were always dowry pieces and considered to be more favorable than gold as a secured asset. This treasured possession is kept in a safe place, and used only on special family occasions. 

Yes, carpet weaving is one of the most ancient crafts in Turkey, and for centuries, women have played a pivotal role in their creation.

Historically, the Turks were among the earliest carpet weavers. According to a guide book, the earliest known carpet utilizing the double knotted Gordes style dates between the 4th and 1st centuries BC. It is believed that the Seljuks introduced carpet weaving techniques into Anatolia in the 12th century.

Marco Polo notes in his travel diaries that Konya, the Seljuk capital, was the center of carpet production in the 13th century. Carpets and kilims, rugs without a knotted pile, have been used by nomadic tribes as floor coverings in their tents. They provided comfort, warmth as well as decor.

Village women have woven carpets for family use. A daughter had a greater chance of marrying if she was a skilled weaver and would offer carpets as part of her dowry to her future husband. She would take great care in the dyeing and hand-spinning of wool and in the selection of  designs and motifs, some of which were related to her daily life and tribal culture.

Since the 19th century, there has been a tremendous demand for Turkish carpets and kilims. This development was responsible for the proliferation of carpet companies. Today, about 95% of women employed in this industry work for these firms. Some work in their homes while others labor in company workshops.

A few days after coming back to Malaysia from Turkey, I related this 'Turkish story and experience' to my mother who seemed so anxious and excited. The Turkish story ignited her to tell her own version of story - well it was my turn to listen to her 'granny stories' about brides-to-be. 

She said during her younger days, Malays girls too 'had to prove their worth' before they could get married. For example girls were required to be skillful in making 'baju kurung' and 'baju Melayu' with various types of 'sembat' (knotting) and 'jahitan halus' (fine sewing) like 'jahitan tulang belut' for 'leher' (neck) of 'baju Melayu Johor' which has no collar.

They too had to be skillful in some other cottage craft; at times for their own household uses such as weaving mats from 'daun mengkuang' (screw pine leaves). At times these mats (new ones) were spread open for guests to sit on and when the mats had become old, they were used to be spread on the floor at night to sleep on as just like mattress. 

My mother said, of course girls too had to 'pandai masak' (good at cooking) - even there was a 'teasing phrase' - 'tanak nasi pun tak pandai, sudah mahu kahwin?' (you could not even cook rice yet you want to get married?). At that time there was no such thing as a rice cooker (you just put rice and water in it and click on the switch) but rice had to be cooked in a 'periuk' (pot) on the 'dapur kayu' (wood stove). When cooking rice using 'dapur kayu' you had to be good in your timing and use 'your common sense', for example when to close the pot, put off the fire but leave the 'bara' (ember) alone.

Other than 'skills of their hands', what were other qualities required from girls or would-be brides during those good days, asked my mother. Would-be parents in law would also wanted to know the religious knowledge of the girl especially regarding her Qur'an reading...have she had 'khatam' (complete) reading the whole Qur'an. 

Thus, during those days, during her 'hari berlangsung" (wedding day), her parents too would arrange for her 'majlis khatam al-Quran' as well where the girl would recite some short verses of the Qur'an in front of special guests such as the 'imam' (prayers leader) of the kampung.

Subhanallah, girls during 'the good old days' had to ready themselves with knowledge and skills before people came to their houses for 'majlis merisik' (pre-engagement ceremony) because would-be parents in law would not take any Tijah or Bedah as their daughter in law!

But what have we now...almost all these good values we treasured in the past had been trodden by the new generation. "How come you could pick up a girl you had encounter at the roadside or at the bus station as your would-be wife without checking on their background?" asked my mother; even though her words were not fired at me but it too made my face red...well I have children to be married off in the future.

"How come you could pick up a girl who was shy to spend time in the kitchen? Please make sure the girl knows how to cook perhaps a simple meal as we do not want her husband (future) had to 'makan di kedai' (eat at the stalls and restaurants) almost all the time. Nowadays many wives are good at 'pointing fingers' (buying) dishes and brought them back; they seemed no time to cook food for their families," lectured my mother.

To readers who are in stage to seeking life partners; please choose your would be wife or husband carefully; regarding the ideal Muslim wife, the Prophet s.a.w. in his 'hadith' said; "A woman may be married for four things; for her wealth, for her noble descent, for her beauty or for her religion. Choose the one who is religious, may your hands be rubbed with dust! (Imam Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Yes, to young men out there please go for a religious wife, but this does not mean that you should ignore preferences regarding physical beauty or as in our above discussion, girls with skillful hands such as in weaving carpets (Turkish girl) and sewing fine 'baju kurung' or 'baju Melayu' as in the case of 'gadis Melayu' (Malay girl)!

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