Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Safar 29, 1443: ‘Crocodile Dundee’ at Masjid Kapitan Keling...(U)

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.

TRAVELLING on a ‘kapcai’ (small motorcycle) in the northern states in 2017, one morning I stopped at Masjid Kapitan Keling in Pulau Pinang (Penang) to have a rest including performing ‘solat dhuha’ (mid morning recommended prayers).

After ‘solat’ I took the opportunity of the serene surroundings of the ‘masjid’ to enjoy two packets of ‘nasi berlauk’ (wrapped rice with little portions of meat, fish, etc) which I had bought at Parit Buntar at only RM1 a packet, at one corner of the ‘masjid’.

While enjoying my meal, I saw a ‘Mat Salih’ (Malay nickname for Europeans) couple entering the compound of the ‘masjid’. Since at that moment nobody was around, I rise and greeted the visitors with a broad smile…

I gave each of them a photostat copy of a Harakah’s English Section article entitled ‘It all began with ‘Read – A Jewish computer programmer accepts Islam'. Yes, it was my habit of keeping some good Islamic reading materials in my bag to be given to strangers; it was my way of doing ‘da’wah’ works.

The article was written by one Richard Leiman who loved to listen to the BBC World Service about the Middle East during his childhood years. He loved the music from that part of the world, and probably was listening to the Qur’an being recited but did not know it at that time.

After years of soul searching that saw him flying over the Atlantic a few times (United States and Europe), he officially accepted Islam in November 1996. 

Regarding his new found faith and determination to practice Islam, Leiman notes: “I pray Zhuhr and ‘Asr by myself or with other Muslim brothers in a small masjid in my work place. I proudly carry my prayer rug in the hallways at my work in an attempt to get people to ask me what they are. When they do ask me about it, I tell them that I am Muslim and the mats are what I use to pray on.

“Also my work area, including my computer, is decorated with Islamic artwork. My background on my computer is usually the Ka’bah or our masjid. Now that I am a Muslim, there is no turning back to disbelief.”

After leading the ‘Mat Salih’ couple to the front section of the ‘masjid’, I quickly finished my food and went back to look for them. Alhamdulillah, they were still there, viewing and reading inscriptions about the ‘masjid’ which was pasted on walls and notice boards.

The Kapitan Keling Mosque was named after Caudeer Mohuddeen, the head of the Indian Muslim community credited to have built it around 1800. The name ‘kapitan keling’ is used to denote the headman or leader of the South Indian Muslim community. The Kapitan Keling was the first Superintendent of the mosque. He brought in the builders and stones from India for the project. The original mosque structure was a single-storey rectangular building with a sloping roof on all sides and surrounded by a stone bench. It was surrounded by shophouses, with access through a narrow gateway.

In 1905, the government set up the Mohammedan and Hindu Endowment Board, to supervise the administration of trust lands (tanah wakaf). An extensive urban renewal programme was underway. In the 1910s, the mosque was given a major facelift in the British Moghul Revival style, with the addition of Mughal domes and turrets, a large minaret and a madrasah, completed around 1916.

Since nobody was around; I told myself why not I personally ‘took’ the ‘Mat Salih’ for a short tour inside and around the ‘masjid’. As we walked along the corridor of the ‘masjid’ we strike a good conversation, it was then I knew they were from Australia. They were husband and wife; he was Bill but I forgot to ask his wife’s name.

When they mentioned ‘Australia’, I quickly told them about ‘Crocodile Dundee’ – an Australian-American film which I had seen during my younger days when I was at university. The film is set in the Australian outback and in New York City. It stars Pual Hogan the weathered Mick Dundee and Hogan's future wife Linda Kozlowski portrayed Sue Charlton.

So, you are Mr Bill Dundee, I tried to crack a joke. Bill and his wife laughed but quickly ‘put the issue to an end’ by saying they were from Victoria, a state in southeast Australia and not from the northern region – the ‘playground’ of ‘Crocodile Dundee’.

We moved to the prayer section of the ‘masjid’ and I pointed to them the ‘mimbar’ (a podium at which the ‘imam’ delivers his sermon) – at that moment an Indian man was saying his prayers (solat) nearby; perhaps he was doing his ‘dhuha’ prayers.

“Look,” I told them. “Muslim whether he or she is an Indian or Malay or Arab prays directly to his Creator, which in Arabic is known as Allah.” Allah refers to The Only One God. I refer to the short ‘surah’ (one of the easiest to me) that is ‘The Unity’ with its translation; In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. 

1. Say; He is Allah, the One!

2. Allah, the eternally Besought of all!

3. He begetteth not nor was begotten.

4. And there is none comparable unto Him.

Bill and wife seemed interested thus it was a golden opportunity for me to talk to them more about Islam.

I told them that Islam is a way of life. Its teaching was from God, it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. God sent hundreds of prophets to mankind – from Adam to Muhammad, the last of the prophet. In between them there were Abraham, Moses, David, Jacob and Jesus (Isa). In Islam, we believe that Jesus was one of the prophets. In the succession line of the 25 main prophets, Jesus was the 24th prophet and Muhammad the 25th.

After ‘our rounds’, while putting on his shoes, Bill asked me: “My back and legs ache, I can’t bow, knell and prostrate like the man (the person whom he saw performing his ‘solat’), then could I say my prayers?”

It was another golden opportunity for me – to Bill I explained that a Muslim performs his/her prayers according his/her capabilities – if he could stand, well stand; if he/she could only sit then sit and if he/she is compounded to bed, then do it bed; he/she could do it even by heart!

From the expression on their faces, I knew they were very satisfied with their visit – they told me that the visit was their first time to any ‘masjid’ even they had traveled widely around the globe; they now had fresh inputs and ideas about the religion.

Before departing, I asked them to look for more info on Islam in the internet; to which Bill joked: “Be careful with what site you visited…” for there is too much distortion and misunderstanding about Islam…yes, Islam is the most misunderstood religion in the world, Alhamdulillah, hopefully I had given a clear view about Islam to 'Crocodile Dundee' and his wife!

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