A tale of the village surau.

In my younger days, I often frequented the surau in my village for the usual five-time a day conggragational prayers. Many of us boys would learn a thing or two from the veterans. In those days almost everybody wore the songkok and the sarong. Noboby dares to wear the “ketayap” (the skullcaps) or the “serban” (turban) or even the “jubah”. These attire were reserved for the “haji” (haj) and the “lebai” (pseudo haj). You would be frowned upon if you wear those attire. The imam hardly read ayat longer than “adh dhuha” or “lumazah”. There were the yassin reading session on Thurday nights followed by some light refreshment. Every month or so we had an invited imam to give sermon after Maghrib and more often than not the boys would moan and groan as he invariably would recite a surah such as “albalad” or “waladhiah”. We dubbed him as Imam LP. LP is short for Long Play. I cannot imagine if he regularly recite “Arrahman” or “Assajadah” – people probably would have dubbed him ELP (extra long play!) and abandon the surau.
The signal for prayer times were conducted by banging the wooden drum called the “kerantung”. We do not use “ketuk-ketuk” or “tabuh”. The kerantung was made of a hollowed metre long meranti log. To sound the kerantung before every prayer time, you insert the wooden knocker and knock vigourously into the hole carved out in the log. Then you bang the body of the kerantung with a certain tung-tung-tung rhythm. You must do it with an increasing speed and end up with a loud bang. If the tung-tung-tung sound is done with a slow regular speed, it signifies that somebody has died. It is a kind communication system of the sixties and the seventies. Mind you there were no microphone or loudspeakers in those days. Handphones were just in the pipedreams. The kerantung was also used as a signal for iftar during Ramadan.
Now the kerantung hung lonely at the entrance of the surau. the mic and speakers had rendered it useless. I would dare to knock it once a while but was chided by the lady living next to the surau. Strange indeed. Even more srange, they are hardly anybody at the surau anymore, even during maghrib and isyak. It is a sad reflection of the level of spirit of jamaah in the village. All the folks who usually frequented the surau either have died or moved out of the village in search of a better material life – myself included. Unfortunately, we failed to educate the new generation to continue the tradition. Youngsters in the village do not go to the surau anymore. They are either at home watching Astro or playing computer games or busy playing guitar at the village foodstall or busy attending tuition classes. So it would be an unusual day if we could find more than three or more people holding the jamaah for maghrib or isya. It is sad but that is the truth that I painfully discovered during Ramadan a couple of years ago. I anticipated the usual crowd at the surau for Isyak and the tarawikh prayers and for the “moreh” afterwards. Well past 8.30pm they were only two of us at the surau. That was the first time I had to be the imam for Tarawikh prayer, albeit with only one follower. Later when I checked with my sister, she said it was not uncommon that there was no one at the surau at all! Oh what a Ramadan…People say kampong folks are pure, innocent, and pious. I seriously doubt that these days. They are getting more and more spoilt by the modern decadence up to the point of ignoring their religious obligations – a trend that is more dangerous than those in the cities. Here in my KL housing estate’s surau, the surau is always full with daily sermons after maghrib. Unless the JKKK do something, the village folks would continue to fail to perform their fardhu kifayah. The village surau now stand quiet and dilapidated with the worn out kerantung hanging lazily by the main doorway.

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