PETALING JAYA: For many Muslims, Ramadan and Eid are synonymous with crowded mosques and suraus.
To them, crowding together at the local surau is not just an act of worship but a social affair, especially for the elderly.
But this Ramadan, congregations have been forced by the conditional movement control order (CMCO) and the Covid-19 pandemic to observe the fasting month differently by praying at home.
For small local suraus, this has meant a massive cut in their collections, eating into money for activities, maintenance, salaries for staff, and charity.
The chairman of the committee at Surau Hidayah in Shah Alam, Nasir Khan Akbar Khan, told FMT that they usually collect up to RM100,0000 every Ramadan.
However, since houses of worship were forced to close, they have barely received 5% of that amount.
He said in any other year, surau regulars would usually donate even more around this time.
“They know that when they contribute during Ramadan their rewards are multiplied,” he said.
Administrators have shared their online banking details in a WhatsApp group, to give regulars a way of contributing.
“But the online method lacks the community aspect of donating in person after spending an evening with other worshippers,” said Nasir. “Only certain people will give donations this way.”
He added that many regulars have been in a sombre mood ever since being forbidden to visit their local surau.
“It’s sad, especially if they regularly pray at the surau and suddenly they can’t anymore.
“Nobody dares to come. One thing about our congregants is they really don’t flout the law, they follow instructions,” he said, adding that since these regulars are usually over 60, they also understand that they are at higher risk of contracting Covid-19.
Because of the lack of income, the committee is now unable to donate to their usual charities – usually orphanage schools.
“Unfortunately, with the MCO, the orphans cannot come to our surau. If we want to give through online banking, they’re hard to reach and it’s hard to communicate with them. So this year, we cannot give out the money.”
Wahilman Siwar, chairman of Surau al Munawwarah, said collections for Ramadan have so far dipped by 70% compared to last year.
He said in other years, collections could reach RM7,000 a week during Ramadan.
“We are hoping congregants will make donations through online banking. There are some who have, but not many,” he said.
“We use the funds to pay the religious teachers who teach our classes,” he added. “Also to pay utility bills and maintenance fees for air-conditioning.
“We have extra funds we brought forward from last year’s collections, so we can still maintain payments for the management and utilities. In fact the utility bills are reduced, as we are using less water and electricity.”
He said congregants are questioning the closures, especially when other public places are allowed to stay open.
“In my opinion, it should depend on the size of the prayer hall. If it is big then maybe there is a large enough capacity for social distancing. We can adjust according to the space.”
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