Chapter 38: Tea at Marjeh Square

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Weekends are among the days on which Zul is free in Damascus. Considering there is nothing of importance planned that day, Zul decided to go to Marjeh Square. The square was built during the Ottoman era at the end of the 19th century. He had tried to invite several of his friends such as Fuad Ebnu Ali, Ghazali, Nazmi Karim, Pok Cik, Hakimi and others, but each was engaged in their matters. Anuar who initially agreed to go with him suddenly had to cancel because he has to prepare to cook for a feast. Anuar is one of the Malaysian students who are good at cooking.

Just last week, Zul and his housemates cooked Chicken Bone Broth using their local recipe. In Syria, the chicken is sold in four forms. Whole, pre-cut, just the giblets, or just the bony parts. The usual choice for Zul and his friends are the bony part for they are the cheapest and if cooked well, it will turn into a delicious wholesome meal! The chef is surely Hakimi, another cook connoisseur from among his friends other than Anuar.

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If Zul is looking to find some tranquillity and some time alone other than the Manjak or Tenkiz Mosque, he would go to Marjeh Square. He’d go there just to people-watch and enjoy the surroundings, where children will chase each other and run around, young and old couples spend their time together at restaurants and eateries. Pigeons, hundreds of pigeons will flock and fill the square. Every time Zul went there, there will always be visitors feeding the pigeons bran.

The pigeons appear friendly and tame, however, when approached, all of them will fly away. They may seem docile and friendly, but in truth, they are wild pigeons and not domesticated.

Zul started to walk to the tea shop nearby when he felt thirsty. Tea in Syria and Arab countries, in general, are not only aromatic and delicious, but it is prepared differently in an artful way. The old man who sells tea greeted Zul cheerfully. “I’ll have the usual, one tea please!” Zul said signalling number one with his index finger. The old man nodded and his hand swiftly grabbed the copper teapot and he puts some tea in it. In Malaysia, the water used is just the normal boiled tap water. In Syria, it’s different where the water used is from the Fijeh spring, of which its source is the Barada River, a famous river in Damascus. The water is poured into the teapot that’s being heated. Certainly, the tea tastes different when it is prepared from the freshwater spring! Customers can then choose to have their tea with or without sugar. The tea is then poured into dainty little cups, thick and refreshing.

 While slowly enjoying his time, he sets his cup on the table watching the steam coming up from the boiling hot tea. Zul reminisces back to the time he returned home to Malaysia recently during his semester break. While he was in Terengganu, Khairul asked him regarding the ruling of whether it is permissible for a woman who is memorizing the Quran to revise and recite her memorization during her menstruation. “People are discussing the ruling of revising and reciting the Quran during menstruation. What do you think?” Khairul asked his brother.

It is impermissible. This is the opinion in our madhhab, madhhab Syafie. The Prophet PBUH said,

لاَ يَقْرَإِ الْجُنُبُ وَلاَ الْحَائِضُ

“The menstruating woman does not recite – nor the Junub – anything from the Qur’an.” [1]

However, there is a discussion as to the narrator of the hadith, Ismail ‘Ayyash. Briefly, some scholars evaluated the hadith as dhaif. Malikiyyah scholars state, according to a sahih narration, it is permissible to touch or hold the Quran for menstruating women, and it is permissible to recite the Quran to teach and learn. Imam al-Bukhari, Imam Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Ibn al-Munzir, al-Syaukani, al-San’ani, al-Sya’bi, the opinion of Imam al-Syafi’I in qaul Qadim, ruled it permissible. There is also a fatwa issued by Syeikhul Azhar Syeikh Jad al-Haq Ali Jad al-Haq. You can refer to it in the book Buhuthun wa Fatawa. He states that it is permissible for menstruating women to recite and memorize the Quran if there is a test.” Concise and comprehensive the answer Zul gave to his brother.

Ayub, I’ll need your help later. I’m planning to write a small book regarding this ruling. I want you to help me send it to Yah in Azhar. She can help type it neatly.” Khairul smiled in agreement. So typical of Zul. If there’s an issue, he’ll immediately write a book or brief explanation on the matter. In SMAASZA, he completed a comprehensive list of sunnah prayers which he had gathered of which don’t have a basis in Islam. In Medina, he and his friends arranged a flyer commenting on the opinion issued by Tabung Haji regarding the issue of throwing the jamrah before zawal.

After spending about half an hour at the tea shop, his stomach starts to rumble in hunger. He paid 3 Lira for his tea and heads towards a near food stall on foot. The stall is famous for its grilled cow’s liver or lamb cooked with onions and spices. For a cheaper meal, lamb’s fat is also available. It is a custom for Zul to order the lamb’s fat grilled with spices for him to eat with pita bread.

Where are you from?” A dark-skinned man asked, sitting beside Zul. Probably, the guy is from Sudan. “I’m from Malaysia, Studying at Majma’ Ilmi Jami’ Sadat.” Zul replied, greeting the guy and starting to talk with him and the other customers there. Beginning from the topic of food, their conversation flowed towards current Syrian politics, everything was discussed while each was busy munching their food.

Sitting on the small wooden chair, enjoying the delicious modest meal of hot lamb’s fat, talking with people of various backgrounds and races; such are the happiest times Zul enjoyed in Syria.

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Can you show me that eagle?” Zul said as he pointed towards a small eagle in a cage near the seller. Other than the small eagle, there are other medium and large-sized eagles as well as other types of birds such as pigeons. This is the uniqueness of Marjeh Square, almost anything can be found sold here. “It’s difficult to keep an eagle in Malaysia. I want to keep one here.” Zul whispered to himself.

The eagle changed hands. It’s docile and friendly. Zul patted its head and talked to his eagle. “I don’t know whether you understand my Tranung language. But since you are from an Arab species, I’m going to name you Zaka’. Zaka’ in Arabic means intelligent, smart. Hehe…

Naming one’s pets is among the sunnah of the Prophet PBUH. The Prophet PBUH has horses named al-Sakb, al-Murtajaz, Lizaz, al-Zarb, al-Luhaif. Among the Prophet PBUH’s camels are al-Hanna’, al-Samra’. Whilst for the Prophet PBUH’s goats, they are named ‘Ujzah, Zamzam, Suqya, Barakah.

Throughout his journey home, Zul couldn’t help but admire his eagle. Several Syrian children would follow him and call, “Saqar!”. A second child said, “Nasr!”. Another child came beside Zul and screamed excitedly, “Baaaazz!” Zul just laughed happily at the reaction he got from the children. All the words are different terms used referring to an eagle in Arabic.

His memory of his betta fish pet in Kubang Kekura is all but forgotten. Now, Zaka’ became Zul’s friend, accompanying and lightening up his mood while he studies in Syria.

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[1] Sunan al-Tirmizi (131)

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Berkelulusan PhD dengan pengkhususan dalam bidang fatwa di USM, beliau juga merupakan Ahli Dewan Negara, Anggota The Muslim Council of Elders (UAE), Anggota The Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (USA), mantan Menteri di JPM (Hal Ehwal Agama) dan mantan Mufti Wilayah Persekutuan. Antara guru beliau sepanjang pengajian di peringkat BA (Madinah) dan MA (Syria) adalah Syeikh Dr. Muhammad Sa'id Ramadhan al-Buti, Syeikh Muhammad 'Ali Thani, Syeikh Rushdi Qalam, Syeikh Dr. Muhammad Abdullatif Soleh al-Farfour, Syeikh Dr. Muhammad bin Muhammad al-Mukhtar al-Syinqiti, Syeikh Dr. Muhsin al-'Abbad dan ramai lagi.

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