The Khatam (completion of the recitation of the Quran) celebration at Surau Kampung Kubang Kekura and areas in the neighbourhood is usually held on or after the 20th of 15th night of Ramadhan. It is an immense celebration. Mothers are busy in the kitchen preparing for the Khatam Quran celebration meals which is an annual event at the surau. Each would prepare their own signature dishes sharing and exchanging their meals.
Zul has already had it all planned out with his siblings. “Later, we’ll first stuff ourselves with Pok Mat the rich guy in Kubang Kura’s food. I’ve brought a lot of plastic wrappers for the others.” Zul proposed the plan and it was followed by whoops of delight from Mi and Khairul
In the surau’s yard, long tables were prepared for the various meals and food. To name a few, Nasi Dagang, Nasi Kapit Sambal, Laksa, Squid ketupat, Keropok Lekor, Kuih Beronok, Kayu Keramat, Pulut Lepa, Satar, Puteri Mandi, Nekbat, Nganang, Lempeng Nyior, Otak-Otak, Kuih Che Abas Demam, Bepang are just some of the meals prepared.
That night, Zul, Khairul and Mi are among those who successfully completed 30 juzuk of the Quran. “I’m nervous.” Mi whispered to his younger brothers. “Yeah, I could see you are all fidgety. It’s not a big deal. You just have to recite juzuk ammar, of which let me remind you, you’ve already memorized.” Zul responded, trying to calm his brother.
Alhamdulillah, the Khatam ceremony celebration begins at the beginning of Maghrib and ended around ten that night after the completion of Tarawih and Witir prayers. Ustaz Mad gaze at his sons Mi, Zul and Khairul from afar with pride and tears in his eyes. Such is his character; he rarely ever showed his love for his children. However, it’s how fathers usually are. Beneath their stoic façade, lay their great love. Willing to sacrifice anything for the success of their children.
“O my brothers, listen to what I have to say. Tonight, we celebrate the seven last nights. Only three days are left and we’ll be celebrating Raya…” A.Ramlie and Maria Bachok’s song starts to play on the radio.
For the people on the East Coast, the last 10 nights are one of the most anticipated, especially the Seventh Last night which is on the 26th or 27th Ramadhan. It is a festive time where hundreds or thousands of lights are lit up throughout the village. Kubang Kekura is “alive” as it is illuminated and resplendent by lights of various colours, shapes and forms. They would compare which is the grandest and beautiful. There’s not a single moment of silence in Kuala Terengganu as the skies reverberated with bursts of firecrackers and fireworks filling them with dazzling colours.
“Ayub! Quickly finish the light installation. And do it properly. Didn’t I teach you already? Our village shouldn’t lose to Wakaf Che Kapor. Why are you doing it like you don’t know anything?!” Zul scolded Khairul. The bamboo that should hold their lights are loose and not properly buried in the soil.
He then continued shaking and checking the bamboos one by one. Acting as though he’s the Quality Assurance & Quality Control officer on his inspection rounds! Zul is certainly a very particular person. He prioritizes perfection and speed in everything that he does.
“Erk…ok, ok,” Khairul replied timidly. Khairul is terrified if any of his older brothers are angry at him. At home, he is a trusted secret holder of his brothers’ clandestine acts. Their “secrets” include bathing in the river, trawling, participating in cockfights, catching betta fishes, or getting into fights with children from neighbouring villages as well as other activities that could trigger or incite Ustaz Mad’s anger. All of these are well-kept secrets that he holds on the condition that he’s not being left out.
“Get ready! we’ll be going to the surau in 10 minutes.” Their father’s voice could be heard from the living room. Usually, after performing the Maghrib prayer, Ustaz Mad would recite the Quran and then continue to skim through the newspaper. Tok Aki Hj Bakar’s grandchildren scampered back inside the house after Ustaz Mad’s admonishing. “The Seventh Last Night Installation Project” was abandoned promptly, with bamboos and lights scattered in their backyard.
Sarah was intently listening to Tok Aki’s story, but suddenly pops a question:
“Tok Aki, is it fun to install the lights. I don’t think I would very much like to install lights in my free time…” Sarah asked thoughtfully.
“You’re a city girl. You won’t understand how truly fun some chores are. Previously, those were our activities. Installing lights with our siblings and friends helped built cooperation and creativity among us. Nowadays, kids are only busy with Tiktok.”
“Another thing, regarding the ruling of the seventh last night…,” Tok Aki resumes his explanation. “There are some who say that it is the teaching of the Hindus. This is incorrect. Our Malay tradition is actually just as a festive preparation before Raya. We don’t believe in any shirk superstitions.”
Sarah nodded her head in understanding.
“Meri, what desserts are there? My Tok Su brought some bananas. If there’s any great dessert, let’s have one or two first. Hehe…,” Zul said to Zamri as he tries to take a gander at the box placed in front of the Surau’s entrance. At the time, the congregants were performing the Tarawih prayer.
Boxes were placed by the surau’s committee for anyone to put meals or desserts that they have brought so that they could all eat them together after Tarawih. Their moreh is always merry with a various selection of food. If the food is from the wealthy, it will be luxurious, while meals from the commoners are just as delicious.
Raya eve is the epitome of Ramadhan festivities in Kampung Kubang Kekura. Villagers would flock to the mosques carrying rice to pay the zakat. Zakat payment in cash is uncommon at the time. The obligation of agricultural zakat is clearly stated in al-Quran:
Meaning: “And He it is who causes gardens to grow, [both] trellised and untrellised, and palm trees and crops of different [kinds of] food and olives and pomegranates, similar and dissimilar. Eat of [each of] its fruit when it yields and give its due [zakah] on the day of its harvest. And be not excessive. Indeed, He does not like those who commit excess.” 
Harvests that have reached their nisab (lower limit threshold) are obligated for zakat payment according to its produce percentage. Its percentage rate depends on the irrigation system used. If rain is the sole source of water used to water the crops, then it is 1/10 X of the harvest, while if it utilizes modern technology irrigation system, then, it is 1/20 X of the harvest.
Harvests that are obligated for zakat is harvests that reach 375 sa’ Baghdad or 937.5 kilograms. For example, the harvest which is watered with rain is 1000 gantang. Then, the payable zakat for the harvest is 1/10 X 1000 sa’ which is 100 sa’ of the harvest.
“In a moment, we will be breaking our fast, it is sunnah to break our fast by eating dates. Another thing, as soon as the adhan is called, then we should immediately break our fast, this is the sunnah of our prophet. The Prophet PBUH said:
لاَ يَزَالُ النَّاسُ بِخَيْرٍ مَا عَجَّلُوا الْفِطْرَ
“The people will continue to prosper as long as they hasten the breaking of the fast. What does hasten in breaking our fast that our prophet said here means? It means when the bilal called the adhan, we should immediately break our fasts.” Those are the explanation given by Ustaz Zakaria, Religious Officer from Dungun District in the Ramadhan slot of Terengganu FM.
Zul listened attentively while jotting down some notes and important points. His old Aiwa radio has become his loyal companion since the beginning of Ramadhan. If he decides to not join his friends outside to play, he would sit and listens to sermons available during Ramadhan at Terengganu FM.
“In regards to the issue of praying when the food is served, the Prophet PBUH said:
لاَ صَلاَةَ بِحَضْرَةِ الطَّعَامِ وَلاَ وَهُوَ يُدَافِعُهُ الأَخْبَثَانِ
“No Salat (prayer) can be (rightly offered) with food brought (before the worshiper) or when he is resisting the urge to relive himself of the two filths (i.e., urine and feces).”
The young ustaz is an al-Azhar graduate and when he speaks, though he tried to not use his hometown’s dialect to make it easier to understand for the broader audience, his dialects sometimes slipped through here and there and it’s pleasant to hear it.
“So, according to the above hadith, the word lā there means lā nāfiyah, of which detracts from the perfection of prayer. What does this mean? It is makruh (discouraged) to pray when food is already served. Makruh to pray when a person needs to relieve himself (urinate or defecate). Why is it makruh? Because it is a distraction and a person will lose his attention in prayer since he’s hungry. This is what is stated by Imam Nawawi.”
This is the beauty of Islam. Imam al-Bukhārī cited the words of Abū al-Dardā’ where he said: “Among the understandings of a person in religion is for him to first prioritizes his needs with food then performs his prayer with a calm heart (free from distractions).”
The same is stated by Imam Abū Dāwūd, who narrated:
وكان ابن عمر يوضع له الطعام ، وتقام الصلاة فلا يأتيها حتى يفرغ ، وإنه يسمع قراءة الإمام
“When Ibn ‘Umar’s food was served and the time for prayer came, he did not go to the prayer till he finished it; and he could hear the imam’s recitation.” 
Whereas, in another narration from Nafi’, he said:
وكان ابن عمر إذا حضر عشاؤه وسمع الإقامة وقراءة الإمام لم يقم حتى يفرغ
“If food was served for Ibn `Umar and Iqama was pronounced, he never came to the prayer till he finished it (i.e., food) in spite of the fact that he heard the recitation (of the Qur’an) by the Imam (in the prayer).”
Likewise, there is also a narration that recounts a story of Abu Hurayrah and Ibn ʿAbbās raḍiyallāhu ʿanhumā where when they were eating, then the muazzin called the iqamah for prayer, Ibn Abbās then said:
لا تعجل لئلا نقوم وفي أنفسنا منه شيء
“Don’t you hasten (for the iqamah) so that we will not stand in prayer whilst thinking about the food.” 
Hence, if the food for breaking our fast is served, we should eat it first before performing the Maghrib prayer. This is so that we would be calm and undistracted when performing our prayer.
The approach some mosques take where they will first break their fast by eating date and drinking some water, then performing Maghrib prayer of which later followed by eating heavier food does not contradict the Syariah and prioritized for it takes after the sunnah of hastening in breaking our fast as well as performing congregational prayer early.
This is in line with the words of Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar:
لأنه يكون قد أخذ من الطعام ما دفع شغل البال به
Meaning: “It is so that he could eat some food in the amount that could calms his mind from thinking about it.”
“The final advice from me, if you want to eat, make sure to eat in moderation. You have to remember that after the Maghrib prayer we still have to perform the Isyak prayer, as well as Tarawih. Don’t let your nafs and desire to eat overwhelm you in this blessed month. Wallahu a’lam.” Ustaz Zakaria closes his sermon that evening with a simple reminder.
“Zul, stop listening to the radio. Go and check the lemang downstairs. Don’t let it burn!” Hajah Ramlah hollered from the kitchen.
“Yes, Chik!” Zul dashes downstairs to check on the lemang being cooked. The radio is left still switched on, playing famous Raya songs by Saloma, P. Ramlee, Dahlan Zainuddin, Sharifah Aini, Rafeah Buang, Hail Amir, Uji Rashid and a duet by Anuar and Elina.
 Surah al-Anʿām: 141
 Sahih Muslim (560)
 See Fath al-Bari, Ibn Hajar (2/188)
 Title used to call one’s mother in the East Coast