The Jakarta Post
At 11:25 p.m. on Thursday, worshipers occupied Sunda Kelapa Mosque in Menteng, Central Jakarta, solemnly reciting the Quran or just praying in whispers. They were there to celebrate the last 10 nights of Ramadan.
For Muslims, it is a common practice to take part in iktikaf (staying in a mosque on the last 10 days of Ramadan).
A 67-year-old from Bekasi, Hasan, told The Jakarta Post that this year for the first time ever, he took part in iktikaf at Sunda Kelapa Mosque.
“[The experience is] very different. It is livelier here,” he told the Post on Friday morning when asked about the difference between doing it in Bekasi and at Sunda Kelapa Mosque.
“I cried tears in the middle of prayer when we read the prayer.”
Sunda Kelapa Mosque, which opened in 1971, is one of the most popular mosques in Jakarta for itikaf. Although there is no specific time set in the day for iktikaf, the mosque holds a special program for it that usually begins at midnight and ends at dawn.
According to the mosque’s executive secretary, Pangeran Arsyad, its iktikaf aims to build the milieu and boost the spirit of worshiping.
The program include Quran recitals and late-night prayers that are performed differently from other mosques, as worshipers pray in the dark.
“We turn off the lights so we can focus more on our prayers, not anything else,” Pangeran told the Post last week.
This year, the mosque provided 1,000 iftar (breaking-of-the-fast meals) and 1,500 sahur (predawn meals) each day throughout Ramadan.
The number increased to between 1,500 and 2,000 meals during iktikaf, especially on the odd-numbered dates at the end of the holy month as Muslims looked to welcome the Night of Decree. They believe that, on this night, God’s blessings are in abundance.
“[The worshipers] could total 4,000 to 5,000 people on the odd nights,” Pangeran added.
Muslims believe the Night of Decree falls at night on one of the odd-numbered dates of the last 10 days of Ramadan. During the night, the exact date of which is not certain, it is believed that one simple prayer will be rewarded, as if equal to prayers made over 1,000 months.
Sunda Kelapa Mosque draws in worshipers because it invites three imams from Saudi Arabia, all of whom are hafiz (person who knows Quran by heart).
“[We invite them] so that worshipers can know how to read the Quran correctly,” said Pangeran.
In addition to serving worshipers from Greater Jakarta, the mosque is also a destination for those who are on their way to their hometowns to worship.
One of these worshipers, Akbar, 24, a graduate student from Yogyakarta, made a stop in Jakarta to visit the mosque before finishing his trip to Lampung.
“I arrived from Yogyakarta by train at Pasar Senen Station [Central Jakarta] at 12:30 a.m. and decided to take part in iktikaf at Sunda Kelapa,” he told the Post.
“I will be going to Lampung from Merak Port [Banten] in the morning.”
Meanwhile, not far from Sunda Kelapa Mosque lies another mosque popular for iktikaf: the Cut Meutia Mosque in Gondangdia, Central Jakarta.
Like its neighboring mosque, the number of worshipers it welcomes increases on the last 10 nights of Ramadan.
“We provide more than 300 meals for iktikaf only, and another 1,000 for iftar or sahur each day,” said Hilmi Triawan, a member of Cut Meutia Mosque’s Islamic Youth Organization (RICMA) and the project leader for the mosque’s iktikaf event.
“We also provide coffee breaks in the evenings.”
Hilmi said most of the programs at Cut Meutia Mosque were organized by RICMA. One well-known one is the annual two-day Ramadan Jazz Festival, which this year was attended by some 10,000 people.
Despite running programs similar to that of Sunda Kelapa Mosque, the historical Gondangdia mosque, with its high ceilings and Dutch-style architecture, serves fewer worshipers.
“I like it here because it is calm and cool,” said Purnama, a 39-year-old Bogor resident who visited the mosque with his wife, Nia, 39.
Although some worshipers at both mosques do not plan to stay for the entirety of iktikaf, they admitted that they prepared for a full experience by boosting their fitness and bringing enough belongings.
A worshipper, Hasan, said he consumed vitamins to keep his stamina up and coffee to keep him awake while another worshipper, Akbar, said he brought his own copy of the Quran. (apr)