The Jakarta Post
It was 2 a.m. in the morning on May 30 near the end of Ramadan and all the shops in Blok M Square, a thriving shopping center in South Jakarta, were closed. However, a different sight can be seen on the seventh floor of the building.
Hundreds of Muslims were praying, reciting the Quran and chanting zikir (praise of God) in the 3,000-square-meter Nurul Iman Mosque located above the parking area of the mall.
As the Ramadan month is coming to an end, the mosque became the destination for thousands of Muslims who wished to perform iktikaf (a period of staying in a mosque) on the last 10 days of the holy month.
According to mosque staff member Habibi, 900 to 2,000 people participated in iktikaf in Nurul Iman each day during Ramadan this year, rising significantly from the previous year.
“Last year, Nurul Iman only hosted some 1,400 people joining iktikaf at most,” Habibi told The Jakarta Post.
Muslims who performed iktikaf in Nurul Iman followed a busy schedule from dusk till dawn, with most people getting two to four hours of sleep each night.
The schedule started at around 6 p.m. with dusk prayers, followed by evening prayers at 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Then, they would follow recitations from an ustad (Islamic teacher) from 10:30 p.m. to midnight.
After that, at around 2 a.m., they would participate in late night prayers. They would have predawn meals at around 3 p.m. followed by dawn prayers at 4:30 a.m.
Participants of iktikaf in Nurul Iman can choose to stay at the mosque for several days or take part only at night and go home in the morning.
A 25-year-old woman who works in an animation studio in Cilandak, South Jakarta chose the latter as she still had to go to work during the day. For the past few days, the woman, who, for privacy reason, asked to be identified as D, had been going to different mosques after work for iktikaf, including Nurul Iman.
She would go to mosques after breaking the fast, bringing only a water bottle and a small pillow, then she would go home after the dawn breaks.
She said she enjoyed the iktikaf in Nurul Iman even though some nights the mosque was so packed that she was unable to find a place to sleep and had to wait in long lines to go to the bathroom.
For Yuliati, a 50-year-old woman who lives on Jl. Pangeran Antasari in South Jakarta, and many others, it was more convenient to stay at Nurul Iman for days.
They would set up small “camps" around the mosque, laying out small mattresses, pillows, and blankets on the floor.
Yuliati had been staying in Nurul Iman for two days with her 11-year-old daughter.
Children at iktikaf is not an uncommon sight in Nurul Iman. Children from the ages of 5 to 14 can be seen reciting the Quran, playing around the mosque or just sleeping next to their mothers.
Yuliati said that last year, she also brought her 14-year-old daughter, who couldn’t join her this Ramadan.
Yuliati told the Post that her younger daughter enjoyed iktikaf with her even though she had to stay at the mosque for days.
“Before we went here, my daughter kept asking me, ‘Mom when are we going to sleep over at the mosque?’ She never acted up during our stay. She recited the Quran when she wanted, or just played around with other kids,” Yuliati said.
Planning to stay in the mosque for a week, Yuliati came well prepared. She brought a small mattress, blankets, pillows, toiletries, clothes, a mobile phone charger, medicine and vitamins.
“Iktikaf in Nurul Iman is very comfortable. I don’t need to go up and down the stairs to go to the bathroom, the mosque is fully air-conditioned and the meals are good too,” Yuliati said.
Nurul Iman provides free sahur (predawn) meals and iftar for thousands of people each day. According to Habibi, the mosque spent Rp 35 million (US$2,450) to Rp 50 million every day. (nal)