Test in fasting for students abroad (BRUNEI TIMES)
(Top) Bruneian students in Sydney during a recent gathering to welcome new batch of Bruneian students to Sydney. (Above) Among the things Bruneians overseas miss during Ramadhan is the special religious environment in Brunei. Yesterday, some Muslims broke fast at Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan. Pictures: Courtesy of BASS, BT/Saifulizam
IZAM SAID YA'AKUB
AND SUSAN SHIM
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Friday, August 13, 2010
As Brunei begins its first day of fasting during the month of Ramadhan, some Bruneians abroad, mostly students, are facing extra challenges in other countries and communities.
However, Amir Razak, 30, currently residing in Perth, Australia says that it gets easier with each passing year. "After living here for a while, each year provides an experience that helps you cope the following year," he said.
Now a full-fledged architect, he says that the first year is always the hardest for Bruneians studying abroad.
"One of the reasons it is challenging is because most of the time students in universities abroad may be living with other housemates who do not practise the same religion," he said.
"If they are not understanding enough, this will definitely make it tougher," said Amir.
"I was lucky that in my first year outside Brunei I was able to settle in with other Bruneians and the Muslim community at the mosques. They definitely helped me through it, especially the hot summers," he added.
Ahmad Tarmizi, who had studied in both the United Kingdom and Australia, agrees. He feels that it's more of a privilege to be fasting in Brunei after his stints abroad. "Not only are you in a community which understands and takes into consideration your fasting, but there are other activities and different things that you can focus on," he said.
He especially feels that functions like tarawih prayers and the tadarus really add to Ramadhan. "It's not like other days in the year, at night in and around the mosques. There are more people, there is a uniqueness about it and those who have been abroad during puasa (fasting month) will testify to it," he added.
Ak Muhammad Abu Zahrin Pg Hj Damit, a student at University of New South Wales (UNSW), said that since there was an adequate Muslim population where they live and study, they could perform tarawih and Iftar functions frequently at the university.He agreed that fasting abroad has never been the same as in Brunei.
"Brunei has this special religious environment during Ramadhan and we are missing it. Nevertheless, what's important is fasting for Allah (SWT) and to have more self-control during this month, no matter where we are," he said.
When asked if he has had any problems with foreigners during the holy month, Ak Muhammad Abu Zahrin, who is the leader of Bruneians Around Sydney Society (BASS) said, he has not encountered any problems so far.
For Nur Faezah Hj Mohamad Aus, 23, who is undergoing her Masters in Diplomacy at the University of Birmingham, among the differences in fasting in the UK and in Brunei, "is the sense of community".
"In Brunei, being an Islamic country, most of the people around you are fasting, whereas here in the UK, with such a diversity of individuals of race and religion, only a handful of UK residents are fasting," she said.
Nur Faezah was also quick to point out the duration of the fast as another challenge for students abroad. "As it's summertime now in the UK with more daylight hours, our sungkai times are as late as 9pm," she added.
She said apart from missing home cooking, she missed performing the 'tarawih' prayers at Jerudong Mosque.
"However I do plan to join tarawih prayers at one of the Birmingham local mosques," said Nur Faezah.
Ak Hadee Pg Yasfadillah in his last year at UNSW as a petroleum engineering student said: "Being a student, it's quite hard to prepare food on your own for sungkai and sahur due to the time and available resources."
He added: "In Brunei, halal food is plentiful and cheaper. Also when with family, food is normally prepared and shared."
"Fasting in Sydney is more challenging which is better in some ways as you are 'not following the crowd' but you are fasting for yourself and Allah (SWT). And with the greater temptation here... You can easily skip fasting in a non-Muslim country, so it's really a test of will power."
He related that in the four years he was there, fasting had not been a problem with foreigners other than them eating in public which is tolerable.
Ak Hadee said, "The only drawback is the availability of halal food."
He said: "For sahur, I would just take a quick sip of water or small supper. During sungkai, I would either cook at home or eat out with friends."
One way to beat the feeling of homesickness, is by being part of a student society.
"It helps tremendously when you're an international student, a family away from home," she said. "Pooling our cooking skills also helps in getting rid of that homesickness and cravings for Malay food!" she exclaimed.
A third-year petroleum engineering student at UNSW, Ak Muhammad Amal Nur Qasman Pg Metussin also said that "The environment is different because you see people eating in front of you while in Brunei you won't see this. Also, in Brunei, you would be able to feel the Ramadhan suasana (environment)."
The UNSW student further said he feels good, motivated and energetic during this month and it feels livelier compared to other months.