KAMPONG GELAM 13 APRIL 2021
Today, first Ramadan 1442 marks the beginning of my new venture as a columnist.
I never knew I would be able to express my thoughts in this manner but the situation compels me to do so. And I’m truly grateful because it happens on the beginning of this sacred month.
Three days ago, on the 10th of April, One Kampong Gelam Association launched a Ramadan Light up project with the theme `Cahaya Ramadan’ – an idea derived from my pitch to Singapore Malay Chambers of Commerce and Industry (SMCCI) a couple of months earlier. The intent was to differentiate the light up in Kampong Gelam from other street light ups that have been done in Chinatown, Orchard Road , Little India and especially the one in Geylang Serai.
It’s not difficult to be different based on Islam’s rich history. The challenge lies in being able to extract the significance of Ramadan and presenting it to the secular community without compromising its true essence.
The Islamic culture has developed over 1400 years embracing and influencing every culture in the world through its music, literature and architecture, and its iconic geometric design. This great evolution has not changed the fundamentals of Islamic teaching due to the strong foundation of its Five Pillars. And the fasting in the month of Ramadan sits centrally in this Five Pillars. To effectively deliver the concept of Cahaya Ramadan – `cahaya’ in this context means the `radiance’ of the sacred month, one must understand the idea of Lailatul Qadr as relayed in the chapter Al Qadr.
Surah Al-Qadr (The Night of Decree) (97:1-5)
Surely We, We have sent it (the Qur’ân) down in the Night of Al-Qadr (Night of Power).
And what is it that makes you comprehend what the Night of Al-Qadr (Power) is?
The Night of Al-Qadr (Power) is better than thousand months.
The angels and the Spirit descend in it by the Permission of their Lord for every Order.
That (Night) is Peace (comfort) until the rising of the dawn.
I applaud the efforts of OKG to bring back the festive atmosphere of the light up to Kampong Gelam which was last done in 2005 . But for future events to be successful, the fundamental that was mentioned earlier must be thoroughly understood before it could bring real benefits to its members, stakeholders and our community as a whole. Ramadan is not just for the Malays – it is the holy month for every race and culture.
You don’t have to look far. Just scrape the surface and you’ll find all the international Muslim communities operating in Kampong Gelam …from the Iranian that runs the carpet business to the Lebanese, Italian, Turkish, Indian and Chinese restaurant owners and merchants.
Crafting relevant content is key. We may get dragged inadvertently into the attention-seeking, publicity-crazy world of social media. We must be clear in our objectives and not be distracted by the noise.
Nevertheless, the Cahaya Ramadan has given me a better understanding of my own faith and practices as well as allow me to see the potential of Kampong Gelam as a hub for world culture. The three years that I’ve spent as a member, as an observer to the council, as council member and later, Vice Chairman and Acting Chairman have given me greater insights into the type of events that could be organised to engage the international community as well as the marketing support needed for some of the business operators here.
With this column serving as a new communication channel with the stakeholders in Kampong Gelam, we will have more avenues to share our thoughts, bring together expertise and tackle existing challenges for the good of the community, post-pandemic. While moving ahead with new business concepts, we must preserve the traditional businesses that form the backbone of Kampong Gelam and cultivate more brands such as Zam Zam, Islamic and Victory (to name a few) that have been in existence for more than a 100years. With all the resources and expertise we have within Kampong Gelam itself, we are poised to realise this vision.
Just like how the Five Pillars embrace the evolution of Islamic culture over more than a 1000 years, Kampong Gelam must look at its foundation to retain its unique, multi-faceted charm while evolving in this fast-changing environment.
Idrus Khan Surattee – The Columnist is the founder of SultanGate.sg and former Acting Chairman of OKG.