By Samantha Tan Chiew Ting
Bernama’s correspondent in Beijing Samantha Tan Chiew Ting shares her take on China.
BEIJING (Bernama) — For the Malaysians Muslims in China, Ramadan is a real test of faith as they have to endure almost 17.5 hours of fasting, unlike the 13.5 hours back home.
The longer fasting hours is caused by the varying daylight hours with the Imsak in Beijing at 2.24 a.m.
Moreover, it is summer in China and the mercury has been rising causing great discomfort for even the locals.
The spirit of Ramadan is not felt here unlike back home, except at the Muslim enclave of Niujie in the city. This is the only place the Ramadan could be felt with the Muslims joining the Tarawih congregational prayer at the Niujie Mosque, the oldest and the biggest mosque in Beijing.
Still there is no Ramadan bazaars or breaking fast buffets like in Malaysia. Though I maybe a non-Muslim, I can see that the Ramadan in this nation of Great Wall is not celebrated as grand as in Malaysia.
For the Malaysians in China’s capital, including the many Malaysian students here, the spirit of camaraderie is what helps them to get on with their daily fasts.
I joined a group of Malaysian students taking up Mandarin in Beijing at the Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) to see how they have been fasting, to fulfill one of the five pillars of Islam.
Syahizzat Md Taib, 25, a third year Mandarin student at BFSU, said he really misses the ‘ayam percik’ (grilled chicken) during Ramadan. It is her third year of fasting in a foreign land and she certainly misses the joy of Ramadan back home.
“Apart from the long fasting hours, it is also difficult to find ready made food when breaking fast. Normally we will cook ourselves and start the fast by just eating bread,” he said.
The hot and dry weather is also a challenge for Syahizzat especially when one could not drink for much of the day.
A first year student at BFSU, Khairunnisa Mat Nazen, 20, has been missing the Ramadan fares that her mother would prepare back home.
“The long fasting hours don’t bother me much but I really miss my mother’s cooking. This is a real challenge for me during Ramadan,” she added.
While I was with the group, they attempted to create the a Ramadan atmosphere like in Malaysia by organising a small bazaar with the theme “Bazaar Kampung”.
About 100 students were involved in preparing traditional delicacies like nasi lemak, bubur lambuk (rice porridge with meat), murtabak, curry puffs, nasi hujan panas (coloured rice) and roti John.
Though the variety was limited, it still provided a Ramadan atmosphere for the Malaysian students at BFSU and also for the students from the Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU).
Ummi Hani Abd Razak, 21, a second year Mandarin student at BFSU, chose to cook the bubur lambuk as she felt the porridge is a must for the Ramadan.
“The bubur lambuk is synonymous with Ramadan… it is a must. In Malaysia, the bubur lambuk is cooked collectivey and distributed to the people,” she said.
As she did not have a big pot and there was not much space to cook in bulk, Ummi Hani from Selangor could only prepare 20 packs of bubur lambuk for sale at the bazaar. Her mother provided her the recipe and guided her in preparing bubur lambuk.
Another six Mandarin students at BFSU prepared the nasi hujan panas to be sold at the bazaar. Though it was the first time they cooked the nasi hujan panas, it was well received with the 40 packs sold within a short period.
According to Nurul Nadia Abd Razak, 20, the colourful nasi hujan panas is a popular menu from the east coast.
“This is the first time we made the nasi hujan panas using the recipe we found in ‘Google’. It is quite simple to make only that the rice has to be mixed well,” she said.
Observing Ramadan in a foreign land may be challenging but Malaysian students have learnt to be grateful with whatever they have and keep up with their faith whereever they are.