Norishaam's Ramadan story

Cultural Heart People of Adelaide

Norishaam, aged 49 - from Singapore

Born and raised in Singapore, Norishaam moved with his family to Australia in 2017. They chose to settle in Adelaide because of the seasonal weather we enjoy here and he now works in the city on North Terrace.

“Since young, I had wanted to experience living in a place that has many seasons. Unlike Singapore that has only two seasons - hot and wet, Australia has four. Well that was my reason back then. Raising a family, it started to dawn on me, that my kids might not have the same opportunities I had growing up as life started to become more challenging in Singapore. Thus, for the sake of my children’s future, I decided to move to Australia. It was quite a hype for us Malays in Singapore to be able to move to Australia to start a new life.”

Below, Norishaam shares a little of his personal experience of Ramadan in the two countries he has called home – and what he looks forward to with the coming Eid al-Fitr celebration.

Norishaam family 2019

Norishaam (far right) with his family.

What does Ramadan mean to you?
“Ramadan is the time to get closer to God, the time to increase my devotion to God. And the time to improve the quality of my worship. It is abstaining myself from the worldly pleasures and spending more time worshipping. Because the ‘credit returns’ for our worship is tenfold during Ramadan compared to other months, it’s time to take advantage of its ‘bonus’ gift.”

What practices do you undertake through Ramadan?
“The practices that we do during Ramadan are:

1. We eat two meals per day, one at pre-dawn and one after sunset.
2. We perform more prayers in addition to our five dailies like after our last prayer in the evening, we continue to do our Tarawih, which means rest and relaxation.
3. We recite the Quran as much as possible. Some try to complete them within the month, at least once.
4. We make donations to those who are less fortunate.
5. We make compulsory tithe called Zakat Fitr that must be made before the first prayers of the morning of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan.
6. Also, we try to give food to fellow Muslims who fast as the ‘credits’ for feeding a person who fast is tenfold.

“The above practices are generally the same for all races and cultures. Perhaps the only difference would be the food that we eat during our two meals." 

        How is Ramadan in Adelaide different to Singapore?
        “Ramadan in Singapore is like a season of food, food, food!!! Lots of traditional food that you don’t normally find in other months comes out of hiding during Ramadan. Sometimes I feel the purpose of fasting is nullified as when we break our fast - it’s like a buffet of food on the table. But we enjoyed and cherished celebrating Ramadan in our home country.

        “Besides the food, we do gather with families and friends to have the breaking of fast together. We attend congregational prayers at mosques with other Muslims every night. Especially during the last 10 days that we term 'the last 10 nights of power', we perform special prayers in the wee hours of morning till dawn that starts from 3:00 am to 5:00 am before eating the pre-dawn meals with other congregations. It was an experience that I missed heaps when moving to Adelaide.

        “As for the congregational prayers, there are not as many Mosques in Adelaide as they are in Singapore. And the laws that apply to them are also different. For example, opening hours are more restrictive at certain mosques. And the congregations are not as big. So, the ‘atmosphere’ of Ramadan here is very different.

        “For the food, we have to resort to home cooked meals as the Halal selection here in Adelaide is very limited, although sufficient. But it’s more economical as we spend less buying food outside. Besides having less variety, it can also be expensive.

        “Although it seems that it’s happier or better to have spent Ramadan in Singapore, no doubt I miss those times, Ramadan here is more peaceful and I can focus more on my devotion to God. I don’t have to decorate my rented house to welcome Eid-al-Fitr or to worry about new clothes etc. In fact, my Ramadan in Adelaide has been a better experience in terms of improving my devotion to God.”

        How have you adapted through Ramadan with the COVID-19 restrictions?
        “Since the closure of mosques and visiting restrictions, we have not been able to normally congregate and that’s something that we miss very much. Especially now that Ramadan is going to end soon. We will not be able to get together and share a meal or laughter and perform our prayers together. But we believe that it’s for the good of our community. Thus, it becomes obligatory to observe such restrictions for the betterment of others.”

        What are your favourite things to break fast with at the end of each day during Ramadan?
        “The opportunity to sit at the same table with my whole family to eat together daily and to perform prayers together is the best thing that I always look forward to when breaking fast. The food is secondary as we eat whatever that has been blessed to us on that day.”

        How will you celebrate Eid al-Fitr this year?
        “In my home country, Eid al-FItr is celebrated for a month long. The first day, we go to perform our Eid al-Fitr prayers as a congregation in the morning. We then come back home to have a meal of traditional dishes which is specially prepared and served on Eid-al-Fitr. We then get ready with our new clothes for the day and then sit as a family and seek each other’s forgiveness for all the sins that might have done either intentionally or unintentionally.

        “The kids will get a token for Eid, usually an envelope filled with money. With the customary practice completed in our own household, we then proceed to visit our elderlies at their house to seek their forgiveness and enjoy a day of feasting at the houses of our relatives and friends. These visits would last almost the whole month, especially during the weekends.

        “Spending the last three Eid al-Fitr in Adelaide has been a big contrast to celebrating in Singapore. The morning would be the same, where we would congregate to perform our prayers before having traditional home-cooked meals with the family. And each of us seeks forgiveness in the family. And that’s it!

        “If Eid al-Fitr falls on a weekday, there will not be any holidays. Some may take a few hours off in the morning for the prayers, then subsequently go back to work. If Eid falls on a weekend, then that gives us a chance to congregate in one of our friend’s places to celebrate together. I am hoping that one day, the state or country will recognise Eid al-Fitr as one of the national holidays like Christmas.

        “During this COVID-19 restrictive stage, we might not be able to visit our friends. And that is a very sad thing. I really wish that the visitor restrictions can be eased further to allow more visitors to a household and we can have a more joyous celebration of Eid.”