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Notes - Jamat - Ramadhan
Remembering Ramadhan in Lindi
One of the duties the kids performed enthusiastically was being present at
the mosque as early as 4 p.m. daily to receive the iftar being sent from
different homes. Our job was to distribute them in thalis (plates) equitably so
that each group of people who sat down for Iftar had a variety of dishes and
bitings. Everyone who brought iftar gave it up at the mosque reception (!) there
was no keeping it to be shared with friends. Such was the brotherhood!
We remember having our darsa (Quran Recitation) with Late Yusuf Hasham as the supervisor. A quiet person but very particular in picking out recitation mistakes. At the end of the month, we had Quran recitation competitions in which P.G Merali picked up the first prize most of the time - with his very melodious voice and mistake-free recitation. The Kahawa (black coffee) distributed after darsa was really invigorating. Late G G Remtulla would recite Dua Iftetah for all 30 nights in proper makhraj - he would recite with so much enthusiasm that by the end of the dua his face would be red - and no doubt, he always got two kahawa cups. In my quest for following the duas being read, I remember the help I got from Gulam Hameer (Bulo) - he would show me the Gujarati dua book from which I could follow GG. GG would read from the Arabic book and I had to flip pages and sometimes got lost when the order of duas was different in the Gujarati book. This was my first lesson in Dua and for many years I continued reading it from Gujarati books. Flipping to Arabic was done at age 20, during my stay in Morogoro when Late Ebrahim Manji Haji used to give me Arabic Dua books to read. I still asked him to stay near me so that I did not miss the order of the Duas. He would help me until I got used to it!
There was a group of boys who would always smile at each other when the Dua reached a point when GG would recite “wa faazal qaaimu” and the kids would think that he was uttering “ Fazal Karmali” - I still remember one of the boys in that group!
At the madressa, we learnt of a poetry called “ Ramzan mahino aawe bhai, roza rakho roza rakho’. Cannot remember the full poetry.
At our shop the month marked a hike in sale of black pepper which is used in uji (porridge) - we would sell upto two huge gunny bags. Then there would be dates - they initially came in Tenga package. Tenga would be made from dried palm leaves and would be very heavy. The shop would be in a mess with people asking for half a pound or one pound of dates. My uncle Gulam would use his hands to take the dates, put it on the scale and sell it. The scale would also get messy. Gradually, we started having pre-packaged dates. The third hot item in the shop would be ‘tambi’- vermicelli is its English equivalent.
Before growing big enough to be able go for Iftar at the mosque, we had it at home. My grandpa, my father and his three brothers and us kids and cousins would make a huge family at Iftar. Men would eat at the table and kids and women under the open sky, next to the kitchen, at a place which we wrongly called ‘lawani” instead of the correct Swahili word ‘uani” We as kids would move from lap of one aunt to another - having one dish or another.
We had Maulana Mohamed Mussa from Vellore who was resident Aalim and who conducted Darsa without looking into the Quran. He would immediately pick up the mistake - looked like as if he had Quran in his memory! Maulana would insist that everyone who entered the mosque wore a cap. He would bring a box full of caps, keep it at the entrance, and tell all of us - young and old - to wear caps when entering the mosque for Darsa.
During Darsa kids would also sneak in mango - kachi keri with mithu marchi, kungu and all kinds of snacks, hiding and devouring it when no one was looking - some sneaking into the sahan - the compound outside.
After the noon prayers every day there would be a short sermon/discussion after which the men would go away. The kids would stay at the mosque - some reciting Quran, some taking naps and some noisy and naughty as usual. The sea breeze coming in was really sweet - good enough for fasting kids to make them fall asleep. Most kids stayed on. Among men, I particulaly remember Sabodo as the only person who would continue reciting Quran sitting far away near the Mehrab oblivious of the noise of the kids. I also remember one Ramadhan when a famiy member of Sabodo came to the mosque to give him the shocking news of his son Muslim having died in an accident when travelling from Dar to Moshi.
Later during the day, some of us would go to the seashore - I particularly remember one small tree betwen the boma and the jetty, where a few of us would climb, sit and enjoy the cool breeze to ease our fasting.
Jagran nights - Shabe Qadr - were very special. Some of us remained awake on all the three nights - and 100 rakat namaz was very sought after by the young. I recall Marhum Hamza shouting at the peak of his voice the name of each namaz prior to the prayer - “Zohr ji chaar rakaat! Maghrib ji Tre rakaat!” That voice still reverberates in our minds. Some of the boys would sneak out of mosque during jagran raat and go around the town for a stroll.
The 23rd night Dua Jaushane Kabeer was very special. The kids picked up the bakudis (aluminium bowls) from different places - some from near the kitchen, some from Rajabu’s store and some from the sahan (compound). Then we would give each other advice on the need for washing the tasbih thoroughly. Each kid would then fill his bakudi with water and swirl the tasbih in the water each time the dua couplet was recited - until all 100 were done. Sometimes the bakudis would be so near each other that with slight pushing, bakudis would collide and water would splash on the mosque mats. The kids would start blaming each other for the mess. We don’t have that these days - we have bottled water kept in front while the dua is being recited. For kids it was fun those days.
Also during Dua Jaushane Kabeer, we saw our elders holding black threads and making knots on the thread each time the Dua couplet was recited. We were curious what they were doing. It is only later did we realise that the threads could be used to be tied to our arms for shifa (cure) purposes.
The aamal for the kids on the19th, 21st and 23rd night was special - we were told to sit outside in the sahan as the mosque would be full. I remember Late Roshanali Hameer, my uncle, conducting the aamal for the kids. For me the first time I heard about our Duas being brought to us by our 4th Imam, was from him. He used to be the Jamat Secretary.
After the majlis every night, groups of boys and men would take a stroll
around the town. Some of the men would go to the jetty and do fishing - I
remember Late Kaburu and Mulla Hassan - doing this. Once someone got hold of a
fish and even
after taking it to town, it wouldn’t die. I don’t remember what happened to that fish- whether it was eaten or not. However we all felt it was strange. May be it did die but not fast enough for kids to realise that.
On nights when the beach opposite the boma was lit with moonlight, boys formed groups and played football. Those were the days!
Kids being kids, we had our own ways of competing - asking each other almost every other day how many fasts we had been observing. I had this guy who always exaggerated his accomplishments to the point of absurdity - always giving the number
of fast exceeding the day of the month in the calendar. I had the opportunity to recently tell him that (after 40 years) and we all laughed about it!
After Idd Prayers, there would be Idd Baraza at the Madressa where people from different communities would gather and leaders would give lectures. I do not remember much about them though.
Then there was the Idd Mela - it was held on the grounds between the current Police apartments and the PC House - opposite the Lindi Club. The festivities would go on for 3 days - all kinds of games were being played at that Mela. Stalls were made of thatched huts and we went into each stall looking at the bahati nasibu games being played. There was barfi and lots of delicious snacks for kids.We looked forward to wearing new and bright clothes and being taken to the Mela by our parents!
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