THE KAMPONG SPIRIT
When the kampongs fast dwindled in numbers in the 1980s and the people moved into their new apartments in the Woodlands New Towns, the Malay/Muslim communities brought with them the kampong spirit, the spirit of oneness, the spirit of “gotong-royong” (the spirit of neighbourliness), which is something that they have lived with for generations in their kampongs.
Within a few blocks or neighbourhood, they form groups and continued that spirit by holding communal activities such as kenduri (feast) on special Islamic Days such as Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha and also forming nasyid and marhaban groups.They informally called themselves Jawatankuasa Blok-Blok or Committee of Blocks. This ensured that no one was singled out and everyone within the designated neighbourhood was invited to be in the newly formed “Kampong of Blocks of Flats." The formations of these Committees of Blocks were rather sporadic and informal, and the boundaries of each "Kampong of Block of Flats" were rather grey, but the spirit of neighbourliness was vibrant.
REBRANDING COMMITTEE – BIRTH OF QARYAH
When Mr Haji Abu Bakar Hashim took the helm of the 3rd Chairman of An-Nur Mosque, he saw this vibrant kampong spirit within the concrete flats among the Malay/Muslims as a way to bring the whole Malay/Muslim community of Woodlands New Town together while centering the An-Nur Mosque as its heart. He first invited all the leaders of the Block Committees and suggested that a new way of “Kampong Block of Flats” to be formed. And thus in 1986, the Qaryah System was established. Qaryah simply means “neighbourhood." The Block Committee leaders accepted this proposal with much rejoicing and saw it as a way each and every “Kampong Block of Flats” could perpetuate the kampong spirit even if living within concrete walls. Firstly the boundaries of the Qaryahs were formalised, and during that period in the mid-1980s, when the Woodlands New Town was not as extensive as it is now, only 10 Qaryahs were formed (out of 31 currently).
‘NICHE’ OF THE MOSQUE
This networking of the Qaryah system is another first for An-Nur Mosque, being the first mosque in Singapore to come up with a systematic way to reach out to the Malay/Muslim communities within its designated township. Although under the umbrella of the mosque, the Qaryahs were quite independent and capable of organising and running their own programmes. The position of An-Nur Mosque was by far only to extend logistical assistance to the activities carried out by the Qaryahs, such as sponsoring of seating roll mats to perform prayers and/or tables and chairs, and electrical and electronic equipment. To ascertain that the Qaryahs’ programmes run successfully, the mosque established a Qaryah unit managed by the Dakwah department. As time went by, as the bonds between the Mosque and the Qaryahs matured. The relationship has come to a new level of mutuality, not of one better than the other, not of one mastering the other, but of one that serves and needs the other. This is in line with the slogan for An-Nur Mosque, which is "Memasjidkan Masyarakat dan Memasyarakatkan Masjid." In other words, "A Community for the Mosque, A Mosque for the Community."
During the mid-1990s, An-Nur Mosque extended weekly religious classes to the Qaryahs which were quite a distance away from the Mosque, by sending the Imam or Religion Officers to hold these classes at designated locations within each Qaryah. At the end of the 1990s to the early 2000s, major activities were held by the Qaryahs. Large religious congregations held sermons and talks in various stadiums in Singapore at locations such as open fields adjacent to Woodlands and Admiralty MRT Stations and Causeway Points. Such talks were also held at stadiums such as Woodlands, Yishun, Choa Chu Kang, Clementi, Hougang, Tampines and Bedok.
As the Woodlands Muslim communities grew, the Qaryahs began to take up even bigger roles, especially during the nights of the fasting month of Ramadan. During Ramadhan each year, when congregants perform the much important Tarawih prayers, and when distance became a problem, the Qaryahs set up temporary prayer sites in communal function halls to save the Muslims within each Qaryah the time of travelling to An-Nur Mosque. Following this, the Eid Al Fitri and the Eid Al Adha prayers were held there too.
Many other inter-Qaryah events were also held, like sports and other civic activities as a way to maintain bonds between each Qaryah, as well as among all the Malay/Muslim residents of Woodlands New Town. Such is the Quran Recitation Competitions being held with the Challenge Trophy kindly sponsored by MP Mr Hawazi Daipi. Inter-Qaryah Berzanji and Marhaban Competitions were also held with the Challenge Trophy kindly sponsored by MP Dr Mohd Maliki Osman.
”Berkhatan, Bertahniq and Bercukur Rambut” which are Islamic rituals done on newly borns and young children were also performed annually and held at the mosque by the Qaryahs.
If one were to witness the strong bonds of the Mosque and the Qaryahs developed over the years, it can be seen on the 1st day of Eid Al Adha, where the Mosque and the Qaryahs work hand in hand together, to rejoice and celebrate the rituals of the Qurban. May Allah hold our hearts as one in faith and unity in Him. Amin.