Following the success of our previous religious exchange in April, YAD education department took the opportunity to arrange an exchange at Masjid Darul Ghufran during Ramadan. This is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and Muslims observe it as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad.
The objective of this exchange is to increase knowledge of Islam and to promote religious tolerance and harmony amongst the younger generation. 13 participants from YAD took part in this exchange on 3 July 2016, and we were very honoured to be hosted by Fityan Ghufran, the youth wing at Masjid Darul Ghufran.
The event started off with an introduction to the background of the mosque. This was followed by a recital of the Quran by one of their youths. After which, we were split into groups and moved around to stations at which different topics were covered. We learnt about the 5 pillars of Islam (Shahadah: Faith; Salat: Prayer; Zakat: Charity; Sawm: Fasting; and Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca), the history and purpose of fasting, what is Jihad, what is compassion to a Muslim, what is Halal and Haram, and other interesting titbits of knowledge such as the Misbaha (prayer beads which Muslims use) and Miswak (a teeth cleaning twig which is a traditional and natural alternative to the toothbrush). We thoroughly enjoyed the informative sessions, often requesting for time extensions at each station as our hosts were still in the midst of answering our numerous queries.
We had a dialogue session with the Fityan Ghufran youths, during which we clarified many misconceptions and questions we had about Islam and being Muslim in general. They also took the chance to ask us about Buddhism and how it is similar to certain values which they inculcate. To the Muslims, it is similarly the intention which is the most important. Because only God can judge, so they rely on the Quran to guide their actions.
Before breaking fast, a quick tour was conducted, where we were shown the prayer halls and the ablution area. A demonstration was conducted on how ablutions are performed. We then had dinner along with our hosts. Dinner was biryani and our hosts went the extra mile to ensure that there were vegetarian dishes prepared for us. They also shared that in Singapore, mosques provide porridge to the needy, exhibiting the value of giving.
The hospitality of the Fityan Ghufran youths really touched us. Their willingness to share and learn demonstrated how far Singapore has come in advocating religious and racial harmony. In this current climate of religious unrest, where we hear of Islamic terrorism acts by extremists, mutual understanding plays an even more important role in maintaining peace. We hope to be able to continue building these relationships we have forged, and also have them over for another exchange to share with them about Buddhism and our beliefs.