Photo Courtesy: Good Samaritan
Ask anyone who has lived in Mombasa before moving elsewhere, what they miss most from home (apart from the food of course), in that same list, Jumuah (Friday) would appear. Now Friday is usually a grand day for Muslims all over the world but when it comes to a place like Mombasa, where the area is highly populated with Muslims, it becomes more than the prayer part alone, it becomes a cultural affair.
I love Fridays for many reasons. It’s not just the end of the week. It’s the day homes get busier than usual. The men are choosing their best sparkling clean kanzus before they get ironed, surat kahf is reciting in the room and in the neighbour’s house and the neighbour to the neighbour’s house too. It’s the day everyone cleans up earlier than usual (apart from the earlier working class birds), the smell wafting from the homes is from the strong lovely scents of oud. The men are extra smart in their neat kanzus, trimmed nails and moustaches and well-combed beards. Women are not left behind as they clean themselves and wear their lesos/praying attires and join the friday prayers while some decide to do it at home in their own solitude and privacy. The typical Swahili neighbourhood is all about good perfumes and scents at this moment.
Now maybe that happens in some other places too, but have you seen the groups of men going to the masjid for the prayer? Have you seen the kanzus all over the streets? The restaurants taking extra orders for special biryani and from all corners, voices calling to prayer and preaching can be heard. You go to the shops at 11:55 a.m. and one door is already closed with the attendants hurriedly serving the remaining customers because ‘hallo? don’t you know it’s Friday?!’
Messages of duas and well wishes are not to be missed on this day as people remember one another in their prayers.People who don’t usually pray may appear on this day and sometimes, earlier than usual. The preacher is preaching in a rhythmic, poetic manner and the rewards of this prayer makes it a lot like the best day of the week. Once the prayer is done, see the multitudes of Muslims streaming out of the masjid, greeting one another; big smiles, big hugs, kinda like a weekly reunion.
At home, Friday means a special meal. It means eating biryani, if not, then the nearest to it, many a times, pilau. There is even extra effort to have fruits on the table and salad and kachumbari and fresh juice and hot chilli, I mean, just the sort of meal you’d look forward to every other week.
The children are home earlier than usual and this day becomes the best to invite family and even friends over for meals. There is a lot of togetherness, love and co-existence vivid than any other day of the week. It is in a great way similar to Eid days.
Those who go abroad especially Western countries, sometimes they barely even hear the adhan because masjids are miles apart. Most of the times, families are totally separated which makes it almost impossible to have a wonderful get-together after the Friday prayer. I mean, isn’t it a privilege being at home? In a place where Islam has become a way of life, we don’t have to struggle to get permission from work or school to attend the prayers. It’s a privilege you can put on the qur’an in the office and no one will grumpily shout to you, ‘get yourself some earphones!’ It’s a privilege we get to hear khutbahs in our own mother tongue, Kiswahili. I mean some Muslims out there are listening to khutbahs experiencing language barrier and not understanding one word. It’s a privilege that we are surrounded by mosques all over, we can even choose which one to go to. It’s a privilege we are so close together in our neighbourhoods and livelihoods, we don’t have to hide practicing our beliefs. We don’t have to struggle to have gatherings. I think it’s a privilege to be a Muslim living in Mombasa. Ever thought of it that way?