Lighting the lamps at the start of Malam Tujuh Likur indicates that Hari Raya is near. PIC BY MOHD RADZI BUJANG

SOME say it is in the last 10 days. Others, however, say it is the final seven, thus the name Malam Tujuh Likur. The Sunnis generally consider Malam Lailatul Qadr to fall on either the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th of Ramadan while the Shias consider it to be either the 19th, 21st or 23rd of the month. However, due to the uncertainty of the exact date, we are recommended to observe all the nights.

Malam Lailatul Qadr is one of the holiest and most blessed nights where the reward of worship on this night is better than the worship of a thousand months or equivalent to a person’s lifetime.

And it is for that reason and more that many Muslims take the opportunity to double up on their prayers during the last 10 days of the fasting month.

There are those who also perform the umrah during the last 10 days of Ramadan. Umrah packages during Ramadan especially during Lailatul Qadr nights are not exactly cheap. It can cost as much as the cheapest haj package.

Growing up, we would light the kerosene lamps around the house starting on the first night of Malam Tujuh Likur. As kids, we take that as an indicator that Raya is near. And it can be quite scary if you’re on your own lighting these kerosene lamps especially if you live in a house with a huge compound. A slight breeze or a ruffle of the tree branch can send shivers up the spine.

The tales told by our late maternal grandmother of Malam Lailatul Qadr didn’t help either. It would be a pleasant night, she said, neither hot nor cold. The night will be slightly foggy. Trees and even buildings, she made us believe, would bow to the ground as if in prayer during the great night.

And then, there were some funny incidents too. She told us a story of someone who had hugged a Sikh bread seller, who was wearing white, thinking that he was an angel doing the rounds on Malam Lailatul Qadr.

Now that we are older, and Insya’ Allah wise, we needn’t be afraid any more. And, thanks to the advent of electricity and “lampu lip lap”, we no longer need to light kerosene lamps.

But it is in this last lap of Ramadan that is utmost challenging.

It would be the final week for the corporate breaking fast events. Oh, how we dread having to go through heavy traffic — worst if it had rained — in the late afternoon before the time to break the fast.

Although we hear talk of the slow economy, we still find companies treating clients and the media at hotels offering ridiculously priced buffets. After a day of restraint from food and water, how much can you really eat? I believe hotels and restaurants should be reporting healthy numbers during the fasting month.

Attending these buka puasa events meant that one would have to give the “tarawih” (the additional prayers performed by Muslims at night after the Isyak prayer during Ramadan) at the surau or mosque a miss.

And in most home kitchens, the ovens would be working overtime, with the womenfolk baking a variety of cookies and cakes to be served to guests during Hari Raya. They would, most often than not, start baking after breaking of fast; thus another priority misplaced, maybe.

And then, there is also the last-minute shopping for clothes, shoes and handbags. This year’s trend for the women could possibly be lace, gauging from the number of lace baju kurung and kebaya being sold by online shopping sites. And as for the men, there are some tight-fitting baju Melayu, with zippers on the side, being peddled by some outlets. The instant sampin is also a hit. Apparently, there is a RM55,000 tudung which has been sold to an entrepreneur.

Nearer to Raya also, the adventurous would be experimenting with fireworks. I wonder if the bamboo cannons are still made and played in the rural areas. Growing up, we were mere listeners, not spectators, of the booming sounds from the bamboo cannons. We never attempted to make our own bamboo or pipe cannons. In fact, we had never seen one in our lives. We somewhat envied our mother because she had seen and played one back when she was growing up with her cousins in Batu Pahat. She would regale us with her stories of listening to the carbide and water hissing in the bamboo and then, kaboom!

Going home for the festive season is equally challenging. PLUS Malaysia Bhd is expecting an 11 per cent increase in the number of motorists on its highways during the long holiday period this year, compared with last year. Last year, PLUS recorded 1.8 million vehicles a day on its expressways during the festive season.

It can certainly test one’s patience, especially when one is stuck in traffic for long hours.

Then again, being with family and friends takes the top spot in ushering in the month of Syawal. It is a celebration of victory in completing the fast and the overcoming of personal struggles during Ramadan, especially in the last 10 days.

It is also, as we all know, a time of forgiveness and strengthening of bonds among family members and relatives.

Here’s wishing everyone Selamat Hari Raya Maaf Zahir dan Batin.

Keep safe, everyone.

The writer is Executive Editor,
Editorial Business & Lifestyle