How to Eat Sup Tulang

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Ramadan is a time for reflection. So today we shall be reflecting on one of the bountiful sustenance which we are blessed with – food glorious food.

Anthony Bourdain calls bone marrow as “God’s butter.” Arguably the way to enjoy marrow is one in sup tulang (lit. bone soup).

Go to Beach Road hawker center (that’s Golden Mile Food Court for ye tourists) and get yourself a plate of sup tulang from any of the established stalls in the basement. What you will obtain is an almost meatless piece of lamb bone in vivid red gravy – deceivingly bloody to some. But trust me, it is cooked to perfection.

First things first, get the marrow out. To do so, knock the bone ever way you can. If the place is packed, look around you for inspiration. Sup tulang should be the one of the more commonly requested items there, so you should find no excuse for lacking inspiration. If your hand-eye coordination let you down at the moment when it really counts, use a straw.

Success comes in the form of a cylindrical piece of wobbly jelly-like substance. Don’t consume it all at once as the distinct taste may overwhelm you. It is bone marrow after all. Connoisseurs revel at the opportunity to complement it with the rest of the meal; take the piece of bread, press it against the marrow so that a small chunk of it sticks to the pastry, and then dip the whole thing in the scintillating red gravy.

By now you should have in front of you a bite-sized scarlet piece of heaven. Do not place it in your mouth yet; enjoy the aroma while allowing the bread fully soaks the gravy goodness that actually makes you crave clogged arteries.

Then put it in your mouth.

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Instantly your tongue will be caressed by the delicately-balanced red sauce. It is sufficiently spicy, and wonderfully savory. Yet almost teasing your senses with the perfect equilibrium of sweetness. By now, the gravy would have enveloped your mouth, spreading itself thin. You may have thought the taste sensation is over, but at that moment the the marrow will almost instantaneously melt and suddenly reawaken your tastebuds, only this time more emphatically multiplying the aftertaste of the sublime gravy, this round with a distinct creamy sensation.

In just a moment, you will suddenly find that only the the initial container of it all – the bread – is left in your mouth. Its momentary presence between your teeth is mocking at best, merely so you have something tangible to react to; the pathetic act of chewing to physically register your pleasure while the material sensation dissipates as quickly as it began.

God’s butter. Appreciated more in Ramadan.



I won’t be hanging my flag

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I have never in my life had the urge to hang the national flag outside my home and be a part those of think that patriotism is proven with a pieces of symmetrically lined up cloths hanging on buildings. Such representations are somewhat of an oxymoron ni current times, and even more so hypocritical; flags, fireworks, and a full parade is emphasized over a fair and just, and transparent leadership.

Well, be it as it may, a building covered in red-white patches is ubiquitous come August every year. For those who wants to demonstrate patriotism through such means, so be it – they are free to do so. It’s their property anyway, and they can hang their undergarments to prove how not insecure they are, for all I care.

But freedom of expression is hardly a one-way street; and so I take issue with those who compel you to hang the flag. The corridor is arguably a common area that these patriots can peruse as well, but when a coveted wall can only be accessed through my home, too bad then.

You see, every year there’s this group of aunties who persistently knock on doors to ensure that a flag is hung outside the bedroom window. I relented in the past, due to combination of their persistence and on my part, the insistence of some peace and quiet. This year however, I think I have the upper hand. Ramadan is here, I’ll be at work during the day, and at night (hopefully) praying at the mosque. So their incessant knocking won’t be answered by anyone.

But I know they’ve been knocking, evident by the brand-new packaged flag found at my doorstep after work one day.Which brings me to another point: wastage. I am not the only one in Singapore who receives a brand new flag every year. And I still have those from yesteryears folded in some nook in my storeroom. How much are they spending on this? These people should know that it is not important for every single house to be furnished with a flag.

Also with the onslaught of foreigners in my country, seems these days anyone can be a Singaporean. As many others who are born here, I sometimes feel that I’m a foreigner in my own country. And as long as the politicians think that profit from cheap foreign labor can compensate for nation building, methinks the country is betraying its people for money.

So, in the spirit of Ramadan, I will avoid wastage, be truthful to myself, and put my flags up – for sale.


Reflections in Ramadan

Ramadan comes, and so does all those who try to profit from it, whether spiritually or financially. The former congregates to mosques, the latter to bazaars which are mushrooming faster than I can consume iftar. And in any place where hundreds of people get together, some are bound to stand out more than the rest.

The short shirt + low jeans combo

Most people seem to forget that when going to mosques, you are not encouraged to eat food that may give off a foul smell, like onions, and to apply perfume, wear nice (non-smelly) clothes, brush your teeth, keep your voice down, etc. The purpose of which is to make sure you do not cause any form of distraction to those who want to perform their prayers in the house of Allah.

Unfortunately distractions still occur, and increasingly nowadays, one of the most irritating and common distraction is when a person do not even realise the proper way of covering their aurat.

Empirical evidence suggests that those who wear jeans are unaware it may get pulled down when you prostrate (sujud). Combine this with a short t-shirt that rides up your back, the result is visible buttcrack inter-gluteal cleft upon sujud.

For the recored, male aurat is between his navel and knee. The backside is between the navel and knee. Based on that infallible logic, one must ensure that portions of the derriere should be covered at all times when praying.

What has been seen, cannot be unseen.

I actually approached a stranger who unknowingly revealed his backside during prayers. The conversation was awkward; trying to explain politely to someone you haven’t met before that you can see that uncompromising cleft of his. And he replied, “What? I don’t understand.” I wouldn’t want to repeat that experience again.

People have been trying hard all Ramadan to lower their gaze, and sharing your backside with the rest of the saff behind you is hardly a gesture one can appreciate. Not that it’s something they enjoy anyway.

The most expensive biryani

Last weekend going through a road leading to a shopping mall, I found the traffic slow and congested. As a Ramadan bazaar was set up just beside it, at first I thought it was purely due to the immense concentration of people in the area. I was partially right. The culprit is the people – inconsiderate ones – who happily parked their cars along the stretch of road leading to the carpark. As I trundled along these parked cars, I realise that they are people who are rushing to buy food for iftar. Fellow Muslims.

One of the many bazaars in Ramadan. (Image credit)

I was so disappointed. Not only that, some were double-parking, making the already small road much harder to inch along. Such inconsiderate behaviour should never be displayed by Muslims, especially one who is fasting. What about the beauty of this religion, which tells you to watch your adab when you are in public. There’s hardly any display of commendable adab in inconveniencing other road users.

Maybe they’ll learn it the hard way. My father told me a story about a $75 dollars biryani. A man went to one of those Ramadan bazaar, and due to parking shortage, he parked his car by the side of the road to grab a pack of biryani. When he got back minutes later, there’s a parking ticket on his windshield. Price of the biryani: $5. Add the $70 to the total bill, and you have the most expensive biryani in town.

The ambiance of buka

I remember when I was in my teens, I used to earn the wrath of my father for always insisting to go out with friends for iftar. My father sometimes refused to let me go out, and would instead lecture me on wastefulness and many other things. I knew it was wasteful since you had to fork out money while there’s always food on the table at home, but I thought he never understood my appreciation of good company over food.

Recently for the first time in a long time, I decided to have my buka (aka iftar) at a popular eating place. With a variety of spread and reasonable price, I was looking forward to have a good meal at sunset. Alhamdulillah I must say the food wasn’t bad at all, but the same cannot be said of its ambiance.

Upon taking up seat prior to the iftar, we saw many Muslims who were rushing to get the food ready for themselves and their family. As sunset drew nearer, tables were getting filled fast with Muslims of different background. Some with colored hair, rashly conversing to their acquaintances. Others are in short skirts, while some are in bermudas with kids in tow. There’s a table behind me where its occupants were having heated discussions and almost shouting at each other. It was noisy, rowdy, and hardly qualifies as an Islamic impression.

While the company and food were good, I find there’s something terribly “empty” about having iftar at a commercial venue. Our routine is still the same compared with iftar elsewhere; afterward we went to perform our prayers and terawih. There’s a nagging feeling that something was missing in iftar, but I just can’t put my finger on it.

Iftar in a mosque. (Image credit)

Nevertheless, I did realize how it contrasted from having your iftar at home. or a mosque. At home, while the spread is usually more modest, it is definitely more relaxed. Even in a mosque with many others chattering away waiting for Maghrib, the background is calmer, and the whole place just seems brighter.

I’m not sure what it is, perhaps the nur and barakah of those who are sincere in preparing iftar?


The Ramadan-Raya Redux

1. An Idiot’s guide to Ramadan


Ramadan, What does this mean?

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar.  It’s when Muslims all over the world spend 30 days observing fast and bettering themselves in principles of faith.

Observing fast?  Is that something to do with running, then?


Oh, what is it then?

Observing fast, or fasting, is when a person abstains (or keeps away) from eating and drinking. More»

2. On “racial harmony” events being held in Ramadan

This is a banner of what is supposed to be “Racial Harmony Sports Day”. At first glance, all seems to be okay; everyone from all races are invited to participate – a wonderful thought.


The true test of endurance: Sports + fasting.

One little issue though, the date 13/09/2009 is the final week of the fasting month of Ramadan, prior to the Muslim Hari Raya celebration. More»

3. On the meaning of Ramadan

If you see Muslim kids fasting, it teaches them not to be a wuss when they grow up. More»

4. On that soccer fatwa and Ramadan

…al-Azhar Scholars Front: “Playing football is not a necessity of life which allows relief or dispensation (يرخص) of breaking of fast, and it is not among the matters which are considered to be burdens (تكاليف) of this religion, since everybody has the right to play (soccer) as entertainment, and not as an occupation or job.” More»

5. On tarawih and witr

When do I perform the qunut for witr in Ramadan?

According to the al-Shafi’e mazhab, on the second half of Ramadan, i.e. starting on the 15th night onwards. (Source 1, 2)

After praying witr, can I perform other prayers in the same night?

Yes. More»

6. On Court’s relentless riba-marketing targeted towards the Malay-Muslims

The proliferation of purchasing the latest non-essential items has turned into a sarcastic Malay joke; if the home of some Malay doesn’t have an LCD television or some kind of home theatre system, then it is not a “true” Malay home. The importance of having the latest big-screen TV and entertainment system, which has now evolved into the obsession for the latest car accessories and handheld gadgetries, epitomizes the sad state of affairs for those who find pride in such items. More»

May you have a blessed Ramadan 1431AH/2010CE.


An Idiot’s Guide to Ramadan

Yes, Ramadan just passed, but this is still good.


Ramadan, What does this mean?

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar.  It’s when Muslims all over the world spend 30 days observing fast and bettering themselves in principles of faith.

Observing fast?  Is that something to do with running, then?


Oh, what is it then?

Observing fast, or fasting, is when a person abstains (or keeps away) from eating and drinking.

Some people call it ‘Ramadam’, what’s that all about?

The month is correctly known as ‘Ramadhan’ or ‘Ramadan’, the latter being the more anglicised version.  ‘Ramadam’ is incorrect and is mistakenly used. ‘Ramadam-dam-dam’, as pronounced by Ali G, is also wrong but you probably guessed that already.

Full article on the BBC (link).


Excerpt 1:

Ramadan Really Means…

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Ramadan comes and goes. The month in which able-bodied Muslims are obligated to fast from dawn till dusk has passed, but will reappear in the next (lunar) year, as has been the cycle for the past 1,428 years. Yes, it’s 1430 years after the Hijrah now, but Ramadan was first obligated 2 years after the Hijra (some say in the month of Sya’ban, 2H/622CE).

For most people, when you ask them whether fasting makes them better, they’ll almost always agree. They will say that abstaining from all types of food and drinks makes them a better, stronger person. For others, it made them shed a few pounds (only to bulk up again with the Eid festivities).

But some of these answers may be quite vague, and especially from an outsider’s point of view, it is difficult to see the so-called spiritual benefits. But trust me they’re there.

If you’ve been fasting fasting for years, or just starting to get used to fasting, or trying to understand how not eating can make you a better person, here’s my take on what people mean when they say Ramadan makes them “better”.

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1. “Ramadan makes me empathize with the less fortunate.”

Very true, also very obvious. With millions around the world having difficulty to finding food, and even more so freshwater, the fact that you are not allowed to drink a single drop of water in this hot, sunny climate makes you appreciate that even more seriously.

And after one full month of not consuming anything during the day, Muslims also must give a mandatory sum of money (zakat/tithe) to the poor.


You feel their suffering (through fasting), now do something about it (through donation).

ramadan27Visually impaired Palestinian students read verses of the Koran, Islam’s holiest book, written in Braille. (Image credit)

2. “Ramadan helps me to focus.”

The line is not hard to draw for this one. Most likely than not, what is meant is the decreased focus on food (you can’t eat or drink during the day), makes for an exercise in objectivity; focus more on what you are doing, and not what you are feeling.

For those who say they can’t concentrate without food, or when they’re hungry, this is an observance especially catered to temper the physical body to such conditions. 14 hours without food is nothing extreme, but definitely gives you a slight boost especially when thinking of whiny people who can’t seem to stop munching.


Mind over matter.

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3. “Ramadan makes me a better/stronger person.”

The most popular. Or a better phrase would be, “Ramadan shows me how much I can do, with less.”

I’m sure a lot of people actually lose weight during Ramadan (mine is around 5% this year, hooray!). And without any side-effects nor illness whatsoever, the loss of weight is a sheer example of how much we – as humans – are consuming on a daily basis.

Food: During Ramadan, the amazing body somehow manages to survive on 2 meals a day; one small one before dawn, and one during sunset.

Sleep: During Ramadan, just like many others, Muslims sleep lesser than normal. Even when going to sleep at the same every night, most Muslims wake up at about 5am to eat the pre-dawn meal (sahur) and perform the dawn (Subuh) prayers, then taking a 1-2 hour nap before going to work.  The sleep pattern is disrupted, yet the body copes with it.

Exercise & Discipline: Less food, less sleep, and every night, Muslims are encouraged to perform the tarawih prayers. It takes less then 30 minutes, done every night during Ramadan, and burns the extra calories too. Also during Ramadan, most would read roughly 20 pages of the Qur’an daily, so as the complete reading the holy book in that month.

In addition, Muslims are supposed to be at the peak of spiritual health in Ramadan. Meaning, controlling the eyes from gazing at that lady with a low-cut dress, the tongue from gossiping, the ears from listening to mindless songs and idle talk, etc. It’s about getting the soul to control the physical body, and not the other way round.

If you observe Ramadan, you’ll see that everything is jam-packed; you do more, you consume less. In the midst of all these, it is easy for one to realize how much of their daily lives is filled with non-essential entertainment and pleasure.

Fasting does indeed make you stronger. Stronger to get off the lazy bum and do something worthwhile, or help others, or read more. It resonates more when the Muslim sees himself as a consumer, to eat little (and not waste), to reduce consumption of not only food, but electricity, petrol, and the world’s resources.


If something as essential as food and drink can be controlled, the non-essential desires can be reined in too.

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4. “I fast because my mom/dad told me to.”

If you see Muslim kids fasting, it teaches them not to be a wuss when they grow up.

The perfect character builder.


Questions on Tarawih and Witr

In Ramadan, the night is filled with prayers and devotion to the Creator. After performing the terawih/tarawih prayers (صلاة التراويح), witr (صلاة الوتر) is the usually the final prayer of the night. Here are some quick pointers.

1. When can I  perform tarawih?

Anytime between Isya’ and Subuh. (Source)

2. How many rakaat is tarawih performed?

Any number, as long as it is in multiples of two. But 8 or 20 is preferred. (Source 1, 2)

3. Must I perform tarawih in the mosque?

While praying in jama’ah in a mosque is better, one can also do it at home. (Source)

4. Minimum rakaat of witr?

One. But three is preferred. (Source)

5. Maximum rakaat of witr?

Eleven. (Source)

6. When do I perform the qunut for witr in Ramadan?

According to the al-Shafi’e mazhab, on the second half of Ramadan, i.e. starting on the 15th night onwards. (Source 1, 2)

7. After praying witr, can I perform other prayers in the same night?


Long answer: (Translated from source)

Originally, one concludes that his prayers at night with the witr, following the saying of the Prophet ﷺ:

اجْعَلُوا آخِرَ صَلَاتِكُمْ بِاللَّيْلِ وِتْرًا

“Make your last prayer at night witr.”

Bukhari et al.

If a person prayed witr and following that he intends to pray more, there is no harm in doing so. But he shouldn’t repeat the witr, as the Prophet ﷺ said:

لَا وِتْرَانِ فِي لَيْلَةٍ

“No two witr in one night.” (I.e. do not perform witr twice in a night)

Abu Dawud et al.; categorized sahih by al-Albani

Al-Nawawi said in al-Majmu’ (المجموع):

إذا أوتر ثم أراد أن يصلي نافلة، أم غيرها في الليل، جاز بلا كراهة، ولا يعيد الوتر

“If a person performed the witr, and then he wants to pray the nafilah (i.e. sunnah prayers), or any other prayers at night, it is permissible and not makruh, (but) he should not repeat the witr.”

Meanwhile if he purposely performed the witr earlier in the night, while knowing that he will perform other prayer later at night, that is still allowed, though it is considered makruh, as was stated by the Malikis.

The reason for it being makruh is the intent (to perform the later prayers) even before starting the witr (knowing that witr should be performed last).


اجعلوا آخر صلاتكم بالليل وتراًاجعلوا آخر صلاتكم بالليل وتراً