Saturday, April 23, 2005

Taerobix - The Next Olympic Sport

You thought the Turks were fast at scoring goals against the South Koreans in a World Cup. Try praying tarawih (post isha prayer perfomed in congregation during Ramadhan) with a bunch of Turks. That’s when you will discover speed and athleticism!

Turks always do things differently. And usually with that touch of European style. Europe may be a place where you can get fast cars and fast wom … woops, I forgot this is a ‘progressive’ site. But in Turkey, getting 20 rakaats (cycles) hanafi-style (hanafi is one of the four schools of sunni law) is worth experiencing.

Other communities (Albanians, Bosnians etc) also finish their tarawih fast. But they just don’t come upto the level of speed that Turks and Cypriots do. Yep, when it comes to “Ramazan” and “Terawih”, the rest of you can go become “Dingili Bozuks” (did I spell that right?)!

What is it about the Terawih that makes it such a great workout? For a start, it is the short surahs (chapters), and in many cases ayahs (verses) or even letters that are recited after a 1-syllable al-Fatihah. 1 syllable? Yep, between ‘al-hamd’ and ‘dwaalin’, there isn’t much else that one can understand.

Ruku (bowing with hands touching the knees) is long enough to say half of the standard “subhana Rabbi al-Azim” (trans: How awesome if my Lord). Before you can even realise you are bowing, the hoca (imam) is back up with a “sami Allah holiman hamida”. But don’t expect time to finish off the rest, for before you know it, you are back down with the rallying cry that sounds alot like “Ellahoo Echber!”.

As we go down for sajda (prostration) at the rate of knots, our knees undergo a spiritual arthroscopy. And even the lushest of carpets cannot provide enough padding to make the downfall feel less like a crash-landing.

I have seen some less-trained and less-accustomed worshippers really lose track of the prayers and themselves performing Taerobics (as Turkish-style Terawih has come to be affectionately known). One Indonesian brother entered a Turkish mosque and joined the prayers just as the hoca/imam was lifting his hands to declare “Ellahoo Echber!” (a phrase which I think means that some Aussie Rugby Union star named Ella is a pretty fab and echber sort of bloke).

Now this Indonesia brother had Islam brought to his otherwise-Hindu-Buddhist society by some really cool Yemeni traders. This Indonesian chappy was clearly in the mood to get into some serious spiritual elation. He lifted his hands slowly and focussed all his concentration on the praise of God and the throwing of all his cares behind him and over his shoulders.

Whilst the brother was doing this, the rest of the congregation was already up for the second rakaat!

Seriously, Terawih is a sport only for the fittest of people. And in Turkish communities, the women will match even the fittest man for speed, agility and physical fitness. I was once at a Turkish mosque in the inner-city suburb of Surry Hills. At this mosque, women pray in a section above men. The women’s floor is made of wooden planks. And as the hoca/imam ordered us down on our knees, I could hear the women crashing their knees to the floor.

Finally, for all those venturing this sport for the first time, allow me to give you all a few pieces of advice. If you decide you only wish to stay for only 8 rakaats, pray near the exit. If you are at the front, consider yourself stuck there for the 20. Before you even get up to leave, people behind you will be already going down for the first sajda!

Also make sure you wear a head-band and soft tracksuit pants (preferably with kneepads). There just isn’t enough time to wipe your brow.

Finally, remember this humble write in your dua (supplication). If you get the time, that is!

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