Nastiness Diagnosis. Anthropology. Religion. Gender. Justice. A Personal Notepad For the General Public.
In the village mosque, grandmas thought I was waiting to pray. “Aslinipun pundi?” They asked. “Saking Taiwan,” I said. As if it did not make any difference, a grandma asked me to wear the mukena she just took off, while making her praying rug for me. I could not retreat. I touched the soft mukena, thinking if only I had learnt how to salat. Then a voice came behind: “Menika sampun.” I seconded, “Ya, Kula sampun.”
They assumed that I was a Muslim, even though I was not wearing a jilbab. Even though I was in a fashionable batik, which might only make me look more like an Indonesian. These grandmothers looked around aged 70 or more. They encouraged me to pray, like mothers teaching their children. “Iki (mukena) pangjang, enggih, bisa dipake.” Actually I couldn’t remember in detail how much they talked to me, because they all spoke in Javanese, whereas my Javanese was just at an initial level. But I felt accepted. It was a great feeling that they spoke their mother language to me, something that rarely happened in the city. They spoke to me in High Javanese, though. They knew that I was foreign to here. Yet they accepted me as if I were a Muslim, even though a minute ago I was holding my camera trying to capture their bodily movements of solat. I looked at the muneka, thinking I really wanted to wear this, and submit to God, finding peace of mind that I had been always looking for all these years suffering from depression. But I didn’t know how. I might embarrass myself. My undisciplined body would simply belie their expectation, revealing the fact that I am not a Muslim. My research assistant and my friend were both preoccupied with their own prayer, kneeling down ahead. They didn’t know what was happening to me. A grandma was sitting beside me, waiting patiently to witness my prayer. I raised the white robe in front of me and stared at it, suddenly entering into a trance, or a prolonged hesitation. It was only after Intan finished her prayer that, to rescue me out of the plight, she kindly told the grandma that I already did the sholat. We both acquiesced that at the moment it was improper to admit my true religious identity (which was never clear even to myself). But the event was not only a plight. It was also a blessing. A misplaced welcome, instead of a defensive suspicion.
I just get to know the correct procedure to wash one’s own body before doing the prayer earlier in the afternoon. In Al Falah TK there was a chart of pre-prayer cleaning in cartoon pictures, intelligible to pre-school kids.
I never thought that I would want to do the Islamic prayer. But at that moment, I decided that I would do it pretty soon.