Growing up in a small town like Muar town was full of mystical tales and some of these tales have turned into legends of their own. During the days when I grew, I was taught many things which have become today’s laughing stocks. Every part of our lives were being governed by everything spiritual with even some trees having ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’. We were taught not to play during the ‘maghrib’ because the ‘hantu tetek’ would be around looking for kids to catch and hide them under her ‘tetek’. Then there was this ‘hantu dapur’ who would sneak by to find out any kids who refused to eat and this hantu would gladly finish the food for them. There were so many hantus and evil spirits roaming around town those days and kids like me would always be on alert whenever night fell.
But alas, its puasa time and although we would suffer the strains of not having any food during the day, there was one good news though. We need no longer worry about having to encounter with any ghostly figures because for the whole of the puasa month these ghosts would be chained. These poor ghosts would be confined in some special place guarded by angels who would guard them tightly leaving them with no room to escape. That was a marvelous news and the night was very free for kids like me.
Legends and myths are results of mere conjectures and hearsays propagated by our ancestors and over the years, some of them became legends and few turned into established traditions. Few survived the test of time circulated among the dedicated believers with no substantive proofs to claim. One of these traditions is the belief in the appearance of an angel in human transformation called ‘Laila Tok Qadar’ among Malay Muslims of my growing days in Muar town of which I was among them and this is my story.
Every time after our buka puasa my three ‘sisters’ and me would run around the house compound and sometime we would play the ‘galah’ game with our immediate neighbours. We no longer had to worry about going home as late as 10.00pm because even if we returned home at 12 midnight, there wasn’t any ghost around. What a wonderful world it was with no ghosts around.
The night became more livelier when the ten days of ‘malam likur’ started. First, we knew these ghosts were somewhere chained to their necks and secondly the night would be lighted with so many likur within our house compound and so a very bright compound during the night with no ghosts was indeed such a superb place to live in.
‘Laila Tok Qadar’ during the time when I was growing was believed to be an angel in a human form. He would descend on the night of the 7th likur and although he was just one person, he could be anywhere at the same time; right in my house or at my friend’s house or even in Indonesia where the Muslims were predominant. At the place where he would descend, all the trees within that place would bow as a mark of respect for the ‘Laila Tok Qadar’. If on that night the weather was not too good, in other word it would be a rainy night, then he would not descend. We imagined him to be wearing a white turban, spotted a long white beard and his attire would be a long dress white in colour. Of course he could speak in the Malay language but if he was in Pakistan then he would speak in Urdu. Surely he had a very good command of the English language if he landed himself somewhere in England.
What was so special about this ‘Laila Tok Qadar’? Well, if you happened to meet him in person, you must be brave enough to approach and held him tightly. Once you grab him, then request anything you want from him and he would gladly grant your wishes. That was our perception of this great ‘Laila Tok Qadar’. Maybe it was our own version of Santa Clause.
Once there was a story in my home town of a man holding tightly to someone he met near a mosque. That someone it seemed fit in the description of this ‘Laila Tok Qadar’ and so he asked for a wish and the wish was to make him a rich person. As the story goes, the man got his wish materialized and so he became a very rich man. But what was amusing it seemed that this ‘Laila Tok Qadar’ was in fact a Sikh who was a Muslim but the fact that the man became very rich was truly amazing.
The night we waited had finally arrived. It was our maid-servant Mak Yang who cautioned me in the evening that tonight we must be alert for it was the 7th night of likur. To make it even convincing, it was a hot evening that the chances of the falling rain was very remote. I ran to look for my three ‘sisters’ and informed them accordingly and all of us were very excited. Few days before the arrival of this night, we had strategized our plan how to be on the look out for the ‘Laila Tok Qadar’. We had pledged not to be afraid if we encountered with him because he was not an evil man. We had our lists of what to ask from him. I wanted to be rich, very very rich, in fact the richest boy in the world so that I could buy a lot of toys. Kak Fuzi said she wanted to be the most beautiful girl in the world. When I asked her why must she asked for such a request, she said so that Kak Shidah and Kak Arah would be jealous.
When the Isyak prayer was over I ran to Mak Yang and asked her whether she would like to come along with us walking at the back of the house to look for ‘Laila Tok Qadar’. She said she could not accompany us because there was a good ‘sandiwara radio’ to be aired over the radio at 9.30pm. So the four of us took a slow stroll beginning from the front compound. Our eyes were wondering all around us, particularly gazing at every branches of the surrounding trees including the coconut tree just in case suddenly they would bow down. When we reached the back yard of the house, it was darker with only few likurs lighted. I was a bit scared but with the assurance from my three ‘sisters’, I managed to control my fright.
When we reached the bangsal (shack), I heard something moving and so I cautioned the three of them. The four of us just stood still gazing at the point where the sound was and we immediately looked around us to see if some of the trees were bowing, just in case. All the trees around us stood very still. So obviously ‘Laila Tok Qadar’ wasn’t responsible for the sound I just heard. What about ghosts ? No, no this is the puasa month. No ghost could escape the tight security provided by the angels. Not ‘Laila Tok Qadar’ and not the ghosts and so who was responsible for that sound?
“Macam mana bunyi tadi?” (What sound did you hear?), asked Kak Shidah telling me to describe the kind of sound I just heard.
“Aku pun tak ingat, tapi tadi ada bunyilah” (I can’t remember, but there was a sound), I answered assuring her I wasn’t bluffing.
Then the four of us tiptoed quietly and proceeded to the other side of the back yard. It was complete silence but we could hear the faint voices of those at the front playing with their ‘bunga api’. As we reached the back of the rear toilet, suddenly we heard the squeaking sound like a door being opened somewhere nearby. The four of us did not take any chances and shouted aloud and ran as fast as we could to the front compound. Halfway while we were running, we heard someone calling us:
“Hey budak budak apa hal ni, Mak Yang lah” (Hey kids, what’s going on. Its me Mak Yang). It was our maid-servant who had just finished her business heeding the call of nature. It was her opening the door of the ‘jamban’ located at the far end of the back yard.
Before retiring to bed, we all laughed out loud relating to the others of our funny ‘little adventure’ looking for the ‘Laila Tok Qadar’. Mak Yang was equally amused but she was a little bit disappointed because the ‘sandiwara radio’ was at its height when she had to heed the call of nature. This time she must ease herself because she really ate a lot during the buka puasa.
Our quest continued every night until the last night of Ramadan and throughout our search none of the trees we observed never seem to be bowing. This event became our yearly ‘adventures’ until when we grew old enough to understand the real meaning of the ‘Night of Destiny’.
‘Laila Tok Qadar’ does not exist and never will. This night is the night referred in the Holy Quran as The Night of Destiny as in Surah (Chapter) 97 known as Surah Al Qadar. ‘Laila’ in Arabic is ‘Night’ while ‘Qadar’ is ‘destiny’. This is the night believed by Muslims that Muhammad received the first revelation through the archangel Gabriel while he was alone in a cave in Mount Hira, somewhere near Mecca. The Quran says that this night is better than a thousand months for the angels and the Spirit descends therein by their Lord’s leave to carry out every command. It is therefore a peaceful night until the advent of the dawn. Many Muslims would spend their time at home reading the Quran believing that their endeavours would gain them credits a thousand times more. Whether this night is extended yearly to be the ‘night of destiny’ where the angel will likewise descend as it first did is left for the learned among the Muslims to discuss. As I have always mention, I will not dwell on any subject of religion to be a matter for discussion in my blog.
My story is simply a narrative tale of kids like me in the mid- fifties who believed that on this night a specific angel will descend in a form of a superhuman granting wishes to those who ask for it. Such beliefs surely must have started hundred of years ago that eventually reached the years I was growing. I believe I was not alone and many other kids during those years likewise were adherent to the same belief except the version may differ and some of you Muslim readers may experienced the same during your days particularly those born in the fifties or even in the seventies.
We are now in the month of Ramadan and I chose to write my story ahead of time as a reminder that the malam tujuh likur will soon come to pass. Looking back, those days were full of mystical tales which are actually rubbish but it was fun for kids like me. We were so adamant that the ‘Laila Tok Qadar’ was very real, alive and kicking and those lucky ones who managed to have an encounter with him could wish anything they want.
If there was such a person who can grant me anything I like, I have one wish. My wish is to bring me back to those days when life was truly a bunch of goodies.