I remember during my bachelor days when I was working in Pasir Puteh, Kelantan. I was staying in a government quarters. Except for weekend visits by my friend Ong I was staying alone.
Just about 50 meters in front of my house was a surau used by for the kampung folks staying beside my quarters. My quarters were situated right in the left-hand front corner of my working place. That made it the nearest to the surau as compared to other quarters and the kampung houses.
Months passed by but somehow, I did not go to the surau to pray. Then the fasting month of Ramadan came. Suddenly just like in all suraus in the country and perhaps in the world, the surau was receiving more attendance than normal, especially during Isya' prayers. After Isya', the congregation continued performing their Tarawikh prayers which are only performed during Ramadan.
So I thought why not take this opportunity to go to the surau? On my first day, I found a few members of my staff were already there. They were also staying in government quarters behind mine. So it was normal that I talked to them before the Azan calling for prayers was recited.
Suddenly a kampung folk who had never seen my face before asked: "Who are you?". Before I could answer, one of my staff members who was a driver answered "He is one of us", and added "Do you know where his house is? Right there!", pointing to my quarters. So it was an embarrassment of sorts for me. Of all the people in the surau, I was the one staying nearest to it. But only now did I manage to enter it.
When I was performing my Haj last year every pilgrim would make it his or her priority to pray in either the Nabawi Masjid in Madinah or the Masjidil Haram in Makkah. We would walk hundreds of metres to both Masjids to perform our obligatory prayers. If not we would be praying in the hotel suraus.
After performing all the Haj obligations we had a post mortem gathering in the hotel surau. Our religious teacher Ustaz Ali said he hoped our habit of going to the surau or masjid for prayers would continue when we return home.
So among the first things I did when I returned home was to repair my ten-year-old bicycle which was not used for more than a year. I regard this as killing two birds with one stone. I am able to perform my prayers with a congregation at my surau. At the same time, I can do a little exercise by cycling to the surau instead of riding my scooter or driving my car.
The surau is a temporary one. The surau committee rents a double-storey link house for this purpose before a permanent one is built. Nevertheless, except during Isya' prayers in the fasting month, the attendance is always not full. I know of people who stay just a few metres away from the surau but I had never seen their faces in it. It reminded me of my bachelor days in Kelantan.
For these people, I wonder why is it so hard for them to go to the surau?