KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 1 — Prayers and religious chants replaced the annual New Year’s Eve countdown at Dataran Merdeka here last night as thousands of Muslims flooded the historic square in a mass gathering to seek forgiveness and divine blessing in light of the many tragedies that befell Malaysia in 2014.
In groups, pairs and individually, men, women and children trickled into the square as early as 7.30pm; and by 9pm the Sultan Abdul Samad building next to Dataran Merdeka was covered in a sea of songkoks, turbans and hijabs.
Parents were seen carrying their babies while the older children brought along mats to sit on — all in anticipation of the “Malam Cintakan Rasul 2015” (Love the Prophet Night 2015) featuring Indonesia-born preacher Habib Syech Abdul Qadir as-Seggaf, who professes to be a direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad himself.
“We have been tested as of late, with the big floods. But beyond this test we see that Muslims and Malaysians unite to assist those in need.
“Musibah (Bad things) will not happen if there is no sin committed and can only be avoided/ stopped through prayer and repentance,” Federal Territories Mufti Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri told the Muslim attendees in a speech during the event.
“Allah will not change a race unless they first change themselves,” he added.
Before that, a mass Isya’ and special prayers were held in which the attendees prayed for the safety and well-being of those affected by the flood crisis in peninsular Malaysia.
“Save us and our people from the floods, ya Allah!” the imam prayed aloud.
A special moment of remembrance was also observed for the victims of flights MH370, MH17 and QZ8501.
The evening’s main event consisted of Abdul Qadir, along with his team of singers and percussionists on a special stage — complete with backdrop and multi-coloured lighting — singing and chanting qasidah, a form of Arabic lyrical poetry to the crowd who were evidently taken in by the preacher.
The audience waved banners and placards with the words “I love Allah” and “I love Rasul” throughout the two hour-performance, and at times sang along with Abdul Qadir — finishing his sentences and repeating the lyrics to his performance pieces.
Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor was the event’s guest of honour.
Last night’s gathering gained attention when an Islamic preacher took to Facebook to defend its RM200,000 operational costs, saying the amount is “miniscule” in order to appease God and plead for the return of “lost blessings”, which he said had caused the disastrous floods in the country.
Former federal minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah who now heads the Global Movement of Moderates, was among those who criticised the massive spending, claiming that the money can be better used to aid flood victims.
Blaming those who viewed the floods “too scientifically and logically”, Mohammad Asraff Ayob claimed the disaster that has displaced over 200,000 Malaysians and killed 21 was not a natural occurrence but a “test” by a wrathful God towards Malaysians.
“The sins that we have done all this while were ‘grand’ too, were they not? Allah has long been wrathful, because we have been calculative with him. We forget him. We colour our lives with vices,” Asraff posted on his Facebook page earlier this week.
The New Year’s Eve event was held jointly by, among others, the Cheras Education Foundation, the Kuala Lumpur City Hall, Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council and state-owned Islamic channel TV Alhijrah.
* Click here to watch more of this event.