It was about 10 minutes before breaking the fast. About 25 people, ranging from small children to adults, sat on the mosque’s terrace. Placed in front each person was a drink and a plate of snacks.
The mosque was playing a recitation of the Koran, amplified through the loudspeaker. Some men came in with more plates of food to be distributed among the congregation, who were waiting quietly.
That is the daily Ramadan ritual of the Al Muhajirin mosque congregation of Kampung Islam Kepaon, a small Muslim community in Denpasar, whose population is about as Hindu as Indonesia’s is Muslim.
I was the only woman in the group. As a traveler, the people at the mosque had no trouble welcoming me wholeheartedly and didn’t mind my mingling with them while waiting for the adzan call to prayer.
“We’ll wait for the adzan broadcast from RRI Bali,” one of congregates said. As soon as the adzan was sung, we broke the fast and began eating the snacks. Then the muezzin called for a prayer. Promptly, the congregates were standing in rows to perform the prayers inside the mosque. The women’s section is actually located on the second floor. However, I prayed several rows behind the men’s row — it wasn’t a problem for them.
After the prayer, the people returned home to have a bigger meal with their family. The mosque then stayed deserted for a while until the time for the Isha and Tarawih prayers, where the Muslims congregate from the surrounding neighborhoods come and occupy the whole mosque space.
Al Muhajirin has become the central point of activity for Muslims living in Kampung Islam Kepaon, especially during Ramadan.
During Ramadan, the mosque has a tradition called megib ung , a Balinese communal feast where people eat together at one big place.
“The residents in the neighborhood contribute food, including rice, and take turns to bring the dishes,” said Haji Ishak Ibrahim, the mosque caretaker. One big plate will be shared with four or five people.
Early settlers of Kampung Islam Kepaon constructed the mosque in year 1326 of the Islamic calendar.
“Now the mosque can hold around 1000 people,” said Ishak, who was born in Kampung Islam Kepaon and traces his ancestry to Palembang, South Sumatra.
In the neighborhood, besides the mosque, there is an Islamic kindergarten, an elementary school and a junior high school, as well as two mushalla (smaller mosques).
Kampung Islam Kepaon is the first neighborhood in Denpasar where the majority of residents are Muslim. Currently there are about 500 families living in the neighborhood, which is part of Pemogan village. Most residents are Muslims. Non-Balinese Muslims come from places such as Lombok, Java, Sumatra and South Sulawesi. They work as drivers, vendors and in printing houses.
This multi-ethnic community is always open to visitors, which becomes obvious when you see how they welcome guests.
“Our residents are from different parts of Indonesia. We welcome anybody who wants to live here,” said Haji Abdul Hadi, an elder of Kampung Islam Kepaon.
Kampung Islam Kepaon is situated on the west side of Jalan Raya Pemogan. Their Hindunese neighbors live on the east side of the road. They have co-existed harmoniously for many years. In Kampung Islam, however, the houses of the Hindu do not have sanggah (a small temple) out front and no dogs are roaming around, as a sign of mutual respect to their Muslim neighbors.
For Muhyidin, a taxi driver from the kampung, being a Muslim is a blessing.
But when asked about the challenge of fasting in Bali he said it was not easy.
“Driving in Kuta, for example, I have to avert my eyes as many female tourists wear minimalist clothes,” he said.
“However, my Balinese Hindu fellows usually respect me, they do not eat or smoke in front of me,” he added.
According to Haji Abdul Hadi, the Balinese Muslims who have lived in Kepaon originated from Pemecutan palace of Badung Kingdom. They are the descendants of the pepatih (troops) of the puri , or palace.
There are several versions of the history of Kampung Islam Kepaon. Haji Abdul Hadi, the third generation of Balinese Muslim in Kepaon, shared one of them with me. In Bali, he said, a king’s followers used to be utterly devoted to the king. One of the daughters of the king of Badung converted to Islam. She married Cokrodiningrat from Bangkalan Madura who helped the kingdom in a struggle against the Mengwi kingdom. The dedicated troops of the daughter then also converted to Islam. The families of these pepatih were granted a location between Puri Pemecutan and the current neighborhood of Kepaon. Since then, they have lived there.
Because of the historical link, Puri Pemecutan of Badung Kingdom and the Muslim community in Kampung Islam Kepaon have maintained a special relationship. When the mosque celebrates Maulid (the birthday of Prophet Muhammad), the King from Puri Pemecutan is invited.
The Puri also invites elders of the neighborhood to break the fast together on Ramadan. It has occurred for many years and is a strong and visible reminder of how Kampung Islam Kepaon has shown that being open and maintaining a good relationship with the locals is the key to live harmoniously.