Al-Falakiyah: Kids’ Edition

If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog, you may remember me mentioning the Islamic boarding school I visit pretty regularly. Its name is Al-Falakiyah and it is owned and managed by friends of my host mom’s.

I’ve been privileged enough this year to visit it frequently.

Back in May, Sabrina (my city buddy) stayed a couple of days at Al-Falakiyah with another AFSer from the Netherlands. I didn’t go with them because it was my last week of school and I wanted all the time I could get there.

Well, after staying at Al-Falakiyah, they had only positive things to say. I figured that, since YES Abroad’s mission is to create intercultural understand and understand Islam better, it would be worthwhile for me to do the same.

I decided to do it at the end of June with Isa, another YES Abroader. I decided that this would be a good thing, since it was still during Ramadan and I was fasting anyway.

A couple days from when we were supposed to stay at Al-Falakiyah, my host mom informed me that all the students had gone home for the summer holidays. There were only a couple of students left, and they were there because their parents own the boarding school.

Despite this, we decided to stay there anyway.

Now,  I am a Christian (Mormon, to be precise). For the duration of my stay at Al-Falakiyah, however, I decided to be a faux-muslim. That meant that yes, I had to wear hijab and cover up. That also meant that I fasted and prayed.

Well, we got there at night and went to bed pretty quickly. At Al-Falakiyah, there is no A/C, so it was a pretty hot night.


Our room.

We slept alongside the kids.

We woke up the next morning at 4 am for sahur, the pre-fasting breakfast. After 20+ days of fasting, this was not unusual. What was, however, was that instead of going back to bed like we normally do, we had to wudhu and do the first prayer of the day: solat subuh.

When Muslims pray, they cover up. Men put on a cap and a sarong. Women put on a mukena:


They lent us mukenas and prayer rugs and then began to pray.

Now, we did pray along with them, but we didn’t actually do the prayer part. All the prayers and literature of Islam is in Arabic, and guess what?

I don’t know any Arabic, nor do I know how to pronounce anything in Arabic. So basically we just copied the motions of our comrades.

I’ve watched family and friends solat for months, but I’ve never actually participated. Participating definitely gave me more understanding of solat, and it gave me red knees 😉

Muslims pray 5 times a day:

  • Subuh: Before sunrise
  • Zuhur: Mid-day
  • Asar: Afternoon
  • Maghrib: After sunset
  • Isya: Night

Note: names are different depending on your country and language ( I believe).

After subuh, we slept until late.

After getting up, we were taught Al-Fatihah, the first sunat in the Qur’an and one of the most basic/essential ones.

When I first came to Indonesia, I noticed that everyone’s Qur’ans were not in Indonesian; they were in Arabic. The reason for this is so that nothing is lost in translation. Thus, Indonesian Muslims are able to read Arabic and read/understand the Qur’an, but they can’t speak Arabic. Little bit confusing.

Anyway, so we were taught from an Arabic Qur’an. Our teacher pointed to the Arabic characters as she recited Al-Fatihah. As an illiterate Arabic reader, this didn’t help much. We had her write it down in a latin script instead, and then we were able to attempt to memorize it better.

(Still haven’t memorized it, though.)

The rest of the day was spent praying and playing with the kids. We played congklak, a traditional Indonesian game. This game is known as mancala in America.

During Ramadan, there is an extra optional prayer called tarawih.

Each prayer is composed of a set amount of rakaat. Rakaat is the amount of movements in the prayer:


Subuh is 2 rakaat, zuhur is 4 rakaat, asar is 4 rakaat, maghrib is 3 rakaat, and isya is 4 rakaat. In total, there are 17 rakaat daily.

Tarawih is after isya. In tarawih, you either do 11 rakaat or 23 rakaat. I believe that the length is the reason that it is optional, but I’m not sure.

Well, everyone was doing tarawih, so we decided that we’d do it as well. However, we didn’t do 11 rakaat. We did 23.

(my host sister says that she’s never done 23 haha)

It wasn’t so bad…except for my knees. Everyone else’s knees were fine, which is understandable since they’ve been praying like this since they were little. However, Isa’s knees were fine.

So I guess my knees are just very weak. 🙂

After, I got out my camera to photograph an adorable toddler in a mukena.

I mean adorable. Judge for yourself, though.



Am I right or am I right?

After I got my camera out, the kids decided that it would be fun to mess around with it.

Hence the name of this post.

The following photos are taken by kids. At night.

’nuff said.



(And yes, I’m wearing a mukena.)









This is the mukena child doing Asian “dimples”


This next one would’ve been a good photo…


if I weren’t so tall. #tallpeopleproblems


The next day, after sahursubuh, and sleeping until ten, we were taught about Islam by my host mom’s friend.

He taught us more in depth about wudhu, praying, and the Qur’an. He also showed us a Qur’an that was 1,000 years old. It was made of leaves. The writing was carved into the leaves when it was still fresh. It smelled like perfume.





After, I did a photo tour around Al-Falakiyah.




Where the girls hung out and did their solat.


The kitchen.


Where they boys stayed.


The mosque.



Another porch/hallway.


The girl who taught us Al-Fatihah

And then the kids got hold of our cameras again.IMG_3362








After photos and saying goodbye, we left.

This was the last time I’d go to Al-Falakiyah before I left. I learned so much about Islam and the way of life within an Islamic boarding school.

Thank you so much for all I’ve learned from you, Al-Falakiyah. I’ve seen so much love and playfulness from within your halls.



One thought on “Al-Falakiyah: Kids’ Edition

  1. Debbie Hale says:

    I have so enjoyed reading your very detailed blog about your fabulous experiences in Indonesia. I’m sure you are a changed enlightened person for all the amazing exposure you have had to this interesting culture! I have enjoyed the pictures of the beautiful children and it’s so nice to see that love exists everywhere!
    Debbie Hale


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