Hari Raya Aidilfitri is a special occasion for Muslims to give thanks and rejoice for the strength given to them during the fasting month. It is also one of the most important festive celebrations, second only to Hari Raya Haji; family members and friends will gather together from afar and partake of delicacies and special Raya dishes.James Chua shared his thoughts on celebrating Hari Raya with his Deaf friends and families.

Such is the scene seen at the Ampang house of Saiful Amri bin Wahid (Amri) and the Seremban home of Nurliyana binte Jaya (Liyana) on the first day of Raya. Both are Deaf Graphic Design students in Limkokwing University of Technology (LUCT): Amri is doing his second diploma semester while Nurliyana (or Liyana) is due to complete her final degree semester this November.

Christopher (Chris) and I, together with several other Deaf university mates, gathered at Amri’s house early in the morning. Since it was the first day of Raya, Chris and I thought it’d be fun to wear baju Melayu so as to truly experience the Malay culture when visiting people’s homes. Datin Noormah Mohd Saad even exclaimed that we looked very nice in our baju Melayu when wwe greeted her and Dato Sri Ir Dr Wahid Omar, aged 57, Amri’s parents at his house.


Amri’s formulative years

From 1986 to 1990, Dato Wahid was doing his PhD in Structural Engineering at Nottingham University, UK where his family (three older children and wife) stayed with him as well. In 1987, when Datin Noormah was two months’ pregnant with Amri, a doctor did a baby scan and broke the bad news to them that Amri may be born Deaf, have a heart problem or become paralysed. It was a difficult time for them during Datin Noormah’s pregnancy. Just one day after Amri was born, another doctor did a hearing test and discovered that Amri could not hear in his right ear. Other than that, he was healthy.

“I asked the doctor what to do about Amri (being Deaf). She said that if she were me, she’d continue with him,” Dato Wahid recalled. From that moment, both parents strove to involve Amri in family gatherings and as a result, the family became closer, be it through various return trips to UK or at home.

Amri was fortunate to receive excellent hearing care from National Health Service, which included hearing aids and speech therapy. His parents also taught him how to read books, from which Amri learnt to speak (and lip-read). In 1989, he came back to Malaysia.  He did his primary education initially at a Deaf school at Kuantan for three years before transferring to Kampong Baru Deaf School in Kuala Lumpur.  He then sat for his PMR exams at Sek. Menengan Kebangsaan Bangsar (Bangsar National-type Secondary School) and studied at Sek. Pendidikan Khas Vokasional Shah Alam (Special Education Vocational School, Shah Alam).

Amri’s passions

While Dato Wahid was searching for suitable universities, Amri’s teacher recommended LUCT. Wilson Tham, Amri’s primary school-mate, brought him there where Dato Wahid found out more information about the available courses. Amri subsequently enrolled in the Graphic Design Diploma (GDD) course.

“I chose GDD because I like design. From young, I liked to play with the computer,” Amri explained, adding that his father gave him a Photoshop CD in 1995 which sparked his interest in computer design.  In fact, Dato’ Wahid said that he initially wanted Amri to study computing in university because of Amri’s strong passion!

Amri , who loves hanging out with friends and chatting online at home in his spare time, has no problem fitting within LUCT; he would often meet his lecturers after class and ask questions via paper and pen. His father would sometimes check his work whenever Amri brings back his homework.
His parents are visibly proud that Amri is already independent, a Raya wish long fulfilled.

“Amri showed me how to move around in the London Underground with a map when he was 15plus,” Dato Wahid remembers fondly, adding that he was very happy that Amri knew how to travel around London on his own at that time.

The meaning of Raya for Amri’s family

For Amri’s family, Raya means celebrating the festival with their extended family and friends. On the third day of this Raya, they would go back to Segamat, Johor, Dato Wahid’s hometown and visit his siblings and relatives. This Raya was especially meaningful for Amri as he would turn 21 on the first day of Raya.  Thus, their birthday wish for Amri is that he “would be a good boy and take care of himself”.  Amri aspires to become a good graphic designer after he graduates.


Liyana serving us the Raya spread (2)

Liyana of light

fter a delicious lunch at Amri’s house, we set off to Liyana’s home. Together with Liyana, her parents, Jaya bin Ibrahim, 51, and Laile Umey Kalsom Amat, 48, welcomed us into their lovely house. We had some biscuits and another Raya spread before I managed to talk with Jaya and Liyana.

So far, Liyana, 24 this year, is doing well in her degree studies despite being totally Deaf in the right ear and only able to hear 20% in her left ear.

She recalled her first year in LUCT; when she was scared and nervous about how she would fit into the classes with normal-hearing classmates and lecturers.

“My first language is Bahasa Melayu so when lecturers talked to me in English, I had several misunderstandings. But the lecturers were willing to help me in my studies,” Liyana signed, adding that she felt thankful that her classmates had been helping her with her studies right from the beginning of her diploma studies (she continued her degree studies at LUCT after graduating with a diploma).

Liyana has since learnt to be more independent and respects her parents for their constant encouragement.
Liyana’s childhood
Jaya explained that while Laile was pregnant with Liyana, she had a mild case of German measles so when Liyana was one and a half years old and did not respond when her father called her from the back. Her parent then brought her to see an ENT (Ear Nose Throat) doctor in Hospital University Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM), Kuala Lumpur and she was diagnosed as Deaf. Upon turning four years old, Liyana did the Nuri programme in Ampang with Dato’ Dr Nurlaily for a while.
As an engineer with Petronas, Jaya has travelled constantly for the past 25 years and he regretted not teaching her to lip-read when Liyana was younger. He felt that Liyana would integrate better with the Hearing world if she could lip-read and talk.

Liyana’s family’s traditions and meaning of Raya

The Jaya family (Liyana is the eldest of three children) has an unique Raya tradition of going over to Liyana’s paternal grandfather’s house to seek his forgiveness before going to the mosque and visiting the cemetery to recite prayers for their deceased relatives. Only after completing these important rituals can they go back to their house to wait for guests and relatives to celebrate Raya.

Jaya’s eyes softly twinkled when he was asked about the meaning of Liyana’s name: Nur means light in Arabic and Liyana refers to ‘soft as feather or wool’. So when Liyana was born, Jaya hoped that she would become a good daughter. His Raya wish for Liyana is that she “would be successful in her job and remember her traditional values” while they would continue to “pray for her well-being”.

My final thoughts on Raya

Altogether, it was a meaningful and enjoyable Raya for me as I got to know more about Amri and Liyana and their families. What I would always remember is their parents’ extremely kind welcome to me and the delicious Raya food.

Challenges Vol2 Issue4, 2009 (Challenges Magazine is a journalism skills training project for persons with disabilities started in 2007)