HE LOOKS like your typical expatriate engineer who spends four to five hours every day under the hot sun drilling, welding and designing systems for an offshore supply base in Loyang.
Observing the requirements of his faith, New Zealander Ross William Asyraf Clarke, 48, a Muslim convert, fasts even though he works under the sun for four to five hours daily at the Loyang offshore supply base. — ENRIQUE SORIANOExcept that Mr Ross William Asyraf Clarke has not stopped for lunch or tea breaks in the last three weeks.
He is fasting, along with more than 543,000 Muslims here during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. They abstain from food and drink for an average of 13 hours a day.
Mr Clarke, a 48-year-old New Zealander who has lived here for 23 years, became a convert in May this year.
About 500 people here convert to Islam each year. That has been the average since the 1990s, said the Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore.
They include Chinese and Indian Singaporeans, Koreans, Japanese, Italians, New Zealanders, Swiss, French and Americans.
This compares to the average of about 200 a year in the 1970s and 400 a year in the 1980s. It is the second year that Mr Clarke has fasted during Ramadan.
‘Last year, I fasted even though I wasn’t a Muslim yet because I wanted to know whether I could do it. At first, it was tough. It was the thirst that got to me, not the hunger,’ he said.
‘I find fasting easier this year. Now, I have faith behind me and more determination. The cooler weather’s also helping.’
A Buddhist for 16 years before his conversion, Mr Clarke said he had always wanted to learn about Islam but had difficulty finding an English translation of the Quran.
Then he was introduced to a Muslim woman who worked near his workplace in Loyang. She lives in Haig Road, in Geylang, next to the Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore, so she took him there.
Ten months later, he became a Muslim. They were engaged a month later, in June this year.
Islam requires all healthy Muslims to fast during Ramadan to spiritually cleanse themselves and to understand the sufferings of those less fortunate. Pregnant and menstruating women as well as Muslims who are too old or too ill are exempted.
Madam Siti Nur Falizah Abdullah, 23, a student at Central Queensland University, has not been able to fast in recent years because of successive pregnancies.
Now the mother of two young sons, Madam Falizah, who is an Australian, had converted when she got married. Her mother, brother and younger sister have also converted to Islam.
Since Ramadan began, she has lost between 3kg and 4kg. She said: ‘Fasting teaches Muslims like me to put ourselves in the shoes of others who are not as fortunate and do not have food to eat.’