However, the potential has not been utilized properly for a long time.
Palembang, S Sumatra (ANTARA) - Street bazaars where beverages for iftar are usually sold are easy to find during the holy month of Ramadan as they provide a great opportunity to anyone looking to earn a fortune.

In Palembang City, South Sumatra Province, a street bazaar has been held for ages in the courtyard of the Great Mosque of Palembang.

Various local culinary items are sold at the bazaar, such as pempek, laksa, celipungan, gandus, and gonjing, making it a popular destination for the community to spend their time while waiting for the iftar hour.

However, there were no bazaars at the mosque’s courtyard in 2020 and 2021 due to the tight enforcement of COVID-19 community activity restrictions (PPKM).

With the government relaxing the PPKM enforcement recently, the bazaar has been reopened in the courtyard since April 8, 2022.

Thanks to the collaboration with Bank Syariah Indonesia (BSI), a state-owned Islamic bank, the implementation of the bazaar during the 2022 Ramadan has been more organized.

In addition to culinary products, the bazaar is also selling clothes, hijab, ‘mukena’ (Indonesian hijab used for praying), traditional ‘jumputan’ cloth, and other products.

The price of the beverages sold is quite cheap. A small egg ‘pempek’ can be purchased for Rp1,500 (US$0.1), while fruit juice costs only Rp5 thousand (US$0.35) per cup.

The bazaar also provides a dining area for visitors who want to have iftar at the location so they can immediately perform their Maghrib prayer at the Great Mosque.

The head of the Foundation of the Grand Mosque of Palembang, Ahmad Sarnubi, said that the implementation of the activity is aimed at reviving the people's economy, which has been affected by the COVID-19.

Most of the traders at the bazaar are women. Some of them are members of the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) association.

"Mosques should not only be worship places, but they can also become places to develop the community’s economy," the head of the foundation said.

According to him, the perception that it is not proper to use mosques as centers of public economic activities needs to be changed.

Mosques must be seen as strategic places for the development and empowerment of the people.

Hence, from the beginning, the foundation has always provided opportunities for any stakeholder to utilize the Grand Mosque of Palembang to empower the community.

Moreover, the mosque -- which is strategically located opposite the famous local attraction Ampera Bridge -- has a wide urban green space.

In addition, the upper floor of the mosque is often used for exhibitions, Sarnubi said.

One of the Palembang culinary traders at the bazaar, Ami, said that she was grateful for the implementation of the bazaar.

"Since my husband has died, I want to gain extra money for my family to celebrate Eid al-Fitr," she added.

Usually, during the previous Ramadan, she only sold her products near her residence.

However, in 2022, she received an invitation from the head of her local neighborhood who is encouraging empowerment programs for MSMEs owned by widows.

Promoting the sharia economy

Bank Syariah Indonesia (BSI) has established similar bazaars simultaneously in 10 cities throughout Indonesia. The activity has been organized at the largest mosque in each city.

CEO of Southern Sumatra Region III of BSI Alhuda Djanis said that the activity has been held to help the community members to fulfill their necessities to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan and the holy day of Eid al-Fitr.

In addition, the activity has become an opportunity for MSME players to promote their products.

It is also aimed at reviving the people's economic sector from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We chose the mosques to host the bazaars because we must encourage the mosque to not only become a worship place but also be a place to encourage the people's economy," the official remarked.

Hence, BSI has held several activities to introduce the sharia economy -- Islamic financial system -- to the public at various mosques.

In the last few years, the market share of Islamic banking in Indonesia has stagnated in the range of 5.0 percent.

Djanis said he is optimistic that BSI can improve the market share since currently, it is the largest Islamic bank in Indonesia with an asset value of Rp260 trillion (US$17.94 billion).

With the enterprise’s current assets and increasing dissemination attempts regarding sharia economy, he is hopeful that in the future, more people will be interested in utilizing Islamic banking in their daily life.

Empowering the people

Earlier, Vice President Ma'ruf Amin had also emphasized the potential of mosques for becoming the bases for economic empowerment of communities during a webinar on ‘Establishing a Mosque-Based Indonesian Islamic Civilization.’

“However, the potential has not been utilized properly for a long time. Hence, it is important to restore the function of the mosque as a center of people’s economic empowerment," he remarked.

Thus, a business model that can encourage people to directly get involved in the empowerment program is required, he added.

For instance, this can be done by making the mosque congregation an integrated economic chain of producers and customers for fulfilling their daily needs.

In addition, mosque congregations can establish an ultra-micro sharia financial institution to help provide capital to small entrepreneurs who do not have access to capital from banks.

The community empowerment attempt can strengthen the role of mosques as centers of people’s activities.

In the long term, the effort is expected to rebuild an excellent Islamic civilization in Indonesia.

Hence, the function of mosques as well as the activities and services conducted at worship places need to be bolstered through good management and organization.

Furthermore, optimizing the role of mosques, including as centers of people's economic empowerment, would indirectly support the government’s efforts to develop human resources.

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Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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