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Saturday, 22 December 2007

History's Greatest Battles

It's a long list from 490B.C until 1954:

Fasting: Stronger or sleepier?

From the viewpoint of Abu Saif:

“You neither eat nor drink the whole day?” Tan asked me.

“Yes. The whole day. But not at night. Only from dawn to sunset”, I replied.

“How can you survive? Can you survive?”, Tan asked again.

I smiled.

“Well, it’s not just you. Even Habib Bourguiba, the late President of Tunisia who was also a ‘Muslim’, convinced that fasting is against productivity. You know the history?”, I took my turn asking Tan my question.

“How should I know? Tell me!”, he said.

In 1961, Habib Bourguiba made a controversial statement claiming that fasting should not be observed for it reduces productivity. He then appeared on television with his cabinet, eating and drinking during Ramadhan.

“Why so harsh?”, Tan was shocked.

“I don’t know. Was it out of ignorance or arrogance? Perhaps a combination of both”, I replied.

Even though fasting is there in the name of Lent among Christians, it is always the Muslim’s version that cultivates questions and debates.

In order to understand about the real meaning of fasting, one should agree that it has something to do with our own paradigm and world view. The way we view things; like I always quote, “what you see is what you get”.

Viewing fasting in many ways:

If you see fasting as a way for better diet, you will benefit that from fasting. But fasting will only be a mechanism of improving your diet.

If you see fasting as a way to save your daily expense by breaking your fast daily in the mosque, then you will be able to achieve that. But that’s it. No more than that.

If you see fasting as a way for you to gain reward or ‘pahala’ from Him, then it is a good motive and sound intention. But reward and pahala is something that you can hardly measure in this physical and worldly life. You don’t see someone obese out of pahala. It is something else!

And strangely, the last 10 days of Ramadhan are the most rewarded and full of pahala, but then you’ll see the mosques are empty.

So, what Ramadhan and fasting are all about?

If you see fasting as abstaining one from eating, drinking, having sexual intercourse during the daytime, and reducing the wrongdoings of backbiting what so ever… that is the definition of fasting. But it only explains the mechanism of fasting as ritual.

Let us take a look at the origin of Muslims’s version of fasting. Al-Quran says:

“O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become the people with the quality of Taqwa” (Al-Baqarah 2: 183)

Fasting is a mechanism to achieve Taqwa. You abstain yourself from eating and drinking, in order to achieve Taqwa. How is that?


Taqwa can be defined in many ways. But the conversation between Ubay bin Kaab and Umar al-Khattab was a good summary about the essence of Taqwa. Once, Umar asked Ubay what he knows about Taqwa. Ubay replied by asking him, “Have you walked through thorny path?”

Umar answered, “Yes, indeed.”

Ubay then asked him, “What did you do?”

Umar replied, “I tucked up (my garment) and did my best (to avoid thorns).”

There upon Ubay said, “That is Taqwa!”

Our life is a journey like someone who is driving from a place to another. Throughout the journey, he will meet many road signs that might instruct him to do against his will. He wants to drive at full speed, but a sign says, “No, the limit is only 80km/h”.

He wants to arrive as early as possible but suddenly a red light instructs him to stop and let others move first.

Someone who is wise and on top of his rational thinking, would never, ever see all the road signs as a challenge to his right exercising his freedom. The truth is, the road signs are there to help him achieve safety throughout the journey until he reaches his destination.

The same thing applied to our big picture of this life. The do’s and don’ts of Islam are not the obstructions and challenges to the access of his freedom of choice. They come from the Creator who knows better what is good and what is bad in this life. They are there for our safety, peace and harmony.

Someone who has the quality of Taqwa will take his journey like someone who walks through thorny path. He is a person with a full of consciousness about what is good and what is bad around him. He must also have a good self control, like a person who is good in controlling his car steering.

If someone does not take his lunch because there is nothing to eat, then it causes him tiredness and anger.

But a believer who chooses not to eat while he has everything to do so, for the sake of obeying his Lord, then he is exercising his ability to control himself against some of his desires.

You can eat, but you don’t eat. You can drink, but you learn not to drink, so that you can tell yourself that you are a proactive person. Not a reactive one.

A reactive person will get mad when something stimulates him to anger. He will be sad and out of control when something causes him sadness.

He has no ‘pause’ button. He has no ability to control himself to choose a better reaction. His actions are determined by things around him. He is not the one who controls himself. He is occupied by others. He is under the real occupation of others.

A Muslim is not an effective Muslim at all if he does not have a control over his own actions. He must be a proactive Muslim.

Return back your self control… you are the strongest!

Fasting makes us stronger, if we correct the way we view it.

Fasting is a 30-day intensive training course for the 7 Habits of a Highly Effective Muslim.

Remember everyone! "What you see is what you get."
Assalamualaikum. (Peace be upon you)

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Let this be a lesson to all Muslims

From the viewpoint of Abu Saif:

The Inter-Civilizational Youth Engagement Program (IYEP) has given me lots of ideas about many things. A lot has to be analised and be shared with readers.

Overall, I'm impressed with the participants' quality. Every one who had applied for the program needs to write a composition to state why he/she is interested in joining programs like this and it is followed up by an interview with the participant through the telephone.

Without a doubt, the assessment yield in the most suitable participants and I'm amazed by the youths' high level of knowledge about issues that are discussed in this program until Karen Armstrong herself learned lots of new stuff that she asked the participants' permission to use those ideas in her talks and writing.

Without a doubt, the Q & A session and the program itself have shown that the 50 IYEP participants are the great leaders of the future and may God (Allah s.w.t) extend my age to see it become a reality.

However, our excitement and happiness with new experiences has been marred by a certain embarassing incident, especially to Islam.

On the second day of the program, we have planned visits to the Hindu and
Buddha Temple and also the Catholic Church in Kajang. The trip is expected to end with the visit to one of the famous mosques in our country.

Plans have been made for quite some time and lots of activities have been organised.

What impressed us most is the
Hindu Temple's eagerness who organised a lot of activities, providing vegetarian meals for the participants and also held a Q & A session for the participants.

The same eagerness was shown by the
Buddha Temple that we visited. The dialogue session was really interesting. Even though there some silly questions from the participants but it was answered in a cheerful and happy environment by everybody there because the main purpose of this trip is to learn.

In the program organising stage, the Catholic Church looks nervous. Through the discussion before the start of the IYEP program, there are some worries and we understand it because of the current issues in
Malaysia which are still hot (the Lina Joy case and others). In the end, we have successfully managed a very harmonic visit and the what I appreciate the most is that the padre who is supposed to greet us to the church has asked for the help of other church officers as he himself had to go to the hospital for a heart check-up.

The dialogue session was pretty good.

We have reminded the participants a few times to not raise their voices while in the church to maintain the quiet surroundings. The quiet surroundings are very important for a Catholic Church. Well, young people are young people. The IYEP this time around yields participants who have lots of issues to discuss about in the church but the church people are really open-minded and just smiled at the behaviour of some of the participants.

After the visit was over, we felt eager and cheerful heading the mosque.

When we arrived at the mosque, there was no one there to greet us.

The security staff on the other hand complicated things further because they did not allow the participants to use some of the toilets.

Alhamdulillah (All praise for Allah), a technician handed us a video clip to be shown to the participants. We had to do everything ourselves and we feel bitterly dissappointed as the 10-minute video clip is only eager to show the architecture aspects of the mosque. There is nothing in the video clip that touches about Islam that acts as a stepping stone and a solid base for a mosque.

The Q & A session was handled by the IYEP committee.

The uncomfortable surroundings did not stop there.

The 50 participants are ready to enter the mosque and the girls have worn their headscarf and the hijjab that was provided.

"Stop! Non-Muslims can only reach to this point!", one of the security staff shouted. "Do not mar the pureness of this mosque!, he continued.

All the participants were shocked. I myself had already felt pain in my ears because of that.

"Sir, we have already discussed with the Imam about this visit since a bit more than a month ago." explained one of the IYEP committee members.

"Where is the Imam's letter? If you don't have one, you can't enter. Visiting time is over!", the staff spoke so roughly to us while the two other security staff are busy surrounding the stairs of the mosque so that the participants who are excited to see the mosque will not step onto the stairs.

We tried to call the Imam, but it is really unfortunate as the Imam had already went back. There are officers who gave excuses that the Imam went back because we came after office hours while the Imam has to be ready before coming back to the mosque that night.

There are other officers that gave other excuses that the Imam is busy settling some things with his children!

What really hurts us most is that our effort to get an explanation from them was answered with insults and high pitch voices (shouting).

"You handed in the letter late, right?", one of the mosque staff tried to falsely accuse us.

"Do not simply make false accusations. Refer back to the letters and the telephone calls that have been made. Count how many days, how many weeks , how many months!" I'm starting to blow my top with their attitude and behaviour.

"Whatever it is, non-Muslims CANNOT enter the mosque. That is the rule!" one of the ustaz raised his voice.

"Whose rules? The rules of the religion? What I know is, Rasulullah s.a.w (Prophet Muhammad) accepts all kinds of humans into the mosque. Q & A in the mosque. Even the Arab Bedouin peed at the wall of the mosque but Rasulullah s.a.w did not prevent them from visiting the mosque. Which rules you are standing by?" I tried to find an explanation.

"I went to the Hindu and Buddha Temple and also the Catholic Church... I felt easy and happy by their hospitality. But when I come to my own place, this mosque... I feel hurt by the way the mosque ill-treated visitors. We are not WALK-IN TOURISTS. We have already do business with the mosque for a long time about this visit." I'm still not satisfied.

My hand is already cold holding back my anger.

Assuming that the visitors couldn't enter the mosque, the mosque staff should have explained this issue in a civilized way but we were insulted and when I say it, I really mean INSULTED.

"The problem is that you came after office hours. That's why no one came to welcome you to the mosque." said one of the staff.

"We did not came by surprise. It's already from the start that we agreed that this visit will be on evenings like this. The sick padre can ask the other officers' help, but can't the Imam get a replacement?" I'm getting fed-up with this but I tried not to repeat during my 20's approach where in cases like these, I would have let out words that are more rough and insulting.

"Now, everyone feels happy to go to the church, the Hindu and Buddhist Temple, but got insulted at the mosque. IF PEOPLE ARE NOT INTERESTED IN ISLAM, PEOPLE WHO RENOUNCE ISLAM, WHO ARE YOU TO BLAME FOR THESE THINGS? Try to speak to me... I'm a Muslim whose feelings are hurt and what about the other people!" I'm trying to control my emotion inside me.

A lot of excuses were given. Finally, they said that they are following orders from the top management to not allow non-Muslims to enter the mosque.

"Oh, the top management. If it comes from the top management, just say from the top management. Don't say that it is the rule of Islam, because Islam is not like that.", I continued to explain.

"Why do people do bad things or say bad things inside the mosque? Because no one in this mosque wanted to answer questions and treat the visitors nicely. Like today!" I said.

I became sad because of this.

I felt that it was not worth it to pursue this issue for any longer as the time had already struck 6.15p.m.

There was a lot of issues that was debated during the 20-minute ordeal between me and the mosque officers.

During the sharing moment of the participants at the hotel that night, this issue had resurfaced. I had to make a justification so that the honour of Islam does not go down the drain as a result of bad behaviour by the Muslims at the mosque itself.

"I'm hoping that the incident in the mosque today, would be a positive lesson for each of us. Even though we had many ideal solutions to offer, we have to admit that people out there are far from ready to accept changes in attitude about religion. In order to achieve our dream, we must first be able to think positive and learn to differentiate between the custom and widespread misunderstanding among the people, with the true Islam that is so far away from what we have seen today." I tried to calm down the participants.

I tried to share my experience with the participants about my approach when being an Imam at the Belfast Islamic Centre in Northern Ireland.

I hope this little effort will manage to recover the true Islam's images among the participants that has been made bad by the people at the mosque in the evening.

Karen Armstrong has had more success in lifting the image of Islam compared to the "talks" and the attitude of the Muslims themselves.

I cried alone in the hotel room thinking about the shameful incident that happened in the mosque.

From Abu Saif's viewpoint in the true story above, let this be a lesson to all Muslims so that we will be able to lift the true image of Islam and not ridicule the beauty of Islam like what the people in the mosque did.

Until then, Assalamualaikum. (Peace be upon you)

Saturday, 1 December 2007


I wonder, how is the holidays for me? This is my answer: boring! I miss meeting my friends in IBDP, especially Syed, Apit, Ikhwan, Li Ying, Sarah and Camellia... I wish that the holiday is just a short one.

However, there are a lot of assignments during the holiday.. This takes up most of my holiday. I'll list down my assignments below:
1. Extended Essay (English)
2. World Literature Essay (English)
3. Economics Commentary 2
4. Business IA
5. Maths portfolio
6. The 'dreaded' physics reports
7. TOK Essay
8. TOK Presetation
9. CAS forms

Those assignments are big monsters... (Ikhwan said this to me because he learned about this from Mr. Shaw). However, they can be taken down once we start cracking.. So far, I made little headway in those assignments. I feel lazy to do it but I have to...

Well, this is all I can write for this post...
As Dr. Reed would say, "Happy Writing."
Till then, assalamualaikum (peace be upon you) and goodbye to all those who read my blog.