Sunday, January 29, 2012

on being propa innit (translation:proper, isn't it)

Quote of the day: We (malaysians) are very ritualistic.

We emphasize too much form over substance.

Everything must be proper. If we go to the masjid, we must wear kopiah and kain pelekat. No jeans.

If we pray, in must be in a proper prayer room, on a prayer mat. No praying outside.

Even when we've known someone and had a relationship for years and years, we still perform the formality of merisik (going to the house to meet and know the person and their family, i.e before marriage)
Note: i am not advocating relationships before marriage. This is just a description of our society today.

Showing outward propriety, while losing inward piety. We do these things without knowing and contemplating the actual meaning of them. I once asked a friend of mine,

Similarly, you could ask the same question to a lot of muslims nowadays;

This happens in literally every aspect of life, but take the prayer for a simple example. Allah says;

اتْلُ مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ إِنَّ الصَّلَاةَ تَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنْكَرِ وَلَذِكْرُ اللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَصْنَعُونَ

Recite what has been revealed to you of the Book (the Qur'ân), and perform As-Salât. Verily, As-Salât prevents from Al-Fahshâ' (i.e. great sins of every kind) and Al-Munkar. And remembrance of Allâh is greater indeed . And Allâh knows what you do. (Al Ankabut :45)

The prayer prevents from al Fahsha' and al-Munkar. We have been taught to pray since primary school, 

In primary school...

If we started praying at the age of 7, we would have been praying for more than 10 years now. THEORETICALLY, that would mean that we would have turned into very good people, not doing any fahsha' or munkar. Imagine if you did dishes for 10 years. You would be a pro, able to spot every microscopic bit if dirt on a plate. 

But that hasn't happened for our worship. If you did dishes for 10 years and you're still not a pro, maybe you weren't really whole-hearted in doing the dishes. Same here. Maybe we weren't whole-hearted in doing our worship.

We forgot that the prayer is a direct connection between a servant and his Lord, where the servant asks for protection and guidance.

We forgot that the prayer is to remind us of being aware that our deeds are always being recorded.

If we remembered this, surely we wouldn't do fahsha' and munkar.

But we don't learn the lessons. What we care about most and give priority to is proper clothing, proper ways of sitting, proper movements.

We forgot to have a proper heart.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

on how to talk about protests and flags while trying to maintain neutrality

Its been a week since i last wrote. Those bubblemen are starting to protest.

Protests, protests. Its becoming the Cool Word of 2011/2012. 

"You were one of the protesters at Tahrir Square?? would you like an interview?"

"I was one of the 99% who protested at Wall Street." 

"i'm protesting in Syria tomorrow. If anything happens, you can have my laptop."

And although the action is happening at the centre of the world, even countries on the peripheries (like Malaysia truly Asia have not been spared). Witness the recent fiasco over "the flag that shook a nation".

And some of the things i frequently hear is 

"Why are you protesting? you have a comfortable life. Okaylah tu, bersyukur."
"they're throwing away their future, protesting like that."
"protesting is not good at all. Look at the Arab countries. They rebelled. Are they more peaceful now? look at their country, its still in chaos."

Of course it would be daft to expect change in one night. Rome was not built in one day. Even the Prophet took 23 years to establish islam all over arabia, in the meanwhile encountering resistance and chaos.

I have no comments on the methods used by the protesters. Biasalah, darah muda (young blood). But the objects of their grievances are real. 

And i don't agree with the view of "why all the fuss, we have a stable and secure life". 

Sure, we have a stable and secure life. We have no external wars, no civil wars. That only means that there is no physical violence.

But violence occurs every day, right under our noses. We go to sleep full, whilst others in our neighbourhood don't have enough to eat. That is violence.

We are free. But our brothers are shackled, enslaved by the burden of debt and interest that they have to pay to the banks. That is violence.

Our fathers work hard and pay taxes. But some have the nerve to squander that money. That is violence.

This is what sociologists call "symbolic violence", the hidden modes of domination/oppression happening every day.

And as a famous man once said, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".

And an even more famous book says,

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَى وَيَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنْكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
Verily, Allâh enjoins Al-Adl (justice) and Al-Ihsân, and giving (help) to kith and kin and forbids Al-Fahshâ' (i.e all evil deeds) and Al-Munkar (i.e all that is prohibited by Islâmic law) and Al-Baghy(i.e. all kinds of oppression), He admonishes you, that you may take heed. (An Nahl:90)

The Prophet was undertaking a form of protest. He was trying to change the oppressive system of the Quraisy and the Arabs, changing them into a people who are just and kind and submit to Allah.

Corruption. Moral decay. Crime. etc.

A playwright once said,
"by continuing to play the roles assigned to them, “individuals confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system, are the system.”

If we do nothing to change the oppression, we are part of the oppression.

And how does change start? By protesting against our inner self.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

on the backbone of society

Yesterday i had the chance to meet the director of our local masjid.

We asked about the youth in the area. And he goes on to talk about the activities that are happening in the masjid:

"alhamdulilllah, this mosque is quite busy.."

"we have karate classes for the youth.."

"and football sessions.."

"and tajweed classes for around 200 people.."

"quran classes for kids up to 16.."

"classes for teachers, to teach them how to be better teachers.."

"and this evening, the businessmen in the area are having a meeting in the hall downstairs.."

Businessmen having their meetings in the mosque?? COOLNESS.

I am impressed at how they utilise the masjid. They really use it as a centre for building the community, to get them attached to the masjid and islam. And this is in a 'muslim minority' country. We need a lot more work in our 'islamic home sweet home'.

LOTS more work. And under-utilised mosques are only part of the problem. In our country, mosques are only for 'ibadah (prayers, talks, etc). And that's taking a narrow view on 'ibadah. It should be more than that. Mosques should be the backbone of our society.

This is how it is in our country. We should encourage people to come to the mosque. Clothing is not a barrier, as long as it covers our 'aurah and not vulgar etc.

It should be a place to educate the youth, where discussions happen, where problems within the community are solved. Why are people not attached to the mosque? because our hearts are dead. A lyric goes,

"our mosques are empty, our refridgerators stocked."

Reviving the hearts of this ummah. We've got a huge task ahead.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

on nature, nurture and the longing heart

One of the major debates on sociology, anthropology, psychology, and other social sciences, is this:


To put it another way,

"Were we born awesome, or are we influenced by awesomeness?"

To illustrate, imagine a "pious" boy.

this is so stereotypical. if you wear kopiah, you must be 'good' 
Imagine he goes into a 'real-world' place. For example, a pre-university college.

But you know, syaitan has been doing his job for thousands of years. He's a type-A pro. Sooner or later...

This is not fantasy. It happened to a friend of a friend of mine.

So, are we the product of nature or nurture? My personal experience suggests BOTH.

And the story of our beloved Prophet affirms this. He was by nature a good person. But there was one incident, where he wanted to join a festival in Makkah. But Allah, with his Wisdom, made Rasulullah sleep, thus keeping him away from the potentially rowdy and unsavoury environment. From this story, we learn one important lesson. Our environment is very important in shaping us.

If we want to be good, find a good environment.

If we want to be otherwise, so be it.

A prominent celebrity in malaysia said a very profound thing,
"If we want to change, Allah will send us people to help us."

I agree.

Ever imagined an environment where people would hurry up for prayers and call you to the masjid?

Ever imagined an environment where you are studying, and someone comes up to you with a cup of tea?

Ever imagined an environment where people remind you with words from the quran?

A few years ago, i didn't even imagine that such people exist. 

But they do. Keep looking.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

on the crumbling of battlefield lines

There are a lot of diseases afflicting our ummah, but today I would like to focus attention on one. In a lot of mosques that I've been to, there is a recurring syndrome:

"The Two-Saff Syndrome (TSS)"

Symptoms of TSS include:
- There would be only two lines of people praying behind the imam for Fajr,Zuhur,Asr,Maghrib,Isya', at most three lines
- The two lines consist of more or less the same people, day in and day out

And this is in malaysia, a country ranked 38 on the "Islamicity index", and which is a supposedly "islamic country"
(Footnote: we do not practise islam just to improve in world rankings. This is just an illustration)

Its the same almost everywhere. Go to KYUEM, its like that. Go to the mosque nearby my house, and its like that. But in the Kota Damansara mosque, there are encouraging signs. Its almost full for Fajr prayers, alhamdulillah. :-)

All diseases have outward symptoms. If you have lung disease, outward symptoms include breathing difficulties. Similarly, TSS is just a symptom of an underlying disease.

Our 'ulama say that going to the mosque is an expression of willingness to struggle in the way of Allah. When the muazzin calls,
"Hayya 'ala al-Falah" (Come towards victory)

We respond with vigour, saying
"We are in your service, O Allah, in your service"

And we hurry to the battlefield, to the frontlines, we are ready to strive in His way. So you see, our prayers, our fasts, they are not just rituals. They are training grounds for us to be Allah's servants in EVERY aspect of life. If we do not show to Allah that we are excited to be in His service, then we should not be appalled that Allah is not helping us like he helped Rasulullah and his companions

in a more ideal world
And its not an issue of how many people attend. In my opinion, one person going just for the sake of Allah is better than everyone going because its a cultural norm.

So going back to what we discussed previously. This is only a symptom of underlying afflictions. Is it because our spirit of jihad has decreased? Worldly pleasures have taken over us? Our hearts are not yearning for the pleasure of Allah? Or is it a symptom of the weakness that Rasulullah described:

"Loving this world, and dislike of death".

This is a time to look into our ourselves, and find the answer. Because we know ourselves better than anyone else.

The question is: why has the spirit of the ummah disappeared?

May Allah return this ummah to His pleasure. Amin.

Monday, January 9, 2012

On #901

Some people like numerical conspiracies, so with respect to all the excitement surrounding 901, I decided to look up the verse 9:01 in the quran.

"(this is a declaration of) immunity by Allah and his messenger towards those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement."

In this translation 'baraa'ah' is translated as immunity, but to be more accurate it means 'to let go of', 'not have anything to do with', 'cut off from'.

To paraphrase,

'Allah and his messenger do not want anything to do with the musyrikin'.

and in this surah, Allah did not even begin with a bismillah, as in other  surahs. The basmalah (bismillahirrahmanirrahim) indicates a merciful God. it is a stern warning to those who deny Allah and what rasulullah preached.


We can implement all the reforms we want, appease every single person, give away all the money we have,

But if there is no real reform in our hearts, real submission to Allah, then nothing can help us.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

On delivering even one sentence

Tonight I am going to share a famous hadeeth by the prophet SAW.

"deliver from me even one aayah (sentence/sign)"

Often people focus on the 'one aayah' part

"bg satu ayat je cukuplah"
"give one sentence is enough lah"

I'd like to draw your attention to this bit: deliver from me.

often we deliver things that other people say. Pak mat said this, Minah said that, harian metro said this,and so on.

Sometimes we disregard who said it, as long as its sensational.

"you know, that boy, he went to Ireland and got married blablabla.."
"aiyo, that person went to the UK and became like that?"

mulut xde insurans. And the author is also guilty as charged.

But how many of us deliver what the prophet said? Or what he did? What was his attitude like? Do we make him as our point of reference?

maybe we don't find his teachings sensational enough. If we did, we'd deliver more than one sentence.

Monday, January 2, 2012

on the revolution within

Apologies for the dearth of new material in this blog. I was on a 12-day exploration of self and truth.

The first awakening i had was on a similar trip 2 years ago. So it was nice to see new flowers bloom. 

And it was a nice self-exploration. 'Umar said there are three things you could do to know a person:

- eat together
- sleep (i don't know any other way to make this sound less ambiguous)
- travel together

So the first step is to know your demons. Next step is to banish them away. But don't banish your demons the Malay Way.

Self-improvement and control of the self is a matter of hard work, discipline and perseverence. Promising yourself you'd read a page of the quran per day. Or praying jamaah 5 times a day. Or fasting every monday and thursday. Or asking people to do good and leave the bad. Or attending circles every week. Repeat.

Istiqamah (perseverence) is an easy word to say, but very difficult to achieve.

Forget about New Year's resolution. You get spirited in the beginning, and fizzle out by February.

My Every Day's resolution is: to become a better slave of Allah.