Thursday, January 25, 2007

3 Handfuls of Earth

I've been attending a course on funerals for the last few months. I thought it would be my $0.02 worth to at least disseminate some of the less-known sunnahs attached to funerals.

One of the less known sunnahs is the throwing of 3 handfuls of soil into the open grave. I try to do it when I can, but in cases of burials of people I am not close to, I do not, because it draws quizzical stares, and I don't want to offend anybody at a sad event like a burial.

Anyway, here is an excerpt from Fiqh us-Sunnah (yes - I'm quoting from Fiqh us-Sunnah - to show that this practice is not a "new" innovation) -

"It is desirable to encourage those attending the burial to throw three handfuls of soil over the grave from the head of the body.
This is based on a hadith by Ibn Majah which says: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, once offered a funeral prayer and then went to the deceased's grave and threw three handfuls of soil from near the deceased's head."
Abu Hanifah, Ash-Shafi'i, and Ahmad hold that when throwing the first handful one should say, "Of this (i.e. the earth) We created you," and on the second one should say, "And to it shall We cause you to return," and on the third handful one should say, "And of it We shall cause you to be resurrected a second time."
This is based on a hadith that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said this when his daughter Umm al-Kulthum was laid in her grave. " [end of quote]

"Of this We created you,
To it We cause you to return,
And of it We shall cause you to be resurrected."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Habib Umar bin Hafiz Coming to Singapore

20 / 02/ 2007
Masjid Ansar (mawlid aft maghrib)
talk is after Ishak

21/ 02/ 2007
Masjid Kassim (Short lecture)
at maghrib
and after Ishak Masjid Istigfar (talk)

22/ 02/ 2007
Masjid Mukminin (Short lecture)
aft Zuhur and
after Ishak Masjid Ba alawi

23 / 02/ 2007
Masjid Abdul Aleem Siddique
after Ishak (Qasida Burdah session aft Maghrib)

For info on Habib Umar, visit ihsan's blog at the Light of Eminence.

Watch this Video.

Syed Hussein Alatas Passes Away

The great thinker of Malay anthropology passed away in KL this morning.

“History is a conflict of two moral types - the predatory and the constructive - and these can be found in all societies, all civilizations”

Among his prominent books are The Sociology of Corruption (1968) , Kita dengan Islam (1972), Modernization and Social Change in Southeast Asia (1972), and The Myth of the Lazy Native (1977). They have left an indelible contribution to the thought behind the policies regarding the Malay people, whether amongst those who agree with him, as well as those who do not. That is the sign of the greatness of an idea, and a sign of the greatness of the mind behind it. May God bless him, and may be be with the One whom he loves. "Indeed from God we come, and indeed to Him is our return."


I realised the links in my post on Abused Children Can't Speak Up did not work.
Have remedied the fault.

Monday, January 22, 2007


MY picture for this blog profile is my walking stick.
Let me explain this.
In the Sufi tradition, there a few stages in the life of a person.
First is infancy, where a person is not responsible in the Syariah for what is done.
In this phase the person is essentially a learner, a follower.
The emphasis is physical development.
Then comes puberty which starts the phase of adulthood.
In this phase a person applies what is learnt, to earn a livelihood, to have a family, to mature.
The emphasis is on intellectual development.
This leads to the next phase, or maturity.
This is when the person has crossed the age of 40 years.
In this stage, the person has mastered the skills needed to survive or prosper in the world, and starts thinking about whether there is more to life.
If this spirit of inquiry and search is not given proper spiritual guidance, it ends up being channelled to other pursuits, and this is referred to as a midlife crisis by those who do not believe in spirituality.
In Sufism, this stage of searching and re-assessment markes the age where the person is actually spiritually mature.
The emphasis in this phase is spiritual development. Our Master the Prophet s.a.w. did state that the age of his ummah is 40 years, and anything more is a blessing.
Our Master the Prophet (s.a.w.) received his revelation, and thus his apostleship, at age 40.
God spoke to Moses (a.s.) on the mountain at the same age.
Now, in the Sufi tradition, upon reaching 40, certain sunnahs apply to a person which did not apply before.
One of them is the use of a walking stick.
Our Master the Prophet (s.a.w.) was known to have a stick with him on various occassions, based on the hadith descriptions of when he gave a Friday sermon and when he touched the Black Stone of the Kaabah with his stick instead of kissing it.
The Prophet Moses (a.s.) had a stick with him when he spoke to God on the mountain, and God told him to cast the stick on the ground, whereupon it became a serpent.
Imam as-Shafie always carried a walking stick. When asked why, he replied because it reminded him that he was a traveller in the world. This is a clear reference to the hadith of our Master that he is a traveller resting for a while in the shade of a tree, and he will soon move on.
The great Malay 'ulama HAMKA always carried a stick too.
Presently in Singapore, Ustaz Hasbi and Ustaz Zakaria Bagarib use walking sticks.

Now, Mrs Mudpie suggested that I follow this sunnah.
The idea struck me as strange. I procrastinated, and she bought me one.
I was taken by surprise, and, having no excuse left, I started to carry the stick with me.
It felt good. I felt that I was doing something that was in honour of the Prophet (s.a.w.).

The reactions I received were interesting.
Non-Muslims thought I had an injury or something, and they wished me a quick recovery.
This I could deal with, it is never my practice to declare the reasons behind the practices of my faith to others anyway.
Muslims who were not aware of the sunnah - when told it was a sunnah - usually reacted with scepticism, and viewed me suspiciously as if I was suddenly ascribing to some kind of strange cult. This I could deal with, I have always done things that were strange to others, as there are always people who do not understand.
Muslims who were aware of the sunnah - were encouraging and wished me well and left it at it, whereas some said it is not a relevant thing today and looked at me strangely.
This was a little more tricky.
On one hand it is good to receive positive feedback, but it can also lead to feelings of pride and arrogance, which would defeat the purpose of any act of worship.
In particular, I bumped into an imam of a mosque on 2 separate occassions by coincidence, and I had my stick with me. He didnt say anything, but later expressed wonder - about how "excellent" a person I was, to a friend of mine.
My friend relayed this to me, and I instinctively felt pride.
Then I just felt ashamed. Then I was befuddled. Was I making Islam more eccentric than necessary? What sort of da'wah was I doing? Is this sunnah something relevant in my context, not being a member of the asatizah community?
I didnt know what to do, so I stopped using the stick for a while.
I pondered whether I could still observe the sunnah in some other, possibly symbolic manner, for example. That led nowhere.

I re-analysed my use of the stick, and after consulting people who know better, I came to the following policy:
1. I shall carry the walking stick whenever I am at a place where I will be performing ibadah, such as the mosque, or majlis, or religious classes.
2. I shall carry a long umbrella in place of the stick on all other occassions.
3. I shall carry the walking stick when I dress "formally", that is, whenever I wear my turban or songkok. This is to complete the sunnah of the Prophet's s.a.w. dress code.
Okay, the whole thing sounds like much ado about nothing, but I believe that as far as possible, I would like to honour the Prophet s.a.w. in whatever best way that I can, and if by doing something that he practised I can in any way be like him, or at least be reminded of him, I would like to do it.
This sunnah of the stick is interesting, because unlike the other sunnahs, there is no fiqh attached to it, so there is no right or wrong about it.

There is no obvious purpose to this sunnah, and nothing else is connected to it.
So you end up with your own reasons and intentions for doing it.
Maybe that is intentionally so.
Maybe that is why this sunnah is reserved for those who have reached maturity.

Has the stick made a difference?

A definite yes. It reminds me that I am on my way.

Abused Children Cant Speak Up

In my years as a criminal lawyer, I have seen some terrible things.
Few are as bad as abuse to children.
Please take a look at this ad and look out for the children around you.
Abuse is more common than we would all like to think it is.
It only stops if other people stop it.

Children are abused precisely because they cannot speak up.
We must speak for them.
Too many children have died due to the silence of others.


"Apabila kemiskinan menanti dipintu kasih sayang akan lari keluar tingkap"
"When poverty awaits at the door, love runs out the window."

HAMKA pernah dipenjara Soekarno kerana menerbitkan tulisan Bung Hatta yang berjudul 'Demokrasi Kita' yang terkenal itu.
Tulisan itu berisi kritikan tajam terhadap konsep Demokrasi Terpimpin yang dijalankan Soekarno.
Namun dia tidak pernah menyimpan dendam pada Bung Karno.
Buktinya, ketika Bung Karno wafat, HAMKA-lah yang menjadi imam saat sholat jenazahnya.
Sikap yang berpegang pada prinsip dan hati ini tidak luput dari tempaan perjalanan hidupnya.
HAMKA was ever imprisoned by Sukarno for editing the famous writings of Hatta entitled "Our Democracy".
The writing was a sharp critique of the concept of Guided Democracy launched by Sukarno.
Nevertheless, HAMKA never kept a grudge against Sukarno.
This is evident in that when Sukarno later passed away, it was HAMKA who led the funeral prayer for him.
This attitude of holding on to his principles and his heart never faded from the route of his life's journey.

HAMKA was a great thinker, religious reformer, laureate, rebel commander, national leader, political prisoner of conscience, sufi, modernist, philosopher and most of all, a great person.

Who says we dont have saints anymore?

Self, Stone Thyself

"If you consider yourself honoured by the diamond, and humiliated by the stone, God is not with you."

- Attar

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sufi Aphorism for the Day

"Men Are Scum."

That's the aphorism for today.
I see so many cases of men treating their women badly, that I believe it is in their nature that they are scum.
One of the girls working for me, she has 3 kids, came back from maternity leave a month ago depressed.
I thought it was post partum depression, but it turned out she discovered her husband had been sleeping over at his girlfriend's place when he should have been at night shift.
Then he had the nerve to try and blame her by saying that she neglected him.
She just had his baby, for heaven's sake!
Then there is this Indonesian retaurant in Kandahar Street which is famous because its owner announces that he has two wives.
Recently Aa Gym took another one as well.
That Dato' in Malaysia divorced his wife of many years, mother of his grown children, who was with him during his rise to success, and married a floozy 20 years younger than him.
Dont get me wrong, I am not saying that men are scum because I think I am better.
Rather I am so frightened that it is something so innate and inherent in us that I pray I am given the strength to resist it and never succumb to it.
This is where the film Closer is informative.
At one point Natalie Portman's character said, there is always the opportnity to be unfaithful, but all you need is to say no.
The Elton John song goes - "It's no sacrifice- it's just a simple word."
Okay, so "Men Are Scum" is not a Sufi aphorism.
But it really should be.
We need to know our weakness so we can keep an eye on it.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


I saw Scoop (2006) starring Woody Allen, Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansson.
My advice : skip it.

Friday, January 19, 2007

John Tucker Must Die

Saw John Tucker Must Die.
OK, I needed a break.
And Shareen told me it was funny.
Mrs MudPie and I both had some good laughs.
John Tucker is the hottest guy in school and some of them want to get their revenge on him for two-timing them.
They get a new girl in school, prep her up, and get John Tucker to fall for her, so that on his birthday bash, she would dump him and break his heart.
Sounds like a team of creative geniuses really worked long hours to come up with the idea behind the film.
The director is Betty Thomas who directed "The Brady Bunch Movie", "Doctor Dolittle", who also produced "Charlie's Angels." That should explain things.
See this for the laughs and dont expect anything else.

Happy New Year

Another page of time turns as we struggle and stumble towards our Destination.

Life is the Journey, and there's nothing to pack, for nothing is what you need.

The Lake House

I watched The Lake House.
It is a nice film with a nice idea and nice feel to it.
Nice soundtrack and nice photography.
Why am I such a wimp for these sad love movies?
And Keanu looks better here than ever.
I think he always looked good, without being too prettyboyish.
Great performances by the cast really pulls this film from what would otherwise have been a flat film.
Both Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves were so believeable, and pulled you into the film with them.
Should watch Keanu.
I got a bit tired of him during the Matrix series.
Have to borrow Through the Scanner Darkly when it comes out.
By the way, the Lake House is written by the same Korean guy who wrote Il Mare, the Korean film upon which the Lake House is adapted from.
There is a good spiritual message in this film, which is well summed up in Spirituality & Practice : Film Review of this movie -
Waiting patiently for love is very difficult in this day and age when we squirm when we have to wait a few seconds for an elevator, get frustrated when we are put on hold on the telephone, and look for instant messages on our computers.
The Lake House operates at a different pace.
The characters linger over their letters and gaze thoughtfully into the distance as they try to absorb their situation.
In one scene Kate sits quietly in a restaurant for hours.
The key to their love is the ability to keep their hope alive while they wait.
And so it often is for the rest of us.

I recommend this film very much.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Most Stylish Guide to Life in a Madrasah

This is the handbook for Madrasah al-Irsyad.
I like the way they make the school attractive and cool.
Here's the link to Madrasah al-Irsyad (that's al-Irshad in English).

Thanks to the Light of Eminence.

The Unbearable Kindness of God

From Mere Islam: My Favorite Sufi Aphorism

One day, a rich man came to Rabi'a al-'Adawiyyah and said, "For many years I've lived a very spoiled, arrogant and sinful life. If I repent now will God forgive me?"
Rabi'a replied, "No, but if God forgives you, you will repent."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Invitation

Come, come, whoever you are.
Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn't matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come. [Rumi]

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Life @ the Bottom

I went to Wardah and bought this book that I had been waiting for - Life at the Bottom by Theodore Dalrymple. I devoured it all last night.

An interesting quote from the book describes one of the phenomena that we face today :

"Entertainment, absorbed passively, informs them, through television and films, of a materially more abundant and more glamourous way of life and thus feeds resentment. A sense of their own nothingness and failure breeds powerful emotions - especially jealousy and the intense desire to dominate or possess someone else in order to feel in control of at least one aspect of life. It is a world in which men dominate women to inflate their egos, and women want children "so that I can have something of my own" or someone to love and who'll love me."
Personal relationships in this world are purely instrumental in meeting the need of the moment. They are fleeting and kaleidoscopic, though correspondingly intense. After all, no obligations or pressures - financial, legal, social, or ethical - keep people together. The only cement for personal relationships is the need and desire of the moment, and nothing is stronger but more fickle than need and desire unshackled by obligation."

Precisely one of the explanations for the terribly temporary state of the marriages in our society today.

Dalrymple has got it nailed to the post in his observation.

This is what I like about Wardah Books - they do not just sell books that they think can sell, like the all other Muslim bookshops, which is why you find most Muslim bookshops selling bewildering arrays of books that do not make sense.

Wardah Books sells books that challenge the Muslim who walks into their shop.

There are not many titles - but if you want variety, go to Popular bookstore or

Their books are heavy reading - so there is nothing like the pamphleteering Islam that is rampant nowadays - which insults our religion by reducing it to the simplest slogan that can be understood by the simplest mind.

There is a worldwide campaign to simplify religion (all religions, including Islam)so that it can be understood by the village idiot.

The result of which is to re-state the ideas of the great treasurehouse of Islam in terms of childlike simplicities, teaching people to look at religion like children, and behave like children when it comes to religion, which is an absolutely absurd mentality in every other thing in life.

It deludes the idiot into thinking that he knows as much as the scholar, and that the scholar is the real idiot.

It results in the "dumb-downing" of Islam.

In one respect I like Wardah Books and will continue to support them because they stock books that are not about Islam per se, but about issues that Muslims should be aware of in any case. Such as social injustice, animal rights, the influence of media and modernity on the mind, etc.

A Muslim should be thinking not only about how to perfect his practice, but how, by perfecting his practice, he is able to change the world.

We are each destined to be endowed with the light of God, and it is my sincere belief that this light is a trust (amanah) that we should walk in the world with, illuminating the darkness around us.

We receive the light in our hearts but do not shine it on others - how can we explain our failure to fulfil our trust to God and His Prophet on the Day of Judgment?

We say we follow the sunnah and love the Prophet (s.a.w.) but we obsess about the length of his beard and whether he would allow the use of musical instruments, but we forget that he was not sent to mankind primarily for these purposes - his main purpose was to bring the light of Truth and Goodness to the darkness of Confusion and Evil that the world is.

How much do we have in our classes and sermons that teach us that?

Or, for that matter, how to do that?

For me I believe that we have to sharpen our faith in order to make our own lights brighter, so that we can brighten the darkness around us, and not brighten it for our own sake.

That was the core function of the Prophet (s.a.w.).

The brighter we are, the greater our reach will be, and the more goodness will be felt by others in the dark.

With the will of God, some of that light will stay on the others whom we shine on, and they in turn will be the bearer of light to others.

In case you think I just conjured all this myself as a new bid'ah, I am influenced in this by Imam al-Ghazzali himself, and he by the famous Ayat of Light in Surah an-Nur.

The "The glass ... like a shining star" refers to the believer (mu'min).

The believer shines like a shining star.

Who do we shine on?

Thursday, January 11, 2007


It's finally happened. First your Walkman combines with iTunes and becomes iPod. Then cellphones start to store and play MP3. Now the iPod evolves into a cellphone - the iPhone.

There is also a recently launched AppleTV.

I bet they next combine the AppleTV with iPhone.

As you would realise by now, I am an Applophile.
Microsoft is Dajjal, you know.
You know, right?

Sufism & Modernity

Just passing on the message for the good old people who always bring us these speakers from far and away ...

Sufism & Modernity
Workshop By Prof Marcia Hermansen
Date: Tuesday 16 January 2007
Time: 7.45 p.m.
Venue: #04-01 Wisma Indah
448 Changi Road (near Kembangan MRT)
Fee: $20 each
Call 65474407 now.

Details here ...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Imam al-Ghazzali on those who stray from Sunnism

"Pronouncing them (philosophers) infidels is necessary in three questions.
One of them is the question of the world's pre-eternity and their statement that all substances are pre-eternal.
The second is their statement that God's knowledge does not encompass the temporal particulars among individuals [existents].
The third is their denial of the resurrection of bodies and their assembly at the day of judgment."
(from the Incoherence of the Philosophers)

Looking at the above list, one may ask, are there such Muslims who adhere to any of these beliefs?
Maybe no Muslim today would consider believing the first question, but as for the second and third, many Muslims do, often through lack of learning.
The thing that breaches the second rule - is the belief that God's knowledge does not encompass the temporal particulars among individuals - is essentially disbelief in qada and qadar.
Many Muslims do not understand the concept that everything is already pre-destined to happen, and will happen in the way it is pre-destined.
We have no power to prevent or cause anything. Many people have a difficulty in understanding this because they believe that it means we have no free will.
But the problem with free-will is that if you decide things, then God is not the decider, and His will is subjected to your will.
That would mean that He is not as almighty as He says, instead we are the almighty ones.
As for the denial of resurrection of bodies, what this refers to is not the belief that we shall come back to life after death, but instead to the false belief that it is not our physical bodies, but our spirits, that resurrect.
It is not known to many Muslims today that it is a denial of God's power to believe that we come back on Judgment Day as spirits only, and not in flesh.
Part of this confusion is due to the Hollywood version of death - you die, and appear on a cloud at the Pearly Gates, and play harps all the time.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Lose the World, Gain Your Soul

I found this anonymous Sufi saying.

"When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the spirit laughs for what it has found."

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Visit Our Mosques

I found this cool website which has virtual tours of some of the mosques in Serious ol' Singapore.

This is the only photo I have of Masjid Sultan, taken on my handphone.

I thank God for the mosques that we have in our country.
Yes, there are always people who gripe and complain about how the Government demolished many mosques in the past and replaced them with a few only.
But what splendid, large few they are compared to the ones they replaced!
We must always remember to count our blessings, especially when they are so many like this.
Our fate as a minority Muslim community could be less than rosy, as happened in most other places.
This could have been our destiny.

I spent most of this morning at Masjid Kampong Siglap getting two of my sons tested for the tahfiz program.
Alhamdulillah, Ibrahim was accepted on the spot, and Abdullah was accepted with condition he sit through a tajweed improvement program first.
I am impressed by the philosophy and methodology taken by the Centre.
It is a practical approach, taking into account that the majority of the kids in the program are full time students at secular schools and do not know Arabic.
As such it does not set specific timeframes for achievement.
Mrs Mudpie and I both pray that even if our sons do not complete to memorise the whole al-Quran, which is against the odds in the circumstances, at least they should be able to memorise a few juzu'.
The idea is to imbibe the value and skill of memorisation and reading of al-Quran in them, so that they will be able to do it with ease later in their lives.
It would be better than their parents had.
We didnt have these programs when we were kids.
Insha Allah, with every generation we get better.

We would be such failures if our children do not grow up to be better than us.
Just as the Prophet s.a.w. said that a person whose day today is the same as yesterday has lost, what more if the next generation is the same as today's?

My Alma Mater

Straits Times carried a report that my alma mater, Victoria School, won a prize for a competition recently.

Not that Victoria School does not get enough awards, being one of the best schools in the country, but I noticed how nice this team was, it had a Malay, a Chinese and an Indian boy together.
How politically picture perfect.
And knowing what Victoria was like, it was, and I am proud to observe, it still is, a racially diverse school.
When I went for a visit recently I browsed the lists of student names, and was gratified to discover that it has a healthy proportion of Muslim names, many more than when I was there.
Masjid Kampong Siglap is across the road, and if you go up to the school hall where the assemblies are held facing the nation's flag, the minaret of the mosque is quietly in the background behind the flag.
When I went to Victoria School in the 1970s it was still the elite school for the kids from the working class who walked or took buses mixing with aristocrat kids, and I am proud to see that it still remains that way today.
Victoria School never had to deal with the accusations thrown at the other premier schools of this country, of exclusivism, elitism and snobbery.
This is probably because of the school's motto - "Nil sine labore" - there can be no product without labour - is the most meritocratic of all the elite schools', and we were drummed with the idea that regardless of who you are or where you come from, a man is worth only as much as what he has done.

Fortunately, in the frenzy of educational competition that has gripped so many of the other top schools, forcing them to become more and more blue-blooded in their intakes, Victoria has managed to remain one of the top 10 schools every year without much fanfare, without hardsell, and keeping to its root values of being the school for the everyman's son.

The school song goes, "Victoria, thy triumphs see and victories we share yet.".
Oh, the tears it brings to my eyes...

I can almost remember my days at that school, still in the old granite colonial building at Tyrwhitt Road.
Our class monitor was a skinny but brilliant boy named Anup Gupta who was sent to study there directly from India.
He later went to the Indian Institute of Technology.
The boy next to me was Yew Luen, who I met a few years ago when he popped his head in my wife's delivery room at the hsopital as its head gynaecologist and obstetrician.
One boy Shahul Hameed is now a dental surgeon.
One other boy later became a commanding officer of the First Commando Battalion, and one boy later became a woman (!).
We had some fearsome teachers who would assault and batter us without hesitation in ways which would put them out of a job today, if not in prison.
One Indian Physics teacher, had a large stick that he used to beat boys with if he was not satisfied with their performance (he called it his magic stick - "it makes lazy boys become hardworking").
I had a Dutch Geography teacher who insisted that all deskes are in perfect straight rows and would used a long string to see whos desk was out of line.
There was a Chinese Biology teacher who insisted that we all had as far as possible the same handwriting.
My Malay language teacher more than once beat me with a broom until it broke in two for not noticing and standing up to attention quickly enough when he came into the room.
Most of all, we all feared the man called the Discipline Master - whom we all knew of hushedly as "Mr Bulldog" - whose canine hypocorism was enough to deter us from finding out whether his bite was possibly worse than his bark.

It sounds terrible doesnt it?
When we were there we all could not wait to get out - but memories being what they are, all my old classmates remember those days fondly.

I guess those were the days of our lives.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Islam and the Malay-Indonesian World

I bought this book from Wardah 2 weeks ago.
It was written by Peter Riddell in 2001.
It provides a useful outline of the major history of the advent of Islam in the Malay world, the doctrinal evolutions that took place, as well as the major personalities involved up to the present day.
The first half of the book was a comprehensive attempt to try to explain Islamic concepts such as Quranic exegesis, which I thought was unnecessarily long. However, it must be born in mind that this book will also be read by historians and anthropologists who would not have an understanding of the technicalities concerning Islam.
Riddell made it a point to delve into explanations of certain fields of Islamic knowledge such as Quranic exegesis (tafsir) as he points out later in the book that it is one of the favourite areas of expertise and study as well as da'wah of the Malay-Indonesian ulama.
He covers a diverse list of personalities from Hamzah Fansuri to Abdurrahman Wahid to Anwar Ibrahim .
He also observes that, unique to this part of the Muslim world, the Muslim scholars often employed the machinery of the narrative, such as novels or storytelling side by side with scholarly writings, which meant that their influences tended to be able to reach both the educated elite as well as the masses.
He placed HAMKA as one of the greatest scholars of this part of the Muslim world, and in fact, one of the greatest scholars of the Muslim world of the modern era.
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in knowing a little bit about how the Malay people became Muslim, and why our ideologies are the way they are today. It is, in my view, important today as at any time in the past, as it has often been said, they who forget history is bound to repeat its mistakes.
Read a review by another guy here.
Some short factbites about Hamzah alFansuri here. He was a big figure in bringing Islam to the Malay world, especially to Aceh, but unfortunately was also one of its most controversial characters due to his open belief and preaching of wahdatul wujud (oneness of existence between creation and Creator).

Friday, January 05, 2007

Sherman Jackson

Sherman Jackson came to Singapore the week leading up to Christmas.

I found him to be a most inspiring and interesting person.

Here is a writeup on him in Wikipedia.

It was Divine Providence that brought him to Singapore.

Well, for me, at least.

You see, about a week before that I was at my weekly visit to Wardah Books, wasting my time chatting with Ibrahim and wasting my money buying books that is taking up waaaay too much space at my bedside.

Being the world's biggest fan of Imam al-Ghazzali, was shocked to discover that there was one book in English that I did not have.

Of course, I had to buy it.

It was entitled On the Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam: Abu Hamid al Ghazali's Faysal al Tafriqa, translated by Sherman Jackson.

After reading it, I immediately became tickled to know what else Sherman Jackson thinks, and so went back to Wardah Books and bought Islam and the BlackAmerican : Looking toward the Third Resurrection.

I read that book at one sitting, and reflected what learning points can be drawn from the Black american Muslim experience.

It is an interesting case study of da'wah and religiocultural evolution.

His observation is an interesting one. The Blacks became Muslim first under the famous Nation of Islam movement. This was a highly successful movement, and the first truly indigenous Black American movement in history.

This was because the black American person was a stranger in a strange land - he was the same as a white person in language, culture, dress, etc. but he was not accepted in the same way as a white person is.

There were early attempts to return to Africa - and as such nations such as Liberia was formed - but Africa proved too far away to have any influence on the black American.

And because the centuries of slavery have deliberately forced the black slaves to throw away and forget their African culture and identity, Africanism is as alien to the black American as it is to the white American.

However, to be free from slavery was one thing, but being shackled to the culture, language and religion of their former slavers was not true liberation.

This led to a psychology of protest in the black American - and this, together with the alienation of the blacks from mainstream America - was a potent combination of the cocktail that was the success formula of the Nation of Islam movement.

Through the Nation of Islam movement, the black American had something that was uniquely his, that he could be proud of in the face of the white world, and be able to claim that he was no longer their cultural slaves anymore.

A sense of ownership.

That's what is important.

That is what is missing amongst the marginalised sections of our community - the Chinese and European and Eurasian Muslims.

Islam is seen as a Malay-owned religion.

You know that technically it is not, but for all intents and purposes it is so in our country.

In order to draw the non-Malays of Singapore into the fold of Islam, we must craft a new Singaporean Muslim identity that is independent of the Malay identity.

So far we have been thinking of addressing our non-Malay brethren by having more facilities in English such as classes and books in English, but I think that is not enough.

A model must be formulated that can be adopted by a Singaporean who wants to be Muslim without need to be Malay.

This must transcend merely the language issue, it must cover other marks of identity and culture, such as dress, behaviour, art, music, etc.

This issue was realised by our early ulamaks (see my previous posts when I said that reading the books on Islam by Shaykh al-Banjari or Shaykh Falimbani, it was almost as if they describe the Prophet (saw) as a Malay man instead of an Arab).

If we can now evolve a discourse in da'wah where we can do the same for the non-Malay Singaporean, Insha Allah, we have a new tool that would be effectual in bringing the religion of Truth to our neighbours and friends in this country.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

First Day

It was first day back at the office today.

My secretary Shareen SMSd me this morning that her uncle had passed on in JB and she would not be coming in today.
I was sluggish at work the whole day - I guess it is the long break combined with too much korban and aqiqah meat over the last few days.
There goes my vegequarian diet.
It will take me at least 2 weeks to flush my system out.
There was a pile of catchup emails to do, and 2 dozen or so staff appraisals that I had to clear by tomorrow, and something for my input to be sent up to Minister asap.
It was a hectic day, but alhamdulillah it went well.

Yesterday was Omar's first day at school, which was why I was not at the office.
He was so self-confident that I almost didnt have to be there.
But kids being kids, he did tell me later on that he was sad when he didnt see me at recess (I was late).

I love my boys so much, they are so loving.
I thank God that I have such love in my family.
Most people do not realise that it is the most precious thing to have in this world. A loving family for this world and a love for God for the next.
I am thankful that I know that.

I believe that parenting is an essential part of spiritual development. In order to learn to achieve the difficult love for the physically absent, invisible God that you are not able to conceive even in your mind's eye, you have to take baby steps.
You learn to love your parents, then your spouse. Then your children.
The relationships are different.
And in the love for one's children is the noblest of love because it is a love that is giving, not receiving.

Ever wondered why all children are born with an instinct to love their parents?

I have heard it taught to me before a long time ago that it is because, being closer to their birth into this world, they carry over with them into this world the innate nature or fitrah of love of the loving, kind, parental God that they were used to in the Paradise before their souls are placed in their mothers' wombs.

The longer they stay in this world, the more they are exposed to it, the more it makes them forget the divine love from which they came.

I personally believe that it is the reason why we are encouraged to bear children or raise them, because they remind us of the time when we were children of God in the gardens of Paradise, and by becoming parents we learn to adopt divine qualities of mercy, kindness, gentleness, love, providing, protecting, etc. In parenting children we open multiple pathways for us to realise more of the 99 names of Allah than in any other thing we can seek to do in life.

And is it not one of the reasons we mortals are placed in this temporal world - to realise the divine qualities that are planted in us all, waiting to be uncovered - and realising the divine in our own selves?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Lot Like Love

I saw A Lot Like Love on DVD last night.
Save yourself from it next time you come across it.
Bad movie. I think it tried to be an uptodate and cooler version of When Harry Met Sally, but it really missed by a long shot.

Ashton Kutcher is, however, beginning to impress me some.
He has been playing in diverse roles, come to think of it.
I think he has potential, and I think he knows it, to become a leading man of the next decade.

As for this film, I did not find enough redeeming features.
I could not spot any spiritual issues, because the characters were too shallowly developed that I found it difficult to empathise with them.
The romantic element was missing, and the writers clearly tried to shore it up with having the couple having spontaneous sex as a sign of their intense feelings towards each other.
Sex can be a powerful element in a romantic relationship, but in this case it was clear they just didnt have a clue what to do to create the romanctic passion of the couple.

That's why it failed.
The lame attempts at humour didnt help, either.

I borrowed Syriana.
Hope that's better, insha Allah.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Gift of the Traveller

Ok, my trip to KL was not totally brainless.
I did manage to buy the 3 volume Hidayatus Salikin, written by Syeikh Abdus Shamad al-Falimbani, written in 1778 in Makkah.

It was THE basic text used throughout the Nusantara (Malay speaking world) until the rise of the modern influx of Middle Eastern books.

We have forgotten much of our great wise ones of the past, which is a pity.

An excellent source of information is found at Ulama Blogspot which contains more than enough as background information on them.

I have of late become obsessed by the legacy of our Malay ulama, forgotten by our people, even by their teachers, today.

They write about the usual dry topics as if they are the most natural and self-evident things - and speak as if the Prophet s.a.w. was a Malay himself.

They are indeed evidence of why our predecessors were able to come to this part of the world and convert whole populations in a matter of generations.

We today, who live with non-Muslims so intimately every day, are still not able to convert many of them to the Truth, and the strange thing is we do not even wonder why, as if the blame is on the non-Muslims and not on us.

Whereas our ancestors knew how to package Islam in a manner that it became synonymous with being Malay, we have made it synonymous with being Arab, and we know how non-Muslims see that as - terrorism and extremism.

I wish we could only see the error of our ways - and that we could somehow, not just preserve the ashes of our forebears, but transmit their flame to our progeny.

On a different note, I am reminded of this hadith, which I have known for a long time, but have been ignoring.

When I first flipped open the Hidayatus Salikin at random, Allah forced my eyes to behold it again. It must be a sign, and a Believer must take signs as instructions.

Hadith : "Salaatun bisiwaakin min sib'eena salaatan bilaasiwaak."
"One prayer with teeth brushed is better than 70 prayers with teeth unbrushed."

Happy brushing.

(OK, I refuse to get into the discussion of whether it should be a miswak stick or a modern toothbrush. Constantly debating about the shape and colour of the car is what keeps us from moving on in the journey.)


I watched the Butterfly Effect and The Island last night.

The Butterfly Effect is about alternative destinies, the issue of if only I knew then what I know now, I would have done it differently.

It was flawed in its details of its premise, but the point of the story is that everything that happened, no matter how small, would have set off chains upon chains of other events that in effect changed a lot more things than one would expect.
Watching the movie made me reflect on the concept of predestination.
God being all powerful and all encompassing and timeless, had predetermined everything that has happened the way they did, everything that is happening the way it is, and everything that will happen the way it will happen.
People confuse this as fatalism, and saying that it leaves no room for free will.

I dont have a problem with that.
The need in us to believe that we have a power to effect change is, to me, a sign of our inability to accept - fully accept in our heart of hearts - the idea that God is indeed more All-Powerful than we are comfortable with.
The need to insert the element of free will in the big picture is to me no more than a reflection of our insistence that we are in control of our fate in some way.

To me, that is no more than our own little egos talking.
There can be no two wills - God's and ours - working at the same time.

The Island was a typically Hollywood film in its feel, although it bombed out at the box office.
The central idea gives food for spiritual thought, though.
With cloning developing as it is, it is a matter of time before we can clone full human beings.

The benefits of cloning would be too overwhelming to allow mere ethics to keep this genie in a bottle.
The question then would be - if the clones are human being womblessly "conceived", are they human?

I have been asked this poser before - at which point is the ruh breathed into the clone when it is never in a womb in the first place?
The answer thrown was that because the clone was never conceived in a womb, its ruh is never breathed into it, and as such it would not have a ruh.

I have the misfortune to find that reasoning absurd.
If something has life, intelligence and will, then it must have a ruh.
Whence it comes in is a second issue, not the first.
Anyway, I am quite confident that our ulama are not as simple minded as that.
It gives me great comfort to know that the truly learned people of our faith are better able to handle complex issues such as this.
The rest are the usual wannabees issuing fatwa without knowledge and wisdom.