Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Blessed Lailatul-Qadr

Since I was a child, I heard of many stories either oral or written about " Malam Lailatul-Qadar " which is deemed to be that special gift from ALLAH Almighty where His Mercies are bestowed during the holy month of Ramadhan worth a thousand month in the Hijrah Calendar to those who keep the vigil in the last ten nights of Ramadhan by performing voluntary prayers and supplication for the well being of the family and for parents who had passed away or are still alive. To me it's not so much whether one is fortunate to see the tree in front of your house bends it trunks as if in the position of prostration to ALLAH S.W.T. as what one can derive from the act of fasting of all the critical functions as sight, hearing, speech and movements of your limbs. The " Puasa Umum " as what I used to hear the religious teacher as saying is the most basic of all, merely refraining from consuming food and drink during the prohibited time of the day.But the more important aspect which touches on your wagging tongue spitting out profanity or watching what had been prohibited or listening to useless talk are given a Carter Blanche, without let up. In such circumstances,we are still in the dark about achieving the desired impact of the fast in the month of Ramadhan, and light years away from discovering " Lailatul- Qadr ", that precious night worth a thousand months of blessed rewards. According to the Ulamas, our Prophet Muhammad (PBU) will wake up all the members of his immediate family during the last ten nights of Ramadhan in order to follow his prayer together so that they will not miss that precious night full of blessings worth a thousand months. Those who merely think that it falls on the 27 night of the holy month would probably find it anyway, as long as we know that only ALLAH knows best. It's the quality of Muslims in the whole world which should be on the top of the World's Muslim hierarchy of values and this would be reflected on our conduct and ethics which separate the barbarians from the civilised society.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Trip to Dalu Dalu

Our meeting last Sunday came up with the idea of reviving the previously proposed trip to Dalu Dalu as a way to enable the descendants of Tuanku Tambusai see with their own eyes the very ground where the Fort which withstood the Dutch onslaught by the courageous and committed defenders who had been holding it for months. When the ceremony to hand over the key to the Kompleks Makam Tuanku Tambusai in 2002 , I met the Governor at a dinner and he told me that I ought to visit the " Benteng Tujuh Lapis " in the district of Tambusai, about 4 hours from Pekanbaru. However due to constraints on resources and other commitments, that desire to visit Dalu Dalu had been put on hold for several years. The idea is now being floated again, and it's one way to arouse interest for the Waris of Tuanku Tambusai from the Rasah Clan and keep the association BERKAT alive. I asked for the views of those who were at the meeting, what's their views on BERKAT, whether we should just exist without purpose or let it die a natural death, since not many seemed to be interested anymore. However the general feeling is that we must not let it fade away because it's noble aim of bringing together the descendants of Tuanku Tambusai especially from the Rasah side must be continued without fail. So I have been asking my cousin Normah who has some background on getting a group to tour China a few occasions last year, to get it organised using the services of a travel agency which is owned by her friend in Shah Alam. I told my fellow committee members on Sunday that hopefully there's an adequate response to our proposal from the Waris. Last year the idea could not take off due to some doubts about the safety of visiting Riau since there could be incidences of earthquake in the southern part of Sumatra. Not wanting to take an unnecessary risk and also due to our lethargy in moving forward in activities we just shelved it. This time around I am expecting a reasonably favourable response from the Waris because the natural calamities seemed to have abated in our neighbouring Sumatra after a devastating Tsunami in 2004. May ALLAH bestow His Guidance on the members of BERKAT and make us more committed to bring together our relatives who are associated either in terms of blood or through marriage. Ameen!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Confused Minister

I am surprised by the news report which quoted Zaid Ibrahim, the Minister in PM's Dept. in expressing his opinion contrary to the principle of collective responsibility of Members of the Cabinet. If I am still not being absent-minded, it's untenable for a Member of the Federal Cabinet in the Govt of Malaysia to criticise another Minister under whose portfolio is not within his jurisdiction, because it means discipline of a Cabinet code of ethic is now being breached. What I cannot fathom is the fact that when a Minister of the Cabinet disagreed with the others in our esteemed Govt. of Malaysia, he should by right tender his resignation or reprimanded( by the PM )and stop confusing the public! If he still ignores the dire consequences, than he should not be a Member of the Cabinet, period. It seemed that there's a host of other Ministers who joined him in showing their support on what is termed as an unjust law being perpetrated. Now this is getting out of hand, and if the PM and DPM is doing nothing about this, it means a rebellion is taking place and all those who did it should be sacked! Now the so-called collapse of the ruling Coalition looks imminent if the signs are not a mere illusion or a mirage. This compounded the magic cut off date of September 16 being much bandied about as trying to confuse the public. Now the tables seemed to have been turned and it's the Minister who is being confused! Whatever is going to happen next is everybody's guess, and one of my e-lister of the old Putras yahoogroups predict the collapse of the Empire and probably it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Unless of course there's a sequel entitled " The Empire Strikes Back " and perhaps more are going under "Operation Musang" or whatever it's going to be called, where Bukit Aman Police Officers will be very busy this few weeks to come. So let us pray that nothing of the sort is going to happen because the confused Minister Zaid Ibrahim should be going back to his practice and wait for VIP's coming to him to represent them in portracted legal actions against the Govt. Now I know why they say sweet September. The fun is watching the consternation of people who should be governing but turned litigatious because of a simple mistake in detaining a newspaper reporter who reported on what is deemed to be seditious but he got away with just a three year suspension from the party. The confusion seemed to have spread all round the table in PWTC when they arrived at the decision. So Old Putra Jimmy, you are vindicated!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Too Little, Too Late

This morning I came across the headlines of a leading daily where the PM warned all parties of the dangers in stoking racial conflict through the broadcast or print media, followed by a stern warning from the Deputy IGP. All this while I would have thought the Police and the authorities were and should have been monitoring this transgression for quite some time, and rather than issuing further warnings, action to detain the persons who had violated the law should have been taken not now but a long time ago. When people thought that raising sensitive issues were being tolerated, especially after the March 08 General Election results in several State Govt being lost by the BN, the sword of Damocles which was usually hanging over the heads of those who dared to incite racial feelings was completely absent. If the PM had been more circumspect about the Sedition Act, the blogger, Raja Petra Kamarudin should have been detained and kept in Kamunting months ago, even before the GE! I have warned RPK about this possibility, but he was emboldened by being merely asked to appear at the Dang Wangi Police Station to get his statement recorded. If Dr M was in the driver's seat, RPK would have no chance in causing a lot of uneasiness not only amongst the Malays but also between the major ethnic groups in this country. It's high time that the authorities begin to flex it's muscle and show the people that race relations is not something that you can meddle with, especially when blatant remarks and racist statements are being made in public. The force of law should have been brought to bear on those who clearly violated the Sedition Act, and if needs be invoke the Internal Security Act. Please do not wait for the Chief of the Armed Forces to make a statement as if he's the IGP who's responsible for maintenance of Public Order.It would have been appropriate for the Police to make such a statement, and when people began to step outside their boundary it spells confusion for the people. Let this be a lesson in not letting a situation to escalate because of the lack of sensitivity by the powers that be, and perhaps the warning is too little too late for people to take it seriously!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Pensiangan, Nabawan, Sabah's Frontier.

I was watching the evening news when the familiar name of Pensiangan in the interior of Sabah was mentioned. The by-election for that Parliamentary Constituency will be on soon, which is going to be an interesting one to watch in the midst of the flurry expected by mid-September when Anwar Ibrahim is touted to get an avalanche of crossovers on the floor of the hallowed Dewan Rakyat to enable him to enter Block A in Putrajaya by the back-door. If entry by the backdoor is as legitimate as any entry to any opening from the back is allowed in politics too, then if the impossible shall happen, we would be the first to have a PM who came in from the back door rather than from the front. In short, Anwar would earn a double whammy, for his fondness of the backside. It should also be given the honour in the Guinness Book of Records whereby the PM of a modern Parliamentary Democracy is born out of the rear swing-door rather than the type where the swaggering John Wayne films always depict the hero as he swings open the Bar entrance and draws his six-shooter before his adversary could even blink an eye. Pensiangan is an ulu place in the district of Nabawan where a confluence of two rivers meet and it was a beautiful sight when I visited it during my days in the Education Ministry. The only access to the actual village would be on foot and crossing the treacherous "jeram" or rapids for those who love the rafting over the waters. I stayed a night in a resthouse in Nabawan before embarking towards Pensiangan, and it was real challenge to the driver of the new Range-Rover which was unfortunately not yet fitted with the correct tyres for going over the logging trails of interior Sabah then. I was on a mission to have a first-hand look at the conditions of our Peninsular teachers who were posted in rural Sabah to serve their 5-year contracts, and to make recommendations as how to make them continue after their bonded service was over. That night my group comprising of Sabah Education Dept Director and his retinue were entertained to drinking the tuak which was in abundance in the Murut country and dancing the Sumazau with the local girls who were hardly in their teens. I did not take to drinking but I obliged them just to put my mouth to the long thin bamboo which was stuck to the top of the jar containing the fermented rice tuak. The group also enjoyed eating venison which the staff managed to secure from those who illegally set traps for the wild-game which abounds the logging camps. To me it tasted no different than beef and it was tough meat, perhaps the rest house cook just had no idea of how to tenderize it. When I woke up the next morning and continued our journey, the lady accountant a talkative Peninsular Malaysian told me in her typical mandarin accent that life in Sabah is fun for a bachelor even in the interior because of the varied interests which one could dwell on despite it's wilderness if one knows how to beat the boredom. The rain made the road treacherous and when on a slope, the Range-Rover almost went careering into the ravine because the driver could not control the vehicle which lost it's grip over the slippery mud an we landed on a grass verge, hanging precariously being held by a large boulder.Perhaps it was a warning to those who got drunk by the tuak that they should pay some respects to the dead whose graves we passed by along the route. Although Pensiangan in the early 80's looks like part of the "Lost World" but it's innocence and beauty was a pleasure to behold in front of our eyes. I took several snapshots which I used in my report about how challenging and daunting the environment of the wild frontier of Sabah was and no wonder most decided to make a beeline to fly back to the Peninsula and never regretted it despite the romance of the wilderness of the Sabah Frontier. I was told by the teachers who stayed in the interior they did not mind he loneliness and the far-flung posting but what they could not bear was the difficulty of connecting o the outside world where they was no telephone and absolute lack of electricity amd piped water. Perhaps now the situation had much improved, and the name even became the boundary which marked a Parliamentary Constituency!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Farewell to a Friend

Early in the morning of 6 September 2008, it's the unpleasant news of a friend who passed away unexpectedly due to his leukaemia which was very recently diagnosed by his doctor. The last I met him was during the wedding of one of his children at his house in Kampong Raja Uda, Port Kelang, and he appeared his usual self, full of life though he had retired from his government job in the Royal Customs for more than six years. I remembered him well as he was Nasimah's office colleague and he was the typical highly energetic and confident person whose ways could be bordering on the unorthodox and rather outlandish, which is rather uncommon for his departmental norm and practice. But still as long as he doesn't break the law, he would be quite adventurous with his antics. I also recalled that he has a daughter who is handicapped, but somehow he did not send her for any special school for the handicapped perhaps due to the fact that he wanted her to be with the family throughout and I learned that she became a teacher to the local kids in reciting the Al-Quran. I have been fond of telling Nasimah that in life, we must be prepared to accept death as a matter of course because our Faith teaches us so, that when your time comes it will not be a second too early or too late, you will be called to meet your Creator. The word " Redha " shall only be well understood when such things happen to us, especially when death happens to loved ones. Recently I have appointed the as-Salihin Trustee Berhad as the administrator of my will upon my passing away, and Nasimah too signed the same. Before signing the Will, we had all members of the family gathered together to listen to the explanation of the executive from the trustee company of the contents of the Will and what it means when the inevitable thing happens to both of us, Nasimah and I. We want to be prepared for such an event, so that it would not be such a hassle to our beneficiaries to settle the question of inheritance later on. Most Muslim families regard talking about death as taboo which in Islam is the opposite, because there is a Hadith which conveys the meaning that one must work hard as if one is going to live forever and must perform the Ibadah as if one is going to die tomorrow. It is a wonder why many refuse or ignore this al-Hadith which is one of the legacy of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). We went together with Nasimah's former office-mates Connie and Zarah in the rainy weather pretty early, at about twenty past nine in the morning and arrived at about ten o'clock. There were already a sizable crowd, and I joined the Tahlil being recited by an Imam. I only knew one of his close colleague at the house and he was seated next to the wall in the living room. The body of my late friend was on the bed facing the Qiblat in the Hall. There was hardly any room then, but somehow I squeezed in between the others because I want to be together with those who came to pay their last respects to Allahyarham Mohd. Zan b. Ali. After the Tahlil, I sat outside the house because the rain gathered it's strength as if to weep his passing away too! He was wise to choose that neighbourhood to build his home, because the old spirit of the Kampong is still portrayed by the people. His burial was after the Zuhur prayer and many of his former colleagues in the Royal Customs were there to pay their respects. Farewell my friend! your journey to Hereafter is just beginning and every person will also past that way when his time is up, perhaps tomorrow, day after or many many more years ahead, only ALLAH S.W.T. Knows all.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Buka Puasa Do

This is only the first week of the Ramadhan and although one comes across so many "Buka Puasa Specials" advertised in the dailies and other print as well as electronic media, I am yet to see how the crowd goes this year. Tomorrow I am making a reservation for that " Ramadhan Special" at one of the outlets not far from my house, for all my sons and their families ( except for Haniff who's now back in Cork, Ireland ) Nasimah, Nurul and I. I made an early reservation so that there's a space for us because of it's limited capacity. Most important there's a Surau sited just outside the shopping centre, next to a food court, so that we would be able to perform the Maghrib prayer. In the past from what I saw, people would fill up their plates and be ready with their dates and drinks just before the time to break fast. And once the Adhan is sounded, you could see how quickly they gulp down their drinks and start eating whatever had been put on their plates. Sometimes I just wonder how commercialised the Ramadhan had been made into, by the offerings from scores of eateries and restaurants of 5-star Hotels which is mildly speaking mind boggling. I have no qualms about the array of spread being lined up for the "Buka Puasa" but what is most galling is the wastage. I have seen so many plates with unfinished food left on the tables and I am sure it would be thrown away as leftovers, whereas the Blessed month of Ramadhan is training the Believers to be modest and restrained in everything they consumed so that could not be regarded as "Membazir". Although it's their money and their choice whether to be a glutton or not, one must not lose sight of the significance of the true meaning of fasting in the Blessed month of Ramadhan. It's significance lies in the " Taqwa " which should be the objective and how could one achieve it by being wasteful and inconsiderate as every plate of rice and whatever goes with it is a blessing from ALLAH S.W.T. and should one be grateful for HIS Bounty, it should not be wasted unwittingly. One must be conscious that not all are so fortunate as to "Buka Puasa" in 5-star hotels and other eateries, and how would a beggar feel that unwonted waste could have been his food for the whole week! This "Buka Puasa Do" have reached it's climax already, because of the economic gloom that will befall many who relied on others to survive. Perhaps I might be wrong to say that for this year, the fashionable " Buka Puasa Buffet " is not so rampant as the previous years, or it's just a mirage on my part! So to those of you contemplating to reserve a table for the " Buka Puasa " there's plenty of choice and probably you could have " double rations " due to the glut in the market for those who have money still to spare, before the curtains are down and I wish everyone who reads this posting, Wa Sahlan Ramadhan Al-Mubarak!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Ramadhan and I

Now I am into the 64 Ramadhan of my life from the day I was born and if it has any bearing on my worldview, the question I would like to ask is how much it had impacted upon my soul and my being. In fact,I am treading on "soft" ground because I cannot claim to be an "Ulama" but perhaps some might label me as "Banyak Lemak" if I begin even to question the axiomatic truth. No, I am not undermining my faith or anybody's faith for that matter if I reflect upon such an issue. When we were small, we were told to fast because it's simply what Islam requires every believer to abide by it's Pillars of which there are five, and " Saum" or "Puasa" is one of them. But if I am not mistaken, the verse in the Al-Quran says that one is made to fast as it's obligatory in order to make you be "Pious" or "Takwa". It's literary meaning of " Takwa" is to have the Fear of ALLAH in your soul and in your being by doing what is commanded and refrain from what's prohibited. So, the month of Ramadhan is said to be the Blessed time where all the Syaitans and the Iblis ( Devils or Devils Incarnate) are being shackled so that we the mortals can perform our obligations without inteference from these unseen beings. But what about we ourselves as the " Syaitans" who folowed our " Nafs" by laying the table during the " Berbuka Puasa" with such fare that one could hardly finish and most probably will be thrown away the next day because they are perishables and the refrigerator could not be overflowing with leftovers of the previous nights. I am still unable to reconcile this inclination to overfeed ourselves come Ramadhan. Whereas in point of fact it should be the reverse, whereby our food bill should be less than the other months in the Muslim Calendar. I might be guilty of committing the same behaviour just like the others and people might think that I am a hypocrite. But this is only one small example of how our "Niat" and our behaviour does not seem to be in harmony with one another, and this is one of the most difficult bad habit to overcome. Apart from that is the other sunnah which should be parctised such as Terawih prayers and the reciting of the Al- Quran during the night or day depending on one's preference. Frankly speaking, I am a delinquent where Terawih is concerned, and with age I have become increasingly erratic in doing this sunnah. But I do recite the Al-Quran almost every morning now. My wife says I am not consistent in my Terawih prayers as I could do it by myself. That's true but I choose to read the Al-Quran instead, because it's much easier for me. The Terawih seemed to make more demands on myself and I am guilty of skipping it more often than not. But that's the way I want to be and I have the freedom to choose which one I want to be. Whether this Ramadhan is going to make me more God Fearing, I am not so sure. But I do always blurt out " Astaghafirullah" when something upsets me, which means I beg to be forgiven by ALLAH for my impatience and wrongs which I committed whenever my temper is tested. So the month of Ramadhan has a quality which no other month in the Muslim Calendar carries, because for whatever good turn one does is more than amply rewarded by seven times than in other months, and that's the reason why some people seemed to be overgenerous in Ramadhan. At least that's what appeared to me and I could be not far from misconception if I could say " Astaghafirullah Al-Azim" and followed by " La Hawlawala Quataillahbillahil Azim" which means I have no strength but only ALLAH could be my saviour!. Wallahuwa'lam.