Tuesday, 21 January 2014

A thousand splendid suns

I bought this book online.. first purchase online since I am back in Malaysia. When I was in UK, I always buy books online - may be because it's cheaper online. Well, I also bought books from carboot sales which is "crazy cheap", an expression they like to use in Malaysia. It's one of those books you cannot put down once you start to read. Khaled Housseini never disappoints you... his writing is superb. When you read, you can imagine and sometimes, you can smell things.. the aroma of the surroundings. Have you read it? If not.. I don't want to spoil your excitement.. but still, I want to say something about it.

It started with the life of Mariam - a special person whose life started as a lonely little girl and was controlled by her mother. Despite being secluded from the real world, she is hopeful that one day, she would be able to reach out to the world. Having a mother who is so negative about everything, it is hard for her to move forward but the brave action that she took one day changes everything in her life. When you read about Mariam, you can feel the loneliness and the innocent hope she had on the person who was so important in her life - the person she looked up and always looking forward to meet.. her father whom she thought had betrayed her. It was sad.. not only sad, but heart wrenching. How she had to take the hand of an older man who used her, battered her and took everything away from her - that is her self pride. She felt like dirt.. like she is worthless but then, when someone came into her life in the most unpredictable way, she started to understand the meaning of life and her self worthiness. Most importantly, she feels loved and be loved.

But all the loves come with a price... a very high price indeed that many may not be able to pay. She sacrificed everything for her love. As a harami, she wants her life to mean something..

Towards the ending, my heart sinks... I can't help but imagine the feelings of all the characters involved especially Laila... the girl whom Mariam hated at first and ended loving her with all her heart. What about Aziza, the lovely girl who was with Mariam since she was small. The feelings that you have for these characters are really strong and make you feel amazed of how the author brilliantly developed the relationship gradually as you turn the page, one by one. FANTASTIC!!

For a few days now, I searched for the book again... miss-placed. Don't know at which shelf of my here-and-there library I have left it and now, I can't find it. I went to the bookstore this time but they don't have it. I have to wait for their new order. For good books, I don't mind repurchasing. It's an ownership worth spending and I will wait.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Asceticism @ Zuhud

Sometimes when you plan for something, Allah would plan something better. That's what happened to me last week.

It was the starting of school holiday and so, I went to Kuala Terengganu (KT). A marvellous holiday, I should say. It is good to have a small break once a while. I always enjoy working away... doesn't mean I don't love staying home but I love staying away from my OFFICE. It's like the whale - going surface to breathe once a while. Yes, it feels like having a full tank again.

Let me be frank - It wasn't totally holiday coz I attended a seminar for 2 days. One of the speakers is a millionaire who had set up many companies - Great!! I wish I have also. The only company I have are my circle of friends - also GREAT! I figure it must be difficult to control yourself if you have great wealth. That is why Allah did not give wealth to just about anyone but only to certain people. We should be happy with what we have as Allah knows best how much we need and give accordingly - in due measures!

Wealth is good! But let's look at my title for tazkirah tomorrow. It is about ascetic@zuhud. I'll be delivering Dr. Zaharuddin's talk which I heard the night before we drove home. We were so fortunate to have the opportunity to meet him - I mean, watch him from a distance. The mosque was not so crowded and comfortable. His talk was about Muamalat.. wheeling and dealing in Islam. It's about Riba/Interest. All these comes from our greed of the wordly affairs. If we practise ascetic@Zuhud, we won't be dealing with Riba'. That's why my tazkirah title will be on asceticism. I again was reminded by a saying by Saidina Ali r.a. about asceticism @ zuhud  - It is not about not owning anything but it's about not being owned by anything.

Dr Zaharuddin also mentioned of a hadith about knowing your priorities.... Muhammad ibn Ya'qub (al-Kulayni) from Muhammad ibn Yahya, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad, from Ibn Mahbub, from `Abd Allah ibn Sinan and `Abd al-Aziz al-Abdi from `Abd Allah ibn Abi Ya`fur, who report Abu Abd Allah (al-Imam al-Sadiq) (A) to have said: "One who passes his evenings and mornings in such a way that the world be his biggest concern, God ordains poverty between his two eyes and causes his affairs to become disjointed and dissipated, while he does not attain anything except what has been apportioned for him. And as for one who passes his evenings and mornings while his biggest concern and goal be the Hereafter, God puts contentment to his heart and gives a wholeness and unity to his affairs. [1]

We spent a few days at KT. However, before driving home, we stopped AGAIN at the famous market of Kuala Terengganu - Pasar Payang. I believe the batik art is getting more attractive these days - they are really improving especially those which are hand drawn. If you plan to buy the batik, it will be so difficult to choose - they all look equally attractive. I am sure you'll end up buying more than you planned for. I remember when I get out of the car, I had more than enough money to buy what I have already planned. However, I end up going back to the car to get more. Oh.. it''s so difficult to control yourself. I hope Allah understands and forgive me. I really do hope so :) As I walked to the car, I was asking myself if I am doing the right thing... I started making a lot of excuses for myself. I had a list of them and I believe they were all valid. However, I don't think I am practising zuhud... or else, I won't be going back there for more. Ah.. I really love the batik, especially the cotton ones. Can we love batik and be zuhud at the same time?? Yes, I think we can. Like having a mercedes, park the car outside.. just don't park it in your heart :)

Dr. Zaharuddin's story about Abu Darda' really had touched me. Being zuhud, he was willing to let go of his acres of dates farm to exchange it with a date tree in the Jannah. However, he was rewarded with more than he expected - acres of farm with hundreds of dates tree and a palace in Jannah. And Allah's promise is true- for those who believe!

How about us? Can we do the same? Believing the promises of Allah and letting go of our greed. Can we control our worldly intentions - leaving those that will not benefit us in the hereafter? Can we live unselfishly - thinking more of others than our own selves? What if your husband come home and tell you that he has exchange the beautiful house you live in with a house in paradise? What would you say? Would you scold him or say to him like what Abu Darda's wife had told him "(This is the best transaction that you had ever made!")? Would you do the same?

Ah.. Allah is great! He is teaching me all the time - not letting me go for even a bit - While busy thinking about shopping like most women, He sends me a knowledgable person to test if I am really listening and reading the signs. It's my holiday - the least time to expect for a great Islamic talk.  O Allah, I am so grateful!

In the Quran, Allah said: "They were  plotting and Allah too was planning, and Allah is the Best of the planners"[8: 30]

[1] http://www.al-islam.org/fortyhadith/6.htm

Sunday, 9 October 2011

What people think of you is NOT IMPORTANT

According to Prof Dr Muhaya, generally there are 2 kinds of people - the IMPORT and the EXPORT. The import busy themselves taking from others but the export always think about what they can give. I think this statement will really makes you start evaluating yourself!


Does it matter? The answer is YES. This is not about what others think of you BUT what you think of yourself. What we think of ourselves are most important because it is how you value your own self and this will determine how or not you are happy. Happiness usually relates to how you work towards the the meaning of your existence. In life, we have 2 vertices that needs attention. They are the:

a. VERTICAL - relationship with your creator

b. HORIZONTAL -relationship with other people - which includes your parents, your family, your children, workplace, students, neighbors, community..

The first is not so obvious. Some people can look like they are so much related to God but actually they are not. In extreme cases, you see that they are very kind hearted people who really understands the meaning of sincerity but in true sense, they don't believe in God. In my personal opinion, if you are not good vertically, you beat the purpose of existence. You have not reach the level of wisdom of your existence. To understand and really focus on this vertical relation takes you to travel deep into your soul. It doesn't only takes you down the path to your spiritual self, but also helps you to put more actions that can strengthen your spiritual being. That once your spiritual being is strengthen, all the pictures in life will be connected and bring meanings to you. The actions are your evidence of believe and trust. When this happen, all these actions come naturally to you and you enjoy doing them. For muslims, this is translated into doing more supplementary prayers and good deeds other than the obligatory ones. For companions of the prophet Muhammad pbuh, when they are doing their prayers, they reached the highest level of tranquility where they are no more connected to the world around them. In fact, many of them do not feel pain as pain is physical but they are at the time, spiritual. Hmmm... a bit philosophical here!

We move on the the second - human to human relationship. When we talk about human to human, we become exporters or importers. If we export a lot, we become rich persons and if we are importers all the time, we become very dependent on others. Importers would need others to put things into their store and would feel sad or demotivated if that doesn't happen.

Some people are natural at human to human skill. May be they are brought up that way or they pick up the skill through time. Don't take this for granted because for some people, they don't have this skill and need people to teach them. If you are importers and married to exporters, then you may have been saved. But some people can never change. They become importers all through their lives! On the other hand, some people doesn't need formal education to become exporters. They are real exporters!

Oh.. have I not define the meaning of exporters or importers? If you find someone who busy herself or himself to give - they are exporters! Importers on the other hand would find ways to get things from others. They are calculative people who always have the plus and minus signs in their head. They would give after calculating that they get more in return. May be we sometimes do this.. shame on us!

Some people were taught to give during their childhood and carry this all through their lives. Wise are those parents who teach their children charity. My late mother-in-law was an export person. After her death, I met many of her friends who told me so many stories of her generosity. She was not highly educated but her social intelligence beats many of the professors. One time she went to town with food in her hand. On the way home, she saw a few people working under the hot sun doing construction work. She stopped and gave them the food. That was natural to her. How many of us has done this? When she passed away, so many people from all races came to pay tribute She was not a senator, not even had any post in the community, but she beats them all. She is a natural social worker who was willing to give to others what she had or hadn't. I said this because she was even willing to borrow money to give others.

There are many things one can do to become exporters. You can do it through giving lots of presents to friends/relatives, constant charity and becoming more alert with other people's needs. Some people buy lots of things and give them to guests at home. Birthdays, Mothers Days, Teachers Day, Anniversary... these are occasions  if you need reasons to give small or big presents if you ran out of them. It makes the hearts grow fonder. Other than presents, we need to share ideas and knowledge. Imagine how much teachers can contribute to the betterment of mankind by teaching with sincere hearts. That is why a friend who is a lecturer would prefer his children to become teachers or other professions. He wants the children to continue his legacy... and he is a great teacher. I always see him spending long hours teaching his students although in university, there is no concept of 'tuition' but he does it anyway without any extra pay. May Allah reward him abundantly with His kindness.

So if you are really an exporter, what others think of you is just secondary. The most important is your sincerity. Even writing your own blog.. trying to disseminate knowledge or little things you think worth  sharing. Don't do it because you want people to think how great a writer you are but because you want to export with sincerity. When something is done with your heart, it strikes other people's heart too. And sincerity is not anybody's business.. it is between you and your Lord.

So next time, when you say tell a truth to a friend, or give an unpopular opinion for the sake of your organization... don't let anything hold you back because what they think is no more important. Tell them you know what you are doing!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Your weaknesses... Do you know?

There was a lecture on the radio this morning, talking about self esteem. There are too many good points that I thought it is good to share. Dr. Muhaya said, knowledge is like fish. They are slippery in nature. You can catch them with your hands but after a short while, it will slip off. Therefore, when you know anything, you can only retain it for a while and in order to hold it for a longer period, distribute the knowledge (facebook is one good medium) and the knowledge will travel far, benefiting many people around you. Among what was presented on the radio was how to know your weaknesses. Of course, we love to talk about our strength especially when someone praise you for it. However, strength and weaknesses comes in pair as no one is born perfect, we need to know them in order to overcome them. According to Imam Al-ghazali, a great muslim scholar, to know your weaknesses, you need to ask from 3 groups of people:
   (1) your teacher: they will sincerely tell you what you are weak at.  Teachers are noble people - they always want their students to improve. Teachers might know more about you than mother do and that is why mothers need to be close to their children's teachers.
   (2) your friend: you can ask your friends your weaknesses. Good friends are usually sincere too... but sometimes, they feel uneasy to tell you the truth. So, that is why you need to ask the third group of people...
   (3) your enemy: ask your enemy why they hate you so much and you will get lots of secrets like.. .they hate you because you are stingy, they hate you because you are bossy... A scholar once said, when your enemies tell you your weaknesses, tell them that you will repent for your bad conduct if they are right, and hope for Allah's forgiveness. However, if they are wrong about it, you make prayer that they are forgiven for their mistakes.

Weakness, if you know them can be your strength. The sad thing is that most of the time, we you don't know our weaknesses. That is why when someone comments on you or your actions, take the comments with positive attitude. They might meant well or even when they do not meant well, you can benefit from them. People around us are mirrors.. they tell you who you are, what you look like and from their reactions, we can learn more about yourself.

There was this person who moves to a new village. He asked a villager the condition of the village. That man asked him back, "How was your previous village?". He said it was not good. So this man said, this village is the same - not good. Another person then came to him and ask the same question. He asked again, "How was your old village". He said, "My village was very good.. he started to tell him all the good things about his old town". The villager said, "Then, this village is very good too". The person who asked in the first place was astonished to the different answers given to the same question. He exclaimed, "How come you said differently to me?". That villager said, "You are what you think of it". When you look at things positively, most of the time, things will be good for you and vice versa.

Can we have a positive attitude on our weaknesses as we do our strength. If we are not good in Math, perhaps we can collaborate with someone who's good in Math and make a strong team. There is always a way out in most problems that we face everyday. The real problem lies on not knowing the source of the problem. If you have fire, direct the Fire Extinguisher to the source of fire not directly to the blazing fire!  Find what the real problem is and perhaps you can overcome your problem or whatever you are facing. Life is a puzzle.. with levels of difficulties for those who are ready for different levels of challenges. Whatever your weaknesses are, the real challenge is how you are able to transform them into your strengths... for that is where the wisdom lies. And most of the time, there's no one to teach you the exact solution but only your knowledge and experiences as guidance.

Therefore, ask yourself.. are you ready to know your weaknesses and work on them? If the answer is yes, you are one step ahead than most people. Then, I wish you, ALL THE BEST!

From the holy Quran,
"Allah has made those who strive, with their property and their lives, to excel by a high degree those who hold back." (4:95)

Friday, 7 October 2011


They said, in order to love someone, you have to know them. This statement is so true that we have to study about the history of great people and learn from them. We always love to hear stories of great people - on how they lived their lives, their behaviors, their attitudes, their aspirations, their family - if possible, we want to peep through the window of their lives and know everything about them. Great things or great people don't just emerge overnight.. it is a process. They have great parents who educate and groom them. What if we don't have great parents? Well... we still can be great people too in our own ways... ask ourselves, how much have we done to improve ourselves? Many of us have access to great education but still, we have not seen ourselves as leaders, let alone great leaders.. Why? I sometimes ask this question to myself.. What have they got that we do not have? The answers are MANY.

Let's look at one of the great leader of our time... Hassan Al-Banna. We had at our university this week, a book fair and I came across this book "LOVE AT HASSAN AL BANNA'S HOME". This book is not new but I have not read it. This is one of the greatest man in recent history - who's photo we still can find on the internet. Someone who had done the work of dakwah and died as a martyr. With love for this man for the sake of Allah, I took the book home and read. He was an amazing man. He lived his life based on the prophet's life.. his children were the witness to that. They spoke so highly of him and in fact, they love him so much that whatever they said of their father, you can feel their love for him. In one statement, one of his children said, "Even if you have 2 hours of his time, it was enough because that 2 hours with him were already satisfying. While I was reading the book, my mind lingers within his household.. thinking what would be like to be in such environment - having children who had nothing to complain. It was almost impossible to think how it is possible. His children admitted that the childhood and parenting skill of Hassan Al Banna was so perfect that they even think they can't be as good as their father.

These are the things that he did:
- It started with choosing a good wife as mother to the children - he was very selective. She was a great person too - thought highly of her husband and never complains. They used most of their furniture for her husband's head office - curtains, sofa, tables and chairs - you name it. She supported his every action as she understood what he fought for. They lived modestly and they were contented with what they had.
- Making sure that he had time to eat together with his family everyday. When he had guests at home, he would invite them to eat with the family so that he wouldn't miss the meal time together.
- Attended to all his 6 children without failing: the children never feel neglected, even they were amazed how he accommodated them into his busy schedule
- Sent food to school almost everyday to make sure they had good food to eat at school.
- Advice the children without scolding them.
- Never raise his voice. He was very diplomatic with his children. When he doesn't like anything, he would suggest something better to the children. The children would consider due to respect and not fear of him
- Always make sure the children had extra money to buy books. In fact, the children were given more than enough and they spent their money to buy books and they each have their own library.
- A romantic husband to his wife
- Assist his wife with budgeting and making sure that what they needed at home were ordered as planned - he was very precise and systematic
- Taught his children charity-

This book is good as presents to all husbands or at weddings for new husbands. It helps them see their role in the house as a father and as a husband. With Quran as the base of all education, you can't be wrong in bringing up your children. Giving children sound foundation of Islam helps them be better muslims and better husbands too. Current research revealed that, MAN are becoming SOFT and WOMAN are becoming FIERCE. This is due to our new preservatives and additives we have in our food.  Is this true? Or have we not use Quran and the examples of the prophet to live our lives? This great man was raised by his father with Quran, Hadith, Fiqh, Seerah etc. He was taught by his father the knowledge of Islam. They had good education at home which most of us can't give to our children but hope that the school can do it on our behalf.

So, when you read this book or any other of its kind, at least it gives you new insights on different aspects of life. Try follow some of the things Hassan Al Banna did, perhaps, things would be better at home. Or may be if you give this book to your husband, perhaps, he can see how he can at least try to improve his leadership or parenting skill to make things better for the children. Or may be, read to your sons and make them realize that they can be great person in their own way too if they follow the teaching of Islam. Isn't it great to have great people around us. But sadly, great people might not be around.. so we have to seek them through readings and perhaps, through these examples, new great people will emerge around us.. in our own community, in our own household, .... and hopefully, you can also feel this kind of greatness and love in your home too. OR HAVE YOU??

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Two kind hearts

I met them in Leicester on my way to Leeds but since we stopped over at Clydach, I got carried away with shopping at the wednesday car boot sale there and arrived later than expected. It was't clear to me that my daughter had arranged for an earlier meeting. Anyway, we reached their house without difficulty with the guide of the UK map (thank you 7-11) as our Tom Tom was in Leeds.

When we parked the car, I saw a british man with white beard came out to greet us with a smiling and welcoming face. His name is brother Daud R. Mathew or previously known as David. I had high expectation of them as my daughter talked so much of them and their dakwah work - they are very much committed. We entered the house... a very lively and comfortable house, I should say. Across the room, I was greeted by a pakistani lady sitting on a sofa - smiling and eager for our hugs. She was not well for some days before - my daughter told me the last time she saw her, she was not that thin. She told me she had lost a lot of weight but alhamdulillah, recovering. She moves around in wheel chair - for many years now.

As we chatted along from one topic to another, I found them amusing. They are one of the most beautiful couple I've seen. Brother Daud told us that they are never bored of each other. They are two brainy people and very supportive to each other. They met in Oxford when the sister Anis was doing her PhD in nuclear physics and brother Daud was working at the university. She told us how she managed to impressed Oxford professors when she presented her PhD proposal ideas. Indeed, the professors were amazed of how good the idea was and as soon as she knew her idea was accepted, she asked for a permission to flee the room and pray 2 rakaat of solat to say thanks to Allah. How many of us would do that when we are grateful?

Brother Daud was attracted to Islam the first time when he saw her doing her solat at a corner of a room. She gave him a book of Islam so that he can understand more of the religion. How he embraced Islam can be read from his article "A Sleepless Night", published by the Brunei Times. He took shahadah in 1973, 18 months after doing solat and fasting. He thought he had not known much. They also told us how the family in Pakistan eventually accepted him and they got married in Pakistan. The things that they told us was really fascinating. They worked in Saudi Arabia for several years before they reside in the UK and have been doing the dakwah work ever since. Both of them are actively involve in giving talks about Islam and dakwah especially during the Islamic Awareness week, one of many programs organized by FOSIS (Federation of Student Islamic Societies) in the UK.

They invited us to stay for the night but since we had to drive to Leeds for my daughter's graduation, we had to turn down the offer but indeed, I was tempted. I told them that they have to write a book on their autobiography as I know for sure, they can really inspire many other muslims to do dakwah too, insya'Allah. Some of us are not doing it at all. May Allah forgive us for our negligence.

Time flew so fast when you are having a good time. Before we knew it, it's already time to hit the road again. Before we left, brother Daud gave us his book (newly published) as a souvenir  and signed it. It says.....
"A small gift to help you remember our first meeting - the beginning of a long and lasting friendshipDaud and Anis
July 2011
Again they invited me to stay for a month with them so that I can help them write the book I suggested. What a good offer! I would really love to do that but with my work here, I don't know if it is possible. As I left the house, I thank Allah for sending me 2 new friends with kind hearts into my life. May this friendship help us to grow closer to Him, The Al-Mighty. I remember a hadith that said...

From Abu Dawood, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Never do two Muslims shake hands except that their sins are forgiven before they depart.”

Friday, 15 July 2011

They Took Their Oath....

The congregation for the conferment of degrees was so grand and merry with less protocol - short and nice. The Vice Chancellor’s speech was very meaningful and not too formal which to me, seemed to connect to all these students who were sitting there, listening well. Then they called their names and one by one, each student went on the stage to get his or her scroll. They are young doctors.. ready to serve and help people. It was indeed a moving moment for many – especially for those parents whom had thrived to send their daughters/sons to medical school. Behind all those success, I believe each one of them had their own stories to tell. Tears were difficult to hold back and I am sure, other parents felt the same. We sat there enjoying every sweet moment of success. You can see parents at their best – I bet many had ordered special suits for the occasion as indeed it was a special moment for everyone. At the end of the session, the graduates of Leeds University Medical School stood up and read their oath….

I solemnly pledge myself to consecrate my life to the service of humanity,
I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude which is their due;
I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity;
The health of my patient will be my first consideration;
I will respect the secrets which are confided in me, even after the patient has died;
I will maintain by all the means in my power the honour
And the noble traditions of the medical profession;
My colleagues will be my sisters and brothers;
I will not permit considerations of age, disease
or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient;
I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from its beginning 
even under threat and I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity;
I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honour.

That was the oath written beautifully for these young graduates. They read and we listened quietly with contentment as they made their oath. I hope they meant what they had just recited. We need sincere and caring doctors for our future. They will be one of the most important group of professionals in the society and I am happy my daughter was among them. 

I am grateful for the success Allah has rewarded us and right now, I just want to sincerely thank Allah. My heart was full of emotions and my tears were rolling down......

Thank you Allah for everything!