Pantun Sutera dan Songket

Pabila mendung awan kelabu,
Turunlah hujan guruh mendatang;
Pabila gandum disulam tebu,
Itulah manisan untuk dihidang.

Tubuh layu hatiku gundah,
Tidak berdaya mendendang inang;
Buah nyiur diparut sudah,
Tinggal ditambah si batang pinang.

Bahtera sultan menongkah lalu,
Zapin dan joget jadi hiburan;
Sutera nian dialun bayu,
Sampin songket tenunan menawan.

Halus bisikan hiasi malam,
Pungguk bimbang kasihnya ke mana;
Manis senyuman mewangi alam,
Umpama bintang meneman purnama.

Lamunan bercambah terhabis masa,
Saat berharga yang dilepaskan;
Ampunan didamba dari Yang Esa,
Segala khilaf dimaaf insan.

Mawar di laman, melata dahlia,
Begitu sifat hutan seribu;
Biar aman serata dunia,
Itulah hajat di dalam kalbu.

Kiambang tasik tidak berpaut,
Bunganya merah menghias titi;
Andainya kasih bisa bertaut,
Cukuplah sudah hasrat di hati.

Hati ceria di Aidilfitri,
Senyum berseri bila bersua;
Hari raya berlalu pergi,
Hidup ini teruskan jua.

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Why Do We Fast

I was watching (again) a video of a sweet, brave and strong Syrian girl, perhaps around age 8 or 9, or younger, showing her faith and integrity.

Something woke me up.

Allah SWT has ordered Muslims to fast for a month in Ramadhan, with a few groups of people exempted from the order (like the ill ones, travellers, women who are having menses or post natal bleeding). The month of Ramadhan is not only for fasting, but in this holy month we are adviced strongly to study the Quran, do more charity, and more specific acts of worship like prayers.

Many, Muslims and non Muslims alike, wonder what the reasons are behind this order.

As with other commands written in the Quran, Muslims believe there are pbvious, and not-so-obvious blessings and goodness behind it. There are many good reasons as to why Allah asked us to fast.

Amongst those taught to us when we were in school is so that we learn how hard life can be. So that we could understand how poor people feel when they don’t have food at home, when they have to stay hungry until they find means to get food.

But you see, poor people, just by being poor, are not exempted from fasting. Prophet Muhammad SAW himself has never remain in a full stomach for more than three days in a row. During normal days, sometimes he’d fast just because there’s no food at home.

So he (SAW) was poor, in the sense of material possessions. But why does he still fast?

Some parts of the more scientific or health conscious Muslims would speak about how fasting increases one’s health, helps regulate blood sugar and even avoid heart attacks. A doctor working in a Muslim country like ours would notice that the average blood glucose in diabetics are generally lower during fasting month. Hospital admissions due to heart and glucose related problems decrease during Ramadhan. It is only in Ramadhan that we could actually sleep during on call nights because less patients come in.

There are studies upon studies showing the benefits of fasting.

We were also taught that it is to increase God-consciousness (taqwa). How does being hungry and thirsty (and not having access to one’s wife on the daytime) increase God-consciousness?

Allah said that fasting is for Him. It means that, whether the person is truly fasting or not, only He would know. And to truly fast means that someone is truly sincere in obeying His commands.

You see, when someone observes fasting, he needs to refrain himself, in simpler terms, from three things: food, drinks and sexual relationship, within the fasting hours, ie from dawn to dusk. At night he could, well, eat, sleep and be merry.

It teaches us self control, when we’re faced with these temptations.

It teaches us integrity. We could always eat when nobody is looking. But why didn’t we? The answer is God-consciousness: we know Someone Superior is watching and He has told you not to. We know it is wrong, that’s why we did not do it, even when no human being is watching.

It teaches us to stick to our principles. We have said to ourselves, promised ourselves, every night before we sleep, that we were going to fast the next day. So we fast. Why do we fast? Because it’s Allah’s order in He knows best. We stick to our principles, because it is wrong to let it go.

It teaches us that we can be a better person than we were before. The worship in Ramadhan helps us discover and fight our own demons, helps us understand who we actually are, deep inside, without all the distractions of food, food, more food, and the opposite gender. The worship in Ramadhan would wake us up as to how much kindness that we could extend to others.

Ramadhan makes us realise that kindness, mercy and forgiveness goes a long way.

By simply sharing meals during breaking fast brings about not just joy, but also tranquility in the mind that would not have been achieved otherwise. We do it because it is the right thing to do, according to the Quran and Prophet Muhammad’s teachings, and end up wanting to do more because of the blissful feeling that it brought.

It is simply amazing.

I need to mention that a person who is fasting is also adviced to guard his tongue against hurtful words, guard himself from going into fits of rage, backbiting, and bullying others.

Just imagine a person who has self control, integrity and sticks to his principles. He will be one who does not take bribes, even when nobody knows about it. He will not give bribes too, so there will be no corruption if nobody gives and nobody takes it.

(Bribery, corruption is a big sin in Islam, heavily forbidden).

Just imagine a world without corruption.

Just imagine a world where people only say nice things to each other.

Just imagine a world where people put themselves into each others’ shoes, empathising and helping out those in need.

It’s a world of peace and freedom that is supposed to be achieved with proper, real, sincere fasting.

It’s a world of justice and mercy, that is supposed to be achieved when Muslims fully embrace the meaning of Ramadhan.

It is a world that we all dream of living in.

Pesanan Kesihatan Untuk Aidilfitri

Kita semakin menghampiri penghujung Ramadhan, dan tidak lama lagi, ramai di kalangan kita akan bergerak pulang ke kampung atau bercuti, tidak kira bangsa atau agama.

Saya ingin memberi sedikit pesanan berkenaan kesihatan, saya harap dapat memberi sedikit panduan pada masa cuti begini.

Kepada mereka yang tidak mempunyai apa-apa masalah penyakit, masih muda, dan datang dari kawasan yang banyak kes denggi (pernah ada aktiviti “fogging”, atau ada jiran yang pernah menghidap denggi), tolong pergi ke hospital atau klinik berdekatan sekiranya anda demam selama 3 hari atau lebih.

(Mereka yang mempunyai masalah penyakit atau tidak begitu muda juga perlu ke hospital untuk pemeriksaan sekiranya demam melebihi 3 hari. Pesanan ini saya tujukan khas kepada orang muda kerana selalunya orang muda lebih lambat dibawa ke hospital berbanding dengan orang yang mempunyai penyakit lain/sudah tua)

Denggi adalah jangkitan penyakit yang berpotensi untuk menjadi merbahaya dan boleh membawa maut. Tanda-tanda bahaya adalah seperti muntah-muntah, sakit perut, cirit-birit, pendarahan, pening kepala atau berasa terlampau letih.

Selalunya pesakit denggi memerlukan banyak air, dan sesetengah pesakit perlu dimasukkan ke hospital supaya jumlah air dapat diberi dengan seimbang (tidak terlalu banyak dan tidak terlalu sedikit).

Denggi selalunya membawa maut sekiranya pesakit telah terlalu kering, dan keadaan boleh merosot dengan begitu pantas. Sekiranya seseorang pesakit hanya datang ke hospital pada peringkat yang tenat, kemungkinan untuk menyelamatkan nyawanya adalah lebih tipis.

* * *

Untuk mereka yang mempunyai penyakit yang berpanjangan (kronik) seperti darah tinggi, kencing manis, sakit jantung, sawan, masalah thyroid dan sebagainya:

1. Bawa ubat-ubat anda ke mana sahaja anda pergi. Lebih baik jika diletakkan dalam bungkusan asal. Sekiranya ada senarai ubat yang boleh dibawa ke mana-mana, itu lebih baik.
Ini kerana, seandainya sesuatu yang tidak baik berlaku dan anda terpaksa tinggal di hospital, para doktor boleh merujuk senarai ubat-ubatan anda.

(Kami, doktor, akui bahawa kami tidak dapat cam semua ubat-ubat anda sekiranya diletakkan dalam bekas plastik sahaja, kerana terlalu banyak ubat “putih, bulat, kecil” dan sebagainya yang terdapat dalam bidang perubatan).

2. Bawa bekalan berlebihan. Jika anda merancang untukk bercuti selama seminggu, bawa bekalan untuk sekurang-kurangnya dua minggu.

3. Ambil tahu tentang penyakit anda. Pesanan ini bukan khas untuk hari raya/musim cuti tetapi juga pada waktu biasa. Sekurang-kurangnya tahu apa nama pemyakit anda, nama pembedahan yang telah anda lalui sebelum ini. Jika anda tidak dapat menyebut penyakit tersebut, anda boleh minta doktor anda menuliskannya untuk anda.

Hal ini akan memudahkan rawatan anda, sekiranya anda terpaksa dikejarkan ke hospital, kerana sesetengah ubat tidak boleh diberikan untuk sesetengah penyakit.

4. Untuk mereka yang perlu mengawal pemakanan, seperti pesakit kencing manis, sila pastikan anda tidak makan menurut nafsu. Memang musim perayaan adalah musim yang paling mencabar, tetapi anda perlu berpada-pada. Makan dengan bilangan yang terkawal dan seboleh-bolehnya mengikut waktu.

Kepada tuan rumah yang menghidang makanan, saya ingin menasihatkan supaya anda tidak kecil hati atau merajuk sekiranya tetamu anda menolak untuk makan hidangan anda atau tidak menambah lauk, kerana mereka ingin cuba menjaga kesihatan mereka. Hormati keperluan mereka.

5. Kepada mereka yang perlu mengawal jumlah air yang anda boleh minum dalam sehari, sila patuhi kawalan itu. Anda sendiri boleh mengukur dan tahu berapa banyak yang anda boleh minum. Saya pasti anda tidak mahu menghabiskan masa di hospital pada musim perayaan ini.

6. Apabila pesakit sampai kepada kami, kami akan pastikan segala masalah diselesaikan, atau sekurang-kurangnya memberi kelegaan. Langkah-langkah yang kami akan ambil termasuklah menahan anda di wad untuk beberapa hari, sehingga anda sembuh. Ataupun mungkin anda memerlukan kemasukan ke unit rawatan rapi. Jadi seandainya anda telahpun dikejarkan ke hospital, anda perlu bersedia untuk dimasukkan ke ward (walaupun itu tidak semestinya).

* * *

Kepada mereka yang memandu, tolong pandu berhati-hati. Malang tidak berbau.
Seandainya anda terlibat dalam kemalangan jalan raya, anda mungkin bertemu maut.
Lebih teruk sekiranya anda mendapat kecederaan kekal, contohnya lumpuh separuh badan, lumpuh satu badan, mendapat kecacatan otak menyebabkan anda berganting kepada orang lain secara sepenuhnya, kaki terpaksa dipotong, tangan terpaksa dipotong, kehilangan bahagian dalaman yang berharga seperti mata, buah pinggang atau limpa, dan banyak lagi kecacatan lain.
Saya pasti anda tidak mahu hidup dalam kecacatan, lebih-lebih lagi apabila anda telah dilahirkan sempurna oleh ibu anda.
Dan saya pasti anda tidak mahu membunuh sesiapa dengan pemanduan yang tidak bertanggungjawab.

* * *

Semoga kita semua dapat melalui musim percutian dengan keadaan sihat dan bahagia.

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Palestine and Us

For at least the whole week or two, there were not much else I could see on my timeline except for news about Palestine. It is somehow the same period of time that there were news about Syria last year.

For many of us, there was, and still is, long term oppression towards the people of Palestine. Shunned to a small strip of land, high stone walls stood between them and the land some people call Israel, numerous “security” posts within their supposedly own land, posts manned by Israeli armies restricting the movement of Palestinians between villages, their land simply trespassed by Israelis claiming that it’s rightfully theirs, Palestinians labelled terrorists just because they fight for their OWN land (in which they grew up, live and farm), and now, bombed to no end in the name of self defense by Israel.

Children lost their parents. Parents lost their children. Because of so-called “accurate” missiles shot from Israel, with the excuse of “these civillians were used by Hamas as human shields”. While with the walls surrounding them and the Israeli army ships guarding the seas, they have nowhere to go. Even when IDF said, “Oh, we have given them warnings but they did not leave.”

Leave to where, exactly?

* * *

No, I’m not here to talk about war or politics.

I’m here to talk about what this means to me, about the lessons that we could gather from this monstrosity.

We Muslims believe that after death, we will all be raised again in the hereafter so that God’s fair judgment will send us either to paradise, to hell, or to hell first then paradise. His judgment is fair because no stones will be left unturned, and all evil deeds, all acts of oppression, all wrongdoings will be paid in hell. And all the good deeds, kindness, and acts of mercy that we have spread in this world, will be paid in paradise. Of course, on top of the specific act of worship that He has commanded us to do.

All children will go to heaven, and they will wait for their parents there. So while we believe that justice shall be served for all the murdered children, while we believe that they deserve a happy childhood, we do believe that they are living a better life there, even at this moment.

While we do believe that the parents are going through hell at the moment (in this life), while we do believe that they will follow their children in heaven, we believe that they deserve their freedom and their dignity.

They all, Palestinians and Israelis alike, should live in peace. Like the rest of us.

What do all this have to do with us Muslims?

Well, we all have seen the strength of the Palestinians, how their faith never withered even after all the suffering in their lives. We all know the children are now happy running around the gates of paradise.

What about us?

We know we are all far behind in faith, and so in strength, as compared to them, even to their youngsters and their kids. They have gone through such a difficult life (which, in some parts of the world or culture,would have asked to have their lives ended), but their faith remained.

They still stood up and pray. They still fast in Ramadhan, even when the bombs ket on dropping like rain. They kept on saying prayers upon prayers so that help will come some day, and they never gave up.

What about us?

Allah, Glory be to Him, says in the Quran: “Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, ‘We believe,’ and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false.” (Quran, 29: 2-3)

“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.” (Quran, 2: 155)

Sure, those men, women and children were tested, and are still being tested, until the day they leave this world.

We are, too. But did we succeed?

We failed with even food. We fight over food, we buy too much, we eat too much, and then we get unwell, because of food. We lose our vision, our skin, our sensation, our kidneys, because of our weakness for food. All those gifts from Allah, we lose them because of our own issues. Being hungry is wrong. Therefore we eat. In excess.

We failed with women, with men, claiming love as a reason. We claim that love should not be barred, even when it’s done the wrong way. Then we get illnesses like hepatitis B, HIV. We lose our lungs, our brains, because we want to “live our lives to the fullest”.

We failed with money. We failed with land and property, when family ties are cut because of some undocumented property ownership and will. While one of the most important thing in this life that we need to maintain, according to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), is family ties. Be good to your family, to your neighbours.

We failed even by means of our comfort. Our beds, our rooms are too comfortable. We don’t wake up for tahajjud anymore. We don’t even wake up for the obligatory fajar prayers anymore, let alone doing it in congregation.

How, in this whole wide world, are we going to fight out own evil? The devil inside us that says, don’t do your job properly, nobody will notice. The devil inside us that says, don’t bother about the poor. The devil inside us that says, just bribe that policeman, they are doing roadblocks just for the money.

How are we going to fight the devil within us that will cause up a rage when someone rammed into our car, accidentally? How are we going to fight that devil within us who swears at every single person who cuts the queue, or double park our cars?

I heard some people mentioned that the Israelis said, we will never be able to fight the Zionists unless our fajar prayer congregation is as large as our Friday prayer crowd. Or maybe it’s some frustrated Muslim who said that. Well, I don’t care who said it, but don’t you think it’s true?

We fight about things like how long our beards should measure, whether the women should cover their face or not, whether we could wear nail polish during menses, whether picking our noses will break our fasts or not, we fight about how many raka’ahs should one perform during tarawih, 8 or 20, we fight about whether women should have separate section in the masjid with full partition or should we allow women to see through the partition. We fight about whether a man or a wife should cook in the house. We fight about how young people should look for life partners in this modern age. We fight about whether cadbury is halal or haram.

We fill our minds with all the (relatively) petty things but we forgot the most important thing: SOLAT. The five daily obligatory prayers, which is the pillar of our faith.

If all the time spent fighting was actually spent thinking, discussing and acting on how to increase mosque attendance, how to make everyone perform solat perfectly, how to keep us consistent in studying the Quran, I’m a hundred percent sure that our Muslim community will be better people.

Not only towards Allah, but towards human beings in general. Towards animals and everything else in the environment too.

We become very angry when we see them standing on top of our holy book, the Quran. Yes, I have just seen a photo of a woman, with her pedicured toenails, standing on an open Quran. I saw this photo of many Quran being thrown away to be burnt.

As much as these images would make us snap in anger, do we really honor the Quran? Do we honor His words? Do we take God’s words lightly? Do we make fun of the people who preach to us using His beautiful words? Do we read the Quran and give ourselves the excuse, “I’ll wait until I feel sincere, then only I’ll follow God’s words.” Do we, virtually, throw away the Quran just for it to be burnt, from our hearts?

Do we act kindly according to our beloved Prophet Muhammad’s teaching? Do we show our love towards children, kindness to our neighbours, mercy to the needy, and forgiveness to those who have wronged us? Do we only say good words, do we refrain ourselves from using swear and abusive words even when we are wronged?

* * *

Yes, the Palestinians had it difficult in this world, but they did not die in vain. They will have it easy in the hereafter.
But what about us? What about our children?

We had it relatively easy so far, but are we thankful enough?

* * *
No, I’m not perfect. I’m far from it.
But we all could do with some contemplation, to correct ourselves, to be better people, to be better Muslims, to be better human beings.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said this as a part of his last sermon: “Hurt no one so that no one will hurt you anymore.”

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A Blessed Life

Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said, “Let him be humbled into dust, let him be humbled into dust.” It was said, “Allah’s Messenger, who is he?” He (PBUH) said: “He who sees either of his parents during their old age or he sees both of them, but he does not enter Paradise (by neglecting his/her duties towards them)” – Muslim 6189

Although many of us have lost one of our parents, most of us still have both.

It’s easy to live a blessed life while our parents are still around. Just a small deed to them will carry us far. Fulfilling our duties of being kind to them will ensure that our lives are lived easier.

Even by smiling at them, looking at their faces, Allah will grant us endless blessings.

What if we spend for them, helping them out with house chores? Feed them with the food that came from the work of our two hands? Even more blessings.

And if they became unwell, we shall care for them.

No, I’m not saying that we should be kind to them just so that our lives will become easier, or happier.

Allah told us to treat them well because of all the things that they have gone through for us all this while. We can never repay what our parents have done for us, the least we could do is make them happy, and be there for them when we need them.

Then, somehow, our lives will all be taken care of by Him the Almighty Himself. Things just fall into place. Or even if they don’t, we’ll have the wisdom to understand why, and move on with our lives.

Just by being kind to our parents.

* * *

I’ve worked with the dying and their families. I’ve seen those who cared for their parents until the last days, and those who ignored them.

All I can say is, the regret of not being there for one’s parents, the guilt of not spending enough time for one’s parents, the remorse felt by having a bad relationship with one’s parents, are not worth any amount of money, women or luxuries.

Apple Pies and I

First let me put down the recipe.

I made a few apple pies before and this one is unlike the ones I made. Apparently this recipe has won the cooks many awards, so. Decided to give it a try. I tweaked it according to the reviews, and my brother’s suggestions.

Ingredients:
Pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie (I bought them ready-made, my brother disapproved, so I rolled my eyes at him).
1/2 cup (120g) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons wheat flour with 1 tablespoon corn starch.
1/4 cup water – you may put in less if you want it thicker
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
Pinch of nutmeg
3 cloves
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
8 Granny Smith apples – peeled, cored and sliced

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees C. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, spices, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer.
2. Mix the apples with 3/4 of the sauce.
2. Place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Cover with a lattice work crust. Gently pour the remaining sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off.
3. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft.

Tips:
To avoid the apple mixture from soaking the bottom crust, glaze the bottom crust with egg whites and bake the crust for a few minutes before putting in your apples.
You could also cook the apples first before putting in the pie crust, so it will shorten the contact time between the apples and pie crust, and the apple sauce will be thicker. When in the oven, all you need to do is bake the crust until it’s nice and golden.
Put your apple pie on the lower rack in the oven so that the top crust wouldn’t brown up before the apples are cooked.
For directions on how to do a lattice work crust, refer to youtube.

Cook with love. :)

* * *

I have a history with apple pies.

He was the one who taught me to just search in the internet for whatever recipes I wanted, and that many are reliable. My friends told me about it when we were students but I didn’t check them out; I did not know that many people who really love food until I met him.

He used to bring his laptop to the kitchen and start cooking. We’d go to Jaya Grocer and shop for ingredients, then come back and cook up some nice things for the family. He introduced me to ready-made pie crust which is so useful as I’m not good with breads and crusts yet.

My family love good food too, and my dad introduced us to a variety of food, but our standards are probably a little high, and our appetites smaller, so we ended up loving the all-natural home made stuff rather than out eating.

I’d suggest a combination of banana cake and mango lassi. They are match made in the kitchen.

I did learn a considerable amount of cooking tricks while I stayed with them in PJ, I have to admit that. They loved food so they cooked a lot, everyday. I learnt how to spice up meals, and that there are so many things that I have yet to explore.

Nowadays I miss cooking with my (little) sister. It’s nice to have her chattering around and helping out with things, especially the artsy stuff. Yesterday evening I was pretty sure that she would have wanted to do the lattice work for the top crust.
She’s a good cook herself; she cooks from her heart.

Always Better

I entered Ramadhan with hopes and prayers. Hopes because I know that my prayers have been answered, in their own special way, when I least expect them to be. Praying desperately as there are things that have yet to happen, for their own good reasons.

Prayed for months, for years, but I kept on praying.

For I know, like my other wishes and prayers that have come true, these yet-to-happen things will one day happen in their own very special way.

Because I believe that even if I don’t get exactly what I asked for, Allah will give me something better.

ALWAYS something better than what I asked for.

All I need to do is ask.

* * *

As a human beings, we have our doubts.

There are days when our faith waver a little.

What we can do is look back at those times when we just had to wish in our hearts and He gave the answer right in front of our eyes.
Those times when we asked and He answered exactly how we wanted it to be.
Or those times when the answers come when we truly are in need of it, and it’s much better than what we ever asked for.

We all know it will happen again, when we honestly pray, we honestly ask from the depth of our hearts.

* * *
As The One who created this universe, The One who moved the sun and the moon and the earth on their own orbits, on their own perfects system, and the stars to guide us when we’re alone and lost, He could move hearts too.

All we need to do is believe.

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