Umbrella

July 2007.

It was supposed to be one of the happiest days in my life. Indeed I was happy. There were so many loved ones around, all feeling festive and excited. Cik Fuah was doing what she has always done, and will always do. You were annoying us all by singing this song. All the time.

Twenty months passed. Things did not go the way we wanted it to be.

You, like the rest of them, were there for me. Like the song you sang all those months before.

You were there as the shoulder to cry on.
No, I did not tell you stories, but you were there.

You drove me to work, and back.
You joined me for dinner.
You slept in my house when I was alone.

We went for movies, theatres, and sometimes trips.

We did not have much.
Times were difficult.

With all the troubles in our lives, we had each other.

You were my umbrella.

* * *

I know you must be apprehensive of the changes that are going to happen.

There are so many things that you will experience; unexpected, surprising.
You will say things you never thought you would say.
You will feel what you never thought you would ever feel.

You know it has been rocky from the word go.
We are worried that all hell will break lose.

But I hope we are stronger than that.

Perhaps only broken people would understand the broken.
It is only when we have felt our worst, that we could understand the worst of scenarios.

Maybe only broken people could pick up the pieces together, and build an even more beautiful creation, lasting to the paradise.

Therefore I do believe we are stronger than that.

* * *

Whatever you feel, please know that we will be there for you.

Do know that we trust you, and will pray for the best for you.

Believe that you are strong, the way we have all tried to be all this while.

All that have happened to us, did not happen without a reason, because I believe, only then could we hold hands with those who had it as bad as we have.

We are all here to climb up together, to be happy together.
Those hardships were never meant to tear us apart.

Life will not be easier.
But we should strive to be stronger.

Hugs, love.

Kakak.

* * *
Umbrella by Rihanna
You had my heart, and we’ll never be worlds apart
Maybe in magazines, but you’ll still be my star
Baby ’cause in the dark, you can’t see shiny cars
And that’s when you need me there
With you, I’ll always share

Because when the sun shines, we’ll shine together
Told you I’ll be here forever
Said I’ll always be your friend
Took an oath, I’ma stick it out to the end
Now that it’s raining more than ever
Know that we’ll still have each other
You can stand under my umbrella

These fancy things will never come in between
You’re part of my entity, here for infinity
When the war has took its part
When the world has dealt its cards
If the hand is hard, together we’ll mend your heart

You can run into my arms
It’s okay, don’t be alarmed, come in to me
There’s no distance in between our love
So go on and let the rain pour
I’ll be all you need and more

Because when the sun shines, we’ll shine together
Told you I’ll be here forever
Said I’ll always be your friend
Took an oath, I’ma stick it out to the end

Now that it’s raining more than ever
Know that we’ll still have each other
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The Library Is (Not) A Quiet Place

Recently, out of desperation, I started a habit of studying in a public library. Perpustakaan Raja Tun Uda in Shah Alam, to be exact. I heard so much good things about it, so I decided to check it out.

True enough, the opening hours are long, it opens everyday (except during public holidays). The lighting is just right, the air conditioner temperature is just right, even the height of the tables and chairs are just right. There are many types of seats we could choose from; the traditional table and chair, different types of couches and soft benches (like sofa but they are not).

The books? I can’t really comment, because I knew they wouldn’t have the books that I need for my exams, and I prefer my own books. But I could see what seems to be a great collection of Islamic reference books, which would probably be very useful for those pursuing tertiary level Islamic studies.

However, when I finally sat down to study (after exploring the library for the first time), I felt a little perplexed. I tried to study at first but the confusion continued to bug me, so I went to the librarian counter.

I asked him, “Is this floor supposed to be a place for discussion?”
He answered, “No.”

“Then why are those people making a lot of noise? Is it allowed here?” I asked him.
“No, they are supposed to keep quiet,” he replied. So I became more confused.
“Then why is nobody telling them that?”
“Miss, if you want them to keep quiet, we’d prefer visitors like you to advice the noisy ones,” he told me confidently.
“But that’s your job, right?” I wondered, did I miss anything here?
“Yes, but they won’t listen to us, you see. We could tell them to stop talking but they will start again after five minutes.”
So I said, “No. That’s not why I’m here. I’m here to study. So could you please tell them to be silent?”
Luckily he said, “Yes, I will.”

He did, after a few minutes.

You see, what confused me at the first place was there were groups of students studying and discussing LOUDLY in the library. As I understand there are discussion rooms available in the library (which needs a small fee to be paid, which is less than RM8), but these students are discussing in the open floor! As a matter of fact, I knew they were medical students because I could hear what they were talking about.

The librarian was right. The groups of student stopped their discussion for a few minutes. After that they were back to talking loudly.

The week after that was worse. There were even more students, and I tried to tolerate the noise, but by afternoon it got too much. Again, I had to go to the librarian (this time a different person) and complained.

It seemed that this occurred EVERY weekend and he has given up reprimanding those students. He told me he does not know what else to do with them. He has even asked the security guard to tell those students off but nothing changed.

“Do you expect me to kick them out of the library, then?? It’s not very appropriate, is it?” he asked, exasperated.
I said, “Yes, if that is what you need to do to teach them the etiquettes! If these kids were overseas they would have been kicked out a long time ago!”

I almost made a scene, some the library visitors were staring at me, but I don’t care, because something needs to be done.

“Miss, why not I give you this one room, it is very quiet. If this place is too noisy for you,” he offered.
“What do you mean? Is there any chair or table I could sit in?” I was getting even more angry.
“Of course there is. It is a nice room, right opposite this space. Come, let me show you.”
“So you mean, I’m the one who want peace and quiet, I’m the one being kicked out???” This is too much.
“Just come and see the room first!” he said.
I told him, “Sir, this is not the point. I know I want quiet but these kids need to know RESPECT! I’m more bothered of their attitude than the noise itself!”

But I followed him to the room anyway, although I was frustrated that I could not get my point across.

Indeed it was a very nice, very quiet room. It was Selangor Info Hub, which apparently includes the Sultan’s collection. There was an even nicer seat, a nice table just for one person, slightly cooler and very very quiet. I was alone there. For the next two hours I was rather happy, but a small part of me still felt angry because just being in a quiet room was not the whole point.

* * *
One might say, what else would I want? I already had a nice, comfortable by myself, why should I worry about those (medical) students?

You see, my main point is those kids need to learn respect. They need to know and understand that the main library hall is a place where people go to get some peace and quiet, for them to be able to focus on their studies.

Not everyone is blessed with a quiet house. Mine is, in fact, very quiet, but there is a very comfortable bed which is not available in the library.

Just think about this.
We ran away from home for some good reason. As comfortable as the library is, it might not be as good as home.
Many of us work while studying, and most have kids at home.
Those who are full time student might not live in a house conducive enough to focus in their studying.
Some of us really prefer to study in peace and quiet; no talking, no music.
Like me, my house is peaceful but I have distractions, so the library is the best place to be.

Please respect our rights. If we wanted somewhere noisy, we would have just sat at any mamak stall and study. We could have ordered any snacks and eat them while studying.

If we weren’t desperate, we would not have gone all the way to the library. We needed to dress up (appropriately), drive, find a car park, walk all the way from the parking place, and leave our bags outside the hall (which actually annoyed me because not many of the lockers could function anymore).

If we did not need this peace and quiet, we probably wouldn’t have bothered coming.

Please show us some respect. Be quiet when you’re in the library. If you need to have a discussion, use the discussion rooms. They are available in every floor. If you don’t want to pay for the rooms, then discuss somewhere else, in one of your houses, perhaps.

I have never done any discussions in the college library when I was a student. It was always done in one of our houses.

So please. Show respect.

Be quiet when you are in the library.

* * *
Personally, I don’t think it is the librarian’s job to maintain the peace in the library.
As medical students (yes, most of the noisy kids were medical students!!!), they should have already understood the bulk of information that people need to digest. They should have already understood that the library is supposed to be a quiet place.

Hey, I thought it is COMMON SENSE???

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An Honest Friend

My father fetched me from work this afternoon. He called me to tell me to hurry up because there was no place to park his car, hence he could not stop his car on the hospital’s main road for too long just to wait for me. I ran out from the hospital lobby and chased after his car.

I hurried into his car and he immediately drove away.

He asked, “Where to next?”

I said, “The ATM machine. I need to take out some cash.” At that moment I had a feeling that I might not have my purse with me. I opened my bag and couldn’t see it there. I may have left it in the clinic while I was rushing out.

At that very moment, my phone rang.

“Maria Kamal.” A man’s voice. Very familiar. I tried to place his face. Certainly not my department colleague.

“Oh. Hi.”

“Teoh here.”

It was Mr Teoh, an ENT surgeon in the hospital (who also happened to do his housemanship together with me back in 2006). He said he saw me running across the road, and my purse fell from my pocket while I was getting into the car!!

“I have your purse with me. I’m just two cars behind you. Is there anywhere you can stop so that I could return this to you?”

We stopped somewhere about 20 meters after that, in the middle of the heavy traffic (there are no roadsides within the hospital). I couldn’t say enough thanks to him.

Within that short moment of time, he managed to ask me, “I don’t know whether you’re lucky or unlucky today.”

I said, “I’m lucky, of course!!” I said thanks again, and went back into my father’s car.

* * *
I could not express enough gratitude to Teoh for saving my life today. Really. Making a police report for the loss is one thing. Cancelling my cards and applying for new ones is another thing.

But you see, I’m sitting for another exam in March, so I’ll need all the cards as soon as possible to arrange for my transport and accommodation. With reports and renewals, I don’t know how long they are going to take!

I sincerely hope that his kindness will be repaid. I know it will come back to him, whether the help comes from me, or from other people. I know good will be returned with more good.

I hope he will be blessed with safety and protection, wherever he goes.

* * *

As Muslims, we need to reflect back on our days and see what we can learn from the day’s events.

(1) Remember to say our thanks to those people who have helped us

(2) Remember to express our gratitude to Allah SWT for blessing us with kind and honest people around.

(3) What were the chances that an old friend was to have spotted me running across the road? What were the chances that, of all people, he was the one who saw the purse fall out? It could have been any outsider, it could have been a drug addict even (many of them walking around there)! What are the chances that, after all those years, he STILL has my phone number?
As someone who believes in God, I don’t believe in chances. I believe that Allah has made the situation that way to remind me of certain things, for me to reflect.

(4) When someone has been kind to us, we shall bring that forward to others. Help another person or two. Or more than that.

(5) I must continue striving to improve my akhlak (character). Get angry less (or, don’t get angry at all), speak only kind words, stop arguing even if I know I’m right (that one, I still failed to do, even today), be nice to my parents.

(6) I remember last year my mom returned a purse that contained a few thousand ringgit to another lady. I think in some ways, the things that do to others, will bounce back to our children too.

So let’s be kind and spread more kindness. :)

Saya Cabar Rakyat Malaysia Berhenti Ambil Makanan Bergoreng

Wah wah wah…nampaknya sudah mula ada suara-suara sumbang yang menuduh bahawa industri kelapa sawit telah menyebabkan pembalakan berleluasa dan seterusnya menyebabkan banjir besar di negeri Cik Siti Wan Kembang. “Membuat kerosakan di bumi Allah” katanya.

Tapi sudah terlalu banyak tuduhan-tuduhan lain, jadi tak perlulah saya bercerita panjang lebar di sini. Lagipun apalah gunanya menuding jari sedangkan ramai saudara kita sedang memerlukan bantuan.

Maka sebagai seorang doktor, hari ini saya ingin mengambil kesempatan untuk mengajak dan mencabar rakyat Malaysia supaya berhenti terus daripada makan makanan bergoreng.

Boleh?

* * *
Tak kiralah goreng dengan minyak kelapa sawit atau “minyak sayuran” yang lain. Sebab yang dikatakan minyak sayuran itupun kebanyakannya minyak sawit juga. Dan kalau gunakan minyak daripada tumbuhan lain, dari negara lain, mereka terpaksa menebang hutan mereka untuk mendapatkan sayuran tersebut. Sama juga kesannya pada dunia.

* * *
Saban hari saya menjaga dan merawat pesakit-pesakit yang menderita akibat penyakit kencing manis, darah tinggi, buah pinggang, sakit jantung dan kegemukan (ye, kegemukan juga adalah suatu penyakit, kami panggil “obesity”). Setiap hari saya berjumpa mereka yang beratnya 90kg, 100kg, 110kg, malahan 140kg pun ada. Bukan seorang dua.

Saban hari jugalah saya bertanya, sarapan pagi makan apa? Tengahari makan apa? Malam makan apa? Sebelum tidur makan apa?

Jawapan biasa:
“Sarapan saya selalu makan mihun atau mi atau koey teow.” Saya tanya balik, “Masak apa?” “Oh. Goreng.” “Minum apa?” Kemudian sang isteri akan mencelah, “Doktor, dia ni teh tarik dia tak boleh tinggal!” dengan muka berkerut.

“Tengahari makan nasi la. Dengan sayur, lepas tu ayam atau ikan.” Saya tanya lagi, “Ikan atau ayam tu masak macam mana?” Jawapan mereka, “goreng, kari, asam pedas atau sambal.”

“Minum petang, puan?” “Tengoklah. Karipap ke, goreng pisang ke, kalau tak pun kuih lapis.”

Standard menu kebanyakan rakyat Malaysia.

Alasan yang diberi biasanya:

“Saya sibuk, makan mesti kat kedai. Kedai mana ada jual bakar-bakar atau kukus ni.”

“…tapi selalunya saya order kurang manis, doktor..”

“Laparlah petang-petang..mana boleh tak makan..mesti nak makan sesuatu. Karipap sebiji pun jadilah.”

“Saya mana ada duit nak beli ikan untuk kukus. Ikan-ikan tu mahal. Ikan yang saya mampu cuma sedap digoreng saja.”

“Saya dah cuba masak yang sihat, tapi suami saya taknak makan.” Sedangkan suami inilah yang berat badannya 140kg. Aduhai…

“Tak goreng tak sedap la doktor…!”

Lihatlah menu makanan kita seharian. Mana yang tak goreng? Mihun goreng, nasi goreng, ayam goreng, ikan goreng. Karipap, popia, cakoay semuanya goreng. Asam pedas, kari, gulai sebarang jenis, sayur-sayuran semuanya kena tumis dengan minyak. Bahkan masak sup pun kena tumis bawang dan rempah. Roti canai, roti telur, roti sardin, murtabak semuanya digoreng atas kuali yang berminyak. Kalau pasar Ramadhan tu, hampir semua gerai ada kuali yang mengandungi minyak untuk menggoreng sesuatu.

Belum cerita lagi makanan lain seperti Milo, Sardin, susu pekat yang mengandungi minyak sawit. Maka teh tarik kesayangan dan kebanggaan rakyat Malaysia pun hasil daripada minyak sawit.

Kesimpulan saya: RAKYAT MALAYSIA MEMANG BERGANTUNG DENGAN MINYAK SAWIT.

Jadi kalau kita semua, seluruh negara, bergantung kepada minyak sawit, kenapa terlalu menghina pengusaha kelapa sawit? Kenapa macam-macam caci maki diberikan kepada pembesar-pembesar Kelantan?

Ok. Lupakan tentang pembesar Kelantan. Kita balik kepada topik berhenti makanan bergoreng.

Saya bukan pakar ekonomi, saya tidak berniaga, tapi setahu saya, prinsip asas dalam perniagaan adalah “jika tiada permintaan, tiadalah pembekal.” Kalau tak ada orang makan sirip ikan jerung, tak adalah yang menjual. Masa orang boikot Milo dulu, banyak kedai jual Vico sahaja. Kalau ramai orang beli telekung lycra, maka makin ramailah orang yang berani jual telekung yang begitu.

Maka memandangkan begitu banyak penggunaan minyak kelapa sawit di kalangan rakyat Malaysia, pengusaha kelapa sawit pun berani meluaskan ladang-ladang mereka.

Bayangkan kalau daripada dahulu lagi orang kita cuma makan yang rebus dan bakar, mungkin syarikat-syarikat besar tak akan mengambil risiko menanam lebih banyak pokok kelapa sawit. Pasti mereka akan mengusahakan perniagaan lain.

Lagi alasan yang biasa didengar, “Orang jual, saya belilah.”
Goreng pisang, koay teow basah, teh tarik, rokok..sama saja.

Kita kena ada kekuatan diri untuk melakukan perkara yang baik, dan menolak sesuatu yang tidak baik untuk diri kita. Kalau yang itu sedikit pun kita tak mampu lawan, apakah hak kita untuk mengherdik “kerakusan” syarikat-syarikat perladangan meluaskan perniagaan mereka?

Kalau kita pun merosakkan diri dengan makanan yang membawa mudarat, kenapa dicaci orang lain yang “membuat kerosakan di muka bumi”? Sedangkan puncanya sama saja: tamak haloba.

Maka dengan ini sekali lagi saya ingin menyeru, dan mencabar, rakyat Malaysia untuk berhenti terus daripada makan makanan bergoreng. Tak kiralah minyak apa pun.

Boleh buat?

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Khadija by Resit Haylamaz – A Book Review

When I excitedly ordered this book, I already had four books to finish (by now I have already read three of them; the last one is a leisure read so it’s ok to slow down and indulge). I can’t even remember whether I specifically searched for this book from Amazon, or it appeared during my search for other books.

This book is about Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) beloved wife, Saidatina Khadija (RA). I have always wanted to know more about her, but all this while I knew a little. Muslim women know that she is THE wife, THE woman to look up to, to emulate. Their love story is legendary and you will never find any other like theirs, ever, on this whole wide world.

The book was not as I expected, although I do not mean it in a negative light. I thought the book is like an encyclopaedia about her, with hard cover and thickness of about 200 pages. Having expected that, I did wonder how I was going to finish reading it. The price is quite cheap for such a precious book, priced at around £6.

It turned out to be a thin paperback. When it arrived, I thought, no wonder it’s cheap. Well, it’s entirely my fault that I did not check with Amazon the details of the book. It was good, though, because there’s more chance that I could read it cover to cover (which I did).

My second expectation was I thought it’s written like a textbook, like many other Islamic books. Again, I was wrong. It was written in a narrative, like a story book, so it was easier to read and understand. It made reading faster; I managed to finish the book within three sittings (in between family and work obligations). Reflection of the contents came later.

Yes, the book is written as a narration of Khadija’s life, and Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) life after hear demise. It started with an introduction about her background and her family tree, and proceeded to how she got to know about our beloved Prophet.

Things that I learnt from the book:

(1) Marriage is about companionship
Nowhere in the book is written that the secret to a happy man is through his stomach.
Nowhere in the book said that Khadija was a great cook (although I believe that she’d do her best in everything that she prepared for her beloved husband).
The recurrent theme in the book was how loyal she was to Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) throughout their life together. She was his pillar of strength, being there for him no matter how difficult it became.
She always gave beautiful words of encouragement and support whenever he came to her for comfort.
Marriage is about facing this difficult life together. Their sons passed away when they were infants. Instead of breaking them, they grew stronger as life throws another challenge at them.

(2) There’s more to being a wife apart from staying at home and cook
Growing in an Asian culture in which the women are expected to be the queen of the kitchen, and to safeguard the husband’s house, this book showed a different perspective of marriage.
Khadija RA was a successful businesswoman long before she met the Prophet. She continued to be one even after they were married. Her income helped with the spread of Islam in its early years.
While I do feel that I’d prefer to be a stay-at-home mother than out the whole day working, I believe there’s nothing wrong with working to help the family. Khadija RA showed us that we could do both, even from more than a thousand years ago.

(3) He has his ambitions, and he needs your support
No matter how strong men show themselves to be, I’m pretty sure they’d appreciate it very much if you show your support in whatever he strives for.
There was a time when Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was very concerned with the state of the people around him. At that time, human beings were at a chaotic state. Lies, murder and war were considered normal, their minds and souls were corrupt, little girls were being murdered simply for being girls.
He often left the city of Mecca for the peace and quiet of the Cave of Hira to reflect on the condition of his people, trying to find enlightenment on how to set things right.
His faithful wife, Khadija, did not stop him from going away. She knew he wanted some peace of mind to think of the future of his people. She would send some provisions to the cave; sometimes through a messenger, but sometimes she’d go on her own.
She was the first Muslim; her faith comes from deep inside her soul, believing that there is no God but Allah, and that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is His Messenger.
The same goes to us. These days we have our own dreams and ambitions, and we’d want to achieve those. It is human nature to need support from other people, especially those very close to us. It would hurt more if our loved ones fail to show their faith and support, as compared to complete strangers.

(4) Be good, then good will come to you
Many men would want a wife like her, and women would want a husband like Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
However it’s only going to remain a dream if we do not work for it.
How do we work for it, though?
“A good man is for a good woman.” If you want a great husband or wife, you need to strive to be a better person everyday. It is only fair that we become the kind of person we want to see in others. It starts from ourselves, and the world will become a better place to live in.

One doesn’t need to be a wife to emulate Khadija. We could all learn from her fierce loyalty, her supportive nature and her beautiful words that could soothe anyone’s worries about this life. We could strive to be stronger in substance to be able to face this life in peace, even when the world around us is an utter chaos.

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Miracles of the Quran: A Short Commentary of a Documentary

I was interested on what this man has to say about the Muslim scientists of the past.

I’d say that this is an interesting documentary. I stayed watching for the whole hour.

Of course, when secular thoughts try to study the Muslim scientists of the past, they often fail to grasp some things, things that they refuse to believe or even try to put themselves in those shoes. They only see things that are visible to the naked eyes but will never be able to feel the curiosity the Muslim scientists had, or comprehend the motivation behind it.

They thought that if they are motivated by money and power, that’s what the Muslim scientists were motivated with. They have never understood how the Quran and Prophet Muhammad SAW’s words encouraged knowledge and scientific discovery to no end.

Science is merely discovery of God’s creations and power. It is the discovery of truth. As scientists, knowledge and truth satisfy them and brought them closer to God, and THAT is the true motivation. I believe that even without the money and power bestowed by their leaders, these scientists would have continued pursuing knowledge.

Hence they seek knowledge from ALL corners of the world, no matter where they came from, because Allah has told us that His sustenance could come from ANYwhere in this whole wide world.

If you read the Quran and have it in your heart, you will never be satisfied with just a little bit of knowledge. You will always want to know more, learn more, and do more things, until the end of your life.

Now THAT is one of the miracles of the Quran.

Science and Islam – A Documentary from BBC