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Maria-Syamsi

From My Heart

Month

September 2015

Dear Adik-adik, Good Luck and Happy Learning

I went to the KL International Airport earlier today to send off my cousin as she went for a holiday with her husband. There, I noticed dozens upon dozens of young girls and boys. After observing the way they dress, it clicked on me that these young people were scholarship students going overseas to study. They are of my little sister’s age.

I became overwhelmed by emotions, seeing all those faces full of anticipation, hope, pride, mixed with anxiety and sadness. Those faces of the students, and their families.

I was like them too, fifteen years ago. Only I was not on a scholarship.

* * *
Dear adik-adik,

I wish you the best for your journey. Your journey there, journey of searching for knowledge, searching for experience. You are in for an opportunity in a lifetime that many others were denied of.

Please remember that most of you are going there with people’s money. Not even your own parents’. Please remember that there are many others who worked harder than you for this, but did not have the same opportunity.

This is a priviledge, and you know, the more priviledges you have, the more responsibilites you’d bear.

You were sent there to learn.

No, not only to study engineering, medicine, architecture, law or all else that they sent you to college for. By all means, study and perhaps try to do well, but there are many other priceless lessons that you could only take from studying overseas.

Please mix around with as many people as possible. I know, it is a lot more comfortable to be close friends with your own ‘kind’, but get to know the others too.

You will see that the people there are more colourful than over here in this country. We have been fed with the idea that we have such a harmonious multiracial country, but you should see their colours. You should listen to the languages they speak. You will perhaps finally see all the shades of white, yellow and brown that exist in this world. You shall learn that in the end, we all yearn for the same love and deserve the same respect. We all respond the same way to a warm smile and a kind helping hand. We all have dreams and aspirations. We all struggle to achieve those dreams, all in our own way. A person’s dreams is as important as the other.

Explore their country, and the neighbouring ones. Learn to save and travel, because not many things teach you more than travelling (and reading). Look at their nature, and how they conserve it. Take home the good things, and learn lessons from their worse habits and systems.

You are there to diminish all the discriminatory thoughts that may have been planted by some people in this country. No, you are not special. You are not extra talented. You were perhaps just lucky to be born where you were to those parents. You have God to thank, and you owe it to yourself to become a humble person. You shall one day come back to our country and help demolish racism, to strive for equality.

Speak to others. Learn about their struggles. The Pakistani taxi driver, the Bangladeshi shopkeeper (who most likely have worked in our country before), your Norwegian classmates, the people whose ancestors come from their country. Read their papers. Learn how the locals react to immigrants, or the descendants of immigrants. What are their worries? What are their hopes? What are their misconceptions?

Please don’t just go there to shop. Don’t just go at the popular tourist spots and take nice photos to put up on your Instagram. Please don’t carry that mantra of “this is cheaper than back at my own country” and end up knowing only that after years being there.

More importantly, don’t come back and turn up your nose at everything in this country. And don’t stay there after you have graduated and criticise the country as if you have ever worked here. Don’t stay there just because you heard rumours about the working conditions here. You went there to learn independence, and some leadership. So come back and bring winds of change to the country.

In the end, this exercise of learning should help you get to know yourself. On top of getting to know and appreciating fellow human beings around you. It should help you to realize where you stand in this world – that is shoulder to shoulder with the rest of humanity. Not above, not below. It is only by facing the challenges of the world outside, that you could understand who you are inside; your strengths, your shortcomings.

Only after knowing those two, then you are on your way to be a successful human being, who would serve the people around you, as much as you could.

For the best person is the one who could benefit others the most.

So good luck, adik-adik.
And happy learning.

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What Did the Arabs (Not) Do?

Recently Brother Nouman Ali Khan came over to this country. He told us, “When I take a ride in a taxi, I would ask the driver to switch on the radio. I wanted to hear what you guys listen to in the news and the music.”

O’oh. I started to cringe.

“You guys listen to the same filth as people do in the US!”

* * *
I became angry, sad and confused when I read the news about Syrian refugees recently.

At first I saw that Western media claimed the Gulf countries did not welcome any of the refugees, worse being Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Then there are some Muslims who were kind enough (some might say naiive) to back the Gulf countries up, saying that they do help set up refugee camps but not within Saudi Arabia itself. Furthermore it makes more sense to walk in a cool weather into Europe, than walk in the scorching heat of the desert into Saudi Arabia.

Then there is a third group of, sadly, Muslims, who said that there might as well not be Hajj season this year and next year, so that the camps in Mina could be used to house refugees, rather than pilgrims.

Wait…WHAT???

Now, I’m not in the position to comment whether or not any of those reports are true. Neither do I have the reliable sources to investigate the truth of the matter.

My issues are:
(1) Let’s face it. CNN, Fox News and whatever else Western media agents has been spreading lies upon lies about us, Muslims. We all know for a fact that they have a propaganda against us. They made ignorant (and some innocent) people believe that Islam equals to terror.
Now, the same Muslims BELIEVE the news they spread about Gulf countries NOT helping out on Syrian refugees, just because “it looks like it”?
Is there any logic behind believing a known liar?

(2) I believe there is some rational behind deciding which path to walk through – short journey, lined with trees, rivers, cool weather, OR long route, no trees, no rivers, just mirage, on a scorching hot desert.

(3) If you put the three-question rule into play, on whether or not to believe in a certain news, you may find one news is better than the other.
The three questions would be: (i) Is it true? (ii) Is it good? (iii) Is it beneficial?
If we look at the news from Western media…is it true? I don’t know. Is it good? No. Is it beneficial? I don’t think so.
Now the other news…is it true? I don’t know. Is it good? Yes. Is it beneficial? Maybe.
So there is more reason to believe in the latter news about the Gulf countries helping out, isn’t there?

(3) I know many Muslims are angry with the Saudi government, whether or not influenced by Western media, for their own reasons. But can we not lash it out to the pilgrims and the Hajj system altogether?
We all know that Hajj is an obligation for a Muslim to perform at least once in a lifetime. And it HAS to be done where Prophet Muhammad SAW did it all those years ago, which is in Mecca.
We can’t deny the rights of those Muslims who could afford it to go whenever they can, because God knows maybe next year they would not be alive anymore. And we all know stories of people who spent their lifetime saving for this long-awaited trip.
Most of them are not rich people.

It so happens that at this moment, that area is ruled by this current government which SOME Muslims believe are making money out of these trips. It so happens that the current governing people is claimed to be “ignorant and greedy” by many.

It does not change the fact that Hajj season has to go on no matter what. The blessed month of Dhulhijjah is going to come every year no matter what. I know there are many who agreed that “the welfare of a society preceeds the welfare of individuals.” But rather than denying pilgrims altogether, why not suggest building similar amount of tents outside Mina, to house the refugees? I am pretty sure the Arabs have more than enough money to do that.

(4) It is also unfair to judge all the Arabs by some photos or videos that we have seen. We have seen some pretty disgusting videos of what they do in their free time, but just look back at ourselves: don’t we all have disgusting videos from our countries too?
Refer back to the things that Brother Nouman said, right at the beginning of my rant here. About the people of this country listening to the same filth the US are listening to.
Imagine people thinking that ALL of us listen to the same thing. While we know there are Islamic radio channels, and some of us do listen to Islamic lectures on CDs or smartphones on their way to and from work.
We all know, while there are corrupt leaders and people in a country, there are honest leaders and people in that country too.
When evil seemed to overshadow all else, there are good people who try their best to fight this evil in their own little ways.
There are people who take it in their own hands to educate the masses, when the government failed to provide quality education (in terms of honesty, integrity and good character).

Just look at Brother Ahmad As-Shugairi. He has travelled the world, filming, to bring back to Saudi Arabia and show his people the good culture of the countries he visited. He worked hard to open the minds of the Arabs, to wake them up, for them to realize their true excellent potentials.

(5) Simply believing any news that came to us, and further condemning what seemed to be “the truth”, reflects the state of the ummah now.
We don’t trust our own brothers, and we don’t even make ourselves trustworthy.
We’d rather believe in compulsive liars, than open our hearts to give hope for our own brothers.
Perhaps we did not give others the reason to trust us anyway.

* * *
What shall we do now?

First we have to remember the ayat in the Quran:
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It is as clear as the sunlight. There is no need for further explanation.

Since none of the news sources are entirely trustworthy, we shall not spread them further, nor shall we make a judgment out of those news.

How to help the refugees? Honestly, I have no idea. The most that a small person like myself could do is perhaps find a trustworthy charity organisation, and donate throught them. We could also send lots of prayers for their safety in this world, and the hereafter. We could also pray that the Muslim world will wake up from our slumber and start moving towards peace in this world, not only racing amongst each other to build the tallest building in the universe.

One major contribution that all of us could give is with education. Educate the people around us, young and old, about kindness, about living in peace and harmony, about respect, about appreciating and handling differences of opinions, about the dangers of greed, ignorance and even gluttony. Personally, I think, education is the only way to stop the wars from continuing, prevent wars from starting, pave the way for a harmonious life in this world.

As Muslims, we should stand shoulder to shoulder. Encourage everyone to pray jamaah in the masjid. Prophet Muhammad SAW told us to stand close to each other and keep the congregation in a straight line “so that you will stand united in thoughts and believes.”
If there is not even a congregational line to begin with, how can we stay united, then?

* * *
This is the theme song for the TV series Khawater season 9.
Khawater 9 theme song by Maher Zain.

* * *
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* * *
Together, we’ll become stronger.
Disunited, we break.

Indeed Allah has chosen us, with sound minds, to govern this world.
To fulfil the needs of this world and help make it prosper.
Can’t you see, at this age, human beings often change their minds?
Indeed, we have not used our minds to ask for guidance, to ask, to hope and to think.
Our ignorance is worrying because we do not care about this world around us.
Hence the light of goodness is no longer seen.
And the thirst for knowledge, have gone to waste.
The news and knowledge from outsiders are those we honor more.

We shall contribute our thoughts.
We could only be freed from ignorance when we start to seek knowledge.
In life there should be goodness, knowledge will bring good to us, and in turn we could bring good to our people.

Allah has chosen us, who have sound minds, to lead and to think wisely.

The worry of being ignorant would enlighten us.
To do good and ask Him for guidance.

The Light and Human Potential

Disclaimer:
This is my humble attempts to put what I learnt two weekends ago about the most beautiful verse in the Quran. Please forgive me if I understood this verse wrongly, or if my words does not display the beauty and amazement we experienced on that day.To those who are strangers to the concept of the soul, I would encourage you to go on reading this article, or else leave it alone. If you want to understand further about the relationship of the soul and happiness, you could read The Alchemy of Happiness, by Al Ghazali, which I will hopefully write a review of one of these days. Or better still, read the Quran and discover the wonders within.

* * *

Imagine a niche in a wall, within which there’s a lamp. This lamp is made of the brightest, shiniest glass, and the oil inside is made of the purest olive oil. This oil is so pure that it would almost glow, and is ready to catch fire.
* * *

We were blessed to have been able to attend lectures on tafsir of Surah An-Nur for four weekends in August recently, by Brother Nouman Ali Khan. His explanation about sanctity of marriage changed my views about this sacred relationship altogether. He also spoke about how guarding the strength of family bonds would determine how the society stands.

During the final session, he spoke beautifully about the ayat of Nur (the verse of light, 24:35), of which tears of wonder and self discovery flowed steadily from our eyes. We further understood why we are here and what we should do with our time in this world.

This ayat gave a clear example of how the physical light is parallel to the unseen light within us.

The niche in this verse is likened to the rib cage of human, which protects the heart in his chest. The heart, while it is beating, keep us alive, keeps our soul and body together. When our hearts stop beating, the soul leaves the body and we’d be physically dead.

The soul comes from a place in the heaven. It is brought down to the earth by the angels, blown into our small clumps of cells after a few weeks of our conception. This soul is bright as light, and is delivered by a creation which is made of light.

So now the soul (or heart) of a human is like the lamp in the niche, made of pure glass, fuelled by pure oil, always wanting to catch fire so that it could light up the world around it. Having come from the heavens, it yearns for the perfection that it has felt over there, that perfection being God itself, who is Lowing, Caring, Merciful, Beautiful, Generous, Kind, Beneficent, Powerful, Rich, and all other perfect attributes of His. The soul will miss the words of God, which could only come from one source in this world – The Quran.

The Quran is called the light because it gives guidance for mankind to live their lives. It is the word of Allah that would illuminate the world like the sun brightens the day.

Light Upon Light
So when the bright soul meets the light of the Quran, it is likened to the fire that lits up the pure oil and shines up the world around them.
* * *

The human potential.

Now that we know that the soul comes from a place in the heavens, we should understand the heavenly potential of each human being. Every soul is like a lamp which needs to be lit up, and not only that, the glass needs to be polished so that the lamp could shine brightly.

There is potential in every human being to do good and light the lives of people around us.

There is hope in each and every one of us that we could all be good people.

There is hope that we could keep on lighting the oil and cleaning the glass so that we could keep on illuminating the world around us, shining bright like a star in a dark night.

No matter how far we’ve gone, how dusty we have let our glass to be, we know that it is made from the brightest of glass, and that the pure oil within is always ready to catch fire.

No matter how far we’ve gone, we could always clean this lamp up and put it on fire again.

Allah only wants us to come back to Him, no matter where we have been before.

And our souls missed the nearness to Him, knowing the divine place where it came from. So make it eternally happy by bringing it close to God.

We can all be good people.
* * *

Ar-Razi, when commenting on the verse of light, said that in the darkness of night, we could see the stars shining up the skies. The angels, on the other hand, could see the shining hearts of the believers, amongst the darkness of this world, the way we see the stars.

Make us feel like wanting to shine all the time, doesn’t it?
* * *

Brother Nouman said, many of us wished that we were born in the golden era of Islam, where people live in peace and harmony, where knowledge and science go hand-in-hand, because ultimately true science will make us closer to the Creator of Science Himself. Only He has the answers for our questions.

Many of us wished we were born in that golden era so that everybody is safe and faith will grow.

But, he said, we were born in such a dark age as it is now, because Allah SWT saw the potential in us to light up the dark.

We were born in the midst of lies, wars, corruption, hatred, racism, promiscuity, scandals and all else, because Allah saw in us the soul that could illuminate the gloom in this world.

Now it is time to look into ourselves, and strive to fulfil that potential.

May Allah shower us with guidance that would light up our paths through to Him.
* * *
The following link is a lecture by Brother Nouman Ali Khan, which is a shorter version of what we heard two weeks ago:

Light Upon Light – Lecture by Nouman Ali Khan

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Coolness of the Eyes

I came back from work today and I passed by Masjid Wilayah. I was pulled to it but I did not go because I already performed my Asar prayers before leaving my workplace.

Instead, I made a promise to stop by in Masjid Bukit Jelutong for Maghrib prayers on my way to my uncle’s house. Despite being rather tired and feeling like spending one hour in bed, and prat Maghrib at home.

I did not regret a single second of this decision.

I reached the masjid late, the congregational prayer was over. I could have driven a lot faster to rush to the masjid, but I remember Prophet Muhammad SAW said not to rush when you’re going to the mosque.

So there I was, prayed Maghrib alone, then nawafil, then made some du’as, and then I left.

Before I left, I managed to take in the environment around me. A class is going on, taught by a teacher who comes every second Tuesday of the month, it seems. Many of the congregation stayed back, with books in their hands, to learn about the good manners of our beloved Propher Muhammad SAW.

The nice thing about it is, many of them is young. They must have come back from work, cleaned themselves at home, wear their nice clothes and immediately come to the mosque.

As I walked along the corridors of the mosque, I saw young ladies, some with small kids, seated comfortably in areas of their choice, listening to the ongoing talk which resonated throughout the halls via the speakers placed on the walls.

All there to learn about good manners.

“Isn’t this AWESOME?? Subhanallah!” I could hear Brother Nouman’s excited exclamations in my head.
* * *
Although I could not stay back because of other commitments, I’m glad that I paid that short visit to this house of Allah.

Although the people I saw were strangers to me, they have cooled my eyes and made me at peace with this world, pushing aside all the troubles of this world.

I was happy that they are young, and as I walked, more young people came in to pray, and to learn. They could, one day, pass down the kindness, good manners, integrity, discipline, love and mercy that Prophet Muhammad SAW has shown the world around him all those years ago.

The Birds

It is nice to wake up to the singing of the birds.
They chirp away so happily, you can’t help feeling the joy.
The songs they sing are so cheerful, your steps would skip with them.

They hop around cheerfully on the backyard, looking for their sustenance.
They would sometimes just walk around, more like waddling of the ducks.

When my father or uncle mows the lawn, they would trail behind them.
As there would be grasshoppers or bugs jumping up, so they could catch those insects with their beaks.

It is so amazing, living amongst nature, I don’t want to leave.
Just so that I could wake up, sip coffee slowly, and immerse myself in the wonders of nature.

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Peace and Tranquility

Thank you for those four amazing weekends.

It gave such a peaceful feeling – sitting and listening to the lectures, focusing on Allah’s words explained by this man, after spending hectic mornings managing our worldly chores.

I had the same out-of-this-world feeling when I attended Ilmfest in Putrajaya in May this year, especially so when I sat through Sheikh Yasir Qadhi’s lecture about the Parables of Light.
Brother Nouman gave longer lectures from the same surah.

It also feels the same as the time I sat with my mother and brother’s fiance listening to Sheikh Ahsan Hanif’s explanation on Surah Al Mulk in Ramadhan this year.

The tranquility was so deep, I did not want to leave any of the lectures. I felt like staying in and listen and listen until forever.

Of course, we can do that in jannah. But not here.

For the whole point of learning the religion is so that we could live our lives in the best possible way, which would, in turn, help us with our lives in the hereafter. The point of listening to these people are partly so that we could go out and face the challenging world, hopefuly making it easier for others too.

* * *
I am having some withdrawal symptoms. Sigh…

During the first weekend Brother Nouman was here, the sound system in the masjid was not so good and I could not see him. Hence I thought maybe it wouldn’t make much difference whether I listen to him live, or from the internet.

Even though it is a nice feeling to know that he’s in the country.

But as the weeks go by, I could feel the difference. The others who were in the masjid near me seemed to feel the same way. We wished we could do this every weekend – get away from this world for a few hours to listen to him talk lovingly about the Quran.

Different people have different influence in my life, even though they all speak mainly about the contents of the Quran. Like Imam Suhaib Webb, he introduced me to the Arabic grammar and how every word in the Quran is a perfect fit. Sister Mariam Amirebrahimi would inspire me to be productive. The beloved Sister Yasmin Mogahed helped me through my emotions. Sheikh Yasir Qadhi told stories upon stories from the Quran. I particularly love his explanation on surah Al Kahfi.

Brother Nouman, for me, has motivated me to do the best in fulfilling my responsibilities. I am at this very low motivational state of which I’d do only the bare minimum of what is expected of me, and even then, with dragging my feet. His lectures reminded me about the hope that each of us have.

He’s only 36 and he’s inspired so many people around him. And I’m just a few years younger but I felt that my contribution in life is way behind. But he reminded me (and many of us) that we should not despair. Allah wanted to see us do the best with whatever we have in our hands. Allah has given each of us different responsibilities, the only thing we need to do is fulfill all. Then we can move on to others.

The above people have, by Allah’s will, helped me get out of bed every morning.
They helped me greet everyone at work with a smile.
It becomes easier to tell myself to not grumble even when I had to stay up through the night, just to keep one person alive until the morning comes.
It was easier to get up and help a fellow colleague when I could have slept the whole night when I’m on call.

* * *
It is easy to get attached to the person whom we listen to everyday, especially if it is the same person.
In my efforts to be careful not to be too attached (the idea is to love the message, instead of being attached to the teacher), I’d try to rotate amongst them as much as I could.
So far it has worked.

* * *

I pray that Allah will grant all of us jannah, so that we could spend forever in peace and tranquility.

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