From My Heart



The Roadside Booksellers of Jakarta

I did not go to Jakarta to shop, but I thought, if I were to buy anything, I would buy a few books by Hamka, Soe Hok Gie or Chairil Anwar. I absolutely love Hamka, I fell in love with Mr Soe after watching the movie Gie, and I wanted to know why Chairil Anwar is a celebrated poet in Indonesia.
The movie Ada Apa Dengan Cinta showed a scene where Rangga brought Cinta to his favourite book shop. It is a small bookshop with loads of books, spilling onto the pavement. Thing is, I do not know where to find them. I heard that they don’t print Mr Soe’s Catatan Seorang Demonstran anymore.
Knowing the literary history of Indonesia, I was pretty sure that they have those kinds of shops in many places in Jakarta, and my mom said there are many bookshops in that city.
I browsed through my Jakarta guide book but found that the old bookshops are not within the areas that I planned to go, and I did not think I will have that much time to get there. 
While we were riding on Transjakarta and the bajajs, I did look around for signs of any bookshop, but I could not see any. Though that afternoon I saw a man carrying a tall stack of books walking on the road side.
And then night fell, we came back from Monas and stopped by for supper at Jalan Haji Agus Salim near our hotel.
A middle-aged man came with a stack of books and asked us if we wanted to buy any books. Immediately I scanned his books and I saw what I wanted. My heart leaped but I tried not to show it.
“Lihat yang ini boleh?” I pointed at Catatan Seorang Demonstran. (Journal of a Demonstrant). May I see this book?
He took that book out, and a few more. 

“Ini satu set dengan yang ini, ada empat dalam satu set,” he said.

This is within this set of four. He’d give a special price if I bought all of them.
I looked at the rest of the books, it would have been nice to buy all of them, but as much as I love the character portrayed in the movie, since this is the first time I’m reading his book, it is better if I try one of them first.
Then I pointed to Hamka’s Falsafah Hidup (Philosophy of Life). He took out not one, but three from his load. He said the other two books are also part of a series, and the one I picked was the second of them. He kept on telling me that he has special price if I took all of the books. This time, I really wished I could buy all of them, but I really did not have enough cash to last until the next afternoon.
He also showed us a few other books, one of them was Kisah Nabi-Nabi by Ibnu Kathir (Indonesian translation of Ibnu Kathir’s Stories of the Prophets). Again, it would be really nice to get my hands on it but I did not have enough money, and I have seen it sold in Malaysia. Luggage wouldn’t have been a problem as we were flying back on Malaysia Airlines.
I said sorry and I paid for the two books (without any special discount. Oh well..). While putting back the books in a neat stack, he told us about how he’s been selling books like this since 1968, carrying books for sale on the roadside. I did not ask, though, where he put the rest of his stock, because I worried that he might think that I wanted to see more of it.
Maybe next time I can ask more questions.
I made a mental note to bring more cash to Jakarta during my next trip.
Before leaving us, he took out one last book: Aku by Sjuman Djaya.
I felt rather embarassed at that point, I will tell you why. Almost immediately, in a chorus, my brother, his wife and myself said, “Sudah adaaaaaaa.” I have it already, thank you.
You see, many of my recent connections to Indonesian literature was through characters played by Nicholas Saputra in the movies Ada Apa Dengan Cinta (AADC) and Gie. Personally I have been interested in the Indonesian (particularly Javanese) culture, for so many reasons, and these two movies, especially Gie, has exposed me to a different view of the country.
Nicholas spoke highly of Rangga during an interview, saying that Rangga is a brave young man who loves helping out people no matter who they are, even if that person have beaten him up before. He also said that Rangga was inspired by Soe Hok Gie, a man born right after Indonesia’s independence. I read from the predace of Catatan Seorang Demonstran that the character Rangga was indeed born out of an awe towards Mr Soe.
I watched Gie recently just because I heard that Nicholas won an award for his role as Soe Hok Gie. He said he did a lot of research about this impressive young man prior to filming the movie. He read the books written about him (which may have included compilations of Mr Soe’s articles), and spoke to people who knew him while he was alive.
I loved Gie much more than I do Rangga. The movie Gie moved me a lot more than AADC could ever do. Hence I was interested to know more about this inspiring man. He lived a short life (like Chairil Anwar), but he was so influential, even back then without all the social media. Therefore I searched for a book related to him.
Why was I embarassed?
You see, when I saw the book I was excited but I tried to hide it. I even bought another book that is not connected to Nicholas Saputra at all. But at the end, the man still took out the book that made Rangga and Cinta possible (in AADC). The book that says, “This lady must be a huge fan of Nicholas and she’d get her hands on anything related to him.”
Well, yes, and no.

Yes, I am a fan.

But that doesn’t mean I must read everything that he reads. Although I must say, it is one of the ways you open your eyes to a whole new world. Like we have Emma Watson’s reading list, and a list of hundreds of books mentioned in Gilmore Girls, JK Rowling’s suggestions etc. I read Murakami because it was mentioned by Redza Minhat many years ago, but I ended up not liking it so I will read other authors instead.
Even my latest reading obsession is inspired by Dian Sastrowardoyo, who said that she used to read one book per week (of Indonesian literature) when she was in school, and discussed the books with her mother. It was such a great blessing to have come across her statement; it opened me up to a whole new world of knowledge and discoveries. I already have a soft spot and interest towards Indonesia since I was a child (this is a story in itself), now is the time I open up that new chapter in my creativity and literature life.
* * *
After that man, another man came by to show us his stack of books. Obviously we had to turn him down because I already bought some books from the above-mentioned man.
I took his photo, though (the second man):

My Reading List – Part 3

1. Jakarta: 25 Excursions by Andrew Whitmarsh and Melanie Wood

I found this book while planning for my weekend trip to Jakarta. I wanted to travel with my little sister, so we only have weekends free. I searched the net for 24-hour excursions in Jakarta, and found a few. But none of them could match the kind of details this book provides.

To be honest I have yet to finish reading this book, I have only covered north and central Jakarta, but at least I can compare the contents to my own experience since I have just came back from my 24-hour trip last weekend.

The lovely thing about this book is it contains suggestions for walking trips within different regions in Jakarta. They are divided into parts of Jakarta, and further divided into areas that might interest different people; for example historical places, museums, food and coffee, and shopping. It makes it easy for us to decide which places we want to go first.

One of the authors lived in Jakarta and have explored the city by foot and bicycle, which explained the amount of details available in this book. I found that the accounts on the locals and history are at times rather quirky and entertaining; I was caught laughing a few times reading a travel book! Of course, looking at Jakarta as a Westerner versus as a part-Javanese Malaysian would result in different views. There are part of their culture that is quite familiar to me (not necessarily practiced, though), but reading it from another person’s perspective was simply amusing. 

There are detailed maps for each excursion, on top of area maps, map of the whole Jakarta and a folded map of Jakarta provided in this book.

Obviously there are things that you should experience yourself, and will only find out when you’re in Jakarta. Yes, the people are indeed friendly, towards Westerners, as well as their next door neighbours like us who have shared a fair amount of love-hate relationship throughout history. Do follow their advice to talk to the locals. I came up with the conclusion that the best way to enjoy Jakarta is to have a local (like a friend or and expat) who could show us the way there, so we could make the most out of it. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who plans to go to Jakarta. I would read this again when I plan for my next trip.

2. The World Atlas of Coffee by James Hoffman

I bought this atlas because I realized I have almost zero knowledge about coffee.

This book is divided into three segments: Introduction, from Bean to Cup and Coffee Origins. Basically it covers almost everything you need to know about coffee; from the history, the plant, the process of producing coffee beans, the different ways of brewing coffee, types of espresso drinks, to the details about different coffee from different coffee-growing countries. Here we could learn a little bit about how local politics influence the production of coffee in each country.

It is a complete book if you are a coffee lover who wants to enjoy different types of coffee from all over the world. It is an interesting journey of discovery, to see how much this world love its coffee, and how differently we all enjoy coffee.

I’m not a heavy coffee drinker, drinking only 1-3 cups per week. But having read this book definitely took my coffee intake to a new level of meanings.

3. Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrmage by Haruki Murakami

This is my first (and perhaps the last?) Haruki Murakami. I have heard of his reputation for a few years already, but I only managed to get my hands on this book just recently.

Where do I begin…

Well, I guess I should begin with the good ones first. When I started reading the book, I was impressed by the unique storyline, and the characters in the book. Perhaps part of the factors is that I do not know much about Japanese culture. The flow of the narrative is rather relaxed; Murakami took his time to describe the movements and the appearance of the characters. There are times when he gets philosophical about life.

The pace became even more slow as the book progresses. Although some questions were answered, many issues are left hanging with huge question marks.

As a rather conservative Asian and a Muslim, I am not entirely comfortable with the graphic imagery of sex in this book. Sex is never ‘just’ sex. It is a very private act of intimacy and love between two persons, and should be kept at that. Just reading about some fictional characters being described to be doing this and thinking of that is rather disturbing. 

Therefore I feel that anything that sells or attracts merely by sexual appeal lacks sophistication.

I guess the world around us is too used of seeing the act and thiking about it to be able to understand how peaceful it is without this kind of disturbance. It would be very difficult to comprehend how discomforting those imaginations would feel, without knowing how peaceful it can be when there is absence of dirty thoughts. Therefore its presence became a norm, something that is thought to be natural human instinct.

But it should not be. Intimacy should be kept between the couple, in the bedroom or in the house, not to be aired in the open, and certainly not to be used as a selling point for a book or a movie.

I will think many many times before buying another Murakami. 

My Reading List – Part 2

1. Lyrebird by Cecelia Ahern

This is a story about a beautiful yet mysterious young woman who lives alone in the hills near Cork, with a special talent of mimicry matching that of a lyrebird. The story moves with the world trying to understand her, and her trying to understand the world.

It is really interesting to see how the plot develops, especially the kinds of details that Ahern puts in the book. For example, how depth of communication would not only depend on effective listening and relay of information, but also personality and perception of life among the people involved too. As with many of her other work, it shows the depth of her knowledge, intertwined wity a imagination, which opens our minds and hearts to a lot of possibilities. The style of the narrative is what we know of Cecelia Ahern, but it is the finer details that makes each book different from the other, while keeping our attention to them.

I would give this book 4/5, for its depiction of Lyrebird’s life and the description of complexities of human interaction.

2. The House of Wisdom by Jonathan Lyons

This book, as the cover tells you, is about how the Arabs transformed Western civilisations. It started with the completion of Islam and goes on explaining us the thirst for knowledge amongst the Muslims of those age, which brought about scientific discoveries, development of printing press and ultimately turning a world of darkness into light.

This is the first book that I have read about Arab civilization, so I could not comment on the accuracy of its contents. Of course, I need to dig deeper into each major personalities that he mentions in the book, with their contributions to the modern world of knowledge and discoveries. Personalities such as the amazing Al Khawarizmi (without whom we would still be calculating with the impossible Roman numerals!), Al Idrissi, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Sina, and so many others that we have heard briefly a during history lessons in school.

I found that the narrative is all over the place. It goes back and forth from one century to the other, which made it difficult to figure things out in a chronological order. Although at the beginning the author did draw out a chronological map. 

I would recomment all Muslims to read books like this for a number of reasons:

(1) We would realize that all the initial discoveries and developments were done because Muslims wanted to follow Allah’s book: the Quran. Like the development of astronomy because Muslims away from the Kaabah needed to find a way to determine the Qiblat. Or development of a good water supply system because Muslims need to clean and perform wudhu’. The use of a more efficient numbering system because Al Khawarizmi was trying to calculate the divisions in our inheritence law, which gave tise to algebra, without which modern engineering would not be possible!

(2) Us Muslims should learn from ANYONE in this whole world. We should travel and learn more, as Allah has made this world with its colours and cultures. The Muslims of old time learnt medicinal knowledge from Indians, learnt to make papers from the Chinese (because they needed to print and spread the Quran), learnt philosophy from the greeks, botanics from various people of different places. The Muslims of those times were not afraid of knowledge, they would NEVER say things like “this is not Islamic knowledge” or “the Prophet did not tell us to study this” or “we should only learn from another Muslim”. NEVER. This is the kind of book that will make us open our minds to more discoveries in this world.

(3) The rise of Muslims depends on how close we adhere to the Quran, and the fall of Muslims is when we get away from the teachings of the Quran.

I noticed the same pattern with the fall of each Muslim civilization – womanizing kings, re-emergence of slaves in the houses of the riches, luxurious lifestyles. Life comes with responsibilities, the place of rest and luxury is only in jannah. 

(4) The Arabs were ethical in their journey of searching for knowledge. I could conclude from this book that they mention the source of their discoveries, whether it is the Indians or Chinese or Greeks, because up to this date we could gather those information. However, the West were much less ethical than that. Some of them merely mentioned the Arabs, and some poorly translated the works of the Arabs and claimed them as their own! 

(5) Muslims should understand that science is WITH religion rather than against religion. Science is merely a discovery of the laws of nature, but the laws of nature itself is created by God. When science does not seem to tally with God’s words, you will find that either the research technique is wrong, or flawed, or biased towards what they ‘expected’ to find, rather than the real findings. Science theories that are against God’s words will end up as difficult-to-prove theories, with many loopholes and flaws. 

(6) As Muslims, we should not lament on the good-ol-days. We should get back to our Quran and push ourselves into the path of knowledge and discoveries.

3. Di Bawah Lindungan Ka’bah by Hamka

This book is actually a brief love story between two young people in Indonesia, with a background of the Hajj season in Makkah. It was written beautifuly, although this book was written in the 1920s, but the description of Makkah and its pilgrims could not be more similar than it is now.

Just reading about the Ka’bah and the desperate pilgrims (we are all desperate for something) made me tear up, because in the end of the day, no matter which age we live in, human nature remains the same.  

The book has some kind of Romeo-and-Juliet tragic feel but with the values of a Muslim and an Asian. It was an easy read, the book can be completed within a few hours.

Hamka was the man who wrote the first ever Indonesian trafseer of the Quran, which made it possible for millions of Muslims in this region to understand the Quran in better depth. Therefore his work depicts the kind of manners and linguistic profeciency that is expected to be seen in a person so deeply immersed in the study of the Quran. It is so much different from Sjuman Djaya’s script book, it is even different from A Samad Said’s, obviously I will be in search of more of Hamka’s literature produce in the near future.

Mendalami Jiwa Seorang Gie

Malam ini aku dapat mendalami melankoli kehidupan seorang Soe Hok Gie. Penuh pengharapan bahawa pemimpin negara yang dilihat semakin menekan bangsanya sendiri agar digantikan dengan seorang pemimpin yang adil dan bertanggungjawab. Pergantian itu akhirnya berlaku tetapi keadilan yang diimpikan tidak juga muncul, malah lebih banyak kezaliman yang berlaku.
Aku sendiri dapat menyelami jiwanya. Mengharapkan perubahan yang baik, tetapi nampak seolah-olah mereka yang ingin menggantikan kepimpinan yang ada itu sama tamak kuasa, sama rasis, berpura-pura menolong golongan yang miskin semata-mata ingin meraih undi. Aku belum nampak keikhlasan sesiapa pun di mana-mana pun parti politik yang ada di negara ini.
Maka apakah akhirnya negara ini akan turut merudum sepertimana negara yang Gie diami dan cintai? Yang korupsi meresap di segenap lapisan masyarakat sehingga menjadi suatu budaya yang sukar dipisahkan lagi? 
Beliau berjalan seorangan sambil menyandang beg bukunya ke mana sahaja beliau pergi. Buku-buku dan alam menjadi inspirasi bagi tulisan-tulisan perjuangannya. Aku merasa kerdil berbandingnya. Pastinya pengetahuannya begitu luas dan penguasaan bahasanya begitu hebat untuk bisa berjuang demi masa depan negaranya. Terasa tidak layak untuk berkata apa-apa di alam maya mahupun di alam nyata.

Seperti kata Orchida Ramadhania daripada Universitas Indonesia:

“Saat ini….semua mulut dan jari bersuara, padahal entah buku-buku apa yang mereka baca. Dulu, yang dimusuhi adalah orang-orang visioner dan punya gagasan. Saat ini, hanya dengan olok-olok pada pemerintah seperti ‘kecebong’, atau posting kata dan gambar vulgar lainnya, sebagian orang sudah merasa paling berani dan revolusioner.”

Aku cukup terusik dengan kata-kata itu, nampak benar aku tidak cukup ilmu untuk berjuang tentang apa pun; biarpun soal kesihatan, agama, apa lagi untuk kekuatan bangsa. Yang aku mahir cuma mungkin soal patah hati sambil cuba hidup kembali!
Menonton filem Soe Hok Gie, aku tidak dapat memberi komentar sebaiknya, kerana aku bukan seorang yang biasa menonton filem, apa lagi filem sejarah seperti ini. Aku belum lagi membaca buku catatannya, dan kisah hidupnya sendiri aku baca di internet sahaja, maka sukar untuk ku katakan mana yang benar atau salah. Tapi dapat aku katakan bahawa Gie penuh dengan sifat kemanusiaan, penyayang kepada semua. Gambaran Gie membantu seorang tua berbadan kecil melintas jalan masih terbayang di mataku. Rasa bersalahnya terhadap kebangkitan militer yang akhirnya mengorbankan temannya sendiri dapat aku selami daripada ekspresi wajahnya.
Lakonan Nicholas Saputra ternyata begitu berkesan, hilanglah Rangga yang kita kenali. Gie ternyata lebih banyak tersenyum berbanding watak Rangga dalam Ada Apa Dengan Cinta. Jika melihat usianya ketika memerankan watak Gie, Nicholas juga pada ketika itu sedang kuliah di Universitas Indonesia dalam bidang arkitektur, memang cocok dengan usianya. Semakin jauh kisah ini dibawa, semakin convincing wataknya.
Pada akhirnya aku lihat Han dan Gie bermain di pantai, suatu simbolik yang membuatkan aku mengalir air mata. Puisi yang dibacakan pada penghujung filem dengan suaranya yang sudah hampir matang sepenuhnya memang amat meruntun hati, teresak-esak pula aku menangis walaupun aku sudah tahu bagaimana kesudahan hidupnya.

Kita pastinya perlukan ramai anak muda seperti Gie. Di Indonesia, di Malaysia, malah banyak tempat di dunia ini. Berilmu, dan berani menentang kemungkaran biarpun disisihkan oleh insan lain.
* * *
Puisi nukilan Soe Hok Gie bacaan Nicholas Saputra dalam filem Gie:

Puisi oleh Soe Hok Gie

My Reading List – Part 1

Late last year, I was blessed to have been inspired by the Indonesian actress Dian Sastrowardoyo, who spoke about being told by her mother to read one book per week when she was in school. It was not supposed to be any book, but most of them were Indonesian literature. After finishing them, she’d be asked about the lessons and her thoughts on the books.

So I made a new year resolution – to read four books per month (rather than one book per week, because of my other commitments like on calls, weekend rounds and studying for exams). In January I finished only one book, although I did read four books simultaneously (different books are placed in different locations). By now I have finished three and am going to complete another two soon. But I’m still rather happy with myself because on top of the books, I managed to read (and digest) at least 3-4 journal articles in January, so for the time being I think I’m fine.
Anyway, let me start with the books.

1. The Muse by Jessie Burton

This was written by the author of The Miniaturist which was released about two years ago. I did not like her previous book at all, but having read through the synopsis of this book, I decided to give it a try.

It is a period novel which sets place in two eras, the 1930s and 1960s. It is about a girl who found a new job that she has always wanted, and with that came her lady boss. The author brings you back and forth between the two eras which will make you try to figure out the relationship between the two groups of seemingly-unconnected people.

I like this much better than The Miniaturist because, as much as the book left us wondering about the characters and the possible twists, the pace is good. There is always something going on, and there are some nerve-wrecking moments in the story. The Miniaturist made us wait in awkward silence and the ending was even more let down. 

Having said that, I don’t think I will read this book again.

2. Adik Datang by A. Samad Said

First and foremost, who am I to comment on our national literary prize winner? 

I have not read a Malay novel for so long. Most Malay books these days appear to be superficial and has nothing much to talk about (judging from the titles and the synopsis, or the movie/TV drama they are made into), except for marriage and…erm…marriage. So my brother suggested for me to read this book (which I gave him for his birthday many years ago). 

The strory is set up very near the beginning of World War 2, or rather, the time when it affected Malaya. It is a story about the people of a small village on a smal island, each of the inhabitants have their own life story. The challenges they faced included the lack of job opportunities because of the ongoing world war, loss of family members, illness, domestic violence, immigration of people who actually still wanted to fight for their country, and promoting education. In the end not everything worked out well, but then that is the nature of life, isn’t it?

I had trouble making out and remembering the characters in the story, which person is related to the other, their jobs or previous jobs, and their main issues. It’s not like I have never read a book with many characters but I needed to figure them out from their dialogues; not much was explained in the narration.

The book showed the high level of knowledge and life experience the author has, as well as his wisdom; it should inspire us to read and travel more.

3. Aku by Sjuman Djaya

I picked this book off the shelves because it was featured in Ada Apa Dengan Cinta. In that movie, this book was read by Rangga and later Cinta, and became something that connected the two of them, which turned out to be a beautiful love story. 

It says here that it is based on the life and works of Indonesia’s notable poet, Chairil Anwar. However I do not know how much of it should I believe because the whole story sounds too far fetched for a person being born and raised in a majority Muslim, Asian country. But then I guess it could happen anywhere in this world.

It defines the free-spirited, passionate nature that I recognise Indonesians with. I see them as people who have strong emotions and tend to react to whatever they are, be it love, anger, passion, or sadness. They would fight all their might for their love ones, against those they are angry towards, pursue their passion until they reach it, and show their sadness in the most dramatic way. I guess that is the special thing about Indonesians, which shows in their artistic works.

What I did not expect was the hedonistic nature of Chairil Anwar’s life. Modern-day hedonists would tell me to not judge his life and his choice because he has produced hundreds if not thousands of great poems all his life. Of course, I would not deny the fact that he excelled in his chosen field, but I could not shake off that feel of gloom and darkness which I have associated with a guideless, heedless life, only aiming for pleasure. It is the same kind of feeling that I had when I read the book One Day by David Nichols.

It is written almost like a script, so it is easier to imagine watching a movie titled Aku while reading through the book. The author inserted many of Chairil’s poems in betwee the narratives, but to read whole poems we’d need to get his original works.
The story is set on the background of pre-World War 2 Indonesia, which coincides with the book Adik Datang. I just happened to read two books of the same era at the sane time! Now I’m watching the movie about Soe Hok Gie, who was a revolutionist in Indonesia at about the same period of time.
I might not read the whole story again but I would like to go through it another time to decipher the words that I did not understand.

* * *

This is a song from an Indonesian movie, Sang Pemimpi, which could be a nice background music for the book Adik Datang:

Fatwa Pujangga – Rendy Ahmad (OST Sang Pemimpi)

* * *

This is a short documentary about Chairil Anwar, narrated by Nicholas Saputra:

Maestro Indonesia – Chairil Anwar

Prophetic Parenting – A Book Review

This is a book written by Dr Nur Muhammad Abdul Hafizh Suwaid, originally in Arabic titled “Manhaj at-Tarbiyyah an-Nabawiyyah lith Thifl”. It was written in 1983, and translated into formal Indonesian in 2010 that is rather easy to understand, except for perhaps a few unfamiliar words and concepts which would have been more accurate in its original Arabic version.

As we face the question of the quality of our education system, we must first ask ourselves, what do we expect from sending our children to school?
What is the outcome measure?

In Islam, the aim of education would be to produce a wholesome Muslim who is God-conscious and could contribute with his own very beat towards his society as well as the nation around him, as Prophet Muhammad (SAW – Peace be upon him) said, “The best of all people are the ones who gives most benefit to his people.”

That benefit would encompass spreading their knowledge, service towards the people, saving lives, spreading smile and happiness, and yes, making scientific discoveries that could benefit mankind for years to come. Each person has his own inclinations and abilities. Recognising this fact is one of the Prophet’s (SAW) traditions, and is evident as seen throughout this book.

This book is a good guidance on raising such a person. It gives us a picture on how Prophet Muhammad (SAW) raised and lead not only his children but the children around him, which became the key to the rise of Islamic civilisation in the 7th century.

Parenting begins with finding the right partner, and of course, BEING the right partner. The journey of raising good children is full of challenges, hence it would lighten the burden if it could be walked through with a partner who shares one’s views and ambitions. It is also to avoid confusions with regards to a child’s beliefs and principles, as both parents would show the same correct teachings. This is one of the reasons Muslims are told to only marry another Muslim, regardless of the colour of their skin, so that they will have similar objectives in raising their children.

It is clear from the beginning until the end of this book that Rasulullah (SAW) acknowledges the fact that every child is born with his own potential. This book guides us on the way Prophet Muhammad (SAW) recognised and encouraged every talent. He did not expect every child to have the same inclinations.

This brings us to our education system that teaches the same thing to every single child, and measures success as the ability to excel in all these subjects. Obviously this is unfair, and Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has shown the correct way more than 1400 years ago. Education should not be rigid. It should cater every single child in the nation.

Rasulullah (SAW) also gave room for the child to grow – mentally and spiritually – and encourages the child in what the child loves. He would attend to the child’s questions and teach the child what he knows.

This book also spoke about the eternal bond that exists between parents and their children. It emphasises that this bond is not to be broken, no matter what comes in between them, regardless of whatever mistakes that the parents or children made towards each other. There should be forgiveness and a good relationship is to be maintained.

If every son and daughter complies to the Islamic teaching of caring for their parents until the end of their lives, there would be less elderly people left alone on hospital beds. There would be less unhappiness amongst the older generation and their general health would improve. Therefore this book stressed on the importance of being good to one’s parents throughout one’s life – even after the parents have passed away.

The author went on talking about the three fundamental things to teach a child, as soon as the child could speak (in addition to knowing Allah SWT):
(1) To love the Prophet (SAW)
(2) To love the family
(3) To teach the Quran

What follows is the importance of developing a good character (akhlak). The great Islamic scholars of the past were taught by their mothers to have good manners first before learning other religious and worldly subjects. The children of that era were also sent to other scholars to learn from their manners first before learning about their religion.

We could see the outcome now from Japanese education system of which the young children were taught develop good manners, character and discipline before proceeding to other kinds of worldly knowledge.

Amongst the traits of good conduct that were mentioned in this book were respect, integrity, honesty (most importantly from parents towards children), refinement of one’s appearance, in asking permission, suppression of jealousy and even etiquettes related to food and dining.

In raising a complete person, there needs to be emotional growth and balance. Rasulullah (SAW) himself showed the people around him that love could be displayed with hugs, kisses and play. The importance of listening to our children’s stories, concerns and questions were emphasised to enable a balanced emotional growth.

The importance of physical activities in cognitive development was also discussed. It is sad that these days, a lot of school bans all sorts of extra-curricular activities against the kids sitting for major exams in an attempt to achieve greater academic excellence. However, this idea is not in line with the thoughts of our Islamic scholars.

Imam Ghazali said, “After school, a child must be allowed to play, as recovery means from the exhaustion of studying.this is because a child will never tire out of playing. Preventing a child from playing by forcing him to keep on studying would kill the soul and reduce his intelligence. The child’s life would feel constricted, until he intends to escape all that even by lies and deceit.”

Seeking knowledge is OBLIGATORY for every Muslim. Education should begin as early as possible in view of children’s ease of learning, as compared to adults.

Education is at its utmost importance to Prophet Muhammad (SAW), that the prisoners of war at that tine were asked to teach Muslim children to write and read as a pre-requisite to their release. Rasulullah (SAW) also encouraged people to learn multiple languages as it would ease business dealings and spread of the religion.

A man told his children, “Learn all sorts of knowledge, for men are enemies against what he does not know, and I don’t want you to be an enemy to any fields of knowledge.”

The author wrote a out the role of parents and teachers to discover a child’s potential. One of the greatest recognition of a child’s aptitude in Islamic history was when the young Imam Al Bukhari was learning the science of fiqh (Islamic law). Muhammad bin Hassan realised that the science of hadith (Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and actions) was more suitable for Al Bukhari’s abilities. So he adviced Al Bukhari to busy himself with the knowledge of hadith – he grew up to be the most renowned scholar of hadith that the Islamic world has ever seen.

There are many other stories with lessons on how parenting and education should be, to ensure that growth of each and every child would fulfil his own unique potential, so that he could serve the people around m to his best ability.

* * *

This book should be read by both parents and teachers alike. It is also suitable for leaders as it guides a person towards developing a balanced, successful character.

It is a good book for engagement or wedding present, in view of its encouragement for development of exemplary character amongst parents, so that it could be followed by their future children.

I would give this book 9/10, and would keep it for my own reference, even when I don’t have kids at the moment. There are few topics that are a little unclear, or rather, not well integrated by the author into the needs of this age. Having said that, most of the lessons are applicable until the end of time.


The Miniaturist – A Short Book Review

I’m sorry.

This is not a normal book review. This review has no real structure, or actual comments. It contains only a few things that I could really say about this book.

First, let me say this:

That is exactly how I felt reading, and finishing this book.

Don’t get me wrong. The story is mysterious. It made me curious enough that I could not put down the book. It is waaayyy better than the book I read before that (I complained to my family and friends that the other book was so boring that I felt like throwing it into the recycle bin; but I finished it anyway).

Language, yes, good.

The storyline itself, yes, good.

You WILL want to know how the story would unfold, and there are many twists in this book. Although some of them are predictable, many are not.

Let me end this with another one:


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