Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How will history remember you?


Three things experienced over the weekend had brought about this post:
"The Emperor's Club" movie; 
a visit to Maqam Habib Noh - the grand saint of the region;
and a hearty lunch at the Islamic Restaurant near Arab Street, Singapore. 

What do they have in common? History.

One line from the movie made me think to the core of my heart. Kevin Kline who played Professor Hundert, an excellent history teacher, asked his students: "Great ambition and conquest without contribution is without significance. What will your contribution be? How will history remember you?”

You know I am not a movie person. I hardly watch any movies but I was glad I saw this one by chance and as always I am not ashamed to admit that it made me shed tears. The following day, I went to Singapore and I kept hearing the words of Prof. Hundert - What will your contribution be? How will history remember you?

Habib Noh bin Muhammad Al Habshi (1788 - 1866) was a man who made an extraordinary mark in history. In a few months' time people from all over the region will be gathering for his 150th Haul (death anniversary) InshaAllah. During the haul held last April, I learned about Habib Noh walking on water from a small island where the British had attempted to quarantine him together with those deemed to be suffering from infectious diseases. Habib Noh was neither a politician nor a conqueror. He was only a man who had extraordinary belief in his religion. He was a man known to have had a deep sympathy and love towards children and the less fortunate. That's how he is remembered to this day.

In front of the chamber where the maqam is housed

Fifty nine years after the demise of this much-talked-about saint, another exciting history got recorded in Singapore. In 1921, the Islamic Restaurant established itself as the place to go for absolutely delicious briyani. When someone  (a non-Muslim) introduced me to the restaurant, I thought he was just referring to a 'halal' restaurant. I never expected a restauranteur would boldly use such an exclusive sounding name. It turned out to be not just a halal place but one with an impressive history.

Many heads of state and Sultans from Malaysia have frequented the Islamic Restaurant. Perhaps the founder M. Abdul Rahman didn't start the business with a purpose to make his mark on history. He was probably just focused on using his talents and contributing to society in his own unique way but somehow he too made history.

Now, what about us? What will our contribution be? How will history remember us?

Savouring history at the Islamic Restaurant
- A travelogue of a nobody -

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