Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Haji Pulau Pinang | "Jak u Arab" - something about the Acehnese


Pulau Pinang is the official name for Penang - an island state in the northeast of Peninsular Malaysia. In the old days, Indonesians who intended to go to Makkah via Penang but got stranded due to whatever reasons, were called Haji Pulau Pinang! LOL. This I learned from an Acehnese who presented at the 'Penang & the Hajj' conference.

So I am "Hajjah Pulau Pinang" in a way because I don't get to go to Makkah to perform hajj this year! LOL. Only 40 days left until wukuf in Arafah, but here I am. Never mind, let's try again next year InshaAllah.

I learned quite a few interesting things from that Acehnese presenter particularly on the concept of wealth among the Aceh people. His name is Kamaruzzaman Bustamam-Ahmad from the Sharia'h Faculty at IAIN Ar-Raniry in Banda Acheh. I thought he was one of the better presenters at the conference because he made the audience laugh by his casual presentation style. When the audience laugh, chances are they will remember your contents.

He talked about Jak u Arab which literally means 'going to Arab'. It's Acehnese language referring to the acts of going for hajj. Jak means go. Acehnese who wish to perform hajj would not use their cash savings. They would use/trade off their wealth known as baynah. It corresponds to the Arabic word baynah meaning proof. One is proven to be wealthy if one owns gold, cattle and lands. Wearing beautiful clothes or living in a big house does not indicate you are rich.

Using one's baynah for hajj or for other worthy purposes e.g. travels, weddings/feasts is known as hareukat. Again this term is borrowed from the Arab language harakah meaning "move" which I deduce, it refers to the movement of wealth i.e. spending.

Beurekat from the Arabic word barakah is an important concept that pertains to wealth. For the Acehnese, one's wealth is not measured by quantity but by quality. Any kind of wealth that lacks barakah will not be taken home. So to protect their baynah (wealth) and make it barakah the Acehnese would hold an annual feast (kandhuri thon) for orphans and the less privileged. This is done once they have paid zakat (alms) for the yearly earnings.

Consequently, one is considered ready to go for hajj or jak u Arab after having traded one's baynah. To recap, he three main concepts of baynah are hareukat, beurekat and kandhuri. It basically means to spend (hareukat) one's lawful (barakah) earnings for a good deed like hajj after one has expressed gratitude to God (shukur) by holding a feast (kandhuri) for the needy.

I thought it's a beautiful Islamic concept indeed. And these Acehnese who went for hajj in the early days were really wealthy. They would simply give away (waqaf) their properties in Makkah. Presumably those hujjaj who decided to stay on in Makkah after their hajj. They're known as al-Ashi. These waqaf properties in Makkah were of course meant to support other Acehnese pilgrims who jak u Arab, year in, year out.

OK people that's about it. If we can't jak u Arab this year, we try next year InshaAllah :)

[Mabruk to Sis N and family of Cape Town who is going for hajj soon. Do remember us in your prayers. May Allah grant all of you hajj mabrur. Ameen.]

The Blue Funnel ship departing from Penang.
Carried thousands of pilgrims from the Asian region
including Aceh.

Acehnese practice of waqaf is also evident in Penang. To this day, many plots of lands and houses in this island are waqaf properties. In fact, it was a man from Aceh who first discovered Penang even before Captain Francis Light did in 1786.

By the way, my great great grandfather was one Aceh trader who came to Penang by boat :)

May Allah bless the souls of the solehin of the past.

I leave you with this brilliant quote by one eminent Singaporean law icon, the late Ahmad Ibrahim (1916 - 1999): "The words 'piety' and 'charity' have a much wider meaning in Muslim law and religion than in any other system. They include every purpose which is recognized as good or pious under the Muslim religion and Muslim law; and the test of what is "good" or "pious" or "charitable" is the approval of the Almighty. Every good purpose (wajah al-khair) which God approves, or by which approach (khurbat) is attained to God, is a fitting purpose for a valid and lawful wakaf or dedication."

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