Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dirgahayu di alam abadi


Apakah yang terukir di hati?
Bagi sang zakir, hanyalah Dia
Apakah yang tersemat di kalbu?
Bagi para pencinta, adalah dia

Yang ditinggalkan saat keberangkatan pada Yang Esa?
jiwa-jiwa resah walau pasrah
sayu, berselerak, pilu
terkenangkan budi dan kasih tulus murni
teringatkan pesanan
juga gurau tawa
menjunjung duli
raja bertakhta di hati

Andai syurga itu dekat digapai
Sayugia di-intai penghuni barunya
Hati nan gundah merindu penawar
Mencari yang hilang dari pandangan
Andai pun terpisah nyawa dari badan
Nama mu indah terpahat di ingatan

Almarhum Raja Ashman dalam kenangan (1958 - 30 Mac 2012)

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Regal Naqshbandi Shaykh - HRH Raja Ashman has passed away


Shaykh Raja, as many of the Naqshbandi followers knew him; His Royal Highness Raja Dato' Seri Ashman Shah ibni Sultan Azlan Shah, has been invited to the realm of barzakh early this morning Friday, 30th March 2012.

I am just simply lost for words...

O dear blessed soul, I'm very glad I once told you that I missed you and that put a big grin on your serene and charming countenance. Now, you will be missed even more...


At his hometown palace in Kuala Kangsar, Perak

The skies above his final resting place

The royal carriage brought him to the burial compound at Masjid Ubudiyah,
Kuala Kangsar, Perak


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fasten your seat belt


Am I properly buckled up for life? I wonder sometimes. By the way, this, surprisingly, is the 930th post for this blog. Feels like I have driven 930 miles. Alhamdulillah ala kulli hal. Praise be to God regardless of the circumstances, though there were times when I met people through this blog to whom I wanna sing the first line of Christina Perri's Jar of Hearts, - 'No I can't take one more step towards you...' 

But life is like that, it's like driving and oftentimes we get distracted by quite a few things along the way. Imagine what might happen if you didn't have your seat belt fastened? You and I know that the deen is our seat belt. A true believing heart is a safety harness. With God's guidance, you just know when something has gone amiss and you quickly steer onto the right road. My mother is my seat belt. My late father used to be my seat belt. That they, just by being who they are and you knowing you have them, keep you fastened to your seat and drive on. 

Oh surely thanks to my father for teaching me the common prayer for traveling: Subhanallazi sakharalana haza wama kuna lahu mukhrini wa inna ila rabbina lamun qalibun.

I remember one time when I was in my early 20s, during my jahiliyah days, for some reason I had gotten the du'a mixed up with another version so I asked one "pious" man at my office and to my surprise, he didn't know! This was the man whom I knew had been mocking me for my outer appearance. So there, never ever judge people by their clothes. 

Anyway, how apt the meaning of the aforementioned du'a:
"Glory be to the one who has subjugated this [vehicle] for us whereas we were not able to subjugate it on our own. And we will certainly be returning to our Lord."

Yes, because we cannot subjugate our vehicle and we do not know what to expect, therefore, we need to buckle up for life. Let's buckle up with our faith. Let's buckle up with our trusty invisible seat belt - people who want us to be safe and stay safe all the way. Allah blesses them all.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Habib Nuh bin Muhammad Al Habshi - 150th Haul


Today, thousands shall flock to his maqam in Singapore for the 150th Haul - an event commemorating 150 years of his passing to Rabbul alameen. Alas, I am not there. But the route to him may not necessarily be in the physical realm. Love in all its wonders is the surest path to a soul. Love needs no explanation. If it touches you, it touches you, period. And it touches you at the moment appointed by the only One - He who creates our hearts, who whispers inspirations, who plants the seed of the thing we conveniently call love. Here goes, a love note from one absent muhibeen.

One of four brothers he was
born on board a vessel en-route to Penang 
[Oh, we have something in common!]
Nuh, what an apt name given
circa 1788, soon after the British conquer

Nuh's father was no less renowned
Sayyid Muhammad bin Sayyid Ahmad
served the British and fought crimes 
restored peace on the land

Nuh's 7th grandfather was a famous saint too
all known as Al Habshi since the 10th granny
Nuh and his three brothers were a good band
alongside their father, they did wander
who carried groceries and a pan in a gunny sack
stopped to cook meals for his four sons
[can you imagine?!]

Married a lady of the isle in the sun
Anchik Hamidah was her name
gave him a rose Sharifah Badaniah 
she adorned the family with yet another flower
Sharifah Rugayah from whom the blessed clan descend 

At the age of 31, Habib Nuh moved to Singapore
upon invitation of one Habib Salim
during the times of Stamford Raffles and East India Company
near Sultan Mosque at Kampung Kaji he lived 
always fond of the poor and the orphans
who would surround him wherever he went

Habib Nuh was known for a peculiar habit
walk into shops he candidly would
picked up some money and candies he did 
gave them away to the needy and the children
sometimes he treated them with a tray full of fried bananas
he was fun to be with, oh no wonder

He counseled many in his community
advocating good characters and religious studies
defend the weak, kids and the needy
shun animosity and not be greedy

Spent his life praying until dawn
visited graveyards at night to read the Qur'an 
some might have branded him unsound
going around shirtless in the company of the young ones

Performed the tahnik for newly born
a sunnah of the Prophet he was well known for
Oh, he enjoyed watching Chinese opera too!
in the front row, he would sit
though the language was foreign
understood them all with deep thoughts in mind

While living at Marang road near Temenggong Mosque
he would retreat at Mount Palmer regularly
amidst the jungle facing the sea
this pastime of his caught a friend's attention
Haji Mohd Salleh, an Indonesian merchant

Intended to build a small musolla
a place for Habib to conduct his khalwa
alas, Habib Nuh died before it came to be 
Masjid Haji Mohd Salleh it became known
stood at the foot of Mount Palmer
below the maqam of his dear friend

Habib Nuh was the 33rd grandson of the noble Prophet 
(Peace be upon him)
his full name was Sayyid Nuh bin Sayyid Muhammad 
bin Sayyid Ahmad Al Habshi
the grand saint of Singapore and across the seas

Spent 47 years of his life on the island
one filled with miracles aplenty
to this day Habib Nuh is very well known
though 150 years have gone by
he is alive in the hearts of many
Oh, so many!

Reference: "The Grand Saint of Singapore" 
Compiled by Muhammad Ghouse Khan Surattee and the Outreach Unit of Al Firdaus Mosque Singapore

150 roses for Habib Nuh's 150th Haul,
from a believer of the unseen,
the absent muhibeen


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thank God for all the good doers


From our beloved Prophet s.a.w we learned to think beyond ourselves. One whose love and devotion for his ummah is that of the exemplar beyond compare. We have also learned from one of his descendants the practice of seeking forgiveness for mukminin and mukminat. So we learned to mind the greater humanity.

I read about a teaching of a Sufi sage who despised passive worshipers, that the way to the Lord is by serving others. And surely we serve in our own unique ways. We are here with our own special contribution to humanity, while knowing that there is not a single lawful profession that is less worthy than the other. 

One seemingly ordinary concierge took the trouble to find a piece of information I requested but little did he know that it's not just a piece of paper but a gateway to new aspirations, in fact a source of  inspirations for the requester. So we thank God for every little good things that come our way. Steve Jobs said, 'things don't have to change the world to be important' but we must know that small things we do can be important enough to change someone's world. Let's take a moment to cherish and celebrate all the good doers we come across in our daily lives. 

Oh, I appreciate one attractive curry puff seller I regularly meet on my way to work, just as much as I enjoy chatting with one polite security officer at my workplace. And the list goes on.

This posting is also to celebrate the success of a close friend who has achieved something remarkable, that is to become a better doer in his respectable profession - a well deserved consultant surgeon he is now. Congratulations! 

Thank God for all the good doers. May Allah accept our good deeds and pardon all that is not.

Art credit: Yaser Aghayari

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On certainty in the Unseen Hand


Oh what a pleasant surprise, I have been blogging for 3 years now but I just realized how polite is. It says you could  "Write as little or as much as you'd like. Well, up to 1200 characters." That's the limit for you when writing your profile. It definitely sounds more friendly than - "Your Tweet was over 140 characters. You'll have to be more clever." 

Sorry, I know I've complained about that aspect of Twitter before but it makes a whole lot of a difference doesn't it? It says a lot about the writers at both organizations. Still, I like to read people's tweets. Someone tweeted a wise saying: 'Throw yourself boldly before the world with the courage of certainty.' - Lorraine Newman. 

I think we should all be brave and do just that because what is there to be uncertain about? What is it that we are not certain about? Alhamdulillah, for the gift of certainty. We should recognize and acknowledge the moments of certainty we might have had before and each time we experience it. It's a good feeling to have, to be certain about things because it gives you a sense of peace and tranquility, that everything is going to be all right, that we are in good hands simply because we are in His Hands subhanahu wata'ala.

Browsing through 'Principles of Sufism' by Al-Qushayri, I learned a couple of more profound sayings. Al-Junayd observed: "Certainty is the cessation of doubt in the witnessing of the Unseen" and As-Sari said to him: "It is your motionless tranquility when thoughts move through your breast, because of your certainty that any motion on your part would neither benefit you nor repel from you whatever may be decreed."

That, in layman's terms means, when you submit to the Will and Decree of God, you would be feeling calm and be in a harmonious state. I remembered reading my first Economics book about Adam Smith's theory on invisible hand of the market forces. He first introduced the idea in 1776 in his book 'The Wealth of Nations'. Try asking a believer, 'what do you reckon the invisible hand is?'

I'd say, what market forces?! A market has real people behind it. People or rather souls who possess some kind of faith and belief. To me, it's the most intuitive, genuine and spiritualistic statement an economist could ever make. But of course and unfortunately his concept of invisible hand had evolved and got interpreted in materialistic terms.

As far as the Sufi is concerned the Unseen Hand is the ultimate Doer having Universal Intelligence and a believer is one who is certain about this fact, accepts it gladly and feels contented about it. What other advantages would a believer have? Well, he is the chosen reader. He is the selected audience for the Holy Book. Allah s.w.t. says: "This is the book... for those who believe in that which is revealed to you and that which was revealed before you and who are certain of the Hereafter." (Al Baqarah:2-4)

Yes, it's for those who have certainty of the Hereafter. But at the same time if you think about it, believing in the Hereafter gives you a great sense of certainty. It makes you far sighted, otherwise, you would be so hard up about the present in wanting to capture the most from the apparent present. You would for that reason become naturally unsettled and greedy to take in as much as you could from the present life for anything and everything that is before you, right now. It is, in my opinion analogous to Wikipedia's explanation of Adam Smith's 'invisible hand' - "That by trying to maximize their own gains in a free market, individual ambition benefits society, even if the ambitious have no benevolent intentions."

But, hello, a believer would have benevolent intentions. And someone who believes in the Unseen Hand is more contented with his lot even as he tries to put in his best efforts. His certainty on the Fair, the Provider and the Wise makes him remain at peace with his Lord, with himself and with others. 

So I ask myself, let's ask ourself, what is there to be uncertain about? Let's heed the wise saying quoted above, let's throw ourself boldly before the world, with the courage of certainty. That is because we are in fact in Divine Hands.
Publisher credit: Islamic Book Trust KL
Art credit: Bahram Hamidi

Friday, March 9, 2012

Write right from the heart


I realized on a few occasions that I was not clever enough to tweet. I was being too wordy obviously. I was taken aback when I read for the first time that rather condescending remark: "Your Tweet was over 140 characters. You'll have to be more clever." Yes, that's one of the new benchmarks for cleverness in this modern day. Well, that's fine, if one is not clever enough to tweet, one may try blogging.

Lately, I tried to write from the heart but all I found was silence, writer's block they say. It's a post-vacation symptom perhaps. I had spent the last leg of my holiday visiting my alma mater where I learned quite a bit about essay writing and I remembered one English teacher who just loathed me because my English was so poor compared to my classmates. 

St. George's Girls' School - Penang
I had also visited my true "alma mater" - my father's grave. He was my first school. In fact he was the one who made me learn composition. When I was between the age of 7 to 10, I had written countless letters to my late father. We were living apart from each other at that time. You know when you write to your father whom you missed so much, you write right from the heart. When you write to your father and make some mistakes, he would never say, "you'll have to be more clever!" Subhanallah, as I am typing these words I realize it is love that makes the heart speaks and love has made my heart breaks the silence.

Allahyarham Ismail
Gelugor - Penang

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A woman's message on International Women's Day


I didn't know there's a day called International Women's Day celebrated annually on March 8. I think it's of no meaning unless the men in the relevant international or national organization responsible for women's rights could present some worthy statistical report, like a drastic reduction in the number of domestic violence; the number of rape cases; the number of deprived single mothers or even the number of divorce cases. If indeed we are living in a civilized world, it should be a safe and happy place for women anywhere and everywhere. But this world is not a perfect place, let's be realistic and talk about it in a more sensible manner.

If only men would listen to what a woman has to say on this International Women's Day, I just have three messages and I am speaking from whatever little experience I have had during my interactions with men.

1. If you are a single man: keep your hands off her even if you can't keep your eyes off her.

2. If you are a married man: don't take her for granted; don't say a word about what you do with her in your private chamber; don't leak out her weaknesses to another woman (or  anyone) and never lie about your marital status.

3. If you have divorced your wife and feel the urge to broadcast your dislikes about her, pause and think of how well she has served you in good times. And do provide for the children she has delivered for you.

It's not too difficult, is it? May Allah protect us women from all evil. May Allah shower His love on us and continue to manifest His Beauties through us.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Life's contrast

'Sakinah' Yacht for charter at Telaga Harbour

Alhamdulillah wa shukrulillah, my holiday continues from Langkawi to Penang Island - my hometown, a UNESCO World Heritage City. But a holiday is not just about putting one's feet up or having fun.

I saw a myriad of His manifestations, from the most luxurious of lifestyles to that of a meagre living. At Telaga Harbour Marina in Langkawi one gets to see yachts of the mega-rich berthing on one side and fishing boats on the other side of the beautiful harbour. It's both a playground for the wealthy and a place where fishermen could only dream about earning as much as the yacht's monthly berthing fee.

Telaga Harbour Marina, Langkawi

On another side of the island, I met a school boy working as a part-time waiter at a seaside stall. On his naive and boyish face I could see a fire of determination. Hence, I was overcome with both pride and sympathy. I hope and I think he must have heard about the owner of The Danna Langkawi, a 5-star boutique hotel at Telaga Harbour Park, who was once a meat seller. 

Seaside stall near Langkawi Airport
At the Langkawi Airport, I met a 60-something woman working as a janitor. I asked Makcik Zaleha how long she had been working there. She said, "Long time...the management has changed three times and I am still here."

Today, in Penang my gregarious mum chatted with a woman who invested the RM500 government bonus she had just received to start a curry-puff stall. "It is my second day doing this. I have six children in boarding school to look after," she said matter-of-factly.

No matter what our profession or lifestyle is, may we remain a  servant who is grateful and God-fearing. Oh, surely, it is for a good reason that Allah will let the poor be the first to enter the heavens.