Monday, October 27, 2014
Sonia and Anita, two sisters living in India, have been blind since birth, but a simple eye operation makes it possible for them to see their mom for the first time. The nonprofit organization 20/20/20 provides free operations to these sisters–as well as thousands of other people in developing countries. These procedures empower people in impoverished communities to create better futures. In this short film, Blue Chalk Media shares the sisters’ poignant story and captures their initial experiences after the bandages come off. What a gift this is for these 2 girls, and their family!
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
“It was by the mercy of Allah that thou wast lenient with them (O Muhammad), for if thou hadst been stern and fierce of heart they would have dispersed from round about thee. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult with them upon the conduct of affairs. And when thou art resolved, then put thy trust in Allah. Lo! Allah loveth those who put their trust (in Him).” (Quran 3:159) (Pickthall translation).
This verse from the Quran should be the guiding light for us Muslims in our day-to-day interactions with both fellow Muslims and non-Muslims. In short, we must stop being nasty to each other and others. We need to follow our Prophet’s personal culture and make his personal culture ours—to practise empathy, love, care and forgiveness.
I met Syed Azmi on numerous occasions this year. He was quick to volunteer and happy to help when we shared with him a campaign idea to do charity. I found out soon that doing charity, helping the poor is very close to his heart. One may say that he has made it his calling. He organises “free market activities”, facilitating a platform where individuals and organizations can give away food, clothes, household items and other things to the poor. While many other young Muslims spend their weekends lepaking and having fun, here we have an exemplary young Muslim who works for the poor, answering the Quran’s call on believers to do charity.
I hope the religious authorities, especially JAKIM, can see that Syed Azmi had good intentions in organising the “I Want to Touch a Dog” event. From his point of view he did all that is needed to do, getting approval through MAIS and making sure a religious teacher was present to give guidelines, although perhaps his religious expert was not JAKIM approved. It is “stern and fierce of heart” to accuse him of wanting to challenge the ulama or intending to insult Islam or to abuse him by saying, for instance, that he has “worms in his head” instead of trying to understand him.
The Quran tells us to avoid excessive misgivings or suspicions about another. Indeed, such excess can become a sin (Quran 49:12). There are even those who threaten to take his life and call him an apostate. I hope JAKIM will advise these overzealous Muslims accordingly. How I wish Syed Azmi had worked with JAKIM on this campaign from the very beginning. I will unpack this idea at the end of the article.
I also oppose those who express their disagreement with JAKIM by hurling insults at the religious body and their leaders. Insulting the religious authorities by name calling and mocking them does not make one’s argument any deeper or more Islamic. How we Muslims treat each other, especially how our opinion leaders handle disagreements with others, will play a big role in ensuring respect for Islam or otherwise. Religious leaders throwing insults and rough words at each other can be far more insulting to Islam than Syed Azmi’s dog patting campaign. There are already enough Muslims killing Muslims in Muslim countries. We in Malaysia can do better.
Where do we go from here?
I plead with JAKIM and all our religious authorities not to treat or see Syed Azmi and those like him as criminals. I truly hope that JAKIM and our religious authorities can work with and through lay Muslim leaders like Syed Azmi in making Islam relevant to modern society. Mentor and coach them; don't chastise or turn them away. Take the dog patting campaign. Not all that Syed Azmi said was wrong. He is right about the hatred many Muslims have towards dogs and from this lack of understanding many do cruel things to a creature of God. This is against Islamic teachings.
Righting the wrong
If Syed Azmi can work with JAKIM we can right the wrong and work well within the Shafie traditions. It will be great if JAKIM can help Syed Azmi and those like him by spreading the Prophet's teachings about kindness. In the case of dogs, the Prophet, referring to a prostitute who gave water to a thirsty dog, said Allah had forgiven her for her act of kindness. On another occasion, when the Muslim army came across a female dog and her puppies while on a march, the Prophet posted a soldier near her with the order that the mother and puppies must not be disturbed. These demonstrations of kindness towards dogs by the Prophet would not only help Muslims be kinder towards them but also feel closer to Islam.
Furthermore, with modern communications and globalisation facilitating contact between Muslims from different parts of the world, there is an urgent need to help young Muslims make sense of why the Maliki school says dogs are clean while other schools say they are najis mughallazah (impure to the extent that physical contact requires ritual cleansing). Young Muslims may question if this is a disagreement between schools of jurisprudence or between radically different interpretations of Islam itself. Please do not sweep these inquiries under the carpet. Please deal with them. JAKIM has the expertise.
As it is, JAKIM has many knowledgeable officers well trained in the various areas and I know a few personally who are well rounded, caring, and deep in knowledge. I am confident that JAKIM can practice the Quranic bidding that I quoted at the beginning of this article: Be “lenient” towards them and and avoid being “stern and fierce of heart” so that the young will not “disperse” and shy away from Islam. I pray to Allah that JAKIM will “pardon” Syed Azmi and “ask forgiveness” for him and “consult” with him and those like him “upon the conduct of affairs”.
I end this article with another quote from the Quran as a reminder to all, including my humble self.
“And if two parties of believers fall to fighting, then make peace between them. And if one party of them doeth wrong to the other, fight ye that which doeth wrong till it return unto the ordinance of Allah; then, if it return, make peace between them justly, and act equitably. Lo! Allah loveth the equitable.
“O ye who believe! Let not a folk deride a folk who may be better than they (are), nor let women (deride) women who may be better than they are; neither defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. Bad is the name of lewdness after faith. And whoso turneth not in repentance, such are evil-doers.
“O ye who believe! Shun much suspicion; for lo! some suspicion is a crime. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother ? Ye abhor that (so abhor the other)! And keep your duty (to Allah). Lo! Allah is Relenting, Merciful.” (Quran, 49: 9–12)
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
|photo taken from Syed Azmi's facebook|
I would like to congratulate and thank Syed Azmi for organizing the “I want to touch a dog” campaign. His effort to bring fellow Muslims to get to know and not fear dogs is timely. I have written about the subject in my book, The Quran and I. In the sixth chapter, I shared about Pedro. I append the story below.
I hope the religious authorities will see his effort positively and encourage more such campaigns. You can see the happiness Muslims share during that event, both young and old.
I know Syed Azmi and he is one of those rare good hearted people who have chosen to spread joy and happiness in the world. This event is just one of his initiatives. Syed Azmi wants us to remember a very important reason why the Quran was sent to us,
“We did not bestow the Qur'an on thee from on high to make thee unhappy” – Quran 20:2
Thank you and Salam Syed Azmi,
Pedro was my first canine friend. Not that I did not have any experiences with dogs before Pedro, but he made a real impact on my life. He changed my entire framework about man’s best friend. I was 16 when I knew Pedro.
Growing up in a Muslim home, we were taught to fear and loath dogs. Most of us did not want anything to do with them. In fact, many if not the majority grew up totally terrified of them. We were taught to hate this beautiful God’s creation. This is an irony because they are ‘man’s best friends’. They help us guard our house, tend our sheep, catch baddies, sniff out drugs, assist the blind to ‘see’, help in search and rescue operations and they keep us company.
Most adult Malay-Muslims cannot give a real reason as to why we cannot keep dogs. Some say that we cannot touch them when they are wet while others stress on the saliva being filthy. Some say they are filthy in totality.
My Umi’s main worry is that when you have dogs at home, “malaikat tak masuk rumah”. This has become one big stress for Umi and one big irritation for my sister Kak Ani because my sis and family keep dogs – my mom all sad and dramatic about angels not visiting her grandchildren – meaning Satan will run wild in the house!
When I am being a good son, I try very hard to convince my Umi not to worry because the angels are not shallow beings and some canine won’t stop them from caring for little children. I try to persuade her that even without the angels it’s okay because God is always very near to us as the Quran said that,
“NOW, VERILY, it is We who have created man, and We know what his innermost self whispers within him: for We are closer to him than his neck-vein” - Quran 50:16.
And at the heart of it our best protector is God, not the angels,
“Nay, God is your protector, and He is the best of helpers” - Quran 3:150.
But when I am being cheeky I will tell my Umi that, “Kalau tak mau mati, simpan anjing dalam rumah, malaikat maut tak boleh masuk!”. Hehe! But most time I try to be a good son J.
None of all this confusion is Quranic but the misunderstanding push many Malay-Muslims into acting cruelly towards dogs. A Muslim friend of mine who lives in a farm at Janda Baik had his dog catapulted to death with ball-bearings by unhappy neighbors. My friend’s land borders the jungle and keeping a few canines will keep away wild animals like panthers, wild boars, Pig-tailed Macaque, musang, etc. The dogs play an important role in keeping not just his cows, sheep and poultry safe, but also his 7 kids and wife.
It is not unusual that if you are a Muslim and you rear dogs, other Muslims will even question your faith. Sigh ….
The Quran on the other hand says animals; dogs included are a community like us humans.
“There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, or a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end.” - Quran 6:38
And the Quran tells us to train with our best knowledge other animals like the way we train our dogs, making our connections with dogs as an exemplary behavior,
“They ask you what is made lawful for them. Say: (all) good things are made lawful for you. And those beasts and birds of prey which you have trained as hounds are trained, you teach them that which God taught you; so eat of that which they catch for you and mention God's name upon it, and observe your duty to God. Lo! God is swift to take account”. - Quran 5:4
If you are a Malay-Muslim reading this and is still not convinced, there is another story in the Quran about man and his best friend. It’s an account about a few youths whom God had increased in His guidance and gave strength to their hearts and they are friends to canine.
“[And now] We shall truly relate to thee their story: Behold, they were young men who had attained to faith in their Sustainer: and [so] We deepened their consciousness of the right way. - Quran 18:13
“And thou wouldst have thought that they were awake, whereas they lay asleep. And We caused them to turn over repeatedly, now to the right, now to the left; and their dog [lay] on the threshold, its forepaws outstretched. Had thou come upon them [unprepared], thou wouldst surely have turned away from them in flight, and wouldst surely have been filled with awe of them” - Quran 18:18
Here are some canines I knew.
Blackie – Behind my house was a remnant of a Chinese New Village and Blackie was our friend Bok Teik’s dog. Blackie was forever sleeping and yawning and occasionally tried to snap the flies hovering over him with his jaw.
Tohtonku – A dog I knocked with my Honda CupChai C70 as I turned into Mt Erskine from Gottlieb Road. I was thrown off my bike and Tohtonku was growling in pain. His best friend a Chinese boy about 11 years of age rubbed his chest while calling his name “ Tohtonku! Tohtonku! Tohtonku! …” about a minute later the canine was up and running again … phew!!!
Patches and Bright (a combination of Brown and white), two dogs at Nick my buddy’s house in late 70s – early 80s who never bothered anyone.
Brandy –Nick’s current, a blind dog.
Kafula – My sister’s Rhodesian-ridgeback, a huge animal but totally gentle and protective, a friendly breed. My niece Aisha used to drag Kafula by his tail when she was still a toddler and pulled at his ears.
Miri Martina – Another one of my sister’s dog – named after Miri the town they lived in for a couple of years. The friendliest mongrel I have ever known. She is always excited to see you – tail wagging and her body forming a U-shape as she moves nearer and nearer towards you.
Nic – One of the fiercest dogs I ever known who completely cannot get along with me. My friends Mano and Beng named him Nic as per mechanic as he is always sleeping under the car.
Charlie – Mano’s dog which seems to be on heat all year long humping anyone's legs left unguarded.
Ga – Short form for Jaga - A female canine Beng, Peng and I adopted during my final year at MU. We were housemates at TTDI – at that time, there was a movie “Three men and a baby” but in our case it was “Three men and a bitch”.
Michael – Ga’s male companion. We named him Michael to irritate our chief tenant who goes by the same name. I think the dog was insulted.
Change – A mongrel I took care of when I stayed at Pandan Perdana. I named her Change as I really felt that Muslims must change our attitude towards dogs. My friend Mano says that if I ever kept a piglet at home, we will need to name the piglet Revolusi!
I thought I would tell you about Pedro last. Pedro was Jennifer’s dog. They had two - Pedro the male one and Pedrina the female. Jennifer, Kak Ani’s best friend and housemate were living in Jalan Telawi area in late 70s and early 80s. Pedro in all other ways, looks, size, mannerism, etc was like a German Sheppard except that he was completely brown in color, from head to tail. He hardly made any noise or barks. In the mornings when I walked to the bus stand, Pedro would walk alongside me. It was very nice and you felt very safe to have such a canine friend with you. He would sit and wait with me at the bus stop. Occasionally, throwing his melancholic glances at me and if I smiled back he would actually wag his tail a little. He could read your feelings. When I get on the bus, he would wait just a little while looking at me and walked back home as the bus moved.
With all the robberies and attacks in Kuala Lumpur, each one of us can do with a Pedro!
“ VERILY, this Qur'an shows the way to all that is most upright, and gives the believers who do good deeds the glad tiding that theirs will be a great reward;” – Quran 17:9
Monday, October 20, 2014
Sri Paduka Maharaja Durbar Raja I of Gemeron - King Merong Mahawangsa, founder of Kingdom of Langkasuka-Kedah Tua (630 CE). The Kedah monarchy is believed to be the oldest surviving royal lineage in the world.
Back to basics: Each Malaysian adult is in charge of Unity.
The nation’s UNITY is the responsibility of each and every one of us. It is not just the job of politicians, government servants and non-governmental organizations.
We, the rakyat must take charge. We, the rakyat must take responsibility. It is not enough to point fingers and ask the politicians and government to change. We must change.
Let us explain.
Individuals form groups. How we, the individuals, relate to each other through our daily interpersonal relationships characterize society and the world we live in.
These patterns of relationships that we practice and share with each other create our distinctive culture. This culture then branches out to form structures, processes and the elites in our society – the politicians, government servants, business leaders, artistes, doctors, lawyers etc.
Thus, everything good or bad in this country starts from us – the individuals.
Until we practice unity in our daily interactions, true unity will remain as lofty slogans or tools for unsavory politicians to use as and when they please.
Let us take charge of Unity.
At zubedy, our programs draw strength from shared values and traditions. We believe that at heart, all Malaysians want good things for themselves and for their Malaysian brothers and sisters, simply because our nation cannot prosper as a whole if some of us are left behind.
Let us be, first and foremost, Malaysians.
Let us add value,
Have A Meaningful Deepavali
Sunday, October 5, 2014
Few people in the middle class really understand the mindset of the richest people.
After all, if they did, they would be among the top earners as well. We’ve all heard the remarks: Rich people are lucky, rich people had an unfair advantage, rich people are crooks, rich people are selfish, etc. These are mostly empty statements with little proof to back them up.
Yes, the rich think and act differently from everyone else, and the differences are as extreme as they are numerous.
Here are five things you probably didn’t know about the wealthy.
1. The wealthy are comfortable being uncomfortable.
Most people just want to be comfortable. Physical, psychological, and emotional comfort is the primary goal of the middle-class mindset.
The wealthy, on the other hand, learn early on that becoming a millionaire isn’t easy, and the need for comfort can be devastating. They learn to be comfortable while operating in a state of ongoing uncertainty. The great ones know there’s a price to pay for getting rich, but if they have the mental toughness to endure temporary pain, they can reap the harvest of abundant wealth.
It’s not comfortable for a millionaire in the making to forge ahead when everyone around her is negative, cynical, and unsupportive, yet those who can push forward are rewarded with riches for the rest of their lives. Make a list of the five things you must do today that are uncomfortable but will help you build your financial fortune.
2. The wealthy dream about the future.
Most of us grew up listening to stories of the good old days, when the world was a kinder, gentler place. The music was better, athletes were tougher, and business people were honest. This tradition of the masses is handed down from generation to generation while its purveyors have no idea how insidious and destructive it is. People who believe their best days are behind them rarely get rich, and they often struggle with happiness and depression.
The wealthy are future-oriented and optimistic about what lies ahead. They appreciate and learn from the past while living in the present and dreaming of the future. Self-made millionaires get rich because they’re willing to bet on themselves and project their dreams, goals, and ideas into an unknown future. Much of their planning time is spent clarifying goals that won’t be realized for years, yet they patiently and painstakingly plan and dream of what their future will look and feel like.
3. The wealthy are more confident.
The negative projections and derogatory labels placed on the rich are endless. One of the most common is that the rich are cocky, arrogant people who think they’re better than everyone else.
The truth is successful people are confident because they repeatedly bet on themselves and are rarely disappointed. Even when they fail, they’re confident in their ability to learn from the loss and come back stronger and richer than ever. This is not arrogance, but self-assuredness in its finest form.
The wealthy have an elevated and fearless consciousness that keeps them moving toward what they want, as opposed to moving away from what they don’t want. This often doubles or triples their net worth quickly because of the new efficiency in their thinking. Eventually they begin to believe they can accomplish anything, and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. As they move from success to success, they create a psychological tidal wave of momentum that gets stronger every day, catapulting their confidence to a level so high it is often interpreted as arrogance.