Wednesday, October 12, 2005



My good friend coined the term Ibadah Festival to describe the atmosphere of ibadah in Ramadhan. It is such an apt term. The two-words phrase speak of so many things, amongst them; performing ibadat full heartedly, complete sincerity, no compulsion, state of full acceptance of the religious injunction, and the state of heart at peace with the Creator. It also speaks of obedience in a jovial and happy mood without any hint of reluctance.

Indeed, Ramadhan is a month to inculcate positive values in Muslims. The act of fasting itself is an exercise in patience and a training of the heart to feel the suffering of those less fortunate than us. Fasting is not only abstinence in partaking of food and drinks but also to control all our faculties including the heart from too much attachment to the base instinct or the animal nature of man and to focus on the spiritual side. By detaching ourselves from food and drinks we weaken the influences from our animal nature in order to nurture our spiritual nature. Strengthening the spirit goes a long way in fostering good values that will keep our animal nature in check. This will help bring peace and harmony in the society.

However, Ibadah is normally seen as an obligation to be done. Fasting is one of the 5 pillars of Islam, thus a major obligation for Muslims. Studies and researches have shown many benefits of fasting to our health. However, without the injunction, not many will perform it on their own accord. Thus the spirit of its performance is based on compulsion. However, having a whole community performing the fast together, breaking of fast together with family members or community members at morehs, tarawih prayer in congregation are festival of sorts. The acts conjure community get togetherness. These are rare occasions and foster festive spirit. It only happen in Ramadhan and not in any other month. Thus Ramadhan is a month to celebrate.

So let us celebrate Ramadhan with Ibadah festival. Throw away the burdensome do thy duty attitude and replace it with festive, merry, jovial mood. Get up in early morning feeling good for sahur together and then to the masjid for Subuh Prayer. Recite the Qur’an and go through the day with calm spirit, absorbing all the day’s turmoils and tribulation like the eye of a storm, tongue guarded against utterring of bad or useless words but wet with zikr to Allah, eyes casted down and averted from the onslaughts of provoking animal based desires, heart touched to sufferrings of others and at the end of the day prepare for the breaking of fast with heart full of syukur to Allah for His Nikmah. As a show of thanks giving, prepare for tarawih prayer in congregation at the mosque and participate in tadarrus. Well, that is a festival indeed; a festival of Ibadah that brings joy and strength to the inner spirit as compared to the more transient joy nature of other types of festival….

Monday, October 03, 2005



My daughter is going to sit for her exam at our home state. She is the kind who keep things to herself. I am currently working more than 300km away from home. How to I support her, show my concern and help her in her quest? How to I do my paternal duty, be a father in time of his daughter’s need? Is it just enough to phone to give encouragement and pray for her success? A prayer is heard even thousands of miles away, for God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. To make matter more complicated she’s a daughter who had undergone the father’s disciplinary acts and won’t budge; not in any meaningful way and had kept resentment visible in her countenance. How do I win her heart and in the process help her undergo the trial of her life in confidence? This is delicate indeed. Meanwhile I was just moved to head a section that support the management’s functions and need to be abreast of all situations whether current or any potentially uncomfortable one.

Balancing the needs, I decided that my family’s affair is priority. So I took 3 days off and came back home. I had up to now tried to show acceptance, love and care to offset the sting of acts I had to do, or felt I had to do in the name of fatherhood, i.e; the fatherhood I was made to believe through my upbringing and religious vocation. I had failed. I could see that she had tried to please me, show that it’s okay but I could sense that deep down the resentment is just skin deep. I had failed to bridge the gap and counterbalance the sting of my righteous acts. I need something else. I need to get inside the shell of her unconscious rebellious response. That is akin to extracting a hair from the loaf, so goes a Malay saying. Whatever it is, I have to do it and save my family from the onset of destructive diverging forces and turn it into a cohesive one.

I have somehow got to foster acceptance and drive it home, direct to the heart, not just the brain. The acceptance needs to be felt by the recipient. That is the key to unlock the happiness that got imprisoned not by any bad deed, but acts done out of compulsion to instill good behaviour and perceived good and correct social outlook for a Muslim girl. I have to accept her as herself, devoid of any expectation or mould I would like her to be in. I have to throw away the telescope from which I had so long used to see the world and see and accept the family members as they are. That indeed is a tough act. Without the filters, we seem so naked and vulnerable, a stalk in the wind; to be bent this way and that way according to the direction of the incoming breeze. I failed to see that the vulnerable stalk bent and remain unscathed after a hurricane but the mighty tree got uprooted and left dead. Wisdom is not learned but acquired by a mind free of chains that keep it bonded.

I had since the resolve tried to instill acceptance. I smile as she came home. She responded with a stiff, guarded smile. I call her to dinner (is it the father’s duty, or the daughter? – I forgo this usual line of thought and accept it even when she did not turn up nor say anything. I admit that it irk me some but accept it as it is). I made a point of making small talks and crack lousy jokes no matter how stiff the response or no response for that matter. I jumped to any request for going out no matter in what mood I was at the time. I give counsel when needed so as not to be seen as having disregarded the value system I had hitherto tried to instill without much success. I see her out to school and as usual she took my hand (the Islamic way), kiss it at times and answer her barely audible salam. I keep sending SMS of encouragement and advice when away for work though I receive no answer. I did the small acts of recognising and accepting. I think it gradually penetrated the thick armour she had built to shield herself in to dissipate the effects of my righteous deeds. Two weeks before the big day I called her to sit nearby. She looked shocked and asked why. I just bade her to come. Reluctantly she did. Then I took her hand, and said I forgive her for whatever deeds she had done and accept her for what she is. She seemed shocked but full of relief. I made my wife did the same thing.

Now she’s going to face the exam that will shape her future. I have to give encouragement and show more acceptance. So I took a few days off to be home and show my support. I brought back the `air sembahyang hajat’ the parents at my work place made. She seemed mollified. The night before the exam I invited her to pray together and afterwards perform the `sembahyang hajat’ for her together with the rest of our family including the youngest one who just tagged along. In the supplication, I mention her name and ask Allah in the name of His Rahman attribute to grant her calm and memory to perform in her exam. Afterwards I again utter forgiveness and acceptance but before I could finish she grabbed me and cried. I cried too. I had finally cracked the armour, I think. I have done my duty. I hope and pray that this will be the start of a more comfortable bond based on mutual respect and love, free of convention of rights and wrongs but nevertheless adhered to by free will.

The Eastern Culture is steep in rules regarding code of conduct. The Orthodox Islamic Traditions are very strict in this area. We are taught to observe prayers at very early age and instill the practice to our children from the age of seven. By the age of ten canning is required to enforce prayer and if by the age of twelve they still refuse, the parents were to drove them away from home. Is this from the Qur’an or the understanding / misunderstanding from it? This story regarding Prophet Noah (a.s) IS from the Qur’an (Pickthall’s Translation);

“And it sailed with them amid waves like mountains, and Noah cried unto his son and he was standing aloof: O my son! Come ride with us, and be not with the disbelievers.” (11:42)

“He said: I shall betake me to some mountain that will save me from the water. (Noah) said: This day there is none that saveth from the commandment of Allah save him on whom He hath had mercy. And the wave came in between them, so he was among the drowned.” (11:43)

This story showed that after more than 900 years of dakwah, his son still disbelieves him but Prophet Noah (a.s) never gave up on his son. He tried to make a believer out of his son right to the last day but still remain unsuccessful. So from where do this code that enjoin parents to drive away their children from home after their children’s failure to observe prayer at the age of twelve come from? It contradicts the story told by God in the above verses. The Prophet Noah had accepted his son as a disbeliever but never gave up hope to make a believer out of him. Had he not accepted his son, he would not have called his son to ride with him on the Ark despite knowing of his son’s apostasy. But call he did and in a most gentle way despite 900 years of failure. Did Prophet Noah drive his son away from home? None stated from the Qur’an. How could he has driven his son away but still called him to ride on the Ark meant for believers. Surely this is not the message from the Qur’an. Despite the most dire of circumstances, his son still refuse to come to Prophet Noah. This shows that his son ran away from Prophet Noah, not driven away as enjoined by the code taught to Muslims in pondoks !!!!

Recent experiences and instinct showed me that acceptance is THE KEY. Accept our children for what they are and never give up hope. Forgive them their weaknesses and build up from there. We are not God to punish them. Our role is to educate, love and give hope of good things to come and not be a harbinger of doom. Not to our own children for God’s Sake....