Revising The Islamic Education Syllabus. It’s High Time.

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Recently my Facebook newsfeed exploded with a piece of controversial news involving Ministry of Education (again. Hahha). Some keyboard warriors among netizens have lambasted Teo Nie Ching, our Deputy Minister of Education, for allegedly sticking her nose into the Islamic Syllabus of Muslim students in Malaysia. Racial slurs could be read in every other comments on Facebook, it was positively nauseating.

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To those who are still in the dark regarding what has been going on, let me just give you a short update of the matter just to give you guys a heads-up (please google the news further for more details).

The Ministry of Education, via the National Education Advisory Council (Majlis Penasihat Pendidikan Kebangsaan /MPPK)  had launched a national survey to revise and upgrade the Islamic Education Syllabus for Muslim students in Malaysia. Our Deputy Minister of Education, Teo Nie Ching, had then innocently shared the link to the news via her social media. Suddenly, the netizens blew the matter out of proportion by accusing her, a non-Muslim, of trying to stick her nose into the Islamic Education. The UMNO/PAS politicians and supporters started to politicize the matter with religious and racial themes in their fear-mongering campaign against PH.

Maszlee Malik defended his deputy by saying that “Kaji selidik tersebut dikeluarkan di laman web Kementerian Pendidikan, kemudian Nie Ching kongsikan maklumat tersebut di media sosial beliau. Ada orang tangkap layar dari media sosial beliau dan timbulkan isu bahawa timbalan menteri mahu campur tangan isu Pendidikan Islam, itu tidak benar dan tidak timbul isu campur tangan,”

In other words, Teo Nie Ching was only sharing on her social media of the latest initiative by her ministry (because she works there, okay?). It just so happens that the latest initiative by the ministry (in which she is THE DEPUTY MINISTER) is about our Islamic Education. However, because she is a non-Muslim, she was accused of sticking her nose into the Islamic education of Muslims. *sigh* 

There haven’t been many occasions in which I was supportive of the Ministry of Education. But in the matter of revising the Islamic Syllabus for Muslim students in Malaysia, I am all cheers! I think, it is high time we have a deep and conscientious thought about what sort of Muslims we want to produce in this country.

I have said it before, and I will say it again now. I learned MUCH MORE and in GREATER DEPTH about Islam when I was in Australia (by my own initiative and with my seniors in usrah) than what I had learned in 11 years of FORMAL Islamic education in school. Our Islamic Education syllabus in Malaysia is very superficial, focussing more on ritual than it focusses on creed (akidah); emphasizing more on superficial memorization than in-depth understanding; rewarding shallow knowledge than higher-order-thinking skills (HOTS/KBAT).

11 years!! of formal education was wasted on me! I found it so difficult to question things that I didn’t understand in the religion because it was so taboo to appear to doubt what was taught to you. Because it was a tacit understanding that questioning things that you don’t understand would somehow reflect badly on the strength of your iman. So, I just performed the rituals of prayers and fasting without any real “penghayatan” about what being a Muslim meant.

Want to know what I mean? Read on!

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Question #1: Who creates God?

Don’t kid yourself! Don’t deny it! Everyone – including YOU, my dear readers – MUST have thought about this question at some point in their lives. But most of us swallowed it and brushed it off, didn’t we? Because some of us were told “Kalau kita tanya banyak sangat perkara-perkara ghaib, iman kita tak kuat. Benda ni kena percaya sebab rukun iman.” And then we were told to mengucap and say astaghfirullah for having doubts.  I had asked this question to adults since I was 8 years old.

But could the adults in my life answer my question to my satisfaction? Not really.  They would say something like “Mestilah Allah tak diciptakan. Kalau Allah tu diciptakan, Allah bukan Tuhan lah.”

Oh ok… so you are answering my question based on YOUR DEFINITION of God. I see.

But I wasn’t satisfied. You told me only JUST NOW that “semua benda di dunia ini diciptakan.” So, wasn’t it natural for me to just ask, “Jadi siapa cipta Tuhan? Kan semua benda di dunia ini diciptakan. You just told me that!” And now? You couldn’t answer it yourself! Or you think your previous answer satisfied me? Well, it didn’t! But because I could sense your discomfort and your disapproval, so I put off questioning you further.

I learned eventually to brush it off and bury my doubt deep inside my heart. Even when I was just a child.

But how long could I bury it? On and off it would bother me again and again. And I said astaghfirullah again and again! (And I believe this is the case for many Muslim kids as well. I was not alone, here. But because I am the ruminating, over-thinking type, hahha… it bothered me more than others, perhaps. I certainly knew that even my Kak Long had wondered the same thing and I had discussed this with her as a kid, and then later as a young adult. So jangan kata aku sorang yang tertanya-tanya benda ni! Mustahil aku sorang yang wonder pasal benda ni. This is basic akidah yang FORMAL EDUCATION di sekolah TAK MAMPU address dengan baik! Basic akidah, weh!)

Until at one point, I couldn’t bury the question anymore. After my friend passed away at the age of 18 from a car accident, I was so shocked to the core that I felt like I could not postpone answering this question any longer. It MUST stop bothering me once and for all.

So I did my research and somehow (Alhamdulillah) I happened to pick up a book by Harun Yahya entitled Timelessness And The Reality of Fate and I devoured the book in 2 days. From the very first few chapters of the book, I got the answer already. The answer that I had been wondering about since I was 8 years old… it was hidden in this 97-pages-thin, ordinary-looking  book! Amazing! The best, most-worthy book purchase I have ever made in my entire life to date!

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I couldn’t recall the specific words of the explanation but it basically goes something like this:

“In order for anything to be created, it must be in the system of time. ‘Before and After’ only exists in the system of time. The system of time itself is created by God. God is not bound by the system of time. So, it is scientifically impossible by the law of physics to ask a question of who creates God because the system of time existed after God had created it. In fact, the question is unscientific and irrelevant.”

See? The book even talked about the science of physics when it discussed the system of time. Siap dengan quotes by famous scientist and physicist of the world! Barulah convincing! It makes sense! I could accept it easily enough! Think about it! Malam dan siang adalah masa kan? Macam mana nak wujud malam dan siang kalau matahari dan bumi pun tak wujud lagi. Planet, bintang-bintang dan matahari pun tak wujud lagi, macam mana bumi nak beredar untuk menghasilkan peredaran masa atau malam dan siang itu? So, everything must be in place first (the whole universe, the planets and the stars, must be created by God first! The system of time must be there first before you can ask who creates what! The creator exists BEFORE the creation. The creation exists AFTER the creator. But BEFORE and AFTER are the terms in the system of TIME. And the system of TIME did not exist until God created the universe, including the earth and the sun. This is what we mean when we say God is beyond creation. That is why when you ask who creates God, the question is unscientific! Your question is unscientific because that is THE LIMIT of the science of creation in this physical world.)

Now, ask yourself: Boleh ke ustazah sekolah rendah dan sekolah menengah ajar macam ni? Can they explain as comprehensively and thoroughly as above? Boleh tak depa address BASIC matters of akidah sampai student puas hati? Mana mungkin boleh kalau ustaz/ustazah sendiri jahil fakta sains! Lepas tu membuat ‘insinuations’ yang orang yang bertanya itu yang kurang iman! Padahal, mungkin mereka yang tidak pandai jawab! (Sorry if I sound emotional. This is a raw topic for me! Sampai sekarang, aku tak boleh terima orang-orang agama yang jahil kemudian berlindung dengan imej agama untuk MEMBULI orang yang hanya bertanya untuk kepastian. Tiba-tiba dijawabnya kita kurang iman!)

 

Question #2: How do we know Islam is the right religion? 

Again, don’t lie to yourself. I am sure EVERYONE must have thought about this at some point in their lives!

In fact, inilah caranya orang-orang dari agama lain boleh menemui jalan untuk memeluk Islam. Sebab mereka sendiri bertanya dalam diri mereka sendiri, is my religion the real truth? And then they did their research until they come across Islam.

Ini adalah NALURI (instinct!) yang Allah kurniakan kepada SEMUA manusia supaya manusia mengenali diri-NYA. Just because you are born as a Muslim, DO NOT EVER THINK that you have real faith! Your faith doesn’t mean a thing if it was never challenged. Your faith may not be true  if you’ve never had  to answer the challenge and come to your own conclusion. That’s why we are tested in this life… to TRIGGER us to seek REAL CONVICTION and REAL BELIEF (the death of my friend was MY trigger. I have met people whose trigger would be different. It might be ‘divorce’… it might be ‘cancer’… it might be bankruptcy…. it might be ANYTHING) Kalau kita hanya mengikut arus just because we were born into Islam (but we were never really convinced in the first place) what good is that belief? Apa beza kita dengan orang-orang yang dilahirkan dalam agama lain? Kita pun hanya mengikut agama nenek moyang juga kan (it just so happens yang agama nenek moyang kita Islam)…. sedangkan belum tentu kita betul-betul percaya.

Allah tests us until we can find Him. So regardless of what religion you were born with, you are not given a free ticket to Paradise. You WILL BE TESTED as a proof TO YOURSELF whether or not you have put in the effort to come to real faith. You yourself will know whether or not you truly believe or if you are simply following the tide of societal pressure! You will know what is in your own heart and you are accountable for it!  Allah says in Surah Al-Ankabut: 2-3 “Do the people think that they will be left to say “we believe” and they will not be tried? But we have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful and He will surely make evident the liars.”

I guess the verse is asking… Adakah kamu berfikir kamu hanya akan dibiarkan menyatakan “Aku orang Islam” sedangkan belum tentu hati kamu betul-betul percaya? Sebab kamu tak pernah jawab apa yang bermain di fikiran kamu! You brushed off your doubts! And you think everyone is supposed to blindly believe like you?

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Jadi semua ujian yang datang dalam hidup kita adalah untuk TRIGGER kita bermuhasabah dan menjawab the important questions in our lives! Please take the opportunity to answer those questions!

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There is NO PLACE for blind belief in Islam! We are asked to do inductive reasoning when we are learning the religion! This is Quranic method in pondering the questions of faith! Al-Quran encourages us to question stuff! So jangan kau pula pandai-pandai nak menghalang orang lain bertanya kalau kau sendiri tak pandai jawab! Siap nak label orang yang bertanya tak kuat iman!

So, how do we know that Islam is the right religion? Well, by studying comparative religion! Of course! There is always a course of Comparative Religion / World Religion/ Theology in any university, even in the Western countries! If you can spend YEARS studying to become a doctor to complete your dunya, can’t you spend one semester of learning comparative religion for your akhirat? Sometimes, you can even do it informally by reading books on world religion during your free time. Tak payah pun nak masuk formal class bagai. Learn about other religions and compare between them! Sheikh Ahmed Deedat had done such a splendid job when it comes to comparing Islam and Christianity! In fact, that was how I had come to be convinced of Islam as the religion intended by God for his slaves. I read The Choice by Ahmed Deedat when I was 18 years old.

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You yourself must go through this journey of discovery. No one could do it for you. Every one of us has their own unique journey in discovering faith and spirituality. This is why one of my favourite YOU TUBE videos are conversion stories. My personal favourite was the conversion story of Yusha Evans and I recommend it to all my readers.

Now ask yourself: could any ustazah/ustaz in your previous school tell you in details regarding why Islam is the right religion compared to Christianity? Were you convinced? Or did the ustaz or ustazah never really answer your question? Or perhaps, you yourself never question it? Again… this is BASIC CREED. Kalau benda tu pun tak settle, no wonder lah kita asyik takut anak-anak kita murtad. Isu penggunaan nama Allah di kalangan Kristian di Sabah/Sarawak jadi havoc sampai pecah alam. Padahal memang kat Middle East orang Kristian guna nama Allah juga. Kita kat sini sibuk-sibuk nak halang orang Kristian guna nama Allah…sebab takut anak-anak kita cepat keliru!

Macam mana SEBELAS TAHUN belajar akidah  di sekolah, masih boleh keliru? Allah itu satu VS Allah itu tiga! Beza kan?? Apa yang nak kelirunya?? Yang kelirunya adalah sebab ORANG DEWASA pun keliru tak reti nak ajaq anak-anak depa! Tu pasallah takut sangat! In fact, kita sepatutnya fikir yang orang Kristianlah yang keliru! The WHOLE WORLD associates the word ‘Allah’ with Islam… orang Kristian di Malaysia la yang patut lebih keliru bila nama Tuhan mereka adalah sama macam Tuhan orang Islam.

Bila kita lokek ilmu dan lokek hujah, kita akan sentiasa rasa takut dan terancam! Dan bila kita lokek ilmu dan lokek hujah, semua pertanyaan tiada jawapan. Alih-alih suruh orang lain jangan tanya dan tuduh orang yang bertanya tak kuat iman! *facepalm*

Did you know that in the Quran, we are taught to do inductive reasoning? Allah always asks us to look at specific examples in order to reach a conclusion. He asks us to look at the moon. Look at the sun! Look at the mountains and the seas. Look at the signs in the human embryology. 

Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) did inductive reasoning before concluding that his GOD was NOT the sun, the moon or the stars. He had explored one option after another and then another before he finally arrived to his conclusion. Just like our revert brothers and sisters had  to go through one religion after another and then another before arriving to Islam. 

“Those who listen to all statements, and then follow the best of it. These are the ones whom God has guided, and these are the ones possessed of minds.” (39:18)

Question #3: Why Is Quran Considered As A Miracle? 

This question was one of my struggles in understanding the religion.

Your ustaz or ustazah would ask you to memorize a few ‘skema jawapan’ talking about language style of the Quran which ‘proves’ that Quran is a miracle.

And in my mind, I was like “Kat mana yang hebat sangat bahasa Quran ni sampai jadi miracle dan mukjizat? Boleh tak bagi contoh? Ayat mana dalam Al-Quran yang miracle sangat ni sampai penyair-penyair Qurays boleh terpaku dan speechless? Awat aku tak rasa apa pun? Boleh tak elaborate dan bagi contoh?! Convince me, please!” 

Your ustaz would also teach you to write “Al-Quran ini mukjizat kerana ia tidak boleh ditiru. Ramai orang yang tidak berjaya menandingi gaya bahasa Al-Quran walaupun telah dicabar untuk melakukannya.” And then, the answer stops there. Adoi!!

I was like, “Okay…. boleh tak bagi contoh siapa orangnya yang cuba attempt nak bertanding dengan gaya bahasa Al-Quran? Is it Ka’ab Bin Malik? Abdullah Bin Rawahah? Both of them were great poets, right? Apa ayat yang diorang produce? Kat celah mana yang diorang kalah? What is the criteria yang diorang kalah tu bila dibandingkan dengan Al-Quran? Ada hakim ke yang dilantik untuk judge gaya bahasa siapa yang menang?” 

Faham tak? Look at how I overthink stuff? hahha. Jadi adakah aku akan puas hati dengan jawapan-jawapan one-liners yang superficial macam tu? Sedangkan banyak lagi soalan tak terjawab dalam kepala otak aku ni. Hahha.

Do you get it? There is just NO DEPTH!! in our learning of the religion! I was a student who DID NOT UNDERSTAND in which part of the Quran yang kau cakap gaya bahasa hebat sangat ni? Aku baca translation of the Quran dan aku rasa macam biasa saja. (I have since come to know how difficult it is for translations to convey the beauty of a text’s original language. For example, can anyone translate a Malay pantun into English while maintaining all the rhymes and the rhythms? No, right? The beauty of any language will be lost in translation. The language miracle of the Quran can only be appreciated in its original Arabic language. But there are other aspects of miracles in the Quran. For example, there are medical and scientific aspects of the Quran too!) 

As a student at that time, pelajaran agama adalah pelajaran SURE DAPAT GRED A punyalah! Because so simplistic punya skema jawapan, anyone can get an A in it! We students devoted MORE TIME for Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Add Math because they were more complicated and interesting dan belum tentu dapat A. Hahha.

But with pelajaran agama, hafal sikit-sikit, pakai common sense sikit-sikit… terus dapat A. Mudah macam makan kacang! When the fact is, learning arts (including religion/theology, history, political science and philosophy) requires inductive and exploratory reasoning involving the understanding of contexts, nuances and depth! BUKAN simple one liners!

But after years of learning to brush off my doubts, I followed the tide of peer pressure by simply burying my questions deep inside my mind!

So when did I FINALLY find the answer?

Well, I found the answer regarding why Quran is a miracle at the age of 20+ when I was listening to the lecture of Nouman Ali Khan in You Tube about The Miracles of The Quran. The video clip only lasted for two hours! Two hours! And that was enough to answer YEARS of wondering to myself about the miracles of the Quran! Below, is one of the examples of the video produced by Nouman Ali Khan’s team regarding the language miracles of the Quran. If you have time, you can watch the lecture yourself. It is very good, (better than the one I listened to years ago) because this one is illustrated.

I also learned about the Quran from books like Medical Miracles of The Quran written by Dr. Sharif Kaf Al-Ghazal.

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So, can you see HOW PATHETIC is the Islamic syllabus in our formal education?? How unhelpful the syllabus was in perfecting my aqeedah and my understanding of basic Islamic principles!

Perfect the Aqeedah FIRST! Simultaneously, you can also learn the technical stuff of ibadah, muammalat, munakahat, syariah etc etc. But the Aqeedah is always a priority!

Look, there’s a reason why the Prophet PBUH spent 13 years perfecting the Aqeedah alone in Makkah! Because that is the most important thing! Only in Madinah did the Prophet proceeded with the teaching of the Syariah! Once your aqeedah is settled, the rest would be easy!

 

Question #4: All the questions I had about illogical Israilyat stories that were told to me. 

I had talked about this so many times in the past! About the fake story of Hassan Al-Basri & A Beautiful Woman and also about the bogus tale of Siti Mutiah! Hahha. So, I am just not going to elaborate on this further. But it highlights my point that MOST ustaz/ustazah are not equipped with enough knowledge to soothe our thirst for real conviction. They do not address our confusion and our sense of incredulousness.

If you are going to be ‘guru agama yang mengajar budak-budak aliran sains’, you better know how to present your content! Science students are taught to QUESTION stuff!

If you are passionate teachers, your target SHOULD NOT be to finish the syllabus cincai bocai! Your target is to make sure your students understand and are convinced by your presentation. (Tu pun kalau kau memang nak jadi a great teacher lah! Otherwise, no use for me to elaborate further). You must encourage questions among your students and you must equip yourself with knowledge too! Teach beyond the syllabus! Read stuff! Relate your religious contents with current issues and scientific phenomenas! Buatlah homework sikit…. you are teaching the religion! How much pahala will you get if because of YOU, your students attain real faith that goes beyond getting an A in Pendidikan Islam!

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So, below are my ideas of how religious syllabus should be revised.

1)Ask students to do a critical essay on any topic of aqeedah. An essay! A CRITICAL ESSAY! NOT simple one liners! 

2)Give them reading tasks that requires them to summarize, review and state their own opinion. 

-suggested topics for their reading tasks include comparative religion, theory of evolution, Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion.

2) Review You Tube videos of comparative religion and encourage voicing out of questions and doubts. 

3) Invite doctors, engineers, professors and physicists to talk about verses in the Quran that relate to their respective specialty! Show the students that religion is NOT SEPARATE from the practical aspects of worldly life! Show your students that religion is RELEVANT and PRACTICAL! 

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Examples of exam questions and assignments at the secondary school level could be something like these:

Question 1:

It has been a widely popularized propaganda that Islam was spread through the edge of the sword. By using your knowledge of the Quran, your knowledge of the world history and the Islamic History, write a CONVINCING commentary to dispute this preposterous libel.   (Not less than 2000 words)

-this question requires the student not only to know the Quran alone, or the history alone. It requires the student to know BOTH;  and then to integrate those different knowledge and connect them together to produce a good essay. They must provide evidence and quotes by historians and ulama as well to get an A. 

 

Question 2:

By using your knowledge of The Quran, The Bible and the History of Pre- and Post- Council of Nicaea, discuss the concept of trinity in Christianity.

-The question makes it clear that the students need to know some basic knowledge regarding what trinity is all about; what the Quran says about Trinity (this requires the student to know specific Quranic verses that talk about trinity); what the Bible says about Trinity (that means the student must memorize some biblical quotations allegedly alluding to trinity); and what happened during Council of Nicaea.

-After knowing the basic knowledge, the students then need to apply those knowledge and try to connect them together and arrange them into points of natural sequence so that the essay would look good and professional.

-In short, it requires application of knowledge and critical thinking! KBAT at its best! Not simply memorize and vomit the memory into paper. Takkan matematik dan sains saja nak KBAT! Adakah pelajaran agama tak penting untuk KBAT??

 

Question 3:

An Atheist came to you and declared his conviction that there is no life after death. How do you convince this atheist to the contrary? You are allowed to use your knowledge of The Evolution Theory, your knowledge of biological science and your knowledge of philosophy to produce your argument in not less than 1000 words.

-Whoa. Imagine if religion is being taught this way at school! The ustaz/ustazah will give you this question for homework with next week as a deadline. So, students are required to do proper research into Evolution, other aspects of biology as well as philosophy….and the challenge is how to connect all these knowledge into a religious article. The students actually have to put serious hard work and energy in researching and then thinking about these topics in order to produce a good essay.

-The ustazah can discuss the answers to this essay in a very interesting lesson.  For example, she may invite the school biology teacher or a philosophy lecturer from outside to sit in the class and discuss all the points together.

-How INTERACTIVE and INTERESTING Pendidikan Islam would be if it is being taught this way, can you imagine?

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We have to revolutionize our education system of memorizing without thinking. It is imperative for Muslims to recognize that we should change and it has to be done from NOW, starting from the teaching of our youngsters at school.

After going to Australia and experiencing a dramatic change in how knowledge is supposed to be taught, I must admit that I became HYPERCRITICAL at our education system and I have a tendency to always question first whatever is being told to me if it sounds dodgy to me. I have promised myself many years ago that I will NEVER AGAIN believe in something that sounds weird regardless of who says it until I do my own research. Which is kind of why, even in learning psychiatry, I prefer to explore knowledge by myself rather than going through the master system. It might be harder, it might take longer, I might have to spend some of my own hard-earned money…. but I still prefer it that way. (I was asked by one of my colleagues while discussing psychiatry “Afiza, kau kena psychoanalyze kenapa kau tak suka psychodynamic.” I didn’t answer anything but in my mind I was like…. aku tak perlu nak psychoanalyze kenapa aku tak suka psychodynamic. Aku dah tau kenapa aku tak suka. Because some of the dodgy-sounding stuff in Freud’s psychodydnamic REMINDS me of the same dodgy stuff I had to swallow as a child because I was told it was part of the religion and part of being a good Muslim. And then it turned out that actually, they were wrong! And now you are trying to sell to me that accepting some of the ridiculous theories in psychodynamic is part of being a good psychiatrist?! Come on! Don’t kid yourself! There are MANY psychiatrists who DO NOT BELIEVE in psychodynamic, themselves. In fact,  Dr. Jeffrey A. Lieberman, the President of American Association of Psychiatry from 2013-2014 had written a SCATHINGLY CRITICAL analysis of the history of psychodynamic in America in his book “Shrink: The Untold Story of Psychiatry”. He wrote about how the theories WERE FORCED UPON THEM by their previous seniors and anyone who even attempted to question psychodynamic at that time was being bullied into submission rather than being given a proper well-thought out answers! Sebiji macam apa yang berlaku dalam pelajaran agama di sekolah! So, aku tak payah pun nak psychoanalyze kenapa aku tak suka psychodynamic! Aku dah tau pun! Hahah. One day, in a separate post, I will Insya-Allah write further regarding how I developed transference reaction towards psychodynamic. Hahah) 

It’s time we begin a much-needed paradigm shift. 

And I hope Dr. Maszlee and the National Education Advisory Council will deliver an exciting change in the teaching of Islamic Education in Malaysian schools. May Allah guide us all.

I leave you guys with a very famous video of Muslim spoken words regarding the meaning of life. Another one of my all-time favourite You Tube videos. I especially love the final part of the video that says, “If you disbelieve, READ!” I myself found real conviction through reading the books that I had mentioned above. This is why I always advocate for people to READ! In fact, I find it VERY LOGICAL that the first verse of the Quran that was revealed to the Prophet PBUH was Iqra’! Read! This is one aspect of the Quran that is so appealing to a reader like me.

So, enjoy the video, guys! Until next time. Much love and may Allah bless all of us.

Addendum:

P/S: I just had a phone conversation with my Kak Long about this particular issue. She told me that just a few days ago, Aayra, my 5 year old niece had asked her the exact same question of who creates Allah! Kind of proves my point that this question is a natural progression of a growing mind and it will come to every one of us, sooner or later. My Kak Long tried to answer the question to Aayra’s satisfaction but she could see that Aayra was not convinced even though Aayra did not ask further. One day, I will lend my Kak Long the book Timelessness And The Reality of Fate. And her task is to simplify the answer to Aayra in a way that would make Aayra understand.

Most Eventful Ramadhan & Eid

Assalamualaikum, guys. I hope it is not too late for me to wish all my blog readers Eid Mubarak and Taqabbalallahu Minna Waminkum. May Allah accept all the good deeds from you and from me. Amin.

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I have always loved the month of Ramadhan since I was a child. This year’s Ramadhan, however, was quite eventful for me. But I still treasure it, nonetheless.

In the middle of Ramadhan, I had to sit for my CASC exam and oh boy, it was like walking through a journey of a treacherously thorny path for me. At the end of the exam, I was drained and exhausted with a heavy feeling in my chest about all the possible (imagined or otherwise) mistakes I might have committed. My apprehension was made worse by the post-exam discussion session that we had self-torturously embarked on among ourselves. (Worst idea ever to have a post-exam discussion! Only worsen my fear) During that discussion, I came to realize that some of them had done this CASC a few times in the past… one candidate had even done it for 5 times. And they were so good and so experienced but they still failed… and I am just a newbie. I knew my chance of passing was very slim. But I didn’t want to lose hope just yet.

After I got back from CASC exam, my mind was perhaps too preoccupied… I missed a step and fell down the stairs at my parents house, spraining my left foot. But because I had only just returned from exam leave, I didn’t feel like I could get an extended MC just for a sprained left foot even though this felt like the worst sprain I have ever experienced in my life. So I went for my first post-exam on-call with a crutch. It was a terrible on-call, not just because of the amount of the on-call cases, but mainly because I noticed how everyone was staring at me when I walked with a crutch along the hospital corridor. Not exactly the best feeling ever.

I felt so self-conscious that I decided to not use the crutch anymore the day after. Luckily, by my next on-call, the pain got much better and I could weight-bear already, albeit with a funny gait. It wasn’t the most fun experience I have ever had.  Adeh. I ended up spending the rest of the Ramadhan at my parents’ house instead of returning to my own place because my left foot was still too painful for me and therefore any help I could get with free meals preparation would be much appreciated. (Muchas gracias, mamita and papito! Your ever loving daughter loves you) The good thing was, I got to spend a lot of time with my parents in Ramadhan and buka puasa meals tasted much better (And it’s also great because it’s been a long time since I last feel like an only child. LOL.)

I went through the middle part of Ramadhan feeling like I was going to have to start collecting more money for my next CASC attempt. At one point, I decided to stop worrying about the result and just focus on getting the best out of Ramadhan first. Priority must be set straight, I had to firmly tell myself.

I had a good Raya celebration on the 1st and 2nd day of Raya with my family and friends.  As usual I had a ‘beraya & bermaafan’ session with my parents, my sisters and their husbands (This year, tak cukup korum. Two of my siblings celebrate raya at their in-laws’ houses.)

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And we also had our annual outdoor #OOTD Raya pose. Haha. There were a lot of ridiculous pictures of us acting like cheaply-paid models, displaying  baju kurung in an outdoor photoshoot session. 😛 I will only be showing you a few here. The rest look too ridiculous for public consumption. *facepalm*

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On the 2nd day and 3rd day of Raya, I went out with two of my good friends. Because these two don’t know each other, I had to arrange to meet them separately.  These two are among the ‘wajib jumpa time raya’ people for me, despite the fact that I do meet them quite frequently throughout the year, anyway. I also attended a few open-houses organized by colleagues and friends. All in all, I really kept my promise to socialize more after exam. I did it! Haha.

 

But on my 3rd day of Raya, the anxiety about exam came back because it was the day my exam result was going to come out. I placed all my tawakkal in Allah because I knew I didn’t do as good as I hoped to do in the exam. I told myself that I would accept whatever result that I would be getting.

***

Dear readers,

I was quite disappointed that I did not pass my CASC exam. In order to pass the CASC exam, there are TWO criterias that must be met:

1)you must reach the passing mark

AND

2) you must not fail more than 4 stations out of 16 stations.

The passing mark is 62.7. My mark is 63.3%. So, I did reach the passing mark but I failed more stations than I should. That happened to a few of us. And there were also some of us who only failed 2-3 stations but unfortunately did not reach the passing mark. It was the most disappointing thing that could ever happen to a candidate… when you made it in one criteria but did not make it in the other. Gosh, so disappointing. Overall, around 47% of the candidates had passed. The rest, including yours truly, will have to prepare for another CASC attempt.

I was disappointed. But I accepted it (because what else can I do right? LOL)

I gave myself 24 hours to grieve properly. And then I told myself that I must get over it, stop feeling sorry for myself and start to DO SOMETHING (as in, study again, of course! What else, right? Gosh… so exhausting! But the truth is, the most exhausting part is remembering the money I had burned for this exam. Ouch! The pain is real! A lot of us MRCPsych candidates are struggling financially. That is one major stressor for all of us.)

But I couldn’t even grieve properly because I had relatives to entertain and my mom needed my help in the kitchen. Actually, come to think of it, that’s a good thing because it stopped me from ruminating over my result. Because my result had come out during the festive season, I had to be less self-absorbed and focus on helping my mother to entertain the guests.

I still remember how I had reacted when I failed my Add Maths as a Form 4 student back then. That was the first time I had ever failed at anything. It was such a HORRIBLE feeling back then. I was so self-absorbed, refused to talk and just ruminated for a few days straight LOL. But maybe it is a sign of maturity now that I could simply put aside my disappointment and responded to my environment properly, be sociable and just entertained guests like nothing really disappointing had recently happened to me. If I were still my old self, I would probably just shut myself in my room and ignore everyone after announcing to my family that I want to be by myself. I would  then pick up some fiction and simply escape reality by reading the story of another person’s life hahha. Yup… that was me as a teenager! (But I am so much better now, ehem, I think. Perhaps because as I grew older, I have come to realize that most things that I used to care about was not as important as I made it out to be. It is nice when things go your way. It’s good when things are calm and rosy. But when things don’t go your way, you are going to have to deal with it, respond accordingly and persevere. But, this is easier said than done. Because first of all, you have to calm the tumultuous turmoil in your chest. And that is HARD, my dear readers. But again, you have to do what you have to do!)

It is no use to deny that the weight of disappointment is always gonna feel heavy in your chest. But the point is not to let it overwhelm you. Keep your balance.

The day after I got my result, I felt like cancelling the plan I had made with another good friend of mine to meet up with her. I haven’t caught up with her for 2 years though we always keep in touch through whatsapp messages. She is one of my best friends during housemanship and now she is already a Paediatrician. But I just didn’t feel like going out the day after my disappointing exam result. Just wasn’t really in the mood. But then…  I told myself, “Afiza, you had wanted to meet up with her for so long. Just because you fail an exam, why should you change your plan? It doesn’t make it right for you to cancel a plan that you had committed to. Both of you had set aside a specific time to meet up and she had probably cleared her schedule for this reunion…. is it okay to break a promise just because you are disappointed? Buck up, girl! You are better than this!” 

I know it is not okay to cancel a plan that we had SO CAREFULLY laid out with each other many days prior. (Because both of us were always so busy to meet up properly, before. We doctors are not really spontaneous people and every get-together is NEVER a spur-of-the-moment thing.) And really, I also wanted to meet her. I knew she was going to be a breath of fresh air that I was going to need. So, I decided to go and see her in Sungai Petani as we had planned.

 

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And I am really glad I did that. The force of her insightful wisdom was what I really needed at that time. She is one of the wisest person I have had the fortune to know. She shared with me her own struggle when she was studying to become a Paediatrician and now she’s already doing her gazettement. She really did lift up my spirit in that 3 hours I had spent talking to her. I am so lucky that I am surrounded by inspiring people like her. It makes it easier for me to emulate their spunk.

So, can you see now why I feel like I’ve had such an eventful (or stressful) Ramadhan and Eid? Haha. It was like I was thrown into a roller coaster whirlwind of feelings and emotions in this particular year of Ramadhan and Eid. Feeling blissful and happy about Ramadhan and Eid in one moment, and then feeling anxious about results in the next moment. In one moment, I would feel thankful that I get to experience Ramadhan and Eid one more time this year, and then in the next moment I would feel sad about not passing the exam. I couldn’t even cry properly because even though emotionally I feel sad but intellectually I knew that I have so much more to be thankful for that it wouldn’t make sense for me to complain about anything. I would be an ungrateful slave if I complain about petty stuff when He had given me so much throughout my life. How He had guided me in the past when I was lost  by throwing me into the midst of the kind and wise people I had met in Australia! How He had blessed me with comfort and love from the people surrounding me. How He protected me even when I didn’t deseve it!

Even now, I can feel the wave of love coming from family and friends when I am feeling disappointed and defeated. That is indeed a blessing.

 

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Alhamdulillah for great family support and friends with positive outlooks. Anything more that He decides to give me would only be a bonus and I realize that. Passing an exam should not be anyone’s main focus in life, right? (But oh, it would be so nice to have passed. Really, I cannot deny that. But I am putting stuff into proper perspective in order to bounce back and fight another day. I am gonna beat  the crap out of you, CASC! Haha. Insya Allah).

Now, it’s time to resume my studying and prepare for the next CASC exam.

Wish me luck and please pray that I will have the strength and fortitude to go through the exam again.

Until next time, my dear readers. Much love and may Allah bless all of us.