The Syawal Surprise & Other Shocks

Last month was a hectic month for most Muslims throughout the world as we observed the obligatory day fasting and the voluntary night worship that characterizes the holy month of Ramadan.

And at the end of the spiritually rewarding month of Ramadan this year, Muslims in Malaysia were wonderfully rewarded with a surprised Raya one day earlier than expected. It was certainly an experience never to be forgotten by many of us, including yours truly. 😅 🤣

Many of us have dubbed this year’s Eid with the epithet Raya Terkejut or Surprised Eid😱 Thank God my mom is a superwoman who is always prepared for all kinds of eventualities. Her house never runs out of chicken, meat, and spices because she will always restock them at the first sign of impending depletion…(coz she is OCD like that lol) so our surprised Eid merely consisted of not doing tarawih prayer when we had expected to do it for another night (it was a pretty sad moment. Ramadan leaving us so abruptly before we were ready😥).

My cool mom was not as panic about the surprised Eid when she found out about it because she knew she already had everything she needed in the fridge. And so after coming to terms with the fact that Ramadan is no more, we spent the next few hours after the Maghrib prayer with  frantic cooking. We finished cooking everything at 11pm with plenty of time left for proper rest to celebrate Eid the next day. 

So Eid Mubarak, guys! Taqabbal Allahu Minna Waminkum. May Allah accept it from me and from you, Amiin.

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After 2 years of not celebrating Raya properly due to the MCO, this surprised Raya is really quite wonderful. For this year’s Eid, only my Kak Long and her family, my youngest sister Wani with her husband and myself were home to celebrate  Eid with our parents. Alida and Izati had to spend Eid at their respective in-laws, but they did come home a few days before the actual Eid to meet up with us. So in a way, I was able to see all my siblings around the time of Eid this year even though not all of us were around on the actual day of Eid itself.

And this year, is the first Raya celebration I had with my twin nephews Nael and Noah (the first twin in the family, so far.😍) We were all so excited to have the twins in the family when they were first born. But we certainly do not envy the exhaustion and the sheer hard work it takes to take care of a pair of babies. I enjoy playing with the twins when they are not cranky. But the moment they started to make the slightest sound of distress, I surrendered them back into the loving arms of their exhausted parents hahha.

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To be honest, I am just not good with really small children/infants. In fact, I am terrible in handling them. And none of my nieces and nephews actually adored me when they were below the age of 3 years old because according to my sisters and my mom, I give off that fierce, threatening vibes that generally scare even the adults. *Ouch!* By the time they turned 4 years old (the age when they are pretty much out of diapers and can at least participate in amusing conversation that is worthy of the TV Program of ‘Kids Say The Darnest Thing’) and could be taken out for book-shopping, and movie-watching and other activities (that don’t involve me having to take them to the toilet and having to manage all their toilet mishaps… because now they could do it themselves) I was able to develop a closer relationship with them. Now that they are older, we can amuse each other without the relationship being too one sided (with me doing all the entertaining / nurturing and them simply laughing or crying randomly without me knowing what to do and feeling helpless haha) When they are old enough, suddenly I am the fun Aunty who can teach them how to play chess, card games, batu Seremban and wear henna. When they are old enough, suddenly they are no longer scared of me and would actually break into my room and explore (or rather, destroy🤦‍♀️) some of my stuff without the slightest worry that I might scold them. Suddenly I am no longer threatening now that they can appreciate all the cool stuff I have in my bedroom.

Of course, some people have other theories regarding why my nieces and nephews suddenly display a dramatic change of behaviour towards me when they become older. One of my sisters told me that the reason they are no longer scared of me is because they have already lost their childhood innocence. “Babies can see Satan, you know. When they become older, they lost that ability.” (Haha! Very funny! 🙄 🙄 )

Anyway, back to the topic of me being a fun aunty who can teach them how to play chess, card games, batu seremban and how to put on henna… Those were exactly the sort of activities I did with my older nephews and nieces during this Raya. And they really enjoyed the activities I had planned for them as part of their balik kampung experience this time. I am, without a doubt, their favourite aunty *flip hair*  (my sisters might beg to differ, of course).

I cannot wait for the rest of my younger nephews and nieces to grow up and discover what a fabulous Aunty I am (ehem!) As it is, they simply cry whenever I hold them and it makes me weary of continuing the effort of trying to have a good relationship with these babies. They are obviously not at the age of being able to appreciate the good qualities of their Mak Ngah hahah (or maybe I just didn’t hold them correctly and they just didn’t feel safe in my arms 😂. So I just gave up and resigned myself to waiting until they grow up a bit before I can resume to develop any kind of meaningful relationship with them *sigh*)

Brace yourself, guys, for the picture spamming of Eid photos down below. I hope all of you had had a great Eid with your family, too.

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The Issue of Housemanship Flares Up… Again!

In the month of Syawal, after we barely got over the astonishment of a surprised Raya, we were again left in shock – this time less pleasantly- by the news that a house officer who was only 3 weeks into his job in Penang General Hospital had fallen over the building of his residence.

I wonder, what is it about Penang GH, guys? This is the 2nd time – that I could remember- that a HO from Penang GH had committed suicide in the span of 2 years. The first one was in December 2020, which had inspired me to write a post in this blog on the topic of moral injury suffered by house officers. It was not that long ago, really. And this year again, we lost another house officer from Penang GH to suicide.

As a Psychiatrist, it is personally heartbreaking to me that a lot of our own colleagues do not feel like they can seek help from us whenever they are faced with mental health issues. 

It was a tragedy that could have been avoided if only he had received the support he needed at that time. The only (arguably) good thing that arises out of this devastating loss was the sudden revelation by many anonymous house officers (using the platform of Hartal Doktor Kontrak on Facebook) about the kind of abuse they are going through now, which had then sparked a sort of #MeToo movement that had even caught the attention of our big boss, KJ.

Some of our more senior doctors were concerned about this phenomena of junior doctors simply accusing MOs/Specialists of being a bully without going through the proper channel. I shared their concerns too… to a certain extent. However, you must understand that it happened the way it did because these house officers did not feel they could voice out through the proper channel without getting a backlash. 

In one private forum that I belonged to, a concerned senior doctor said that this whole accusations might even be unfounded and we should not entertain whiners who complained through the wrong channel. He went on to say that complaining to the social media is unprofessional.  And I agree… it is possible that some of the stories were exaggerated.

But hang on…you can certainly deflect the story of one person or even 10 people against you as exaggerated or unfounded. But what if the majority of the people who had done the posting in your department agreed that you are a nasty bully with criminal-like behaviour? What then? All of them are liars?

I don’t always think that it is justified to use the social media to shame others who you don’t have the courage to face off in reality. To me the best way to deal with any kind of unacceptable behaviour is to face that person and confront their behaviour.

But when the imbalance of power is too great, that option is not always strategic, isn’t it? (Remember the case of an Orthopaedic HOD who had sexually abused many of his own juniors not so long ago? Only when PH came into power did he get dealt with! And only because of the power of the social media too!)

When all these senior dinosaurs were saying that these juniors should be more professional in airing their dissatisfaction, I wanted to laugh.

It’s funny…

When a bullying incident happened, everyone did not intervene or told the bully “As a doctor, you have to be professional in your conduct to your juniors. Use the right channel to teach HOs… give them extension/warning letter/ get them to do explanation letter if they are still under-performing. No need to use vulgar words or histrionically shout at them like a menstruating banshee when you are not happy with their work!” No one talked about being professional then! No one talked about dealing with your mediocre HOs using the right channel then!

Some trustworthy sources (that I had personally investigated.. hahha… Kepochi kan aku!) had even said that the viralled Orthopaedic MO who was accused of being a nasty bully had received a lot of complaints even to the level of the hospital director. And yet the MO did not get any repercussions from his conduct. In fact, he was even accepted into the Orthopaedic Master program. Until his alleged bullying was viralled, he had been getting away with all the atrocities he had allegedly committed despite his notorious reputation! No one talked about professional conduct then!

NOW! Some people with so-called “judicious thinking” is saying “Should use the right channel la to complain… we are doctors. We must be professional. This is one sided story etc etc”

Come on, guys! Be balanced in the way we look at stuff.

I would argue that BOTH sides were unprofessional! But the unprofessionalism of the juniors came as a result of the alleged perpetrator’s equally unprofessional bullying behaviour. BOTH sides were unprofessional, guys! But one of them is the alleged perpetrator that had many people corroborating against him…

So, be fair when we are trying to talk about unprofessionalism. 

You can brush off the account of 1 person, or even 10 people against you. But if most HOs who had worked in that department had the same sickening description of you…. well! Speaks volume, doesn’t it?

By all means, investigate! Verify first the truth of the matter.

But the court of public opinion has settled the issue…as far as the netizens are concerned.

Is this fair to the accused when netizens act as investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury all at once? Hardly! Of course it’s unfair. But when we do not prevent the first injustice (the bullying) from happening in the first place, what rights do we have to say that the reaction (trial by social media) is also unjust?

Prevention is better than cure…

How to prevent this so called “unjust cancelled culture” from happening in the first place? Simple! Prevent bullying from happening in the first place.

Don’t fail to do one, and then condemn the natural outcome of the original failure.

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This doesn’t mean that I condone lazy house officers who could not perform up to the required standard. But please be professional in how you deal with them.

In fact, this is a question of efficiency! Be efficient in how you deal with them.

How is it efficient for you to histrionically shout “Hey, how dare you come to work and present to me this useless history! What kind of shitty work is this, you useless bastard! I feel like throwing my shoes at your head but my shoes are more worthy than your brain,” (Where is the teaching, here? What do  you mean by useless history? What information do you expect the HO to provide  for you in the history next time? How does the worthiness of your shoes have anything to do with anything, here? This is not teaching! This is just you displaying your poor anger management! In fact, none of your long sentences communicate any information for the learning of the HO. The useless person here is you! )

Now, consider this simple straightforward sentence “Next time, please be more thorough in your history taking  in terms of timeline and duration of each symptom, okay?”

I could communicate my displeasure and my expectation of the HO’s future performance in one single straightforward sentence without having to waste my energy screaming down anyone’s throat. This is efficiency! In one sentence, we can communicate to the HO that her history is lacking, and at the same time teach the HO what she needs to ask next time to give us a better history. In ONE calm sentence, all the important messages are delivered clearly and succinctly. 

Just ONE mindful sentence is all it takes!

Be efficient with your communication!! (As an introvert, I don’t like to waste my time talking to people unnecessarily. When I do talk, I will always try to find the shortest and easiest way I could get the message delivered. I don’t understand why some people are so tiresome when they talk! Please stop being in love with the sound of your own voice and get your message across in the shortest possible way.) 

I am not going to spend my time shouting at lazy HOs and bullying them. If they are not amenable to teaching, advice and counsel and continue to persist with their mediocre work performance, there are channels to deal with them effectively… you can simply fail their assessment and extend them without having to expand the slightest energy to raise a single notch of your voice. Efficient, isn’t it? Channel your time and your energy towards teaching the HOs that display good attitude and the enthusiasm to learn! Be efficient in how you spend your resources; your time and your energy are your valuable resources that should be used in the right direction for the worthy recipient.

If you as a HO don’t want to learn, I am not going to teach you. If you are not around, I can do rounds by myself (in fact, it would be even faster), I can take bloods and set brannulas myself. It would not take that long for me to do it myself. (Psy wards do not have that many patients especially in Kedah where we are very proud of the strength of our community psychiatry practice. My first sifu in Psychiatry, the late Dato Rasidi, had taught us that community treatment is first line! Only if a patient cannot be effectively treated in the community should you admit the patient. Alhamdulillah until now, we continue his fabulous legacy in Alor Setar and SP. Some people think that the lower the rate of bed occupancy, the lesser the exposure that the MOs would get in practicing psychiatry. But I wholeheartedly disagree! Do you think it is much easier to manage patients in the community than in the wards? Admitting patients into the ward is so much easier than managing them in the community! It takes more skills and confidence to manage patients in the community, in my opinion! We are teaching our MOs the art of good risk assessment and how to mitigate risks when patients are treated in the community. Whereas if you decide to simply admit patients whenever you are not sure of your own risk assessment, you are not doing anything much to hone your skills and confidence, do you? People may say anything about how we practice community psychiatry in Kedah, but I do not agree with them. When I was working as an MO, I had struggled to reason with the patient’s family members to convince them that the patient could be treated at home because I knew that I could not justify the admission to my specialist the next day when I presented the case. It would have been much easier for me to give in and simply admit the patient into the ward rather than spending my time – sometimes hours! – counselling them and reasoning with them to take the patient home. But I spent those hours anyway to psychoeducate the family to take the patient home… because ultimately I believed it was best for the patient. Having said that, I also used to insist with my specialist to admit an aggressive patient into the ward because I felt like I could not mitigate the risk any further. Practicing community psychiatry the way we practice it in Kedah had given me the confidence to argue either way… whichever is better for the patient. Alhamdulillah, Allah had placed my formative years in Psychiatry in Alor Setar…  it is the community psychiatry setting in Kedah that had given me the skills and the conviction to fight for my patient  and I am very thankful for that. This is the reason why I never want to get out of Kedah hahha. I love my peaceful hometown and I love the chill Kedahan people! But I digress, guys! 😂 Just feeling a bit triggered when I remember how some people somewhere think that lesser patients in the ward means lesser learning. This is an outdated thinking, guys! When I was doing my attachment in the Mater Hospital as a medical student in Australia, there were only 3 patients in the ward! And that was in 2009, guys! More than a decade ago! I learned to love Psychiatry when I was in Australia because I loved how it was practiced there.)

To house officers, please do NOT quit your life before you had sought support from us in Psychiatry. Please come to us. Please…

We’ve had so many success stories of previous HOs under our follow up who are now doing so well as MOs. Just come… we are very approachable people and if an evil MO/specialist is bullying you, please tell us. We can report against the MO/specialist for you. When it comes to lodging complaints, I am very good at it, especially when I am angry enough. I have done it even as a HO and throughout the years since then, I have only gotten better at it. And I never even bothered to be anonymous when I lodged any complaint. If I believe I am right, I will put my name on it so that you know who to approach if you ever wanna argue my points. (And because I also believe I could be wrong and I do want to learn from you if you have any counter-argument against my points. For me to receive the benefit of your correction, you need to know how to reach me.)

To fellow seniors, we have a responsibility to look out for our house officers. The truth is, bullying can happen at ANY level of our career as a doctor. As a HO, junior MO, MO in the master program, junior specialist, junior consultant… all of them can be bullied by someone more senior. The difference is… you are at your weakest when you are a HO! At other levels, you can fight back and simply make yourself face the consequences bravely. But as a HO, not many of them can bear the consequences of even worse bullying when their seniors found out that they had complained. If the bullying got worse because of their complaints, they might end up having to quit their job and unable to complete their housemanship…which means they will never be able to practice as a doctor. Not many people can bear that kind of consequence, and hence they suffer in silence.

Whereas as an MO who has completed housemanship, you can easily fight back… and if the bullying got worse, you could just quit and work as a doctor elsewhere. The consequences of fighting bullies after the completion of  housemanship is HUGELY safer than before the completion of housemanship.

That’s why we must protect our HOs… because they are the most vulnerable! Once they become an MO, they can fight for themselves! And I do expect them to fight for themselves and confront issues! Sampai bila nak menikus?

To those who want to know how to survive housemanship and how to fight back strategically, I wrote a blog post about it which you guys can read by clicking  H.E.R.E

May Allah protect you and guide you throughout your housemanship and your career as a doctor, Amiin.

 

The Shocking Twist In the Depp-Heard Domestic Violence Saga

This month is a month of surprises, huh? Did you guys follow the courtroom drama involving Johnny Depp and Amber Heard that exploded the internet recently? I did 🙈 and I discussed it with my close friends in our own telegram group.

Before this, I never really cared about who was abusing who. I knew that Johnny Depp was accused of abusing Amber Heard some time ago but did not really follow what happened after that. I did not even know that his career was affected due to the allegation. I was never a fan of either of them.

But now that the details of the trial littered my Facebook newsfeed so prominently, I became curious about what it was all about. Apparently, according to the latest theory and speculation by netizens, Amber Heard had also allegedly abused Johnny Depp and all these while she was just playing victim. Now the tide has turned against Amber Heard when before this, people had already cancelled Johnny Depp to perdition.

What a shocking twist, huh?

The only reason why this case caught my attention was because one of the expert witness, Dr. Curry, had diagnosed Amber Heard of having Borderline Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder. Interesting psychiatry stuff there… that would naturally pique the interest of psychiatry doctors like me and my friends… (or maybe this is just me trying to justify spending my time indulging in trashy gossips 🙈 😂 Yup, I am not always efficient with my time, lol)

Actually, working in Psychiatry, we have come across and treated many people like Amber Heard (personality disorders)  and Johnny Depp (substance use disorders). Even though people are bashing Amber Heard now, I don’t think Depp is exactly innocent. How many people who abuse drugs or addicted to drugs are actually good partners to their spouses? Realistically speaking… how many? Frankly speaking, drugs and alcohol are one of the top ingredients in the recipe for a dysfunctional family. And that’s a fact!

First, people cancelled Johnny Depp. Now, they cancelled Amber Heard. First, Johnny Depp was the abuser and Amber Heard was the victim. Now the story has turned 180 degrees with Amber Heard being the abuser and Johnny Depp being the victim.

I believe that the truth is somewhere in between; as it always is when we are doing psychiatric history taking. It’s highly likely that both of them are mutually abusive to one another. 

This is why Psychiatry is an interesting field. The whole drama like the one taking place in the courtroom between Heard and Depp that sooo fascinates the world is simply our daily bread and butter as Psychiatry doctors. We see this kind of thing day in and day out. So, to all junior doctors, if you are into analyzing this kind of drama with all its torments and sufferings, come and join us in Psychiatry. You will love your job and going to work will then feel like a hobby rather than a chore. #DonePromotingPsychiatry  #FlexingMyLoveForMyJOB 😎

Before I end this topic, I would just like to say a few words on personality disorders. Many years ago, a lot of senior psychiatrists were cautious about diagnosing personality disorders too early in the treatment. Some would tell us “Too early for you to conclude that she has borderline personality disorder. We can treat as Major Depressive Disorder, first.”

Well, fair enough. Borderline Personality (BPD) does usually come with Major Depression (MDD) as well… they are pretty common co-morbidities, for sure! But sometimes…we will come across a patient who fits BPD so much more than MDD… it’s not that I wanna label the patient nilly willy just for the heck of it, it’s just that my conclusion is based on the history given to me by the patient herself and the corroborative history by the family members themselves. How to make myself diagnose someone as MDD when she/he fits the criteria of BPD so much better?

Thankfully, these days, there are many studies that have concluded that it is better to identify personality disorders early so that we can treat them early. Stop the stigma against personality disorders… we should get rid of this idea that diagnosing the patient with personality disorder early means that we are prematurely judging the patient. Our main concern should be to give the patient the correct diagnosis (even if it is a diagnosis of a personality disorder) so that they can get the right treatment early. And I am so relieved that these days we in psychiatry are more open to diagnosing personality disorders early.

 

I hated it when I came across a case who clearly had BPD but was given the diagnosis of a Bipolar II Disorder instead. It annoyed me that just because we wanted to refrain from diagnosing someone with personality disorder early, we then gave them all kind of other diagnoses that didn’t even fulfil the criteria properly.

There was a time when I had to write a medical report on someone who is clearly a BPD, but all other doctors who had seen the patient in the past were reluctant to put that diagnosis even though they had talked about it among themselves and agreed that the patient does have BPD. I was scratching my head when I asked them “Dah hangpa kata dia ada BPD, awat hangpa tak letak macam tu dalam documentation? Asyik dok letak ‘adjustment disorder with depressed mood’ all these while, for what?” (Dah terkeluaq bahasa kedah cheq… sebab cheq rasa annoyed kena buat medical report yang documentation all  these while tak dak the right diagnosis. Dan yang tak dak the right diagnosis tu bukan sebab depa tak pick up the symptoms, tapi sebab bila dah pick up pun, depa tak mau letak jugak! Heys… sis geram!🙄 )

“Sebab ada orang kata jangan diagnose personality disorders too early. It is stigmatizing to the patient. Kami memang rasa dia borderline pun sebenarnya.” Said the MO.

I don’t know where does this reluctance to commit to a diagnosis of personality disorders come from?

I am not saying you should simply label someone with ANY diagnosis, personality disorders or otherwise. I am just saying that you must explore the history thoroughly, get your evidence that the patient fits this criteria and find any evidence for the presence or the lack of criteria for your other differential diagnoses, you document them properly and finally commits to the RIGHT diagnosis so that you can give the patient the right treatment! That’s the best thing you can do for your patient! Diagnose them right without judgment and steer the treatment in the right direction.

You are the one who had attached stigmas to personality disorders, and so you misguidedly think that you should not diagnose anyone with personality disorders ‘just yet’ in order to not stigmatize the patient (according to you!). But guys…if you can make yourself think of personality disorders just like any other psychiatric diagnoses without attaching stigma to them, you wouldn’t think diagnosing anyone with personality disorders mean you are stigmatizing them! Instead, when you diagnose someone as having personality disorder, you would simply feel like you are doing your job… of diagnosing and treating the patient correctly! As simple as that! 

That’s the best thing you could have done for your patient! 

I hope, with personality disorders currently in the limelight secondary to this court case, more and more psychiatry doctors will have less reservation about diagnosing personality disorders early so that our patients can benefit from psychotherapy early.  

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Well… anyway, to end the topic on this fascinating courtroom drama, let me show you my whatsapp status that had triggered so many people to DM me to communicate that they agreed with my whatsapp status. It was so funny, guys! I put up that status after reflecting on the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard case and Will Smith-Jada Pinkett case… little did I know how much it would strike a chord among my friends (who are single, married or divorced) who had read the whatsapp status. They were like “I really 100% agree with you! Spot on!” Haha.

When everyone across different marital status agree with you, you feel like you are so wise 😜🤪 (Just kidding! I am not wise… it’s just that I have seen so much heartbreaks in my experience as a Psychiatrist to be able to draw my own conclusion that just happens to match the experience of many.)

Here it is! My wise observation about happiness and marital status! 🤣

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When my friends read the Whatsapp Status above, they all responded that they totally get it!

Well, it’s true, isn’t it? We should avoid number 4 at all cost, even if we might not attain number 1, right? 🤣 In a way, happy single people should only risk marriage if they are SURE they will move up to number 1… otherwise they might find themselves downgraded to number 4, don’t you think? 😂

Joke aside, the truth is some people are risk takers and some people are risk averse. Which one are you, my dear readers?

Some people are willing to gamble everything to attain the best state of relationship status… married and happy. High risk, high return… said the risk-takers. Sometimes they got lucky… and they did end up happy in their marriage for the rest of their lives. But sometimes they got married only to end up with the worst state for a relationship status; married and miserable. See? High risk, high consequences… the risk-averse said. Single people who are risk averse are content to remain at the 2nd best relationship status because they are not willing to gamble everything when the possibility of losing everything is quite high too.

At the end of the day, you have to know what you are willing to risk and what you are reluctant to lose. Divorce is expensive! But sometimes staying in a bad marriage is also expensive to your mental and spiritual health (even physical health, if you married an abuser). You are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Neither option is appealing. Some will decide to stick to the devil they know and stay in a bad marriage… stick to what’s familiar even if it is hell. But some people will decide to venture out to unfamiliar pastures and take the risk again… just like they did the first time they decided to get married only to end up burned.

That, my dear readers, are the dramas we see everyday in our clinic. Maybe one day when I am old and retired, I will write a novel inspired by all that I have been privileged  to witness in the course of my career. It would be a fun way to fill up my time, for sure!

Book of The Month – The Holy Quran!

As usual, whenever it is Ramadan, I would forgo any other book in favour of the Holy Quran. I had reviewed the Holy Quran many times before in my previous post-Ramadan blog posts. It’s like an annual tradition for me to write about the Quran in my Eid blog post and this year is no exception.

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I can never be tired of talking about the Quran. As an adult, I appreciate the content of the Quran way more than I ever did when I was learning it as a child.  

This year, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that Allah had guided me to NOT procrastinate my Quranic reading. Alhamdulillah, I was able to complete my recitation and the reading of the translation on the very last day of Ramadan. I had actually finished the whole Quranic recitation a few days prior to the last day of Ramadan, but my reading of the translation lagged a few juzuk behind. By the afternoon of what would turn out to be the last day of Ramadan (but no one in Malaysia had known about it just yet 😂), I still had 2 juzuk of translation to finish. After the Zohor prayer, I told myself “It’s okay. I can still finish reading the translation tomorrow. I still have one more day of Ramadan tomorrow for me to finish reading the translation. The important thing is, I have finished the Arabic recitation. Reading just the translation of 2 juzuk should be doable the next day, easy peasy.” You see how confidently sure I was? I was REALLY banking on Eid being on Tuesday instead of Monday and I was so sure about it too 😂. So feeling quite complacent, I decided to rest for awhile from my Quranic translation reading. And I actually did doze off for some time. But Alhamdulillah, I woke up after half-an-hour of rest feeling quite refreshed. So, I continued reading the translation of a few more surahs. But after some time, again I said to myself “Let’s rest. Tomorrow, I got plenty of time to finish reading the rest of the translation.” I was so tempted to procrastinate, you have no idea!

But suddenly I remembered that my mom might need me to help her with Eid cooking the next day. I knew that my mom is always busy with Eid preparation one day before Eid. So remembering that tomorrow might be a hectic day, I then decided against procrastinating and pushed myself to complete my reading just before the Asar prayer, Alhamdulillah. Imagine my surprise (and gratitude!) when I found out shortly after I broke my fast that the next day would be the day of Eid. The first thought that crossed my mind was “Ya Allah, nasib baik aku dah perabih baca tengahhari tadi,”😂  If I hadn’t pushed ahead the way I had, I would certainly have failed to attain my annual Ramadan goal of completing my Quranic recitation and translation reading. It would be nothing short of devastating.

Note to self: Must always finish reciting the Quran and reading the translation at least 2 days before the probable Eid day to prevent near mishap like this.

The Quran was revealed in the month of Ramadan and I really feel like as Muslims, we should celebrate Ramadan by reciting the Quran and also by reading the translation of the Quran in order to know all the divine  messages revealed by Allah. Alas, as a Muslim who knows very little Arabic, I have to do double the work than the native Arabic speakers if I want to know what I am reciting. So Ramadan is always a busy month for me.

Some non-Muslims may feel like “Why don’t you simply read the translation straightaway without reciting in Arabic first… since you don’t understand Arabic anyway? Can save a bit of your time and you don’t need to rush as much. What’s more important is understanding the message.”

When my friends and I were medical students in Australia, we came across a non-Muslim consultant who felt like it was weird that we recited the Quran in Arabic without really knowing the meaning of what we recited. As a Christian who had just arrived from the Middle East to work in Australia, he could speak Arabic and he initially thought that we could too because we are Muslims and our holy Quran is in Arabic. My friend explained to him that we are Malaysians and our native tongue is Malay; that we do recite the Quran in Arabic but we have to read the translations afterwards to know the meaning of the Quran. Even though we may not know the meaning of the words while we are reciting them, we still feel like reading the Quran in its original language is important as opposed to just reading the translations. He was not satisfied with the answer 😂. He condemned us for not understanding our Arabic recitation even though we already explained to him that we would read the translation afterwards. At last, we ignored him even though we really felt like telling him “At least, our holy book is preserved in its original language. Can you say the same thing about yours?” 

The thing is, the Quran is only the Quran if it is in Arabic. Translation of the Quran is NOT the Quran, khalas! Therefore, reciting the Quran in Arabic will give you more reward (pahala) compared to if you simply read the translation.

Furthermore, the reason why the Quran is still unaltered and unchanged and it remains the same for the past 1400 years with no other version/variation, is because Muslims insist on learning how to recite the Quran in its original language even if we do not know the meaning of what we are reciting. This is why the Quran is still preserved the way it is. Our oral tradition of Quranic memorization in Arabic is really amazing. No matter which sect of the Islamic faith you belong to, there is only ONE version of the Quran and when there is any dispute about anything, we have the original text to go back to when we are trying to sort things out. Sunni or Syiah or whatever you are… the Quran is only ONE. That’s it! There is only ONE God and He sent down only ONE version of the Quran! Simple, isn’t it?

The Quran is one of the few (or maybe even the only) holy book that is STILL available in its original language. And Arabic is a language that is very much alive and is still widely spoken all over the world. Unlike Sanskrit or Aramaic or Latin… which are dead languages. Any religion with a holy book that has a dead language as its original language will not be relevant to the large majority of their believers. Only the scholars who had learned those dead languages can access the true original message of their holy books… it made it difficult for other regular believers to really appreciate their religion because they have to rely on their scholars almost exclusively.

For us as Muslims, the messages in the Quran and all its nuances are accessible to anyone who knows Arabic, either you are a scholar or a regular believer. The average Muslims who speak Arabic could check and counter-check and argue against what their imams and scholars told them without relying purely on their authority. This is such a  splendid barricade against corruption, don’t you think? (I may not know Arabic and have to rely on the English or the Malay translation; but millions other people in this world do know Arabic. And there are millions who memorize the entire Quran by heart! Any corrupted scholar will have to think a thousand times before they want to twist the message of the Quran for some worldly gain. Because they know they could easily be found out and exposed. Easily!). And that’s what I love about my faith. How the believers can have a direct relationship with Allah and His messages without requiring any scholarly intermediary. That’s the awesome part about being a Muslim.

Because knowing me, I am not the sort who trust anyone just because they are supposedly in the position of authority. I don’t go around defying authority unnecessarily, of course (I am too mature now for all that). And most things always have a clear explanation that makes sense. But there are times when things don’t click and I need to go through my own process of verifying what you said in order to have firm conviction.  I love knowing that should I decide to verify anything you said about the religion, I could do so. Other than reading the translation, I could just decide to learn Arabic so that I could access all the nuances and the literary beauty of the Quran myself (because when we read the translation, we may get all the important core messages but the literary beauty and the nuances are lost in translation). There is no absolute reliance on religious authority… only relative reliance… which can easily be turned over when it gets too excessive. Because… again… Arabic is an alive language that is spoken over by millions. It is a lingua franca of the Arab World and many more people can also speak Arabic as a second language. So no one can simply dupe us about what the Quran really means to say without the fear of being exposed. Even if it happened, it cannot happen at a large scale for a long time. Religious cults will always get exposed sooner or later. 

Salvation is too important a matter.. for us to simply have faith that anyone is telling us the truth when something sounds a bit off, don’t you think? We must find out for ourselves and that is the only way we can have real faith. And the Quran with only ONE version of it in existence – being revealed in an alive language that are still spoken by many – allows us to have that ‘check and balance’ against corrupted religious authority.

I just love that!

I leave you guys with the Quranic recitation of one of my favourite surahs of the Holy Quran down below. This is a surah that most Muslims would recite just before going to bed and is a source of protection for us in the hereafter. The name of this surah is Al-Mulk which is translated as The Sovereignty. I first learned to memorize this surah when I was an 18 years old teenager, doing my International Baccalaureate studies in Kolej Mara Banting. The ustazah who was our hostel warden at that time made all of us gather at the hostel compound every 10 pm at night to recite this surah together. May Allah reward her immensely for introducing us to this calming night ritual.

 

Until next time, my dear readers. Eid Mubarak! May Allah accept all our good deeds in the previous month of Ramadan. And may Allah give us the strength to live courageously no matter what surprises, twists and turns might show up in our path… Ameen 🤲  🤲

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