Identity Vs Role Confusion

According to Eric Erikson, identity vs role confusion is one of the psychosocial crisis that we all go through in life as we mature into adulthood. There are 8 stages of psychosocial crisis throughout our lives. If we are able to resolve all of our psychosocial crisis, we will emerge as a healthy individual with successful acquisition of basic virtues.

During teenage years, one of the psychosocial crisis involves identity vs role confusion. Teenagers will try to test the environment around her, the societal rules, the norms… trying to get a sense of their identity. Who am I? What sort of person am I? What do I identify with? 

According to Erikson, “the adolescent mind is essentially a mind or moratorium, a psychosocial stage between childhood and adulthood, and between the morality learned by the child, and the ethics to be developed by the adult.”

When you are still in the throes of the psychosocial crisis of identity vs role confusion, how is it sensible to make a permanent decision of changing your gender? How is it even ethical for us to support that as a doctor?

But apparently, that’s what some people in the Western world did. 

I recommend that you read the article above yourself  H.E.R.E

How aggressive and unethical the LGBTQ+ movement can be in gambling the future of innocent children for the sake of ensuring that their cult (really!) will always have some supporters.

Clinicians involved had reported their worries that some patients were referred to a gender transitioning pathway too quickly. Like I said, you haven’t even resolved your psychosocial conflict of identity vs role confusion, and yet you are already referring these children (CHILDREN, guys!) to this clinic. Some of  them were given puberty blockers, the long term side-effects of which are only very little known!

What are puberty blockers?

Puberty blockers stop a young person’s body developing breasts, periods, facial hair or a deeper voice.

Recently updated NHS guidance on puberty blockers acknowledges that little is known about their long-term effects, or what impact they might have on children’s brains and bones.

I find this very alarming! Imagine the psychological damage that they will face if these children grow up regretting their decision! In fact, someone had already sued the NHS gender clinic over this matter once they have become an adult. You can read about it H.E.R.E

In a world when most people want everything natural and vegan and cruelty-free, how do you reconcile approving such a treatment to children?! The funny thing is even so-called vegan people are championing the propaganda of LGBTQ+ movement. And I am feeling rather confused here… how do you utilize your mind? Don’t you ever feel unsettled by the cognitive dissonance that you are operating under? Whatever you put on your skin in terms of skincare and make-up products, you are so proud of how vegan you are being! But when it comes to hormonal and surgical treatment in order to change your appearance into looking like the other gender, suddenly you change your stand 180 degrees by saying “Oh we should support self-expression and this is all about being true to yourself about who you really are…. yadda yadda yadda…”

These are all mumbo jumbo wishy-washy stuff that do not stand critical analysis! It is nauseating! At last when they could no longer justify their stands, they would fall back to the magic word that in their opinion will bring victory to any argument. Freedom! Freedom is that magical word.

“It is their freedom to do what they feel is right.” (Jawapan budak-budak yang tak menggunakan akal kan? Bila kita tanya budak-budak nakal “Kenapa buat macam tu?”. Budak-budak akan cakap “Eh suka hatilah.” Wow… amazing use of your reasoning, there! Situasi yang sama tengah berlaku when it comes to reasoning with LGBTQ+ people.)

“Sure…. no one is denying your freedom to do anything stupid. We are just pointing out how senseless and stupid and unhealthy and wrong it is. That’s all.”

Whatever it is, one thing is clear. I will not do or support what is wrong. 

But then some people say, “How do you know what is wrong and right?”

I would answer that by saying “I have my own system, i.e my religion, to know what’s wrong and what’s right. Do YOU have a system?”

And then they would say, “How do you know your system is right?”

I would then say “Gosh, I don’t know. Maybe the same way you know your system is right. That is, if you have one.”

The funny thing is some people have a system of ‘not having a system’ and therefore they think  that people who do have a system is being oppressed within the system. *shakes head*

So they loudly proclaimed that they are free people who can do whatever they want without being bound by the rules of any religion. But wow… they too end up being oppressed by their own freedom when they made a wrong choice in life after refusing to follow any type of guidance or system… they are lost because they don’t have any system or criteria to measure there life decision upon… and they don’t even realize it. 

Look at the issue of the child gender clinic, and  tell me how this is not oppression at its most sickening level! How could you ALLOW this to happen to children whose psychosocial stages are not yet resolved to be able to make this decision?

Try and justify this! If you can. 

The Amazing J.K Rowling

You guys probably know that I grew up reading Harry Potter books and watching all the films adaptation of the Harry Potter series. I have always been amazed by the genius creativity displayed by J.K Rowling in the writing of her Harry Potter series.

So recently, it came to my attention that J.K Rowling was slammed by LGBTQ+ activists all around the world for allegedly being transphobic when she took issue with an article that used the term “people who menstruate” instead of using the term “women”.

She tweeted : ‘I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben?Wimpund? Woomud?’

Basically she was just saying that we should call women as women. Because people who menstruate are women! So why did this article have to use the term “people who menstruate”? And I find myself agreeing with her on this. LGBTQ+ people and supporters are getting more and more ridiculous over the years! They are SO insecure about their gender identity to the point that they just NEED to force other people to agree to change universally accepted and precise terms like ‘women’ into a more vague, non-precise terms like “people who menstruate”. And when we call them out on this ridiculousness, suddenly we are the transphobic ones?

Give me a break!

Even Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson turned their backs on J.K Rowling for saying what is after all, a mere fact. That women menstruate… so why should we use the term “people who menstruate” instead of saying the word women!

I find J.K Rowling as quite brave for saying what she really thinks, knowing how ‘popular’ and ‘powerful’ the LGBTQ+ movement is in the West. Luckily, here in Malaysia, we do not allow them to overpower our society. Islam is the official religion of the country. And in Islam (and in fact in ALL Abrahamic religions and MOST other non-Abrahamic religions) LGBTQ+ are considered as an aberration and adopting that identity is a sin.

Sure, the LGBTQ+ people may say “I don’t follow your religion. Why are you imposing your opinion on me.”

But I can also say “I don’t follow your opinion too. But you are forcing it on me and demanding for policy changes in the society that would affect my life. You can believe in your lifestyle and do whatever you like. Tak teringin pun nak mengintip apa kau buat di belakang pintu. But you! Why do you want to force me to approve of you? Why need my approval? Why need the society’s approval? Why do you advocate for change of policies and laws in the society? When you want to change policies and laws and start to advocate for your movement, OF COURSE you will have to face counter-propagation and counter-advocation! So, don’t play victim here. Sepanjang kehidupan di dunia ini, people have gone to WAR to fight for ideologies…. be it imperialism, communism, democracy, Zionism, Christianity, Islam! Unfortunately, that is the life of this world! So tak payah buat terkejut yang orang menentang kau. Kami pun ada ideologi kami! If you propagate, we propagate too! May the best propagator win!”

Look, you can do whatever you like behind closed doors. You can dress however you like and I would not even bat an eyelash. But you do NOT get to force me to say that what you do is right! No one can force me to approve what I don’t approve. I have my own stand and my own opinion, khalas! Just like you want to advocate for your point of views, I too have the rights to advocate for mine. If you call me transphobic, I will call you Islamophobic. Because my views are Islamic in nature. So if criticizing your opinion makes me transphobic/homophobic, then criticizing me will make you Islamophobic or even anti-semitic (because all semitic religions are against LGBTQ+). But frankly speaking, rather than bypassing the reasoning of our brain by labelling people as transphobic/homophobic/Islamophobic/anti-semitic etc etc, let’s just have an honest to goodness factual, scientific discussion. Does LGBTQ+ stand/lifestyle/opinions make sense scientifically, philosophically, morally, psychologically? Talk about that! And stop labelling people who criticize your points!

“We are not trying to cause trouble. We just want to live our life in peace.” says the LGBTQ+ person.

Nope! Living your life in peace is not the only aim you have here. Otherwise, we all would have gone on with our lives and not pay any attention to you. Don’t pretend that all you want is to live your life with your loved ones in peace! Your actions speak louder than words.

The truth is… you wanted to force the society to change established policies and laws for you! As though you are the only one with rights! That’s why people are angry! Hospital administrators had to think about whether or not we need to set a separate ward for you because you cannot be placed in a male ward or a female ward. If you are in prison, the prison administrator don’t know where to place you… female or male prison. There was the public toilet issue we need to think about…. whether we need a separate LGBTQ+ public toilet because neither genders are comfortable to have you in their toilets! Why should THEY sacrifice their sense of comfort and safety just so you can choose which toilet you feel like going? Are their rights lesser than yours? In championing equality for one group (the LGBTQ+ group), you go overboard by discriminating the other group!

In sports, women are unfairly treated when they have to compete with trans-women who are biologically stronger to them with greater muscle mass! But they could not voice out their concerns because the LGBTQ+ movement are more powerful than their small voice in the West! How is this fair and just? How about creating a third sport category now so that LGBTQ+ people can compete with one another fairly… hmmm? But no…it would not be fair either to simply create a third category because transwomen need their own category and transmen also need their own category. So for all sport events we should have four gender categories: men, women, transmen and transwomen. Ok? But oh no… that would hurt their feelings too. “I identify as a woman! Why do you need to put me in other categories! I told you I am a woman! According to Emma Watson, trans people are who they say they are. So if I say I am a woman, then I am a woman. Why are you putting me in a different category than other women! I am a woman just like any other woman!” *sigh*

Facts are facts regardless of your feelings, si? But no…tak puas hati lagi dengan fakta! They then recruited loud, influential Hollywood celebrities to advocate for them. Like Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson.

Emma Watson can get away saying nonsensical stuff such as “Trans people are who they say they are…”

Wow… so the truth can be determined by whatever anyone says now, is it? How ridiculous is that? Just because you say something, it doesn’t make it true! If I say I am a man, it doesn’t automatically change my genetic make-up and I wouldn’t suddenly grow a male genitalia! Please have some sense when you make your statement.

Hollywood celebrities are very influential people and they have the power to shape the opinion of the public. But does their support for LGBTQ+ community make sense and free from any self-serving bias or conflict of interests?

Think about it! Of course the celebrities would advocate for LGBTQ+ causes…. the whole industry are full with LGBTQ+ people. The actors/ actresses/ make-up artists/designers/models…. most of them are among LGBTQ+ people or sympathetic to their causes. When you are part of that environment, it is a matter of your own career survival to support it! Even if you think their stand does not make sense but knowing that you are going to closely work with them in advancing your career, of course you would not go against the tide! And now their voice becomes the influential one even though it makes no sense!

The religious, conservative voice has not always been a small voice. Something had happened, FIRST. And that something was the silence of the majority when the movement of LGBTQ+ people were first gaining momentum. You did not control the fire before it engulfed the forest of your society. You did NOT propagate for the truth when you had the chance! You were too scared that other people would label you as ‘backward, transphobic, dumb over-religious Christians’ etc etc. And so you kept your silence. You thought “Well, let them do whatever they want because it would not affect me at all.” You didn’t realize that when they grew in numbers they would start demanding for their rights that would eventually oppress your own rights. But then you woke up… and suddenly LGBTQ+ rights overpowered your own rights! By the time you realized it, it was too late.

And all because religious, conservative people in the West were too timid and passive and complacent; they did not do their best to speak up for the truth when they had the chance.

This hopefully will NEVER happen in Muslim-majority countries. Because compared to Christians in the West, Muslims are MORE practicing. That is a fact. Christianity may be the number one religion in terms of numbers. But in terms of practicing, most Muslims are more practicing of their religion and we follow the tenets of our Quran. Most of my Australian friends are cultural Christians….rather than religious Christians. They celebrate Christmas and occasionally go to Church especially for weddings and baptism but most of them do not even know their whole Bible cover to cover. Yes, they are cultural Christians rather than religious Christians!

Whereas most Muslims practice beyond the superficial aspects of having a Muslim name or eating halal food or celebrating Eid. We pray 5 times a day… some of us even offer more non-obligatory prayers in between. That is a lifetime commitment until the day we die. That is serious love and serious faith, folks. Most of us have read the Quran cover to cover MULTIPLE TIMES throughout our lives and we knew the message in the Quran. A practicing Muslim would NEVER say “Yeah… I don’t really have an opinion about LGBTQ+. I don’t really care.” trying to give a safe politically-correct answer to anyone who asks. Because the Quran is VERY clear about this and a practicing Muslim would never go against what the Quran says!

But some of my Australian friends who claim that they are Christians can actually support LGBTQ+ people by saying “God is loving!” or they would say “The Bible is an ancient document. Some of the verses can be interpreted differently. I am sure God loves everyone regardless of which gender they identify with.”. (Seriously, what is this? Please note that MOST religious Christians who are strict and faithful would NEVER support LGBTQ+ too. Only the cultural Christians can be found giving wishy washy statement like this. Unfortunately, in the West, even the religious Christians were subdued by the LGBTQ+movement. The policies and laws of their countries have now totally changed because when the religious Christians had the chance, they did NOT counter-propagate and counter-narrate!) My questions to these cultural Christians are, “What… when God revealed the Bible in the ancient time did He not know the future… that there would be a group of LGBTQ+ people in this world? As an All-knowing God, wouldn’t He have known about the future existence of LGBTQ+ people and so would tailor the laws in the scripture to include them if He wanted to show his approval of them? But no… he made the law clear against homosexuality anyway, regardless of His all-encompassing knowledge about the future! So maybe, the law REALLY is clear and is supposed to be upheld for ALL time. You think God changes His laws and commandments with time? Did you receive a new revised version of the Bible from God that includes approval of LGBTQ+ people? Do you have any evidence regarding that? So if you don’t, why did you assume that just because God is loving, then LGBTQ+ is approved in your religion and the law has changed now? Perhaps it is EXACTLY because God is loving that He had made the laws clear for you in order to protect you and your society. But you choose to create grey areas out of something clear in order to justify your own conflict of interests and your lust! And then you talk about a loving God. A loving and compassionate God would also uphold justice based on the clear laws that He had revealed. Because there is no compassion without justice.”

There is NO COMPASSION without justice. Is it just that women must compete with transwomen in sports? Is it fair that religious conservative women that make up the majority of the society must always wear tudung and cover their aurat when a transwoman are placed in their ward?

My liberal friend had said “She is already a woman. She is not interested to look at your hair while in the ward! Please get over yourself. Poor them. They are just trying to be who they are.”

I was like, “First of all, he is not a woman biologically and genetically no matter what you said. That is just factual and biological. Please think like a doctor that you are. Secondly, we don’t cover ourselves because of anyone’s possible interest of looking at our hair or our body. We wear modest clothing because God asks us to do so. Even in front of a eunuch, we will cover ourselves to obey God. If you don’t believe in God, that’s okay… I don’t need you to believe what I believe. But you need to understand that the reality is… the policies and laws of the country will follow the religious sentiments of the majority. You can go to any country and you will find that the laws and policies of that country will be tailored to suit the culture of the majority. And so if we don’t fit in that country, the practical option is to get out of that country. Of course, you can try to advocate for change of laws in that country…. which would involve propagating to the people in that country to support your cause and inducing the people in that country to call their MPs to fight for your cause in the parliament so that the law would change in your favour. Yes… that’s what you are trying to do, I know. But do NOT expect other people to simply allow you to do that without them fighting back… and suddenly you want to manipulate the issue and cry as though you are a victim of transphobic/homophobic people. You want to change the law and influence public policies… be prepared to fight like an adult! Not like a cry baby! Debate us point by point instead of labelling us transphobic/homophobic and whatnots. When it comes to the place of trans people in a Muslim-majority society in wards/prisons/public toilets/sport events, it is not right for you to insist that we change our ways and belief system, (which happen to be the majority’s ways and belief system) in order to accommodate the feelings of a minority trans-women or trans-men who insist that they deserve to force their presence on us in gender-specific settings. If you are just going about doing your business without asking for official recognition or policy change, we would have let you be! But now, the game has changed because you decided to be loud and demanding! It is democratically wrong to sacrifice the rights of the majority for the sake of a minority. Until you can successfully propagate for the majority to support you and cause the law to change in your favour, you cannot force us to accept your view that trans people can be in our wards/prisons/public toilets just because they now identify themselves as the opposite gender. Trans women belong in male wards. And trans men belong in female wards. We respect your rights. But your rights are limited by other people’s rights based on the laws and policies of our country.”

Unfortunately in Malaysia, only Islam is doing the counter-propagating work against this moral sickness. Why? I feel like this is the time for us to have inter-faith cooperation to present a unified voice against LGBTQ+ stance. Where are the devout Christians of this country? Why aren’t you guys speaking up? Where are the devout Buddhist, Hindus and Sikh? Why are you guys silent? We have the weight of biological facts, and religious and moral and cultural tradition behind us and yet the silence is deafening! Why?! Are you guys so scared to be labeled backward? Takut terkena tempias ‘the dumb race’ like the Malays asyik kena just because we are much more willing to put ourselves out there and speak up about our shared truth?

Most religions in this world have the same values. But why are you guys not speaking up too?

Why do other religious leaders do not speak up when our shared values are being challenged? Brother Firdaus Wong questioned this to other religious leaders in this video.

Our Stand As A Doctor

In psychiatry, I have very clear ideas on how I will treat LGBTQ+ people in the context of Malaysia.

When they come to me, these are what I generally will do:

  1. Get a good history of the underlying mental illness (depression/anxiety/psychosis etc etc) that they presented with and treat them the way I treat any heterosexual cis-gender patients.
  2. If their LGBTQ+ lifestyle is in any way influencing the severity of their underlying mental illness, again I need to get a good gender history. Is it homosexuality without any element of gender dysphoria? Is it transsexualism? Is it dual role transvestism? Is it fetishistic transvestism?
  3. Ask them: do they want to talk about it?
  4. Take blood investigations including hormone blood tests.
  5. Continue to give the usual bio-psycho-social-spiritual model of treatment that they should get.

But what I will NOT do is voicing my approval of their lifestyle and sexual inclination. In our consultation with our patients, there is never any need for us to talk about our own belief system with the patient.

“But what if the patient asks you about what you think of his LGBTQ+ lifestyle?”

Well, I will simply ask the patient “Why do you want to know what I think about your LGBTQ+ lifestyle?” And we will manoeuvre and control the consultation from there.

I don’t have to answer such a question from my patient (or from anyone, if I don’t want to). The therapy session is about the patient, not about me. I am NOT supposed to talk about what I think about anything in the therapy session. Boundaries must be there between me and my patient. I will simply steer the consultation into analyzing why does she/he want to know about what I think? Is it because in general, they always want people’s approval in everything they do and would become dysphoric when people don’t approve of them? I will analyze whether or not the patient’s need for society’s approval is the root cause of his/her dysphoric mood. And I will ask the patient questions that will help them understand their own feelings by challenging their cognitive distortions“If you really believe that LGBTQ+ lifestyle is right for you, why should you care about what other people think? Is it realistic to expect others to approve of your lifestyle if they don’t? Is it wise to put other people’s approval or your therapist’s approval of your lifestyle as a condition to your happiness and satisfaction in life? If your happiness is dependent on other people approving your choices in life, then it will be difficult for you to be happy. No one can agree with you 100% in all matters, 100% of the time. And you need to be okay with that. Otherwise, it will be difficult for you to be happy.”

See? As a doctor, there is NO NEED for me to talk about my belief system with any of my LGBTQ+ patients. The therapy session is not about me. It is about them! So as a therapist, we stick to getting them to talk about them! Not about us!

“But what if they ask your opinion about gender reassignment surgery?”

Again, I will not talk about my opinion. I will present them with the technical facts of the matter. The law in Malaysia is not in my control and if they have any issue with the law of the country, they can speak to their MPs or their lawyers. And with regards to gender reassignment surgery, I will tell them that even in the Western countries, people will have to live as the opposite gender for at least two years before any gender reassignment surgery will be performed. I will talk about the side effects of hormonal therapy and the permanent implication of the gender reassignment surgery. My opinion does not need to enter the picture here. I will present them with the facts and they can do with the facts whatever they like.

But again, there will NEVER be a time when I will EVER indicate my approval for gender reassignment surgery. Because as a Muslim, I DO NOT BELIEVE it is right and I am always going to be a Muslim first before I am a doctor. In my religion saying something that is wrong in Islam as right can cause me to be a murtad! And I rather give up my job than giving up being a Muslim. (This is because unlike other religions, Islam has a fail-safe mechanism of protecting the values of the religion. Islam protects us from deviating from the truth by asking us: Do you want society’s approval or do you want to become a Muslim? Do you want to submit to society’s pressure or do you want to submit to God and be a Muslim? If you want to be a Muslim, speak up for the truth regardless of what the society says. So as a Muslim, we don’t have a choice of pretending that we approve something that is against the values of the religion. Because it will cause us to be a murtad if we say something that is wrong in the religion as right, or vice versa. We have to speak the truth of our religious values and not give in to societal pressure if we want to remain a Muslim.)

If there ever come a time when (God forbid!) LGBTQ+ people become so powerful in Malaysia (like in the West) that they can force Muslim doctors to approve of their lifestyle or else our license to practice will be revoked, I would rather give up my career than renouncing the values of my religion! But heck, I won’t do it without a fight first!

In my professional life, I am a doctor who keep my religious opinion to myself when dealing with my patients. Because like I said, the therapy session is about them! Not about me! But in my personal life, in my blog, in my social media, I am always going to be a Muslim first and then a Malaysian and lastly a doctor. (Being a doctor is not the most important or worthy aspect of my life. And frankly speaking, if any doctor feels like his/her career is the most worthy aspect of his/her life ABOVE ANYTHING ELSE, that is kind of sad, really!) And as a Muslim and as a Malaysian, I reserve my rights to speak up for the truth as I see it. LGBTQ+ people are not the only ones with freedom of speech. In fact, the law in Malaysia STILL says that homosexuality act is illegal and a crime. So, my point of view is perfectly in line with the law of the country.

If any of you have any issue with the law of the country, take it up with your MPs and your lawyers. And go on and propagate for your causes. But you will be disappointed if you expect that people will simply fall in line to agree with you. Everyone and every group has their own agenda and all of us will fight for our respective causes. So stop playing the victim card when you don’t have facts on your side! Fight like an adult! Not like a cry baby who expects people to change their opinions or sugarcoat facts and reality just so their feelings won’t be hurt! J.K Rowling has every right to state her opinion that the term “women” are more appropriate than the term “people who menstruate”, so if you are hurt by her opinion, maybe you should try to develop some maturity and simply agree to disagree without resorting to labelling her.

Ideological wars have been going on since time immemorial. And it will never stop till the end of time.

Book of the Month

The book I am excited to write a review about is The Persuaders: The Hidden Industry That Wants To Change Your Mind authored by James Garvey.

After reading this book, I was blown away by so many things I didn’t know about how our reality perception can be manipulated by PR firms and advertisement companies. I will never look at any statement, advertisement, campaign and propaganda in the same way again.

I have always been a pretty skeptical person especially when I am faced with a new thought or a new idea or a new philosophy. But I am also pretty skeptical of anything traditional or conservative that does not have any evidence for it too. (I have mentioned before that I could insist to have bihun goreng and Coca-Cola rather than pulut kuning and air sirap for my khatam Quran ceremony hahha. If there is no logical or moral basis for a certain tradition, I have no problem asserting my freedom of choice or opinion). So I am neither a conservative nor a liberal. I am a realist, I think. I just want to know the facts, first. I just want to know the truth. I guard my mind jealously against any new philosophical idea because I don’t want to be misled in life. All new ideas must be analyzed and filtered very carefully before I will integrate them officially into my life philosophy or my worldview. Once they have been integrated into my life philosophy and my worldview, very rarely do I change my mind. Win my mind with facts and reasoning… then you will get me to behave according to the convincing facts and ideas that you have presented.

I rarely make impulsive decision or an impromptu purchase. I will NOT do something until I have thoroughly weighed the pros and cons of doing something. At times, this characteristic trait that I have can be pretty troublesome because I will be caught in a situation of decision paralysis. In things that matter, I want to know everything or almost everything before I feel like I can make an informed decision.

It takes a LOT for a person to be able to change my mind about anything. Because before I have come to a decision on any particular topic in the first place, I had thought long and hard about it. And if you can change my mind after that, wow… you either must be very good at facts manipulation or you must have spoken a compelling truth that left me with no choice but to submit to the truth!

In this book, I learned that once upon a time, people placed a lot of emphasis on reasoning and logical thinking. It was a time when advertisement industry and PR firms were not yet around. The intellectual culture, and the effect of the Renaissance enlightenment were a dominant presence back then and very profoundly felt. People organized debates in clubs all over the country (in the UK) to examine facts and contexts of any issue. Debates became a source of entertainment in pubs/salons at that time (circa 1700s). People cultivated oratory skills and nurtured their intellect the way our people currently cultivate superficial beauty and hedonistic lifestyle.

But around the early 1900s… something changed. We found out that we can influence people faster and more effectively by bypassing their brain and manipulating their psychology. It started around the time when the tobacco industry wanted to sell cigarettes to women. At that time, only men smoked tobacco and for women to smoke in public was taboo. A PR firm was hired to create a campaign for getting women to smoke. They associated the act of public smoking by women with the suffragette movement of women’s equal rights and freedom. They hired a lot of young women to light “the torch of freedom” (the cigarette was the torch and lighting it symbolised freedom) while walking on Fifth Avenue on Easter Sunday.

(When you think logically, how does smoking in public is in any way connected to fighting for women’s freedom? If you REALLY want to fight for freedom of women, why light a cigarette? Why not propagate using facts and call your MPs to fight for your cause in the parliament and distribute flyers to the public?)

Initially the sales of cigarettes among women were very small. But after they “SYMBOLIZED” cigarettes with women’s freedom, the sales of cigarettes among women rose exponentially. Suddenly women who felt they were oppressed chose to light a cigarette thinking they were exercising their freedom of choice without knowing that they were also damaging their lungs in the process! The tobacco companies happily laughed their way to the bank!

The same strategy is employed until now. That is the basis of celebrity endorsement of any product. If the celebrity is beautiful and famous, then of course the product that she/he endorses will be good too, people think. Without looking at any ingredient or analysing the process of how the product is made, people simply buy the products. Not because they know all the facts about the product… but because they have associated the beauty of the celebrity with the product.

By associating certain generally good concept like love/freedom/justice/empowerment with LGBTQ+ people (instead of associating it with promiscuity or hedonism, for example), a stronger support could be garnered for the LGBTQ+ causes. So you will find a lot of slogans saying things like “It’s all about love. It’s about inclusivity. It’s about tolerance. It’s about freedom to love anyone we want.” Suddenly, whatever biological and scientific facts are thrown out of the window. Let alone moral consideration and societal norms! Their psychology has been tricked into thinking that something is good/right/okay when it is (manipulatively) associated with universally-approved concept like love/freedom/justice/empowerment. (This is Pavlovian application at its best. The dog no longer salivated to the food… but to the bell that signified the arrival of the food… even when the food did not arrive in the end.)

When it comes to product marketing, when you associate your brand with prestige and elegance and wealth, people will buy your product more. Remember the Dunhill slogan “Dunhill… gaya, mutu, keunggulan.” Hahha. (Think about it logically? Dunhill is just a name for a brand. Whether or not Dunhill embodied ‘gaya, mutu, keunggulan’ was never an established fact. The advertisement company simply create that association for the consumers… and the consumers flock to it thinking that they too will have those qualities of gaya, mutu, keunggulan when using any Dunhill product. In the end, it’s all just associations and slogans!) Now advertisement is no longer about promoting your products in a factual manner … but by giving your products the right kind of symbolism, slogans and association. And they keep repeating the slogans, symbolisms, and associations ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

Take the dUCk hijabs, for example. Even if the customers can see that the pattern of the hijab is not that great and the material is not supposed to be this pricey, but they still buy the product at such an exorbitant price just because they have associated the brand with what they aspire to become in terms of wealth, elegance and prestige. So now advertisement is all about using celebrities, and associating certain symbols to the product. They bypass your reasoning and your cognition and instead appeal to your unconscious psychological longing for love/freedom/justice/wealth/ prestige.

And the amazing thing is, it works!

Because apparently, reasoning with people won’t change their minds, according to this book. Or even if reasoning does change people’s minds, the route to that is longer and harder and the result is not always guaranteed. How many times have we debated a certain issue back and forth with one another only to end up sticking to our original stance anyway? So these days, most persuaders have discarded the method of appealing to your reason. Instead they use symbolism, associations, emotionalism…. and they find that many people are willing to let their brains be hijacked unresistingly.

Let’s associate the wearing of hijab by Muslim women as oppression instead of as a sign of devotion to God and religion.

Want oil from Iraq? Let’s create a story of how Saddam Hussein was a bad dictator and how the American people were going to free the people of Iraq from his dictatorship. Saddam is associated with everything bad. American soldiers are associated with being saviors and heroes! (When actually during the reign of Saddam Hussein the people of Iraq were more prosperous than now. )

Let’s associate religious people with stupidity and irrationality even though there are many religious scientists all over the world who know why they believe what they believe and that it makes more scientific sense to believe that the world is created by God than to believe that the world comes from nothing.

Let’s be like Emma Watson and repeatedly say that transwomen are women and transmen are men and “trans people are just who they say they are”. Because studies have shown that if you repeat a lie enough times, people start to believe it! What a scary world we are living in, don’t you think?

This book also has taught me how the social media can be used to manipulate our perception and swing votes during election or referendum like Brexit!

We are living in a world that makes it hard for us to know what to believe anymore.

Have you heard about Cambridge Analytica? It was a political consulting firm that used data mining from social media like Facebook to influence the US 2016 election. When the scandal was discovered, all hell broke loose. You can read all about it from Wikipedia ‘Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal’. And if you have Netflix, I do recommend for you to watch the documentary by the title of The Great Hack! You will be blown away at how our perception of the reality can be manipulated by the social media when an invisible entity is controlling what we see in our newsfeed.

A documentary in Netflix! Do check it out, guys!

So, I really recommend you guys to read this book and I promise you that you will be more conscious of how your brain is being manipulated at the end of the book!

I give this book 4.75 stars out of 5! I love it!

I was so lucky that I got this book at a Blockbuster price of RM18 only! It was originally sold at a price of more than RM50. That is the advantage of having a regular habit of going to bookstores. You get to grab the best books at the best prices.

Until next time, my dear readers. Much love and may Allah bless all of us with His guidance in finding the truth and may Allah give us strength to speak up for the truth that we had painstakingly found.

Celebrating Eid During The Covid-19 Pandemic

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Eid Mubarak to all Muslims in the world. May Allah accept all the good deeds from us and from you.

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Dear readers,

I am so blessed and so lucky that I was able to celebrate Eid at my parents’ house this year even though we are still under the conditional movement control order. There was a time, not so long ago that I thought I would not be able to come back to Alor Setar for Eid and might need to remain in Johor Bahru where I was doing my clinical attachment. Alhamdulillah, things worked out quite beautifully in the end, the details of which I wouldn’t bother you guys with. But it did involve going to the police station and getting the head of the police station to sign a letter of approval saying that I had a valid reason to come back home to Alor Setar. So I was able to make the journey home without much trouble once I had obtained the police’s approval. I made the journey on the very last day of Gerak Malaysia which was on the 10th of May 2020, on Sunday.

Eid while dealing with Covid is a unique experience that hopefully will never be repeated in our lifetime.

So, I thought it would be nice to just have a record of how the Muslims celebrate Eid with Covid-19 in our midst. If this is something you are curious to know, keep on reading. Otherwise, please do something more productive with your time as what I am going to write below is just my own personal experience and I am not going to be imparting any kind of thoughts or opinions on any current issues or any matter related to medicine or psychiatry. I know some of you who read my blog are medical students or HOs or MOs… and you are busy people who lead busy life. It is very important to prioritize in how we spend our time.

So, now that I have written that disclaimer, proceed at your own risk. LOL

Breaking Fast With Mom’s Delicious Cooking

Upon arriving in Alor Setar, I did self-quarantine in my own house before seeing my own parents and other family members (because I came from JB which used to be a red zone and Alor Setar was a green zone at that time. Now sadly, Alor Star is no longer a green zone.) It is really convenient that my parents and I, even though we live in the same town, keep separate household. It comes in handy during the time of pandemic because there will be times when my job as a healthcare worker might involve me having to limit contact with my parents and the rest of the family members, so as not to put them at risk. But my mom, being a loving mother that she is, always came over to send me food for iftaar ever since I got back to Alor Setar. (Ah… one of the best reason to be in my hometown when there were still some days left of Ramadhan was the opportunity to break my fast with my mom’s delicious cooking. Seriously, after staying in a nursing hostel for 6 months when I was in JB, I have had enough of Grab food.  I actually missed doing my own cooking, would you believe it? I don’t even LIKE to cook most of the time.)

Being an adult who is still able to enjoy the presence and the support of her mother and father during this trying time of Covid-19 Pandemic is one of the many blessings I have in my life. There were many times when I had found myself wondering how do other people cope without their parents support? Does anyone ever get used to losing their parents even  though they are already an adult? Alhamdulillah, thank you Allah, for still allowing me the blessing of having my parents with me.

In The Memory of My Tok Wan…

One of the many things I did after being done with self-quarantine was visiting the grave of my paternal grandfather… my Tok Wan. Heartbreakingly, I lost my Tok Wan while I was in JB in the first few days of Movement Control Order. He passed away on Friday afternoon, 20th of March 2020.

I was not able to pay my last respect to him and most of my siblings were also not around at that time and could not cross borders. The fact that my father had to hasten the funeral because of the Covid-19 pandemic made it impossible for me to reach home in time for the funeral to pay my last respect. I checked out various airlines websites, and I found out that even if I could make the arrangement to travel home, the funeral would be over before I could even board the plane. He was buried on the very same day after the Isya’ prayer.

I will always remember him in all my prayers.

I have always known that I was his favourite grandchild. Because he made it so obvious that all my siblings could not fail to notice it, even when we were just young kids. Initially when they first accused me of being the favourite, I had denied it because I felt like he surely loved us all the same. But after some time, we all accepted it as a fact and I didn’t bother denying it anymore hahaha.

He bought me  a piece of gold jewellery to reward me for my UPSR result… he never bought any of my siblings any present for their exam results even though they scored straight As too. He never asked my father where my other siblings were if they didn’t turn up to his house. But if I didn’t turn up to his house (well, I was abroad for my medical study and could not make it home for Raya or for some family events sometimes) he would notice and ask about me. It was me that my parents would ask to persuade my grandfather to be compliant to all his medication. It was me who would teach my grandfather how to use his puffer and when I noticed he could not use his puffer properly I then convinced him to use a spacer with his puffer.

With my parents, none of us knew which one of us is the favourite. We could speculate, but we couldn’t tell for sure, as our parents would treat us mostly the same, and any variations in their treatment of us was not obvious Hahah. I would say my Kak Long is the favourite but she would deny it and cite some other occasions and references in which it appeared as though it was I, or Wani or Izati or Alida who were the favourite. Really, we have no idea who is the favourite child and it remains a mystery for us until now.

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With my Tok Wan

But with my grandfather, I was clearly the preferred granddaughter. I think my grandfather loved me best because I had once stayed at his house for a few weeks of school holiday when I was 7 years old. None of my siblings wanted to spend their holiday in a kampung at that time. But as a child, I was fascinated by the rubber trees, the rubber fruits and the process of turning the rubber liquid into rubber sheets that I didn’t mind being the only one spending the holiday with my paternal grandparents without the rest of my siblings. I made some friends in the kampung too and I was spoiled rotten by the kids in the kampung because I was this young city girl who was having a vacation in a kampung (not that Alor Setar is REALLY a city haha… but compared to Baling, of course lah! Haha). They gave up their hammock for me whenever I wanted to sit on that hammock, I still remember. After awhile, I felt like that hammock was mine and it was my due to sit on it whenever I felt like it. And they allowed it too. Hahha. I was so bad but they were so nice to me; perhaps because I was the youngest among them. I had a great time in my grandfather’s house even though it was a modest house in the middle of a huge rubber estate.  Until now, I love being amidst a lot of trees and quiet nature … one of the reasons I love hiking was because there were a lot of trees. It was calming to my mind to be in nature and greeneries.

I was really sad that I could not be with him in his last moments. This wasn’t how I envision his passing would be. I wasn’t able to write about this a few months ago when I was still dealing with the grief. But now that I have visited his grave and paid my respect, I feel like writing a tribute about him is how I properly put a closure to this. He was the last grandparent we had…. for a long time, he was  the ONLY grandparent we had (because my other grandparents on my mom’s side had passed away since we were little kids).

And with his passing, I have no grandparents left.

I visited his grave a few days before Eid. A lot of Malays like to visit the graves of their loved ones on the day of Eid itself. Actually, this is not advisable and very much discouraged in Islam. Eid is the day of happiness and victory. It is SUNNAH to be happy on the day of Eid. And therefore I made it a point to NOT visit his grave during Eid and wanted to do it before Eid. All sadness must end with happiness. Eid is for us  to be happy and jovial. Not for us to be sad and disheartened.

But this was our first Eid without our grandfather.

May Allah forgive the sins of my grandfather and bless his soul with mercy and love. And may Allah grant him an abode in paradise. Amiin, Ya Rabb.

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إنَّا ِللهِ وإنَّا إلَيْهِ رَاجِعُوْن  *Innalillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un*
اللَّهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لَهُ وَارْحَمْهُ وَعَافِهِ وَاعْفُ عَنْهُ  *“Allahumma firlahu warhamhu wa`afihi wa`fu`anhu”*

First Day of Eid : The Eid Prayer

As you guys well know, because of the conditional MCO, congregational Eid prayer in the mosque was banned and the Muslims were encouraged to pray at home with their family members.

For Eid, there were only my parents, and the three middle sisters (me, Izati and Alida) as well as my two brother-in-laws (Izati and Alida’s husbands) and Alida’s three children (Ammar, Arissa and Alana) who would be celebrating together. The eldest and the youngest sister were not around as they could not cross the state borders to balik kampung (Kak Long and Wani, you were in our thoughts as we were eating ketupat, rendang and nasi arab. But never fear, our appetite was not affected by your absence regardless of how much we DO miss you. Heheh)

My father is not used to leading any congregational prayer. I think he has some form of performance anxiety about any kind of public speaking or public performance haha. So, he volunteered to perform the post-prayer doa, instead. Zul (Izati’s husband) also refused to lead the congregational prayer and volunteered to read out the khutbah (religious preaching after prayer) instead. So, it was left to Fairuz (Alida’s husband) to lead the congregational prayer because he was the last one to arrive at our makeshift praying area and did not yet volunteer for anything. So we told him that it was his job to lead the prayer because he was late. He was nervous but he did it. (Being late has a pretty dire consequence in the culture of my family. We are all pretty punctual people. But before Covid-19, none of the consequences involved having to be an Imam hahaha)

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But I must admit, it was really FUNNY having someone other than the usual and experienced Imam leading our prayer. We had to bite our lips and suck our cheeks hard to prevent ourselves from laughing hysterically during prayer. It was obvious that Fairuz was NOT used to leading a congregational prayer. It was the shortest Eid prayer I have ever had as Fairuz had only chosen very short Quranic surahs to recite LOL. Understandably, he was quite nervous for suddenly being given this responsibility just because he happened to arrive late at the place of prayer. Adeh.

And my dad’s recitation of the doa were not without some hitches and pauses too. My mom was red in the face as she tried not to burst out laughing. The khutbah however was not bad as it only required Zul to read the text off his handset but a real Imam would have performed it with more calibre, of course.

But all in all, we did it! We completed our Eid congregational prayer on our own well enough for the first time.

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Us praying…. Fairuz leading the congregational prayer, my dad and brother in law in the next row. At the back, from the left, there was me, Izati and my mom in our prayer clothing. Alida could not pray and was taking our picture while we were praying.

I was proud of the men in my family that they had stepped up and were able to perform the task of an imam, bilal and preacher eventually. Unfortunately, I think they knew that us the girls were finding it hard to control our amusement at the back. Alida who could not pray had taken our pictures while we were praying… and was it her voice I heard sputtering with suppressed mirth? She made it so difficult for me to NOT laugh while I was praying. So, I just smiled instead while simultaneously biting my lips hard. Needless to say, it was not a very khusyu’ prayer. Forgive me, oh Allah.

I remembered learning many years ago that smiling or grinning does not invalidate our prayer but I still experienced some niggling doubts about the validity of my prayer (because of my excessive smiling with intermittent lip biting while praying). So, afterwards, to REALLY calm myself down and settle the doubts, I googled whether or not smiling or grinning could invalidate your prayer. Haha. Good news! It didn’t.

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My instagram story Haha

 

First Day of Eid: The ‘Beraya’ Session

In our Malay culture we have what we call as ‘sesi beraya’ in which we would kiss the hands of our parents and hug them while asking for their forgiveness. And then we will repeat the same process with everyone in the family.

I am not entirely sure whether this practice is in the sunnah or not. I am pretty sure it wasn’t something that was specifically done for Eid during the Prophet’s time. I couldn’t recall learning anything like this in the sunnah. But I do know that during Eid, it is Sunnah to greet each other by saying Taqabbal Allahu Minna Wa Minkum (Meaning: May Allah accept the good deeds from us and from you). So that is how I always say in my Eid Mubarak wishes to others. It is easy pahala to follow this sunnah, right? Just say the words as it was said by the Prophet.

(However, the beraya session is not exactly against the Islamic practice. It is just cultural and it happens to be good practice to always ask forgiveness from each other. However please note that asking for forgiveness should be done whenever we make mistakes and this practice should not be allocated only for Raya time as it was not really done this way during the Prophet’s era. Allocating a specific practice for a specific time when it was NOT done by the Prophet could be construed as an innovation in the religion (Bid’ah) and it is very much frowned upon. Just to clarify that! Muslims should practice based on evidence.)

Below are the pictures of our Beraya session, which is also the time we would usually receive our Raya money. As they are my own family members and we have been living together for one week already, we do not practice social distancing with each other in this session because it would be pointless to do it. We have been inter-mingling so freely for many days already.

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And afterwards, we had our family Eid picture taken. We took many variations of the family picture… formal and cheeky ones of various poses were snapped in rapid succession. All of my sisters love posing in front of the camera and when I am with them I tend to get swept along by their excitement of having their pictures taken. I hardly take any picture or selfie when I am by myself but when I am with them I will play along and actually enjoy the process.

 

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As usual, me and the sisters had our indoor and outdoor photoshoot session. This is usually the time when we would miss the other sisters who could not make it for Raya the most. We didn’t miss them that much while eating our Eid food… but during photoshoot session, they were greatly and fondly remembered LOL. The outdoor photoshoot session has been our siblings’s peak Raya moments since we were small children, when we would pose in our new clothes pretending to be a model (without the height or the beauty. Hahah.) It is our siblings’ tradition! It is the pinnacle of what Raya fun is all about in the family.  (Well, this is what you get when all your siblings are girls… no brothers to put us in our place or check our sense of misplaced vanity Hahha.)

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Aggravatingly, my sisters did not think much of my Raya look this year (and ALSO any other year).

Look, I admit, I have never been much of a fashionista. Alida and Izati are the fashion enthusiast of the family. Whenever I shop for clothes, I prioritize comfort, practicality and economy over beauty or brands. If the outfit is TOO MUCH (too sparkly, too flowy, too difficult to iron) chances are I probably would not wear it again. So I won’t buy such an outfit. And as I am also not a frequent kenduri attendee and nor am I a social butterfly, I have no occasion to wear that kind of fancy clothes again. It just does NOT make sense to spend all that money for such an outfit which is only going to be worn once. Might as well I spend it on gold jewelries (I LOVE gold jewelries, guys…which are ALSO sparkly, but practical… something I can accessorize my plain clothes with. And it is an asset that can be easily liquidated should I be desperate for cash. So, I bought them as an investment… at least, that’s what I told myself. And I could never get enough #MamiJarumIsMe hahah. There was one time when I had a patient who was crying as she told me how her drug-addict husband had pawned off all her jewelries. In my mind I was like “Hmm…so, where did you hide his body after you murdered him?” LOL. Okay, just kidding. Please, don’t murder your husband if he took your gold jewelries. But heck, I would feel quite murderous towards those who stole my gold jewelries from me, guys. I am telling you!)

So below is the pic of my Raya #OOTD.

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Alida was like “Kak Ngah, why is it so grey? Why is it so dull? Will you at least wear a bright hijab with it? Wear a red hijab!” 

And then Izati said, “I thought it was cadar, at first.” (Cadar means bedsheet, guys! Bedsheet! How insulting!)

Can you believe my sisters? Hahah.

Of course I had no choice but to defend my outfit by telling them “Hey, this is in trend. My Raya concept is called monochromatic minimalist look. Google it. My sense of style is impeccable” Well, I had to say that, didn’t I? Cannot allow them to think I have a deficient sense of style.

They just rolled their eyes and continued to tell me how my sense of style is no style at all.  The nerve!

Sadly, even my mother did not really like my Raya look. But she was not as blunt as my sisters in criticizing it. I remember when she used to say how difficult it was to shop for my Raya clothes when I was studying overseas because I had so many conditions about my clothing. “No manik, no labuci, not too much flowers or patterns. Preferrably ONLY one colour without any corak. If got embroideries, the colour must be the same colour as the cloth.” My mom would be like “Susah la kak ngah ni. Mana ada orang jual baju raya macam tu. Pakai ja apa yang mak beli!” (At that time, the term “monochromatic minimalist” look was not popular yet so I  came out with all the conditions for my Raya clothes. Obviously, I was ahead of my time (LOL) and did not yet know that the ‘monochromatic minimalist look’ was the words I was looking for as I was describing my taste to my mom 10 years ago. Seriously Raya clothes is getting ridiculous these days. Like my friends had said in one of her Facebook postings “Depa ni jual baju raya ka baju kahwin?” Hahah. We are doctors… we are practical people. If we are going to buy clothes, we want to make sure we can wear it to work too. And as I don’t really wear baju kurung to work, I don’t really like to buy it.)

 

Eid Pot Luck With Beloved Friends

I still remember how sad I had felt when I thought I was probably going to be stuck in a nursing hostel in JB for Eid. Not exactly an uplifting thought that was. Even though I am not the sort of person who gets severely homesick, but I must admit that after MCO was enforced (and therefore I could not return home to pay my last respect to my Tok Wan and neither could I return home once a month as I had first planned when I decided to do my attachments in JB), I started to feel very acutely the bitterness of being separated from my family. I enjoyed the actual postings themselves and learned a lot too but at the same time, I REALLY just wanted to be home. It was a blessing that Gerak Malaysia happened just in time to coincide with my end of posting.

So I felt so sorry for my friends who could not cross borders to be with their family. It must be so difficult for them. I thought it would be nice if I could spend some portion of my 1st and 2nd Syawal with them too and celebrate with them so that they wouldn’t feel so sad or bored. (Because I could be pretty entertaining when I put my mind to it. Hahaha. Excuse my perasan thought.)

On the first day of Syawal, Hafilah organized the makan-makan first for Isma and Dayah, the two friends of ours who could not cross the state borders. We went to Hafilah’s house in the afternoon and had a great chat about how people are stigmatizing doctors and healthcare workers during Eid. I heard that some people did not allow their family members who are health care workers to balik kampung even though they are in the same home town. My God!

In the social media you guys hailed us as heroes. But at the same time, you don’t want us around you for Raya even though we are in the same home town as you? This is ridiculous. Thank God my family is not like that. And if they are like that, I have all the facts and figures to correct their stigma. (Statistically speaking, the public have a higher chance of contracting Covid-19 compared to health care workers, ok! We wear our PPE all the time while attending to patients. Whereas the public can ALSO contract Covid-19 while doing their grocery shopping without wearing proper PPE and they wouldn’t even realize it. The head of the family could return home after shopping and bring back the virus to the rest of the family members too; just like the health care workers could bring back the virus to her family. But unlike the public, the health care workers are super vigilant about hygiene and using the PPE. So in terms of risks, we are not that different. In fact I would argue that the public have even worse risk when we look at the statistics. There are not many front-liners or healthcare workers who are infected with Covid-19.  What makes you think that you are less risky to your parents than your family members who are health care workers, then?)

Anyway, after that hot discussion, we took some outdoor pictures while still maintaining social distancing. Below are some of the pictures that we took while doing our Eid visit at Hafilah’s home. Please note how we maintained our social distancing while taking our Raya pics hahha

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On the 2nd Day of Syawal, it was my turn to organize a Pot Luck party for Isma and Dayah. Hafilah and Isma requested that I cook the meal myself as I have always jokingly told them how my cooking skill is not so bad. I told them that I cooked very tasty nasi goreng and my Pek Nga is just out of this world. Haha. They were like “Prove it, Afiza. Words are cheap!” 

I told them “Takkan raya nak makan nasi goreng!” I wanted to just order something for my Pot Luck party. But they wanted me to prove that I could cook. Hahah. I regretted boasting about my cooking… because it REALLY was a boast.

So I decided to cook bihun goreng instead. And then I bought some chickens from KFC to eat with my bihun goreng. I also bought carbonated drinks (Pepsi, because I couldn’t find Coke in the gas station shop), to have with my bihun goreng, brownies and kek lapis Sarawak. (Bihun goreng with Coca-Cola have always been my favourite kind of pairing. I still remember how I had insisted that I want bihun goreng and Coca-Cola for my Majlis Khatam Quran when I was a child. My mom was horrified when she said “Kak Ngah, majlis khatam Quran orang buat pulut kuning dgn air sirap. Mana ada orang buat bihun dengan Coca-Cola. Ish, mak hairan la dengan kak ngah ni.” Hahha. But I was so adamant about getting bihun goreng and Coca Cola because I felt like they should give me what I liked to eat as this was a celebration of my achievement. My dad finally said that I should get what I wanted and so my mom gave in eventually. And really, all the kids in my surau enjoyed the meal too. They said it was the best meal they had ever had for a Majlis Khatam Quran. So, when I chose to cook Bihun Goreng for my Pot Luck contribution, I was also reminiscing my glorious childhood days in which I could get away with doing something weird and against the norm but it turned out splendidly well, anyway. Seriously, who made it a rule that for khatam Quran, you MUST have pulut kuning? Where is it written anywhere that we cannot change our menu if we don’t like pulut kuning? Hahha. But really, looking back, I was blessed to have my parents who entertained my weird ways. Even though they were pretty strict parents, in some ways they were quite indulgent.)

I hosted my Pot Luck at my own house instead of at my parents’ house because I wanted to minimize the risk of unnecessary contact with strangers for my elderly parents and my nieces and nephews. Before this, all types of Raya gatherings were hosted at my parents’ house with very minimal effort on my part as everything was cooked and prepared by my mother and we only helped out here and there. This was the first time I  entertained my own guests in my own house and prepared everything myself. It was pretty hard work, guys. After the Subuh prayer, I straightaway came down to the kitchen to prepare my Bihun and only THEN I really appreciated how effortful it is to organize a party. (I felt like such an adult hahah. And it took Covid-19 MCO for me to volunteer as a host. Without MCO, I would never have done it). 

To tell you the truth, I am not the sort of person who entertain people in my own house. When I want to hang out with friends, I find ways that we can hang out and talk with very minimal effort on my part. Let’s just go out and eat and talk. Simple and less time-consuming and more efficient, right? Minimal input that yields the best output!

For me to invite you into the privacy of my own home, you must be pretty close to me. For me to be going through all these efforts, Isma and Dayah must be feeling pretty special (Hahahaa just kidding) I don’t do these sort of things for just anyone, you know. And it might not happen again in the future LOL. So I hope they really had a good time because I certainly did. God knows when I would be hosting again. Next time, I am more likely to just ask them to choose a restaurant instead.

Izati and Alida were like, “Since when are you so sweet to cook for your friends?”

See? Inilah hikmah Covid-19! It brings out the dormant sweet nature in me into the open. Haha.

Dayah and Isma brought so much more food and they were all yummy. There were lontong, kuah kacang, ketupat pulut, ketupat nasi, daging palembang (sedap gila this one!) and a lot of kuih raya too.  Hafilah brought ice cubes because I forgot that I didn’t have them in my house (Alas, a great host, I am NOT).

Below are the pics of our Pot Luck party. In one of the pictures, you can see Hafilah and Dayah eating durian at the front door of my house. They insisted to buy Durian and eat them straightaway. I was like “Please eat your durian by the front door to minimize the smell of it in the air inside the house. After you eat, please throw everything in the bin outside the house.” Hahahaa. (I know I am a terrible host. But that is the beauty of an intimate gathering between ONLY close friends… straight talking is expected and encouraged. Me and Isma are not a fan of Durian. We could eat it occasionally, but we do not like it THAT much. The smell of Durian can be migraine-inducing for Isma. Adeh! But see how we can tolerate our friends’ habits when our friends are worth tolerating? I have my own bad habits that I am sure they have been tolerating pretty patiently all these while. They keep saying I am pretty rigid haha. Thank God for friends who are understanding and accepting of you but at the same time will improve your manners and call you out when you slack off. We all need that type of friends.)

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A trip to Poh Kong And Habib Jewels

Ah… we lose to temptation, guys. We surrendered to the lure of the Raya sales.

Dayah is a fan of gold jewelries too. And I think Isma was heavily influenced (or peer-pressured? haha) by Dayah and me to take an interest in gold too. Whereas Hafilah is more into white-gold, platinum and diamond kind of jewelries. (Well, Hafilah exists at another level altogether with a lot more money to burn than the rest of us hahah.)

So when we found out that Habib Jewels got sales, we went to Aman Central to check it out. #TheTemptationIsTooGreat

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See how excited Isma, Dayah and Hafilah were as they were looking over the jewelry pieces that were displayed so enticingly to tempt us.

Dayah and Isma bought something from Habib Jewels. And I bought something from Poh Kong. We think of it as #InvestmentDuringCov-Eid, in order to soothe the guilt and justify our spending.

Usually, I am not the type who goes to the mall on the day of Eid. But it so happened that because of Covid-19, there were no houses to visit and there really was not much to do at home. At the same time my birthday was just one day before Eid. So, my parents had given me some money as a birthday gift so that I could buy a nice handbag with it. However, since I knew that Habib Jewels got sales, I wasn’t too keen to spend money on handbags. Like I said, I am NOT a fashionista and I am NOT brand conscious. I am not going to spend so much money on branded handbags and I’d rather use the birthday money to buy gold jewelries. (There are only two things I really like as a gift: books and gold. A meal is lovely too. You know, I like practical stuff that I can use or consume Hahha). 

Some people think that it is high-maintenance of us to spend money on gold jewelries. As though we are materialistic. That is so short-sighted! Gold is the only easily-liquidated asset that is worth buying. Gold could see you through bad times. When desperate, it can be pawned off immediately with minimal fuss or paperwork and it can sustain you for quite some time. No other investment is easily liquidated like that.

I will NOT spend money on brands…. I think people who are brand-conscious are the real high-maintenance people. Not us, gold lovers. I prefer to spend money on things that are INHERENTLY and INTRINSICALLY valuable; not because the society says it is valuable… but because it just REALLY is. When something is inherently valuable, its worth will be INDEPENDENT of other people’s opinions and thoughts and its value will stand the test of time. Can you say the same thing for fashion brands? No! Brands are dependent on society’s opinions and people’s tastes and the society’s constant fickle-mindedness. And they are NOT intrinsically and inherently valuable. (Therefore when I have to spend my money on other things – that are NOT gold and NOT knowledge/travel/experience and NOT food hahha – I am very stingy and I always stick to the principles of ‘sekadar cukup’)

So when I got home and showed my parents what I bought, my dad was like “Awat tak beli handbag?” Hahaha. Maybe he also despaired of my lack of style and wanted to induce me to buy something nice other than gold. But ah… old habit dies hard, guys. I would probably buy a handbag as my father had asked me to do if there was no Habib Jewel sales. But the timing was just too coincidental… it was Raya and it was my birthday and there were sales at jewelry shops. See? The stars were perfectly aligned to induce my manic buying. LOL. And look, it was peer pressure as well…Dayah and Isma bought gold too (even though I bought it first at Poh Kong hahah. So maybe it was I who pressure them?) So the element of peer pressure was very real this time when everyone in the group is into gold. (Well… when your action cannot be justified, you blame peer pressure. Classic, am I not? 😉 )

So…anyway, despite Covid, it was actually a pretty happy Eid, guys. Alhamdulillah for the happiness of having awesome family and friends that Allah surrounds me with. After the despair of possibly not being able to come home for Eid, this was a great blessing, indeed.

Book of The Month

Of course the book of the month I will be writing about is The Quran as we have just exited the month of Ramadhan and is currently in the early days of Syawal. I spent my whole Ramadhan only reading the Quran because I did not have much time to read anything else.

This review is a simple review for the non-Muslims who may not know that much about the Quran and would like to have a general idea of what the Quran is.

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Quran is the word of God

As a Muslim kid, it was my mother who first taught me how to read the Quran. I was 5 years old when she started teaching me how to spell in Arabic. Later, I was sent to the local surau to learn my Quranic recitation with an ustazah. I was pretty good at tajweed and I was among the fluent ones who were later asked by the ustazah to teach the younger kids. It was common practice back then for the fluent senior reciters to help teach the more junior reciters especially when the ustazah was busy.

But I didn’t understand what I was so fluently reading.

Because the Quran is in Arabic.

The peculiar thing about being a non-Arab Muslim is that it will be hard for us to understand what we are reciting of the Quran without reading the translation, unless we have learned the Arabic language. (And 80% of Muslims are NOT Arabs. Arabs are the minority among Muslims). We can read the Arabic text of the Quran and articulate the words the way they were supposed to be articulated, but not all of us understand the meanings of what we are reciting.

It is like knowing how to spell and read in Hindi and knowing how to make all the sounds that correspond to the combination of alphabets in the Hindi language but you do not understand a single thing of what you are saying. Well, imagine being able to read out the lyrics of a Hindi song that is written in the Hindi language but you could not understand what you are singing.  (It is a bit like receptive aphasia. You read it and say it perfectly right because you had known how the combination of the alphabets SHOULD sound, but you cannot know what all the sounds mean without reading the translation).

This is due to the fact that non-Arab Muslims MUST learn Quranic recitation in its original Arabic language because our 5 daily worships and some of our special do’a are in arabic. Our worships are not valid in any other language. So the arabic language is the lingua franca in our prayers. Everyone recite the same surah Al-Fatihah for prayers and everything in the prayer is standardized by the usage of the Arabic language. So if I go to a mosque in Australia, or in the UK or Uganda, or Spain, or just anywhere on earth, I can just join the congregational prayer as usual because the prayer is the same anywhere on earth. All of us might come from various different nationalities, but we all pray using the same unified language of worship – the Arabic language. An Ugandan Imam can lead the prayer for other nationalities behind him and they all would know what to say and what to do while the prayer was being led by the Ugandan Imam because we ALL use the lingua franca of worship while performing our worship – i.e. the Quranic Arabic language.

That’s why my brother-in-law can be an Imam to lead our congregational prayer when we had to do our Eid prayer at home (even though he did appear and sound a bit awkward when he did it hahaha). Because all Muslims practice the same way in worshipping…. and therefore anyone can take over the job of leading a prayer if they are confident enough or when desperate times call for their lead. I can lead a prayer too when I am just praying among girls because the words in the prayer are standardized in Arabic. And anyone can do it. (In Australia, me and my housemates took turn leading the Terawih prayers during Ramadhan. Initially, we did laugh at each other’s awkwardness and choice of short surahs. But by the end of Ramadhan, we did actually improve our performance.)

At the end of our standard worship, we can later add on our own specific do’a and our own special prayer/requests to God in our own language – this is the non-obligatory part of the worship where we can have our own unique style of making the do’a and use our own words for it. This is the part where we naturally talk to God in our own way. (In the past, this is the part where I would pray hard that God let me pass all my exams. Haha)

I have explained before, that access to God is granted equally to all Muslims. There is no such a thing as an extra holy practice for the scholars compared to the non-scholar Muslims. So everyone can be an Imam when we have to… and Covid-19 Pandemic has highlighted that part beautifully. We just need to practice more to be less awkward in performing it.

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This is hilarious! Haha.

The Quran still exists in its original Arabic language word-by-word without a single alteration…because we always use it in our daily lives when we are performing our 5 daily worships… and this has been going on for the past 1400 years. The continuity of the tradition is amazing. Arabic is an alive language and is still used very widely (unlike Sanskrit, Latin, Greek, Aramaic… they are no longer that frequently used in conversation or in anything academic. Language that are no longer used will eventually become a dead language. Languages that have become a dead language will not be efficient in transmitting information. So, for any holy book that has its original form existing in a dead language, the knowledge transmission cannot be widely distributed to all practitioners and thus only very few real scholars can access the message of the book and the majority of non-scholars will be left in the dark. Furthermore, translations are full of limitations… and the accuracy of any translation cannot be guaranteed. Have you tried translating any text from one language to another before? I had to do a lot of article translation as a child because that was how my father taught me and my siblings our English and Malay… it can be frustrating when you cannot translate the text just right because of the limitation that is inherent in one language or the other.)

So, understanding the meaning of what we utter in Arabic would require some extra effort for non-Arabs. We must read the translation in order to know what we are saying. But at least we do know that the Arabic language is  still a very alive language and therefore Quranic messages are still preserved in its pristine and unchanged form and the messages are accessible to all the Arabs and also to the non-Arabs who have studied the language.

So whenever I read the Quran during Ramadhan… I have to be really efficient with my time because I need to do double the work; I have to read the Arabic text first (to get the pahala of reciting the Quran in its original form) before going on to read the translation of the Quran (to understand the meaning and the message, which would also give you pahala). So I was pretty much in a rush to finish the Quran during Ramadhan, knowing that I have more work to do because I don’t know Arabic. (I become even more particular about not wanting people to waste my time when I am in the month of Ramadhan.)

When I was just a child, I only read the Arabic version without really feeling like I need to know the meaning of the Quran. I only memorized the translations of some of the frequently used surahs during prayer but I did not bother to know the meanings of the ENTIRE Quran. However while I was doing my IB study as an 18 year old teenager, I finally felt like it was time for me to know the message of the entire Quran. This sudden interest started after my ex-classmate passed away in a car accident. It made me think a bit deeper about life when she passed away. And since then, I always read the Quran in Arabic together with its translation. I started to read the Malay translation first and later on, I moved on to the English translation too (I must admit that I prefer the English one for accuracy)

It was then that I knew how ridiculous it was for any Muslim to NOT know the message of the entire Quran and only reciting them in Arabic. Sure, you will still get the pahala of reciting the Quran in its original language, but in terms of understanding the text and the context of the Quran, how is it different from me singing Hindi songs without knowing what I was singing?

Looking back, I felt like the ustazah in my surau should have insisted that all the kids use the Quran with translations included. It would have been nice to have learned the meanings of the Quran while simultaneously learning my Quranic recitation in Arabic as a child. Children can absorb language pretty fast and I wonder if I could have obtained a more intuitive understanding of the Arabic language if I was exposed to the meaning of the Quran much sooner.

When you read the Quran, you will find that it is not the same as reading a story book. The structure of the Quran is entirely unique and it doesn’t follow the chronological order of the usual book. There were no words like “Once upon a  time… in the beginning…” 

Nope! Instead, when you read the Quran you really DO feel like it is God who is directly talking to you. Because the Quran is the instruction of God to our prophet. God was instructing, advising, directing, calming and soothing Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in many different contexts and situations. God directly told our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on what to tell the masses whenever a specific question was asked. So our Prophet only repeated what God had said to him.

So when you read the Quran, you will find words that are instructive and conversational in nature. God himself taught Prophet Muhammad how to answer it when people asked him about the nature of God by revealing these four sentences from Surah Al-Ikhlas.

1)Say (O Muhammad) “He is Allah, the One and Only (Unique)”

2)Allah, the Eternal Refuge

3)He begets not, nor was he begotten

4) And none is comparable to him

So in the above sentences we knew that it was God’s own words telling our Prophet (PBUH) how to answer his audience about the nature of God. We really do feel like we are reading the words of God. So we don’t get passive storybook sentences like “One day, God told Muhammad regarding how he should describe the nature of God to those who had asked. Muhammad was informed by God to say that the nature of God is that God is uniquely One, and does not beget a son nor is He begotten. Muhammad was also asked to emphasize to the masses that none can be compared to Him….”

Do you see the difference? Storybook sentences are a retelling by someone else who is NOT God. You feel like you are reading the words of a NARRATOR instead of God, Himself. And this is NOT how Quran’s language style is. Quran’s language style is God’s own words. And we repeat them in our daily prayers 5 times a day. Amazing, isn’t it?!

So if you read the Quran expecting to read it like you are reading a story book, you probably wouldn’t get it. You would be confused at first. Take it from me… I was confused too when I first tried to read the translations of the Quran. Because my mind was so used to the usual storybook style and structure that I was quite disoriented at first. But as I continued to read it, I was blown away. I was REALLY reading God’s words… not the words of a narrator retelling a story. I was reading from the direct source; from God himself.

Now that I have passed all my exams, I am quite free with my time. I am thinking that maybe I should start learning Arabic so that my recitation will be more efficient. If I am good in Arabic, I don’t have to do double the work anymore or read everything twice in order to understand the meanings. If any of you have any recommendation of a good Arabic class nearby in Alor Setar, do let me know. Otherwise, I might need to do it online.

The contents of the Quran consisted of 114 chapters and each chapter (except one: Chapter At-Taubah) begins with the words Bismillahhirahmanirrahim which is translated to “In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful”.

In general, the Quran contained topics such as:

  • The Nature of the Spiritual World
  • The Law and Commandments
  • Historical Accounts
  • The Wisdom
  • The Prophecies

When you read the original Arabic version, you will get a sense as though you are reading an epic poem because the sentences rhymed beautifully in the end. When translated into other languages, the rhyme and rhythm are lost to give way for accuracy of meaning in another language. That is the limitation of understanding the Quran from translations. And that is why we need to learn Arabic if we have the means and the time to do it.

Wish me luck, won’t you?

I hope you guys have a sense of what Quran is all about by reading the review above. Do check it out as it is very easily accessible. Even Popular Bookstore sells the Quran.

Until next time, my dear readers.

Eid Mubarak. Taqabbal Allahu Minna Wa Minkum. Much love and may Allah bless all of us.

Ramadhan In The Midst of Covid-19

Dear readers,

I hope it is not too late for me to wish everyone a good Ramadhan (Covid-19 not withstanding) even though we are already in our 9th day of fasting (which means we have entered the 2nd week of the fasting month. Well, I guess, it IS a bit late for a Ramadhan wish LOL)

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You know, I have this ideal image in my mind of how a dedicated blogger should behave and run her blog. In my mind, a good and dedicated blogger should always write a blog post for every occasion and every celebration that is currently going on, right on time. Maybe she should publish a blog post wishing happy new year right on the eve of the new year day, and writes about Ramadhan on the first day of Ramadhan… or wishes all her readers Eid Mubarak on the eve of Eid itself. The blogger should also always be au courant with all the latest issues and write about it as soon as possible when the news is still hot.

Well…

I guess, I am never gonna be a dedicated blogger. LOL

I even failed to keep my promise to write one blog post per month as I didn’t write a single one in the month of April. Life is so hectic right now. *sigh* (One day, maybe…I will write about why April 2020 was such a bad month for me. But, Alhamdulillah ala kulli hal)

I will try to make up for it by writing twice this month, but since we have established the fact that I am not a dedicated blogger, I will not hold it against you if you find it hard to believe that I will write another one this month. I am finding it hard to believe myself. But I am thinking that maybe, Insya Allah, I will write one for Eid at the end of May and spam this blog with a lot of Eid photos of the family (even though some of my siblings won’t be around due to the banning of interstate travel during MCO. Ah… my heart breaks! I will miss playing our usual Raya games with my nephews and nieces.)

But Ramadhan is a month of blessing (even with the prospect of a less celebratory Raya in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic.) Some of my non-Muslim friends think that Muslims suffer so much throughout Ramadhan when actually, Ramadhan is not that hard. It is just like delayed gratification when you think about it. It was just about missing lunch, folks. It wasn’t THAT physically exhausting. So please don’t feel uncomfortable or apologize for eating your lunch in front of any Muslim because I don’t mind at all and most Muslims don’t either. The test of Ramadhan is not physical. And even if it is a physical test, it is a beneficial one as fasting brings a lot of health benefits as well. Intermittent fasting is all the rage and so trendy these days.

The test of Ramadhan is spiritual and psychological – which to me personally, is the same thing. (I cannot separate my psychological being from my spiritual being. Is there any REAL distinction between the two, anyway? Argument is still on going regarding this. I would argue that for religious people at least, they are one and the same. Psychiatry is translated as Perubatan Jiwa! Jiwa, ok! Can refer to the mind or the soul or BOTH! I personally make no distinction between my psychological health and my spiritual health. If there is any distinction, it is purely academic rather than practical. There’s a lot of semantics in studying Psychiatry, to those who don’t know.)

The purpose of fasting is to attain righteousness and God consciousness (taqwa). At the end of Ramadhan, it is not REALLY Eid that you get as a gift (even though Eid IS pretty awesome.) It is taqwa… having God consciousness. That is why Ramadhan is not a physical test. It is spiritual and/or psychological in nature.

fasting taqwa

The only thing that can cause you to restrain yourself from eating from dawn till dusk for 30 days straight when nobody is looking… is taqwa. That’s it.

If you VOLUNTARILY forego your food and drinks when no one is there to witness your action, it is because you truly believe that God is around and sees what you do. Otherwise why would you even bother? Young Muslim kids who first learn how to fast sometimes secretly break their fast when no one is looking because their concept of God is not perfect yet. (I admit that I also secretly ate as a child. *walk of shame* haha) As these kids mature and attain God consciousness, they believe that God sees them even when no one is around and therefore they fast properly and no longer cheat by eating secretly. Throughout the day as they experience thirst and hunger, their bodies remind them on and off to eat and drink, to disobey Allah…. But their minds tell them to hold on and wait until Maghrib, to delay that gratification. As they mature into their adulthood, they will fill up their Ramadhan not only with just proper fasting but also Quranic reading and non-obligatory worshipful acts on top of the obligatory ones. And for each subsequent Ramadhan, they continue to improve their performance and increase their worship of Allah, attaining taqwa gradually but surely throughout their lives. This constant need to improve their taqwa continues until the day they breathe their last air. They grow in piety… from a young Muslim kid who would secretly eat when no one is looking… to an elderly person who would cry when they are told by their doctor not to fast because their physical health does not allow it.

That is what Ramadhan means to Muslims. Taqwa. God consciousness.

So please don’t think that Ramadhan is about food and Bazaar Ramadhan only. Haha. We are not THAT hungry that we are so hung up about food. I had one Chinese colleague when I was a houseman who asked me “So you guys fast during the day, and then eat the whole night long, is it?” Hahaha. Apparently, they believe that we suffer so much during Ramadhan that we will make up for it by eating the whole night long until Subuh. But that is not true guys. After breaking our fast, we immediately perform our Maghrib prayer, Isya prayer, Terawih prayer, and then we will go to sleep early because we need to wake up early for other night prayers later on, as well as for sahoor (the early morning breakfast before the Subuh prayer). And of course, we work and study as usual during Ramadhan. When would we have the time to eat all night long? LOL.

But can’t really blame them for thinking that we behave like a hungry piranha during Ramadhan. The culture of Ramadhan in Malaysia unfortunately revolves around food…. Where else can you get so many open houses invitation a whole month long after Ramadhan other than in Malaysia? I don’t think such a culture exists in other Muslim countries. Based on my experience in Australia, the Arabs in Newcastle mosque only broke their fast with dates and some bread and then they would rush to perform their Maghrib prayer, leaving the Malaysian students still eating our rice and chicken to our hearts’ satisfaction. Hahaha. (Tak sanggup nak buka puasa with only dates. I need my rice, man! So that I can concentrate better in my Maghrib prayer. Hahha. So my eating rice is also for the sake of my prayer, right? Justified, isn’t it? 😛 )

Other people in other countries only celebrate Eid for one day and then they immediately start their 6 days Syawal fasting  (Puasa Enam). In Malaysia, you have to plan your Puasa Enam properly so that your fasting won’t coincide with various open house events around you… because even though fasting is supposed to be easy after one month of doing it, it is not so easy outside Ramadhan when every one of your friends seems to be attending daily food party all month long hahaha. And the fact that Puasa Enam is not compulsory, it makes it hard to deal with the temptation.

So you see, Malaysians are passionate about food. And therefore our Ramadhan culture is a bit skewed towards food-related concerns.

It is not so in other countries.

Ramadhan Is About The Quran

Actually Ramadhan is about the Quran rather than the food or the actual physical fasting.

Because the Quran was revealed in the month of Ramadhan.

When I was in Australia, I witnessed how the Arab Muslims carried the Quran all day long (at that time, we didn’t yet have smartphones with Quranic App) and would read the Quran cover to cover throughout Ramadhan. They read the Quran in any spare time that they got… while waiting for the bus, in between classes, a few minutes after the five obligatory prayers and so on and so forth. (Most Malays confine the reading of the Quran to when they are properly at home, wearing their prayer clothing and sitting on their prayer mat before they proceed to open the Quran. The shy Malays prefer to read the Quran in the privacy of their own home or in the mosque rather than publicly. But I think this self-imposed limitation is unwise and inefficient, especially in the month of Ramadhan when time is precious and we might not have enough private time to finish reading the Quran in Ramadhan. So, just discreetly read it on your phone when you have some spare time in between your daily activities. More efficient use of your time, right?)

Most Muslims will try to read the whole Quran in that month to celebrate what Ramadhan means in relation to the Quran. How many religious people in other religions can claim that they have read their religious book cover to cover in their lifetime, let alone reading it cover to cover every year? Most people only pick and choose which verse from their religious scriptures to read and practice. But Muslims cannot do that. The knowledge of the Quran is revealed for the whole of humankind in its entirety. It is not only for the scholars of Islam… but FOR ALL.

People think that being a Muslim is difficult. Like, Islam is too strict. They should read their own religious scriptures and try to follow them all before thinking that Islam is too strict… some of the religious practice in other scriptures are even harder to follow and therefore most of them simply abandon the practice to the priests or monks of their religion. But really… it doesn’t make their religion easier than Islam just because they don’t practice what they are supposed to practice were they to properly follow their own scriptures.

In this month of Ramadhan, I wish people would understand that Islam is not that hard as people had perceived. It appears hard in comparison to other religion because they DO NOT practice their own religion the way it is outlined in their own religious scriptures. Read your own scriptures cover to cover. Go and truly immerse yourself in your own religious book. And come back and tell me… can you follow the rules in your religion? Regular Muslims like me follow what is outlined in the Quran, which by your standard is too strict. But as strict as it is, it HAS been followed by the majority of practicing Muslims all over the world. As strict as it is, it is doable to most practicing Muslims. In fact the difference between one Muslim to another is only in scholarship status, not in religious practice.

For example, an ustazah and other Muslim women who are not ustazah are BOTH required to pray, fast, and do all the practices in Rukun Islam…and they are all required to wear the hijab regardless of whether they are a religious scholar or not (So, not following the compulsory rules is a sin… not just for the ustazah but for everyone). There is no particular set of dressing just for the ustazah and another type of dressing for the non-scholar Muslim women. Whereas in many other religions, priests/monks/nuns have their own kind of dressing (Nuns wear differently, covering their whole body including their head, than other Christian women who are not nuns, for example. Monks also wear differently than the rest of the non-Monks even when they practice the same religion). In Islam… there is no such a thing. The rules are THE SAME for everyone, scholars or not.

In Islam, one might be a religious scholar, one might be a doctor, one might be an engineer, one might be a cleaner… but when it comes to religious practices, we are the same. A pious cleaner might have a higher status in the eyes of Allah because of her diligence and good deeds compared to the ustazah. It’s just that the ustazah has more depth of the intricate and detailed knowledge about the religion because that is her area of study. But in terms of religious practices, there is no such a thing as one set of practice for the scholars, and another set of practice for the regular guy and girl. Anyone can work towards attaining a higher status in the eyes of Allah by increasing their level of piety. In that sense, we are all equal regardless of our worldly status. The most noble among us is the ones who are most righteous (having taqwa/God consciousness)… not the ones who are most scholarly, or possessing a certain type of skin color, or having a certain social status. Caste system…. well, we don’t recognize that in Islam and we frown upon it wholeheartedly and unreservedly.

Equal

 

Our Imams do not need to forgo marriage or sexual intercourse in order to be an Imam. He is an Imam by the virtue of him having studied the religion and becoming an Islamic scholar… not because he is required to do some extra practice or has to commit to some vows or rituals that other Muslim men don’t have to do. Just like any other Muslim men who are not Imams, the Imams can have sexual intercourse too within the bounds of marriage. Again, no difference in religious practice or religious rules… only in scholarly knowledge (which anyone can decide to pursue if they want to).

There is no requirement in Islam that you need to seclude yourself in some temple, and shave off your head, or eat vegetarian diet, and dress in plain cloth in order to be recognized as extra-pious or extra-holy compared to other people in the same religion as you. Imam or not, we all must pray five times a day. Ulama or not, you are not allowed to eat pork. Mufti or not, you have to pay your zakat and perform the Hajj pilgrimage. Ustazah or not, we all have to wear modest clothing (The rule is for every woman. Those who do not follow the rule KNOW that it is a sin regardless of whether she is an ustazah or not). See? Our practices are  the same regardless of whether you are a scholar (ulama) or not. There is no such a thing as one rule for the scholars, and a more relaxed, more convenient rule for a non-scholar person. Access to a better relationship with Allah is by STANDARDIZED practice and worship… and ANYONE can access that relationship without having to go through any intermediary in the form of a scholar.

The scholar can be challenged if he says the wrong thing. There is no such a thing as “I have had this divine dream… because I have better access to God than you guys, the regular people. You guys must follow what my dream says. It is God’s inspiration for me.” Nope! No way! By the time Prophet Muhammad passed away, all divine revelation had ceased coming. He was the last messenger and Al-Quran is the last divine scripture for all humankind. If something is not in the Quran or in the Hadeeth, then it is not evidence-based (not scripture-based) and it can be challenged by anyone. We can demand proof and textual evidence from the scholar before we are obligated to follow their opinions. (In fact, those who use their dreams and mystic practices to falsely elevate their status among people…usually belong to some religious cults that have nothing to do with Islam.)

This is what I love about Islam. It makes sense. It celebrates our natural human inclination. Absolute obedience is only to Allah and the teaching of the Prophet. And the rule is THE SAME for everyone, regardless of their level of scholarship in the religion. And everyone has equal access to God regardless of their level of scholarship. They just have to be willing to perform the worship and that’s it! Access granted! The only difference between us in the eyes of Allah is our level of piety.

So again, is Islam that hard or difficult? How can you say that when regular non-scholar Muslims like me can practice in the same manner that a scholar Ustazah/Ulama/Imam does? Again, just because you don’t perform everything that your scriptures told you to do and leave them to only be practiced by the priests, the monks, the nuns and the extra-holy among you… doesn’t mean Islam is a difficult religion. Think about it.

If you ever find something that doesn’t make sense, search further. Either the fact is wrong, the context is inaccurate, or the reasoning is manipulated by parties who have some conflict of interests. Or maybe the fact is right but it doesn’t make sense to you because you do not have the knowledge yet that will make it sensible to you. It’s okay… just keep on researching until you are satisfied.

Because the older I get, the more I realize that our knowledge is limited and we have to continue learning for the rest of our lives. In order for us to be so convinced that anything that does not make sense to us is not true… then we must be confident that we have all the relevant knowledge to come to that conclusion. But we do NOT have all the knowledge… and things may not make sense to us because we are just stupid in that particular topic. Haha. And therefore, we have to learn continuously.

As a child, I couldn’t wait to grow up so that I wouldn’t have to go to school anymore. Haha. I thought adult life was fun and easy without having to learn so many things. Now, we all know better. Adult life is just a different level of difficulty.  So… I have resigned myself to continuous learning till the day I die. My formal learning is my medical/psychiatry training and that is still on-going (Ah… penat dah dengan formal learning actually. But persistence is a virtue, and that is what I am doing. Being persistent LOL). But my informal learning is the fun one…. The fiction, the non-fiction, the documentaries, the travel, the volunteerism, the experience. I live for those stuff. I work and receive my salary so that I can spend that salary on my informal learning. That’s why I am so particular about time… I need enough time to pursue my informal learning. That’s why I have never done a single locum in my entire life as a doctor. Outside office hours… is my own time for me to pursue other non-medical stuff. Not gonna spend that time doing locums, LOL.

The fact is, our non-professional life sustains our professional life.

If you abandon your non-professional life, prepare for your professional life to suffer as well. If you love your professional life, please take care of your non-professional life. If my professional life (not the psychiatry part, but the admin part and the technical bureaucratic, red tape part) diminishes my non-professional life (family, principles, ideals, causes I care about, my other interests), I will abandon my professional life eventually. If my professional life oppresses my ideals or my principles, I will walk away from it with no regrets after having done a risk-benefit assessment in my head.

Read the excerpts below on why it is so important to have other passions in your life.

A study of self-reported success and personal satisfaction by Garfinkel et al (2001) found that:

  • the perception that one’s non-professional life sustained professional life was the one lifestyle characteristic that predicted the perception of success
  • the best predictor of personal satisfaction was overall satisfaction with non-professional aspects of life.

Roberts (1997) makes the following observation:

When asked, “What would you like to do if you were not practising medicine?” doctors come up with an amazing range of activities and enthusiasms which for the most part have nothing to do with helping people. The challenge is not to see these as alternatives, but to make space for them to complement and invigorate our work.

We need to look after ourselves, yet we frequently neglect even the most basic considerations of exercise, diet, relaxation and play. It has been my experience in running burnt-out workshops for doctors that less than one in four (sometimes none) of those attending is satisfied with how they look after themselves. Those that are tend to have an established inner discipline such as meditation or prayer.’

So, this is the take home message that I am going to repeat; “Our non-professional life sustains our professional life.” Remember that. (It just so happens that I am one of the lucky ones who ALSO happen to love my professional life. Alhamdullillah, Allah placed me in a field I love.)

Ramadhan Series

In the spirit of Ramadhan, I would like to recommend to you guys to watch this Ramadhan series on Angels by Imam Omar Suleiman on You Tube. I love this series. The video is only 3-5 minutes per episode. And  they will post one episode per day for each day of the Ramadhan month on You Tube. You can even watch it in between your Terawih prayer when you feel a bit tired and need to freshen up before continuing on with your night worship. Below is the trailer for the series.

I also would like to share with you guys one of the best Sami Yusuf’s songs that I absolutely adore especially during Ramadhan. This song reminds me that many people truly suffer in the most unimaginable ways especially in other parts of the world and in war-torn countries… and my little, puny, insignificant struggle in life is really just that! Puny! Little and insignificant!

May Allah forgive me for my occasional lack of gratitude whenever I whine over something paltry.

Books of The Month

Because April was such a hectic month for me, I was only able to read two books. That is pathetic by my previous standard. Gosh… adulting means not having enough time for the fun pursuit in life even though you can now afford to pay for that pursuits.

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So the first book that I read in April is The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom which I bought in Popular at a Blockbuster price of MYR19.90. (And a hard cover book with such a price is a rare find in Popular. I was lucky!)

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I have read plenty of Mitch Albom’s books and if you are familiar with him, you would know that he is quite thoughtful and philosophical. He would compromise believability of plots to enhance a philosophical idea. In this case, the narrator is Music! Haha. You know how when we were a primary school student, we were asked to write a short anthropomorphically-narrated essay such as “Saya sebatang pensel.” Well, in this case, the narrator is a Musical Talent (an anthropomorphic narrator), telling a story about someone he had bestowed some of his ‘musical soul’ to, named Frankie Presto. Musical Talent had watched over Frankie Presto since the day he was born because Frankie was his so-called disciple, performing music to the audience. So the life of Frankie Presto was told from the point of view of Musical Talent. A lot of flashback techniques and jumps between timeline went on in the narrative. Through the life of Frankie Presto, the author carried us through the music industry in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s…and further. We get to meet Elvis Presley, and many other great musicians that Frankie Presto had collaborated with (whose names I don’t bother to commit to memory because I am not into music of that era and quite unfamiliar with them).

Do I like this book? Well… I give it 2.5 out of 5 stars.

I like the language style… some of the sentences are musical and lyrical. Some of the contents in this book stir your mind, but that is one of my issues with this book. They only STIR your mind… rather than PROVOKE it.  Only by provoking my mind will an author TRULY engage my interest. And I am the sort of person who prioritize plot over anything else… if the plot is average, no amount of dressing up with flowery languages will make up for it. I am the sort of person who needs certain closure, neatness and believability in my plots, you know. Sure, I like reading about magic or fantasy… I read Harry Potter as a kid too. But Harry Potter books have got a proper plot development. There is a proper setting, a conflict, a mystery to solve, a climax to the story that requires proper resolution through creative problem-solving skills and a show of bravery by the main characters… and at last, there is that happy ending (so important!) with proper tying up of loose ends. I shut the book feeling satisfied. But this book is just about Frankie Presto’s life from when he was born until he died…and along the way he suffered some ups and downs. At the end of the book, I was like, “Okay fine, now I know the whole life of a fictional character by the name of Frankie Presto… where is the excitement? Where is the a-ha! moment? Where is the punch line, for God’s sake?”

In any story, the plot is the substance… whereas the language, the philosophical elements, and the characters are the ‘cosmetic ingredients’ that beautify and strengthen the substance! I need a good plot, first and foremost. Satisfied with that, I will then evaluate more kindly on the rest (But I do put a lot of emphasis on philosophical elements and characterizations too in order to enjoy a  good plot). So I would say that this book is average. I finished it. It was okay. I would not read it again. It doesn’t mean that Mitch Albom is not a talented author, because he really is. But maybe this one just doesn’t do it for me.

But, again you guys should read other reviews and make your own decision. I guess this book is of a different genre than the usual crime/mystery/thriller that I usually read. Maybe this type of book is just not my kind of tea. This book is categorized as Domestic Fiction genre. I regret to say, it’s just not for me.

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Okay, I am more excited to review this book (Save the best for last, I always say). The Plague was authored by Albert Camus, a Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1957. This book which was originally written in the French language (titled La Peste) narrates the experience of Dr. Rieux in handling the outbreak of The Plague in the town of Oran in Algiers.

I was so impressed by how thoroughly Albert Camus had done his research in order to write a book on the challenges of dealing with an outbreak. In the midst of dealing with Covid-19 pandemic, reading this book will give us a lot of insights on human behavior in dealing with the difficulties and the uncertainties of life.

I remember thinking, “My God! This book was written in 1947! And yet… nothing has changed in terms of our human psychology and behavior in dealing with an outbreak. The behavior of health authorities, the thoughts running through the heads of the policy makers, the over-religious preaching by holier-than-thou religious figures, the knee-jerk reactions, the panic buying, the rushing to the police station to get a letter that would allow them to cross borders and travel to their loved ones,  the despair of being separated from your family members, the reactions of the masses to defy quarantine order, the stigmatizing of people whose family member is known to be infected, the anger at health authorities for wanting to take their relative away to be quarantined, the involvement of the police in helping the health care providers… these are exactly the same as what I am seeing in my own time with this Covid 19.” I was blown away!

I had massive amount of respect for Albert Camus at the end of this novel. He really did deserve the Nobel prize if this is an example of his work!

Guys, technology might change… in this novel, they communicated via letters, public notices, telegram… but human behaviour at all levels of society from policy makers to healthcare workers, to general public remains the same since 1947 until now. In fact, I would say that no matter in which period we live in, when facing the uncertainty of a disease outbreak or a life-threatening catastrophe, we will all behave the same way.

I think all doctors must read this book, especially if they are working in public health. Such an illuminating read. I was very impressed by a quote in this book that I actually wrote about it in one of my Facebook status. The quote summarized how we as the public must think and act in dealing with an outbreak. It says “Officialdom can never cope with something really catastrophic”.

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It struck me that in times of need and desperation, we must rally as a community and not being too dependent on the official channel to provide us with what we need. We must be proactive and settle the problems that we can settle ourselves. We can see our nurses/sisters/matrons sewing their own PPE rather than simply waiting for the official channel to provide them with that. Yes, by rights, the official channel is responsible to provide for you. But the fact of the matter is, ‘officialdom’ CANNOT cope when something is truly catastrophic. Selflessness, volunteerism, and gotong-royong spirit are what work.

And in this book, it narrated about how this character named Tarrou had rallied the whole community to help and volunteer with the cleaning and the sanitation in the community. It was that community rallying combined with the successful development of a vaccine that the town of Oran was finally free of The Plague. At the end of the book, I was amazed by how much Albert Camus must have done in terms of research. This is a book that is relatable until now. And I guess, that is the hallmark of a great literature… the social criticism (kritik sosial) is evergreen and stand the test of time.

In case I haven’t made it clear to you guys, I LOVE it! I love it!

So… I will give this novel 4.5 stars out of 5. The plot is great and neat and all loose ends were properly dealt with. The research is superb. The language is excellent. There is various pearls of philosophical wisdom being randomly dropped here and there throughout this novel. I was very pleasantly surprised that I had enjoyed this literary work.

Guys, you must know that not all classic literatures are enjoyable. Reading literature is not always fun. It is not like reading commercial fiction. Reading literature is usually a practice in managing boredom and a training in developing persistence haha. There are times when you have to force yourself to finish reading a literature by telling yourself “I should know this literature because it is so famous and it will be embarrassing if I haven’t read it. Haha.” But The Plague (La Peste) is certainly different. It has the virtue of being BOTH a great literature AND an enjoyable read. And that’s all I need to declare that Albert Camus was a great writer par excellence.

If you are interested to read classic literatures, most of the books written by Jules Verne/Mark Twain/ Jane Austen/ The Bronte sisters/ Arthur Conan Doyle are very good. Please choose from these authors first if you want to enjoy your first experience of classic literature. My first classic literature was by Jules Verne, ‘The Journey To The Center Of The Earth’ when I was 12 years old. I discovered it in my school library one afternoon, when I escaped from sport practice (latihan rumah sukan) to hang out in the library where it was air-conditioned hahah! And I was so attached to it that I didn’t want to return the book to the library (But of course I did return the book eventually. Not without a crack in my heart, though. And then, many years later, I purchased the book myself. Now, I have my own copy of this book in my bookshelf). I also love The Professor by Charlotte Bronte. And I have read everything on Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. So guys, please do yourself a favour and start reading one of them. You will be like “How could I have not known that these delightful stories even exist? Have I ever truly lived? Hahha”

Ok, enough gushing for now. Haha.

If it were up to me, I could talk for hours about the books that I have read. This is my all-consuming obsession that I may never be cured from. All my friends were like “Terus excited muka Afiza bila cakap pasal buku cerita.” I could not even hide it, lol. Whenever we hang out as a group, I secretly hope that someone would open up a conversation about books, so that I can jump in. Of course I can open up that thread of conversation myself but I have come to realize that most people do not get to read that much anymore and I might ‘syok sendiri, excited sorang-sorang’ talking about books. So I just keep it to myself. (Ah… the suffering, guys! Maybe, I should join a book club… but yup, time is a consistent constraining factor).

Well, it is time to end this post because it is too long already. I will try to find exciting books to read in Ramadhan and I will insya Allah review them in my next blog post.

So, have a great Ramadhan guys. May Allah accept all our good deeds in this blessed month. Take care. Much love and may Allah bless all of us.

Political Cleansing!

Langkah Sheraton

 

one-of-the-penalties-for-refusing-to-participate-in-politics-is-that-you-end-up-being-governed-by-your-inferiors-plato

The great Plato had once said “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

What a man of wisdom Plato was.

I cannot help but think that politicians are our inferiors in a lot of ways. They couldn’t see the forest for the trees. By bickering and fighting for power constantly and consistently, they demonstrated the spirit of the famous Malay proverb “Menang sorak kampung tergadai,”

What is the use of being the political power of a poor and dysfunctional Malaysia? Even if you win in the end, Malaysia’s economy is suffering and you end up with a lot more headache and little pleasure of winning.

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If you guys are anything like me, you might find yourself in a state of acute attention deficit (LOL) while completing the chores of your daily life… because the bulk of your concentration has been swallowed up by political issues in the social media.

Well… I certainly admit that I sure was distracted and kept on refreshing my newsfeed every now and then in between patients, just to be up-to-date on the progress and repercussions of Langkah Sheraton by the Azmin camp (I couldn’t help but think that perhaps Tun M was the mastermind behind the move regardless of what other people say to the contrary. He is a cunning old fox, that man!)

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The political scenario in Malaysia has never been more interesting. But at what cost? One has to wonder, is it worth the sacrifice?

To me, it is worth it. If it means we can take DAP out of the picture, it is worth it. Because I believe, judging by the various racial and religious issues for the past 2 years, Malaysia desperately needs political cleansing.

***

DAP IS A LIABILITY

Have you ever tried working with a difficult person? How efficiently can you do your work when you have to navigate the myriads of attitude problems, incompetence and dramas that ensue due to the person’s difficult behavior? Sure, you might still be able to complete your task at the end of the day but the end result would not be as good as it could have been if  only you had teamed up with a better person who shared your vision.

And Malaysia is desperate enough to need an efficient leadership that can focus on delivering good results for the people rather than having their leaders being embroiled in a lot of dramas secondary to excessive politicking of issues (Isu arwah Adib, isu kuil di tanah haram, isu jawi, isu tanglung, isu ponggal, isu LTTE, isu LGBTQ, isu menteri perpaduan racist). There are so many racial and religious issues these days that are politicized ad nauseam, ad infinitum…until politicians could not channel the bulk of their time towards governing.

I kind of empathized with Tun M’s need to do something drastic to change the whole cabinet working under him. There might be times when he feels like his hands are tied from doing what is right… because ministers under him listen to the direction of their respective parties which prioritize their own party’s agenda rather than the agenda of the country. There is no unanimous idea of what constitutes the Malaysian aspirations anymore. Politicians from different parties that make up the government are pulling Malaysia in many different directions that at the end of the day, we don’t move at all. In fact, we regress!

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Maybe this is what we need now to move forward for a better Malaysia. But most political analysts are saying that we are not ready for it.

 

DAP will always champion the dubious concept of Malaysian Malaysia while at the same time turning a blind eye on how vernacular schools is not conducive to the concept of Malaysian Malaysia! There will be no true unity when the future leaders of Malaysia go to different type of schools in their childhood and each race grow up being distrustful of another race because they could not agree on something as basic as the content of the Malaysian Constitution. They screamed ‘discrimination’ when things don’t go their way, demanding the Malays to sacrifice their privileges bit by bit,  but at the same time  they are not willing to meet us half way by agreeing to be educated in the same school to promote unity. I have always said that we should stop with racial-based quota if other races would agree to be schooled in the same system. Let’s declare that the first batch who enter the national stream will no longer be subjected to racial quota. I am trying to be fair in which all races sacrifice and compromise. You want to gain something, you must give up something too. Jangan kiasu!

Remember, the social contract exists because their forefathers were given citizenship en masse… and their forefathers had insisted on vernacular schools because initially, the Indians and the Chinese had always wanted to return to their Motherland. The vernacular schools existed initially as a preparation for them to return to their respective countries. What is the relevance of vernacular schools now when they all claim that they are as much of a Malaysian as the Malays and demand people to stop treating them as second class citizens! At the same time,  they go “oh even though I am Malaysian, I am learning the syllabus of another country and so please recognize the UEC ya.” They play victim all the time. The Facebook status of a fellow netizen, Mohamaad Jamalee below, illustrate my point so perfectly.

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You cannot have it both ways! And then, you shamelessly play victim when we don’t allow you to manipulate us into allowing you to have it both ways. We are not that stupid to not see the game some of the Chinese chauvinists are playing!

In a way, I applauded UMNO’s decision to insist on exclusion of DAP from future government! These chauvinistic Chinese should not be allowed any more leeways until they learn to compromise. Most Malays I know are saying they will never again vote for any coalition that has DAP in it! And I am one of the Malays who are saying that.

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***

The Propagation Of LGBTQ Agenda

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In the West, the pro-LGBTQ people have succeeded to push their propaganda on innocent kindergarten kids!

Some non-Muslims are not trying to champion their religious values of Hinduism or Buddhism or Christianity… but they are championing the immoral values from the West instead. This kind of trend is becoming more prominent after PH won GE14, 2 years ago.

Look, let’s be clear here. NO RELIGION has ever endorsed homosexuality. A devout Muslim/ Christian/ Jew/Hindu/Buddhist will similarly frown upon homosexuality. It’s just that Islam is more vocal about it in the context of Malaysia. Some Malaysians from other religions are also too timid to profess their true stand about homosexuality because they are so afraid of being labeled ‘backward and intolerant’ by these pro-LGBTQ people. But Muslims do not have a choice of being silent about this… keep on reading, and you will know why we don’t have a choice of being silent when we see something like this is being championed.

Let’s examine our worldview first. Some of our fellow Malaysians are championing the freedom to “do whatever we want as long as we don’t harm others” (I have talked about it in my previous blog post. Click HERE   https://afizaazmee.wordpress.com/2019/12/17/how-did-you-know-that-who-told-you-that/ ) and are trying to impose THEIR worldview on the religious people of the country.

It is THEIR worldview that they can do anything they want as long as they don’t harm others. However, OUR worldview  as a religious person is “we are not free to do anything that we want even if it doesn’t harm others because things that we do that don’t harm others might still harm ourselves and those things are still wrong in the religion!”

So now, we have two different worldviews… BOTH are saying that the other is imposing their view on them.

So, you must understand that your opinion, your ethics, your culture, your religion… they are all personal to you and others might not agree with you. A good debater can argue both sides of the argument and espouse BOTH causes convincingly if he/she is in the mood to play devil’s advocate (I also tend to do that in my head as a form of mental stimulation and intellectual exercise). So your opinion and your idea of what is ethical is always a grey area, ok! Your idea of what is right is not objective and not absolute!

But!! What is not grey is the law!

In Malaysia, the law (Section 377 Penal Code) clearly states that homosexuality is wrong regardless of your own personal opinion and your worldview! Until you can change the law, you must abide by it.

Bullying fellow doctors to support homosexuality, making them feel less-of-a-good-and-ethical-doctor by saying things like “As a doctor, we must not discriminate our patients. We must be professional and treat everyone the same. We must be tolerant and do not impose our religious views on others!” is not going to work in Malaysia.

Yes, I treat everyone the same. A gay patient who is depressed will be given the same kind of  bio-psycho-social-spiritual model of treatment just like how it is given to  a heterosexual patient. So that’s not an issue. I also do not preach or propagate my religious values while I am doing my work as a doctor or as a therapist. I make sure to the best of my ability that my patients are heard when they narrate their issues  to me and that they receive the help that they are entitled to without them feeling judged. But that is my professional life!

In my personal life (including in my blog and in my Facebook) I retain my freedom to propagate whatever I wish as long as it is in line with the law of the country. And so far, we haven’t changed the law of the country to accommodate the LGBTQ society like what is happening in the West.  So if you propagate for LGBTQ causes in Malaysia, you are actually propagating the committing of crimes!

So don’t you dare to manipulate your fellow Muslim doctors to renounce the tenets of what is wrong and right in their religion by forcing them to agree with the LGBTQ agenda. Muslims CANNOT say homosexuality is right… Muslims may commit homosexuality acts themselves but they themselves would not say those acts are right. Saying something wrong in the religion as right is almost as bad as renouncing the religion. In fact, some ulama are of the opinion that “menghalalkan sesuatu yang diharamkan dalam agama” is already murtad. A Muslim may not wear the hijab, but she would never say “menutup aurat tak wajib” because she knew it would render her murtad. If I go around saying “arak itu halal” or “homoseksual itu tak ada masalah dalam Islam”, it can nullify my status as a Muslim because I had “menghalalkan sesuatu yang jelas haram dalam Islam”! This is serious, ok! You may commit the crime yourself but you cannot say that the crime/sin is allowed in the religion because it will nullify your status as a Muslim.

So jangan harap kamu akan berjaya buat semua Muslims suddenly sokong LGBTQ no matter how hard you propagate. Islam has a fail-safe mechanism in preserving the values of the religion and this mechanism guards us from saying things that are wrong as right when we are under societal pressure to do so. Our religion guards us from bowing to societal pressure by asking us  to choose “do you want to please people or do you want to be a Muslim?”. I rather be continuously pressured and looked down upon rather than being a Murtad. Most Muslims also do think like me. So Insya Allah, the majority of Muslims will never wake up suddenly and say “Oh, we approve LGBTQ”! It would stretch my imagination quite a bit to think it might happen in Malaysia en masse. Because if I know anything about Malays and Muslims, they LOVE their religion to death if they are true Muslims who really understand their religion (Sebab tu ada peribahasa “biar mati anak, jangan mati adat”. To the Malays, Islam itu lebih kurang sama macam adat and so intimately intertwined. And this can be problematic sometimes because some Malay’s adats actually have no basis in the religion. It causes misunderstanding about Islam because some idiotic Malay adats are being thought of as stemming from Islam.)

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This is a simple matter of science, biology and genetics! XY is always gonna be XY no matter how much of a woman you feel deep inside, ok!

The best thing you can do to manipulate Muslims to support LGBTQ causes is just to shame them into feeling as though they are ‘less professional, less ethical, less good, too judgmental’ as a doctor for not agreeing to your concept of sexual freedom. But most Muslims (kalau mereka ada jati diri yang kukuh) would have stopped caring what you think about them anyway, by now. In fact, maybe like me, they will become so angry by the purposeful attempt to malign their image, that they will start hitting back and counter all your propaganda with their own counter-narrative. We have the weight of religious tradition of multiple religions, biological science and scientific facts to back up our stand that homosexuality is wrong for the society. So be warned. Malaysia still recognizes Islam as Agama Persekutuan and the law is bound to follow the constitution! So pick your battle wisely.  (If you notice, I don’t really talk about stuff like this before. But I have started doing it recently when I notice how some non-Muslim doctors are trying to make Muslim doctors feel ‘less than’ just because we do not support LGBTQ. As though religious doctors who do not support LGBTQ are less intelligent, less rational or less ethical than them. I belong in some forums consisting of doctors and I have witnessed what they are saying about Muslim doctors, kononnya religious doctors are “imposing their religious values on their patients”.  Heck, doctors are also bound by the law. Don’t you forget it! With the way the political scenario is going in this country, I have had enough of being silent! And I have started hitting back. And once I have decided on a particular cause, you won’t stop me talking (or writing) until I am ready to stop. And I won’t be ready to stop until you too stop propagating your idea of sexual freedom in a Muslim-majority country of Malaysia. We are all bound by the law. Capisce? If I feel the slightest threat to my freedom to propagate for what I believe as right just because I am a doctor or a civil servant, I will start fighting back.)

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Civil Servants/ Doctors Cannot Be Political In The Social Media?

Don’t be ridiculous! There are MANY doctors who are political in the social media. I am one of them and I have never hidden that fact. I used to openly state my political views around GE13 while I was still an UMNO supporter. I openly renounced the BN government and openly campaigned for PH around the time of GE 14. I openly announced that I was a PACA (polling agent and counting agent) for Pakatan Harapan in Parlimen Pokok Sena and DUN Bukit Pinang in the last GE14, while BN was still in power. Yes, even though I was a government servant! And when I am upset with the current government now, I also write about it openly in my blog and in my Facebook too. Alhamdulillah, so far I have not been called up to defend my conduct. But if that were to happen, I am ready to defend myself.

I have never hidden the fact that I follow political news and am passionate about politics without being bound by any party. My principles cannot stand being bound to any political party. My support for any party is based on issues that are close to my heart.

And PH had promised freedom of speech and expression! Remember?

So, I really don’t understand it when one particular acquaintance of mine had said “Tak sesuai la letak isu-isu kontroversi kat social media as a doctor. Bukan boleh ubah apa pun! Social media untuk connect with friends and foster good relationship… nanti jadi gaduh pula.”

Oh, God. Have you been living in a cave all these while? Tak boleh ubah apa pun, you said? What do you mean?? The fact that our government had revised their decision to abolish critical allowance for junior doctors was because we made a big issue out of it in the social media. And don’t you forget that! Social media can be a battle ground in and of itself! Whoever propagates strategically and efficiently via the social media would have ensured that half of the battle is won. That is the very reason political parties spend a lot of money hiring cybertroopers! Do you think politicians hire cybertroopers for nothing??

Wake up to the real world, please!

Just because YOU use the social media to post pictures of where you go for vacation or to show off your latest material acquisition or to tell people about your daily life (yang orang tak lah berminat sangat pun nak tau haha), doesn’t mean EVERYONE shares your view that that is the only thing social media is good for. Self-promotion and self-absorption are not exactly attractive attributes, ok?

Some of us use social media MAINLY for propagation and advocacy of the causes we believe in! Some of us do not feel the need for others to validate (by the number of likes) every single mundane, mindless, pathetic thing we do that we posted on the social media. Some of us do not crave the number of likes based on the beauty of the photos that we posted. Furthermore, I certainly do not use social media to connect with friends. With friends, I go out and meet them and talk to them face-to-face or on the phone. That’s how I really form my connection. Social media is not how I maintain my connection to my family and friends.

So really, for me personally, I use social media MAINLY to spread issues and awareness, to propagate, to advocate and also to counter-narrate! And hence, I don’t care if people are butt-hurt by the opinions I have stated on my Facebook as long as I believe I am propagating the right thing and supporting the right causes.

Propagation is dakwah! It is our beloved Prophet’s biggest Sunnah to follow! If you don’t like to do it yourself, that’s ok. You do your own thing. But you don’t get to stop people from propagating what they believe as right just because you don’t have the spine or the courage to do it yourself or because you don’t think social media is a good place to do it. Because you are wrong! Social media is an EXCELLENT place to do it. In fact, I would argue it is the most effective way of doing it in these days and age.

Some people do not live for ‘wake-up, eat, go to work, earn money, sleep and then do it all over again the next day until the day we die’ routine. Some people care about other bigger, more important things that give their lives meaning, okay? So, live and let live. Capisce? 

I don’t care what causes you want to propagate in YOUR Facebook page. And you should not stop me from propagating what I want to propagate in MY Facebook page. At the end of the day, may the best propagator win in influencing the lawmakers to create or maintain the laws and policies that will swing in our favour!

Nanti kawan-kawan Cina/India terasa…

The same acquaintance of mine who had admonished me for posting a lot of political issues in the social media had also said “Kawan-kawan kita yang Cina/India terasa. Don’t you care about their feelings?”

Look, in my daily life as a doctor or as a person, I get along well with any race as long as they don’t say or do something that I believe as unfair, unjust or untrue. If they do, I will just work it out with them in a polite discussion. I have always been very outspoken even with my own bosses. If I believe their decision is unfair, I will let them know as politely as possible. It is simply not in my nature to pretend to be okay when I see something is unfair, especially if it affects me as well. (There was one time when the MOs were asked to see all psychiatric referrals even though some of the referrals were not indicated or not urgent .… and we were being paid passive calls only.  I voiced out my concerns and said that we have no problems to see all cases but let us claim active calls la… otherwise allow us to stick to passive calls and screen referrals based on urgency. Alhamdulillah my bosses are so nice and they are reasonable people. I am so lucky in my superiors. In other places, what bosses say are regarded as law even if it is unfair. I really detest that kind of bosses and it would trigger my rebellious tendency, LOL. Fairness and justice are my core belief. I don’t let anyone violate it. And I will not passively bow to it without a protest.)

I certainly do have Indians and Chinese colleagues… some of them are pro-vernacular schools. So we simply agree to disagree. I would not feel hurt if they decide to propagate for vernacular schools or to propagate for pro-DAP agendas, or to voice out  their support for LGBTQ in their own Facebook page. When they posted such a thing, did they think about my feelings? No! And I don’t expect them to, anyway!

But I also would not stop posting my anti-vernacular school stand in Facebook. I also would not stop posting about the liability of having DAP in any political coalition. I also would not stop posting about my anti-LGBTQ narrative even though I am sure some of my friends in Facebook are part of the LGBTQ community or pro-LGBTQ. And they also should not expect me to think about their feelings while I am doing my own propagating and awareness spreading.

Truth (or what each of us believe as the truth) trump feelings every single  time! I don’t expect you to care about my feelings when you are propagating what you believe as true. And I also wish you would understand that I have my own version of truth that I am going to continue to propagate regardless of your feelings about it. No offence, ok?

If you don’t allow our differences in opinion to affect our friendship or our working relationship, it shouldn’t be an issue.  We can always continue as usual… politely and professionally go about our daily life. But if you are going to make our differences as a problem in our relationship, then it is on you. Because I personally can work with or talk to anyone I disagree with if my work requires it, but I will not stop the propagation of my causes.

Know that every narration has a counter-narration. Know that every propaganda has a counter-propaganda. Sometimes the side that ends up winning the battle is not the side of the truth. And therefore, if you believe you are on the side of the truth, the onus is on you to speak up and propagate for your own agenda.

I have said it before, an agenda is won when we can cause the law to swing in our favour. Because regardless of your religion, your worldview or your personal opinion, people don’t have to follow them UNTIL it is made as law! The law is the ultimate recognition of  the truth as it is accepted in your country (but not necessarily in other countries. So you have the options of migrating to other countries if you want to escape the law of your own country, ok?) The law is made in the parliament. The lawmakers in the parliament (our politicians) listen to what is popular. That’s why if we want our causes to win, we have to propagate just as diligently and as loudly as the other party! Otherwise, we would lose. And what a shame to lose if we are on the right side. In the West the LGBTQ propagation has won and the law has changed in their favour. If we are not careful, the same thing can happen in Malaysia too. All of us have a part to play in making sure this will never happen.

This is why Islam made it compulsory for us to do whatever we can in our capacity to right a wrong, as evidenced by the hadeeth below:

“Sesiapa dikalangan kamu yang melihat kemungkaran maka hendaklah dia mencegah dengan tangannya, sekiranya dia tidak mampu hendaklah dia menegah dengan lidahnya, sekiranya dia tidak mampu maka dengan hatinya. Dan itulah selemah-lemah iman.”

So what Muslims have to do now is simply not to fear “celaan orang-orang yang mencela,” and keep on propagating! That’s what we have to do!

Say what you believe as right and stop caring how other people are trying to emotionally manipulate or guilt you into agreeing to their concept of freedom and worldview. Insya Allah, that kind of emotional manipulation will never work on me. Because whenever I experience cognitive dissonance, I reserve my judgment, I research and I read up until I am satisfied. Only reasons, rationale and truth would win me over. Not any emotional manipulation or inducement of guilt that are based on paltry sentiments! That NEVER work with me! In fact, it would make me so annoyed that you had tried to manipulate me emotionally that I will fight even more (Haha…. agreeableness is never part of my personality strength, unfortunately).

And speaking of reserving judgment, researching and reading… this brings me to the next section of this blog; the books of the month section. (Because reading is one of the best things you can do to nourish your mind, no?)

Books of The Month

The month of February has been so busy for me that I was only able to finish two books in the entire month; one fiction and one non-fiction.

The first book that I read this month was The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly who is one of my favourite legal-fiction author. (I like his works much more than I like John Grisham, and I like Grisham quite a lot. So that might give you some idea of how much I regard Michael Connelly as an author.)

the fifth witness

Synopsis of the Fifth Witness:

Mickey Haller is a criminal defense lawyer who, due to lack of business, had to turn to handling foreclosure cases in order to get some income. But his real passion has always been criminal defense. As fate would have it, one of his foreclosure case clients, Lisa Trammel, was accused of murdering the banker who was involved in the foreclosure of her house. So the mystery revolves around whether Lisa Trammel was guilty. The book also went into very good and detailed explanation of Mickey Haller’s defense strategy. We were also given some insights on the relationship between lawyers and prosecutors inside and outside the courtroom. If you do not know much about court procedures (well, the ones in the US at least), you will have a rough idea by the time you finish this book (or any Michael Connelly book that features Mickey Haller as the protagonist).

What I like about his books is that they are always full of great courtroom scenes. Just when you think the protagonist lawyer might lose the case, something unexpected happens, LOL. The plot twist and turns are always engaging too. Some of the dialogues are funny and I laughed out loud a few times. So, yeah, if you are interested in fiction based on law/legal issues, please do check out Michael Connelly.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars (which is really good by my standard. The only reason I don’t give 5 stars is just because I have given 5 stars to The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini before, and so far not many books have come close to make me feel what I felt while reading The Kite Runner. So yeah, please do read The Kite Runner as well, LOL).

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I learned so much new philosophical ideas in this book, and hence I placed a lot of those colourful bookmarks for easier future reference.

The next book I would like to promote is by Hamza Andreas Tzortsis, published in 2016 by the title of The Divine Reality: God, Islam and The Mirage of Atheism. This book was written to deconstruct atheism and provide a compelling case for the rational and spiritual foundations of Islam.

If you are a student of Theology, you should read this book. It teaches you the philosophical aspect of learning how to think about materialism and metaphysical knowledge. In this book, you will learn why atheism has a lot of contradictions and has very weak foundation philosophically, scientifically, intuitively and rationally. It will blow your mind.

Some of the questions that this book tries to answer are:

  • Does hope, happiness, and human value make sense without the divine?
  • Do we have an ultimate purpose?
  • Can we have consciousness and rational minds without God?
  • Did the universe come from nothing?
  • Does evil and suffering negate Divine mercy?
  • Has scientific progress led to the denial of God
  • Are revelation and prophethood myths?
  • Is God worthy of our worship?

Interesting questions, don’t you think? I certainly did enjoy reading some of the philosophical concept I didn’t know exists. Some of  the thought-provoking concepts are:

  • Occam’s razor: a philosophical principle that basically says the simplest and most comprehensive explanation is the best one.
  • The question of: Is something morally good because God commands it; or does God command it because it is morally good?
  • The concept that ‘science is forced to restrict its attention to problems that observation can solve’. But there are a lot of questions that observation alone cannot solve, right? Things that are not observable…. how do you make sense of them without science?
  • What are the criteria for truth to be called as self-evident? If someone says to you that the past doesn’t exist and asks you to prove that the past exists…. is that rational? Or because the existence of the past is self-evident, therefore the more rational thing to do is to question the questioner “what evidence do you have to prove that the past doesn’t exist?” (Basically, when someone questions a self-evident truth, the onus lies on the questioner to come up with reasons for rejecting something that is self-evident. For example if I question the fact that someone must have written this blog post and I argue that this post was just there and no one had actually written this post… I must provide my reasoning why I believe this blog post was not written by anyone and it just happens to be. Because it is self-evident truth that someone must have written this blog post and uploaded it on wordpress. There are other more complicated arguments in this book, but you must read it yourself to appreciate it better)
  • The concept of Solipsism – that you can only be certain that your mind exists. Solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one’s mind is sure to exist. As an epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one’s own mind is unsure; the external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist outside the mind. (Can you imagine how a Schizophrenia patient in the midst of a hallucination would feel… knowing for sure that the voices are real… but actually only in their minds that those experiences are real. They cannot know whether or not things are real or not real… until someone told them it actually wasn’t real. But what if that someone was also wrong?) Interesting, isn’t it?

So, I give this book 4 out of 5 as well. And I highly recommend this book for all Muslims and non-Muslims who are seeking for knowledge of the big questions in life.

Unfortunately, this book is not sold in Malaysia and I had to order it online via Book Depository (free shipping, ok!). And seriously, it was worth the money spent and worth the agony of having to wait for the arrival of the book all the way from  the UK (almost one month waiting time, guys).

The price of the book is MYR69.13. Not too bad for a 332 pages book (The actual content of the book is only 301 pages. The rest consists of bibliography and references.)

Before I end this post, I will just discuss a little bit on the author of this distinguished book. Hamza Tzortzis has a Master in Philosophy and currently pursuing his doctorate in Philosophy as well. He is also a student of Theology and a renowned public speaker and writer. You can find a lot of videos of his talks in You Tube as well. I have watched many of his videos and he is a very good, rational, and convincing speaker. So do check him out on You Tube before you decide for yourself if his style of reasoning is much to your liking. If you like his speeches, chances are you will like his book too.

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

How did you know that? Who told you that?

There have been a few hot topics in the social media that I am personally interested in and have been following for the past few weeks.

  1. Polio virus made a comeback after 27 years of eradication in Malaysia. (heartbreaking, really)
  2. A famous da’i who had previously rejected 18 proposals from other women finally could not resist the aura of the 19th woman and got married to her, who also happened to be a fake doctor, before divorcing his pregnant first wife. (#DramaSangat)
  3. The (old) news regarding the change in the landscape of HIV transmission in Malaysia received a lot of emotionally-charged comments on the social media.

Do let me know if you have any opinion to share on these topics. I have personally shared my opinion on these in my Facebook and I don’t feel like repeating myself in my blog.

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The Conversational Impasse

The Atheist: Why are Muslims against LGBT? They are very nice people. It’s just  that they have different sexual orientation. They don’t harm other people. As long as they don’t harm others, let them do whatever they want.

The Believer: Who told you that? Who told you that “it is okay to do whatever you want as long as you don’t harm others?”

The Atheist: Memang macam tu pun. Why should we curb other people’s freedom to do what they want when they don’t harm others? I don’t believe in your religion, so I am not going to follow what your religion says about LGBT being haram and all.

The Believer:  I repeat, who told you that “it is okay to do whatever you want as long as you don’t harm others?” I assume, you believe there is no objective truth… no absolute right or wrong in this world?

The Atheist: Stealing is wrong. It harms others; taking the rights of other people is wrong. Murder is wrong…. It takes life away from others. But in things that don’t harm others…. Why should we bother to push our religious beliefs onto other people?

The Believer: How did you KNOW that “it is okay to do whatever you want as long as you don’t harm others?” Was it something you read? Was it an opinion of an author you had read? Which philosopher told you that? Or is it just your opinion?

The Atheist: What are you getting at?

The Believer: There is NO OBJECTIVE TRUTH to your statement that it is okay for us to do anything as long as we don’t harm others. In fact, you are pushing YOUR OPINION, YOUR IDEOLOGY, YOUR WORLDVIEW on me. I don’t believe that we can do everything that don’t harm others. I believe that in certain things there are clear-cut rightness and wrongness. Yes, I call them good deeds and sinful deeds… but that’s just words and semantics. You have your own internal bias that clashes with mine. You believe that people can do anything that don’t harm others. I don’t believe that.

The Atheist: But I don’t believe in your religion. So don’t push your religious values on me.

The Believer: And I don’t believe in your opinion. Why are you pushing it on me?

The Atheist: I am not pushing my opinion on you. I am saying, be free to do anything that don’t harm others.

The Believer: And I am saying, that there are certain things that we should NOT do even if it doesn’t harm people. Not all sinful things harm others… but I don’t believe it is okay to do it. Because things that you do that don’t harm others may actually harm yourself. Religion is not meant to just protect others around you but also to protect yourself. Things that you do that don’t harm others but harm yourself is still wrong. You want to indulge in alternative sexual lifestyle… go ahead. But if you ask for my opinion, I am not going to lie and pretend that I don’t think it is wrong. Am I not free to state my opinion? How does my opinion harm you? Why am I not free to state my religious belief as long as, ehem, it doesn’t harm others?

The Atheist: But your religious opinion harm others!

The Believer: Says you! I think, your opinion harms others too. Impressionable Muslims/Christians/Jewish kids, for example. It confuses their minds. They will start doing dangerous things that harm themselves…maybe take drugs/indulge in extramarital sex leading to teenage pregnancy for example… because they don’t believe they are harming anyone by doing it. They are just harming themselves and destroying their own future…. but to you, that is okay? It’s funny! You think your opinion doesn’t harm others… but you think MY opinion based on my religious values harms others?

The Atheist: Your opinion causes others to discriminate LGBT people. You call them deviants, deny them their rights to marriage, destroy their political careers and their reputation. Is that okay?

The Believer: Your opinion causes others to discriminate religious people. You call them backwards, orthodox, kampung, and distort other people’s impression of their intellect by labelling them religious bigots. Is that okay?

The Atheist: It seems like we are at an impasse. You don’t believe in freedom.

The Believer: You are wrong! I believe in the freedom to do what is right. I don’t believe in the freedom to do what is wrong… to lie, to cheat or to distort truth! I believe there are things that are right and things that are wrong… and at the same time, there are things that we are free to do because they are neither right nor wrong and God simply left it to our own preferences and discretion. In Islam, we call it halal, haram and harus. If two adult siblings engaged in sex consensually, it is STILL wrong even if they don’t harm others. If a parent and his/her adult child choose to have sex with each other even when they don’t harm others, it is STILL wrong! And when it comes to homosexuality, my opinion is that it is wrong and I am not going to change my opinion. I don’t go around shouting my opinion to others unnecessarily… but if anyone specifically asked me for my view on homosexuality, I am not going to lie and pretend that I think it is okay just to please them. As a Muslim, I CANNOT say it is okay… and forcing me to say things I couldn’t say as a Muslim does not reconcile with your concept of freedom of speech, does it? My worldview will always clash with yours but it doesn’t mean I am pushing my worldview on you…. because then, I can also say that you too are pushing your worldview on me. See? Truth is not objective because none of us can agree on one similar worldview. In this world, where no one can agree on what is the truth… what is right becomes debatable to the public.

The Atheist: Yes, we cannot agree on what is the truth. I will continue to say what I say. And you religious zealots will continue to say what you say.

The Believer: And each of us will continue to propagate what we believe as right. Each of us will try to gain followers for our cause, influence public opinion, lobby our MPs to change laws in the parliament! In this world, the truth is acknowledged by the law because everyone in that particular place will have to follow the law. And the law in Malaysia says that homosexuality is wrong, period. In fact homosexuality was wrong even in the West not so many decades ago! Because in this world…  we can never agree on what is the truth. We can’t even agree if there is a God. And even among those who agree that God exist… they couldn’t agree on which is the right religion… and among those who can agree which one is the right religion, they could not agree on which mazhab/sect within that religion is the correct one. But if you change the law, you can change the truth as it is perceived in  this world.

The Atheist: I guess, the word ‘truth’ becomes a study in grey. Nuanced. Uncertain.

The Believer : That’s why various groups from different ideologies will continue to push their opinions on others… will continue to try to influence public opinion and public policy. People go to war to champion their ideologies until now! In this world… what is the truth is best determined by policies and laws. If your country approves LGBT and creates pro-LGBT policy… that is the truth of what is accepted in your country. But in Muslim-majority countries, we have a different truth. Likewise, I cannot go to the Western countries demanding my idea of the truth to be upheld there until I can change the law there. Just like you cannot demand your idea of the truth to be upheld in Muslim-majority countries until you can change the law here. Our truths are reflected by the law. You change the law, you change the truth. That is kind of sad for the truth but that is how it is. In the West, LGBT is winning and the laws are gradually changing in their favour. Isn’t it funny how what used to be wrong is now right? Isn’t it sad how subjective truth can be in the hands of human beings who are always at the mercy of their conflict of interests? Over time, I wonder if consensual incest can be made right too as long as they, ehem, “don’t harm others”.

That Atheist: So we are engaged in an ideological war? Where truth is subjective and whoever can influence the public opinion more and whoever can cause the law to change in their favour will win?

The Believer: Exactly! It’s been like that since time immemorial. Didn’t you notice? May the best propagator win! To you is your belief. To me is mine. And we will see which one of us can influence the society more. And which one of us can cause the law to swing in our favour.

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“Doing the right things start with knowing the right things.” In what way does responsible action depend on sound critical thinking?

That was my Theory of Knowledge essay question that I had to answer as an IB student back in 2005. I got an A in that essay, Alhamdulillah. And since then, I do believe that Pendidikan Islam must be taught this way. Ask the students to write an essay, UTILIZING and APPLYING their knowledge.

I have spoken about this before, how very unsatisfied I was when ustazah and ustaz gave me half-baked answers and an incomplete picture of a story. “What do you mean Al-Quran is a miracle? What do you mean gaya Bahasa Al-Quran tak ada siapa boleh tanding? Ada judge ke yang come up with who is the winner? Ada pertandingan gaya bahasa ke zaman Nabi dulu? Give me examples of the Quranic verses that are so miraculous that the Arab poets were stunned speechless? Who were the poets involved? I am thirsty for details! Give me some details!” Don’t simply give me simple one liners in answering things like this! Because my default mode would be to question and question and question… until I am satisfied. And I am glad I did that… because now that I have found the answer, I am a confident Muslim and I know that Islam is the truth. But there are SO MANY people… even dah adults…. who STILL had no idea how to answer basic questions of creed like this! Tapi ada hati nak jadi ustazah/ustaz ajar impressionable kids and the gullible public! We have people with questionable intellect and dubious honour being a loud self-proclaimed spokesperson for our religion (And they are products of reality TV competition with titles like  Da’i and  Pencetus Ummah. Gosh!)  #18/19Aura anyone?

Why can’t we have more Malay Muslims like Dr. MAZA or Dr. Rozaimi to make up the majority of our religious leaders? Why do I have to turn to International speakers or revert Muslims in order to gain more knowledge about Islam? Why do we make reality TV personalities famous when they usually smear the beauty of our religion? There will be no market for mindless poor-quality entertainment if the majority of Muslims in this country are serious-minded and demand more thought-provoking TV programs.

As Muslims, we should really work on our critical thinking. We should really hone our ability for clarity of thoughts. We should practice how to vocalize our point of view so that truth would resonate from every single syllable of our words. Because as we all probably realize now… truth can be buried under false propaganda when the said false propaganda has the ability to gain more public favour. So it is our responsibility to be a competent propagator. Because at the the end of the day, the best propagator wins. Remember?

kebatilan terancang

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This is the fact that most men are ethnocentric. They believe there is only one true morality and it is their own. It makes it difficult for people to know what is right and what is wrong.

But if you CARE enough….if you REALLY want to know the truth, you would have found it. Eventually.

6 or 9

Take the picture above as an example. People love to reference this situational picture to show others of how every perspective, every point of view can be right or wrong depending on which angle you see things. As though there is no absolute truth in anything in this world.

Well, I beg to differ.

In real life situation, depending on criteria and the weightage of the criteria, you can always come up with what decision is more right to be done.  For example, there are ways we can know whether the number should be 9 or 6. I would resolve the situation by hearing the arguments on each side of the party…. why he says it is 6, and why the other party says it is 9.  Perhaps, a few metres down the road, there was another number carved on the road as 7… and therefore it makes sense that this one should be 6. Find out la! Jangan malas! Hear all arguments…. Hear everything. If things are still blurry, I would find out who wrote that number 6/9 and I would search for that person, call him up and ask him myself, “What did you mean to write, actually? 6 or 9? Why did you write that number in the first place? Was there a purpose to the writing of the number?”

The thing is, when something is important enough to me, I want to know everything there is to know about the answer to that particular question! I want to be convinced.  I am not easily satisfied by people’s laziness in answering “Bergantung kepada situasi. Bergantung kepada factor-faktor tertentu.” Aduh! You should elaborate and tell me “Bergantung kepada situasi yang macam mana? Faktor yang macam mana? In what way would things change if the situation or the factors change?” Don’t give me half-assed answers that satisfies no one. At least have the honesty to admit that you don’t know and you too would love to explore further. Admit your ignorance and vow to find out the truth and clarify the matter.

There are ALWAYS ways we can find out the truth! Either you want to go through that effort or not… is up to you. So in trivial things like the picture above (6 or 9), I might not go to the trouble of finding the person who wrote the number because it just wasn’t important enough to me. Effort should be proportionate to the significance of the expected outcome. Our time in this world is limited. Choose where we put our effort accordingly.

But in finding out about whether or not you are following the right way of life, in finding out whether or not your worldview is right (your religion/ your life philosophy/ your political ideology) I believe you have to go ALL OUT and search for the truth until you find it! It is worth finding. If you can invest so many years of your life to become a doctor, why can’t you spend some time just reading on philosophy, World Religions, comparative religions, watching philosophical and religious lectures on You Tube. This is only a very small effort on our part. It amazes me that people can be satisfied when things don’t click! It amazes me that people are not bothered by contradictory facts that don’t connect. It amazes me that people can live with cognitive dissonance and continue to believe things that they doubt deep inside. And they can brush off their worries and concerns that they might be wrong… just because they have been brought up with an unconscious internal bias.

Examine your mind properly… how did you come up with that opinion? Is there an objective truth to it? Or does it ‘seem’ to be the truth because it is the law of the country or the sentiments of the majority of the people in your circle?

I hope my readers will do one thing in their life whenever they are confronted with a new information, a new thought, a novel ideology. Always question and verify that information! Ask them… how did you know that information? How did you come up with that opinion? Do you have a reference? Do you have a book I can read on that topic myself? Is there another possible explanation? (Even in learning worldly matters like psychiatry… I am like that. For example, don’t be offended if I question some stuff in Psychoanalysis. To question is to learn. Be worried if your students don’t question everything you said. How interested are they in learning what you have taught them if they don’t have ANY question and ANY doubt at all?)

Al-Hasan al-Basri said: “The believer reserves judgment until the matter is proven.”

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Book Of The Month

Dear readers,

I have decided to end all my future blog posts with books that I had read in the previous month. I have been reading 2-4 books per month since I started working as a doctor (previously when I was a student, I was able to read 2 books per week. Those were the good old days when I still had the energy and the luxury of time to indulge in my hobby). But I rarely shared with my readers about my thoughts of the books I had read. I think this should change. Reading is a large and important part of my life and by sharing my thoughts on books that I read, I hope to inspire you guys to read them as well. It would be a shame not to tell you guys about books that you might possibly enjoy reading too.

So from now on I would end all my blog post with the section of Book of The Month. And if you are not fond of reading, you can simply skip this section in my future blog post.

 

 

So in November, I had read Animal Farm by George Orwell and The Silence of The Lambs by Thomas Harris. You guys are probably familiar with the film version of The Silence of The Lambs, featuring Hannibal Lecter as the genius psychopathic psychiatrist. So, I don’t think I should say anything more about the book. It was not a bad book, but it wasn’t exactly awesome.

But I am more impressed with Animal Farm.

I recommend Animal Farm to all my readers because it is a very thought-provoking satire on politics and society. The plot is a thinly-disguised political criticism of Russia’s Bolshevik revolution. To those who don’t know about The Russian Revolution, Vladimir Lenin was the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution who had chased away Tsar Nicholas II, the last Russian Emperor. Vladimir Lenin then passed away and Joseph Stalin took over the leadership of the Revolution. Joseph Stalin had used a lot of unscrupulous methods and various propaganda to eventually betray the ideals of the deceased Vladimir Lenin in The Russian Revolution.

It taught me that people tend to distort truth (in the novel: the truth is dubbed as ‘commandments’) with the passing of the time in order to justify the conflict of interests of the society leaders. Animal Farm is only a thin novella… but it is one of the greatest books in history and arguably Orwell’s finest work. So, if you are interested, do check it out.

1984

 

I also recommend you guys to read 1984, also by George Orwell. But if you are new to political satire, you might have more tolerance and patience to read Animal Farm first before you move on to read 1984. (In my case, I read 1984 first… and became interested with George Orwell afterwards. And only recently did I have the opportunity to read Animal Farm.)

If you guys have any book recommendation for me, do let me know. I always appreciate people recommending me a good book to read. After all, I was told that “seeing someone reading a book that you love is like seeing a book recommending a person,” I think that this is quite accurate. I can make an educated guess of what sort of person you are just by knowing what is your favourite book.

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Until next time, my dear readers. Much love and may Allah bless all of us with knowledge of the truth. And may Allah give us the strength to be steadfast in practicing the truth and speaking the truth that we had painstakingly found. Amin.

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!

***

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.

The-Choice-Ahmed-Deedat

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!

***

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! 

***

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. 

Books
This is one of my favourite books to answer the above question. Full of references. Written by a Non-Muslim some more!

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?

***

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.

Heartbreaking News In New Zealand

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When I first found out that there was an ACT OF TERRORISM being committed at two mosques in Christchurch New Zealand on Friday resulting in 49 Muslims killed and many others injured, I was devastated.

I had  to stop my studying for awhile and just devoured the news that were spreading like bushfire in my Facebook newsfeed. I wanted to cry. But I couldn’t. My eyes just refused to cooperate to tear up. So, I was left with deep heaviness in my chest instead. I know that the heaviness will go away if I just cry. (This is my problem. It is always difficult for me to cry. I think if I could just cry, I can relieve this ache in my chest.)

I have been to Christchurch when I was a medical student. I went there  with my housemates for a holiday during the first semester break of my 4th year of medical school. We enjoyed our New Zealand trip very much because New Zealand is just such a beautiful country. I never thought that this tragedy could happen in New Zealand because my impression was New Zealanders were much more tolerant towards ‘other’ people compared to their Australian counterparts. They are more progressive in terms of giving their indigenous people (the Maoris) their rights and privileges. The rights of the Maoris in New Zealand are better preserved and protected than the rights of the Aboriginals in Australia.

So when something heartbreaking like this happened in Christchurch, I just could not process it!

And then I found out that the evil perpetrator behind this massacre was an Australian who has a Neo-Nazi political leaning.

Well…. I love Australian people. Most of them are lovely and kind. But some of them can be such racist rednecks! Five years in Australia taught me all I need to know about white supremacy and racism. My experience in Australia shaped me into the kind of person I have become now. I am a person who is super-sensitive to any form of racism or supremacy or ‘budget bagus’ group. You can judge anyone as an individual if you are so inclined. But don’t overgeneralize the whole group because of any mistake done by some individuals in that group. I COULD NOT tolerate that EVER. Muslims living in the West post 9/11 would understand the kind of suffering we had to endure when we were all painted with the same brush. To them, either we were evil terrorists or oppressed Muslim women! Either way, we were treated with suspicions and being looked at as inferior just because we wore the hijab outside the house.

I remember how I felt like I had to prove myself as a Muslim medical student in Australia. I had to do MORE to get the same kind of respect or esteem that the Australians effortlessly enjoyed. As an introvert, it took some adjustment for me to push myself to be extra-friendly, to be outspoken in tutorials, to join group discussions, to mingle with people (now doing these things is much easier for me these days… especially the outspoken part. Haha)  I had to do all these extra efforts in an attempt to contradict the degrading narrative of what being a Muslim woman was perceived to be (when actually, I really preferred to keep quiet and just went home and read my books). Whenever I couldn’t answer any question in the tutorial group, I felt so embarrassed (more embarrassed than I would have been if I were in Malaysia) because I felt like I was feeding the stereotype that Muslim women are stupid by my inability to come up with a sensible answer. I felt like I had to say something (anything!) in the tutorial even when I had nothing to say. I felt like I had to fill up my speech quota of the day in order to appear fully switched on and involved in the tutorial discussion. I felt that way after finding out that some tutors had complained to the admin that “the Malaysian students are too quiet and not participating in the tutorial discussion”. So during each tutorial session, I doubled my effort to appear extrovert because apparently, the more you talk, the more intelligent people think you are. *rolled eyes* (And yes, Australians are very extrovert! And so, people who are too quiet would be thought of as less intelligent or less capable) So, I strove harder in order to contradict the stereotyped image of what being a Muslim woman was. My sweetest moment was when my assignment on Health Equity Selective was being put up on my uni website (in our students blackboard page) as an example to the juniors in the batch below mine on how to write a Health Equity Selective project in the category of Psychiatry.  Me, an International student whose English is only a second language, got the opportunity to display my assignment as a guidance for the juniors to emulate when doing their psychiatry Health Equity Selective… I was over the moon! (Yup, I had chosen Psychiatry for my Health Equity Selective project. I have been interested in Psychiatry since I was a medical student and had chosen that field for my elective.) I was over the moon because I felt like I had proven a point. It was like, I was saying “See… a Muslim student is not that stupid. If we don’t talk as much in our tutorial session, it is because some of the things are obvious already… that it is not even worth mentioning. And English is our second language… it takes more energy for us to come up with any sort of conversation compared to you guys. If we are a bit slow in articulating our thoughts, that is only to be expected, isn’t it? Besides, we just don’t feel the need to stand out all the time.”

My Malaysian juniors were like “Kami bangga sangat tengok Health Equity Selective Kak Afiza masuk dalam blackboard. Malaysia boleh gitu!”

I laughed.

I am proud of my juniors too. I was proud whenever I see my Malaysian juniors were more well-adjusted and had assimilated better with other Australian students compared to us, the seniors. The juniors learned from our own mistakes and put more effort in making Australian friends. They experienced less criticism that “the Malaysian students do not mingle with people. They like  to keep  to themselves and don’t put in any effort to assimilate with the whole batch”.  As the years progressed and we started getting more Malaysian students among our junior batches, I thought, we were doing such a good job of portraying that Muslims were not as bad as what were shown in the media. Slowly but surely, I felt like the stereotype against Malaysian students were eroding. My heart burst out with pride when I saw how Malaysians were very heavily involved in our university Islamic Society (I myself was the treasurer of University of Newcastle Islamic Society at one time) and we were always the front-liners when it came to interacting with non-Muslims at the Islamic booth during Islamic Awareness Week. Compared to the Saudi or other Middle Eastern Muslims, Malaysian leadership shone bright in the Islamic Society. (Perhaps because our command in English was better than them). We could answer controversial questions about Islam quite well while guarding the booth. All in all, we were making pretty good progress.

But it could get pretty tiring. Always having to prove yourself over and over again is tiring. Whenever there were new incidents of terrorism and bombings in the Western world, I felt like all our hard work to prove that Muslims are good people were completely undone. And we had to do it all over again. Prove ourselves all over again. It was exhausting. Mentally and physically draining.

But I never regret any of it! Because the struggle that I had gone through made me who I am today. There is beauty in the struggle that we have to face in order to live up to our Muslim identity and Muslim ideals when we are living in a non-Muslim country. Looking back, I was my best self in spirituality when I was a medical student in Australia. Because of the struggle I had to face in Australia, I was more conscious of God and more connected to my religion than I ever was in Malaysia. I invested more time to learn about Islam properly (partly because I had to prepare answers for the questions that non-Muslims liked to ask). I was my most patient self when I was in Australia… because I was carrying the image of a Muslim and I did not want my bad behaviour to tarnish the name of my religion. In Australia, I had a purpose GREATER than my own self because I had to be a small ambassador to my religion! So despite all the struggles and the difficulties, I was very motivated. Our social support were the usrah-attending seniors who kept reminding us to be good, to do good, to strive for the hereafter and not just the dunya. (This is the part of myself that I miss the most, now that I am in Malaysia. I miss the Afiza who was nice. Because the current Afiza is not so nice! Hahah. Somehow, after coming back from Australia, I have retained my outspokenness but have not retained being nice. Perhaps because Malaysians are not always nice too….they are not always ethical…they don’t have values of respect or punctuality or cleanliness or efficiency…. they can be lazy…  they can trample on your rights… and if I am too nice and not outspoken enough, I will be oppressed. And I don’t want that.)

***

Allah had planned my life so beautifully, Alhamdulillah.

At 18 years old, I was grieving the death of my friend. Looking back, maybe I had an existential crisis at that time because I was so shocked by the fragility of life. That my friend could die at such a young age! I wondered, what was this life all about? For two years, I was wondering to myself about existential stuff, but afraid to vocalize them out for fear that they would label me “tak kuat iman”. And then Allah sent me to Australia where I met religious people who could answer all my questions. Alhamdulillah, my existential crisis resolved then. I became a firm believer. I came across someone in Melbourne who answered my questions patiently, systematically… scientifically, even! Suddenly, I felt a sense of spiritual awakening that I had never experienced before that summer, which was my first summer in Australia. I knew then that Islam is logical; that it makes sense! If things do not make sense, you must double-check whether it is truly religious in the first place. I was ecstatic and grateful for all that I had learned that summer.  It is nice to have real faith!  (I was so relieved! Finally, the horror of the Israilyat stories I had to swallow in KMB can be vomited out once and for all without feeling any guilt. That’s why I will always love Australia, the place where I had experienced an exponential growth, mentally and spiritually! There would never be a time when I think of Australia without a sense of nostalgia. It’s just not possible. Some of the things I had learned in Australia STILL influence my behaviour until now!)

I believe, some Muslims would have an existential crisis after witnessing this current heartbreaking incident. Some of the family members of the deceased might experience what I had experienced during the period of grieving. They would start questioning… why are there so many dreadfulness in this world? Why do people do evil things? Why didn’t God do something about it? Why didn’t He intervene? Why is this world so unfair? Why was I even created? What am I supposed to do in this life? Is Islam really the right religion? How do I know that? What if I am in the wrong faith… what will happen to me when I die, then?

They might have all these questions as they deal with the death of their loved ones. And hopefully, they will go through the cognitive process of finding the answers… and finally be at peace in their faith. You cannot bury these questions and silence your conscience. Repressing your doubts will not help you find peace. You must actively engage with your intellect and answer the questions that you have about the religion, about faith, about life after death. Otherwise, you will always be in doubt. And it won’t be real iman. You will not experience true peace that comes with firm belief. You will not feel confident to take any action, to speak up, to do what you believe is right… because you are not even REALLY sure if God is real and that He will help you out of any trouble.

So, don’t bury your internal existential crisis or your philosophical conflict. Answer them! Seek and you shall find! And believe me, what you find will be beautiful and priceless!

1771957-Yasmin-Mogahed-Quote-Your-life-is-nothing-more-than-a-love-story

 

***

Screenshot 2019-03-16 22.45.22
My Facebook status on the act of terrorism at the two mosques in Christchurch.

I have been busy preparing for my CASC exam these days. As usual, I am at my most neurotic self while preparing for exams, LOL. I would start thinking about how much money will be lost if I fail my exam. I would start thinking about “ah, aku dah tak larat nak study! I just want to be a chronic MO.” Hahha.

Sometimes, I mourn my lack of time for fiction reading. It is ridiculous how much I sweat the small stuff.

I forgot that there are other more important things in life other than being a nerd and passing your exam. I forgot that my fiction-reading are trivial, picisan stuff! Stuff of amusements and ‘main-main’.

Siapa yang melaksanakan kewajiban, mereka diberi PAHALA, dan bag

In other parts of the world, people are fighting for their lives!

On the same day that the mosques in  Christchurch were attacked, Israel had also launched series of airstrikes across Gaza! We have thousands, if not millions, of our Muslim brothers and sisters in various parts of the world undergoing physical and mental suffering… all at the same time! And I am worried about exams? And about reading fiction? Gosh, Afiza… you are preposterous!

Screenshot 2019-03-17 08.22.45

Sometimes, I have to admit, I can be really stupidly ridiculous. I am done worrying about trivial stuff! Because there’s more to life.

For as long as I can remember… everytime I was overwhelmed by my study, some sort of tragedy would be breaking news and made me realize that my struggle was not significant at all in the general scheme of things. For example, in 2010, while I was preparing for my final General Medicine exam, the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which was a civilian ship bringing aid to the Palestinians, was attacked by the Israel Navy in May 2010. The attack by the Israel Navy was bravely resisted by the civilians on the ship; nine activists died and many were wounded. I was worried sick about my exam at that time. But after reading about what had befallen the Mavi Marmara ship, I had felt similarly ridiculous as I am feeling now for being too worried over small stuff when people are fighting for something greater than even their own lives!

I composed a poem for Mavi Marmara at that time entitled FORGIVE MY SCOWL which I had uploaded into the poetry section in this blog. I composed that poem after taking a pause from studying my General Medicine notes in order to clear my muddled head and to lift up the overwhelming heaviness in my chest.

This is also why I am taking a pause from my CASC studying and writing this post today. To clear my head. To lift up the heaviness in my chest. Because I just couldn’t cry. Because to compose a poem, it would take a much greater mental strength than I possess. Because I am too mentally exhausted by all the bloodshed.

I pray, that all Muslims would unite together and peacefully respond to this sad calamity in a positive way. I hope, there will be no revenge bombing by Muslims because it would only make matters worse for our brothers and sisters in the West. Trust me, I had enough experience of how terrible it is to be in the West when so-called Muslims commit an act of terrorism somewhere. (Nak masuk lecture hall keesokan hari pun rasa nervous! Rasa malu! Belum lagi rasa takut kena attack bila terpaksa jalan berseorangan.) Please, no revenge bombing targeting innocent people, be it Muslims or non-Muslims. Please, no more bloodshed.

***

I leave all my readers with a reminder to live in this world like a traveler or a stranger. Because, really… isn’t that what we are? Until we reach our final destination, we are only a traveler along the path of life. Hopefully, we will find something precious and beautiful along the way.

stranger

Afiza’s Philosophy On First Impression

first impression wrong

Did you know that the original title for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was First Impression?

If you are a fan of classic literature, your answer would have been yes… because it is one of the most common trivia among ardent book readers.

history of pride and prejudice

Just like it is common trivia that Charlotte Bronte, Anne Bronte, and Emily Bronte had published their manuscripts under male pseudonyms of Currer Bell, Acton Bell and Ellis Bell because female authors were discriminated against in those times. Charlotte Bronte had said “We did not like to declare ourselves women, because we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.”

There is that word again! Prejudice!

Elizabeth Bennet was prejudiced against Mr. Darcy whereas Mr. Darcy was prideful towards Elizabeth Bennet, hence the change of title to Pride & Prejudice….maybe. I don’t know why Jane Austen changed the title, actually. For commercial reason, perhaps? ‘Pride & Prejudice’ certainly sounds more thought-provoking than ‘First Impression’, no?

But my post this time is not going to be on Jane Austen’s highly acclaimed novel. It is going to be about the pitfalls of first impression and why we should never give it more value than it is really worth.

***

Some people place too much importance on first impression. They would quote to you quips that they think as intelligent such as “Two things remain irretrievable; Time and first impression”. Or they would say “First impressions are the most lasting.” Then, they sell their products to you… be it whitening cream, clothing, shoes, tudung, perfume… with the tagline of “First impression is the deepest”. Haha.

But in my opinion, to be relying so much on your first impression of others, obstinately refusing to change your opinion even after you have had the opportunity to revise your first impression, is the height of wilful idiocy.

The word first impression itself is quite self-explanatory. It denotes lack-of-depth, lack-of-accuracy, lack-of-assessment. In short, it is just lacking, period!

And for those who insisted on how important first impression really is… well, MY first impression of such a person would be “You are too superficial! And we will probably never see eye-to-eye in most matters if this is the way you persist in making your judgment.” But then unlike them, I am more open to changing my opinion about them if they are able to show me evidence of the depth of their thoughts in our future encounters next time. Because again, unlike them, I NEVER put much faith nor stock in my first impression even when my first impressions have turned out to be right many times in the past (because I ALSO remember the times when I turned out to be wrong and I don’t want to persist in the stupidity of making snap judgment).

judge man's life

***

“So you don’t think first impression is important? How about when you are going for an interview? Would you dress shabbily? Would you arrive late? Would you not want to appear competent and successful?”

Look, first impression is important… but only up to a point…. and then, no more. THAT is what I am driving at! I repeat, first impression is only important up to a point… and then no further.

If it is as you had said “First impression is the most lasting”, I would be quite skeptical of your ability to learn new information and unlearn false information… there is something wrong in your cognitive flexibility (or your brain plasticity) if the first impression – regardless of accuracy – is the most lasting one for you!

Don’t you think?

Most of the time, I don’t remember my first impression of anyone. Perhaps, because it was never that important to me. I distrust it.

But once I have had enough opportunity (by the means of multiple encounters) to form an impression, then you will never get me to change my mind because THIS TIME, I have had enough encounters with you to be able to form a fair and accurate judgment of your character and temperament.

Still, it doesn’t mean I am not optimistic that you might later change some of your bad habits. But just go and change those bad habits first… then I will re-assess my judgment of you, even when I know that my first judgment of you was correct AT THAT TIME (because I actually made an effort in coming to that judgment, in the first place. I did not simply rely on my first impression and I actually have observed you multiple times before I arrived to that judgment). But now I am re-evaluating you because you have made some changes. If I change my mind about you, it wasn’t because I was wrong the first time…. it was because you have changed now and therefore I am willing to change my impression of you, accordingly.

That’s all.

umar
See? That’s why we should always reassess our initial judgment!

***

Muslims in general should not be putting stock in first impressions. I remember the story of Saidina Umar Al-Khattab R.A when he first arrived in Jerusalem after the Muslim army had been successful in their campaign to conquer the holy city from the Christians.

Abu Ubaidah R.A, the commander in chief of the Muslim army and himself a very pious man, suggested that Umar change his clothes so that the people of Jerusalem, accustomed to the pomp and grandeur of kings and emperors, were not dissuaded from handing the keys of Jerusalem over to him. Umar hit Abu Ubaidah hard on the chest and reminded him that the Arabs had once been a disgraced nation. What had brought them honour and elevated their status was Islam. Should they seek honour from anything else, they would surely be humiliated again.

Lesson learned: Don’t seek honour through the superficial means of your clothing/shoes/brands in an attempt to make a great first impression. Instead, seek honour through strength of character. And this is not something you can tell upon a first glance! It doesn’t work that way!

By all means… wear nice clothes to an interview. But not as a means to hide your real character, but rather to enhance them. Work on your character first…then you work on other superficial things that would reflect your real character!

By all means, be polite and speak nicely in order to create warmth and mutual good regards. But above all else, mean your words! “Say what you mean. And mean what you say.” Say what you really believe… not what you think the others or the boss want to hear just because you want to make a favourable false impression. (I always try to say what I mean… I am just not very good at doing it politely especially when I am too upset. I am learning to sheathe my blunt honesty with a scabbard of politeness… but it takes practice, of course)

***

There are a few reasons why I feel strongly about not trusting first impression. It was because I have been subjected to one numerous times.

The most common first impression about me was “sombong” or “unfriendly” or something along those lines. Which I think, is really unfair. Just because I was quiet and slow to warm up to strangers, doesn’t mean I am arrogant. It takes time for me to be comfortable to open up to people, and I generally become close to people as I interact with them through work-related necessity rather than socially. I am generally not good at friendly banter… but I can do it when I have to, in order to be polite and to reciprocate your own friendliness. If you initiate the contact, I will mirror your attitude accordingly. So, how is that ‘sombong’? Serius, aku tak faham!

The next common first impression about me is shyness, or “diam”. This one… memang semua yang kenal aku akan gelak terbahak-bahak! Because I am not shy… AT ALL! I am an introvert… but there are 4 types of introverts; social, thinking, anxious, restrained.

The anxious ones are the shy ones!

I am the thinking one! Give me an interesting topic that I have thought of to talk about… I will have no problem airing my opinion. In fact, I can sound quite earnest and enthusiastic about it until I will get accused of being too emotionally involved. Since people have seen me being quiet most of the time, they think that when I am speaking so ‘bersemangat’, so enthusiastically… that MUST mean in this particular matter, I am losing my objectivity due to some sort of emotional involvement. But that is not true. I rarely get emotionally involved. When I am interested in something, I have always talked earnestly. Hit upon something that pique my interest, oh boy, I can really talk your ears off, making me seem totally different from my usual reserved self! (And this is when people would think I am too affected by something…when they see how I deviate from my taciturn quietness. When actually, I am not affected in any way, shape or form…. I am just interested in getting my point across because this is important!) When there is nothing interesting to talk about, no points of interest in any particular case, just the same old mundane thing….I will be quiet again especially when I am in a new environment. That’s just how I am. (And then I get accused of being sombong. Damn! Haha)

***

There was one time when I was late on the first day of one of my numerous postings. In my own defense, I wasn’t late through any fault of mine. The formal black-and-white letter that I had received had stated clearly that upon arriving to the place of posting, I should report to the Unit Sumber Manusia first. I actually arrived early at 7.20 and had been waiting at the Unit Sumber Manusia for what felt like ages before I was finally informed that I was supposed to be meeting my boss at another place, instead. So, it would be quite easy for people who didn’t know me at that time to have a first impression that I was not a punctual person. My boss had even insinuated that he was a ‘punctual person’ and I should try to be on time in the future, to which I had just replied “Sorry, but the letter I received had told me that I was supposed to report to the Unit Sumber Manusia first and that was where I’d been for the past one hour,”

If he had formed any first impression of my being late, would it be a correct impression, you think? When in actuality, I am very OCPD about time. I am quite anal about it! Hahah. I treat everybody’s time as equally precious, regardless of whether I am dealing with my superiors or my juniors. Whenever I am on-call with my HOs, if I told them to meet me at any particular ward to review a case at this particular time, I would whatsapp them 10 minutes before the designated time if I knew beforehand that I might not be able to make it on time. I feel anxious when I know people are waiting for me. I apologize sincerely whenever I am late even to my subordinates…. but I was not gonna feel so sorry if I was late through no fault of mine. In fact in the particular case of my being late in my posting, I was the aggrieved party here! I was misled by the letter that was given to me, so whose fault was that? I was even more upset than my boss because I am OCPD about time! (My whole family is OCPD about time, thanks to my father’s military-like training).

I respect everybody’s time…. my superiors’ time are not any more precious than my juniors’ time or my patients’ time. And I expect my time to be given equal regard, as it should.

So, can you see how misleading first impression can be? So, what is the basis of us putting so much stock on first impression?

In fact, why bother having a first impression, anyway?

But if you are gonna have one, you should have the right attitude and the right philosophy about it. For example, my philosophy of first impression is “I have this idea about you straight away based on my first impression of you… but I will reserve my judgment about you until I get to know you better. But if we are never again to have any future encounters, then I would not even remember my first impression of you because it doesn’t matter anymore. But if we are to become close in the future, it would not be BECAUSE OF or DESPITE OF my first impression….it would be because I have thoroughly assessed your character and have decided I like you, whatever my first impression of you had been. In BOTH cases, either I meet you again and we become close or not meet you again for the rest of my life, my first impression does not carry much weight at all. See?”

And to the ladies, please be highly suspicious of any man who says that they fall in love with you at the first sight. Instead of being flattered, think about what it means to have someone falling in love with you because of how you look! That is casanova alert! Aren’t you scared?Think about the cheapness of such a sentiment… to be loved so easily with just one look?? In the future, God knows with which beauty queen he would find himself in love with at the first sight AGAIN! Haha.

Love-At-First-Sight-Is-Often-Cured-rfg210desi14
Yup! In fact, don’t just take a second look…but take multiple looks first, ok! LOL.

***

Let me end my post with the saying of Saidina Umar Al-Khattab again. (You guys know that I think of Saidina Umar as my superhero) 😀  Read it, understand it and internalize it. Think about the day of the ultimate judgment. Perhaps, it will humble you.

Until next time, my dear readers.

umar judgment

The Chronicles of Jerusalem

When I was just a young, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, 1st year medical student, in the University of Newcastle, I got into a heated argument with another medical student regarding the issue of Palestine.

Jerusalem belongs to whom, was the matter of contention between the two of us in the Auchmuty Library that morning. It ended up with me feeling battered and stupid. In general, I hate losing a debate. I hate even more when I lose an argument on issues that matter a lot. 

And on that day, I felt like I had lost this particular argument on Palestine. And Palestine matters. A lot!

You see, I was young and fiery. (ehem, I’m still relatively young but less fiery nowadays. Haha… I think). I had more sentiment than facts. And in the end, I lost because I didn’t have enough facts to back me up.

Every debater knows that excellent research is the most crucial aspect of your preparation before you engage your opponent in an argument. Not just any research… but excellent research. Your oratory skills, the inflection of your voice, your outward appearance…. they are merely the icing on the cake of your substantial facts! If you don’t have facts, you will most certainly lose regardless of how much charm you can ooze out of your pores!

However, in my own defense, I didn’t know that I was going to get into a debate of the issue on that day. (Or else I would have done my research like any good debater out there.)

It began as a normal day; me being in the library doing my studying and checking out the news from the internet in between. It began as a discussion on current issues and it so happened that the topic of Palestine cropped up between us. What began as a friendly discussion ended up in a heated snappy comebacks that I was totally unprepared for.

I wanted to educate him so that he could stop spewing biased, unlearned  views regarding the Palestine-Israel conflict. I told him that historically, Palestine belonged to the Palestinians. I told him that Post-World War II, the British had given away Palestine to the Jews when the British had no rights to do so.

He came back at me vehemently and said “Come on! Who are you to say that Palestine belongs to the Palestinian? Just because your Quran says so? But according to the Bible and the Torah, that land belongs to the Jews. God gives the land to the Jews thousands of years ago. So which should we follow? The Quran or the Bible or the Torah?”

Okay, he had a point. Muslims cannot say Palestine belongs to them by making the Quran as their reference because then the Jews and the Christians will say Palestine belongs to them by making the Old and the New Testament as their point of reference. And we will then end up arguing in circles because neither party believes in the other’s holy book.

“No, I am not basing my argument based on anybody’s holy book. But historical facts show that the Palestinians had taken in the Jews who had escaped the Holocaust in Europe and welcomed them into Palestine in good faith. Before the Bristish Mandate, Palestine belonged to the Palestinians.”

He scoffed at me and said “And if you want to talk about history…. Sure, before World War I, Palestine was the land of the Palestinians. But thousands of years ago before it was the land of the Muslims, it was also the land of the Jews and the Christians. Before Umar won the war….Jerusalem did not belong to the Muslims, it was the land of the Christians! And then Umar won the war and Muslims then ruled Jerusalem for a time. And then during the Crusades…. the Christians got the land back from the Muslims. And after that, Salahuddin won the land back from the Christians! So historically speaking, should we establish who got the rights to the land based on who FIRST arrived on the land? Because it was not the Muslims who first arrived on the land! Muslims got it much later…because of Umar and Salahuddin!”

I knew I was losing the argument. He had more facts than I did.

He went on to ‘educate’ me in his patronizing tone, “In the case of the Palestine, the land is claimed by three major religions as theirs. Whoever conquers the land would own the land. Once upon a time, the Muslims had wrestled away Palestine from the Christians. And now, the Jews have wrestled away the land from the Muslims. So, whoever wins the land gets to keep the land. It so happens that at this time, the Jews are winning instead of the Muslims.”

In my mind, I hastily reviewed my knowledge on Palestine history. My brain was working in overdrive, trying to recall the historical chronology:

“Mula-mula Saidina Umar dapatkan Palestin, kemudian Palestin dirampas balik oleh Christians through the Crusades. Kemudian Salahuddin Al-Ayubi dapatkan kembali Palestin. Palestin kemudian memang dimiliki oleh orang Islam berkurun2 lamanya hingga Sultan Hamid II daripada Khalifah Uthmaniyah jatuh…World War I happened… Balfour Declaration 1917 happened ….after World War I, Kerajaan Uthmaniyah dipecah-pecahkan… Palestine jatuh ke tangan British and British Mandate in 1922…. Sistem Khalifah dibubarkan 1924….Then British bagi Palestine kepada Yahudi… Palestinian Exodus/ Nakba pada tahun 1948…. We lost the 6-day Arab-Israeli War 1967…”  As I recited the chronology in my brain, I realized how patchy my historical knowledge really was. I didn’t know any real details in any real certainty… because I did not have the opportunity to do a proper and thorough research. And I am the sort of person who is very bad at bluffing or faking it when I don’t know something. I can only sound confident when I really am confident. And I can only be confident if I am convinced. And I can only be convinced if I have read the facts and done the proper research myself. (Other people telling me the facts do not convince me. I have to search and do it myself and read it with my own eyes. That’s my problem.) It is the process, you see! I need to go through the whole process of research before I can be convinced enough to be confident and to sound confident.That’s just how I am. (Yes, I am a control freak with trust issues! Hahah)

Unfortunately at that time, I did not have enough facts and I felt like a fool!

I broke a sweat and in my heart I knew “Aku tak boleh nak bagi argument bahawa Palestin tu milik orang Islam hanya kerana orang Islam lagi lama duduk di Palestin. Sebab sejarah Palestin ialah ia sentiasa direbut dan siapa yang menang, dia yang dapat. Aku tak boleh deny yang argument dia tu valid and logic. Damn, I am stuck!!”

At the end, I could only say to him “Fine, then don’t call the Muslims terrorist. They are trying to fight back for the land and when they win, the land will be theirs. Because according to your views, whoever wins the war for the land could claim the land. So, stop calling the Hamas terrorist while calling the Zionist as the victims. It is a war between them that is yet to end. It is the battle for the holy land.”

We went our separate ways after that. I packed my books, got out of the library and went back to my hostel at Edwards College, abandoning my plans to study in the library…because I knew I would not be able  to focus on my studying anyway. On my long walk back to the college, I was fuming with suppressed anger. Mostly anger at myself! I replayed in my mind the scene of our heated altercation. I analyzed where had I gone wrong.

And after awhile, I realized that from the very beginning I was destined to lose because I had taken the wrong angle. I had said, “Palestine belongs to the Palestinians.” I said that in a way that people would say “Tanah Melayu milik orang Melayu.”

The truth is, no land belongs to any particular race. That’s why “Go back to where you come from” is  a stupid thing to say to someone . Once your ancestors have migrated to another land and breed generation upon generation there, then you belong there! But the land is not yours for you to deny anyone! You belong there…. but the land is not yours! You cannot tell anyone else to go back wherever….because it is not yours!

Can the Native Red Indians say to the White American to go back to the UK because America was originally their land? After all these centuries? Can the aboriginals say to the White Australian to go back to the UK because Australia was originally their land? After all these centuries? Can the Malays say to the Indians/Chinese to go back to India/China? After all these centuries?

Can I say, “Palestine belongs to the Palestinians, so the Israelis should go back to wherever they came from before the World War I, before the Holocaust… back to Poland/German or wherever their ancestors had come from?”

It doesn’t matter how brutally unfair and cruel the method of land acquisition by your ancestors were (talk to the aboriginals in Australia regarding how the White Australians had murdered their native ancestors), but once decades have passed, and generation upon generation have existed in the land, then you belong there just as much as the generation of the original native.

If we were all to go back to where our ancestors came from… well, we all can trace our ancestors to Adam and Eve. And they had come from the heaven. And when you think about it, that’s where we all want to go back to…. we all want to go back to heaven. Right? In this world, we all come from the same ancestor, and therefore the same place… there is no particular place for anyone to go back to in this world. So no one should be able to tell us to go back to somewhere else! Once the migration process have fulfilled the legal requirements of the man-made law, you and your generation belong to the place you have migrated to. It is up to you and and your generation to make the best out of the migration…. to assimilate and integrate into the society as you see fit. (Many Muslims staying in the West have experienced numerous times being told to go back to the middle east. Haha. I myself had experienced such audacious rudeness when I was in Australia. So, next time some impudent rednecks shout at you “Go back to where you come from.” You can just say, “Yes, I am planning to go back to heaven where my ancestors come from. Thank you for your concern.”)

***

When I arrived at my room, I sat on my bed in silence while acknowledging to myself how stupid I was. I deserved to lose. Because my knowledge regarding Palestine was laughable! Spirit and passion alone would not win against cold, hard facts! I called myself as a Muslim… and yet my knowledge about Palestine was superficial at best, and paltry at worst! No wonder I had lost!

It was a wake-up call for me.

Maybe God  wanted me to lose, I thought. So that I would learn. Just because I thought I was arguing for the right cause, it didn’t mean my lack of knowledge was forgivable. I had no business getting into an argument about something important like this without having enough substantial knowledge at the tip of my fingers and I knew it!  (Oh yeah, how much I had learned on that day!) 

It dawned on me that I should have taken the angle of justice. Not the angle of land belonging! Because no one can argue with justice! Whereas land belonging is something arbitrary and arguing on it will lead us nowhere.

I should have said, “Yes, throughout the history, whoever wins the war gets the land! But Saidina Umar had never stolen the homes of the Christians and gave them to the Muslims. Unlike what the Zionists are doing now… taking the home of the Palestinians  by force and simply giving them to the Jews without any rights, violating multiple International Laws countless times! Salahuddin Al-Ayubi did not terrorize the civilians, and did not bomb hospitals and holy buildings. In fact, he had reformed military and war ethics in his days. The land of the Palestine could have been shared by all three Abrahamic religions, and before the British Mandate, that was exactly what had taken place. All three major religions had lived in Jerusalem in peace. The Muslims even helped the Jews escaped from the Holocaust in Europe, remember?! Saidina Umar and Salahuddin Al-Ayubi won Palestine by winning the war with honour! Not through cruel trickery, savage land hijacking and barbarous land occupation.”

I should have said, “If you knew history so well, you would be familiar with the Covenant of Umar which was also recognized by the West. It was the assurance of safety by Umar to the non-Muslims after he obtained Jerusalem! And the history of Salahuddin Al-Ayubi with Richard the Lion Heart are stuff of legends that is also recognised by  the West….the history of Salahuddin has been made into numerous Hollywood films… showing that Muslims had dealt with the Jews and Christians with justice, integrity and honour! The issue of Palestine is not the issue of land belonging. It is the issue of justice!”

The Covenant of Umar

The text as reported by al-Tabari:

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is the assurance of safety [aman] which the servant of God Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, has given to the people of Jerusalem. He has given them an assurance of safety for themselves, for their property, their churches, their crosses, the sick and healthy of the city and for all the rituals which belong to their religion. Their churches will not be inhabited by Muslims and will not be destroyed. Neither they, nor the land on which they stand, nor their cross, nor their property will be damaged. They will not be forcibly converted. No Jew will live with them in Jerusalem.

The people of Jerusalem must pay the taxes (jizya) like the people of other cities and must expel the Byzantines and the robbers. Those of the people of Jerusalem who want to leave with the Byzantines, take their property and abandon their churches and crosses will be safe until the reach their place of refuge. The villagers [ahl al-ard, who had taken refuge in the city at the time of the conquest] may remain in the city if they wish but must pay taxes like the citizens. Those who wish may go with the Byzantines and those who wish may return to their families. Nothing is to be taken from them before their harvest is reaped.

If they pay their taxes according to their obligations, then the conditions laid out in this letter are under the covenant of God, are the responsibility of His Prophet, of the caliphs and of the faithful.

 

I wanted to smack my head. So typical of me to start having so many ideas about what I should have said after the argument was already done and dusted! It is too late for brilliant ideas now, Afiza. You lost! Accept it! Move on!

And I moved on. But this time, I moved on with an action plan.

I studied the history of Palestine. I attended talks about Palestine given by my alim, knowledgeable seniors who were dedicated members of IKRAM/ISMA. Every year they would organize the same talks and the same seminars for the new first year juniors and I never failed to join. (At that time, I did not yet join their usrah groups. I could not commit to it… I was cautious about committing to any particular group. But I always joined their Palestine seminars which was opened to the general non-usrah Muslims. I only started joining usrah when I was in my 4th year of Med school… when most of my friends already joined in when they were only in the first year. It took my seniors 4 years to convince me to participate in their usrah and finally my heart cracked open. Hahah. Yup… I am stubborn and I like to observe and think for myself and come up with my own conclusion before I commit to anything. I was afraid that if I commit to a group, then I cannot be free to think for myself. In psychiatry, this is called group thinking, although at that time I did not yet know what label to give to my hesitation to join them, until I learned about group thinking and group dynamics for my Part A exam last year.  I was afraid that I would lose my identity and my freedom. Silly me, yeah? It turned out that joining them was one of the most enlightening episode of my life.I should have joined sooner. As I mentioned before, this is my problem. I don’t want to listen to others. I need to go through the process and come to the conclusion myself. And as a result, I always end up taking a longer, circuitous route… but I believe, this is also a more satisfying route, because I can say that I do something based on my sincere, heartfelt conviction! I am not just going with the flow, following the herd.)

I was intrigued by my seniors’ enthusiasm regarding the movement for BDS (Boycott, Divestments and Sanction). I stopped drinking Coke or eating McD. I chose Gloria Jeans over Starbucks. (Sadly, when I returned to Malaysia, my resolve is occasionally weakened, I must admit. There are times when I couldn’t say no to Coke. Or Starbucks. But at least, my frequency of buying them were heaps less than it would have been if I did not support the BDS. I still need to work on strengthening the muscle of my will. Sometimes I lost the battle… and I bought myself the Java Chip drink. Oh well.)

During Islamic Awareness Week, I prepared myself by reading on many hot issues (Palestine Issues, The Rights of Muslim Women, Terrorism In Islam, Polygamy, etc etc)  so that I wouldn’t stutter and stumble when I answered the questions of non-Muslims as they gathered at our booth. It was part of my duty as the treasurer of the Newcastle Islamic Society to man the booth with a couple of other Muslim students. We created a timetable that would not clash with our classes and we took turns being in the booth, promoting Islamic awareness. This is something I would never have done if I were studying in Malaysia. It was in Australia that I learned to interact rather than making holier-than-thou religious preach. (I believe, that preaching doesn’t work, especially with people like me. Interaction does! If you want to change, it must come from within, triggered by an interaction you experienced with someone. I was triggered to learn about Palestine because of my interaction with someone who had made me angry….in other words, I changed NOT because someone had preached to me. Something MUST happen inside myself first.)

When I was in my 4th year, one of the seniors asked me whether this time, I would like to be the presenter for one of the Palestinian talk for the juniors. I said yes, I would do it. In my talk, I went through the history of Palestine which I had taken special care to know and understand inside out (after that humiliating encounter when I was in my first year) and in my talk I took particular steps to highlight on how we should tackle the issue of Palestine when we talk to the non-Muslims.

See? There was a reason I lost the argument… so that I would be motivated to learn my stuff properly and pass on the knowledge.

It is true that we learn more through failures than successes.

***

I was  in my 5th year when the Gaza Flotila Raid by Israel occurred in 2010. The Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which was a civilian ship bringing aid to the Palestinians, were attacked by the Israel Navy in May 2010. The attack by the Israel Navy was bravely resisted by the civilians on the ship; nine activists died and many were wounded. Some of them on the ship were Malaysians.

I was about to face my final exam at that time, dealing with a lot of stress and pressure. But when I read on the tragedy in BBC news and Al-Jazeera, I realized that nothing about this world was worth feeling stressed about. “Other people in other parts of the world are fighting for their livelihood with courage and honour! And here I am, thinking that my life is so hard just because I have to face an exam! You should be ashamed of yourself, Afiza.” I had berated myself.

 

donald-trump-jerusalem-day-2017-move-embassy-tel-aviv-six-day-war

And today, after a few days of nursing my anger and resentment towards Trump,to quote Celine Dion, “it’s all coming back to me now”. How when I was a medical student, I had promised that I would not lose my interest in the Palestinian cause. How I had promised that I would do something worthy as a Muslim just like those activists in the Mavi Marmara had done. How I had promised I would try to persist with my boycott.

Well…. I did break those promises. Shamefully, I did. 

I think, my spirit has lost its fiery enthusiasm since I returned to Malaysia. I am back to my pre-Australia selfish self who did not care about things other than myself and my career and my exam. I couldn’t remember the last time I clicked on the website ‘The Electronic Intifada’, which I used to visit every day when I was a medical student. And nowadays, I am not that strict with my boycott anymore.

My God….truthfully, I have lost my idealism after housemanship. I am no longer that wide-eyed, bushy-tailed eager youth so many years ago who had cared about the suffering of other Muslims.

What have happened to me? I wonder, sometimes.

I guess, housemanship happened.

Adulthood and responsibilities happened.

Life happened… we drifted apart.

I lost contact with good people of good hearts. Some of them are still in Australia, continuing to educate new juniors, building foundations for future leaders who, hopefully, would not forget to care.

Maybe Trump’s announcement to recognize Jerusalem as the new capital of Israel could jump start my idealism and enthusiasm all over again….

Maybe this anger and restlessness would fuel me to stop dreaming, start reading useful materials and stick to reality. (I still remember the soft voice of my senior when she said, “Cubalah Afiza baca buku pengisian juga. Muslim ni berjiwa besar… dan dia kena ambil berat benda-benda yang besar.” Maybe that was why I didn’t want to join usrah in the first place. I knew I was not ready to change. I knew that when I finally joined them, I would feel the pressure to change… but I didn’t want to.)

I know I should read again the history of Palestine that I had forgotten. Read the sirah! Read on jihad and struggle! 

I know I should read real stuff…

So that perhaps, I would start caring again. 

Because The Chronicles of Jerusalem is still ongoing; its journey is long and torturous, fraught with trials and troubles.  But like all other great chronicles of the world, its ending is promised to be  sweet and victorious.

HOTS or LOTS (KBAT or KBAR)

To those who have no idea what KBAT is, allow me to take full advantage of this opportunity to enlighten you that KBAT is an acronym for the phrase Kemahiran Berfikir Aras Tinggi (In English: HOTS/ Higher Order Thinking Skills).

It was the latest concept introduced by the Ministry of Education for Malaysian Students in a similar manner they have introduced other curriculum in the past such as KBSR/KBSM/KBKK. (During my time it was KBKK a.k.a Kemahiran Berfikir Secara Kreatif dan Kritis). HOTS is now the trend in Malaysian education. It is fashionable, at the moment (until the next education minister changes the whole curriculum all over again, haha). HOTS is the HOT stuff in the education industry now! Trendy! Au courant!

blogimage_bloomstaxonomy
HOTS, in a nutshell!

Higher-order thinking involves the learning of complex judgmental skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. (Judgment, folks!! The usage of your God given brain to make inferences and deductions and conclusions to come to a SENSIBLE decision based on what you have learned!)

Higher-order thinking is more difficult to learn or teach but also more valuable because such skills are more likely to be usable in novel situations.

But ah… forgive me, my dear esteemed readers.

I don’t mean to give a lecture on what HOTS is about. But the introduction above is necessary to put this post in its proper context.

I declare to all and sundry, that the entire purpose of this post is to unequivocally state in the boldest possible manner that Malaysians are NOT ready for HOTS because they don’t even pass LOTS, most of the time!  (In case  you are wondering, LOTS stands for Lower Order Thinking Skills.)

***

And what do I mean by that?

Well, this!

Jika diamati sebaik-baiknya. elakkan dari mencuci pakaian di tempat mencuci automatic public. kerana mesin tersebut digunakan oleh orang bukan Islam, kerana mereka ini tiada kebersihan. seluar dalam yang terkena darah haid. lebih maklum lagi semua tahu yang ada yang tidak membasuh punggung dan kemaluan selepas membuang air besar dan kecil. Pakaian yang dipakai dikesat pula mulut dan tangannya selepas memegang daging khinzir dan ada pula tuala yang digunakan mengelap kaki dan mengelap najis anjing mereka campurkan ke dalam mesin basuh. Itu belum tahu lagi adakah pakaian mereka ni yang terkena darah yang boleh membawa kepada jangkitan merbahaya seperti HIV  atau sakit kulit yang kritikal yang boleh berjangkit. Entah lah. Adakah pernah kita terfikir akan hal tersebut.

Selamat pg dan basuhlah pakaian sendiri di rumah, terjamin kebersihannya.

🙂 🙂 🙂

(Let me make it clear that I copied that statement word for word (including the triple smileys at the end) and any mistake in Malay grammar and sentence structure has nothing whatsoever to do with me) 

Upon reading that piece of asinine statement in one of my numerous whatsapp groups, I was struck by the compelling urge to leave that group for good. I have been patient all these time! But I just cannot stand this anymore! This is not the first time they posted something so moronic, it should earn a place in Guinness Book of Record as the World’s Most Asinine Whatsapp Group Text.

Every time I came across something THIS painful, I get disillusioned by the poor level of HOTS in our community. I rather just not know the truth. I want to keep imagining all the best things about the level of intellect in the muslim community, that I want to exit that whatsapp group! It is a testimony of the power of my self-control that I had limited my reaction to a few short responses. If I had given in to my inner (manic) diva, I could launch a long tirade about the  unfortunate lack of critical thinking in our Malaysian muslim community (which would hurt a lot of feelings. And that was the only reason I made myself stop. I nearly lost the battle against my inner diva, I tell you!) 

But because I was too fiery inside, I needed to vent out! So, I copied the whole stupid message and posted it in my Newcastle Batchmates Whatsapp Group. We had a great laugh out of it.

“Orang Islam tempat lain sibuk isu-isu besar. Isu Syria. Isu Palestin. Isu ummah. Orang kat Malaysia tak pass benda basic yang kita dah lama faham. What is wrong with them?”

***

Someone with HOTS would have the ability to make simple deductions and inferences. This is something that is introduced at the level of UPSR, and by rights, any adult should have mastered the art.

How can mature Muslim men and women be so insensible as to come up with something like this?

The person who posted this message in my Whatsapp group was only asking whether this message was valid. He did not straightaway take the message as the truth. So I did not, in any way or form, think that he doesn’t have HOTS. Maybe he simply posted this message BECAUSE he found it as stupid as I did and was only asking for clarification. So, I am NOT blaming him. In fact, I applaud his initiative to ask about the validity of the statement in the Whatsappp group. I think there is hope in the community when someone like him ACTUALLY questioned the statement rather than just posting the statement in a form of ‘sharing is caring’. Hahah. It is very heart-warming, to say in the least.

But the fact that he had obtained that message from SOMEWHERE before he posted it in my whatsapp group means that someone HAD come up with the statement in the first place. (That’s the problem, you see! That message must have been viralled somewhere in other groups until it made its way into mine; hurting my eyes, aching my brain and piercing my heart with it. And I bleed…and bleed…a slow, painful, torturous death. 😛 Hahha. My point is: if it has gotten viralled from whatsapp group to whatsapp group, that means a substantial amount of people kind of believe it, right? Doesn’t it alarm you, my dear readers? HOTS lah sangat orang-orang Malaysia ni, kan? Pfft!)

*Deep breath in*

***

How do I apply HOTS in this matter?

Remember! HOTS is all about application of knowledge and creating a new point of view from what you have learned. To put it in religious term, HOTS is like dalil akli (sebab setengah orang yang budget dia ni konon alim sangat, suka menggunakan tema dan warna agama untuk menampakkan hujahnya konon religious. So kalau aku sebut HOTS, tak cukup religious lah kan! So aku sebut dalil akli! ).

I am not saying that dalil akli is enough! No! But if you have HOTS, that is your FIRST filter that would trigger you to search for dalil nakli. When something ‘konon religious’ disturb your ‘akli’, you wouldn’t swallow everything hook, line and sinker. Instead, if you have well-honed HOTS and reasoning skill, hearing something like this would trigger you to search for the dalil nakli to clear your doubts! 99% of the time, dalil nakli and dalil akli are always in parallel! In the 1% of the time when dalil akli and dalil nakli seem contradictory, either your religious authority has misrepresented the issue or there is some other context to your dalil nakli that you don’t know about. So, search further! Don’t stop! Jangan malas berfikir! As a result of having HOTS as your first filter, you would not be someone who can be easily tricked into believing something weird in the name of religion.

If you do not have HOTS, everything that sounds religious…you would accept it unquestionably. And that would not just be unfortunate, but downright tragic!

So let’s talk about this. Let’s break down the above moronic text; sentence by sentence:

 “Tidak boleh menggunakan tempat mencuci automatic public kerana mereka ini tiada kebersihan seluar dalam yang terkena darah haid” 

  • Jadi bagaimana pula dengan darah haid perempuan Muslim? Adakah penulis statement ini rasa perempuan Muslim semuanya tak ada darah haid terkena di seluar dalam mereka?  Beliau boleh terima tak kalau perempuan muslim yang guna tempat mencuci public ni? Ke darah haid perempuan Muslim lebih bersih daripada darah haid perempuan bukan Muslim? Ke beliau nak cakap perempuan bukan muslim saja yang darah haid mereka boleh terkena seluar dalam… seolah-olah perempuan muslim pula darah haid mereka sentiasa elok terletak di sanitary pad tanpa pernah ‘terbocor’ barang sekali pun! Ke macam mana reasoning dia ni…too weird sampai aku tak boleh nak cerna! Newsflash! When you have heavy menstruation flow, your menstruation blood can spill into your panties, and it has nothing to do with your race or religion. (Benda ni saja dah sangat tidak cerdik! The very first sentence dah tersangat kelakar. You can use your common sense untuk bantai bendalah ni. Jadi, aku rasa stress bila ada lagi orang dalam Whatsapp group dok cakap “kena tunggu ijtihad dulu” baru boleh bagi opinion. WHAATTT?  It’s like guru sekolah rendah berkata kepada muridnya “kita kena tunggu sasterawan negara dulu untuk mengajar  kita macam mana nak mengeja.” hahah. Adoi!! Tak tahan!)

“Lebih maklum lagi semua tahu yang ada yang tidak membasuh punggung dan kemaluan selepas membuang air besar dan kecil.” 

  • Benda ni kita dah belajar sejak sekolah menengah lagi. Pernah dengar tak konsep ‘istinjak’? Kita beristinjak menggunakan batu dan bahan-bahan kesat. Ingat tak? Ni konsep bersuci yang asas. Orang Islam memang dah biasa menggunakan air dan kita memang tidak akan puas hati kalau tak guna air. Tapi istinjak juga adalah  salah satu cara bersuci! Dan sah wudhu dan sembahyang kau walaupun sewaktu berhadas tadi, kau hanya beristinjak menggunakan tisu. Okey? Are we clear? Kalau benda macam ni pun penulis statement itu keliru, beliau masih kena pi belajar balik bab istinjak Form 1!  This is not even HOTS. This is only LOTS! Ini hanya remembering dan recall…..tak sampai pun level knowledge application!(Ke yang ni pun aku tak boleh bagi opinion, nak kena tunggu ijtihad juga? Ulama dah tolong bahas benda ni dah lama, siap dengan dalil-dalil semuanya. Kita mungkin tiada kelayakan berijtihad, tetapi kita boleh belajar dengan orang yang sudah berijtihad! Tapi sebenarnya kan…istinjak ni bukan pasal ijtihad! Yang ni dah JELAS pun. Okay?) Jadi dengan pemikiran bagaimanakah penulis statement ini merasakan yang beliau begitu suci sehingga cara istinjak yang diiktraf dalam agama pun beliau nak persoalkan, sampai menghina orang bukan Islam sebegitu sekali dan tidak mahu bercampur public facilities dengan mereka? Dengan pemikiran jumud seperti beliau ini, megahkah beliau yang konon kedengaran lebih Islamik dari orang lain?! (Bayangkan kalau non-muslims baca penulisan beliau ini? Come on, lah!)
  • Dan ingat balik konsep najis. Semua najis yang BUKAN najis mughallazah (bukan anjing atau babi; sekadar najis mukhafaffah dan mutawassitah), bersuci menggunakan air dan sabun sudah cukup menyucikan. Jadi, kita guna saja public automatic washer pun, tiada masalah! Bukan nak kena samak pun tempat basuh tu! Kalau adalah terlekat tahi siapa-siapa pun kat tempat basuh tu (tak kira tahi orang Muslim atau bukan Muslim), membasuh hingga hilang bau, warna dan rasa sudah cukup suci. Penulis statement ini yang terlebih risau sorang-sorang, lepas tu beliau dok budget beliau lebih ‘menghalusi’ bab taharah daripada orang lain! Aduh!! (Sakit tu di sini; di dalam hati ku. Hahah)

Itu belum tahu lagi adakah pakaian mereka ni yang terkena darah yang boleh membawa kepada jangkitan merbahaya seperti HIV  atau sakit kulit yang kritikal yang boleh berjangkit.

  • Agaknya, dengan reasoning yang macam ni, kita boleh buat inferens yang HIV akan menular dengan cepat menjadi pandemic. Tak payah tunggu berkongsi jarum dan seks bebas! Menggunakan kedai dobi sahaja sudah cukup sebagai medium berjangkitnya HIV dikalangan manusia. Wow! Inilah kita katakan pemikiran kreatif dan kritis di kalangan orang Muslim kita. Amazing! Suatu hari nanti, bila kita bertanya kepada pesakit HIV akan sejarah mereka mendapat HIV, kita seharusnya tidaklah terkejut jika mereka berkata “Saya mendapat HIV kerana saya menggunakan kedai dobi untuk  membasuh baju. Mungkin ada darah HIV non-Muslim terkena di baju saya”. (By the way, penulis statement ini menyatakan sesuatu yang sangat berbaur perkauman. Racism is not endorsed in Islam. Statement beliau seolah-olah menyatakan yang darah HIV ada kat non-muslims saja. Sedangkan Malay Muslims pun banyak HIV. Malah, kebanyakan kes HIV yang aku pernah  tengok adalah dari kalangan Muslim.)
  • Opps….aku lupa. Aku ini hanya psychiatry MO. Aku kena tunggu, ehem, ‘ijtihad’ Infectious Disease doctor untuk bagi pendapat tentang hal ni.

Entah lah. Adakah pernah kita terfikir akan hal tersebut.

  • Hmm…sungguh aku memang tak pernah terfikir sebelum ini. Penulis statement ini memang terbaik arrr! Terbaik!! HOTS yang out of this world! Beliau memang orang Muslim yang hebat dan sensitif dengan isu agama. Beliau…ah, beliau begitu hebat! Enough said! 🙂 🙂 🙂

***

Just in case you think that I am putting more emphasis on HOTS (sorry, I meant to say dalil akli, so that I will sound religious, kan?) rather than dalil nakli, here’s a video to explain away all these nonsense using dalil nakli. In  this video, Dr. MAZA explained very well regarding the stupidity of those who over think stuff.

During the time of our beloved prophet, even dogs went in and out of the mosque!

Al-Bukhaari narrated that Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said: I used to stay overnight in the mosque at the time of the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) when I was young and single, and dogs used to urinate and come and go in the mosque, and they did not sprinkle water over any of that.

And if we just move into a house whose previous owner is a non-Muslim who might or might not own a dog, should we then ‘sertu’ the house? I sought for the answer down below.

Pertama:

Adakah seluruh badan anjing itu termasuk bulunya adalah najis (mazhab syafie)? Ataupun seluruh badan anjing itu hatta airliurnya adalah suci (mazhab Maliki)? ataupun seluruh tubuhnya najis kecuali airliur (mazhab hanafi dan hanbali)?

Pendapat yg paling kuat dan dipilih oleh syeikhul Islam Ibn Taimiyyah: Anjing tidak najis melainkan airliurnya sahaja.

Majmuk Fatawa Ibn Taimiyyah 21/106

KEDUA:

Kaedah dalam syarak ialah: Setiap tempat di atas muka bumi ini dihukumkan dengan suci melainkan ada dalil yg zahir menunjukkan ia pernah terkena najis.

Kata syeikhul Islam Ibn Taimiyyah: Tidak digalakkan mencari2 najis yang tidka zahir kepada kita. Dan tidak digalakkan berjaga-jaga daripada sesuatu yang tidak ada petunjuk yg zahir berkenaan kenajisannya, hanya disebabkan KEMUNGKINAN ia bernajis.

Kemudian, beliau membawa cerita Umar al-Khattab dan seorang sahabatnya melalui satu tempat, lalu ada air jatuh melalui dari sebuah rumah menimpa sahabatnya. Sahabatnya pun melaung: “Hai tuan punya corong air ini!! Air kamu ini suci atau bernajis?”

Lalu Umar al-Khattab pula melaung: “Hai tuan punya corong air!! Jangan bagitahu pada dia. Ini bukan tanggungjawab dia”.

Majmuk Fatawa Ibn Taimiyyah 21/113.

KETIGA:

Jika anda memilih pendapat yg mengatakan seluruh badan anjing itu najis (kami tidak menggalakkan memilih pendapat ini kerana, dalilnya lemah dan memberatkan), maka ia hanya bernajis apabila berlaku sentuhan antara anjing dan tempat itu apabila salah satu itu BASAH.

Apabila sentuhan itu berlaku dalam keadaan kering, maka tidak perlu dibasuh dengan tanah.

KEEMPAT:

Sesuatu tempat yg bernajis apabila telah kering dan tidak meninggalkan kesan najis samda rasa, bau dan warna, maka ia dihukumkan sebagai SUCI.

Kerana itu ada hadis menyebut:

“Dahulu, anjing-anjing kencing, masuk dan keluar masjid pada zaman Rasulullah SAW, dan mereka tidak menyimbah sesuatupun ke atasnya”.

HR Bukhari 1/75 (dengan sighah takliq).

Abu Daud berdalilkan hadis ini mengatakan: “Tanah apabila telah kering ia menjadi suci”.

All those dalils above I had sought wayyyy before I went to Australia for medical studies. In fact, before Malaysian students go to overseas they are usually given a talk by many ustazs about practical stuff like these (especially on minority fiqh/fiqh al-aqalliyyat. Go on and google on minority fiqh if you never heard of it). During my time, KMB had invited Ustaz Hasrizal to talk about minority fiqh with us so that we won’t go around over-burdening ourselves unnecessarily.

But you would not be triggered to search for dalils and textual evidence if your MIND is not inquisitive in nature.

I am an ordinary Muslim. As ordinary Muslims who do not have the level of knowledge like the ulama, we NEED higher order thinking to trigger our minds to search for the truth. We need it as our FIRST FILTER, because we don’t have religious facts on top of our head like Dr. MAZA.

If every time you hear something religious-sounding and then you spread it across all whatsapp groups that you have, not using your brain at all, then would you be triggered to search for the proper dalil? You won’t! You would simply short-cut your thinking process: “sounds religious, so it must be religious. So let’s share it because sharing is caring” (Pffft!). Your first filter (your brain!) becomes non-functioning! You simply operate at the level of spinal reflex.

Even Nabi Ibrahim a.s used his brain before he was finally given his revelation. He looked at the moon and the stars and the sun, and ask himself whether any of these is The Creator? And then using the process of falsification, he discarded the option one by one based on his reasoning!

The first checkpoint is always your brain in ANYTHING. Our brains help us in digesting the textual evidence given by the Quran and the Sunnah too. Your brain must be sound!

***

Let’s get back  to our own problem at hand. Let’s employ our power of observation the way Nabi Ibrahim had. Let’s observe how people can simply pray on the street, at the park (jangan kata darah haid, entah berapa banyak anjing dok lalu kat situ!).  Look at yourself! Do you bring your own serviette when you go to a restaurant with which to wipe your own mouth when you travel overseas? Many non-Muslims stay in hotels…if you really wanted to ‘menghalusi semuanya’, who knows whether the hotel had mixed all the laundries between serviette used by pork-eating non-Muslims  and the bedsheets and towels used in the hotel. Do Muslims go around bringing their own towel or their own bedsheets when they stay in any hotels while on a holiday?! If you had used HOTS, you can already make inferences that ‘setakat guna tempat basuh baju yang sama di kedai dobi, apa bezanya dengan dobi di hotel-hotel yang kita dok duduk selama ni?’

Logik lah weh! Penat lah baca isu-isu macam ni! Lepas tu bila orang dah tolong explain, mai pula jawapan “oh…kita tidak layak ijtihad”.

Bukan nak suruh sesiapa ijtihad pun. Manalah ada orang dalam Whatsapp group aku yang cukup kelayakan untuk buat ijtihad. Hahah. Tapi… kita boleh cari jawapan daripada orang yang dah pun berijtihad. Memang itulah yang kita buat selama ni pun dalam semua masalah-masalah agama. Ini bukan benda baru.  Kalau kita tak layak nak ijtihad, takkan tak payah cari jawapan? Carilah jawapan dan bagilah jawapan itu pada yang bertanya. Tak ada siapa nak suruh sesiapa di sini berijtihad pun!

One day, I might end up committing a grave error in diplomacy by simply leaving the Whatsapp group. Part of me just couldn’t take this anymore. I have mentioned before that ‘being nice’ is a form of struggle for me. And faced with enough provocation in the form of religious misconception (disguised like a ‘good advice sharing’ / ‘sharing is caring’/ ‘sebuah perkongsian bermanfaat’ etc etc), I might not be able to stick to being nice. LOL. Faced with repeated religious misconception being shared like this, I might one day just launch a non-stop tirade in the group and end up hurting the feelings of others. You see, I have a history with pseudo-religious people like this (which I never fully disclose and only talk about in limited form here and there in this blog, as you may have noticed.) My transference in this particular matter is huge! And I might not be able to handle it. (This is me being realistic. With my own set of friends, including my uni batchmates, my traveller friends, and a few of my best friends… they know me in all my glorious anger and they share my enthusiasm in discussing these kind of things. With them, I have no need to curb my tongue and we freely discuss anything back and forth sambil tampar-tampar meja with no hard feelings. Hahha. But with others outside my close-knit circle, I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Just too much drama.) 

So Ya Allah, give me strength.

I am staying out of trouble and keeping my mouth shut from now on. I am withdrawing myself from socializing with people who do not have similar wavelength as me. I am just going to silence that Whatsapp group for a year. I have too much Whatsapp Group, anyway. Unnecessary and overloaded conversations bombard me every day, it’s become intrusive and overwhelming. I have silenced a few Whatsapp Groups already. This will only be one of many that I have silenced and ignored. When I am not working and not on-call, I silence the department whatsapp group too. I am just not a big fan of whatsapp/we chat/ telegram and unnecessary sharing of information involved in those mediums. (I only have Whatsapp, and already I feel the pain. Hahah. I am just not a social butterfly, I guess).

I prefer books over people. Books and I, we are deeply involved and communicate on a higher plane. We understand each other. 😉

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….Or my writing!

Hahaha.

Until next time, my dear readers.