Effort And Sincerity

Once upon a time, me and my sisters were at a small hotel in KL, feeling hungry and needing something savoury to eat. The problem was, we didn’t have any transport and the only options were the food stalls around the area.

We are not picky eaters, exactly. We are not food connoisseurs or anything. We can eat at stalls, mamaks, or gerai tepi jalan, medan selera…. whatever. As long as the place is clean, then we will eat there. 

So me and my sisters walked around the many stalls around the area, trying to choose which stall was the best to eat at. I noticed a bunch of young kids at one of the stalls there had poured some water at the ground surrounding their stall so that the wind would not scatter the dust away into their small stove or bother their customers. They were just a bunch of teenagers but they caught my attention.

“Weh, jom makan sini.” I suggested to Alida

Alida agreed because she too had noticed what I noticed. Then all of us siblings ended up eating there. 

It was a simple effort. But it made all the difference in where we chose to eat.

And when one of the kids took our orders, we could see his polite respect, his effort to make suggestions about what was the best to eat at his small humble stall.

I could see his genuine pride for what he did as a living. He may not be able to do much, but he would do what he could. That was all it took to win our hearts.

***

I think that I am not exactly the most social person in the world, either in the social media or in real life. Social media to me is more as a tool to propagate a certain worldview, a campaign tool to get people to pause and realize how ridiculous society really is (my own paltry version of ‘kritik sosial’ just like in the literature that I read, hahha) or to stay connected with friends.

Mindless socializing is not my forte (even though I could do it, if I have to).

But when I finally do socialize, I make an effort. And I am sincere with the effort I make.

I am not only sincere with what I say when I am being nice, I am also very sincerely earnest in what I say when I am annoyed.  By reading my blog or what I wrote on whatsapp, you can tell whether I am joking, happy, annoyed, about to burst out or downright furious at something. Hahah.

My friend used to tell me “Afiza, you are so good with words. How come you cannot find a prettier way to express yourself when you are annoyed?”

I laughed out loud. Can you see how brilliant my friend is? That was a backhanded compliment at its best. Very diplomatic of her to compliment my literary skill (a sure way of warming my heart, making me more receptive to her suggestions or criticism) and in the next breath telling me in no uncertain terms that the way I express myself when I am annoyed have a lot of rooms for improvement. (She is a master at diplomacy without making it fake! And that’s rare!)

I don’t socialize much, but when I finally do, I try my damnedest hard to be genuine. The point is, you know that you are interacting with Afiza, as how she really feels and how she really thinks. If I am annoyed, you know it. If I am amused, you know it. There is no misunderstanding.

True, I could have found better ways to express myself when I am annoyed. I just don’t want to. It’s not that I can’t be diplomatic. I just don’t want to. It’s not that I don’t have the skill to butter up to my superiors and be nice to authorities. I just don’t want to. It’s not that I don’t have the mental capacity and the language skill to couch my words in a manner that is more pleasant while delivering my message, but I just don’t want to.

I. DON’T. WANT. TO.

Not because I can’t. But because I won’t.

If I had wanted to, I would have done it! Make me want! Or make me feel like it is VERY IMPORTANT in this particular context for me to be diplomatic, then I will do it.  I do it with my patients, for example. Counselling, Motivational interviewing…. it’s all about giving a certain message in a manner that the patient can see, understand and accept. Another way of looking at it is explained by Wilfred Bion in his Containment theory. We do it all the time during therapy.

Bion’s theory (1959, 1962) explains how a mother receives unwanted and/oroverwhelming projections from an infant, processes them and then returns the experience to the infant in a modified, palatable form. This process also occurs in therapy with the therapist acting as a ‘container’, taking in thoughts/feelings from the client and re-representing them so they are both more understandable and less potentially destructive.

When I am doing therapy, I am working. My working persona, as Jung would term it! Not my real personality.

But when I am not working, I have no reason to contain anything. Hahah.  You will get me all raw and unprocessed. My own version of being a straight talker (because I think normal people should be able to take the truth without me having to dress it up the way I did with my clients and patients. If I have genuine respect of your intellect, I would be straight and honest with you. The moment I think your intellect cannot handle it, then I will try to be more diplomatic. So when I am being honest and blunt, take it as a compliment! Hahah. It means that I think your intellect can pass muster. Being blunt is also my own way of weeding out who I can be friends with and who I should only bother to communicate when there is a need for me to do so. As a result, I surround myself only with people of similar wavelength as me. Real, genuine people who would not act like they are in a drama all the time. Hahha)

Putting a lot of emphasis on being real and genuine, I was quite affronted by people who simply copy-paste messages of birthdays, Hari Raya wishes, CNY wishes, congratulations or condolences in whatsapp groups!

Gila malas!!

For example, when someone’s mother pass away, the first person giving the condolence message in the whatsapp group is the only one who actually puts a sincere effort to write his message properly. The rest of the whatsapp group members then simply copy-paste the first message ad nauseam, ad infinitum. It feels like you are reading repetitive spam messages instead of a genuine expression of sympathy and empathy towards your friend who has just lost her mother.

How can the society be so insensitive and so lazy!

Orang cakap aku tak diplomatik! Tapi sekurang-kurangnya, when I do socialize and communicate, I am sincere about it and I actually make an effort.

Instead of copy-pasting the same thing, I wrote a different message of condolence into the whatsapp group! It was my way of saying that I actually thought of her while she was dealing with the lost of her mother, that I had bothered to compose something out of my own heart and mind.

A minute later, the rest of the other members (who had not yet said their condolences before) copy-pasted MY message and turning it into another set of spam!

Adoiii!!  *tepuk dahi* (By the way, when did I give anyone the permission to plagiarize my message? Haha.)

What the hell hangpa semua ni! Pemalas nak mampus!

To be honest, aku pernah jer tak wish birthday and tak ucap takziah in whatsapp groups. Maybe because I am not particularly close with that person and therefore my wish (or lack of) would not really mean anything to them one way or another. 

But when I do finally write something, I compose my own! 

Maybe it is the writer in me that makes me so fastidious and fussy about showing some effort when you are making your greetings and wishes. Maybe this is just my personal pet peeve because I am so used to communicate my thoughts in writing, so that I become quite particular about the lack of genuine effort and warmth in what is supposed to be a sincere, personal wish of condolences by your so-called friends and colleagues.

But heck, this is not supposed to be my own pet peeve. Anyone with common decency should have thought about this too.

When I scrolled back the messages in the Whatsapp Group, I took note of people who actually bothered to compose a different message or insert their own personal message in the Whatsapp Group. And my INTP mind started analyzing the pattern (as it tends to do all the time. INTPs like patterns) People who I noticed had written different messages are either people of genuine kindness and warmth to everyone (one of my female specialist is like that), or people who are actually really close with the person suffering the lost (even though in other occasions, they too are copy-pasters).

So my mind came up with these conclusions/patterns: 

1)If you are genuinely saddened by someone’s lost because you are close to this person, then you would show an effort to express your feelings properly because you honestly feel sorry for them in view of your friendship. And because of your close friendship with this person, you feel compelled to personalize the message because you WANT this person to know that you SINCERELY share her sadness. Generic copy of condolence won’t do justice (in the context of your close relationship with this person.)

2)And if you are someone with common sense and common decency even though you yourself are not personally close with the person suffering the lost, you would also bother to compose your message properly. (this is because being a nice person is who you are and you would extend the same kind of thoughtful personalized message to everyone suffering such a great loss, regardless of the intimacy of your relationship with them. One of my specialists is like that. She is genuinely kind-hearted and nice.)

3) The rest are just actors and players (or perhaps robots that have been programmed to repeat or plagiarize) pretending to do what the society expects without having to really think about it or making any real mental effort. (And these are the ones that annoy me. At that specific  time, I don’t respect them or their sentiment).

I do personalize my messages and wishes. But it’s not because I am a nice person all the time. It’s because I am so rarely nice that when I am FINALLY being nice, I will make a real genuine effort. Or else I wouldn’t even bother.

254121

***

Please don’t bother to wish me anything (birthdays/ condolences/ congratulations) if you are just going to seem like you are suffering from echolalia. The writer in me do not feel anything (no joy, no gratitude, no respect, no real warmth) with such messages. I wouldn’t even remember the people who copy-paste the same darn wish over and over again like uninspired spammers with nothing better to do. If I am ever tested with the loss of my beloved mother, I don’t want anyone to display such a lackadaisical attitude with the way they express their condolences to me. (I might not even announce the matter in Whatsapp group and just personally call my boss to inform the matter privately and quietly in order to avoid reading copy-pasted messages and having to pretend that I feel thankful??! about what you so effortlessly and thoughtlessly plagiarize. Gosh!) The loss is devastating to me! And you are just copy-pasting like you don’t really care? How dare you! (I understand you may not mean it that way. Maybe you do genuinely think of my mother when you are copy-pasting that message, but how would I know that… when your effort is so paltry?!)

To rub salt to the wound, you are annoying me by spamming the group.

I appreciate genuine effort! That’s all! It can be small, it doesn’t need to contain bombastic words ala Shakespeare or Chaucer, but it can be genuine and real. At least!

Even if it contains grammatical errors/misspelled words… I would appreciate it a thousand times more than a thoughtless copied message.

I leave you today with the facebook status of someone whose idea and intellect I actually respect who had said the same thing I am trying to say. Maybe his facebook status could convey better what I really think when I write this post. He wrote about the unfortunate rampant spamming that has become the ridiculous trend in our society during festive season. I agree wholheartedly with what Tai Zee Kin in his facebook status had said. And below, I copied his very thought provoking facebook status into my blog post.

I think, this facebook status deserves a standing ovation.

Until next time, my dear readers.

screenshot-2017-02-09-08-54-29

screenshot-2017-02-09-08-54-44

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.

A Rose By Any Other Name…

I couldn’t bear it.

Intelligent Malays are in hiding. Meanwhile, those intelligent Malays who came out of the closet are being treated like they are weirdos. But if the majority are stupid people, then the intelligent minority would be perceived as weird by the stupid majority. That’s a no brainer. Poor Wardina, Ustaz MAZA….they are always being looked at as different in Malaysia because they are the ones who actually dare to come out of the closet! Nowadays, proclaiming your intelligence by going against JAKIM take courage! Because you would be instantly perceived as anti-religion instead of anti-stupidity that has no basis in Islam.

I tried to stop myself. I tried (very hard) not to write about this because I have written about this so many times, I have lost count. But I couldn’t stop myself. These are issues that fire up my soul. I am passionate about truth. About justice. About fairness. About social equality. About things having to follow universal ethics.

What is wrong with religious authority in Malaysia? Why are they SO STUPID!!  (There! I have said it! Damn it!)  And this is where people would start saying I am arrogant. (And I am not!)

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This came out in the International magazine, TIME! How is this not embarrassing! It looks as though Muslims are so anal retentive (or so stupid) that we can get easily confused  when we call our sausages as hot dogs! This came out in TIME, BBC , Channel News Asia and God knows how many others!

I don’t think I am arrogant towards the poor, the needy or even towards my subordinates (HOs, nurses, clerks). I am usually perceived (perception is not necessarily the truth) as arrogant by authorities (teachers, seniors, some MOs and specialists when I was a HO). I don’t need to turn up my nose towards those below me because they are not the ones who would impose their authorities and their opinions on me. To THEM, I have no reason to be arrogant to because I am not subject to their unreasonable whims and desires!

It is with the authorities that I usually have problems with (and this runs in the family; from my father, to myself and my sisters. We are all very stubborn people when we believe we are right. We are stubborn even with each other. Hahah. It is one of the reasons my father quitted the government and went into business.)

Whenever I have problems with the authorities,  it is always either because I think they have faulty opinions, inefficient way of doing things or simply wrong in what they say and how they conduct themselves! And they are the ones who would have problems with me. I almost never have any problems with my subordinates… it is the authorities I really cannot stand! It must be in my genetic make up or something. Hahah.

***

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Shakespeare had famously written ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ in his Romeo and Juliet play. It means, outward appearance and outward persona do not matter. We should prize substance over form.

Shakespeare is brilliant. (Some had even speculated  that his real name was Sheikh Zubair, possibly a Muslim. But that is a speculation and a debate for another day. But taking my lesson from the great man, I say “Shakespeare by any other name would still be as brilliant.” Haha)

A hot dog by any other name would not be any more halal than it already is. If the process of making the hot dog is halal, then the hot dog is halal. If it is made from haram meat and through a non-halal process, then calling it as a sausage instead of a hot dog would not make it less haram or more halal.

Learn from Shakespeare!  Substance over form! Character over persona! This is very simple!! Such a simple concept that if I were to teach it to primary school kids, they would get it! You would think someone in JAKIM would be more intelligent than primary school kids, won’t you?

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This is the reason I love Dr. MAZA. Intelligent, sharp, on point!

I think brilliant students should be sent to learn the religion. We shouldn’t let only less brilliant students take up religious studies. Not all brilliant people should take medicine, engineering and accountancy. We need brilliant people in the religion as well! (But the fact is, most of my naughty primary school friends were sent to Sekolah Agama Secondary School by their parents in the hope that they would turn out well. And all the good-mannered brilliant kids continue their studies in Asma/SBP/MRSM during my time. And the trend continues. The straight As students get to be doctors, engineers, architects. The straight Bs, some Cs students can only further their studies in social sciences…. including the religious line. Some drug addicts were sent to Sekolah Pondok…. in the hope that they will be religious. So why are we so surprised if they end up becoming ustaz who spewed up nonsensical stuff like this? Well! I am not saying that all of Sekolah Agama students are not brilliant. But when they ARE brilliant, they continue their studies in medicine or law or engineering… instead of Syariah, Pengajian Sunnah etc etc) 

Dr. MAZA was a best student in his schooling days! And it is reflected in how he comes up with his opinion in most issues. He was educated in Jordan… but also studied in Oxford afterwards. He pursued his religious studies to the level of doctorate! His mind is broadened by knowledge and travel! He is the religious figure who rational, logical Muslims would gravitate to because his explanation makes sense and is appealing to our fitrah that NEED things to make sense, to be fair, to be just. Ustaz Harizal was also a best student and he is also brilliant. But they both are the minorities among Malaysian Religious Authorities, unfortunately.

I also, personally like Wardina. She had addressed this issue in one of her facebook statuses. I can feel the wave of frustration engulfing every cell of her body, coming from every syllable of her writings. Because  I feel the same way. I am tired of feeling frustrated! Exhausted! If I am still in Australia right now (where Wardina currently resides), I wouldn’t know how to show my face in the lecture hall. This is embarassing….our tiny minds made us a laughingstock overseas.

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And then we lament the fact that Muslims are not respected! Well, look at ourselves! If I, a proud Muslim, can’t respect JAKIM who claims to represent the interest of Muslims in this country, then what makes you think that non-Muslims would ever respect us?

Our own so-called religious representative is laughable, for God’s sake!

And when a professor herself cannot see the truth, even I give up! Below are the words of a Professor Madya! I give up! (well, not really. The fact that I am still ranting about this means that I am not giving up! Hahaha)

Puan Wardina Safiyyah seharusnya memahami JAKIM sebagai badan yang diamanahkan untuk menguruskan pensijilan halal makanan mempunyai peraturan dan “standard operating procedure” yang telah lama ada. Sudah banyak syarikat makanan yang “comply” dengan peraturan JAKIM tanpa kita sedari eg A&W Coney Chicken yang berasal dari Coney Dog. Tidak boleh lah mereka bersifat “inconsistent” dalam peraturan mereka. Tambahan pula budaya Malaysia berbilang kaum, sudah tentu kita terdedah kepada banyak jenis makanan dari kaum lain yang mungkin ada nama resepi mereka berasal dari bahan yang dilarang oleh agama.Tidak wajar juga kita sebagai pengguna mula mempertikaikan peraturan institusi agama di negara kita hanya kerana “malu” pada publisiti media asing, yang jarang benar memihak kepada kita, dan membuat tajuk yang menyimpang dari isu asal. Kebenaran agama itu tidak terletak kepada “endorsement” pihak media asing. Sebagai seorang Muslim, seorang rakyat Malaysia kitalah yang wajar menerangkan pada pihak lain tentang peraturan di negara kita dengan sebaik-baiknya.

As a psychiatry MO, when I read her words, I already know one thing : She doesn’t get past the stage of Conventional Morality. Lawrence Kohlberg was right. Only 10-15% of people ever get to the stage of Post-Conventional morality. Not even a professor is guaranteed to ever have the sort of mind to be able to reach this stage.

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Her words  such as “Tidak bolehlah mereka bersifat inconsistent dalam peraturan mereka” (what if the peraturan is wrong, in the first place?). Words like “Tidak wajar juga kita sebagai pengguna mula mempertikaikan peraturan institusi agama di negara kita” (what if the institution did not create a good rule and a good SOP in the first place? Your SOP is NOT Allah’s words. They are not sacred and they are changeable! But of course, someone who never gets to the stage of Post-Conventional Morality will never understand that!)

And then she TOTALLY missed the point by implying that the only reason Wardina is opposed to Jakim’s latest buffoonery is because she is embarrassed by the International coverage of our stupidity!  Madam, we are not embarrassed to defend Islam against feminists who frowned upon our hijab. We are not embarrassed to defend out religion against extreme right-wing politicians who accuse Islam as the religion for terrorists. We are not embarrassed to defend Islam in issues like polygamy, inheritance, syariah and jurisprudence. During  Islamic Awareness Week in Australia, I stood up inside our booth to talk to Australians about Islam… and it was proudly done. I did not need nor want the approval of the West. And I believe, so did Wardina.

The reason we are embarrassed is NOT because  we want to kiss the ass of the Western media! No! We are embarrassed because Jakim who claimed to represent Islam in this country is wrong and foolish in their statements and conduct, which have no basis in Islam! It reflects badly on Islam! That’s why we are embarrassed!

You totally missed  the point! You assumed (wrongly!) about what Wardina meant by being embarrassed (as though Wardina was embarrassed about Islamic values; when in actual fact, you failed to discriminate between Jakim’s foolish SOP and actual Islamic practice. Wardina is embarrassed about JAKIM. Not about Islam! Takkan tu pun tak faham!), and then you dare to ‘advise’ (macam baik) that ‘kebenaran agama itu tidak terletak kepada ‘endorsement’ pihak media asing. Sebagai seorang Muslim, seorang rakyat Malaysia, kitalah yang wajar menerangkan pada pihak lain tentang peraturan di negara kita dengan sebaik-baiknya’  (ayat umum yang benar, diaplikasikan pada konteks yang salah. And by doing that, you can make make yourself sound like you are right. It’s a cheap trick that all competent debaters are familiar with!)

Seriously, this is not only a failure in the attainment of Post-Conventional Morality, but also a failure in basic comprehension. Khalas!

So if a professor cannot grasp this simple concept, what hopes do we have in our general public?  Seriously!

When you read the comments from the general public in facebook, there were so many supporters of the professor’s words. It boggles the mind! It scares me to know that there are so many Muslims who are so irrational and fail basic comprehension. They think they are religious but actually they are not! These supporters would write comment such as “Wardina ni asyik rasa dia betul. Pi jadi ustazah lah. Dia ni rasa dia lagi pandai dari ustaz and JAKIM” (Again! The words of someone who failed to reach post-conventional morality!)

Fortunately, I could see that there are also many supporters in the page of Dr. MAZA and Wardina. It relieves me to know that there are just as many people who are rational and intelligent among us Malaysian Muslims.

Our general public’s lack of critical thinking reflects badly on our education system, in my opinion. What do the kids learn at school that they grow up into adults who fail basic comprehension?

Dear parents, if you want your kids to be critical in dealing with issues, please talk to them about worldly matters and what’s in the news. Don’t simply entertain them layan kartun and dramas. Don’t be too frivolous. Talk about issues that matter! Ask them regarding their opinion about politics/ religion/books. Shape their minds. Enrich their internal world. Encourage them to read! Don’t delegate the task of educating their minds to teachers at school. Teachers are anal-retentive about finishing the syllabus (because the ministry put them up to it). They teach your kids WHAT to think; not HOW to think! They give your kids fish, but your kids need the fishing rod!

If you want your kids to grow into a well-mannered kid, don’t simply put them in a Maahad Tahfiz Hostel at the age of seven years old and think your job is done! Just this week, I have a case of one kid who was put in a religious hostel at the age of seven years old. Too young!  Now, he is already 10 years old. And he developed depression since the age of 8 years old but no one ever knew until now! The only reason he came into my attention was because he was abused by his father (who is also a Ketum abuser) and the case was referred to me. Isn’t it ironic? A ketum abuser who abused his own child claimed that the reason he put the kid into a religious hostel at the young age of seven was because he wanted the kid to grow up religious! With that sort of reasoning, I would expect the father to be a decent human being himself; certainly did not expect such a father to be a ketum abuser who kicked his kid and hit the kid’s head against the wall!

You would expect that a kid would not form any attachment to an abusive father. Perhaps, it was better for him to be placed in a hostel, right? At least, that’s what most people would think. But heck, kids do form attachment even to an abusive parent. They still crave love and attention from the same parent who abuse them. It may not be understandable, but that’s a fact of life and there is nothing we can do about it. And the kid has been feeling rejected since the age of seven years old (because he was placed in a hostel), and then he developed depression. Is there anything more heartbreaking, than a small child who should have no other worries in life other than learning and playing with friends, yet is dealing with depression and struggling with low self-esteem? This is just so sad. And as usual, when I feel sad, I become angry instead. I ranted to the mother about the father’s lack of fatherhood qualities and urged the mother to take the child out of the religious hostel. God, I was pushy. Usually, I can hide my pushiness with some tact of diplomacy. But that day, I couldn’t help myself. The mother is in the process of divorcing the father and I urged the mother to place the child in sekolah kebangsaan ASAP, regardless of what the father thinks. The mother agreed. And I am satisfied.

You yourself is responsible to educate your child to be religious, to be moral, to be intelligent! Do you think teachers can replace the parental attention that your child needs from you? Teachers are not gonna give your kids any special attention over the rest of other kids in the school. Teachers are not as personally invested in the well-being of your kids the way you would! When you put them in a hostel at such a young age, you miss the opportunity to shape their characters and their minds. Teachers can only do so much. It is your responsibility!

Don’t let them grow up into someone who cannot attain post-conventional morality secondary to lack of intellectual stimulation! Teachers can’t stimulate their brain to the extent that you can as a parent! Your kids can turn out to be professors, doctors, engineers, lawyers, clerks, factory workers, cleaners…whatever.

But they may never attain post-conventional morality. Because they were not stimulated enough! Even a cleaner might have an instinctive grasp of post-conventional morality than a professor. Truly!

In the world of intellectual pursuit, it would be a tragedy to have gained the title form of a professor without the substance of an intellectual!

These types don’t deserve to remain in the ivory tower of academia.

I leave you guys with a screenshot of my own Facebook status regarding this issue. I just couldn’t help myself. Haha.

Until next time.

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The Week For Spirituality

Last week, I think, is a ‘Spirituality Week’ for me (in the sense that I found myself talking about spiritual matters with a few different people individually, and then with a few people in a group at the end of the week).

I came across a colleague of mine reading a book during one of our free(er) moments in the day. And knowing me, I just had to stop and see the cover of the book and perhaps interest him into talking about it with me. (talking about books is the next best thing to actually reading it, lol). 

Turns out that it was a book on Christianity. And since I have always thought that he was a Buddhist, I was interested to know why he was reading that book. 

He told me that he was interested to know about other religions. So naturally, I told him that I had read on comparative religion when I was at the uni. I told him that I have come across Karen Armstrong’s History of God. That I have read Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusions. That I attended Christian Awareness Week being held every year at the uni for the purpose of learning about Christianity and how it compared to Islam. 

I listened to videos by Muslim preachers, Christian Preachers, Richard Dawkins. I read on Theory Of Evolution and I also read The Evolution Deceit. 

We agreed that we should never follow faith blindly

I never thought I could have such satisfying conversation like that with a fellow colleague. Colleagues are people we endure small talk and work-related jokes and discussion with; not so much discussion on personal faith and belief. I have my own set of friends for that sort of thing. 

This just shows that you can find a searching soul at the least expected places. A soul in search for the truth can be one of the most beautiful thing one can ever stumbled upon in one’s life. 

It inspires us to never take spirituality for granted. People are always searching for it, knowingly or unknowingly. Some never attain it. 

I wish him luck in his quest.

***

Last week I had a conference in KL (ASCAPAP/MCPM). On the way there, I dropped by my elder sister’s workplace in Tanjung Malim and we went for lunch. And my Kak Long suddenly brought up existential topic like nobody’s business. 

With my elder sister, it is not surprising. Talking about things like that pass as a light topic between the two of us. It is mind stimulating, deep, thoughtful and challenging. 

Why do you know what you know? She asked.

How do we know God exists?

Why can’t God be more than one? How do you answer that question if asked?

How do  you know that everything that was taught to you is indeed the truth?

Now, most traditional people would be horrified by such questions. My parents certainly never answered those questions to my satisfaction. Neither the ustazah or whatever naqibah  I ever had.  I find  those questions stimulating and very intelligent! Just the sort of thing I expected my brilliant sister to ask. She had been a best student all her life. She is BOTH scientific and artsy. A statistician with a scientific mind, and a novelist with a philosopher’s soul. 

When it comes to matters of existentialism, the only difference between me and my sister is that I asked those questions and found the answers earlier in life because of something I had to go through at 18. (An ex-classmate of mine passed away suddenly. At 18 when life seems like an embodiment of immortality, that was like being rudely woken up after being doused in iced cold water, leaving me shivering, confused and afraid).

Most people DO have those questions in their head, on and off, for the rest of their lives. Whether or not they ignore and suppress them or actually struggle to find the answers depends on the type of personality and the intellectual background the person has. 

I am the sort who has to find the answers to questions that are bugging me. And I want answers that satisfy me to the point that I can accept it as the most logical, natural self-evident truth. In other words, unshakeable confidence was what I was looking for.

I found the answers after researching the topic in my free time between the age of 18 to 22.

When you want answers, and you go through the intellectual journey of finding them, you will get the answers. But if you have questions and then you never bothered to answer them (because it’s time-consuming, it’s a busy life after all) then you will struggle with them, on and off, for the rest of your life.

When you follow the traditional course of “Just swallow, never questions,” no truth will ever truly ‘settle’ inside the sanctum sanctorum of your heart. Your faith will always be ‘not quite there’. Doubts will assail you at the slightest prod and provocation. For someone like me, I can never live without absolute certainty in something as important as whether or not God really exists. After all, that’s our purpose in life. Our life is about finding God, and after finding Him, being closer and closer to Him to the best of our ability, for the rest of our lives. That’s why those questions will keep on bugging you every now and then until you settle them once and for all. It’s our instinct prodding us to continue our search until we attain unshakeable belief. 

Until I can say more than “because that’s my faith’, I cannot rest easy. I believe, you should be able to explain your faith based on facts and logic. Just saying ‘that’s my belief’ just don’t cut it for me. And it shouldn’t be for anyone. 

Know why you believe what you believe. 

This was what I told my sister. 

“We are Muslims. We do all the ritual that makes us Muslims. We identify ourselves as Muslims. Your questions are good. It’s something every Muslim should ask. God himself asked us to not simply follow our ancestors in matter of faith, rather we should actively engage in finding the answers to convince ourselves truly and honestly that our belief is the correct one.”

I told her that Allah himself asks us to use our brain. “Afala tatafakkarun” (Tidakkah kamu berfikir?). He asks us to falsify the Quran if we are not convinced. (now, falsification/nullification is a mathematic and scientific process which appeals to a mathematician). Faith is not a passive process. It is our inherent fault in the society when we taught religion passively to our kids. They end up not really understanding what they claim they understand. And they feel unsafe to voice out their doubts because they can feel that it is discouraged (like it was an act of blasphemy) to ask sincerely for explanation. 

I told her that finding God has a process to it that I went through and I had benefitted greatly from it, Alhamdulillah.

First Step:

Ask yourself whether you think God exists? Why or why not? (This is when you have to read The Evolution Theory, Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusions. This is when you also have to listen to videos and debates between an atheist and a theist. This is when you come across the philosophical aspect of existentialism. This is also when you read the scientific aspect of why it is not feasible for the world to come about by chance). 

Unfortunately, there is a lot of reading and videos to go through. After all, IT IS an intellectual adventure, so you can’t expect easy answers! Nope, there is no short-cut. People can tell you their own personal experience of how they come to have belief. But you have to go through the journey yourself.

If, after all those readings, you decided there is no God. Then, your journey ends here. That’s it. No more finding out to do (but every now and then, you might wonder again. It is our instinct to find God. I believe, God put that instinct there.)

Second step:

Once you have decided that God does exist,you have to ask yourself, whether He will let us do whatever we like and just leave us to our own devices? Is he just amusing himself with the creations without any purpose? Does that fit your concept of God?

Or do you think he would have sent us rules and guidance to help us govern our lives in a way He wants us to?

If you believe our God is a frivolous God who is only amusing himself and simply let us do whatever we like, then your search ends here. Go ahead and do whatever you want, believing in a Creator that would not hold you accountable for anything you do in this life.  Your search will end here; where you believe there is a Creator, but the impact that belief has on your life is minuscule and immaterial to how you live your life.

But if you believe that God would not have created us for nothing, that there ARE rules and morals and ethics that have been set out, then the search begins all over again.

Third Step:

List every religion in the world and read on them one by one. Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Bahai’i, Paganism, Wicca etc etc.

Ideally, you can read on those religions one by one. And cross off your list systematically.

I had a short-cut here. I didn’t investigate man-made religion at all. I crossed off Wicca, Scientology, Paganism, Bahai’i and all modern man-made religion from the very beginning. Because if it’s man-made, then it would not be a true religion based on divine messages. 

I crossed off Hinduism because my background made me pretty convinced that God is not worshipped through idols made of stones of different shapes. Some people believe that, and I respect that. But I just find it difficult, personally, to have intercession (perantaraan) between me and God. I believe, you can call to God directly.

I also did not investigate Buddhism. Because Buddha was not God. Buddhism is just a nice way of living. But it is not about God from the outset. So, I crossed it off from the get-go.

That left me with Islam, Judaism and Christianity. 

My search on Judaism told me that they don’t preach or seek to convert others. I never attended Judaism Awareness Week at the Uni because the Jews never organised it. They don’t trouble themselves to get people to ‘find the right path’ in Judaism. Judaism is really just for the Jews. Almost exclusively so, I might add. In fact, based on my conversation with a Jew that I came across  in an interfaith dialogue organised by the Uni, they seemed to discourage conversion by saying, “It’s difficult for outsiders to convert to Judaism. There are so many rituals that they have to go through. We neither encourage nor discourage conversion.” (which is a direct opposition to what Muslims and Christians would say. We always strive to entice people into the religion because we believe we have the right one and we want people to be in heaven like us and so on and so forth).

So, I crossed off Judaism because I believed God is not selective and He would be fair. He would not favour only one particular race. But having said that, the Jew that I talked to may only represent a minority of them in the religion. Maybe the real Rabbi would have tried harder to convert me. But again, I have never heard of any Jew actively doing dakwah and promoting their religion to others, have you? It seemed to be the general way of the religion. 

Now, all that was left were Christianity and Islam. I had an advantage in that I already knew a lot of things about Islam and I have practiced it all my life. All I was aiming for was the strengthening of my faith. So that I could tell for sure to myself that I have investigated on other religions. That I’ve made an educated choice. That my faith is not just a hereditary one. Does that make sense?

I compared Christianity and Islam using the book The Choice by Ahmed Deedat. And I also listened to videos by Yusha Evans ‘My Journey to Islam’ (it’s in You Tube)

The-Choice-Ahmed-Deedat

It basically convinced me, beyond reasonable doubt, that Islam is the one true religion, asking me to worship the one true God as my purpose of life. I learned things in Christianity that I never really knew before. I had trouble with the concept of the Trinity (the fact that there was no such a concept prior to the Council Of Nicea). I didn’t understand why Jesus had to die for our sins when God could just forgive us if He wants to without anyone having to die. And if Jesus was God, how could he die? And I also could not get over the injustice of the Original Sin. Things like that.

Then, I started listening to Nouman Ali Khan videos about the scientific and literary marvel of the Quran. I started devouring Harun Yahya’s books. Everything just clicked into place.

And that was how my intellectual and spiritual journey began and still ongoing. 

if you actually go through the journey yourself, you will notice that the hardest part is the first step. Once you are convinced that there MUST be a God, Islam becomes almost the natural choice after studied through every other religion. 

***

The problem with our society is that they are afraid that if their youngsters ask these questions, the youngsters will be led astray and end up murtad. My mom saw the bible I brought from Australia which I placed side by side with my other religious books on the top shelf, and the next day I noticed she placed it at the bottom shelf along with my fiction books. (Haha. I let her have her way. Didn’t want to exacerbate her anxiety).

They were so afraid of the slightest indication or symptoms of apostasy but they never tried to tackle the root cause of it.  

It’s like treating the abdominal pain without removing the gastric cancer. The cancer I meant here is intellectual thirst! You cannot simply brush off legit questions asked by your kids or your students because a)you are not sure yourself, b)you are afraid their quest for the truth will end up in apostasy. 

Usually, it is  the other way around. When you discourage them from asking legit questions, that’s when they will be led astray and apostasy happens. In fact, those who ask questions end up finding Islam or if they are already Muslims, having their faith strengthened.  

The least we can do is to say, “Let’s talk about it. Let’s find the answers together. Let’s make it an intellectual adventure involving a rendezvous with philosophy, science, history and culture,”

What we shouldn’t do is look horrified and exclaimed “You are having a spiritual CRISIS. You should repent to God and do the Solat Taubat.”

I ended the one hour and a half lunch with my sister by encouraging her to go on researching on the questions. After all, my nephew and niece, inheriting their mother’s intelligence gene insya-Allah, will surely ask her just exactly the same questions.   

***

I came back from ASCAPAP/MCPM and came across another colleague with whom we talked about instinct,spirituality and religion.

She was of the opinion that spirituality has nothing to do with religion. I only partially agreed with her. I told her that “Yes, sometimes religion only emphasise on the ritual and ignoring the spiritual aspect of it.” And what I meant by spiritual aspect is the intellectual aspect of it (the reason, the why, the wonder behind all these). 

“But for those whose spirituality is deeply connected to the religion, ignoring religious rules will cause them to experience spiritual void. For them, spirituality and religion is connected and they can’t say ‘I am spiritual even though I ignore the rules in my religion’ It doesn’t jibe. ” I continued.

To me, yes, you can be spiritual but NOT YET religious. But being spiritual naturally will ease your way into being more religious and makes you want to perform the rituals because you know why you do what you do. So in that sense, spirituality and religiosity strengthen one another. Which is exactly what it is supposed to be doing in the first place. 

The next day, a group of us suddenly found ourselves talking about comparative religion as a group. At that time, it was just the three of us (2 master students and me) talking about our daily tasks. Suddenly the same colleague who I mentioned was reading on Christianity asked me about my study on comparative religion during my younger days at the uni. So, we got into discussing the theories again. 

And then a few other MOs joined in. One of them said “I don’t really believe in anything.” And I respect that. It doesn’t mean he never will. Our journey begins or ends or pauses at different stage and different pace, after all. 

One said, “I think faith is personal between you and God,” Yup, that might be true. I respect that it was true for him. But just because it is personal between you and God, does not mean a bunch of us shouldn’t discuss and talk about it whenever we feel like it. It’s not like there was any compulsion or forced conversion or disrespect going on with the discussion (even though it could turn into that, if you lack the quality of tolerance and respect). Some people talk about their personal belief because  they find it more stimulating than talking about the latest gossip or the latest gadget or just random small talk (that bores me silly). 

Don’t blame me for appearing uninterested for cutting a conversation short if I find anyone is too frivolous or too light-hearted for my taste. My boredom threshold is pretty low. When I am not interested, it shows. I just simply don’t respond and end the conversation quickly. I always prefer a conversation with substance. 

And what can be more substantial than talking about the existence of God, agree?  

Let’s see how far we have come (or regressed)!

On June 26, 2015 something momentous had occurred in  the United States of America. The US Supreme Court ruled that the US Constitution guarantees the right for same-sex couples to marry in all 50 US states.

The US LGBTQ community finally wins after decades of propaganda and fighting.

Little by little they changed the social construct. 

Lao-Tzu was right: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

They were persistent and tenacious, out-spoken and courageous, organized and systematic, unified and integrated.

They launched their mission and attack using an impressive holistic step-by-step approach:

  1. Romanticizing the act of ‘coming out of the closet’ by praising these people as brave, and criticising those who oppose them as bigots. They romanticised the whole concept of love, saying how it is a beautiful thing regardless with which gender the love is directed at. 
  2. Propagating their agenda by getting celebrities and influential people to support LGBTQ. 
  3. Getting scientist to endorse that being gay is natural. In fact, it is said to be in the genetic make up. They spread this ideology straight into medical schools all over the world (mine included; gay counsellors are given one hour lecture time when we learned about sexuality in 3rd year). So we have the world’s brilliant people who most of them support LGBTQ as something natural and biological. If you cannot believe your own doctors when they say gays are natural, then who can you believe, right?
  4. Once their social standing is high (due to the aforementioned support of celebrities, influential people, scientist of brilliant minds), their ability to exert social pressure is increased.
  5. When they are able to exert social pressure, the politicians had no choice but to listen to them. They lobbied politicians (and powerful ones too) – Hillary Clinton and Obama, just to name a few.
  6. The politicians are policy makers! Do the math! And see the outcome now. 

They won. Finally. After decades of fighting. 

The silent majority lose because their protest was not systematic. The silent majority lose because they were silent. They couldn’t be bothered to STRATEGICALLY plan a counter-attack. 

I notice this sort of malaise attitude in the Malays, I am sorry to say. They just couldn’t be bothered to oppose vehemently, write scathingly, advocate forcefully and fight strategically for whatever cause they believe is right. They easily gave up at the slightest hurdle. They wouldn’t complain of ill treatment by superiors, wouldn’t stand up for themselves when they were bullied, and will also not back up their friends who were bullied. Even if they start the process of complaining to the higher authority, their effort can easily be vanquished at the slightest reprimand by the higher authority. They couldn’t be bothered to go higher up in the hierarchy chain until they get what is righteously theirs. Their burst of momentum only enough to move them a step forward, but no further. 

I lamented this sort of passivity among my own circle of friends. If they don’t even care to fight for themselves, how can we expect them to care about higher ideals and universal truths? How can we expect them to care for the justice of others if they don’t even care to defend their own selves!

In Islam, advocating for righteousness is an ethical and moral obligation, regardless of whether or not it directly concerns you. 

“If one of you sees something wrong, let him change it with his hand; if he cannot, then with his tongue; if he cannot, then with his heart and this is the weakest faith.” Some versions add: “there is no part of faith behind that, not even so much as a mustard seed.”

Readers, let’s talk about doing good. Call out to those who say something that is against the established moral and ethical principles even if it is being said by the most influential people among you. Talk about universal truths. Write about it. Spread it in the social media. Viral it. Lobby your MPs to fight for what is right. Be as courageous, as vocal, and as systematic as the LGBTQ movement when we are promoting good. 

Because Sardinia Ali r.a had once said “Truth unplanned shall be defeated by organised falsehood” 

In Malay,Kebenaran yang tidak terancang boleh dikalahkan oleh kebatilan yang terancang”

But the silent majority prefer deafening silence to the exclusion of nothing.

Because the silent majority gave up and said nothing for fear of being labeled ‘bigoted and backward’, now the LGBTQ is legalised in the US.

 ***

In germany, another sort of decadence rear its ugly head.

Mere days after the legalisation of LGBTQ in the US, the news about how the Germany’s National Ethics Council has called for an end to the criminalisation of incest between siblings reappeared in the social media. 

Screenshot 2015-07-09 20.55.47

This would have been unthinkable among the general public merely a few years ago. But now, a freaking ETHIC COUNCIL has called for its legalisation. If an ethic council can be this unethical, what hope can we place on the general population? I shuddered in my boots simply thinking about how the world’s morals have deteriorated to the lowest low it’s ever been.

I was interested to examine the reason given by the Germany Ethic Council. Apparently, they came to that decision after looking at the specific case of Patrick Stubbing who was adopted as an infant and met his sister, Susan Karolewski for the first time when he was 24 and his sister was 16.

And they went on to have four children! Two of them were disabled though whether incest was the cause is not able to be determined. 

In 2008, Peter Stubbing was convicted of incest but continued to appeal for his rights to a family life. 

What’s next? Legalization of pedophillia? 

Are we going to support for an absolute “right to sexual self-determination” at the cost of the society?

Screenshot 2015-07-10 07.05.36

***

Some might ask, why should the society care anyway? My life, my rights, my risks! Everyone is entitled to their opinion and their rights to freedom, say them.

Wrong! 

Your freedom is limited by your rights. In turn, your rights are limited by another person’s rights. 

Your rights end where another person’s rights begin. 

I repeat, your rights end where another person’s rights begin.

The society has to care because it involves children. The impact that gay marriages would have on children can be devastating. The impact of incest on normal development of children would be huge. It would cross all sorts of boundaries and confuse things that are already chaotic. The children that are produced from incestuous relationship would always feel different, ashamed and would have identity issues.

Is my father actually my uncle? Is my mother actually my aunty? Are they both my parents and also my aunt/uncle?

Imagine the sorts of jeering taunts the children will have to endure? And we have not even gotten to the topic of illness and disability of the children of an incestuous relationship!.

These children have rights! Your rights should not trample all over theirs. 

Just like the children of gay couples have rights,

Read this confession of a daughter of a lesbian couple H.E.R.E. The sort of emotional internal struggle she had to endure is very heartbreaking. 

Screenshot 2015-07-10 07.58.12

Yet, these people still choose to say “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,their own lifestyles etc etc.”

***

In Malaysia, another form of sickening illness is brewing. We are like jack of all trades, master of none. We dabble in all sorts of dubious activities without any discrimination. 

Since a picture is worth a thousand words (for truly, I have run out of them), then these are the pictures that will tell you more eloquently the sort of sickening illness I meant. 

In Politics, corruption is rampant.

Screenshot 2015-07-10 08.03.01

In economy, we are getting all sorts of financial pressures, right, left and centre.

Screenshot 2015-07-10 07.24.06 Screenshot 2015-07-10 07.24.48

And a helpful person went on to brilliantly and kindly suggest that we can save up by not ‘balik kampung’ for raya on national TV. Speechless. 

Screenshot 2015-07-10 07.27.47

In religious and social aspects, the Malays are number one in decadence. Ridiculous over-religiosity and over sensitivity such as have occurred when a teacher in Sg Petani had forbidden the non-muslims primary schoolers from drinking and eating in front of their Muslim friends, and then jokingly talk about drinking their own urine in the toilet if they got thirsty:

This was my own facebook status that I wrote at the start of the Ramadhan.
This was my own facebook status that I wrote at the start of the Ramadhan.

And even more ridiculous, we became paranoid and scared of our own shadows with regards to the Christians brothers and sisters.

Screenshot 2015-07-10 07.35.04

I just couldn’t ‘brain’ this! It is humiliating and degrading to us, Muslims when a minority of us behave stupidly. 

At the same time of ridiculous pseudo-overreligiosity, we also have people who commit heinous crime against each other that we would never have done to stray cats in the street. Again, they are mostly Muslims! We are the master of contradictions. 

Screenshot 2015-07-10 07.20.38 Screenshot 2015-07-10 07.22.07 Screenshot 2015-07-10 07.22.52

Recently, there was also a debate regarding the length of a woman skirt, for God’s sake. I reiterate that to me, rules are rules! I will not deny anyone their rights to wear whatever they like…but if it is against the rules of the place where they wanted to go, then they shouldn’t cry when they are not allowed to go in. 

I think we have blown things out of proportion over such petty matters: on BOTH sides of the debate. I have debated this matter in a lengthy and tiresome manner in the Dobbs Facebook page. Enough has been said about it and I am not going to continue the rant further in this post. 

Screenshot 2015-07-10 07.12.43

***

In my family, I was brought up talking about politics, economy, ethics and morals. When we don’t talk about those, we talked about books. Those are our light topics. It’s been that way since I was in primary school. The years of my primary school was the beginning of an exciting political era in Malaysia with the sacking of the then Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. And there was also the Great Economic Crisis of 1997 and 1998. I was a very ardent newspaper reader back then too. My father at that time taught me English by buying me English newspapers and picked some suitable articles for me to translate into the Malay language. That way, I learned BOTH proper Bahasa Melayu and English. Until now, language is my favourite subject. The articles that my father picked for me were always mostly about politics; never about entertainment (to my despair). I had to do those translations daily; one article per day. So, at that time, I can say that I was arguably the most politically and socially aware standard 5 student in the class. 

I cannot remember talking about much of anything else with my family other than politics. Until now, we can argue and not talk for days with each other simply because of a differing opinion in politics and (un)ethical business approach. 

As a result, I am not very socially-apt in conversing on other matters. Makes me a socially awkward person most of the time. 

There are times when I wish I could be less serious, and can think of more lighter topics to talk in a social settings or write about in the social media.

But, I can’t. 

You see, serious matters are….well, serious, They tend to generate strong views and opinions. They tend to cause me to talk vehemently, righteously, and yes, annoyingly. In a “hang asyik rasa hang betul ja, Afiza” way.  The problem is not that I cannot accept other people’s opinion. The problem is that their opinions are wrong and therefore, unacceptable. (haha, yeah I am annoying. I have pretty good insight about how annoying I can be)

If we are talking about favourite colours, favourite food, favourite type of homes, favourite dresses, favourite cars (which are the things I don’t talk about much), then yes your opinion is always acceptable. 

But sometimes, we are talking about something that is more crucial than that. We are talking about justice, rightness, equality, fairness, moral and ethical dilemmas. In these sort of topics, you should try to THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY to arrive to the most accurate stand. You cannot simply end your argument with “everyone is entitled to their opinion” because that is just plain lazy. You trivialise the matter to the same level as “favourite colours and favourite food.”

How could you simply shrug your shoulders like that?

Maybe because some people don’t really care. But they want to be seen to have an opinion anyway. So they come up with one. And when we criticise that opinion, they can simply say “you have to respect my opinion,”

I learned eventually to not even start an argument with them. Because they are not really interested in arriving to the truth. They only have something to say about it, so they say it. And then they leave the argument never thinking further about it. 

I am the sort who ruminate on a problem until I am convinced that I have arrived to the most righteous, just, ethical conclusion. And once having arrived to that conclusion, I want people to know it and advocate it with me. That’s me being an INTP (if you google INTP, you will understand why I am this way. I only just understand why I am like this, after all these years. MBTI is brilliant!) I get frustrated when people don’t ‘get’ it!

I invest my intellect and my emotion in these sorts of issues. And I guess, that’s why I cannot control how frustrated I feel when people don’t see something that seems so plain, to me. 

Now I have learned to pick and choose with whom I can talk about these things with. I can only talk about these things with those who are not easily offended by my choice of words when I disagree. I can only talk about these things in depth with family and close friends who possess the same sort of inclination as I do.

But I will continue to write and spread awareness that we should be less passive and more vocal when promoting what is good and right. Because “kebenaran yang senyap tidak memberi impak.” Because being silent does not exert the sort of social pressure needed to get the politicians to take notice and create good policies. 

Because “kebenaran yang tidak terancang boleh dikalahkan oleh kebatilan yang terancang.”  

***

This used to be my favourite song for studying when I was a 4th year medical student. I think it is very apt to be sung in the current days of confusion, decadence, and moral disintegration. 

Let’s see how far we’ve come, folks! And how far we have regressed. 

Screenshot 2015-07-10 07.54.54

Packaged Tour Vs Backpacking: IL BRUNO, IL BRUTTO, IL CATTIVO

Just in case anyone has missed the (so very many and manic) splashy pictures of my recent trip to Turkey last week, I am here to rectify the matter by declaring it to all and sundry in this humble blog of mine that I had such a marvelously exciting nine days of my life in Turkey (or rather Turkiye, as painfully explained by our local guide: “Turkey is what you eat, lady. It is Turkiye, please”. I laughed.)

And this is my first time travelling via a packaged tour and trust me, I am not going back to the headache of backpacking ever again. My cheap student life is over. Not because I am filthy rich now (God knows I am not), but because I like travelling nicely.

Let me explain.

il bruno = the good,  il brutto = the bad, il cattivo = the ugly

While both backpacking and packaged tour have their respective good and bad points, the packaged tour has NONE of the ugly.

I can go on and on and on about the advantages and disadvantages of backpacking and packaged tours and why you should choose either travelling style (really, just google the matter), but the truth is, packaged tour is more convenient, more relaxing, more vacation-ish, less draining.

 

IL BRUNO:

When I was a student, we did not have a choice. It was either backpacking, or…uh, nowhere.

We did not have enough money to travel via a packaged tour and whatever little money we had could not be replenished by our next month’s salary. We had to tighten our stomachs to save enough money to be able to see places. And for such sacrifice to have been made (going hungry is a sacrifice, okay!), it would be almost sacrilegious to just waste them for the sake of mere convenience.

Really!

I still remember how hard it was to travel back then. I had to google the place to find out the cheapest accommodation area there were in the vicinity and how to get there. And because we did not have enough money to hire a car, we had to use public transport. I had to find out which bus to take once you have arrived at the airport. And carrying our luggage into a public transport was not all that funny; it was hilariously horrendous. The driver had to wait patiently while we struggled to drag our heavy suitcases into the bus. The other passengers in the bus stared at us and we just pretended we had supermodel looks. Once in the bus, I had to tell the bus driver “Sir, we are new in town. We are trying to get to the X Backpackers, but we don’t know when to press the bell. Can you just stop at the nearest bus stop around X backpackers?”

If the driver is benevolent, he will smile. If he is maleficent, he will grunt. Or forgets to stop at the place you want him to. And you could not exactly scold him for forgetting to stop at where you wanted him to, because he could just say “Where is it written in my job description to remember where my passengers want me to stop, kid?” Ha-ha.

So while in the bus – just in case the driver forgot to stop where I asked him to – I had to constantly be on the alert and read the street names and compare it with the map to see how it matched and what progressed we have made on the journey. When I thought that we might be in the general area of the place we wanted to stop at, I would press the bell….sometimes, I was right and where we get off was  the exact place we wanted to get off at. Sometimes I was wrong, and we had to walk further up to find the actual place we meant to be at. Sometimes I was SO wrong, that we had to walk for a few kilometres. (Me and Map is NOT a match made in heaven.)

After putting our suitcases in our cheap hostel, we would then go out to the ACTUAL tourist attraction that we wanted to go. And the whole bus-map-confusion started all over again. Which bus to take to get to that place? Which bus to take from that place to get back to our hostel? How long can we stay there, so that we won’t miss the last bus that would take us back to our hostel? How do I know I have actually arrived to that place, and thus when do I press the bell?

Once you are in that tourist attraction you had longed to be for years, you still can’t properly enjoy your experience. At the back of your mind, you have to constantly plan for the next agenda, and the next place, and the next bus, and the next map!

*long tortured sigh*

 

I am glad that nowadays, I am no longer a cheap student. Bye-bye public transport, hello wheels and GPS! Armed with a car and a GPS, it’s Afiza against the world.

In the case where I am travelling overseas, I am engaging the service of a PROPER packaged tour. I can just enjoy the view without the anxiety of planning ahead for the next cheap accommodation, the next meal and the next bus trip. It’s all pre-planned for me without me having to tax a single synaptic connection in my brain to work it all out. Oh, the bliss…. It’s all calm, serene enjoyment.

I LOVE it!

All the meals were provided when I was in Turkey. Not just any meals, folks! But the appetizer, the main course and dessert! I super-duper loved them all! Especially when I recalled that when I was a student, I only had one half of a kebab for lunch… and for dinner, I had the other half. Yup! (But before you cry feeling sorry for me, let me assure you that their kebabs were BIG, so I was not exactly starving the way I made it sound. Haha)

As an innocent, helpless, fragile female (ok, sila muntah), my parents will never have allowed me to go backpacking alone. But with a packaged tour, their worries are gone. I could go on a tour by myself; having the safety of other people’s company, but WITHOUT the constant obligation or expectation to always be together. I mean, what if I want to visit THAT particular part of the museum first…what if you are walking too slow for me? What if you are interested in another part of the history at the treasury, and I am interested to spend more time at the relics area instead? What if I want to be by myself in my own room to reflect on what I have experienced and seen throughout the day? What if I sleep with the lights on and you want it off, and thus one of us will not get enough sleep and will feel tired the next day and won’t enjoy the journey?

See?

Being in a packaged tour give you the FREEDOM of being by yourself in a safe, controlled environment. And when you want some company, you choose which one of the many people in your tour group to engage with. I usually socialized with my tour mates during meal times, but once I have arrived at the places of interest, I went off on my own, deciding for myself how I want to divide my time in that particular place.

I am not saying that I didn’t enjoy spending time with my friends when I was travelling as a student. I adore you both (D and S), and I miss you all (my Newcastle batchmates). But let’s face it! People have different tastes and diverse interests and when you travel together, you have the obligation of somewhat staying together; not losing each other’s company. I could travel with my mother, and she would want to go shopping and she thinks that her travel is done! “Kalau tempat tu tak dak tempat shopping, mak tak mau pi.” Being a nice, obedient, dutiful daughter (my sisters would be rolling their eyes), I would go shopping with her… but I would be miserable.

Whereas, I would like to go to museums or see a beautiful place… and my mother would hate every minute of it. Just because I enjoy spending time by myself when I am travelling, does not mean I don’t enjoy the company of my friends or my mother at other times. It just means that people have different interests and priorities when they take the pains to plan their holiday to travel and see new places.

 

Another good thing about traveling alone via a packaged tour is that there is no need for you to disguise your displeasure or disagreement with your tour mates. Whereas, when you are traveling with a small set of friends, you always want to preserve the harmony between all of you because you are going to have to travel with them for a few more days. So you always feel the need to compromise.

Not so, in a tour.

(you may skip the story in red-coloured fonts below. It’s not really relevant but I just need to rant about it.)

There was one time when a particular elderly lady in our tour group started giving strong suggestions (read: orders) about what should be done. You know how in every large group, there will always be someone who wants to be slightly more dominant than others. Someone who wants to establish her position in the group. She is that person. She is nice, but she likes it if people follow her ideas and agrees with her. She likes to arrange people into a certain order.

And I thought: who died and make you our commander? Sheesh. We are all adults here, even if you are much older than me. (of course, I did not say that out loud)

I was free to ignore her. I had other people to socialize with. I didn’t need to do what she suggested or even consider it. Don’t get me wrong; she is a nice lady but very motherly. The sort who means well but smothers you with her good intentions that you feel restricted. In the office, she would be someone who won’t be satisfied with giving you a general direction; instead she would micro-manage you all the way obsessive-compulsively, it’s exhausting.

I have long ago understood my nature. I don’t like giving people instructions nor do I want to be anyone’s leader. But at the same time, I am not a good follower either. Unless you are the boss in my department, or you actually pay my salary, or you are my parents… I am not obligated to follow what you said.

Since I don’t want the responsibility of being a leader, nor am I a good follower, where does that leave me? *shrugs* I don’t know.

I can tolerate general direction. But NOT step-by-step instructions with you looking over my shoulder wanting me to follow every single thing you said. You just tell me to cook spaghetti aglio olio, I will do it my way and it will be delicious (insya Allah, haha). But if you keep on telling me to cut the garlics this way and not that way, or to put the mushrooms first and not the chicken first and harping on and on about details that WOULD NOT MAKE A DIFFERENCE AT THE END, I am bound to be fed up! Tell me what to do, but don’t micro-manage me like an over-anxious OCD mother. Even if you are the boss and pay my salary, eventually I will leave the job when new opportunity arises. I will not hang around where people try to micro-manage me in that manner. I value my rights to make decisions and I am always in the quest for self-actualization. I would not hang around with those who make it difficult for me to do both.

A good leader knows when to let go the rein. Someone who micro-manages other people is not being a leader, but being bossy. In the end, the result will not be good.    

Okay. Enough rants about my inability to follow orders. Hahaha. (I need to rant about that. I didn’t know how MUCH I need to rant about that until I typed it all out).

 

Let’s move on to the accommodation.

The accommodation were all so decent. No more hostels with bathroom at the end of the hallway (and thus, no more having to wear ‘tudung’ everytime I want to go to the toilet. And no more having to think about the logistics; of what items to bring every time I want to shower and how to dress in the shower room).

This time, I have bath tub and bubbles; robes and slippers. A room with a view!

I love it!

I love it because it is convenient. Convenience is a big thing for me. It is not even the hotels or the meals. I don’t mind eating kebab every day. I don’t mind the cheap motels (but I do mind the bathroom being outside. I don’t like that at all). I would stay in a tent if they can construct a tent with its own bathroom in it, hahha. Really, I do not expect primadonna treatment on travel. I am not fussy about things like that.

But I do like not having to constantly plan and think. I love not having to ponder at maps (I hate maps). I do love knowing that everything is already being scheduled and all I have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the journey. If you ask me what I like most about being in a tour, I would say that I want the convenience….take everything else away, and I still would take tour over backpacking.

But of course, if you DO take the good meals and the nice hotels away, I would file a complaint against the agency, for the simple reason that I am a consumer who knows her rights and would expect value for money.  If I pay you RM2000, I wouldn’t expect three course meals and 3-4 stars hotels in a 10 days tour, but if I pay you RM6000, of course you have to give me MORE than mere convenience. What kind of spineless person would I be if I don’t complain when I am being cheated out of what I paid, right?

But seriously, POTO is quite nice to travel with. I highly recommend this travel agency. They always stop for our jamak prayers and design the schedule around the prayer times. Like I said, everything is thought of and planned. Have I said – ad nauseum! – how MUCH I love the ‘not having to think and not having to plan’ part? Hahah.

 

IL BRUTTO:

Not much of the bad.

But here’s a glaring one: We have to stick to the tour schedule.

That is regrettable, I must say.

But expected.

Of course you cannot constantly be the person who is always late and making other people wait. You have to listen to what the tour leader say. If he says we are to meet back after 2 hours, then you REALLY only have two hours and it’s up to you how you are going to spend it and how you are going divide it between your many priorities.

The thing is, I don’t like shopping while travelling. Of course I love shopping when I actually want to buy something, like every woman out there. But when I am travelling (on a strict budget), my priorities shift. If you give me two hours at the Grand Bazaar or at the Spice Market, I am only going to use half an hour of it…because I won’t even have that much money to spend, anyway.

But I love museums. When they gave me ONLY two hours at the museum when half a day won’t be enough….I wanted to weep for the one hour and a half that I spent at the Grand Bazaar feeling bored. I could have used those hours for the museums!

You see, the museums in Turkey are beautiful. First, there’s the architectural significance that you want to snap pictures of. And then, there’s the general view of the parks and the amenities. And then, there’s the actual items of display in the museum themselves…the relics and the artifacts of historical significance. You want to gaze at the item, admire it, read its descriptions, and perhaps discuss it with your fellow gazers. And bear in mind that there are so many tourists especially in Istanbul…you actually need to line up to get into the treasury of Topkapi Palace…and there was an even longer queue at the rooms displaying the relics of the prophet and the sahabat. And the foreigners (some arabs, some other big nationalities) keep pushing and sometimes jump the queue!

Two hours are not enough! Hardly!

When I was given the feedback form by my tour leader, my ONLY complaint was the amount of time allotted for museums. I am sure the makciks all complained about the amount of time allotted for shopping, instead. The makciks are usually retired pensioners with a lot of money in their bank accounts to spend shopping. Me? My only priorities are new discoveries and amazing views.

To be fair, my tour leader did not complain when I was late in meeting them back after my visits to Topkapi Palace, the Mausoleums of Ataturk and Hagia Sophia. All the makciks were also very understanding of my tardiness. I could not help myself.

“Nasib baik tak tinggal awak, Afiza.” I just smiled, gratefully.

But life is a ‘quid pro quo’. I too did not complain when anyone was late coming back from their shopping spree. Indeed, I was patience personified. And overall, it’s a happy tour group.

 

IL CATTIVO:

Nothing ugly about being in a packaged tour.

At least, nothing ugly about the tour itself. Nice hotels, decent restaurants, beautiful places, attentive and friendly people. Perfectly picturesque.

Compare it to backpacking? Well, when you are backpacking, you might be exposed to the ugly truths outside. Your eyes are opened to how other people live in other places; one-legged beggars on the street in India or in Indonesia, the homeless man at the train station during winter, the drunkards who scare you while you are in the same bus ride with them at night.

Yes, backpacking has some ugly in it…-

….but the experience and the self-reflection afterwards is always beautiful.

And sometimes, the ugliness involves your own self-discovery of your personality. For example, I found out that I did not have much patience when I was backpacking as a student. I became easily irritable when things didn’t go as planned. I became frustrated when things were not supposed to turn a certain way and would brood over it like a spoiled kid.

I think, I am much better now. At least, I hope so.

The fact is, backpacking exposes you to difficulties and ugliness that will change you for the better if you reflect on it properly. And for that reason, I might be persuaded to go backpacking again, to experience the difficulties and take it as a ‘training program’ to teach me patience and resilience…but only if someone else worry about the bus and the map.  Hihihi. If someone else worry about those, I am in a much better shape to deal with things that become awry or don’t go as planned. I can even take the crappy toilets if someone else worry about the bus and the map.

Otherwise, it will be the packaged tour all over again.  Heheh.

Below are some of the beautiful places I have been to. I have almost one thousand of them (I went berserk with the camera, I must admit) but I am only going to put a few of them here. Enjoy!

 

PAMUKKALE & THE ANCIENT CITY OF HIERAPOLIS

 

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 HOT AIR BALLOON, CAPPADOCIA

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 UNDERGROUND CITY OF KEMAKLI, UCHISAR VILLAGE, PASABAG VALLEY

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THE BLUE MOSQUE

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HAGIA SOPHIA

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TOPKAPI PALACE

 

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MAUSOLEUM OF ATATURK

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THE BOSPHORUS CRUISE

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MH370: The Story of Delayed Happy Ending

 

From the age of 5 years old, my heart no longer belonged to me.

 

I fell hard – head over heels in obsession –  the moment I could string alphabets into words and words into sentences.  My heart had been lost in love in the world of wonderful stories and astonishing fiction a long time ago.

 

Until now, my heart is yet to be retrieved.

 

Readers,  I have never recovered from the burdensome infatuation of reading stories where protagonists face hardships in solving conflicts or mysteries and then their persistent great efforts yield the inevitable happy endings. The protagonists may lost someone they love, may even lost life or limbs in fighting a great enemy, they may be exploited, subjugated, oppressed;  they may be demoralized, dejected, depressed for a little while; in some stories they even died and then reincarnated….but I keep cheering them on to the sweet happy endings where their efforts finally pay off, their enemies are vanquished, the balance is restored and justice reigns once again.

 

This is why I am addicted to fictions with happy endings. It celebrates our values and our belief system that good MUST triumph over evil, that the humble underdog MUST overcome the arrogant favourite, that justice MUST prevail at the end of the day, that all conflicts MUST resolve and all mysteries MUST have a closure.

 

Anything less is NOT acceptable and won’t sell in the market. It SHOULDN’T.

 

“But, that’s childish and amateurish, Afiza. It is not REALISTIC.”

 

I don’t care.

 

I am not childish. I am only celebrating my belief system and my core values in choosing my books. It keeps me optimistic and it teaches me – again and again – that resilience and persistence will always yield good result.

 

It reminds me not to give up because that is not a quality of a hero.

***

 

I have always wanted to write a good story. Always imagine writing it.

 

When I first heard that MH370 had inexplicably vanished on the 8th of March 2014, every possibility of how this had come about and how it would end, came flashing into my mind. I refused to write a blog post about it from the very beginning. I followed all updates in the social media and the mainstream media first. I waited for the story to have its good ending in which MH370 was found and everybody on board was safe and sound. Only THEN, would I publish a blog post about it. Or so I thought.

 

So I waited, refusing to publish any blog entry regarding MH370 yet until I could give it the good ending that I crave.

 

I imagined writing that the Search& Rescue team had found the plane in the middle of a deserted island where the pilot had succeeded in making an emergency landing.

 

I imagined that maybe the plane did crash, after all. But there would be some survivors floating in the vast ocean only waiting to be rescued.

 

I imagined writing that there really was a terrorist in the plane but somehow all the kidnapped crew members and passengers – led by a certain brave and intelligent hero among the passengers –  had come up with an inspired and brilliant plot to overthrow and conquer the evil enemy.

 

So I prayed. And I waited. All the while anticipating the blog post I was going to write : how heroic the crew and passengers were, how selfless the SAR team was, how cool-under-pressure our military was, how brilliant our leadership had been in crisis. And like any good story, there MUST be a villain. CNN can play that role, I had thought, because they ARE the arrogant villain in this whole tragedy with their skewed and biased reporting towards Malaysia, the underdog hero. Of course, a good story must also be laced with some humour. And for the comedian role, I had assigned the shaman/bomoh with the coconut fruit and the flying mat to be the hilarious character in this story.

 

I waited

 

But the good ending had not come.

 

When our PM announced that MH370 was presumed to have crashed into the southern Indian Ocean last Sunday, I fear that people have been right in accusing me of being unrealistic in wanting my good happy ending no matter what.

***

 

I believe that until it is a happy ending, it is not an ending.

 

Not in this world, at least.

 

In books that I read, people face lost of loved ones too. What makes them a hero is when they rise above the grief eventually. That’s where the book ends.

 

In books that I read, people face pressure and taunts, face being mocked by a superior entity too (in this case, CNN and the superpowers), but that’s not where the book ends. The book ends when we prove them wrong.

 

In books that I read, people make mistakes again and again. In this case, our military force (how pitiful is our Malaysian air defense when they did not act immediately upon detecting the presence of unidentified aircraft on their radar, some had scoffed), our custom security (the use of two stolen passports, remember?) maybe MAS itself had made mistakes, even our leaders did not escape unscathed (how they conduct themselves with the media  is the prime example). So yes, people make all sorts of mistakes in the books that I read. But the book is not worth reading if that’s where it ends. It ends when all these people learn from their mistakes, take steps to prevent the same thing from happening again, and when a bigger conflict or catastrophe comes approaching in the future, they emerge victorious.

 

I refused to be forced to accept that the announcement of the crashing of MH370 in the South Indian Ocean is where the story ends.

 

It is not an ending until it is a happy ending.

 

So believe me when I said that the numbness of grieving that we are undergoing now is not the ending to the story of MH370.

 

Believe me when I say that in this story, there is a happy ending but it is delayed.

 

Wait for it.

 

Furthermore, of those who believe in the hereafter, we know VERY WELL, that the sadness of death in this world is not where the story ends. In fact the story does not end.

 

The souls of the passengers and crews on board MH370 have escaped this world into eternity where there isn’t any ending.

 

#prayerforMH370