Monday, April 30, 2012

History, Parenthood, Life and the Wall - finding knowledge in the shadows of the past

A 1952 article in the Singaporean newspaper, The Straits Times,
mentioning my father in a story about his school magazine.

1. Alone with You
Alone with You,
Without memories,
With no history,
No tales to distract me,
No thoughts to consume me,
No regrets nor unconsummated promises
To bind me.

Only You.
Beautiful You,
Unforgettable, Undeniable You.

How shall my heart ever be worthy?

Spiritual Infatuation. Thus the sinner recorded, some eight years ago. Such is the impudence of youth (well, youthful-ish at 34). In those days, I was tripping the spiritual-light fantastic, surfing on the wave of passionate discourse, and perhaps suffering from an infatuation for Sufism, Tasawuf (inner reflection), God, Prophet and of course Love. It felt so good, you see.

Realization that comes with age. Now coming to 42 years, I am more circumspect. And I see how the lives of our forefathers, our parents, and the blooming years of our children deeply affect our perception on life, love and the Sufi dream. For it is a dream. Because the moment we realise one aspect of God's wonderous plan He has for us, another door opens, and another... and another.

My father the Silent One? I used to complain that my father NEVER talks to me. Yes, of course we chat, but mostly about current affairs and news (Sometimes I wish he wouldn't read the newspapers... it just seem to put him in a foul mood, looking at the antics of politicians and governments). But he never really like sits down and talks about his past, his story, which is something of great interest to me. But now I realise, I don't make enough time for him. Of course, he won't be sharing his past life with me, not when his youngest son (that's me) is coming in and out, forever in a hurry, forever either on the phone or on the computer. So, it's my fault really. And in a quirky way, I am happy it's my fault because that way I can actually fix things.

So I guess that is why these past couple of weeks I have been spending time with the old man, either chatting over coffee at home, or on weekend excursions out of the city. So as we spend more time together, slowly, without encouragement, he opens up his treasure chest of stories from his childhood right up to his marriage to my late sainted mother. This is one of them...

During his teens (1950s), my father used to stay with his eldest sister. She was married to a
police constable and they lived in a police residential longhouse. The living quarters
were in the middle, a small spartan dwelling area with no kitchen or washroom. To cook
or do your toilet, you need to climb down to the communal kitchen or the communal bath
which is located on the ground floor. Corridors run on the front and back of the living quarters.
The police longhouse also lacked running water or electricity. At night my  father
would use a giant kerosene lamp for him to read his school books. He is a bit
of a bookworm, my father was.
Sometimes, my dad, tired out after a long day, would fall asleep and
leave the kerosene lamp burning all night long. 
He would wake up next morning with his face covered in soot (unburned carbon)
which is the byproduct( along with smoke) of a kerosene lamp in  those days.
Make Time. So if your parents are still alive, if your grandparents, your aunties, uncles and other assortment of elder kins are still kicking about, make time for them. You might go first of course, but statistically the odds are that you will be the one burying them. Do not be like me, who have seen my own mother, and my beloved uncles, aunties, school friends and even my younger cousins and nephews pass by me on their way to the Divine Presence, to rue their passing in sadness. Regretting that I did not make time to know them better, to share their lives - their happiness and sorrow, their successes and failures, their laughter and tears.

Shadow on the Wall. It is Sufi pretension that the world does not actually exist. We in fact do not actually exist. And that real absolute existence is only in the permanent Reality of God Himself. But as one handsome Sufi shaykh (they are all good-looking, you know) recently shared with the Mureeds (students) of his father...

The Shadow and the Wall
God created the World like a wall,
And By a Light Divine,
We are His shadow on the wall,
What tangible thing is a shadow?

But lo, when it is the Shadow of God
It is tangible like the storm at sea,
Like the sighs of lovers entwined,
Like the Nun praying alone in a cloister,
Like a babe in the embrace of his mother,
A shadow like no other shadow...

I think this is a little saucer of thoughts we can all take back home, whatever religion we may be practising. Thank you for dropping by, sunshine.

Have a beautiful day.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

Back to Janda Baik with Dad - pictures tell stories

Yesterday late morning, me and my dad made a short lunch trip to Janda Baik. Remember the place? I went there earlier this year with my pal, Moses (See below for earlier postings). It was a gentle drive on a hot day, so no hurry to get anywhere on time. The road was not too heavy with traffic because it was not a long weekend, and in less than forty minutes we were disembarking at the small town of Bukit Tinggi, Pahang, which sat at the foothill of Janda Baik.

Bukit Tinggi used to be a 'very black area' my father noted. This was during the
Communist insurgence era in the 60s-70s. There is still a sizable police contingent
based in town, although the days of the Malayan Communist Party is long gone. The town
is predominantly chinese and on weekends there is normally a large crowd of visitors, coming
here to buy fresh fruits and veggies (especially ginger). A couple of seafood restaurants here
do brisk business serving the day-trippers. From Bukit Tinggi you can see the hills of
Janda Baik up there.
We made a pit stop for water and fags. I have learnt to time what I do with my father
according to his speed now. He is still a very proud man and fiercely independent and
will only accept a helping hand if absolutely necessary. So this is what I normally do,
keeping a close but not too close orbit near him. We bought our needs and were soon
on our way up hill.
This is in fact our main but modest objective for our drive. To have beef and bones soup
in a very small stall along the main Janda Baik road. We arrived nicely for lunch and the
soup was piping hot. We also had some freshwater fish cooked in tumeric herb and the
infamous Durian fruit. The dish is called masak tempoyak. It is very savoury.
The stall partly stood on stilts over a small pond which is full of talapia freshwater
fish. You cannot actually see them very clearly in this picture, but there are so many
of them in the murky water. As you eat you can hear the talapia jumping in and out
of the water, happy and contented. I love the fishy rural leafy ambience of the stall. 
Cat: Hey cityboy.
Me: Hullo there.
Cat: I see you have some boney scraps of meat leftover on your plate.
Me: Indeed I do. How observant of you.
Cat: Gimme some, will you?
Me: Sure, why not.
This tree fell over after a heavy downpour the night I was last in Janda Baik.
I wish the authorities would do something about it. Or are they waiting for
the telephone lines to actually break or the telephone poles topple over?
By one of the minor roads, We passed by this abandoned construction site. Someone
wanted to build a small house by this beautiful part of the stream that runs through
Janda Baik. How sad they never got to finish their house.
I actually stopped at the site and asked my dad to wait a while. Because I saw
something which disturbed my picturesque view. Someone or something had
broken a framed verse of the holy scriptures that was originally there. I tidied it up and place
the famous  Ayatul Kursi back properly against the wooden shed wall.
I like things to be 'just so' you know?
Our last stop was to look for the house of our former help, Kak Dah. After much
slow-driving and looking at the houses, my father suggested we try this house. I made
my way through the compound and found myself watched cautiously by a watch-geese.
These big (and strong) fowls are well known for being ill-tempered and have a reputation of
chasing strangers away. But this geese was contented just to observe me and make sure I
was not up to some thievery. 
As it turned out, it was not Kak Dah's house. But the kindly gentlemen who lived there with his wife (who coincidentally was also named Zaidah) tried to help us. Haji Aziz (for that is his name) made a few phone calls and found out that Kak Dah is not staying here, but her brother is. Alas, both her mother and father, who were my parents' good friends, have both passed away. Haji Aziz gave us directions to Kak Dah's house but we couldn't find it. Why didn't I take his number? But never mind, because we made a new friend in Janda Baik. Which is always a happy ending for a day's outing however way you look at it.

Thank you for keeping me company, sunshine.

Janda Baik Earlier Posting:
* A Village of Good Widows - Pictures tell stories
* Tao of Banana - a berryful contemplation of gratitude

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

Sunday, April 29, 2012

King Abdullah of Jordan, the Caliph of Islam, Emir of All the Believers - May God grant his reign to be merciful and beautiful

The Lion of the Desert
O’ rightful heir,
O’ rightful king,
O’ rightful deputy,
We are in the desert of ignorance,
We are thirsty for guidance,
We are waiting for a leader,
We are proclaiming our allegiance to thee,
Following a full moon shining over Qubruz,
We are proclaiming our allegiance to thee,
O’ Lion of the Desert,
O’ Lion of God!

Accept our allegiance
With kisses on your blessed hands and feet,
Accept our allegiance
As weak servants to thee,
O’ Sultan!
O’ Lion of the Desert!
O’ Lion of God!
With your three regiments,
Bearing the Banner of the Prophet!
The banner of the Mahdi!
And your royal standard!

Truth is with you, we are with Truth!
Falsehood is broken and wounded!
Truth is with you, we are with Truth!
Falsehood is broken as Truth commanded!

We have all been waiting...
This is what I call a technical prose and perhaps more relevant to the Muslims, as it is related to the new Caliph of Islam, Amirul Muqminin (Leader of the Believers) - His Majesty King Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. But Muslim, believer or otherwise, you will want to be able to answer your kid, "Hey Dad, where were you when the new Caliph of Islam was announced?" Your reply: "Oh my son, I was reading that fatuous blog 'The Sinners Almanac'. In fact I got the news from there, of all the unlikely places!" But to share a little bit more disclosure than is common by your reticent writer, the pronouncement by the Sufi shaykh in the small town of Lefke, Cyprus can be seen on video by Clicking Here - The pertinent videos are entitled "To King Abdullah" (28.04.2012). And you can scroll down to the earlier video entitled "Arshu Sham" (08.04.2012). For English, click on the subtitle.

Have a beautiful Sunday, sunshine. God bless you.

Earlier Postings on the New Caliph:
* ISLAM'S CALIPH ON THE THRONE OF JORDAN? - Islam came as a stranger and will come back as a stranger... Therefore give glad tidings to the strangers...

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Footnote 30.04.2012: There is a little bit more flurry of activity about the pronouncement on the new Caliph. And perhaps it is enlightening (but predictable) that it has become some subject of ridicule and even vilification in some Muslim forums. It is also ironic that the only online coverage is by Muslims forums that attack the good King Abdullah as either unworthy (read too Western), a traitor to the Arabs, a CIA flunky or even worse, an Israeli-zionist agent on one hand, and on the other hand are a whole tribe of neo-con fundamentalist 'Christian' end-of-time Dominionist websites (like Jihadwatch) that have long eyed King Abdullah, being a direct descendant of the Prophet (pbuh) as a likely candidate for the Caliph.
Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

The Lingua Franca of the Human Soul - Language of Love

They are of Turko-Indian-Malay descent, but their lingua franca
is the Language of Love. If you speak to them in any other language
your children will simply not understand you... So if you get angry because
your child cannot comprehend you, do not look for their errors,
look instead at yourself.
Do Not Tell Me
Do not tell me how you pray,
Do not tell me what your books tell you,
Do not tell me what your preachers preach
Boasting of their wisdom and heavenly reach.

Do not tell me what is right or wrong,
Do not tell me about your moral code,
Do not confide in me of your hubris
That has made your soul its warm abode.

Do not tell me about what you hate,
Do not tell me about what you know,
Do not be the human traffic light,
Telling people when to stop, slow down or go.

Stop supporting the peeping toms,
The sneak, the rat that is ratting sinners,
Stop quoting God like a hydrogen bomb,
Exploding the lives of His poor creatures,

Stop talking mercy while offering none,
Preaching ‘peace’ from the barrel of the gun,
Raining death from a cloudless sky,
As your children begs the question – why?

Keep the silence and say nothing
If you only have words of hate and wrath,
Speak to me only if you know
How to speak the Language of Love.

This is not a place of learning. This is not an almanac for those with wisdom or seeking wisdom. It has no such ambitions. This is a place for sinners to congregate and share their experiences. And perhaps, between the two of us, God may guide us to be sinners with good manners.

There is no alchemy than what is already within us. We have nothing special borrowed from the Lord's purse. No great insight, no wonderful knowledge, no great exposition of man and his nature. So don't tell me about your religion, speak to me instead in the Language of Love, for that is the lingua franca of the human soul.

Thank you for being you, sunshine. In these tumultuous, hubris and hate-driven days, you continue to keep me believing...

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Abducted and still missing

If you are living around my neighbourhood or just visiting, you would have come across this poster pasted all over the place since yesterday - At the traffic lights, along the shop frontages, at restaurants and retail shops, in the banks, at the police stations, offices, at the mosques, churches and temples. Everywhere.

20. Dzikr is not
The remembrance
Of God and Prophet by recitation,
But through listening.
Yea! Listening!

In the purring of kittens,
In the laughter of children.
In the crying of women.

Distraught mum and dad.
Yesterday, early Friday morning, a little 12-year old boy studying in Mont Kiara International School (MKIS) was abducted as he was about to enter the well-secured school compound. As an international school, the majority of its students are mostly kids from the large migrant diaspora in the wealthy suburbs of Mont Kiara. The school is perhaps 3 kilometres from my home, so the kidnapping made my heart skip a beat. Because if this could happen in MKIS, it can happen anywhere, including at my son's government public school, SKBD.

I will not say much about this incident. I worry in writing about something which I cannot imagine the outcome, although in the hearts of all people is a strong hope that this will turn out okay and young Nayati will be rescued or released unhurt.

Below are a pair of Youtube videos made by Nayati's schoolmates begging for everyone's help to find him. It is heart-wrenching.

We are all hoping and praying.

wa min Allah at-taufiq


Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

Finally... The 2nd Wedding Reception of King & Sofia - a celebration of family, friendship and love

2nd Reception in Kuala Lumpur, last night.
Well, it's finally over. Attended my old friend's wedding reception (groom side), to celebrate the happy union of Raja Nushirwan (King) and Tengku Sofia (Pia) last night. Although I refused to accept the fact, I think I was terribly nervous about giving the wedding speech. Even the food tasted like ash as I counted the minutes before I was called to give a speech. After last night's unnerving experience before 800 + guests, I slept for a good 10 hours.
In Kuala Terengganu... one week ago.
Don't ask. It's a tradition, especially amongst the nobility. Both the bride and groom
are suppose to get equal treatment with the cleansing water. But according to King
he seems to be getting most of it. "Well, maybe it's because of the pair, you are
the one that requires most cleansing and purifying..." I helpfully suggested.
I had a well-sorted speech all written up and ready to be recited. But as I got behind the rostrum, I decided What-the-heck! and throwing caution to the wind, I decided to improvise as I went along. King and my friends were quite happy with the speech (of course, they would say that, wouldn't day?), but Heche, my most ardent fan and worst critic, also said it went well. So I guess it did. Thank God. I hope.

This morning, King messaged me and said "Was thinking of yr speech. V touching. Now I know why u were sebak(emotional)! Thnx again!"

To which I replied, "Aku tak sebak laa (No, I was not emotional). Its acting skill... the Method."

But I guess you can read between the lines. I am very happy for my friend and his beautiful bride. And this was how I concluded my speech (translated from Malay to English)...

For the sake of the Prophet (pbuh), I pray with all my heart and soul, with each atom, each neutron, each electron, each proton and other assorted sub atomic particle that is crazily dancing within my corporeal being and my spirit, that God Almighty and Muhammad Habibullah (pbuh) shall forever bless and grace the marriage of King and Sofia now and forever, to the very lives of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Thank you to all my beautiful friends who also attended yesterday's reception to make it such a memorable and wonderful celebration of family, friendship and love.

And thank you, sunshine, for dropping by the almanac today. You make this almanac also to become a celebration of family, friendship and love. Don't tell me of the religion that you practice, speak to me instead in the Language of Love...

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

Friday, April 27, 2012

God, Women, Men and the 'Just So' doctrine

It looks like a 'flower'. But actually its a metaphor.
I guess in a way all ‘facts’ are metaphors, bearing within it a seed of greatness that is submission to the utter Awesomeness of the Lord. But the movements towards understanding are often gentle, for God does not want us to accidentally tip over and fall into His Ocean… which in itself is a good thing, but...

Just So
Everything and everyone happens at its appointed hour,
Like rain, Love comes like a gentle shower
Or like a tidal wave out of God's Power,

But often does the Creator plan things ‘just so’,
And moves us ‘just so’,
Never too soon or too late,
Never too fast or too slow.

I am a great advocate of God's 'Just So'. I think it is because I am a man. And as any woman knows, a man is a creature of habit, and like to have his life running along the same groove, day in and day out. So if change is necessary (and most women shall agree that their men all need at least some improvement or modification.), we men prefer the change to be gradual, an evolution - not a revolution, a 'just so' drift, an ever gentle tide, almost indiscernible to the naked human eye. Alas, we men do not always get our way...

Oh Lord! What happened to Thy 'just so' touch and gentle tide?!
Don't Thou knowest that I can't swim!

That is men. May God always forgive us and grant to women the wisdom to accept us just the way we are. Or if not, to at least be patient while we men get our act together. We ARE changing, honest. Even if it is indiscernible to the female eye.

Hehehe. Have a beautiful Friday, sunshine.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

God, Paul Potts and Nefarious Simon - I will take the good times however it comes...

We are the Underdog! Faster than a speeding pooch!
Able to leap tall Dobermans in a single bound!
God and Mr. Paul Potts
Why do we feel like we win when the underdog wins?
Because we feel a little bit of us in them,
The hidden talent, the stranger in a crowd,
The frustrated promise, the burning ambition,
Suddenly let loose by a spark of divine planning,
An unexpected chance, a door of opportunity opening.

Why do we forget that each morning we wake up,
We are that underdog, that little guy, that lost genius
And sitting there is God,
Facing us and beckoning, encouraging,
Go on… show Me what you've got!

Over 100 million hits and still counting on its many versions, is the number of views this little piece of reality show is continuing to pick up on Youtube...

But things were not so straight forward. Old Wiki says "The Sun newspaper received complaints following allegations that Potts had been "coached by Pavarotti". There was anger that he was portrayed on Britain's Got Talent as a simple mobile-phone salesman, whereas he had in fact appeared in six amateur opera productions and in a concert for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and had plans for a summer tour with that orchestra. Potts responded that he had not claimed to be completely untutored, only that he had never performed any concert for pay and was therefore an amateur. He also said that the Pavarotti masterclass he attended in Italy was paid for from his own savings and was a single masterclass, not regular coaching."

But who cares, really? Of course he didn't cultivate that talent just by singing in the shower. For me, Paul's personal initiative and sacrifice simply made his victory all the sweeter. For on that day he walked on stage in Cardiff a shy retiring rose, but proceeded to blow Simon Cowell’s mind away. Everyone dreams such a day for themselves. But such day is here and now. Every day for you, and it is not hard-to-please Simon that is sitting in judgment, but God the Most Gracious, Most Merciful… Most Loving and Most Understanding of all. God, who is on your side. God, who will not let you down. The audience of the Prophets and Saints are sitting expectantly, looking at you with manifest affection and love. The stage crew of Angels are humming together, feet tapping to your accompanying music.

Come on, sunshine. Show God what you’ve got. Winning or failing is a worldly condition, but simply by trying, by giving your very best, you are already a winner in His book. You have absolutely nothing to lose...

And before I leave you, here's another magical moment from Britain's Got Talent audition for 2012. Yes, yes... I admit I am a flaky, cheezy sentimental jelly easily duped by commercial reality shows. But I don't care... I love it when beautiful things happen. It matters not a jot to me that nefarious hard-as-nails Simon had a hand in it. Thank you, God.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way
God gives Everyone
A Chance to Shine

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Adab in Architecture - New Mecca...

Looks fancy. How will it feel at ground level?
Matasan, a boon friend recently returned from Umrah pilgrimage and he showed me some pictures of Mecca which he took last month. He was part of the wild gang of pilgrims that I was honoured to be part of last year which took us from Jerusalem to Medina and finally Mecca. If you are curious about the previous Umrah, just search 'umrah' or 'pilgrimage' in this almanac and you will get to the postings which numbered up to part 31.

SIGH. I must report that the old part of Mecca where I stayed last year, about 500 metres downhill from the Masjidil Haram (the holiest mosque of the faith wherein sits the Holy Kaaba) is alas, no more. Those cheap(ish) hotels and shops which sold cheap trinkets, books, sandals, rosaries and other assortment of moderately priced items that a pilgrim can purchase for his friends and family waiting for him back home is alas, no more. As I am writing now, the old buildings depicted in the photos below have in all probability been demolished to make way for the government's modern revamping of the cityscape and skyline of Mecca...

This is the main avenue between the old buildings through which we made our way
from the hotel to the Masjidil Haram. As you can see, the shutters are all down and
the shops have all been abandoned.
This is the main road which runs parallel to the inner pedestrian avenue, and even
these shops, launderettes and money-changers have been closed down. Where will
they be housed next?
The scruffy alley way though which I would wander about, window shopping
and people-watching. All these buildings are destined to be demolished.
On the first night and early morning after my Umrah, I wandered exhausted and tired
back to the hotel. But on the way, I bought soft drinks and a kebab here. 

Primed for demolition. Another quasi-budget hotel.
No more money to be changed here. No more stories to be shared.
How despondent I would have been had I been with my friend walking through
the desolate avenues and alleys where once commerce and people thrived.
Oh, there are still shops and restaurants, but they are part of the new mall
that sits right next to the Masjidil Haram. I much prefer the old quarter with
its narrow alleyways, poor but happy pilgrims and bustling traders. The new mall
feels like a mall anywhere else in the world, but perhaps with many more
watches and perfume shops. They have a thing for watches and perfumes here.
A sign of the times. A couple of kilometres from the Masjidil Haram, you can
already see the Clock Tower and high-rise hotels standing proud and overlooking
the holiest mosque of the religion. Once where pilgrims would gaze upwards
upon the Holy Kaaba, today they can stare down on the House of God.
I do not know about you, but even aesthetically, there is something
horribly wrong with this picture.
Who is happy with what is happening to Mecca (and Medina, come to think of it)? Even if you have not a drop of sentimental attachment to the old houses, surau (small mosques) and maqam (tombs) of the Companions and wives of the Prophet, the old quarters, houses, restaurants and shops, there is a question of the aesthetics that we should answer for - Aesthetics and a sense of proportion. Because you see, Adab, which is the courtly courtesies and manners taught by Muhammad (pbuh) is not merely about beautiful human interaction, but also beautiful and restrained interaction of the physical spaces and buildings. What more when you are talking about the holiest mosque in Islam. As I look at the last two pictures above, I can only shake my head, thinking, "Oh dear God... Oh my beloved Prophet..., what are they doing to your city?"

Change for the sake of change? I do not believe in this. But perhaps things will be better, more beautiful, better organised and cleaner (and God knows Mecca needs a good clean up). For the sake of the world, I hope so. I truly hope so.

Oh my dear readers, in whatever faith you are in... may you protect and care for your holy sites better than us Muslims.  

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

When the Spirit is Listening, All Songs are Spiritual...

...I love you... You love me... we are one big family...

I do not know of anyone who has the time or inclination to read (and listen) through this collection of postings that were recorded earlier here about Music. I am revisiting my musical writing because of a profound sentence that caught my eye last night (well, at least profound to me. Hehehe). The sentence came from a book written by Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani. In the book he wrote, "It is well known that hearing in living people is actually a property of (the)spirit (al-Ruh)".

So that is why we close our eyes when we are listening attentively, whether it is to a dear friend pouring her heart out, or a good cleric reminding us of the beauty of God or reciting the holy scriptures, or a live band in concert. We instinctively close our eyes because the physical sight of the brokenhearted friend, or the good cleric on his pulpit, or the pop band playing on stage are actually... truth be told, visual fluff. And that is why sometimes, when I am playing a song on my laptop, I actually minimize the video. Often we find that this world of sights and forms only serves to blur the essence of the words / music with unnecessary visual distractions. So when you close your eyes, your listening becomes more intuitive and you feel rather than actually listen to the music. It IS hard to describe the sensation, but I know you know what I mean...

Well, without further pitstops, below are some of the musical posts and the artists 'featured' or referred to in them. Even if my writing sucks, the music is great!

GOD, PROPHET AND ROCK & ROLL - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan / Iklim (Malaysian rock band) / Kelly Clarkson / Jennifer Paige / Led Zeppelin
God, Prophet and Rock & Roll - Part 2 - Beyonce / Ruth Sahanaya (Indonesian)
God took away my chance to die young - The Band Perry
Music and Muhammad, Grace and Gratitude - Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel / John Denver / Olivia Newton John
Prophets and the Long Victory - Annie Lennox & David Stewart
In the Temple of Love there was George Benson... and Almighty God had a question to ask - George Benson
A Cup of Truth with Bono, U2 and Tolkien - Prose of Ramadhan Part 41 - U2
The Girl, the Saint and the Sinner - Love for all your tomorrows. - Roberta Flack
Gentle Sir, Kindly Sir, your train is here... - The Prince Part 5 - Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam

Quite a mixed fruit bunch, yes? And there are more, lots more from where the music came. Indeed, as our musical taste differs, we will each create in our own personal universes, those folk, rock, pop songs and ballads that connect us to the Divine. Today will be an interesting experiment as I walk through the normal daily routine but with one important understanding - That even though it is your ear drums that is picking up the sound vibrations in the air, it is your spirit that is actually listening. It is a simple idea, but I think from this small seed, a big tree of understanding will grow... Godwilling. And this is one - When the Spirit is Listening, all Songs are Spiritual.

Thank you for sitting with me for a while, sunshine.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

God, His Beautiful Skies and You

105. Never Ours
Yesterday I raised my gaze skywards
And saw playful birds
Wheeling through billows of pillows
Through cotton buds and cotton hearts
In a garden without a name
In a picture without a frame
God’s Gift Sublime
To the enquiring mind
In this ornate canvas
That we call earth
Tis’ was His always
Never ours.

As I drove along the east coast highway, heading eastwards towards Kuantan and then Kuala Terengganu for my friend’s wedding, I was stunned by the rural beauty of my country and the immense skyscape which is not obstructed by any buildings and other towering man-made edifice. I entered the east coast highway just about sunrise, exiting the Karak Highway which crosses over the Banjaran Titiwangsa (the mountain range which straddles Peninsular Malaysia from the north down to the south and dividing the peninsular into two. The sunrise was beautiful as the morning light gradually cuts through the clouds and low-lying mists in the interior forests and oil palm estates that lie adjacent along the whole stretch of the highway. Beautiful.

Our actual route.
The beautiful skies did not end with the morning, through the afternoon the heavens were lit with the brightest most lively blue I have ever seen as plumes of snow-white clouds break the formless monotony. And at night, as I gazed up I saw thousands upon thousands of stars, twinkling like God’s own Angels of Light. Oh Wow.

For all this while, God has been creating and recreating His own artwork on the canvas of our reality. And I, an urban rat living in an urban rathole, surrounded by arrogant towers glorifying Man’s power, greed and consumerism, have forgotten His Beautiful skies. 

After this I hope to have more travels out of my city of Kuala Lumpur. I love the city but sometimes your soul just needs a little elbow room, you know? Some breathing space to give full vent of your feeling towards your Creator and His amazing artwork upon this canvas of life that we call Earth. Glorious.

And do you know what is best of all, sunshine? Through all His creations of manifest beauty - the Sun and the Moon, the stars and the galaxies, the jungle and the seas, the birds, the fishes, the animals, the trees and the bees, God still found time to make you... Perfect you. Wonderful you. Beautiful you.

9. Wonderful
Beauty made the world a canvas,
To paint His Names
In cosmic colour and hue.

And in between the First suns and the Last moons,
Beauty found time to create you.

Thank you for sharing this paradise on Earth with me. Have a lovely day, sunshine.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

Soul's Winter - The Prince Part 16

36. Soul’s Winter
O’ ye who have strayed and lost thyself!
God has plucked the Good in thee
And deposited it into the care of another.
If thee wishes to find it,
Look for a man in whose heart enters no winter.

With him shall thou recall
The gentler seasons and good
That is in us all.

Sometimes, when we have made mistakes (and who hasn't?), we need someone else, a mother, a father, an uncle, a friend or a teacher to guide us back to who we truly are.

The journey of self-discovery is not a lonely path. It is a path littered with good people who help and guide us, and also the less-good who are also important - because you are also defined by your opposites. Fortunately, the wide open spaces of this world is enough for everyone - the saints, the saintly, the average, the naughty and the down-right bad. And that is lucky for me, because I myself have been down-right bad. But enough about the bad, I want to write about the good stuff...

Al-Marhum Shaykh Raja Ashman Shah ibni Sultan Azlan Shah (Ku Ash) unexpected left this world early this month. But for his followers, he left behind a guide, a dictionary of good manners which will help them look for the Good in them too. It is not actually a book, in fact the dictionary is not written at all - It is the beautiful memories, the kind gestures, the patience, the generosity of heart, and the strength that encapsulates this man. For this writer, the story of Ku Ash is still being written as I bump into his devoted friends, admirers, followers and groupies, and they share with me their own stories about their Prince.

I am not doing this for altruistic reasons. My purpose is all too selfish. I am looking for myself too, and I think it is hidden somewhere in the secret pages of his life.

God bless you. Have a lovely day, sunshine.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Adab of Happiness and the Journey of Self Discovery - If life isn't challenging, it would not be interesting

A pure and refreshing stream... running through the plains of Love
In Praise of Muhammad, Most Beloved of the All-Loving
I am a jewel set on the crown of Love,
Were I not beautiful, Lo, who would look to Love?
I am the stream that runs through the plains of the Love,
If I was not pure and refreshing, Lo, who would thirst for Love?!
I am the lamp, a light within the light of Love,
And if I was not shining with happiness,
Lo, who would be attracted to Love?
I am the eye of the storm of Love
And if I was not whirling in happiness,
Lo ,who would be drawn to Love? 

HAPPINESS. A man ancient with experience recently said to me, “Be attentive to your Adab (the courtly courtesies and manners of love), which asks only one thing of you – to be happy always. For who will seek the Creator that you and all of humanity worship, and who will ask of the Prophet that you praise if you are not yourself happy? People shall ask themselves - why ought I follow his way when his way does nothing better than mine?"

He then concluded, “Hide your scowls and your angry stares. Lock up your bitter words and your cynical shrugs. Tie blindfolds on your accusing eyes. Keep away from anything that makes you unhappy. Even if that which makes you unhappy is your own self. For in truth, that is not you at all, but your ego and your base desires impersonating you.”

SELF DISCOVERY. Okay, I get it. But his advice begs another question – Then where shall I look for my true self?

92. Whatever, Whomever You are Looking For
I am your Home and your Homecoming,
I am your Beginning and your Ending.

If love is what you are looking for, love is with Me,
If light is what you are looking for, light is with Me,
If truth is what you are looking for, truth is with Me,
If safety is what you are looking for, safety is with Me,
If friends are what you are looking for, they are with Me,
If Muhammad is who you are looking for, he is with Me,

Whatever, whomever you are looking for, they are all with Me.

And if you are looking for yourself?
You too are with Me.

So why look else where?

Is the Adab of Happiness an easy habit to pick up? Is the journey of self-discovery a walk in the park? Hehehe. Let us consider it this way. If life isn't challenging, it would not be interesting. And God, in His unique creation and continuous recreation of our reality will not let us get bored - a simple faith in our Creator's eternal inventiveness.
Me: God, why are You testing me this way!?
God: I am only expressing My eternal inventiveness, like you said. Remember?

Thank you for sharing a small part of your day with me, sunshine. I always welcome your company.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way