Monday, September 30, 2013

The Final Punch Line - Saiful Bahri (1964 - 2013) Part 3

121. The Door (By Poone)
Oh, My servant!
Long have you been knocking on My door.
Here, take the door and go!

Pooneseque Prose. There are a number of prose recorded over this past decade, which I attribute to my late brother, Saiful (better known to his friend as Poone). Some arose from our quick banter, so much so that I am not sure as to who said what (this comes with age... trust me), but others I clearly recall as being spoken originally by Poone. And The Door is one of those which I remember distinctly as a Poonesque prose (you see, that is why the prose is recorded as 'by Poone' and not 'with Poone').

But I guess, the ultimate punch line for his joke is that three weeks ago, on the night of 14th of September 2013 when Poone passed away, God finally replied...

"Oh My servant! 
Long have you been knocking on My door, 
You need wait no longer...
Now enter!"

I Choose Happy. Just something short today, sunshine. Just so you know that I am alive and still here. And I am happy that I wrote this, because I now realise how good it is for us all if we would only accept God's final punch line for this strange, confusing but often hilarious journey that we call our life. 

"As if we actually have a choice!" you may say to me. But we do. We can choose to be in denial and be sad. Or we can accept and be happy. I choose happy. 

Poone, May 2012. Smiling in the Jordanian desert somewhere.

Have a lovely day, and may Allah (swt) shower grace and blessings upon all our dearly departed, that they may be in the congregation of the blessed and the graced. Madad ya Muhammad Rasulullah (saws), al fatiha. 

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

THE GHOST... Death becomes him - Saiful Bahri (1964-2013) Part 2

Poone... in Jordan, May 2011. In the company of his friends.

The Ghost
I keep feeling him,
There he goes, on my door, knocking,
Asking for a lighter, or a fiver,

I keep feeling him,
There he is, lazing on the sofa,
From dawn till dusk,
Though he never liked Edward or Bella,

I keep feeling him,
Sitting quietly outside my bedroom,
Fiddling about on the internet,
Making pointed comments,
Needling the bigots,

I keep seeing him,
Right in front of me,
Or sitting there, by the piano,
Smiling, and happy.

I keep feeling him,
In the books that I read,
In the music that I cherish,
In the ripening of an ancient flame,
In the passion of the dervish
And the Golden Chain...

He always had a story to share,
This brother of mine,
But rarely of himself,
So let me share with you
A thing or two
About Saiful,
a.k.a. Poone...

The dotting uncle. Keeping an eye on
his beloved nephews.
Hi there, sunshine. It's been more than two weeks since my brother, Poone (a.k.a. Saiful), passed away suddenly. Since then I have written but only one posting, and I cannot reason out why. I can only hazard a guess that unlike the passing of my mother, which was preceded by an agonising 6 to 9 months of debilitating cancer and chemo treatments, the death of my brother was surprising and unexpected.

A contented soul (dammit!). As the prose suggests, I need only to pause to recall my brother. It is the easiest thing in the world for me to imagine him playing his guitar in his room. Reading a book outside on the landings, and just you know... shuffling about the house. Utterly lacking in worldly ambitions, he was an alien creature to me, though perhaps I know him as well as any other person. But he was contented, dammit, much to my own discontent and bemusement. 

How ironic. He he he. He would like this sort of conclusion. For he had always agreed with me about wit - 

Sarcasm is from the Devil, Irony is from God.

A brotherly kiss. Many, many years ago, I remember falling asleep in the sofa downstairs in my old house. Those were in fact the early days of my brother's rites of passage into a Sufi order. Anyways, I was awoken by my brother gently pressing a kiss on my forehead. He did not notice that I was awake. I didn't say anything and merely looked on as he walked away. "Now that was unexpected. What was that all about?" I pondered wearily before falling back to sleep. Alas, now I wished I had asked him. 

When Poone passed away, my immediate impression was that my brother has become a ghost. A memory that will haunt me forever. A furtive omnipresence in the corner of my eye. But an old prose posed an alternative view... 

2. Layla’s ghost
I thought I was tangible,
I thought I had meaning,
I thought I was a lover,
Ruling with the heart of a king.

I now know
I am none of the above,
I am but a ghost,
A vagrant amongst the living.

The Real Ghosts. Thus I am reminded of the truth. That the ghost in this sad and beautiful story is us. Continuing to persist in this physical world that is so darn convincingly real and permanent, when the truth is that this life is transient and its reality a mere reflection of the absolute reality of the afterlife. For our cherished departed friend and kin, theirs is the privilege of the true existence in the divine presence. In the cobbled stone path, the grassy knoll of the cemetery and the silence of the graves is the long-awaited union between the Creator and the created. 

Mika was at my mother's grave last year. Who would have guessed that
my brother would soon join her near her final resting place.
The return of the prodigal son...

The First One. It is strange, this death. Even as I write this I am torn between what to say and what to keep silent. He had such an impact in my life that I cannot begin to count them. I did not realise this earlier, but after these thousands of prose and poems, our conversations and arguments, now I understand that Poone was my first Shaykh (master) before I even knew about the existence of Shaykhs and the Sufis. I never knew this because he never acted like a master. He acted like a brother... a kindly and forgiving one. 

Poone was not one to dress up, always in his old tattered shirts
and ancient khaki pants. "Dammit..." I ventured to anyone who would care to listen,
"...Don't you think he looks better than when he was alive?
Death becomes him...

Our siblings are not perfect. But who is? Do not be like me, sunshine. Be contented with them, regardless, for they are who they are, and a large part of us comes from them too. 

Permit me to end with a prose recorded almost 10 years ago, and one which was mined from a conversation I had with my brother, whom I call Abang Chik, the one you call Poone.

27. Arms-Length (With Poone)
Never get too close to a problem,
Because even a grain of sand can eclipse the sun,
If it is lodged in your eyes. 

May we never be blinded, may Allah (swt) always light our understanding,
in the perfection of humanity and servanthood that is Muhammad (saws). 

Have a lovely day, sunshine. al fatiha.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

Monday, September 16, 2013

BURYING MY FRUSTRATION - Saiful Bahri (1964 - 2013) Part 1

In Jordan (May 2012), with a guitar on his lap, a cigarette in his mouth and
surrounded by friends. My brother knew how to enjoy himself!

Yesterday I buried my frustration,
I buried him beneath an overcast sky,
In the company of a congregation I buried him,
Buried him I did, with no need to ask why,

For I have been wondering of late,
How my brother will fare if I am not there,
So God has saved me such fate,
Taking my brother home instead, 
And sparing me 
The worry...

Frustrating. My brother, Saiful Bahri bin Abdul Khalid is a brother and such a bother to me. I guess I inherited the frustration from my dearly departed mother, who knew, instinctively, that Abang Chik (for that is how I call him) is the brightest, kindest and most creative of her three boys. But right up to her death in 2002, Abang Chik do not fulfill the conventional expectations rendered unto him, by the God-given gifts that was his blessing, and also responsibility. 

For my dear brother was not a conventional fellow at all. And neither did he try to be. Very early on in his life, he figured his path already. A path that would place him in a position to be teased (by the gentle-minded) and ridiculed (by the rude). He lacked worldly ambitions, you see. Despite all his talents and sense of empathy.

But now I know.

Though I did bury my frustrations yesterday, among a crowd of teary friends and family. By God... I swear to you now, that I also buried something else there too... my inspiration.

And I bet he was enjoying this too. Me bending over awkwardly to kiss his forehead.

He was Saiful Bahri. I call him Abang Chik. To his friends and Family, he was known as Poone.

Old Story. I once wrote about Abang Chik in May 2012, when he was away in Jordan (Click Here to My Brother, Horseback Archery and the Caliph of Islam). In the short posting you may understand why, despite appearances to the contrary, my brother was a singular force of all that is good and beautiful in my life.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

THE KALIMAH ALLAH - The Peace of the Day

I want to belong,
But if it means rejecting goodness and manners,
Then I am perfectly happy
With my conscience and
The Lord of my Conscience
for company.

For I already belong...
To Him.

Though He does not belong...
To me.

And that is fine,
I want goodness and manners above all things,
Unlike the devil, I want to toe the line, you see...

I want my Lord to be happy...
With me.

And He is happy when He sees
Me treating my brothers 
And sisters fairly,

In whatever dress that 
They wear their

The peace and contentment in Malaysia, or in particular, West Malaysia is presently being disturbed by a court case. The case involves a Christian group desiring to use the word Allah in its internal magazine, which is being prohibited by the Government for a lot of interesting reasons. None of which I agree with.  Truth be told, I have written a rather long post about the Allah controversy but I think nobody wants to read a lengthy discussion on the matter. Instead I recall a simple prose recorded in 2010 reflecting on this debate, and you may read by clicking here 'What is in a Name? The Meaning...' (So after 3 years, this controversy is back to haunt our headlines... *sigh*)

To be honest with you I am viscerally appalled by the attempt of any group to ban the use of a word by any other group. Some Muslims say that we need to do this to protect the sanctity of God's name and to avoid Christians spreading confusion among the Muslim population (read that to mean convert the Muslims).

For myself, and though a mere sinner, I am afraid that many Muslims are already confused, and in their attempt to defend the faith, they are doing great injustices to the Muslims themselves. But that is only my opinion...

Hmm. Perhaps I will post the discussion, one day. But not today. For the morning greeted me with Salam and I do not plan to spoil the peace of the day.

May Allah (s.w.t.) bless yours and your beloved.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I AM NOT A SUFI or "Oh, don't try to be so humble. You are not that great."

Rumi: "Sufi, proto-Sufi, neo-Sufi... Oh, come on. You doth protest too much of
your aversion to arrogance. Give me a freakin' break, dude."

30. Cows’ Manure = (humility)0
You are not a Sufi, you say,
Talking about Sufism doesn’t make you a Sufi, you say,
But all knowledge comes with a purpose.
So what is the purpose of this knowledge for you?

Please don’t offer me the same cows’ manure in reply.
Denying who you are or what you can be is not humility,

It is bad habits, laziness and your reluctance to change.

Oh, I wonder what loathsome experience I underwent to record the prose above. A prose which is undeniably true for me today as it was when I first wrote it many years ago. For despite the decade that has gone by, I reckon I am still very much the same. Perhaps even worse!

I wonder when I will ever have the chance to change this almanac's name to The Believers' Almanac, or perhaps even The Saints' Almanac. By the look of things I am afraid this will never come true. At least not for me. He he he. But my fate need not be shared by you, sunshine. You are already good, and you can be better still, simply because you have the virtue of self-discipline. As another prose observes...

9. Discipline of Roses (with Shamsul)
Though Love is the bloom
Of the rose,
Mercy its perfume,
The Sun its nourisher,
The Rain its sustainer,
It is self-discipline
That first raises the rose
Above the crowd
Of lesser flowers.

So don't be a lesser flower, my friend. God has made you to be a rose, imbued with remembrance of God Almighty and His Beloved Muhammad (s.a.w.s.), the Greatest of Flowers in His Garden of Creation.

And yeah... I guess I am hard on myself sometimes. But it is only because I believe that any change for the better is not change at all, but the unveiling of the true nature of our spirit, rising above the corrupting influence of our ego and nafs (base desires). Not a conversion, but a reversion to our fundamental inclination towards love, truth, justice, mercy and beauty. It appears to be so easy and natural to drop a bad habit, but for someone like me, it is so difficult.


It is frustrating sometimes, I must confess. But it can also be very inspiring, sunshine. And I guess that is why I keep writing. 

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

Thursday, September 5, 2013

THE HAND OF FATE - take the hand and make your fate

Love Regardless
If love didn't wake you up this morning,
Let love put you to sleep in the evening,

If love did not begin your conversation,
Let love still be its conclusion,

And if you began everything with love,
In prayer, leisure, work or play,
Then by God, let love end them all the same way!

With love, through love, in the Name of Love,
That is God and no one else 
To whom you turn and pray!

God has created the world with love, and filled it with infinite means and causes by which love may be displayed. This is very, very good. But this also means that this world is filled with many, many trials and tribulations, doubts, errors and corruption that will test your love. As this sinner recorded almost 10 years ago in a prose about our Beloved God Almighty...

55. Love Test
I am He who heals all wounds
I am He who cherishes the afflicted
I am He whom you claim to love
What is love if it is not tested?

So don't worry if you start something with love, only for it falls over the side into unlove and regret. You are still alive after all, and it is still in your hands to determine the contents of your destiny.

Love Test 2
O' My servants...
In My hand is the fate of all things,
So take My hand and have no fear
To lose everything that you hold dear!

For am I not the one you must hold dearest...?
Above and beyond any other?

We need not face up to the conniving enemy, our ego and hubris all alone. We need not be looking for God by our own little knowledge and caprice. For in the Hand of God are all His Prophets and Saints... So wherever you will find these holy souls, verily you will find Him. 

We seek support always in this and all our undertaking, from the Seal of the Prophets himself, Muhammad Sayyidina Safiyullah (s.a.w.s.) (the Intimate of God).

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

THE AGE OF DISCONTENT - Islam, consumerism and the creation of discontent

The Age of Discontent
How can you be happy with the car you are driving?
How can you be contented with the shoes that you are wearing?
Are you really happy with the tone of your skin? The colour of your hair?
I know you are looking at my new iPhone with envy...
So buy it, laser it, wax it, smoke it, extend it, rebond it,
Mortgage it, buy a bushel and buy it all on credit!

I can make you happy,
I can make you complete,
I can satisfy your needs
That you never knew you needed! 

Islamic Consumerism? A university (The Multimedia University, Cyberjaya) here has invited my friends and myself to give a talk on 'Islamic Consumerism'. Being the wordy sort of sinner, I will focus on the phrase itself and pose the question whether there is such a thing as 'Islamic Consumerism' and whether the phrase is in truth a contradiction in terms. My hunch is that the answer hangs upon what we mean by 'consumerism'. Because there are two general meanings often attributed to this loaded word, one is good and positive, while the other is very negative indeed. 

Desire? We cannot however get away from the notion that consumerism is inexplicably tied to advertising and PR. This is a well documented fact and has been researched to the ends of the Earth by people who are way smarter than myself. And central to the idea of advertising and PR is the creation of desire.

Or Discontent? But as illustrated by the poem above, the idea behind advertising and promotions is also the creation of discontent - through which we are persuaded that we are not actually happy or contented. Or that we should not be happy or contented with what we already have. Otherwise why would the masses continue to buy something they don't actually need? We do so because we are already convinced that life would be better, we ourselves would be happier if only we owned the new BMW, the new Apple laptop, the latest summer collection of Prada. So we bung out the old and buy into the new, becoming just another statistics in the Consuming-Wasting Age of Man. Thus proving the advertising titans and their focus groups correct and accurate.

So be happy, grateful and reject The Age of Discontent. And exercise prudence in the usage of this world. For Allah (s.w.t.) did not send us here as the Eater of the World. We are the Stewards of Earth, and hold direct responsibility towards the beauty, sustainability and subtle balance of the eco-system. And one day, there shall be a reckoning of our deeds and misdeeds.

Loving our world to death... until all that is left are pictures
in our cellphone. 

Don't you agree, sunshine?

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

Monday, September 2, 2013

INDEPENDENCE!! - independence for what purpose?

Wearing the Rain
I wear the rain like a dress,
And I drink the golden Sun
From a cup of love.

Whither the worry for tomorrow
When this day is not ended yet?

I wear the dusky sky
Like a bridal train 
Through the aisle of a church,
A mosque, a temple
And a synagogue.

Whither the sorrows for tomorrow
When this day is not ended yet?

It is unfashionable to talk about submission. Not when the entire world is motivated towards independence, freedom of choice and individuality. 

In an exchange on Facebook on Malaysia's 56th independence day, a good friend asked me, "Are we really independent?" The question can be answered at many levels of course. The sovereignty of our country, and also the independence of our thoughts, words and actions, as a community and ultimately, as an individual. But to turn the question around, I began to ask myself, independence for what purpose? Freedom of choice and sovereignty to what end?

An ancient friend shared his two pennies worth and said that independence is only worthwhile when one uses one's independence on the path to submission to God. And this is regardless whether they are choices you make while grocery shopping, or as a diplomat in a multilateral summit on international trade. As a common man, minister or a King, we all have our decisions to ponder over.

I guess it is paradoxical... this independence in the path towards submission. But as God Himself revealed in the Holy Quran through divine revelations to the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.)... 

Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil 
and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. 
And Allah heareth and knoweth all things. (Quran 2:256, Yusuf Ali)

Something to think about, sunshine, on this wet Sunday here in Kuala Lumpur. So don't bother about tomorrow, it hasn't happened yet! 

He he he.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way