Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Exam

I was invigilating the final exam for my students today. The hall was quiet as everyone was concentrating on answering the exam, a typical scene of an examination in progress. Nothing out of the ordinary.

But, as I observed some of them one by one, I realized how different they looked. The smiles are gone, taken over by deep thoughts and undivided attention to the exam paper.
For almost three hours, they were off lined, unplugged, from the outside world.
That's how we normally deal with any test or exam, because a test is an important part of assessment. Passing a test is an indication of success in the life of a student.

As I walked around the hall, I was contemplating on the reality of life. Life itself is a test. A continuous assessment of our faith. As the episodes of our life unfolding, we come face to face with the multiple types of assessments. We kept collecting and losing scores from our daily activities.  And because of that, just as we take our exam seriously, shouldn't our lives be taken seriously as well? After all just like any test that requires our concentration for a relatively short time, our life IS short.
Very short and brief indeed.
Astronomers estimated that the universe is 13.75 billion years old, and that makes our life span of 60 or 80 years extremely brief and insignificant!
Not only that our life occupy a very tiny period of time, our physical existence actually disappeared when in comparison to the vast universe.

But since the time period of our life is kept unknown as part of the intended test, we lost our focus, forgetting that this life is a real test, the one and only test that we should give our undivided attention at.

I saw today, the look of relief that some of my students had, upon walking out of the exam hall. I know that they've worked hard, they've tried their best, and they would come through with flying colours. And later they would smile with joy looking at their result.

To all my students, the exam is over and you'll be enjoying your long break.
However,  let me remind myself and you that we are still continuously being tested. It's not over yet.
Your exam will be marked, your would soon see your grade, but your sincerity, honesty and patience are the ones that we can't measure. That section of the assessment did not appear in the exam but the marks are already being recorded, in a special book. You can't carry your CGPA on the day of judgement. You and I will carry our deeds because that is the one that really matters in the eyes of Allah.

Everyday we started the lesson in class by raising our hands in prayers.We asked for guidance from the One who guide, we asked for mercy from The Most Merciful. And everyday, we ended the class by asking for forgiveness from the One who forgives.

Today, let us raise our hands again.
Let us pray for a continuous mercy, blessings and guidance from Him until the day when we return to Him. The day when the test finally ends and we can all smile with contentment, because we have done our best. When finally the score of our entire life is revealed, when the book of our deeds would be handed to us, let us pray that we would receive it with our right hands.
Let us pray that we can finally meet again in a beautiful place, our real home in paradise.
Aamiin... Ya Arhamarrahiniim..

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Boat

Assalamualaikum to all, 
I am sorry for not updating for so long. I would like to share the following words of wisdom:

In a river, a boat travels on the water and the greater the amount of water, the more at ease the boat will be. However if that very water enters the boat, it will capsize. The heart is as the boat and the sorrows and heartaches of the world are the water; everyone’s boat has sunk except that of the people of Allah - those who do dhikr - which always stays afloat. 

I am currently having difficulties with my boat, especially after the blessed month of Ramadan has ended and the struggle against the enemies of the heart intensified. 

May Allah protects us all. Amiin..

Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's That Time of the Year Again

Student:   It's the month of Rajab now. I sincerely need some words of advise from you, my teacher.

Teacher:   Yes...it's time to do some reflections and serious preparation for Ramadan.

Student:   What should I reflect on?

Teacher:   Your previous Ramadan...was there any significant change in you after the last Ramadan?

Student: ........I think so....may be...

Teacher:   Tell me...Why do we fast in Ramadan?

Student:   Umm..cleansing the soul...

Teacher:   Yes...cleansing the soul to attain Taqwa...which means self restraint, God conscious, steadfastly vigilant in practicing Allah's command...

Student:   Taqwa is self restraint?

Teacher:   Yes..it's all about self restraint... In Ramadan, we restraint ourselves not only from the unlawful things..which we should do all the time...but in Ramadan we restraint even from the lawful ones..in order to develop a high level of self discipline and patience.

Student:   What about soul cleansing?

Teacher:   That too..and by fasting the physical body is weaken in order to strengthen the spiritual self. Don't you notice that it's always easier to perform long prayers and Quran recitation in Ramadan..?
It's a month dedicated to self improvement, continuous struggle to be better..

Student:   Sometimes it's really daunting..this struggle of being better..when I look around me..I feel that I am not strong enough like other people..

Teacher:   Of course it's good to look at others to make comparison, we need a bench mark...but changing to be better is not about being better than others..

Student:   Shouldn't we compete with others?..

Teacher:   Yes...but  the thing is...when we change for the sake of competing with others, sometimes we tend to take the easy way out..and feeling complacent..

Student:   Easy way out?

Teacher:   Well..haven't you experienced that when you see someone committing a sin..you would feel that you are better than that person because you didn't commit that sin?

Student:   Yes..sometimes...Who should we compare ourselves with then?

Teacher:   If you are serious in improving yourself..if you are really sincere.. there's only one person you need to compare with..

Student:    And the person is.....?

Tecaher:   The person is, YOU. Compare yourself with who you were yesterday. After all, it's immaterial how good we are in comparison to others.

Student:    I understand now... we should be better today than yesterday.

Teacher:   Yes...and my teacher taught me that in order to change, 3 things are needed. First, change yourself, because you can't change others, second take small baby steps, small changes are easier to be consistent at, and third start now...not tomorrow..now.(Ubahlah diri sendiri bukan orang lain, ubahlah sikit-sikit dan ubahlah sekarang)
May Allah bless our teachers.

“Those who state their deeds today worse than yesterday are cursed. They who today are the same as yesterday are losers. And whoever todayis better than yesterday, they are the fortunate ones"

“O Allah bless us in Rajab and Sha`bān and enable us to reach Ramadān!” 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Teachers

One of the precious pleasures in life is having the opportunity to learn from a great teacher.
Someone who is great even without flashy accolades, because his qualification does not require endorsement from an institution, but simply from  the way his teachings enlightened our hearts. Someone whom with just a few words could inspire you.
Someone who, despite his wise being, humbly admitted to you that  he is still learning. Learning from the University of  Life. Braving through the toughest tests, the most challenging assignments and heartbreaking crisis. He is still struggling towards success, because his goal is not to be a scholar but a righteous man.

Everywhere I turned, I saw many great people who would tell me that their life was never a bed of roses, but they have the exceptional ability to learn from it all. They will tell you that there were good times and hard times, but none was ever a bad time. It was just either good and pleasant or hard and trying. Because of all the trials and challenges that they faced, the one that has brought them on their knees are the ones that in the end produced the most gratifying outcomes. The one that taught them the most. The good times made them grateful, and the hard times increase their patience. Life is simply magical.

I've been blessed with the opportunity to meet a few of them, either in person or in their writings. Their simple words went deep and remained forever in my heart.
Because they have done it. They have taken the journey, they have suffered and fallen, they are jewels in the making.
Look around you, with your heart not your eyes. Look for the most beautiful eyes and the prettiest smiles and search for the kindest hearts. That's how you'll find them.
And you will be amazed that the most beautiful eyes are the ones that has cried the most tears, the prettiest smiles hides the deepest sorrow and the kindest hearts has felt the most pain.

They are the teachers who live under the shadow of the greatest teacher of all, Muhammad (peace be upon him), our beloved prophet.

Their steps are the one I shall follow, InshaAllah.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Walk

The Shah Alam lake garden is probably almost as old as the city itself. The well designed landscape has matured with shady trees,  huge clean lake, well kept grass, and the moldy pavement looked so welcoming.

It was still quite early in the morning when we took the walk at the beautiful garden today.

We strode slowly on the wet pavement, avoiding water puddles every now and then, while savoring the clean fresh air.
The stillness of the surrounding induced a feeling of peace inside the heart as we watched admiringly at the full moon shining brightly above the horizon.

The huge garden is situated behind the state mosque and we could clearly hear the voice of the imam delivering the kuliyah subuh (morning talk).
His voice was all we could hear besides the thuds of our own footsteps.
As we continued step by step..slowly and gently our surrounding changed.

The eastern sky had brighten up and right before our eyes we witnessed the arrival of a new day.

The sunrise.
The crimson sky now looked so blue and the mosque stood elegantly behind the lake.


By the sun and its brightness;
By the moon as it follows it (the sun);
By the day as it shows up (the sun's) brightness;
By the night as it conceals it (the sun);
By the heaven and Him Who built it;
By the earth and Him Who spread it,
( As Syams: 1-6)
These verses from the Qur'an, perfectly and precisely described that moment...
All praise be to Allah..Lord of the worlds..

After about forty minutes we headed back to the parking area near a little cafe.
It was dark when we arrived before, but now we could see clearly how lovely the cafe looked.

The pink bougainvillea at the entrance and the bright sunlight at the background was picture perfect.

Thank you Allah..
Thank you for these feet that you gave for us to walk
Thank you for the eyes that you gave for us to see
Thank you for the ears that you gave for us to hear
Thank you Allah for this beautiful day
Thank you Allah
For everything...
Guide me Ya Allah to the right path..

And by Nafs, and Him Who perfected him in proportion;
Then He showed him what is wrong for him and what is right for him;
Indeed he succeeds who purifies his own self
And indeed he fails who corrupts his own self 
(As Syams: 7 -10)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Who Moved?

Feel far from God? Who do you think moved?

Those words slapped me right on my face.

When the heart feel an emptiness and distanced from Allah, it wasn't because He had abandoned us. But rather, WE moved and walked away. From Him. We are too occupied with our worldly affairs, that we forget about Him.

Everything belongs to Him. The air that we breathe, the sun that provides the energy, the water we drink, the eyes and the sight, the ears and the hearing...
He gave us life, family and sustenance...
Everything is a gift from Him and yet we constantly fail to remember Him.
It's like receiving a gift from someone, we enjoy and cherish the gift, but we forgot to thank the one who gave.
How rude is that?

I've been feeling exactly that lately, distant and empty.
And Allah with His mercy and blessings sent me a reminder.

There was a funeral prayer at the masjid few days ago. When it was announced that there will be a funeral prayer after the zuhr prayer, I thought, like before, this would be another funeral prayer performed in absentia, i.e. without the presence of the deceased, because the burial had been completed days before.
I was standing at the female prayer section, one floor above the main prayer hall, waiting for the prayer to start when I noticed that the men at the front row were making way for something.
And then within minutes, I could see clearly a white casket being carried slowly and carefully placed at the front of the congregation. I was not expecting that and suddenly the surrounding felt very quiet. All heads turned to the same direction. " Next time, it will be our turn.." I was talking to myself, but the girl besides me nodded.
Another soul has returned, departed from the physical world and moved on to another world where no one has ever returned from. Picturing myself lying in the casket gave me cold shivers.

After the prayer, outside the masjid, I saw the van carrying the deceased. I stopped for a while to watch the family members getting on the van. One day, it will be my turn. Definitely.

As I strolled back to my office from the masjid along the murky river, light rain began to fall. It was also raining inside my heart.
I felt distant from Allah and He is calling me back. Thank you Allah...
Death is the best reminder for the heart. The heart that is constantly changing and turning around.
I need help. I can't live without His guidance.

اللَّهُمَّ أَعِنِّيْ عَلَى ذِكْرِكَ وَشُكْرِكَ وَحُسْنِ عِبَادَتِكَ

Allahumma a’inni ‘ala dhikrika wa shukrika wa husni ‘ibadatika

O Allah! Assist me in remembering You, in thanking You, and in worshipping You in the best of manners.

[Sahih Ahmad 5:245, Sahih abu Dawud 2:86, an-Nasa’i].

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Visitors

Since moving to the new office, I've been receiving some visitors. Cheerful visitors who came with wide smiles that brighten up my day. I feel honored that they still remember me and they had taken the time to pay me a visit.

They were my students from the previous semesters. The path of our lives crossed for only about fourteen weeks; that is the number of weeks in one semester. Relatively a very short time in their years of studying. And I am just another teacher, one who had contributed just a little in their life as a student.

Last week, another two of them came and we had a nice conversation.
But minutes after they left, I was in tears. Unexpectedly.
I was happy to know that they would be graduating soon. But somehow I had a troubled feeling inside, it was a feeling that I couldn't understand. I worried. I felt like I was about to let go of someone into a wide ocean and I was deeply concerned about their safety.

Hundreds, and possibly thousands of students from my classes have graduated. It is part of Allah's plan that they were in my classes. They were sent to me by Allah and twice a week, for fourteen weeks, they were there with me in my class with notes and pens, ready to learn.
What have I taught them?
Have I done enough as a teacher?
And what kind of teacher was I?
Everything had been recorded. Every single word spoken, every single action taken.
And, one day I shall be held accountable.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Remembering The Blessed Birth

This book was bought today at
Souq Muamalah Madinah, Shah
Alam for 2 dirham.
I've read, I've listened to, stories about him many times.
Today, I bought yet another book about him. I need to know more about him. I need to learn more from him.

Today is 12 Rabi'ul Awal, his birthday. Birthdays were never an important issue in my life, but his birthday was a day that marked a turning point in human history. It's one birthday worth reminiscing about.

"He lifted his head when he was born, looking skywards. A light issued with him when he was born."
"There are the wonders that took place the night he was born when the arcade of Chosroes shook and its balconies fell down, the waters of Lake Tiberias ebbed, and the flame of Persia, which had not been out  for a thoudsand of years, was extinguished." (an excerpt of the book on the left)

It was indeed a day full of miracles and mercy. A blessed day for the entire humanity.
But it's not just about his miraculous birthday.
It is about his entire life and the message that he brought.
"We did not send you except as a mercy to all the worlds" (Al Anbiya':107)
His very being was mercy, and his life was dedicated to extend the mercy to all the worlds.

I remember a friend told me about her young daughter's dream. The girl was just about five or six years old and she was blessed with a dream of Prophet Muhammad SAW. When anyone dream about the prophet it was his true self that he/she shall see, because no one can impersonate his noble being, including satan. We know that our Prophet SAW is a perfect man, physically, emotionally and spiritually, so what could we expect a very young girl to say about the prophet that she saw in a dream?
The girl was asked how does Prophet  Muhammad SAW look like. And her answer brought me to tears. "He looks gentle"
Subhaanallah... He is indeed a mercy. How else should a merciful being look like? His face radiates with mercy even a child can see and perfectly described, even only if it was in a dream.
How true that is. I've experienced it myself, but not in a dream about him. (How I wish I could be blessed with one)
It was when I visited his city, his masjid. The distinct atmosphere that I felt around me was exactly that. Gentleness. A portrayal of his supreme character and personality that has won so many hearts for more than a thousand years.

Allaahumma solli 'alaa Muhammad.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Beginning

To all my students in this new semester, I wish you all the best.
Let us all raise our hands together in praise of Him, The Most Merciful.
Let us all ask for His blessings and guidance so that our hearts will always remain in remembrance of Him in everything that we do.
May the next fourteen weeks of classes becomes the weeks that will take us closer to Him. Ameen...

"Whoever treads on a path in search of Islamic knowledge, Allah will ease the way to Paradise for him. The angels will lower their wings, pleased with this seeker of knowledge, and everyone in the heavens and on earth will ask forgiveness for the knowledgeable person, even the fish in the deepest of waters will ask for his forgiveness”
[Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Tirmidhi # 2835-sahih hadith]

"Seek knowledge, because seeking it for the sake of Allah is a worship. And knowing it makes you more God-fearing; and searching for it is jihad, teaching it to those who do not know is charity, reviewing and learning it more is like tasbeeh. Through knowledge Allah will be known and worshipped. With the knowledge Allah will elevate people and make them leaders and imams, who will in turn guide other people."
[Fatawa Ibn Taymiyya vol.10, p.39]

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Hard Lesson

A special dedication to all my students who are currently in the midst of final exam.

I know that they are having their final exams right now. But that day I received a message from one of them saying something of the following:
"Madam, someone broke into our car and stole everything, my laptop, my books, my notes, my Qur'an...."
Oh..no... My heart goes out to her.
The exam is stressful enough, and to lose all the precious valuable belongings while in the midst of preparing for the exam is a double blow. But in the same message she managed to say, "Allah is trying to teach me something.."
Subhaanallah...may Allah bless her. Of course she is not jumping up and down celebrating her loss, but she has the heart of a true student. A student who is in a continuous state of learning, where everything that happens is considered as a lesson to be learnt.

The thing is, when something is meant to happen, there is nothing in the world that we can do to prevent it. And, when something is not meant to happen, there is nothing in the world that we can do to make it happen. Yes, we should take lesson from what had happened and be extra careful the next time. But we should not dwell upon regretting that "I should have done this or that.. if I do that..if..if.."
If she is meant to be successful in her exam, she will, with or without her notes and books. And what had happened is part of the plan that He, The Most Merciful, has laid for her. Nothing escapes His mercy and wisdom.
This event reminded me of the story about the great scholar, Imam Al-Ghazali.

On his way back from Jurjan to Tus al-Ghazzali was robbed by highwaymen. 
When they left him he followed them but was told: "Leave us or you will die." 
He replied: "I ask you for Allah’ sake to only return to me my notes, for they are of no use to you." The robber asked him: "What are those notes?"
 He said: "Books in that satchel, for the sake of which I left my country in order to hear, write, and obtain their knowledge." 
The robber laughed and said: "How can you claim that you obtained their knowledge when we took it away from you and left you devoid of knowl-edge!" 
Then he gave an order and the satchel was returned to him. 
Al-Ghazzali said: "This man’s utterance was divinely inspired (hâdhâ mustantaqun): Allah caused him to say this in order to guide me. When I reached Tus I worked for three years until I had memorized all that I had written down. 
(Taken from here)

That was a significant turning point in the great imam's life. A lesson from a robber.

Back to my student who had lost her books. Just a few days before the event, I met her at the masjid. She was commenting about how some lecturers were not teaching in a way that she expected. What she said was true and she has the right as a student to voice out her opinion and dissatisfaction. And she was not in any way condemning her lecturer. I know that deep down she has maintained a deep respect towards her  lecturers.
So, I reminded her that, while lecturers do have their responsibility in teaching, as a mature student, she must be responsible in her own learning. And more importantly a student must always remember the purpose behind learning, that is to seek the pleasure of Allah, to fulfill the obligation as a muslim in answering the call for "Iqra'...Read.. "
"Iqra' bismi rabbik..Read in the name of your Lord.."
Forgetting that purpose will leave you groping in  the dark. And you will find that your hard work and your struggle to be very tiring and exhausting, because your had lost the meaning of what you are doing.

Besides that, we must always focus on ourselves, on what we can do, not what others should do. You cannot change your teacher, but you can change yourself. Imam Ghazali decided to change his learning method and not worry about the robber. He considered the robber as God-sent, to remind him about his purpose in learning.

May Allah bless her and lead her to the path taken by the pious learned man, Imam Ghazali. Ameen...

Yesterday I was clever, I want to change the world.
Today I am wise, I want to change myself. (Sheikh Navaid Aziz, Twins of Faith)