Was He Banned?

libraryMuch hoopla has been circulating about Al-Bayyinah Institute which failed to fulfill their promise of hosting Mufti Ismail Menk in their recent event, Amazed by the Qur’an. It was arguably a substantial breach of contract given that Menk was their selling point. This breach has minimal enforceability if the intervening cause (the so-called ‘ban’ I’m about to discuss) was entirely unforeseeable – or was it?

It is common sense, or at least, I would like to assume as much, that the peaceful coexistence of all branches of all faiths is an extremely utopian ideal. Not impossible, but extremely utopian.

It is also common knowledge, or at least, I would like to assume as much, that the occasional rejection of foreign speaker permits happen.

In all fairness, this so-called ‘ban’ is provisional and has been blown entirely out of proportion.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has an extensive history of turning down foreign personalities from giving public lectures in Singapore. Foreign lawmakers? Check. Local and foreign political activists? Check.  Gay rights supporters? Triple check. Whether the grounds in each incident was reasonable is up for debate; I am not about to challenge the Government’s discretion in banning these persons.

Now, angry Muslims are taking to their keyboards and protesting the prohibition of Menk from speaking in a specific context, in Singapore. Allow me to repeat that the prohibition was provisional and people are now reacting to a single, isolated event. When something is provisional, it is not permanent. Therefore, perhaps using the term ‘ban’ was erroneous because it has permanent implications (such may be the case but even bans can be lifted).

To put things into perspective, various influential Muslim speakers have been banned from working in or entering Singapore over the past several decades. Starting from Bilal Philips who was banned in the 1990’s. The news is so old the internet has forgotten about it, but given his track record in Australia, Germany and the UK, there is absolutely no way for the government to grant him leave to enter Singapore. Later, Zakir Naik and Imran Hosein were banned from public speaking in the early 2000’s, the latter reacting rather bitterly as seen in this video.

(It is also worth noting that the people who pushed for the ban of Zakir Naik were not just Muslims but also Christians, primarily people from the National Council of Churches, in their personal capacity.)

The points I am putting across are thus:

1. The Muslim speakers that were banned had something in common.

They were threats to social cohesion and promoted values that were contrary to Singapore’s aim of achieving racial harmony. Drafted in 1989, the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act sought to diffuse existing tensions between various ethnicities and beliefs, and prevent similar incidents in the future. Zakir Naik’s Bible-vs-Qur’an talks were nothing short of antagonizing and misrepresenting Christianity. Imran Hosein earned his badge of (dis)honour when he told Singaporean Muslims to emigrate in order to escape the looming economic crisis. Bilal Philips’ views on terrorism alone warrant no further explanation.

In 2012, Menk posted on Facebook that “to feel obliged to congratulate others for engaging in something against ones core belief is against freedom of conscience & religion” – basically, he said that Muslims should not congratulate people of other faiths during their festivities. Not only that, but he also made it an issue of faith. This means that the mere act of even wishing ‘Merry Christmas’ was a threat to a Muslim’s belief and thus they should abstain from doing so, for fear of inciting God’s wrath. This implies that they cannot partake in festivities, even if their own families were of that faith.

Further, in claiming that the Prophet Muhammad was an ordinary man, and subsequently making fun of his narration on seeking knowledge in China , Menk has left the boundaries of the Ahlus-Sunnah wal Jamaah . The provisions for this are in the Administration of Muslim Law Act, sections 139 (1) and 33 (1), the former which states:

      “139.—(1)  Whoever shall teach or publicly expound any doctrine … relating to the Muslim religion in any manner contrary to the Muslim law … shall be guilty of an offence”

What constitutes ‘Muslim law’ is explained in the latter,

     “33.—(1)  Subject to this section, the Majlis and the Legal Committee in issuing any ruling shall ordinarily follow the tenets of the Shafi’i school of law.”

It is known that besides major differences in creed, followers of the Wahhabi sect typically claim to be ‘la mazhabi’ or belonging to no school of jurisdiction. This implies discrediting the scholars of these institutions, who coincidentally happen to be authorities of either the Ash’ari or Maturidi school of theology, or the ASWJ.

This means the guidelines in administering the sharia in Singapore do not apply to this sect. Thus, allowing them to teach Singaporean Muslims (to whom AMLA’s jurisdiction applies) is in direct violation of S 139 (1).

2. The organizers should not have marketed Menk if they knew he was not granted a permit.

When an application for a foreign speaker’s permit is submitted, it must always be accompanied by the synopsis of their speech, or sometimes even the full paper. The process may take about 6-8 weeks, so by following this logic, the synopsis for Menk’s speech should have been ready way before the event itself. Al-Bayyinah Institute promoted the event and claimed that Menk’s speech would be a ‘surprise topic’, but the other speakers had their own topics. This suggests that either they knew that he did not get the permit, and didn’t apply for it – or that they applied for the permit, and assumed that he would get it in time. The former is more likely because if they applied anyway, they would at least have the topic at hand, and would have marketed it as such. It simply does not make sense to market a public speaking event (or at least part of it) with an unknown topic, because the application process does not allow it.

If there is compelling evidence that proves me wrong in this point, I will retract my argument. But as it stands, I have no reason to believe otherwise.

In conclusion, the above information was publicly available and required minimal research – but people are too easy to convince, quick to react and often do so disproportionately. It takes just a little discretion and scrutiny to understand things as they are.


Posted by on December 3, 2015 in Uncategorized


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TSG: Closing Du’a


The Sharing Sessions every Friday are always ended with the following du’aa:

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْ جَمْعَنَا هَذَا جَمْعاً مَرْحُوماً وَتَفَرُّقْنَا مِنْ بَعْدِهِ تَفَرُّقاً مَعْصُومًا وَلَاتَجْعَلْ فِينَا شَقِيّاً وَلَامَطْرُوداً وَلَامَحْرُومًا بِرَحْمَتِكَ يَا أَرْحَمَ الرَّاحِمِينَ

The grammatically correct transliteration:

Allahumma ij‘al jam’anaa haadthaa jam’an marhuuman, wa tafarruqnaa min ba’dihi tafarruqan ma’suuman, wa laa taj’al fiina shaqiyyan wa laa matruudan wa la mahruuman, birahmatika yaa arhama al-raahimeen.

The transliteration if the rules of tajweed are applied:

Allahummaj’al jam’anaa haadthaa jam’an marhuumaa, wa tafarruqnaa min ba’dihi tafarruqan ma’suumaa, wa laa taj’al fiina shaqiyyan wa laa matruudan wa la mahruumaa, birahmatika yaa arhamarraahimeen.

What it means:

O Allah, bless this congregation, and protect us as we disperse, and protect us from distress, banishment and disentitlement, by your Eternal Mercy, O Most Merciful.

اللَّهُمَّ زِدْنَا وَلَا تَنْقُصْنَا، وَأَكْرِمْنَا وَلَا تُهِنَّا، وَأَعْطِنَا وَلَا تَحْرِمْنَا، وَآثِرْنَا وَلَا تُؤْثِرْ عَلَيْنَا، وَأرْضِنَا وَارْضَ عَنَّا

The grammatically correct transliteration:

Allahumma zidnaa wa laa tanquswnaa, wa akrimnaa wa laa tuhinnaa, wa a’twinaa wa laa tahrimnaa, wa aathirnaa wa laa tu-atthhir ‘alainaa, wa ardhinaa wa irdha ‘anna

The transliteration if the rules of tajweed are applied:

Allahumma zidnaa wa laa tanquswnaa, wa akrimnaa wa laa tuhinnaa, wa a’twinaa wa laa tahrimnaa, wa aathirnaa wa laa tu-atthhir ‘alainaa, wa ardhinaa wardha ‘anna

What it means:

O Allah, increase us (in all aspects) and do not decrease us (in all aspects), and grant us respectability and not disgrace, provide for us and do not hold back (our rizq), grant us influence and do not affect us (with bad influences), make us pleased with You, and be pleased with us.

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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Uncategorized


Elia Abu Madi: Tholasim

Elia Abu Madi

Elia Abu Madi or Elia D. Madey (1889-1957) was a Lebanese-American poet with numerous notable published works. The following is a translation of the first 8 stanzas from his famous work, Al-Tholasim (The Mysteries). The full poem comprises 405 lines.

I have translated (at least, attempted to) the following for your convenience.

The Mysteries

جئت، لا أعلم من أين، ولكنّي أتيت
ولقد أبصرت قدّامي طريقا فمشيت
وسأبقى ماشيا إن شئت هذا أم أبيت
كيف جئت؟ كيف أبصرت طريقي؟
لست أدري!

I came, I know not from whence, but I arrived,
And before my feet a path lay under my stride,
And I continue to walk be it my will or not,
Whence did I come? And where do I go?
I do not know!

أجديد أم قديم أنا في هذا الوجود
هل أنا حرّ طليق أم أسير في قيود
هل أنا قائد نفسي في حياتي أم مقود
أتمنّى أنّني أدري ولكن…
لست أدري!

Is my part of existence new or old?
Do I walk free or am I shackled?
Am I controlled or do I control?
I wish I knew, but..
… I don’t!”

وطريقي، ما طريقي؟ أطويل أم قصير؟
هل أنا أصعد أم أهبط فيه وأغور
أأنا السّائر في الدّرب أم الدّرب يسير
أم كلاّنا واقف والدّهر يجري؟
لست أدري!

And my path, what is it? Is it long or is it short?
Do I ascend, or am I falling?
Does the path move under me or am I the one moving?
Are we standing still in Time’s flow?
I do not know!

ليت شعري وأنا عالم الغيب الأمين
أتراني كنت أدري أنّني فيه دفين
وبأنّي سوف أبدو وبأنّي سأكون
أم تراني كنت لا أدرك شيئا؟
لست أدري!

If only I knew the secrets of the Unseen,
Do you think I’d know if I was buried within?
And that I will emerge one day and be,
Or do you see nothing but ignorance in me?
I do not know!

أتراني قبلما أصبحت إنسانا سويّا
أتراني كنت محوا أم تراني كنت شيّا
ألهذا اللّغو حلّ أم سيبقى أبديّا
لست أدري… ولماذا لست أدري؟
لست أدري!

What was I, before I became a man so fashioned?
Was I something else or was I nothing of mention?
Is there a conclusion to this folly, am I eternally caught?
I do not know… and why do I know not?
I do not know!

قد سألت البحر يوما هل أنا يا بحر منكا؟
هل صحيح ما رواه بعضهم عني وعنكا؟
أم ترى ما زعموا زوار وبهتانا وإفكا؟
ضحكت أمواجه مني وقالت:
لست أدري!

I asked the ocean one day: O Ocean, am I from you?
Is it true what they say about me and about you, too?
Or are their claims all but false and dead?
She laughed her gleeful waves at me and said,
“I don’t know!”

أيّها البحر، أتدري كم مضت ألف عليكا
وهل الشّاطىء يدري أنّه جاث لديكا
وهل الأنهار تدري أنّها منك إليكا
ما الذّي الأمواج قالت حين ثارت؟
لست أدري!

O Ocean, do you know not how many have passed over you?
And do the shores know that they kneel before you?
And do the rivers know they come to you, from you?
The waves stirred, what did they say?
I don’t know!

أنت يا بحر أسير آه ما أعظم أسرك
أنت مثلي أيّها الجبار لا تملك أمرك
أشبهت حالك حالي وحكى عذري عذرك
فمتى أنجو من الأسر وتنجو؟ ..
لست أدري!

O majestic ocean, majestic still your captivity,
You are like me, O great one. You own no ability,
My condition is like yours, and your limits tell of mine,
When will you and I be free of this bind?
I do not know!

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Posted by on January 7, 2014 in Poetry, Spirituality


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Are Morals Best Taught in Religious Schools?

Thus reads a motion in a local debate for tertiary-level students (you can see it here). I am admittedly rather fascinated. Especially since it strikes chords that are a little too close to where the bad memories are. Are morals best taught in religious schools?

The phrasing of the sentence is, typically, completely ambiguous. Firstly, the parameters of morality are debatable – you could be referring to the basic cognitive ability to discern good and bad, i.e virtue ethics. Or you could be referring to deontological ethics, which is a measure of one’s adherence to a certain set of rules. Rules which are, inadvertently, derived from inherent ethical judgment. These rules are meant to preserve the harmony of society and the rights of every individual. Fiqh Al-Mu’aamalaat is an example of a moral code (although it is much more than that), and so is, more specifically, Adab, which is a more individual level of ethical observation.

If I might add other interpretations of morality, it is perhaps a fundamental level of consciousness whereby one recognizes the need to be mindful of oneself and others and acts upon it. As the venerable Thich Nhat Hanh said:

“Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.”

Thus, to have a sense of morality means to have a sense of honour and respect – beginning, of course, with oneself. It is not merely a superficial preservation of image. It is not only to be perceived as a good or prudish person, but to recognize that virtue is a value far beyond what any prescriptions and regulations can dictate.

We then proceed to define the term ‘religious school’ – it is basically any institution that functions within the creed and jurisprudential disciplines of any religion. It is important to inculcate values and beliefs as dictated by the sacred text and its scholars, and to recognize the utmost authority of these sources of information.

The question of morality and how it is perceived also happens to be a part of ‘Aqeedah, or creed. The two major schools of ‘Aqeedah under the Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaah are the Ash’ari and Maturidi, both of which insist on differing ideas of moral inspiration. The Ash’ari school believes that the human mind is only able to discern right from wrong with the aid of Divine revelation. Conversely, according to the Maturidi school, the human mind is able to perceive that the more major sins such as alchoholism and murder are immoral and evil.

We are now faced with the challenge to commensurate the effectiveness of such institutions in developing moral individuals. Since I intend to speak from experience, I am not able to account for Dharma schools, convent institutions or Batei Midrash here. What I can account for, however, are the local Islamic religious schools in my homeland.

The nature of morality that is being taught in these schools is deontological, as previously defined, and it veers closely to an absolutism of sorts. An action is either absolutely right or absolutely wrong, regardless of the intention behind or the consequence following it. It may be argued here that it is still emphasized in such institutions that ‘actions are by their intentions’ as the Holy Prohpet Muhammad PBUH had put it, which is true. However, it should be noted here that actions that are deemed negative according to canonical evidence have been presumably prescribed negative intentions. An all-accommodating set of guidelines is now suddenly a black-and-white list of commandments.

The enforcers of these commandments are almost bereft of any form of compassion, so there is no tolerance for backsliding. Anyone who slacks in keeping ritualistic traditions is immediately chastised, when the reality is that every life journey is unique. Sadly, it is unconventional to believe that there are no two souls that reach Divine Unity the same way.

I cannot look at a supposed ‘backslider’ and immediately condemn the person to eternal doom, because according to canonical evidence, there is no such thing as eternal doom. In reality, however, this is exactly how morals are taught.

Studies of Qur’anic exegesis in school consisted much emphasis on the punishments of Hell, for instance. Assembly speeches are little more than endless, repetitive droning over the same texts about the law and the punishments that await those who do not abide by it. It was a fear-based pedagogy; therefore no room was left for love. No one knew the freedom of being non-judgmental, non-critical and all-embracing, terms that are next to best when one would want to describe Muhammad PBUH. The most apt term, and this is without a doubt, is unconditional Love.

Another grave consequence of such an approach is that it deadens the mind. I was reminded of this when a stranger, who came from the same school I did, pointed out to me that “religion is not about thinking”. She was evidently very unhappy about my decision to re-think the concepts I grew up with and never questioned. It was a heated discussion, on her part mostly, but it was that one statement that really made me think. It was apparent to me, now, why the system is, for lack of a better term, a failure. It is taught as part of the creed that rational analysis is second to canonical evidence. For some reason, be it a flaw in the methodology or a misunderstanding, it has produced a fear of imposing rational thinking unto any form of sacred text, leaving room only for literal observation. It is a surreal and almost terrifying reality.

I am using this particular incident as a case study to make a point. The uproar was not unexpected, for anger is only a natural response when one feels threatened, and she felt that her belief system was under attack. It was sad to see her desperately preaching verse after jurisprudential verse, and when she ran out of things to quote, resorted to lowly insults. It would only make sense for her to react that way. There was a lot of fear in her, as much as there would be in anyone who was educated the way we were.

This was the same fear I felt growing up. The only thing that kept me compliant to the rules was the fear of disapproval. Such was my lack of self-worth that I only sought it externally. I had to suppress almost all my curiosity and inclinations as they were not ‘Shari’a compliant’. Because of this, I grew jealous of people that were able to do the things that I kept myself from doing. My only consolation was to tell myself that in the end, I will be granted salvation while these people burn in Hell for their so-called sins.

This is a self-destructive thought pattern (therefore it is not limited to people of any specific orientation, religious or otherwise). The mechanics of this sort of thinking all occur on a sub-conscious level, therefore one would not realize the reason he is thinking this way. On the one hand, you have almost no self-worth. On the other, you overcompensate for this lack by convincing yourself that you are better than others. You belittle other individuals to glorify your own piety.

I’d hardly think having a belief system that promotes resentment and anger anywhere near the peaceful, moral ideal of an effective education system. Be it just a hunch, but perhaps enduring years of being taught to suppress and self-glorify is not the best way to produce moral individuals.


Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Rants


Unhijabed #4: Submission


It is very interesting how, when I stop wearing one article of clothing, many seem to assume that I have adopted numerous other habits… you know, things like drinking, promiscuity, Satanism and worst of all, a video game addiction (which I’ve always had, actually, but you don’t know that now). A further inspection of these assumptions reveals a very dark undercurrent of resentment owing especially to self-hatred, dark pasts, guilt and projection. A very sad reality, and it has been a challenge to deal with such people firmly but fairly as not to be void of compassion.

As such, I try to keep things as impersonal as I can here. Now, on to business.

As we have been typically taught, the word “Islam” comes from the word “Aslama” which means to submit. This is related to the word “Salima” which means the acquirement of safety, as well as “salam” which means peace. The concept of this submission could not be understood fully without a proper grasp of “Tawheed”, which I also refer to as Unity, which makes perfect sense because the word is taken directly from “wahhada” , meaning ‘to unite’. Now, these words are the bare basics of Islam. They are extremely critical and heavy concepts that will take time to sink in. This is exactly why the Sharia was only implemented 13 years after Prophethood.

The confusion comes when we think that the will of man and the will of God are separate. This would then enable man to ‘disobey’ since he has a choice whether or not to comply with God’s Law. However, this understanding is impaired because if man had his own separate will, it would be something that rivals the will of God. How can this be, when there is no likeness to Allah (“laysa ka mithlihi shay'”); there cannot exist anything comparable to Him even. God just Is.

Whether one subscribes to the Ash’ari or Maturidi school here is irrelevant because this is a discussion beyond moral values or comprehension. It is not man in relation to God or God in relation to man, rather one’s consciousness that there cannot be a duality. The Shahadah testifies to this denial by beginning with ‘la ilaha’. Meaning that there is no power, no authority, none worthy of worship. We then examine the term ‘worship’. The way I see it, there is no path to worship besides love. I believe that I was created out of love, and I am sustained out of love. For what else can it be?

The Shahadah then ends with “IllAllah” meaning except for God. Thus there is none worthy of worship (love) except for God. That is the chorus of creation, referred to as the reflection of God in Islamic traditions. And now we must lift the veil of duality in loving God. Let me tell you now, that the closest you can ever have to loving God, is to love yourself. It might be heavy to grasp, so you could begin by thinking of it as a sort of appreciation for all that God has done for you.

Self-love is an immense feeling of liberation. It is done by finding compassion within yourself, for yourself, and then realizing that you are compassion. It is the ability to indulge in kindness and generosity with no strings attached, towards yourself as well as others. Eventually, the self is lost, and all that is left is the simple desire to give. This peaks at death, where everything is given away, or given back, whichever way you prefer to see it.

Love cannot exist until fear is eradicated. Fear is a form of self-hatred that manifests in negative thoughts and feelings such as guilt and anger. One should not be taught to fear God because then he is taken away from the Divine Essence. Yet that is exactly what we are cultivated to think. People subscribe to rituals a law they don’t even understand because they fear the consequences of neglecting them. They suffer under the assumption that they worship a coercive and vengeful God. They then bring their own children up with these values. It becomes a vicious, mind-numbing cycle. The mind then closes, and the heart dies with it.

Only you can end your suffering.

[Post Scriptum]

Hi everyone! It’s been a long while since the last post as I have been busy with wedding preparations. It’s been a couple of weeks and there is much to talk about with regards to marriage. I hope to keep up the momentum this time.

Lots of love to all of you for your comments and messages. There are some truly amazing individuals out there, and I would love to hear more from you.

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Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Unhijabed


The Conference of The Birds: An Excerpt and Some notes

This was written a while back for a class. The Conference of the Birds is a handbook on Tasawwuf (spirituality) written by Farid Al-Attar, circa 1145. Attar was a Persian poet and the following was taken from an online translation:

Lines 94-108: Bayazid’s annihilation (q.s.)

One Night from out the swarming City Gate

Stept holy Bajazyd, to meditate

Alone amid the breathing Fields that lay

In solitary Silence leagues away,

Beneath a Moon and Stars as bright as Day.

And the Saint wondering such a Temple were,

And so lit up, and scarce one worshipper,

A voice from Heav’n amid the stillness said:

‘The Royal Road is not for all to tread,

Nor is the Royal Palace for the Rout,

Who, even if they reach it, are shut out.

The Blaze that from my Harim window breaks

With fright the Rabble of the Roadside takes;

And ev’n of those that at my Portal din,

Thousands may knock for one that enters in.’

A similar narration in Tazkirat al-Awliya’ quotes, from Bayazid himself –

“one night, when I was a child, I left the city to go to the desert. The moon was shining and the world was at peace. Suddenly I had a vision; I saw an illuminated silhouette. The image was so bright that the light of the sun looked pale compared to this apparition. I fell into a state of rapture and a deep feeling of joy came over me. I whispered to myself, ‘Oh Allah, such a beautiful gate, yet empty, such an almighty realm, yet lonesome!” I heard a voice say, “the doorstep is empty, not because no one comes, but no one is admitted to come. This is not the realm of the impure; not many have the honor of admittance.” I thought, from whom in creation could I call upon to intercede for my admittance? And I remembered that the only one to intercede was the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w). I could not call upon anyone but wait for him to give me permission to enter. It was then that I received a message saying, “because of such politeness I will raise your name so you will be remembered as the Sultan al-’Arifeen, Bayazid.”

Here the Almighty realm is empty because no one is granted permission. This is because only Allah exists and for one to reach this realm he must have annihilated in Him. No permission is granted as long as the self is present.  Also, the path to the Divine is through His Beloved, Muhammad s.a.w.



Lines 109-126

Thus spoke the Tajidar: and the wing’d Crowd,

That underneath his Word in Silence bow’d, 110

Clapp’d Acclamation: and their Hearts and Eyes

Were kindled by the Firebrand of the Wise.

They felt their Degradation: they believed

The word that told them how to be retrieved,

And in that glorious Consummation won

Forgot the Cost at which it must be done.

‘They only long’d to follow: they would go

Whither he led, through Flood, or Fire, or Snow’—

So cried the Multitude. But some there were

Who listen’d with a cold disdainful air, 120

Content with what they were, or grudging Cost

Of Time or Travel that might all be lost;

These, one by one, came forward, and preferr’d

Unwise Objection: which the wiser Word

Shot with direct Reproof, or subtly round

With Argument and Allegory wound.

Bayazid’s account, as told by the Hoopoe (here called the Tajidar, meaning ‘the adorner of the diadem’, a symbol of wisdom), humbles the birds as it becomes a reminder of the journey’s cost. The self is a hefty price to pay for anyone who thinks he is something, and that is most of us. The Nafs al-Ammarah and Nafs al-Lawwamah are susceptible to worldly obsession, which oftentimes becomes the barrier to feeling the sweetness of devotion. A related quote narrates, “verily in your heart sits the daughter of Iblis and that is Dunya, and it is incumbent upon the father to visit his daughter in her home, and his visit brings nothing but destruction”.

Lines 127-150

The Pheasant first would know by what pretence

The Tajidar to that pre-eminence

Was raised—a Bird, but for his lofty Crest

(And such the Pheasant had) like all the Rest—

Who answer’d—’By no Virtue of my own

Sulayman chose me, but by His alone:

Not by the Gold and Silver of my Sighs

Made mine, but the free Largess of his Eyes.

Behold the Grace of Allah comes and goes

As to Itself is good: and no one knows

Which way it turns: in that mysterious Court

Not he most finds who furthest travels for’t.

For one may crawl upon his knees Life-long,

And yet may never reach, or all go wrong:

Another just arriving at the Place

He toil’d for, and—the Door shut in his Face:

Whereas Another, scarcely gone a Stride,

And suddenly—Behold he is Inside!—

But though the Runner win not, he that stands,

No Thorn will turn to Roses in his Hands:

Each one must do his best and all endure,

And all endeavour, hoping but not sure.

Heav’n its own Umpire is; its Bidding do,

And Thou perchance shalt be Sulayman’s too.’

This begins with the Pheasant’s judgment of the hoopoe – questioning his authority and on what grounds he was chosen. This reflects the Hadith, “the believer is a mirror to his brother”. Whatever the pheasant saw in the hoopoe, was what he had in himself. The hoopoe answers that it was not by his virtue alone, his dialogue explains extensively the lessons behind the aforementioned account of Bayazid.  The point here being that the fruits of ‘amal are never granted by one’s own virtue, everything is by the Mercy and Favour of Allah Almighty – dare we question His Wisdom?

Lines 151-191: The story of Shah Mahmud

One day Shah Mahmud, riding with the Wind

A-hunting, left his Retinue behind,

And coming to a River, whose swift Course

Doubled back Game and Dog, and Man and Horse,

Beheld upon the Shore a little Lad

A-fishing, very poor, and Tatter-clad

He was, and weeping as his Heart would break.

So the Great Sultan, for good humour’s sake

Pull’d in his Horse a moment, and drew nigh,

And after making his Salam, ask’d why

He wept—weeping, the Sultan said, so sore

As he had never seen one weep before.

The Boy look’d up, and ‘O Amir,’ he said,

‘Sev’n of us are at home, and Father dead,

And Mother left with scarce a Bit of Bread:

And now since Sunrise have I fish’d—and see!

Caught nothing for our Supper—Woe is Me!’

The Sultan lighted from his horse. ‘Behold,’

Said he, ‘Good Fortune will not be controll’d:

And, since Today yours seems to turn from you,

Suppose we try for once what mine will do,

And we will share alike in all I win.’

So the Shah took, and flung his Fortune in,

The Net; which, cast by the Great Mahmud’s Hand,

A hundred glittering Fishes brought to Land.

The Lad look’d up in Wonder—Mahmud smiled

And vaulted into Saddle. But the Child

Ran after—’Nay, Amir, but half the Haul

Is yours by Bargain’—’Nay, Today take all,’

The Sultan cried, and shook his Bridle free—

‘But mind—Tomorrow All belongs to Me—’

And so rode off. Next morning at Divan

The Sultan’s Mind upon his Bargain ran,

And being somewhat in a mind for sport

Sent for the Lad: who, carried up to Court,

And marching into Royalty’s full Blaze

With such a Catch of Fish as yesterday’s,

The Sultan call’d and set him by his side,

And asking him, ‘What Luck?’ The Boy replied,

This is the Luck that follows every Cast,

Since o’er my Net the Sultan’s Shadow pass’d.’

Here the story of a boy and his encounter with the Sultan is narrated. The boy is in a destitute situation: his father had passed away; his mother barely has a morsel to feed their big family. They now count on the boy, who has had very little luck fishing since sunrise. The Sultan chances upon him and offers to help, and strikes a bargain with the boy:  whatever he (the Sultan) catches today belongs to the boy, but whatever the boy catches tomorrow will be for him.

This story is highly metaphorical in that the boy and is representative of the individual. His situation the Hell he creates for himself when one chooses to rely on his own resources.  In gnosis, the Master of everything is recognized, and one should have no resource other than Him to rely on.  The Sultan’s arrival represents Gnostic recognition and how it is the key to abundance. Abundance is a state of being rather than a physical phenomenon, therefore it is irrelevant what form it comes in. It lies in the satisfaction that accompanies every moment of remembrance, and the awareness of God’s hand in everything.


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Posted by on June 21, 2013 in Poetry, Rants, Spirituality


Unhijabed #3 : Background Check (1)

wildflower-meadow-deHere I shall recount the essential years of my life that played the biggest role in shaping the ideas I hold so steadfastly to now. This was mainly the period spanning from my early childhood to my graduation from secondary school.

My initial contentions with cultural norms resulted as a culmination of the issues I had with Malay/Muslims ever since I was first introduced to the community. This was, namely, when I first enrolled into a local Madrasah (religious school). Before, I spent the golden years of my childhood in acting school and Montessori, and I had always felt right at home with my multi-cultural friends and teachers (in fact, I can remember each and every one of them, faces and names, even now). It was a very healthy social environment, nurturing and conducive. The same goes at home. We spoke English almost all the time and there was much emphasis on reading. Life was very halcyon, so to speak.

Of course, in an attempt to balance my education, my parents sent me to religious kindergarten as well. The demographic was a Malay majority but under an English syllabus. Things weren’t so bad if you don’t count the bullying. I remember my Montessori friends being distinctly different from the friends at religious school. One group was definitely more benign and accepting than the other.

My years of misery and misfit officially began on the first day of school in the local Madrasah. No exaggeration intended, but no amount of melodrama could justify the traumatic experience that was my first 2 weeks of school. It was a huge struggle especially because I didn’t speak colloquial Malay. I learnt it formally, but that definitely didn’t prepare me for such an environment. Everyone was so similar and so different from where I previously came from. Needless to say, I was automatically ostracized as per the idiosyncratic herd mentality that both my friends and teachers had.

So that was it. I knew I was radically different from the beginning. I gave my caretakers (parents and otherwise) a hard time to get me to go to school. I loathed everything about it initially, especially my teachers. Their methodology of teaching was very fear-based. It seemed as if the only way to get into heaven was to fear hell. The key to being good was to fear punishment. The teachers, despite being all female, seemed bereft of the loving, motherly nature my previous teachers had. They were older and hard-faced, merciless or otherwise indifferent.

After much resistance I finally succumbed to the expectations of the Madrasah community and tried my best to fit in. Being a mere child and under so much pressure, I decided the only way to get by was to do so. It took a lot of effort to suppress my thoughts and feelings in the tender years that followed, and as a result I remember being a very temperamental and confused child.

My angst continued into my teenage years, and the confusion developed into a deep sense of loneliness. It was something very typical of my enneagram type (I’m a 4 with a 3-wing), I realize now. But that period of my life was no less painful than my childhood. My temperament worsened and on several occasions I took it out on my friends in school (verbally and psychologically). This also manifested in a few attempts at suicide and self-mutilation. I thought I was unreasonably sensitive but I never knew why.

I was never a fan of the school system and rebelled in my own secret ways (I suppose there isn’t any harm in talking about that now that I’ve left it 4 years ago). I fail to recall exactly what I did but I always sought ways around the stipulated guidelines. I purposely skipped classes, broke rules. However, I never rebelled outwardly. The act of defiance in itself satisfied me that I didn’t need to be seen, just acknowledged by the Universe.

With the exception of one or two of them, my teachers generally never made an impact on me. This was simply because we came from completely different worlds. I never understood the love my classmates had for them, and hardly ever cared anyway. The few who did make an impact, for some reason, never stayed long. The year they taught me was almost always their last year in the school. And I’ve always wondered why.

I also expressed myself a lot in artwork and poetry – particularly character design and extensive, mournful ballads. But that itself never sufficed for I never felt validated by the people around me. My parents and teachers were often dismissive of the things I drew and wrote (not that I often showed them anything, but these things had the habit of being ‘discovered’ by them). I now realize, of course, that I was denying myself my own validation all this while. It took a long time for me to finally accept that I am talented.

The things I studied in school didn’t occur to me as questionable at the time of learning. Religious subjects were taught in Malay, with the textbooks and exams being in Arabic. To me, it was all simply a test of memory, not understanding. Despite this, I was very clear about certain principles in terms of Islamic creed that were repetitively taught over the 4 years of secondary school. Which will be the topic of discussion … in my next write-up.

[ Post Scriptum ]

It has been roughly 4 days since the first unhijabed article was published, and I am very pleasantly surprised by the sheer amount of support I’ve been getting. It is very comforting to know that many are conscious of what’s happening, and share my sentiments on the matter. Or otherwise, as with those who have made an effort to show their concern for me in their own ways, I am thankful for their honesty and kindness.

Of course, on the other hand, I have predictably received a fair share of hate mail. I knew what was coming and really wasn’t surprised at all. I cannot say, however that I have emerged from it all unaffected due to my chronic, idiosyncratic resentment of stupidity. But nevertheless we wish these people well for we are all where we are, reality just is, and resisting it is to suffer. 


Posted by on June 20, 2013 in Unhijabed


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