Sunday, 19 July 2015

Aidilfitri 1436H / 2015M

The aidilfitri celebration, like most other religious and cultural festivals in Malaysia, is a time when family members gather for the chance to reinforce or renew relationships. It is a time when sons and daughters, who work in the city, make the trip back to their respective home-towns or villages to spend the first day of Syawal with their parents. For those whose parents have already departed, it then becomes a day of remembrance and reminiscing the memories of hari raya days of a long time ago.

I am very lucky to still have both father and mother to celebrate this special ocassion with. However, for the past two years, the annual family gathering had been a bit different. Last year, my father spent his hari raya in the ward of National University Hospital in Singapore. He was suffering from pneumonia and was hospitalised for a total of 42 days. This year, on the third day of fasting, my mother had a heart attack and was transported to the same hospital in an ambulance. She was discharged just 2 days before Aidilfitri, after undergoing treatment for 24 days. She is now staying with me for a short while before I have to send her to be re-admitted to another hospital for further therapy.

Praise be to the Almighty. I am counting my blessings each day.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to all my friends and readers. May all of you be in good health and joyful spirit.

Masjid Ubudiah in Kuala Kangsar, Perak. Pic taken in May 2015.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Cave of The Seven Sleepers

On the outskirts of Amman, the capital of Jordan, there is a historic site where it is believed that seven young men hid in a cave to escape religious persecution from their tyrant ruler. They fell asleep for what they thought to be a day or so, but turned out to be for a much longer period. Upon rising from their slumber, one of the youths went out to the nearby town to buy food and when he wanted to pay for his purchase, the shop owner discovered that the coins offered came from a time when a different emperor ruled many years earlier.

This story of the People of The Cave or As-habul Kahfi, is well-known in Islamic teachings and even has a parallel in Christian tradition. The story is mentioned in Surah 18 of the holy Al-Qur'an, beginning from Verse 9 to Verse 26. While popular accounts put the number of the young men at 7, the Qur'an does not give an exact figure. Verse 22 indicates the possible number at 3 or 5 or 7, but with a gentle reminder from the Almighty that such an uncertainty should not be leading us to arguments amongst ourselves. Only the Lord knows... plus a few others. And who might these few others be, I wonder.

Another interesting aspect of this story is that the young men had a dog with them. This pet canine kept watch at the cave's entrance, possibly deterring any unwanted parties from venturing into the cave and discovering the hiding place. Such a loyal trait that has been recorded in divine revelation.

Within those 18 verses that tell the story of the cave-sleepers is perhaps another important lesson for the Muslim faithful. Verse 23 and 24 are translated as such :

23 - And never say of anything, "Indeed, I will do that tomorrow,"

24 - Except [when adding], "If Allah wills." And remember your Lord when you forget [it] and say, "Perhaps my Lord will guide me to what is nearer than this to right conduct."

The said verses impart to us the need to cite the phrase `Insha Allah', meaning `if Allah wills' whenever we mention our intention to carry out something in the future. There is an interesting backstory to this.

Prophet Muhammad (sallalahu alaihi wa-sallam) faced a lot of scepticism and doubters during his early days of preaching to the people of Makkah. The leaders of Makkah sent two of their men to check with the Jewish rabbis of Madinah on Muhammad's claim of being a prophet. Since the Jews are people of the book, they would have more knowledge about such matters. The men described the new prophet and his teachings to the rabbis who then told them to ask Muhammad (s.a.w.) three questions, the answers to which would reveal the proof of authenticity.

 "Ask him about three things which we will tell you to ask, if he answers them then he is a Prophet who has been sent (by Allah); if he does not, then he is saying things that are not true, in which case how you will deal with him will be up to you. Ask him about some young men in ancient times, what was their story? For there is a strange and wondrous tale. Ask him about a man who traveled a great deal and reached the east and the west of the earth. What was his story? And ask him about the Ruh (soul or spirit), what is it?"

The men returned to Makkah and relayed the questions to the Prophet (s.a.w.) who accordingly replied, "I will tell you tomorrow." He had neglected to add, "Insha Allah".

The Prophet (s.a.w.) waited for Allah's revelation to enable him to give the answers. A whole day passed and the revelation did not come. As more days went by without any divine assistance, the people of Makkah made more fun of him and accused him of not keeping to his word. The Messenger of Allah was very sad to face such ridicule. It was only after 15 days that the angel Jibreel (alaihi-salam) came to the Messenger with the revelation of Surah Al-Kahfi which had the answers to questions posed by the rabbis. Indeed, also contained within the surah is the subtle reminder on the proper etiquette when promising to do something. Allahu-akbar!

And so my friends, what about the questions concerning the man who traveled a great deal or about the Ruh? Perhaps I will explore the answers to these questions in future postings... insha 'Allah.

Signboard at the cave site
Entrance to the cave located at a hill slope

Footnote : Apart from this place in Jordan, another site in Turkey called Ephesus also claims to be the Cave of the 7 Sleepers.

Monday, 6 July 2015

A picture paints a thousand words

In almost all of my non-fiction articles in this blog, I have included a photo or two of the subject matter in question. A well-taken and relevant photograph helps to make the post interesting. In my early days of blogging, I have sometimes resorted to 'borrowing' some images from cyberspace because my own stock of original photos had not reached a sizeable collection yet. When this happens, I would credit the original website by providing a link within the article. I'm not sure if this would suffice as an acknowledgement of copyright but I make sure that none of the borrowed pics are used for commercial gain.

Nowadays, all the pics which I use to accompany any of my posts shall be my own original photos. After 8 years of blogging and hundreds of published postings, the number of photos I have uploaded to the internet is quite substantial. And if we are to include the photo albums I have on my Facebook account, the overall quantity is not insignificant.

Which now brings us to the reverse situation where any one of my photos available on cyberspace could be borrowed by another person. I had thought of this possibility some years ago. I wouldn't mind if my pics are being used by another party as long as they credit the source. But I guess in the super-duper huge borderless world of cyberspace, this seems to be an unrealistic request.

Two days ago, a friend shared a link on FB for the recipe for char kway teow, the so-called `wet' version that's so popular up north. When I first glimpsed at the photo accompanying the recipe, I thought it looked so familiar. I scrolled through my hard-disk for the stock of my original CKT pics (yes, I now have quite a few) and sure enough, I found the same photo which was snapped in 2012 when I sampled the dish at a roadside outlet in Taman Perling in JB. I had uploaded that photo both in this blog and in the Johor Sedap FB page.

Screenshot of the FB link
The original photograph, taken using a Blackberry
I then clicked on the link where the full recipe was shown. It is a page run by someone primarily to sell slimming products targeted at the fairer sex. Beneath the recipe was written `copy-paste', meaning that the page administrator had copied the recipe (and presumably the pic) from elsewhere. I did further search on Google and found that the recipe/article is actually an app on Google Play.

So how do I feel that a pic of mine is being used by someone else? I'm not sure yet... in one sense it feels fine that one's handiwork is good enough to be used by others. On the other hand, a simple credit to the original source would be nice too.

Anyway, just to let you know that the stall where I had this plate of CKT is no longer operating, or perhaps has moved to another location. A bit sad, really... because the taste wasn't too bad. Comparable to the ones I have tried in Butterworth and Bukit Mertajam in Penang.