Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I am-was a 2nd year university undergraduate

I'm slightly confused about my current academic status. I have completed my second year, I'll be entering my third year, but I haven't started my third year. So i'm stuck somewhere in between but the good news is...I did not fail my exams so Warwick University is not going to kick me out. yeay..

In one sentence- a lot happened last year. Some details? Here we go..

My life changed in many ways, the most noticeable one is the fact that I faced the biggest loss in my life-the passing on of my dearest father. This is the first time I've ever been so far away from home. So, coming home to find my father in such a state was a shock..no it was more than a shock..But I'm grateful that I still managed to spend some time with him, and even more than that I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to look after him when he was sick, even though it was such a short period. When I went back to Warwick, the frequent question asked by lecturers and friends who were unaware of my loss was 'So, how was your summer?' or 'Did you have a good summer?' Not wanting to talk about my loss and receive all that sympathetic looks and statements I only gave positive responses.

While not a day passed without me thinking of my father, I carried on with life in the best possible way...

To begin with, I returned to Warwick to be faced with a lot of work. Mind you, when I say a lot, it really was a lot. From the loads of readings i hardly found time to do, to the busy-ness of running a society, and to the normal routines of being a human- i was well-occupied.

Last year Warwick kicked us out of our accomodations so all of us had to rent houses/apartments to live in. In my 1st year I had to learn to lead a fully independent life where for the first time in my life I had to cook my own meals and do my own marketing. This time around, my lessons on being a human adult went one level higher-I had to take part in organising a whole household. Thank God I wasn't alone in doing this and I must say I lived with more experienced housemates.

I like this thing about sharing responsibilities. Back when I had to cook for myself while staying on campus at Warwick Uni, my meals were very much unorganised. A lot of times i couldn't find the time to cook. The kitchen was either fully occupied or i was just busy. Sometimes i only started cooking when i was already hungry. So i had to first stuff some snacks or buns or usually kinder buenos to temporarily fill my stomach while i cooked. those days involed quite a bit of starving and lack of motivation to cook. So my eating habits were not very organised. But this year, there's always one person on turn to cook for the day, so there'll always be food to eat. There were days when i had to wake up really early and cook around fajr time.I didn't mind that at all. It was good practise. Besides, i'm on duty for only 1-2 days in a week. So what's there to complaint about?
In our house in Earlsdon, all duties were shared. I never had to do anything just by myself. I believe the time will come when i have to cook everyday and do house chores by myself every day. I fear that time. I fear that I wont be able to manage. BUt at least, i've had a bit of practise.

So that's the good thing. The bad thing is that our house was soooooooo cold! Our central heating was way too costly, so we had to depend on the portable blowers which was not enough to keep my big room (the master bedroom) warm enough. So during winter, it was pretty much like living in a fridge. We tried our best to spend more time on campus, in the library or in the prayer hall to avoid working in our cold house.

Just a side note..when we want to eat ice-cream in UK, we actually need to take it out at least half an hour earlier (during winter) so that it'll be less frozen and more edible.

Another side note...when we defrost and clean our freezer, the ice we clean out fills the whole sink and is enough to make a few bowls of ice-kacang. Non-Malaysians, a picture of this famous Malaysian desert is below..

A third side note...eating snow is fun =), it's really quite tasty..

Now to my lessons as a second year Linguistics student..

The subject Description of English in Use (DEU) was all Latin to me. It was about how our brains organise and produce words and sentences. It's like learning maths in alphabets and words. Too complicated for my brains to process. However, the other subjects were enjoyable and very much relevant to my future as a teacher. We learnt a lot about suitable materials to use in our lessons and on the methods and approaches we can use in teaching. We also learned to make lesson plans and even had the opportunity to conduct a few sessions of micro-teachings. I received quite a few critics from my micro-teachings but I agree with everything my lecturers told me and I'm happier to make the mistakes now than to screw my students future.

Above....way up there...i mentioned how i could not find time to do all the assigned readings. Well, that's true. In the 2 semesters (about 6-7 months) of lectures and seminars, i could not do the readings. But I miraculously managed to cramp them at the final 1-2 months before exams..Gosh! No wonder i was so stressed during revisions for exams! And during exams as well!! Anyway, despite my premonitions about dying or fainting during that period, i neither passed out nor did i pass on..hehe.. I survived..

Ok..this post is getting a bit too long. Well, what can anyone expect? I'm writing about a whole year here!

Now to the tours..Just some short notes here..I went to:
1. Turkey (8-9 days i think..)
2. Warwick Castle

3. Cadbury World

(yeah the place where they make Cadbury chocolates. And for a chocolate lover like me, the trip was an awesome experience. Though, i've dropped my childhood dreams of marrying the owner of the Cadbury company for the sake of having a lifetime of stocks of chocolates)

4. FOSIS Quran camp in Cambridge

5. Boating in Stratford (where Amma enjoyed the company of the swans)

I can't remember where else I went. But i was so busy i hardly had much time to go around enjoying myself..Neway, if i have the time and the mood, i'll write other posts about this places..Turkey and Cadbury World particularly deserve a whole post each!

Now to one of the best achievements..ok maybe not so much an achievement cos i couldn't make the most of this..I MANAGED TO FULFIL MY MOTHER'S LONG TIME DREAM TO GO TO ENGLAND!!! My mother was with me for 2 and a half months in UK. It was so nice to have her around for so many different reasons =).

Next..despite my initial plans of not running for elections again, I have once again been elected to be the vice president of warwick isoc (Islamic society).

And somewhere in between my busy days at Warwick, i had the delightful opportunity to meet the Crown Prince of Perak, which is the state of my hometown, in Oxford University. His speech was really good and it was such an honor to meet him. And yes, i was delighted to hear my girlfriends exclaim 'He's so handsome!'.

So that's a bit about how my second year at Warwick was like. A really busy and fully packed year. I sometimes leave home early in the morning and only return late at night, something that, to be completely honest, is exactly what university students do. But it's been a blessed year, Alhamdulillah and I look forward to my 3rd and final year at Warwick.

footnote: i have this feeling that i might write more about my 2nd year in other posts...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Days of Mercy: Part 3: Jokes

We're now in the 4th day of Ramadhan, meaning, we're still in the period of the days of mercy.

This month should also be used in being merciful towards others. Being merciful towards others is not only about giving sadaqa'/sedekah and other forms of material charity to those in need. We sometimes forget that being merciful towards others is also about how we treat them. It is very common these days that our interactions with our family and friends often includes jokes and laughter. It is a common misconception among non-believers that Islam frowns upon having fun. This is not at all true. Jokes and having fun in Islam is permissible as long as we abide the etiquettes for both.

In this post, I'll elaborate on the etiquettes of making jokes with reference to the verses of the Quran and to the hadeeths of our Holy Prophet (PBUH).

1. The jokes should not be making fun of Islam

In joking, we really need to take extra caution not to make fun of the verses of the Quran, the hadeeths of our prophet, or the fundamental teachings of Islam.

Allah says:

وَلَئِنْ سَأَلْتَهُمْ لَيَقُولُنَّ إِنَّمَا كُنَّا نَخُوضُ وَنَلْعَبُ ۚ قُلْ أَبِاللَّهِ وَآيَاتِهِ وَرَسُولِهِ كُنْتُمْ تَسْتَهْزِئُونَ

لَا تَعْتَذِرُوا قَدْ كَفَرْتُمْ بَعْدَ إِيمَانِكُمْ ۚ إِنْ نَعْفُ عَنْ طَائِفَةٍ مِنْكُمْ نُعَذِّبْ طَائِفَةً بِأَنَّهُمْ كَانُوا مُجْرِمِينَ

“If you ask them, they declare: ‘We were only talking idly and joking.’ Say: ‘Was it at Allah, and His verses and His Messenger that you were mocking? ’Make no excuse; you disbelieved after you had believed” (Surah al-Tawbah 9:65-66)

Most Muslims will be cautious enough to not make fun of Quranic verses or hadeeths. However, there are times when we get carried away with our jokes till we make fun of other aspects of Islam such as the dresscodes of our fellow brothers and sisters.Here it must be noted that the beard of our Muslim brothers and the hijaab, niqaab and jilbab worn by Muslim sisters should not be made fun of. I'm aware of Muslims calling other Muslims 'kolot'/ old-fashioned because of their hijaab and abayas. What these Muslims are insulting here is not the fashion trend, rather, they are actually insulting Islam itself.

2. The jokes should not be on something that is Haraam in Islam.

Islam has made haraam some food and drinks, manners of conduct in life and various other things listed in the Quraan and Hadeeth. While we may be careful in avoiding all of these, we sometimes forget that joking about them is not actually permissible in Islam. Thus, we shouldn't say things like 'She must be 'high'' or 'I feel so drunk' even if we only intend them as a joke.

3. Being truthful

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "Woe to the one who tells lies to make people laugh, woe to him." (Narrated by Abu Dawood).

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, warning against this kind of behaviour which some jokers are accustomed to: "A man may say something to make his companions laugh, and he will fall into Hell as far as the Pleiades because of it." (Narrated by Ahmad).

Both the hadeeths above highlight the severity of telling lies even if it is intended to be a joke. Speaking only the truth and avoiding lies is one of the things highlighted in Islam. Thus, we should make full effort to express only the truths. Besides, telling a lie about another person can turn into a fitna and spreading fitna is a heavy sin.

4. Don't make fun of others

This is something that we often forget. A lot of times, in joking, we make fun of others or call them names. As Muslims, we need to ensure that the jokes we make do not in any way hurt another person's feelings.

Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا يَسْخَرْ قَوْمٌ مِنْ قَوْمٍ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَكُونُوا خَيْرًا مِنْهُمْ وَلَا نِسَاءٌ مِنْ نِسَاءٍ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَكُنَّ خَيْرًا مِنْهُنَّ ۖ وَلَا تَلْمِزُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَلَا تَنَابَزُوا بِالْأَلْقَابِ ۖ بِئْسَ الِاسْمُ الْفُسُوقُ بَعْدَ الْإِيمَانِ ۚ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَتُبْ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ

“O you who believe! Let not a group ridicule another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. How bad is it to insult one’s brother after having Faith” (Surah Hujuraat 49:11)

This is a forbidence from Allah himself. So, the next time we make a joke, lets think before we speak so that our words do not result in the picture below

5. Never scare another person

Rasulullah (SAW) said: ‘It is not permissible for a Muslim to frighten another Muslim.’” (Abu Dawud).

This means that it is not permissible to stand in a dark corner and suddenly go 'Boo!' to frighten our friend. This also applies to some of the reality tv shows these days which make a joke of scaring people in various ways such as pretending to rob or kidnap someone.

6. Joking should not involve backbiting

This means that we shouldn't make a joke about a person while he/she is not there as this could count as backbiting and backbiting is a major sin.

The above points are not exhaustive and there re still points which i haven't mentioned and elaborated. For further reference please refer to these 2 useful sites

Joking with family and friends is a good theraphy to take away our stress and to lighten our hearts. If we do this in accordance with Islamic teachings, insyaAllah we will not be committing any sin unknowingly. In taking care to not make fun of Islam, we are expressing our respect and obedince to our religion. And when we take caution to not hurt others while joking, we can strengthen or at least maintain the ukhuwah and relationship between us. Is it worth it to hurt another person just to give ourselves a laugh? Imagine if we are the ones being laughed at. How will we feel?

Also, we need to take note of thie last point (last only in my post..actually there are more points)

7. Do not joke or laugh excessively

Rasulullah (SAW) said: “Do not laugh too much, for laughing too much deadens the heart.” (Sahih al-Jaami)

Imaam al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: "The kind of joking which is forbidden is that which is excessive and persistent, for it leads to too much laughter and hardening of the heart, it distracts from remembrance of Allaah, and it often leads to hurt feelings, generates hatred and causes people to lose respect and dignity. But whoever is safe from such dangers, then that which the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to do is permissible for him."

A dead heart will find it hard to focus on ibadaah and in the remembrance of Allah. A dead heart will also face difficulties in accepting new knowledge. Thus, it is often said that the jokes we make should be like the salt we put in our food which is very little in quantity.

If we feel that our hearts are hard or even dead, bring it back to life by controlling the jokes we make and engagge in besides increazing our Dhikr and remembrance to Allah SWT. Let's use this blessed month to continuously improve various aspects of our lives. And let's try to be consistent in our efforts. Ramadhan can be made as the starting point for such changes. May Allah continuously guide us and accept our deeds.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Days of Mercy: Part 2-They need our Dua

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said in a Hadeeth Qudsi: "Allah, the Exalted, says 'Indeed, My Love shall be bestowed upon the ones who visit each other for My Sake. Indeed, My Love shall be bestowed upon the ones who love one another for My Sake. Indeed, My Love shall be bestowed upon the ones who approach one another in humility for My Sake. And, indeed, My Love shall be bestowed upon the ones that rush to help one another for My Sake." (Musnad Imam Ahmad)

For those of us who are carrying out our fasts in a peaceful and safe environment, we really need to be grateful to Allah as that is indeed a great ni'mah. Alhamdulillah, we're free to practise our religion and to perform our salah without having our lives endangered. Also, we're able to do all this in a condusive environment.


There are Muslims out there who are not so lucky.

InsyaAllah there are many of us who are praying and making dua to get Allah's mercy. Why not take some time to also make dua for others?

Our brothers and sisters in Syria definitely need our duas. So does our Palestinian brothers and sisters. And there are Muslims in various parts in the world who are victims of natural disasters, droughts, poverty, famine and many other unfortunate situations. There are Muslims in the world such as our sisters in France who are discriminated for wearing the hijaab and they're not the only ones facing such discriminations.  And above all these, there are Muslims around the world who are so close to losing their deen (maybe some who have already lost it).  All of them are in great need of our Dua. All of them are in dire need of Allah's mercy.

At this precise moment, they may be people who are so sick that they are not able to make dua for themselves. And surely, those who have already passed on are no longer able to make dua for themselves either. Yet, both the sick and especially the deceased are in much need of Allah's mercy.

We don't lose anything by praying and making dua that Allah's mercy be with all those who have been mentioned above, and anybody else that may have been missed out. Today we are able to make dua, we are able to pray for the well being of ourselves and that of others. The day will come when we ourselves will be in need of duas from others. So while we can, lets pray that in this blessed month, Allah's mercy will not only be with us but that He showers His mercy on ALL our brothers and sisters in Islam, no matter where they are and for both who are alive and those who have passed on.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Days of Mercy: Part 1- Pictures

Alhamdulillah, Allah has let us live long enough to embrace another Ramadhan. The hadeeth below outlines 7 excellences that comes from fasting during Ramadhan.

Seven Excellences of Ramazan Fasting:

Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny)
has stated: There is no Mu'min, who fasts for a day in the month of
Ramadan with the intention of attaining its rewards, except that
Allah, The Exalted, grants him seven excellences:

  1. The forbidden food that had entered into his body melts away.
  2. He moves closer to the Mercy of Allah, The Exalted.
  3. Allah expiates his sins.
  4. Allah reduces for him the agony of death.
  5. Allah protects him from the hunger and thirst of the Day of Judgment.
  6. He is granted pardon from the fire (of Hell).
  7. Allah provides him the good and pleasant food of Paradise.

Mustadrak al-Wasaail al-Shia'h, vol. 7, pg. 395
We're currently in the first 10 days of Ramadhan- the days that are meant to seek the mercy/rahmat of Allah. So how should we utilise these 10 days?

Many of us don't realise that our homes or rooms, or any space that we may be in might actually be in a state which keeps out the angels of mercy from entering. These angels are in fact bringing us the mercy of Allah. So if they are unable to enter, how are we supposed to get Allah's mercy?

Hadith -Bukhari 4:47, Narrated 'Aisha

I stuffed for the Prophet a pillow decorated with pictures (of animals) which looked like a Namruqa (i.e. a small cushion). He came and stood among the people with excitement apparent on his face. I said, "O Allah's Apostle! What is wrong?" He said, "What is this pillow?" I said, "I have prepared this pillow for you, so that you may recline on it." He said, "Don't you know that angels do not enter a house wherein there are pictures; and whoever makes a picture will be punished on the Day of Resurrection and will be asked to give life to (what he has created)?"

Hadith - Bukhari 4:448, Narrated Abu Talha

I heard Allah's Apostle saying; "Angels (of Mercy) do not enter a house wherein there is a dog or a picture of a living creature (a human being or an animal)."

From both hadeeths, it is clear the angels of Mercy do not enter the houses with dogs and pictures of living creatures. InsyaAllah, not many Muslims keep dogs. And it must be noted that guard dogs are exempted from this hadeeth. However, all of us need to take a closer look around our living spaces. Do we have posters of celebrities?
Do we put up pictures or fridge magnets with images of animals?
Do we have any picture at all of humans or any other living creatures (including butterflies or birds which may be in pictures of sceneries)?

If our answer is yes to any of these then we have some work to do..We have a few options.

One is to just throw them away. This is especially the case for those pictures of celebrities as putting their pictures up may be a sign of idol-worshipping, even if that may not be our main intention.

Second, we can remove them and keep them in a way in which the picture is not exposed. Though personally, i would say getting rid of them would be a better option as the above hadeeths does not specifically indicate pictures which are only put up and exposed. Thus, this may actually include pictures which are being kept.

Third, we can scribble on the images to make it imperfect. This is practical when there are small images of butterflies or birds in pictures of sceneries.

Now there is still the question about family pictures and family portraits. Surely our purpose of putting these up is not to worship them, rather, we put them up cos we want to always look at them and remember them. There are various fatwa (please not this is fatwa and not syarak-syarak holds a higher position than fatwa because fatwa is mostly the views of ulama' and scholars based on their understanding of the Quran and Hadeeths as well as their evaluation of current day situations) that allows family pictures. However, it will be wise that at least for this month, we keep away these pictures in order to truly ensure that we get Allah's mercy through His angels of Mercy. Let's just take a moment and think, which is more valuable- the pictures or Allah's mercy?

It wont be easy to get rid of all pictures (i've tried). I looked around my home, tahnkfully, we dont have any frames of living creatures up. However, upon closer inspection i realised how there were picture of people on newspapers, food products and book covers (not justmagazines). Sigh!!!! I can try to scribble/content all these faces but i doubt i'll ever be able to remove or make imperfect all of these pictures. So, what i did was to try to the best of my abilities, to just keep this things out of sight when they're not in use. But if it's just not possible, all I can do is to pray that Allah understands my (and all the rest of us) situation and still asks His angels to enter my house. One thing that may work is to ensure that our room, or the space we use to pray in is free from such images. In that way, InsyaAllah the angels will still enter that space and we can still receive His mercy while we're there. InsyaAllah.