Month: December 2009

The Whole Nine Yards : The Changing Views




Changing opinions?


Idiom, The Whole Nine Yards  =  Everything, all of it.

Allow me to be frank here, if not personal.

I haven’t post for a long time, and for those who keep checking, please forgive me. The rule of ‘The busier I am the more I write’ still apply, but the different situation means I must not, and can not write while I am busy.

Ideas come often, more often when it rains, it pours, and at the very wrong time – during office hours! WordPress site is not blocked in my office, but work hours are work hours. And when I reach home, I am not busy, hence the ideas just fly away.

I am still pretty much coping with my career, and Lord has blessed me with no Monday blues so far. And those days in which I have trainings to attend, I am pretty much enjoying them.  31 days of free food and  first-hand knowledge from experts and still getting paid, you just can deny how lucky you are. And being surrounded by brilliant friends from whom you can learn a lot makes things so much better.

Changing Views

Here’s what I have been longing to write about – how the way I think is changing and alternating. And to my regret, some of the changes are hardly reversible.

Take my stands and opinions on green issues – to be more specific, on environmental sustainability issues.

I started out as an environmentalist, a very emotional one, very much on the side of NGO’s – where the other two sides of the triangle (of environmental change drivers) are the governments (i.e. Policy-makers) and businesses (i.e. Economy), which, from my point of view at that, were always wrong and not doing their best.

But upon engaging with a political party, the way I think slightly changed. Instead of being on the side of those pushing, adopting policy-makers approach to environmental sustainability made it slightly harder – put all the pressures together, and  one might find that changing the society is never easy, one policy can’t change much. To many pros and cons to be weighed up, and there are indeed many dimensions to be looked at. Nevertheless, it is the well being of the people that is in mind.

And for the last few weeks, spending time reading more than 30 sustainability reports of big companies, attending lectures, and discussing with my superiors – here’s one thing I found when it comes to being environmental friendly: that now, when it comes to business, profitability matters most. And regardless how genuine you want to be in term of being an environmental warrior, deep inside you know that  being green, somehow pays – it is marketable to say frankly. Like my friend put it, being green is an ‘in’ thing nowadays. You can’t afford not to follow the crowd.

Having said that, probably I should state here, even with profitability in mind, it is a fact that businesses are the major drivers of many environmental changes we see around us. No fault in seeing the monetary rewards of being such, as Jonathon Porritt puts it : being sustainable environmentally and socially means you are being economically sustainable. If you are able to handle delayed gratification that is.

And you see, my views, from all these three perspectives, are less and less interchangeable. And that is unwanted. Take one issue at hand – say the groundwater abstraction. If I am wearing my environmental activist hat, trust me, I will spend my energy to go against this idea. And If I am on the side of policy-makers, I will probably say yes. Or maybe a 50-50. But now that I am absorbed by the business way of thinking, with the risk of being severely biased, the instance I read any opposition on the idea, I feel the urge to shout and say: ‘We’ve done all the studies and it is proven that it won’t do any damage!’

It is regrettable, it is.

I wish I can do something about it.


Of Harry Potter

[This entry is long back-dated, initially written some time during my five months holiday]

I surrender to my boredom. While my brother was around, we spent hours watching, the first five films, almost back-to-back, once in a while interrupted by guests coming, visiting my family. It was just on the first week of Eid – and there went bowls of ice creams in my bedroom to accompany those long hours in front of my laptop.

It was rather outdated, I know – me watching this. And forgive me all Harry Potter fans reading this entry – I didn’t find the films, or the stories exciting enough to become I die-hard fan myself, not even close to the way I fancy Lord of the Rings (well, can we all agree that this one is in its own league?). I bought the full set of books for my sister last summer, and I did not even flip one page of them, well, until yesterday.

But here’s what I learn most that keeps me going through all five films, and waiting desperately for the DVD version of the sixth one to come out, predicted in December – how it feels to be an orphan. Or worse, a person who is not privileged to know their parents.

It breaks my heart to see the character Harry Potter seems lost, feels unprotected (he doesn’t have a powerful father like Draco Malfoy), once a while blessed with obvious tender loving by the elderlies around him, Dumbledore, Weasleys etc. – but what can match having your parents around?

And I could not help but relate this to the childhood of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Take it one step further – the Arabs were identified by their tribe, and it was this tribe that was the source of respect and honour from others, but even to belong to a powerful tribe, our Prophet lack the protection of a father. There’s no way of you to take cover from the bullies by saying ‘My father will come and teach you for doing this!’ when you don’t have one.

Tariq Ramadan, in his book ‘In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad’, writes about the orphanhood of the prophet p.b.u.h and how that affected the beloved – as it was intended to be a big lesson for him, and eventually, for us too:

Although he did not yet know it, Muhammad was going through the first trials ordained for him by The One, Who had chosen him as a messenger and was, for the time being his Educator, his Rabb.

The Quran would later recall his particular situation as an orphan as well as spiritual teachings associated with the experience of life in the desert:

Did He not find you an orphan and give you shelter? And He found you wandering, and He gave you guidance. And He found you in need, and made you independent. Therefore [for that reason], do not treat the orphan with harshness, nor chide him who asks. but the bounty of your Lord, proclaim!

Those verses in the Quran carry several teachings: being both an orphan and poor was actually an initiatory state for the future Messenger of God , for at least two reasons, The first teaching is obviously the vulnerability and humility he must naturally have felt from his earliest childhood. This state was intensified when his mother, Aminah, died when Muhammad was six. This left him utterly dependent on God, but also close to the most destitute among people. The Quran reminds him that he must never forget this throughout his life and particularly during his prophetic mission. He was orphaned and poor, and for that reason he is reminded and ordered never to forsake the underprivileged and needy.

Considering the exemplary nature of the prophetic experience, the second spiritual teaching emanating from this verses is valid for each human being: never to forget one’s past, one’s trials, one’s environment and origin, and to turn one’s experience into a positive teaching for oneself and for others. Muhammad’s past, The One reminds him, is a school from which he must draw useful, practical and concrete knowledge to benefit those whose lives and hardships he has shared, since he knows from his own experience, better than anyone else, what they feel and endure.

Aslan Reza in his book, No god but God (which is my favourite book) also tries to demonstrate this fact and its implications:

As an orphan, Muhammad must have understood all too well the difficulty of falling outside Mecca’s religio-economic system. Fortunately for him, his uncle and new guardian, Abu Talib, was also the shaykh of Banu Hashim – a small, not very wealthy, yet prestigious clan within the mighty tribe of Quraysh. It was Abu Talib who kept Muhammad from falling into the debt and slavery that were the fate of so many orphans in Mecca by providing him with a home and the opportunity  to eke out a living working for his caravan.

The prophet had been trained the hard way that to be a good leader, there are crowds whose needs must be taken care of, not by someone else, but you as the leader – their protector in fact: the poor, the orphans, the widows. There are a number of instances in which the prophet’s fondness and love for these groups of people can be observed.

You can’t empathy unless you have been through the same thing, sure, but  you can sympathise nevertheless. To understand and to share – ain’t all of us brothers and sisters?

I recall reading a blog entry by the famous Aznil Haji Nawawi – and touched by how particular he can be while hosting an event with the orphan by carefully not using the words ‘anak-anak yatim’ (orphans), but instead call them as his ‘anak-anak’. Of course it is a fact you can’t deny that you are parentless, but a little sensitivity or maybe, common sense, can go a long way.

It might be the small thing that help, but why stick to the small when you can go for the bigger?