Month: October 2013

Muslim Birth Rites #5 : Aqeeqah

(Isa is nearly one and half year old, but I am yet to finish writing about the birth rites! )

Another near-compulsory rite in celebrating the birth of a child is to perform ‘aqeeqah’, involving the slaughtering of a goat or lamb on behalf of the child.  The meat is then distributed to the poor, or the parents can hold a feast.  Typically, for a male child two sheep or goats are sacrificed, while only one for a female child.

It was narrated from the Prophet himself, that until slaughtering and sacrificing of the animal is done on behalf of the child, the child will not be able to intercede for his parents on the Day of Judgement.

My father, being the money-savvy dad he always is has earlier advised us to make sure that we saved our money separately for this purpose while we were still pregnant. I told you, goat or sheep costs a lot these days. And we are blessed with a son – which means approximately MYR1500 for two goats.

Isa’s aqiqah was rather a small event. It is a trend observed nowadays where parents make it a big deal – with special door gifts, decorations and all – but we tried as much as possible to be moderate. Aqiqah was supposed to be performed on the 7th day after birth, but Isa’s was done almost a month after – to be precise, on the day I ended my strict traditional post-natal confinement i.e. 45th day. The idea was soon after that I could return home with my husband after that.

Our plan was to hold the ceremony at my parents’ place, where supply of good goats is easier to find. Since my parents live close to my extended relatives, we imagined the ceremony to be feast for about 50-60 guests. It is the kind of ‘kenduri’ or feast that I love.

Everything went well all praise be to Allah. The food was delicious, many attended and prayed for Isa’s good health.

But many too, asked on my husband’s whereabout.

Which deserves another story itself.


My husband promised to be there for the ceremony (he stayed in Kuala Lumpur, while I spent my confinement days at my parents’, about 6-hour drive away). We invited his parents to came along, as well as his best friend, who offered to drive them all in his car. They began their journey around 8PM, so I expected them to arrive around 2AM. My mother-in-law was unwell, so it was three of them in the car – hubster, his best friend and my father in-law.

However, when I was feeding Isa that early morning he texted me saying that the car broke down at a place (not even half way). He confirmed that everything was okay, there was no need for me to worry.

Came morning only he texted me again saying that he won’t be able to make it, and wanted to talk to my father. I let him.

I was sure that I did feel a bit of disappointment and a slight anger at that moment. If the car break down I thought, go fix it and come here – what is so hard about that? It is our son’s aqeeqah, and it would be weird if he is not around after all!  I kept that to myself of course, and answered very briefly when the guests asked of him, trying to contain my sadness.

It was not until late afternoon that he sent me the photos of the car.

I cried.

The car didn’t look anything like a car. It was true that it broke down, but what he did not tell me is that as one of the tires punctured, the car slipped of the road hitting the road divider. It was fairly a massive accident, and they were lucky the road was empty with no other motorists, and that the car was Japanese-made. Should it be our national car (infamous for the low quality) the policeman who handled their case thought that all three of them might have been killed due to the impact.

Well, apparently he has explained the whole thing to my father that morning, asking my father to keep the real story from me. He feared that I would be too emotional about it with post-partum blues and all.

That is surely very thoughtful of him.

So yes, Isa’s father was not around during his aqeeqah ceremony, and I am pretty sure this would be a good story to tell to Isa once he is all grown up.

p.s. None of them was injured, but it seems that my FIL did suffer a bit temporary amnesia. My husband had a bit of chest pain. His best friend, well, he was fine, thanks to the air bag, but he lost his car. Irreparable that his car insurance’s company declared it as a total loss.


‘Mommy’ Ain’t His First Word

Isa is now 17 months old.

Should I be the ‘kiasu’ mother, I’d be by now dead worried. Looking through lists of typical developmental milestones, I recognized that Isa is quite behind when it comes to linguistic ability.

Because the lists put a range of number of words a toddler by his age would be able to say meaningfully, I forced myself to count them one by one. It was actually the last thing I would do, knowing at the back of my mind he is not meeting that milestone.

And at 17 months, Isa is yet to be able to say the great, most-wanted word: Mommy.

Let me tell you that the word he most often uses, and one that comes out earliest is ‘Ayah‘. Which is what he called his dad. At one period, for about a month or two, he was able to call out his cousin’s name – ‘Abang Adam‘ – which means literally ‘Brother Adam’. Well, if I am a super-sensitive mom, I will sulk for that – How could he do that when I am the one who [insert all sorts of things I do]? Being able to call ‘Ayah‘ is one thing, but ‘Abang Adam‘? That’s a pretty complex phrase!

However, it seems that his vocabulary stuck at that. While he could say a few incomplete words when referring to a certain things (nene for milk/breasts, bai for trains, bu for lampu i.e. lamps, in Malay) and making sounds when referring to a few other things (auu for cats), complete words that he can meaningfully say are limited to very few, namely ‘Ayah’, ‘Ball‘, ‘Bye’…those are words I can recount now. Perhaps there are a few more that slipped my mind but that’s because he rarely says them.

I don’t think I should be worried though. Some articles that I read tell me that if the child is able to understand and react with what people say, which Isa does excellently, he is probably just a late boomer. A late-talker.

Other than not saying so many words, I am thankful that the other milestones are met or passed. He is very, very interested in books now, especially picture books. He so loves mega-blocks, but surely nothing creative apart from trying to build something taller than himself. His coordination is excellent, from my observation of him playing ball with his dad. I mean, since I have such a bad coordination myself (never a sportsperson), seeing my son dribbling the ball amazes me so much. He has been able to recognize patterns (colors and shape), and sort them accordingly (most of the time), and likes to scribble, be it on a book or on a wall-mounted whiteboard.

So yes, I don’t mind being the only one who talks in the house for a few more months.

Unlearning and Relearning the Holy Quran

I found a book in my humble library yesterday. One book that I have taken from my parents-in-law’s house, which actually gifted to my husband by his aunt. It is Al Ghazzali’s Jewels of the Quran and its Pearls.

I began reading it aloud yesterday during our journey back my in-laws. Though I have actually finished the first few chapters before, re-reading it gives me a new dimension and perspective.

I think it is about time for me to unlearn, and relearn the Holy Book, which is meant to be a guidance to me. It is easy for me, at least, to take things for granted.

The Holy Quran has been in my life since earlier on.I began learning to recite the Quran (in its original language i.e. Arabic) when I was six, and became fluent in reciting by 8. I could not remember, though, when exactly I finished my first round of recitation (I think it was when I was 9 years old) – this was actually a major milestone in a traditional Malay household, which deserved a ceremony on its own right, but I knew it was not anything big at that time.

During my primary school days, I have moderately mastered tajweed (rules of pronunciation and recitating of the Quran), that I often took part in competitions – from reciting to memorising the verses, which I really enjoyed. I continued the quest of perfecting my recitation during my visit to Egypt in 2007, learning from an Arab teacher, who has carefully assessed my pronunciation. I went back to the UK and started conducting small Quran recitation classes for my friends.

But really, after many, many years of learning on recitation, it was not until I was in the university that I felt the urge to know the Holy Book even better. Knowing how to read it beautifully is only a small part of the requirements – I need to understand what it meant and how I could use it in my life.

I’ve read and learnt many verses from the Quran, but at one point, it kind of becomes saturated and taken for granted

God is One, yes sure. I have known it a long time ago.
There is Heaven and Hell.
There will be a Judgment Day.
So on and so forth.

I have started to take things from granted. I do not get any ‘hikmah’ or wisdom from reciting the Quran, or listening to its translation.

Stumbling upon the book by the Great Muslim philosopher, Al-Ghazzali was timely. I needed it, and God has intended for me to read it, examine it, and take lessons from it.

I am truly enjoying what I have read so far, including in the digestion process the way we (my husband and I) could incorporate the lessons in educating our son.

I try as much as possible to not take things at face value, but to find refreshing perspective on things I have heard so many times over and over again:

1. What does this (this lesson/fact/knowledge/verse) mean if I really don’t have any background knowledge about it?

2. How does it affect myself, my action and my life? How does the verse connect to me and my experiences?

3. How should we position this when talking/educating Isa?

4. What’s new about this compared to what I have learnt before? Is it just reinforcing, or is it totally different?

Al Ghazzali wrote beautifully in the book’s introduction:

I then wish to rouse you from your sleep. O you who recite the Quran to great length, who takes it study as an occupation, and who imbibe some of its outward meanings and sentences. How long you will ramble on the shore of the ocean, closing your eyes to the wonders of the meanings of the Quran?

Was it not your duty to sail to the midst of the fathomless ocean of these meanings in order to see their wonders, to travel to their islands in other to gather their best produce, and to dive into their depths so that you might become rich by obtaining their jewels? Do you not feel ashamed of being deprived of their pearls and jewels by your persistence in looking at their shores and outward appearances?

I pray that God will never put me to ‘sleep’ and keep me rambling on the shore again. I pray that God will let me sail to the fathomless ocean and let me see the wonders – and ultimately, grant me some, if not all, of the pearls and jewels.


p.s. For this purpose, I intend to revise one very, very useful and impactful lecture I have attended during my final year in Manchester on ‘Living with the Quran’.


Trapped in the Rat Race


I have always considered myself very, very fortunate career-wise.

Though I graduated with an Engineering degree, I have known much earlier that my passion is in environmental field, which was then transitioned into sustainability.

By what seems like a chance, my first job landed me straight to sustainability field.

I am forever thankful with that, knowing that there is not many graduates out there who both know exactly what he/she wants to do, and get to do what they exactly wanted.

I turned down offers that will give me higher salaries, to work in the field that I loved, and still love. There were days when I questioned myself about that, but most often I’d be consoled with the fact that what I was doing will lead to a greater good. It has never been about money. It is a choice I made to do something that is meaningful. And hopefully pleases God.

But you see, corporate life can kill you, albeit slowly.

Three years ago I’d be very happy to be at work, convinced that it was never about money but the satisfaction that I had from doing good and the right thing.

And today, I wonder where has all that gone.

I question myself almost everyday. Have I turned to be another money-chaser? Have I turned to be another climber of the corporate ladder looking for status and recognition? The salary has been good, and the bonuses. I have received promotion. And I realise that these have slowly kills my initial good intention of ‘saving the world’, leaving me to become just that. Another participant in the stupid rat race.

I know the passion is still there.But I know too, very well, that the career that I once loved has turned to be another day-to-day job. It is only rarely that I am reminded of the greater impact of the work that I do. I have become another part, replaceable at that, in a huge machine.

I hate what I have turned to be.


Being a mother, has again made me question myself.

Conservative as I am, being a sustainability practitioner, I believe that a family institution with one breadwinner and one staying-at-home parent will conserve the balance in the society. While there are many exceptions to this (this include higher cost of living which requires two incomes per household in order to meet the basic needs), I have grown to realise that there is no where I’d rather be than home.

With my son.

Doing things I love with him.

Without having to worry about whether my colleagues will hate me for leaving early every day, or having to take emergency leaves just to be beside my ill son, or who has to pick up Isa when I have out-of-office assignments, or having to put Isa through a terrible 2-hour daily journey of going to and back from work/creche, which is totally unproductive.

No, this is not another mother’s guilt.

This is a person trying to stay true to her conscience.

Minding the Gap

Yes I will

Yes I will

I am craving for another baby.

There, I said it.

I believe there is a pattern that I tend to follow when it comes to marriage and family. And the trend is, I don’t follow plans.
When I was younger, I planned to be married at 30. I was a married woman at 26.

When I was married, I have always thought that I would wait for a year before trying for a baby. Isa arrived two months short of our first wedding anniversary.

Now that I have a son, I thought that the next one will only come when Isa reaches 3-4 years old. But look where I am now – at a crossroad.

And having the TV Show ‘One Born Every Minute (UK)’ doesn’t help. Only last night I begged my husband for another baby, who firmly reminded me of the reason why I am not trying in the place.

I have every possible reason to not have another one coming now.

I have a major plan that only after we have completed that, I told the husband, that we can try for another kid. Isa too, is at the point where he needs attention from me who sees him only 2/3 of the day. I need to have my health fully recovered before I venture into another pregnancy.

But I also have every possible reason to have another sweetheart now. When I look at those reasons, there is a perfect balance between logical and emotional reasons. That makes it harder to brush off that feeling of wanting another baby.

For the time being, I am trying to be strong.

Less than a year. I can wait.

So I Got Softer

I am that paranoid mom.

I am that paranoid mom.

It is hard being a mom.

From the no-nonsense, non-emotional being I was before, I turned to be a crybaby once I become a mother.
It is hard to refrain yourself cry for every photo of unfortunate children all around the world you see on your newsfeed everyday thinking ‘what if it is my son?’. It is even harder reading about all sorts of terrible news from murder to physical and sexual abuse happening to young children imagining how my world would crumble if such things ever happen to my child – may God forbid these things from ever happening to anyone, ever.
Becoming a mother makes it easier for you to switch shoes  – but that makes it harder not to become overly sensitive and paranoid.
It is hard. I can’t help it most of the time.
The other day we went to get some foods from our local night market. We stopped by a stall, and that was when I saw a woman sitting on the ground, holding a baby. She was a beggar.
It was almost 7.30 PM. I heard the baby starting to whimper and about to cry. It was dark, and they have been there probably since the last three hours. The mother (I assumed) tried to comfort the baby, and then I heard the baby cooing happily afterwards.
I cried at that instance.
Only the day before that I spent almost a hundred buck buying a new toy for my son when there she is, maybe still hoping for a good hot meal for dinner, spending their day being looked down, perhaps only dreaming of a good comfy bed to rest on instead of the hot paved road.
My husband saw me crying, and handed me some money to give to her. I refused to give it myself. I can’t stand looking at her child without getting more teary.
Then I heard my husband saying ‘That’s why I told you not to spend so much for Isa, so you would have more to give to these unfortunate people’.

There, the streets have given me another lesson.

Getting Handy with Daddy

My husband is getting more attractive these days, since he has proven himself to be very handy when it comes to constructing, drilling and setting up things around the house. Well, how could he not be, he was a trained mechanical engineer anyway!

However, my household is becoming manlier, with the addition of another guy trying to get his hands dirty too. The other day when my husband was constructing the newly-bought Expedit shelf from IKEA, Isa could not contain himself. Indeed it was a new, exciting experience for him.

He was all fired out until his father finished with that shelf, and oh boy, it was really hard trying to hold an energetic toddler like that trying to exclude him from some unsafe moves we had to do.