Activism

10 Things I Have Learned as a Naqibah

As I recall, I have been conducting religious circles since secondary school under different organisations – Alhamdulillah for the opportunity, and there are a number of things I have learned over the years, some times the hard way.

1. You can’t give what you don’t have. One must equip oneself first – which means increasing one’s effort to pursue knowledge. During my university years, I have seen so many opportunities for this, whether on a structured learning channels (private institution the likes of AlKauthar and AlMaghrib for instance) or the one-off tazkirah sessions, knowledge-sharing sessions etc. Nevertheless, as a consolation, as one shaykh said during Twins of Faith conference – we know more than what we need to become a good muslim(and often it boils down to acting upon what we know), so why shy away from sharing?

2. Do not become a parrot. Often, nuqaba’ (plural form for naqib/naqibah) who involve in a formal system will have a syllabus to follow, and will first undergone a briefing/session themselves on the topics to be covered. Honestly, this is not something that I favour. One tends to parrot whatever one heard, hence his/her sessions later become another copy-and-paste, soulless knowledge impartment. Remember, what comes not from heart won’t touch  the hearts of the listeners. One good listener can see whether one issue has been fully digested by a speaker, or the speaker is just being superficial. I could not stress how important it is to seek knowledge from other sources, as in Point 1 above, and wisely integrate it with the syllabus you choose to follow, if any.

3. Read and be up-to-date. Especially on the current issues. This is in particular a problem with the girls, including me – who tend to be such a lazy bum when it comes to digesting news and current issues. During my student activism years, this has been a source of mockery for the boys . Force yourself to read the news. I still have to, and let me share you one thing I keep doing until now : make Google News your browser’s homepage. The least you could do is reading the headlines, and come on, won’t at least one or two headlines attract you into clicking and reading further?

Well, did I say at least read the headlines? Actually to be able to digest, analyse and form your own opinion is more desirable of course.

4. Conduct the session the way you like your own circle/naqibah to be. Sit down and think hard about your previous experience. What do you like about those sessions? What do you dislike about them? Was it that it has so many segments that they have become superficial and not deep enough? Was the session too one-way that all you do is listening without thinking?

5. Correct your intention and your mindset. We are no superior than those attending the circle we conduct. We are just a mere messenger, but surely this should not hinder us from working towards betterment of ourselves, as one who involves in dakwah. This is a space for discussion, a safe space for people to raise the concerns and confusion, and seek help. It could be a group of people working together to get closer to Allah, not necessarily you leading them. I often see the opportunity of conducting such circles as a motivation, another BIG driver for me to practise what I preach, because the curse is upon me for saying things that I do not practise.

6. Be genuinely interested in people. Learn about them. Read psychology stuff if you must, about human behaviour for example. I know this is more challenging if you are born introvert, but remember, as one ustaz has one said, the more God-fearing you become i.e. the more religious you’re, the more people-inclined you should be. Why? Because Islam is never a religion that condones isolation or monastic living – many of our basic rituals involves societal elements, take zakat (paying of alms) for instance.

I read a book entitled Personality Plus by Florence Littauer a while ago, which I believe is quite beneficial and would suggest reading it. Of course, stereotyping is not necessarily good, but it makes understanding people and loving them for who they are a lot easier. I’ve been using this in my previous student organisation, and it has been quite useful in identifying who’d be happier doing what, based on their individual temperaments and personality.

7.  Bring the relationship outside the circle too. During the final year of my study, I was supposed to conduct two circles, and with time constraint that I have, it was rare that everyone in the circle can agree on a specific time to meet up. And that is not a problem – at all I’d say, unless you are like a teacher being pushed to finish your syllabus before the end of the year or something lame like that. I have always enjoyed my personal time off – be it going for a theatre or movies, or simply sipping a cup coffee in a coffee shop – and I try to include the girls in that, so I could talk to them and discuss things. It may not include everyone, and that’s fine with me because sometimes a one-to-one session can be more effective than a typical usrah session.

8. Keep reminding them the most important thing: Purpose of Life. In my life, I know I need to keep being reminded on my purpose of life – so that I could be consciously and continuously asking myself whether what I am doing (or to do) fits my purpose of life, and I believe, based on my experience, that everyone is aware of the purpose of living as set by our Creator.

9. We are not there as one who  feed them with fish. We are there as a motivator, one who suggest ways and motivate them to act on their own – ‘This is what you can do; if you want to learn about this and that, why don’t you go to this place; here’s a book I found interesting, maybe you’d want to read it as it suits your interest.’ Something like that. Let them grow according to their potentials and if we are wise enough to see the potentials, you might be able to suggest the way. That’s how mentoring works. And you are there, as I’ve said before, to encourage them to think, not to think for them.

10. Stop being self-absorbed. Do not feel down when some choose not to attend or be in your circles, because you are not really good anyway, and chances are that they find something worth spending their time on, rather than being in your circle. Perhaps they are attending a more beneficial learning session, or a course, or reading a more life-changing book, or writing a masterpiece – you’ll never know. Thank Allah for showing them the opportunities for doing so, because only He knows what is best for everyone, and stick to Point 7 above (so that you may learn from them too!).

Surely, some of my readers (if there is any actually) cannot relate to what I am saying above, but for those who could, I hope that reading it won’t waste your precious time – and I leave it to the girls in my circle to deliberate whether their encounters with me were in any way useful.

And God knows best!

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The Reds

Serve the People, Serve the World

I was deeply intrigued by Mao after reading not once, but three times, the novel Wild Swans – which recorded the stories of 3 generations of Chinese women. He’s a dictator of course, and Hanee, upon knowing my choleric nature (and read the book too) dubbed Mao as my ‘idol’

So that’s why when I came across this mug, I could not help but taking this photo. Well, though we can’t and won’t agree fully with Mr. Mao, I’m pretty sure what’s written there is true.

Serve the people, serve the world.

Overfed

I understand that politics is more about emotion that facts.

That’s why I understand the role of the spin doctors, those that work to create the image of a politician to ensure crowd-engagement.

Like why Michelle Obama is the icon of X, symbol of Y and things like that, to give a simple example. Like why presidential election will put the spotlight directed to the whole family, not only the candidate.

I get that.

But I think the PR people who work for the current PM of Malaysia have gone overboard.

You’ll see that many mainstream newspaper have two pages dedicated for daily life of the PM (which I don’t mind much) but also for his wife. Or shall I said the heavily-botoxed face of his wife. This is really too much I can even vomit straightaway.

Tell me one day where there is no news whatsoever, especially on TV3 , on his wife.
I bet there is none.

Even his sons got to be in the news, was it when he’s going to China ? It was referred to as the legacy of the late Tun Razak (as he was the one who built the relationship with China) – now lived through three generations.

Like, whatever.

And even the PM being infected with chicken pox made it to the main page.
Like this sickening piece of news:http://thestar.com.my/news/story.aspfile=/2010/11/10/nation/7397410&sec=nation

Oh, please.

I think we have enough updates from his Twitter and website, we don’t need to be overfed with this kind of stories.

That was not the case back then when we were under the reign of Tun Mahathir. He was not perfect, surely he’s not. People still hate him, I know they are. But at least he and his family do not create the hatred this way.

We should make a national poll so that the wife knows how she rates among us.

[Day 4] The Gambling Stir

Apparently I failed to be consistent, but nevertheless, I’d continue. We’ll see how long will it take for me to write 30 entries.

I’m sure most of us are aware by now that gambling, or betting (those are of the same concept anyway) for World Cup has just been legalised by the government. Of course you can expect a chaos out of that decision. And you heard all kind of comments – the opposition parties, namely PAS loudly condemned that, while UMNO, except a few isolated branches, supported that.

Where do I stand?

I think it is not principally a correct thing to do, to legalise gambling for whatever reason.

Here’s my simplified thought process

1. We can all agree that gambling is not a good thing. Even if it has some positive aspects to it (like quick, easy money IF you are lucky), the negative outweighs that. Muslims or non-Muslims alike can agree with that, I think. It’s like agreeing to the fact that alcohol, prostitution, smoking and such are bad.

2. Apparently, while some acts can be defended as personal action that won’t give damage to others, that is not the case for gambling. Chances are, if you lose, a large sum of money of course, there would be psychological impacts and social impacts – you can imagine the impact on family members, can’t you? How many are debt-ridden due to that? Will this impact the family? Psychologically-unstable children will cause some other problems, affecting the quality of life in the long run, and to be honest, even in the short term if you look closely.

3. On the basis of gambling having an impact on the social balance, I feel that it is the role of the government to intervene. The government promises a better life (though this better life is often tied to physical development, which I do not agree) – and this is what they should be able too see – the not so immediate impact of legalising gambling. Yes, legalising it does not mean that we allow everyone to gamble – Muslims are not allowed to involve. Oh yes, but here’s a fact – we can have all sorts of rules & regulations, but the enforcement fails. No point.

4. If we allow this kind of reasoning that legalising it will allow better control and provide additional sources of income – I bet (no pun intended) that soon such logics will be used for prostitution cases, drug, and others.

That’s all for now.

Say no to anything unsustainable.

Student Politics: Pillars of Salt, Pillars of Sand

I know I should not rely on mainstream media on political issues – well, things are apparently lopsided when it comes to these channels of information. But when things are bad, like today, my morning ironing session was undeniably an uncomfortable one; there came the news on demonstration against Lim Guan Eng, the CM of Penang, Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy trials and how the Chief Police warned against street demos by his followers, one officer of Kelantan government was charged with misconduct. Then the MB of Perak challenging PR assemblymen to resign, hence allowing new by-election to be conducted, if what PR keeps claiming is that they are chosen by the people.

I am sure Astro Awani, as much as it tries to be unbiased, is still somehow not being impartial.

I would not want to blame anyone- well, you know which side I am generally in – but here’s a question I am interested in pondering upon the answer: ‘Are we ready to govern the whole country?’

I wish I could say yes.

But if I were to be honest, I might need to say no.

You can charge me for not being a good supporter, but trust me, I find it harder and harder to justify, convince and back that whatever the top people are doing is good.

No, I am never going to deny that politics is what we need to change the world. Never. Not even once.

And the blame, nevertheless, falls on me too – because if I don’t like something, I need to change it, since I am reluctant to change the way I feel about it. But let me pose some of my questions and doubts:

1. I’ve witnessed people trying to change, regardless of how slowly, the mindset of these people in the party, but failed – and as the result, being sidelined, taken disciplinary action on etc. And these individuals are those I regard as highly-intellectual and cabinet member – material. So should not I doubt my capacity to do so successfully?

2. I comprehend fully the notion that we have to obey our leaders (wala’) and deem collective decisions as the best – after all, it is known that those who practice collective decision-making (musyawarah), there is barakah in that. But you know, sometimes I do doubt if we are really free from the thirst for power that every decision is the wisest. Hence the mind-boggling decisions the party superiors made. I couldn’t convince myself that these are the best, then you should not expect to convince others.

3. This might be a little controversial, somebody might hate me for saying this, but I think, more or less, our incapability to govern well, or as we would want, better, rooted from our own system of ‘tarbiyah’ – how we shape the party members at whatever levels they are – especially students. More often than not we are told to obey, even before you fully understand – because ultimately along the way you will understand. I used to do this, and that left me trying to justify everything that comes from those at the top. And guess what, this is what, I reckon, gives foundation to the building of non-thinking generation whose way of thinking inclined towards saying ‘We are definitely on the right path, and everyone else is wrong’.

4. I hate it when all that we can do to justify things that we do is that ‘Islam says this..Islam says that’. Oh, please explain it logically with reasons. Well, one can always doubt: ‘Islam says this and that’ is what you say, YOUR own interpretation. If we believe that Islam brings goodness, then we can always justify good things without retreating to ‘Islam says this and that’. Islam is for all, no denying to that, but perhaps we need some wisdom to convey its content to others who are yet to believe that there’s another Being’s right that needs to be fulfilled.

5. I might be wrong, but I pity those politicians with the real countryman mindset – always looking out for the betterment of the society beyond their own political ambition. But as Malaysians are generally not so politically-literate, it is such a shame that ideas like unity government were trashed. I still mourned for that.

It is true, I whine too much. If I refuse to be involved in politics, I must endure being ruled by inferior people, which I know I just could not.

But taking time to put the hat of an independent observer, I reckon, isn’t a bad thing at all.

Entry to come: On Empress Orchid

Of Politics & Marriage: Losing Faith

Blame me not, I am losing faith.

In politics.
In marriage.

Regardless of me being a choleric, and have long known that with power, you can change a lot of things. For the better.

Regardless of me thinking of marriage as a sacred institution, translatin love and mercy into tangible things. And some parts of me which are, regardless of how practical and realistic I could be, hopelessly romantic.

Blame me not.

Palestine: The Jerusalem bells are ringing

My morning routine consists of last minute ironing (that’s due to my indecisive nature when it comes to choosing what to wear) while listening to overvolumed Astro Awani morning news which is normally on air twice at 7.00 and also 7.30 a.m. And a few days ago, I was struck by a feeling – which almost brought me into tears.

You probably have heard of the Earthquake in Haiti (and it recurred again yesterday) – and here’s a fundamental question before I move on : Have you done anything in your power to help, be it as passive as offering some silent prayers, or the best that we can do now – donate some amount of money?

Shamefully, my answer is no, I didn’t do anything up until now.

And for that, I do deserve wrath of Lord, because apparently the Palestinians are much better than me; more compassionate, selfless, and self-sacrificing despite their own heavy burden, while the heaviest burden I have now is probably the ever-slowing w1max internet connection.

Shame on me.

Palestinians, as the newscaster mentioned, despite their own condition, offered contributions – monetary and other needs to the poor, unfortunate Haitians after the tremor. And that, for me, is unthinkable – while would you care about others while you yourself is at stake? Where do they get this big heart to give, and the heart to think that ‘my house might be bombed tomorrow, but there are people in greater distress than I am’.

You can’t give what you don’t have.

Obviously, I don’t have the mercy and compassion to offer ones.

I recalled attending a sharing session with pro-Palestinians activists who have just come back from their convoy (from the UK up until Egypt at that time) – and one told us how wonderful and amazing these people are. How beautiful their hearts are, and despite the heavy trials on them, they can still keep their sanity and inner peace – would you be the same if your whole family has been massacred by the Zionists mercilessly? He mentioned that despite the terrible news on the state of these Palestinians, when he met them in-person, they were just, in a positive way, indifferent. No, I don’t think they have been desensitized by things that happened, but it is rather the inner peace that God has bountifully granted to them due to their patience and God-dependence.

He recalled his conversation with a Palestinian he met – and here’s the heart-wrenching bits: ‘ We don’t need your money. We don’t need your money, but all that we want you to do is go back to your country and tell everyone what is happening here; all the cruelty we are subjected to. That is all we want from you.’

All praise be to the Lord for creating such beautiful people to remind me how selfish I am.

***

Here’s another story on Palestinians – on a different note.

There are times I feel like pulling myself out of Facebook, but for some reasons, like this one; where the just 2-3 nights before the day, I was informed through someone’s status that there is going to be a peaceful demonstration, which is not a correct term I believe, commemorating one year of the attack by Zionists on Palestine at MidValley Megamall.

I cancelled my reunion picnic with my ex-schoolmates for this, and some other reasons of course, because I could not bear the guilt of not doing anything (other than reading the news headlines, only) for the Palestinians, while at the same time last year, I was on the street in London doing some demonstrations.

So there I was – Haz was supposed to join me, but she had something to do, so I was left with ill-stricken Hakimah when I reached that megamall. I was not wearing the Palestinian scarf and was almost disappointed to see at quarter past eleven, there was literally nobody I could identify as fellow activists.

It was not until half an hour later when I saw the group – and approached them – some middle-aged women, young girls and kids, a few men in Pro-Palestine T-shirt. I was hooked up in a conversation with a few activists – turned out to be important person of Viva Palestina Malaysia (VPM), previously known as Complete – and when Azra asked me if I can commit to VPM – I spontaneously say yes – well, of course I can try to squeeze in, thinking about those wasteful hours Facebooking and literally doing nothing – and she gave me the card.

And last week, again – the three of us, Hanee, Haz and I joined the VPM meeting – well, I’d say this is the first meeting where I was in the same room with much older people – and constantly being referred as ‘the three young ladies’. And thanks to the warm welcome – I did feel at home among these experienced professionals. Most of the attendees are ladies of different backgrounds, representing different bodies (and I started to wonder how they escaped their daily routine to attend the meeting at 8.30 p.m. on a weekday), and a few gentlemen whom I know from very esteemed professional background.

I guess I’ll learn a lot from this circle of individuals whom I have deep respect for.

So there you go. Another commitment which I hope, will be countable as a good deed by God.

One person really can’t do much,that is as sure as hell, but surely one can do something.

[Will update with pics soon, inshaAllah]