Faith

A Year of Recalibration

Calibrate: to plan or devise (something) carefully so as to have a precise use,application, appeal, etc.

It is difficult to resist writing. I planned for a hiatus on writing and learn confined my thoughts to myself, but it proves to be a difficult thing to do. It is not as much as the craving for an audience as the need to structure my thought process – writing things down does not seem practical when I live with an infant who keeps eating papers. I am back at writing, for this purpose.

Though I truly am glad if you are reading this.

***

Courtesy https://www.pinterest.com/pin/115897390386624491/

I turned 31 years old a few days ago. All praise be to Allah.

When I really think about it, being 31 is honestly very scary.

A research shows that women are most beautiful at that age, and although I certainly do feel (more) at ease with my physical self compared to my younger years, that is not my major concern at this point in time, though it gives me a slight joy.

It is scary once I realise that the female life expectancy in Malaysia is averaged at 76.3 years and for myself half of it has nearly passed by and I am still this being who is nowhere near the kind of person I thought I would be when I was 15 – spiritually, or all other aspects being accounted for.

Nevertheless, I am just glad the past year has given me the space to think, rethink, plan, and above all, recalibrate my life compass.

Being a full time homemaker, I am in a phase of life where I am least exposed to interaction with people outside my immediate family – and without me intending for it to happen, the introspection and epiphany come easier in this phase. Days may pass by without me speaking to any other adult except my husband, and living with my children for most part of the day, I learn that I am free from being judged and consequently free to be my true self. And as they say, that is when your true colours and akhlaq show.

It sounds like common sense – solitary times surely allow for better self-reflection – but I refuse to take it for granted.  Such a phase doesn’t come often I figure. I was enrolled to a primary school when I was 7. And since then, it has been a non-stop thing – I had to be somewhere at a certain time of the day, for a certain hours, for a specific purpose, subject to interaction with people I like and didn’t like – until I quit my day job a year ago. In short, I was attached to institutions over institutions outside my family for the past 23 years  which without me realising it left me with very limited time to reflect, introspect, and become more attuned to my inner thoughts. Such a regimented life left me too occupied to examine and understand myself; why I do things the way I did, good and bad.

Not that such attachment is wholly unwelcomed.

It is just that for someone like me – a type A person – such preoccupation with being liked to a certain extent for instance, and filling the the need to do something to achieve something (each institutions – schools, university, work – give me something to accomplish and work for) and shamefully to prove something to some parties other than God.

But being at home things are different. Cut off from any social affiliation (by choice nevertheless), my view is somehow, gratefully recalibrated. It  doesn’t matter anymore whether I am assertive, or a good team worker, or  if I dress right for the occasion, or making any impression whatsoever. What matters now is what matters in the eyes of God, and I am left with only myself to answer to. I have no external system to blame for my shortcomings – everything comes down to myself, and how I regulate it.

Of course, by hierarchy I am answerable to my husband but in this thing, as he often allows me to grow in my own time – he’s there more like a teammate who offers some kind of check-and-balance when I feel like I need it and when he feels like I need it.

And what matters to God now, is what should have been my priority all this while: being my best person when I am around my family. After all, Islam is sent down to perfect our akhlaq, our ethics, our manners, our morality. And the prophet (saw) taught us that the best of people are those with the most excellent character and those who are best to their family. When the most productive part of the day with people who actually don’t matter much consumed my energy – what would be left for the most important people in my life?

Only when I am not tied to any social convention on how to act and behave that I finally am reminded on the important things in life beyond the usual ‘family first’ mantra.

I appreciate this phase as it is – knowing that it could be temporary. I have been taught better than forever secluding myself –  The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind. And thus my role in this life is never limited to my home life only. Regardless of the beautiful things this semi-solitary life offers me, I still do feel the inherent need to acquaint myself and interact with others. While solitude makes me learn more things about myself, the scholars have provided us with tips on becoming a better person: befriend good people, and sit with the learned ones. More often that not what I learned from a book or a lecture is seen through someone else’s akhlaq and action – and this real-life example is what often inspires me instead of the words I’ve read and listened to. It tells me that it is doable – not just some out-of-the-world anecdotes that seem impossible to emulate.

But above all, I am truly thankful of the past year and the decision that made the year possible (at a huge material cost nevertheless). A recalibration is indeed a much needed exercise – in this world of turbulence and confused priorities.

Alhamdulillah.

I Don’t Sacrifice Anything

Sacrifice : the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone

It has definitely been a while.

I have tonnes of thing I’d really like to write about, mentally vomiting all my thoughts, or if you please, cataloging them all.

I am back to being a student, 9 hours a week I will be away for what I call my me-time, the time I could call myself anything but a mother. Not that I hate being one, but motherhood, as people have always cautioned us against, is consuming. Without the awareness of its tendency to occupy my mind endlessly with mom-related worries, I’ll cease from being myself. And there is nothing healthy about it.

But some people call it sacrifice. A sacrifice a woman will do (and sometimes expected to) once she is endowed with offspring.

I hate the word sacrifice. It is a word most often associated with a noble connotation, but I have never allowed myself to use it. It is self-defeating, full of self-pity, and to a certain extent grandiosity and self-glorification –  at least that is what it sounds to me. I have taught myself to call it ‘investment’. We human are doing things out of self-interest, and there is nothing wrong about hoping and aiming for a return of our ‘investment’.

The things you let go in the hope of something else.

A delayed gratification.

Even God Himself terms it as a ‘trade’. It is a business, a bargain.

“Those who read the Book of Allah, establish regular prayer, and spend in the way of Allah secretly and openly out of what we have provided for them. They hope for a commerce that will never fail.” (Qur’an, 35:29)

“Verily God has purchased from the believers their persons and their property that Paradise might be theirs.” (Qur’an, 9:111)

And the return I hope for is nothing but His pleasure, and hopefully meeting Him in Jannah someday.

Knocking the Door to Paradise

While every mosque in Malaysia would definitely has its schedule of weekly religious classes, studying different topics/books on different days, I sadly could not commit. At this stage, what I knew I need is more than just 'tazkirah', but in-depth studying of a topic. Inflexibility in the schedule is really a problem now that I am a mother (never mind how lame this excuse is), so I know, I need to find alternative for structured study sessions if I really want to widen and deepen my knowledge.  I found that Seekers Guidance provide good courses for free (students are welcomed to give donations), and I enrolled for one course before and found it really beneficial. I have enrolled for one more which will begin in January and hopefully many more to come - and I am sure that Resolution #5 will support this one - early morning should be a great time to study.  I also included in this resolution, attending live classes, perhaps attending courses organised by al Kauthar at least twice a year. I love their courses because they are structured excellently and only last for one full weekend.

It is one of my goals this year to participate in at least six structured Islamic courses. Ambitious as I am, I signed up for two Seekers Guidance courses. One of them is on parenting, and another one the very much needed spirituality lessons – Purification of the Heart.

I tried to discipline myself into spending an hour a week for this – but it doesn’t work. Until last week, when I felt so low I know I must start being serious about this – cleansing my heart from all the filth it has collected along the way.

For the time being, I am trying to focus on one course first – the  Purification of the Heart & Praiseworthy Character (from Ghazali’s 40 Foundations of Religion). It has 12 lessons, and I am currently on the second one. Yes, pretty slow, but I am trying to digest and discuss with my husband as much as I can about what I learnt.

And the first lesson, on the first blameworthy trait, the first disease of the heart I need to purify is Gluttony.

Excessive food consumption.

Let me tell you how this lesson has affected me, one who is definitely guilty of this.

*********

Even after listening the first part of the lesson, I was struck.

Being a mother, and consequently reading about hundreds and hundreds of articles advocating for natural, organic, and healthy foods, I am aware that I need to provide myself and my family we fresh food, not processed food. As natural as I could, perhaps organic if I am able to find them. Three proper meals a day, with healthy snacking in between. Loads of water. Need to have healthy portions of carbohydrates, protein, fruits and veggies.

I understand those, and tried to practise whenever I can. And being a woman, I take pride on preparing home-cooked meals, maybe elaborated traditional Malay delicacies at times.

Even with all that, I know I am on the wrong path. My ‘worldview’ on food has been skewed bits by bits without me knowing.

Eat to Live, not Live to Eat

I have heard of this mantra and tried to live according to it for a while. Being married to a simple man enforces that too, but now I am beginning to think that my ‘I am worth it’, ‘Food are little pleasures God created for us to enjoy once in a while’  excuses might have corrupted him in that sense.

For  a start, though we are not frequent visitors of high-end restaurants I do think that a once in a while indulgence is nearly a must. Most of the times my husband does not agree with this notion but he follows anyway…

It could also be a peer-pressure thing, but I take pride on preparing complete, proper meals for my family. By complete, it means the standard Malaysian staple – rice, one protein/seafood-based dish and one vegetable-based dish. Even this is simple according to my parents’ standard (who will have TWO protein/seafood-based dishes in one seating). Probably it is how I have been brought up too. My husband told me the reason he could not help but feeling sleepy all the time whenever we visit and stay with my parents is that he would be  ‘forced’ to eat like six heavy meals per day! I know that is how my parents show their love, but, pheww.. six meals could be too much.

Even with that relatively simple meals I prepare (not everyday though) for my husband, he still thinks it is too much, and that it could be much simpler, or of a smaller portions (because he tends to finish whatever that’s left).

Then I realised that:

1. I am sticking to a standard which comes from nowhere that it is better to have more food than not enough food. My husband thinks otherwise. He can make do with whatever that he has.

2. I hold on to a belief that a good housewife should be able to prepare a complete meal, tasty and elaborate at that too. My husband wants it simple.

3. I should not watch Masterchef. Or Asian Food Channel for that matter. It just turns the thing of ‘Eat to Live’ upside down. Look at how they describe food. Look how crazy we are about food, that there are numerous TV channels dedicated to this sport – eating.

And all of these are a stark contrast to what the Prophet and his beloved, rightly-guided Companions practised:

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said to A’isha (his wife): “Be persistent in the knocking of the door to Paradise for it to be opened for you.” She asked, “How do we persist?” He replied, “Through doing without food and water.”

Also,

“The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat a few morsels to keep him alive. If he must fill it, then one-third for his food, one-third for his drink, and one-third for air.”

Fasting

I am always very bad at avoiding food. The one-month Ramadhan fasting is not hard, but the non-compulsory fasting on other months is difficult for me. Muslims are encouraged to fast every Monday and Thursday, and on 13th, 14th and 15th of each lunar month.  It means that for instance, in the month of April 2014, I will fast for 10 days if I were to follow the recommendations.

I always come up with reasons not to do the voluntary fasting – oh, we are having a meeting today and they serve good food, I am on an out-of-office assignment today it’s going to be tiring driving I need to drink – and the list of excuses goes on.

I know this must stop. I don’t need as much food as I thought, maybe I have been brainwashed into thinking that, for instance I need to eat three times a day (well, the Prophet and his companions lived and fought well in rigorous physical battles without eating that frequent). I don’t need that much, and I should teach

And fasting has a lot of benefits. For my body physically, and my soul.

And so I am fasting today – in the hope to grab all the benefits it offers. The best kind of fast is the Fast of Prophet Dawud (peace be upon him) – who fasted alternate days. I am not sure how long it would take before I could make such practice a habit, but that should be my aim, no?

The Myth of Food Pyramid?

The shaykh in the lecture I listened to touch about this topic albeit briefly, but it made me think.

He mentioned about a tribe of people If the food pyramid that I have come to know for so long is correct, and the healthiest, is not God being unjust to those who live in isolated areas, where certain types of food are not available, but ‘necessary’ to their health?

“Till today, some of the most healthiest (sic) people on this earth which are coming from  highlander Chinese nearby Mongolia,their  entire diet is actually based on goat, sheep meat and their fats. That’s it. Once in a while (in a couple of years) only can they have access to bread, because  but they are among healthiest of people.”

I guess how much you eat (excessively or not) is more important that what you eat? I have read articles claiming that these food pyramids are influenced by business. From where I work i.e. in food and agriculture industry, I know this is a possibility I can’t just dismiss.

Science is science. It is evidence-backed, but it is never absolute. Experiments have limitations.

Getting Old, Getting Slow

Alhamdulillah, I have always known that I am blessed to never been classified as fat even when I was younger. I know my tummy is not flat, but I have never been insecure about my body.

But pregnancy did change me. Everything stats go haywire after that – my normal blood pressure becomes consistently lower now, I suffered from iron-deficiency (hence the hair loss), my teeth are not healthiest anymore, I get tired faster, and worst of all, I have just realised that my metabolic rate has slowed down that now I am the heaviest I could be in my whole life – I am as heavy as when I was 5 months pregnant!

It was indeed a wake-up call. I want to be healthy. I have a lot I want to do and contribute, and a healthy body is a prerequisite.

And yes, all sickness comes from what you eat. I have been in such a comfort zone that I basically just eat. Everything.

Acting upon What I Have Learned

The topic has changed me, almost immediately. Unfortunately, I was in Krabi a few days after I started practising whatever I have learnt, and it was challenging. Half of vacation is about food, aren’t we told so? After a week, I went back to the old habit – but these days I miss the sweetness of not being burdened by hunger a lot I am really going to attempt that again.

The truth was hunger doesn’t control me during those times, and I love that. I got comfortable with the level of ‘hunger’ cum ‘not fullness’ – the feeling of lightness, you know, not the kind of sluggish we feel after we eat a huge meal.

And being the lady of the house means I am on the driving seat when it comes to what to feed the family. Junk food is rarely available in my house, I only bake once in a blue moon, and my husband prefers steamed food or soup, even my son has the same taste (he loves soup) – so really, it comes down to my own effort to slow down on fried or fatty food (which is difficult because Malay food are basically fried, or contain coconut milk!). I have put some limits on processed food allowed in my house, but sometimes these junks still find a space in my freezers, or on days I am so hungry I can’t cook, we just had to resort to KFC.

The only solution is really, to prepare homemade food. If I keep telling myself that: There is no need to have rice every evening, or to cook elaborate dishes, or that my husband is not fussy about whatever he eats, or that I am not guilty for not having ‘proper’ dinners for my son as someone else would,  I may be able to cook more often.

It all comes down to me.

*sigh*

Well, who says knocking the door to Paradise is that easy?

14(2)

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.

Amin.

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’.

 

To his Lord, Ungrateful

Revenge quotes image by inlove2u_1992 on Photobucket


 


I have known it long ago that one of my very, very awful traits is revengeful. I don’t let go easily, and will always find little ways to pay back. It could be hurtful words coming out from my mouth, or things I do and do not do.

Those are bad, and I am really not proud of it.

Now that I am married, I am still struggling with it. On the occasions that I got upset, or angry with my husband, if I can keep my mouth shut, my mind will terribly lead me to do my revenge in some other ways.

And these days, it could mean me doing impulse shopping that I know my husband would not approve. Because of the price and because I don’t need those things.

The other night the same thing occurred, and my reaction was – “I am buying another handbag, (served you right because you are going to be annoyed about this!). ”

That is what anger does to me.

But of course, despite me still browsing and looking at Michael Kors collection this morning, when I saw the verses I have just studied and put on my laptop, I was reminded.

Indeed mankind, to his Lord, is ungrateful.
And indeed, he is to that a witness.
And indeed he is, in love of wealth,
intense.
But does he not know that
when the contents of the graves
are scattered
And that within the breasts
is obtained,
Indeed, their Lord with them,
that Day, is [fully] Acquainted.

(100:6-11)

To his Lord, ungrateful (for a kind life partner gifted).

In his love of wealth (and handbags, and prestige, and status), intense.

And that within the breasts (anger, revenge, payback) is obtained.

God knows.

God knows.

O Lord, please forgive.

The Test

Last weekend on Saturday I took time off. I signed up for a women-only Islamic conference, asked my married best friend (cum ex-room mate for six years) to come along. And women-only conference means there’s a bazaar selling lots and lots of nice outfits and scarves…and opportunities for pampering too. But that’s not my point here.

My husband looked after Isa for the whole day literally, as the event began at 10 am and ended at 10 pm. I could not be more grateful for this, really. I’d be dead tired if I have to do so.

I listened to many of the good speakers and felt enlighten. Re-energised at some points. I made a resolution – I want to be a better daughter, a better wife, a better mom, a better in-law, a better career person. I know that won’t come easily.

And you see, my resoluteness and determination were put on test almost immediately.

1. I had terrible headache during the conference, having been in a room crammed with hundreds of girls for one of the workshops there. I could stand that – some shopping I did did cure it a bit.

2. When the event ended, it was already 10 pm, and I went into the car realising that the gas was running really low. I remember my husband telling me that it would last another 100km I should not worry, but the trip to the event was already 50 km approximately, and I didn’t know if the reserve could last for the whole trip back. I should have fill up the tank before I leave Putrajaya, but it was not a place I was familiar with, and finding a gas station will mean a chance of going round and round for at least 30 minutes. It’s pretty dark, and yes, to a certain extent I am quite paranoid being a lone woman driver.

3. So I took the chance. I will stop at the gas station once I exit the highway, I resolved. It would be another 30km but it was not impossible. Except that the highway to the city centre (where I was heading to) was hilly. And soon I found the gas indicator blinking. I was nervous beyond imagination. It was 10:20 pm, and it was a pretty dark highway, you know.Luckily, the nearest exit was one I am familiar with. So I took that one with the intention of going back onto the highway as soon as possible. And yes, it might not be the best option, since the exit was where our National Stadium located, and they were having the final round of National League final match – hence loads of cars parking on the roadside, and yeah, I did take a wrong turn and had to go to the further route to back to the city.

4. My Iphone’s battery ran out. Somewhere during the journey, though I tried saving as much as possible it just went off. And that spelled trouble. How do I contact my husband? He was off with Isa to his mother’s, and would only be back home once I do. But he mentioned that Isa was already asleep, and that I might need to drive straight to my MIL’s place. No confirmation yet. and the phone was out of battery.

5. After all the troubles, I thought I’d reach home in less than 30 minutes. No, I did not eventually. There was an accident on the road leading home and hence massive traffic jam.

6. I got home only to find out that my husband wasn’t there yet, and he used a padlock that I didn’t have the key for! I think this was the ultimate test of the night. The usual me will come out with many terrible thoughts about my husband – how could he do this? I was out for a good cause and all he gave me is this? You know, stuff like that. Devil was at work for sure – but I managed to keep calm. I wanted to be a better person, remember? So I drove to the nearest commercial shops and tried to find a public phone. It was already 11pm, and yes, public phones are rare these days. I didn’t find one. I went back home, came across my neighbours who were just entering their unit. They lent me their mobile phone – I got to call my husband and his first word was ‘I am so sorry.’ Apparently he was about to arrive, and his car was blocked earlier at his parents’ place that he could not go out sooner. I could not imagine how terrible it would feel if I was mad at him at that time when that was his first words to me.

I wanted to be better, and then tests come. My patience, gratitude, determination were put on test on the spot – and would that make me feel frustrated?

No.

Because God the Almighty says:

Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested?And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars, (although Allah knows all that before putting them to test).

I won’t fail myself this time, in God’s Grace.

Knowledge Hive 2010 : The Unforgettable Week

It has been almost a year, and I have been meaning to write about my one-week getaway I took towards the end of the year 2010 – one I have been thankful for all this while: Knowledge Hive 2010.

Spiritual Readjustment

I have been in the working world for a little more than a year, and if I were honest with myself, I have to shamefully say that  once I entered this phase of life it is easy to forget the routine I have religiously set during university life. I like working, but it has taken its toll on me somehow on a spiritual level. I struggled to find times to attend lectures – the kind of activities I have filled my student life with previously. I know I love this kind of thing (it works as a stressbuster for me indeed). Reciting Quran after each prayer is no more an option, and by the time I reach home, what’s usually left is a tired me.

And after a year, I just knew I needed a break from work to re-stabilise, and most importantly, to reaffirm my purpose of life in this world.

A Vacation – A Break from Work

Everyone needs a vacation, and I sure needed one too! But I had no idea where to go, and neither had I a mate to go on a holiday with – my housemate was definitely not taking a week leave, and my brother was still a long way from his semester break. To go alone travelling (now that I am back in Malaysia) is an absolute no-go when it comes to my parents.

And I have long known that a vacation solely spent on sight-seeing won’t give me any satisfaction. I hate taking photos, and I did not think I want to spend a week relaxing on a beach. I wanted something else, and when you know exactly what you want, things are much easier.

A Long Yearned Event

Hence, I chose to attend AlKauthar Institute‘s event Knowledge Hive. I have my first encounter with AlKauthar when I attended one of its courses in my final year – The Mark of a Jurist (a course on Qawa’id Fiqh), and I was aware of its coming to Malaysia, and could only be happy that they were having this special week-long programme. I know that such programmes have been conducted in the UK while I was there conducted (by UK Chapter of the Institute), but the fees at that time, which was close to GBP400 or so – almost the same as my monthly allowance, made it impossible for me to attend. When I knew they are having the same event in Malaysia, I knew I could not forgive myself if I didn’t attend. I saved my annual leave for this event (as 5 of the 7 days fell on weekdays) and despite a bit of a financial constraint (I was saving up for a wedding at that time) – I willingly threw RM850 for the event – by instalments of course, and they offered an early-bird rate to me Alhamdulillah.

And plus, we were having it at Janda Baik, Pahang – an amazing place that is only a stone’s throw away from where I was living.

The Unforgettable 7 Days

I offered a ride to the organiser, to fetch any sisters in need of transportation to the venue, and I found myself picking Shazia at Masjid Jamek early in the morning – she was clad in a black abaya, and her husband (who I later learnt was tied to work that he could only wish to join us) helping to load her luggage into my Getz. I drove all the way back on DUKE, and I remember thinking that it was only within a blink of an eye that we were already in Janda Baik – a proof that I actually did not realise that the heaven on earth was actually less than an hour away from my home. We got lost, but since we were fed with beautiful sceneries – Subhanallah – (streams in between houses, can you imagine?) I did not mind a bit. Then we arrived at Camp ABC, only to be mesmerised more by the view it offered. We were placed in the same room – six person in each, with 3 bunk beds – a few steps away from the hall in which our learning session would be held.

The learning materials were given in a file and some books – and recalled feeling super excited with the opportunities to study under Shaykh Bilal Ismail, Shaykh Musaaid Dawood, and Shaykh Yawar Baig on these topics intensively (I hope I did not miss ny in this list):

  1. Zaad al-Ma’ad: Provisions of the Hereafter – Imam Ibnul Qayyim (We were given the physical book, and studied a number of chapters of it)
  2. Umdatul Ahkam – Imam Abdul Ghani al Maqdisi: Chapter of Food, Drinks, Clothing, Hunting, Udhiya
  3. Selection from summarized Sahih Al-Bukhari on Book of Fitan and Book of Tawhid
  4. Bayquniyyah – Science of Ahadeeth
  5. Bidayat as-Sul by Izz ibn Abd as-Salaam, translated by Aisha Bewley – a study on the Prophet SAW, and we were given a physical book of this.
  6. Life Skills – taught by Shaykh Yawar

And let me give you a peek on the daily schedule prepared for us:

KL schedule

Oh yes, we do have exams and I can fully comprehend the need for one (or else everything learned will be pushed into my short-term memory only!), and we did have breaks for physical activities which I declined to join – I had enough during my team-building at work, I reckoned that spending some quiet times at the stream would serve me better.

I doubt that the knowledge was the only thing I gained during my seven days at Camp ABC. I got to know amazing individuals – Some mothers attended with their teenage daughters and sons, some were just-married couples, and many, of course, were singles like me.

Many of them are successful in their professional careers, and I had the chance to talk to them and dig their experiences. And we did share the same pressure of memorising the different types of ahadeeth, for the exams, which made it all even more unforgettable. These people had the gut to stay up late the night before exams to revise, while I was safely tucked in bed not long after the midnight passed!

And surely, the presence of the shaykhs – the learned ones among us, is almost a sure fire way to boost your motivation to become a better person, seeing their characters and all – may Allah forgive and bless all of them and their families.

I’ll now let these pictures do the talking – pardon the quality though!

The learning materials - A file and two books, taken on the very first day of the Hive

The Classroom - that's a front seat for me!

The stream I was looking forward to enjoy every day of the programme. The greeneries..ahhhh

Again. Isn't it amazing? Subhanallah!

The classroom, a back seat for me this time around.

Sh Yawar brought the class outside..and nothing can be better than listening to him talking with the sound of water flowing! A miniscule glimpse of Paradise.

A Misty morning. That's tranquility.

..and it all ended just a little too soon.

Some recordings from the event, if you have time to spare:

Sh. Yawar Baig (Fajr Reminder):

Part 1:

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Part 2:

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/dl6NC2gg1x8?rel=0&#8243; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Part 3

There are a few more on Alkauthar Malaysia Youtube Channel.

As the Sufi Abu Yazid Al-Bustami once said “I have been in hard worship for 30 years, but I didn’t find anything more difficult than being practical about one’s knowledge”, putting what I have learned into practice is still the hardest part and I pray that I’ll have the taufiq to act upon these rich knowledge I have been blessed with (I never believe that ignorance is bliss!).

I have tried my best to share as much knowledge as I can with others, especially the girls in UCSI (University College Sedaya International) – who patiently listened to me explaining points that I have learned from Umdatul Ahkam.

I remember on the day the Knowledge Hive ended I promised myself to save up and spare my annual leave in 2011 for this event again (and influenced my then yet-to-be husband to do so too), but then this year they replaced this with the Twins of Faith family festival. Upon attending the festival I was informed that they are having Knowledge Hive again in 2012 (10-14 July to be exact, insha Allah) and as I could not attend it myself – I will be on my maternity leave & confinement by that time, God willing) – I am encouraging you to attend it, and that is what made me feel much obliged to write this in the first place!

It has been shortened to four days if I am not mistaken, and this time around children are welcomed – at no cost. It is yet to be on AlKauthar’s website (http://alkauthar.org), but I’m sure soon there will be and I can assure you this is not something you’ll regret insha Allah.

After all, if peace of mind and tranquillity is all that you are looking for, then what can beat being surrounded by angels who will keep supplicating for you?

 

 

 

p.s.

*Ibn `Umar reported that the Prophet said: “When you pass by the gardens of Paradise, avail yourselves of them.” The Companions asked: “What are the gardens of Paradise, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied: “The circles of dhikr. There are roaming angels of Allah who go about looking for the circles of dhikr, and when they find them they surround them closely.” Tirmidhi narrated it (hasan gharib) and Ahmad.

Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri and Abu Huraira reported that the Prophet, peace by upon him, said, “When any group of men remember Allah, angels surround them and mercy covers them, tranquility descends upon them, and Allah mentions them to those who are with Him.” Narrated by Muslim, Tirmidhi, Ahmad, Ibn Majah, and Bayhaqi.

Note: Dhikr means remembrance (of Allah) and Islamic knowledge is certainly the kind of knowledge that makes you remember Him.

**I am attending AlKauthar’s Home Sweet Home course this weekend insha Allah, and had my partner signed up for next year’s Mark of a Jurist course (the one I attended in Manchester). Come and join us!