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Muddy Junction

Thursday, February 16, 2006

MUD Manifesto Part 1

The objective of this manifesto is to outline steps that need to be taken by MUDs "to help Islam be Islam".

The above statement embraces the assumption that today, Islam is often misportrayed, misunderstood, mispractised. This, the writer asserts, comes from the fact that 'Islam', and its general perception, has beeen hijacked and abused by those of a more extreme persuasion, and those who are adamant on villifying the very word for psychological, economical and religio-sociological gains and objectives. This can be clearly seen from the recent (current?) uproar over the 'Cartoons of the Prophet' incident, the reaction to Hamas taking majority in the recent Palestinian elections, and closer to home, the issue of burial for certain Muslims who had their 'Islamness' questioned which lead to post-earthly (or should we say earthy) repercussions.

The purpose here is not to be preachy. Rather, as earlier blogs explained, Muddy Junction strives to serve as a confluence of knowledge, opinions and references, which would lead to a personal decision-support system in performing 'ijtihad' or individual reasoning. In order to effectively communicate constructive and informed opinions/reasonings, which is evidently sorely lacking, its foundations and basis has to be firm. Consequently, access to the right medium for communication is key.

In that light, what is of paramount importance is this:

Islam needs the right platform/s for communication.

Many may say 'Huh? Well, that is obvious'. But do we have them? Is Islam fairly represented and portrayed? Do we have mouthpieces that have the ability to reach the masses, especially the oft-referred 'silent majority' (which may be refered to as the 'Ho-Hum Club'), many of which would probably fall under the MUD category? Do we strive to be heard, and heard right? Do we meaningfully do anything about the wrongs what are being said?

It would not be a great stretch to assert that the above be answered in the negative. To say that Islam has bad press worldwide would be a grave understatement. Media blackouts on opinions other than those aligned to controllers of the press are dormant. But maybe before we even speak of a platform, what about the ability to communicate?

Malaysians have earned notoriety when it comes to participation in global online forums/newsgroups, which had resulted in them being banned from various platforms of internet-based dicussion. Being a self-confessed abstainer of 'teh tarik debating' that many Muslims here undertake, I was pleasantly surprised of late by some level-headed discussions found on local blogs, the aforementioned Aisehman being a current favourite after a short hiatus. It has to be taken into account, however, that in order to communicate effectively, the target audience and the optimal mode of communication has to be considered. While the written form may arguably be considered historically the most powerful catalyst of thought-change, current methods/medium/platforms/form have to be considered. The MTV/Akademi Fantasia/American Idol/'Dark' Metal/'Female Siblings in Islam'/MP3 Generation's attention require the right medium. After all, as said by Marshall McLuhan, 'The medium is the message'.

That said, the basis of the communication needs to be solid. Using the Quranic verse of 'Let there be no compulsion in religion' (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:256) to conveniently justify a stand or perspective, as is often done by a MUD-like organisation, without taking the rest of the Quran or Hadeeth as a basis gives scant acknowledgement to the ability of the MUD to think and use his/her 'aql'. The desire to reach the Truth should always the need to justify. Only then is a MUD's heart open to the true path of Allah.

Looking at the above, there are 3 main points that need to be addressed:

1. The foundations of knowledge, or ability to seek knowledge, has to be strengthened.

2. The ability to reason and discuss, with knowledge, has to be honed.

3. The ability to communicate in the right medium to the right audience, need to be nurtured.

The next posting will discuss the writer's opinion on the 'hows' regarding the above.

Over and out.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

MUD Manifesto Part 0.5

Moving by increments, this manifesto. Many single steps, one before another.

This very day marks the secularistic Lovers Day ritual. It is interesting to note that, according to my favourite communal reference Wikipedia, St. Valentine has a rather fuzzy past, mentioned only as one of three martyred saints of ancient Rome. It was originally celebrated as a saints day in the church calendar until 1969, when Papal housekeeping pushed St. Valentines Day out, citing that his status was due to legend and less to history (whose story?) as the prime reason.

More importantly to MUDs, the recent 31st January marked the Islamic New Year, signalled by the beginning of the Awal Muharram month. This calendar was introduced by the second Caliph Umar Al-Khattab r.a. in 638CE, with the year of Hijrah starting at 622CE when the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) migrated (hijra) from Mecca to Madinah, escaping prosecution from the former and establishing a city-state in the latter. It may be interesting to note that the Islamic calendar does not mark the birth of its most notable character, nore does it coincide with victories of war. Rather, the event was one of "sacrifice for the cause of Truth and for the preservation of the Revelation" (http://fisher.osu.edu/~muhanna_1/hijri-intro.html)

This MUD is trying out his own Hijrah - from complacence to regularity for this blog, Insha'Allah. Also, to share his journey in rediscovering and comprehending Solat, Du'a as well as social occurences in Islam. And true to his urbane roots, to use management theory, contemporary music, thought-provoking & cotton candy movies and any and every source of knowledge in the quest to assimilate Islam into himself, and him to Islam.

Stay tuned.

Monday, January 30, 2006

MUD Manifesto Part 0

The Rooster gives way to the Dog.

However much this may seem to allude to a punchline of a fauna-related tale, it is not; tis merely a point in time where the Chinese calendar morphs into another year, albeit a canine one (a tiny fact to note is that this writer was born at the borderline between the year of the Monkey and Goat, and it may be convincingly argued that the characteristics of the aforementioned two be anthropomorphised by him). Ever one to cede to junctions as significant triggers of events, it may be bizzarely appropriate of the writer to resurrect an almost-forgotten intent of this blog: the MUD Manifesto.

For those who may be, at this stage, unfamiliar with the term MUD, it refers to the target audience of this pseudo-blog: Muslims of Urban Descent (the earliest posts are about this). Why a manifesto for MUDs? Well, the writer felt that in order to tackle the numerous and unabated assaults, the constant confusion and misunderstandings, the well-meaning but often misplaced commentaries (hmm, may this be one of them?) on that thing called Islam, a fresh and targeted form of communique may be quintessential in carrying the right message, carried via a capsule that enlightens and cajoles the MUD to do one thing: THINK. Think about Islam in a contextual manner, even conceptual need be, should it help in the process of understanding.

Just who does the writer THINK HE is to carry that very torch? Err, uhm... well, he hope that his rants and raves would be a catalyst of thought, especially when that thought leads to a MUD having a desire to both objectively and subjectively discover, for his or herself, what Islam is, how it affects him or her, and what he or she, ultimately, should DO about it. This blog is a sharing of thoughts of one who is on such a journey, not an expert by any measure; his efforts are purely initiated with the hope of triggering other thoughts. However, if the thinking does not lead to action, then the writer would have ultimately failed.

In mitigating the aforementioned failure, a practical manifesto (if there is such a thing) need be produced. So here goes. Now where did I put that "Manifesto for Dummies" PDF file.....

Yikes. More to come.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Of Yuletide & Birth Times

3 days to the Christmas Celebrations, moving towards the end of the calendar year and the school holidays (and time where the idiot box espouses better movie choices). Year end tends to be a time of retrospection, looking back at what has happened in the past year. The writer, however, is curious about Christmas itself, wanting to dig beyond the current capitalistic connotations and its unavoidable visualisations in the various cathederals of commerce (shopping centres for the uninitiated). What better than to turn to the penultimate democratisation of information sources, Wikipedia.

Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. The date 25 December apparently was derived from the celebration of Saturnalia, where Romans honoured their ancient god of agriculture, Saturn. This festival started from 17 December and lasted for 7 days, which includes winter solsitice on 25 December. Celebrations, which included the exchanging of gifts, postponement of businesses and much feasting, tended to continue till the new year. According to Isaac Asimov in his "Guide to the Bible", "[C]onverts could join Christianity without giving up their Saturnalian happiness. It was only necessary for them to joyfully greet the birth of the Son rather than the Sun."

Sources differ on the actual date of the birth of Christ. The earliest evidence of celebration is from Alexandria, in about 200 CE, when Clement of Alexandria says that certain Egyptian theologians "over curiously" assign not just the year but also the actual day of Christ's birth as 25 Pachon (May 20) in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus. Other scholars maintained that Emporer Constantine (not of the Keanu Reeves persuasion) encouraged celebrations on 25 December after converting to Christianity as a common celebration for both Christians and Pagans. Scandinavians celebrate the Germanic Yule, also having origins in pagan winter solsitice celebrations.

What does the Quran say about the birth of Isa (Jesus)? Surah Al-Imran (3) pertaining this begins with birth of Maryam:

33. Allah chose Adam, Nuh (Noah), the family of Ibrahim (Abraham) and the family of 'Imran above the 'Alamin (mankind and jinns) (of their time)

34. Offspring, one of the other, and Allah is the All-Hearer, All-Knower.

35. (Remember) when the wife of 'Imran said: "O my Lord! I have vowed to You what (the child that) is in my womb to be dedicated for Your services (free from all worldly work; to serve Your Place of worship), so accept this, from me. Verily, You are the All-Hearer, the All-Knowing.

36. Then when she delivered her [child Maryam(Mary)], she said: "O my Lord! I have delivered a female child," - and Allah knew better what she delivered - "And the male is not like the female, and I have named her Maryam [literally means: maidservant of Allah] (Mary), and I seek refuge with You (Allah) for her and for her offspring from Shaitan (Satan), the outcast.

37. So her Lord (Allah) accepted her with goodly acceptance. He made her grow in a good manner and put her under the care of Zakariya (Zachariya). Every time he entered Al-Mihrab [a praying place or private room] to (visit) her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said: "O Maryam (Mary)! From where have you got this?" She said, "This is from Allah." Verily, Allah provides sustenance to whom He wills, without limit."

38. At that time Zakariya invoked his Lord, saying: "O my Lord! Grant me from You, a good offspring. You are indeed the All-Hearer of invocation."

39. Then the angels called him, while he was standing in prayer in Al-Mihrab (saying): "Allah gives you glad tidings of Yahya (John), confirmming (believing in) the word from Allah [i.e. the creation of 'Iesa (Jesus) a.s., the word from Allah ("Be!" and he was!)], noble, keeping away from sexual relations with women, a Prophet, from among the righteous."

40. He said: "O my Lord! How can I have a son when I am very old, and my wife is barren?" Allah said: "Thus Allah does what He wills."

41. He said: "O my Lord! Make a sign for me." Allah said: Your sign is that you shall not speak to mankind for three days except with signals. And remember your Lord much (by praising Him again and again), and glorify (Him) in the afternoon and in the morning".

42. And (remember) when the angels said: "O Maryam! Verily, Allah has chosen you, purified you (from polytheism and disbelief), and chosen you above the women of the 'Alamin (mankind and jinns)(of her lifetime)."

43. O Maryam! "Submit yourself with obedience to your Lord (Allah, by worshipping none but Him alone) and prostate yourself, and Irkai (bow down etc.) along with Ar-Raki'un (those who bow down etc)"

44. This is a part of the news of the Ghaib (unseen) which We inspire you with (O Muhammad pbuh). You were not with them, when they cast lots with their pens as to which of them should be charged with the care of Maryam; nor were you with them when they disputed.

45. (Remember) when the angels said: "O Maryam! Verily, Allah gives you the glad tidings of a Word ("Be!" - and he was! i.e. Iesa the son of Maryam) from Him, his name will be the Messiah Iesa, the son of Maryam, held in honour in this world and in the Hereafter, and will be one of those who are near to Allah."

46. "He will speak to the people in the cradle and in manhood, and he will be one of the righteous."

47. She said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me." He said: "So (it will be) for Allah creates what He wills. When He has decreed something, He say to it only: "Be!" - and it is.

48. And He (Allah) will teach him the Book and Al-Hikmah (i.e. the Sunah, the faultless speech of the Prophets, wisdom etc.), (and) the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel).

49. And will make him a Messenger to the Children of Israel (saying): " I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, that I design for you a bird out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah's Leave; and I heal him who was born blind, and the leper, and I bring the dead to life by Allah's Leave. And I inform you of what you eat, and what you store in your houses. Surely, therein is a sign for you, if you believe."

50. And I have come confirming that which was before me of the Taurat, and to make lawful to you part of which was forbidden to you, and I have come to you with a proof from your Lord. So fear Allah and obey me.

51. Truly! Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him (Alone). This is the Straight Path.

Res ipsa loquitur.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Slow of Fasting

End of the end of the month of Ramadhan today, marked by the last of 'open houses' invitations, the beginning of relatives going for Hajj, and the return of the flab to normal, nay, increased proportions.

Fasting month this year dragged on, then flew by. My Tarawikh prayers count, the highly recommended 'optional' prayers for the month, dropped lower with time; my 'Puasa Enam' or 'Six Day Fast' post-Ramadhan also dipped this year, from 4 days last year to 3. Reading of the Quran, always an ambition at the begining, was sparsely achieved. All in all, my report card this year fared not too well.

My relatives, however, seem busy. One engagement ceremony today, and two weddings in two weeks. All male first cousins at that. The tying of knots, a decade after mine. Well-wishes for them all.

A need for a refresh, that I do. A trip to the Pearl of the Orient, family in tow. A package obtained from the Red Devil's budget carrier; a bargain? Maybe, that we shall see. Recuperate to face another year. Hopefully reigniting creative juices, which hath dried of late. Ah, for a torrent of pixie dust, brain food, my kingdom for that.

Tis seem to be a rambling outlet now, this blog. I have but only thanks for those who persevere. Who knows, this mortal might just be back, soon?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Fast(ing) Updates

Resuscitate.

Months upon months of procrastination, and the month of Ramadhan approaches. The busiest time for my company too approaches, as prospective investors ready for a visit in a fortnight. A close kin temporarily emigrates to a high-altitude city, not too many stone's throw away from Mecca, in the pursuit or Arabic and related spiritual gnosis. All this amid struggles to kick-start a familial business initiative, aimed at Learning for the Mind, Body and Soul. Ah, we're at the familiar junction yet again. Muddy to say the least.

Cough.

Air enters the lungs, slowly familiarising itself to dependent surroundings. Keyboard taps, staccato, then picking up a much more regular tune. Fingers walk the walk, producing the talk. Breathe.

Gulp.

That's it, back to life. Air by the lungful, channeling much required nourishment for the cerebral heart.

Resolve.

Expect more soon. Work beckons, but the mind is AWAKE. Soon.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Of Invocations and Supplications

It was a normal request.

I have been approached before to read a du'a or "saying of prayer" at a certain function/occasion, though more often than not it was more of a familial affair. Most of the time the du'a was the standard post-solat/prayer category, all in arabic, and read not with much aforethought. The 'congregationary' atmosphere of a du'a was certainly pleasing, with the 'ameen' recitation at various levels, sometimes but not often cacophonic, ending with the wiping of one's palms onto one's face, almost like it has a physical cleansing action.

This was different.

The event was the wedding of a colleague. Now that in itself was not an astoundingly differentiating factor; du'a s at weddings tend to be rather similar in different ways. It was almost the rule of the thumb for it to be read by either an uncle of the bride or groom who could slip in a pertinent fact in situ, although the norm seems to be the most 'qualified' ustaz or highest-ranking religious figure one could get hold of. That meant, in most cases, the Imam of a mosque, the vernacular choice being the obvious one. The typical 'upgrade' of the neighbourhood Imam would be the Imam of the State, or even National, mosque. If there were an Imam of an International mosque, his schedule, one could expect, would be filled to the brim with wedding invitations, mostly from Malaysia.

This was more different.

Apart from the fact that I was neither the bride's nor the groom's uncle, and I was never nor am I presently an Imam of any Government-built mosque or otherwise, I was still asked. In addition, the request came with an attachment: English translation please. This, again, was not unusual. I had recited not a bilingual, but a trilingual du'a at my eldest sister's wedding (all my sisters are elders, btw). The resultant, though, was looks of "When the heck is that guy going to finish", "Are you sure that translates right" and "Here goes another guy who MUST love to hear his own voice" from the guests. I must admit, the du'a WAS three times longer due to translations, and the translations were often done by yours truly. The du'a, though, was rather memorable for me: I actually recited it whilst having a tantrum-prone not-too-light son on a warpath with legs wrapped around my left waist. It was certainly a test of endurance.

This one HAD to be different.

Being a MUD meant that one had to approach this request from a perspective of comprehension, planning and meaningful implementation. Iman is in the action. I had, in one of my spontaneous religious eruptions of knowledge-seeking, collected a number of books on du'as in both English and Malay. I had frustratingly, however, not been able to locate a rather prized possession of mine, a book called "Remembrance & Prayer" by Al-Ghazzali. Not that I had read it but have been meaning to. Well, that and the fact that I loved Al-Ghazzali's "Thematic Commentary of the Quran".

Combing through my other collections, I finally composed something. Stayed up till 4am researching the day before, and finished finally at lunchtime before the evening ceremony. The actual recitation, I would have you know, went rather smoothly, albeit via a temperamental microphone which successfully turned my performance to sound like a staccato 80's New Wave song, at times.

Just to share with all ye who read this, the du'a was as such:

1. After salaams, I quoted Surah Al-Baqarah (2:186):

"And when My servants question you concerning Me,
Then surely I am near.
I answer the call of the caller
When he calls on Me;
So let them respond to Me
And put faith in Me
That they may be on the right way".

2. Du'a structures start with the Bismillah (Starting endeavours in the name of Allah), Exaltations to Allah, Blessings to Muhammad (peace be upon him), the body of the du'a, Blessings to Muhammad (peace be upon him) and closing with Exaltations to Allah. It normally ends with a wish for Allah to accept that du'a.


3. So the dua started with Exaltations to Allah and Blessings to Muhammamd pbuh.


4. Then Surah Al-Isra' (The Journey by Night) (17:24):

"My Lord! Bestow on them (my parents)
Thy Mercy even as they
Cherished me in childhood".


5. Then Surah Al-Imran (The Family of Imran) (3:8)

"Our Lord! (they say)
Let not our hearts deviate
Now after Thou hath guided us
But grant us mercy
From Thine own Presence;
For Thou art the Grantor
Of bounties without measure"


6. Then Surah Ya-Sin (36:83)

"So glory to Him
In Whose hands is
The dominion of all things
And to Him will you
Be all brought back"


7. Ya Allah,
May you bless the newlyweds,
And allow us,
The guests and wellwishers,
To wish them,
As cited in the Hadeeth reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim:
"May Allah bless (your spouse) for you
and may He bless you
and join you in a happy union"


8. Then Surah Al-Baqarah (2:201)

"Our Lord! Give us
Goodness in this world
and goodness in the hereafter
and defend us
from the torment
of the Fire"


9. And the du'a was ended with Blessings for Muhammad pbuh, and Exaltations to Allah.

10. Ameen.


Over and Out.