Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Kem Lepasan SPM 2009

Last weekend (Dec25-27), I attended PEMBINA's Kem Lepasan SPM. The camp aims to enlighten school leavers on the various pathways they may want to embark on after SPM.

A dear friend asked me to help out as a facilitator. I have never done this before, so I was a bit apprehensive about joining. Will I be of any help?

But they needed someone to explain about how one may enter into the teaching profession, so I agreed.

Alhamdulillah, that decision turned out to be the right one. Though, I went there to "enlighten" the participants, I ended up being the one enlightened.

The camp had more male participants than female ones. There were around 40 male students while the females numbered at 14. Funny thing is, the number of female facilitators and committee members is 14 too, so the ratio of participant and facilitator is 1:1.

That configuration made bonding so much easier and faster. Everyone got to know everyone else. That first night, the ice was not only broken; it was thawed completely.

We, the facilitators, and our group members slept in the same area. The dormitories contained bunk beds. I had to sleep on the top bed and the whole structure creaked and shook with the slightest move. I had never slept as still as I slept that night. Even an involuntary twitch caused me alarm. I was afraid that the bed might collapse totally and crush the poor girl sleeping underneath. The second night was much better. I overcame my paranoia (partially) and slept more comfortably.

On Saturday, the 'Siri Penerangan Kursus' was held. People from various industries (Engineering, Health Sciences, Accounting, Applied Science, Education & Syariah) talked about their respective field. This session was aimed to give the students accurate and useful input so that they will make well-informed decisions about their future. I took the floor for the slot on education. I think I did okay but in retrospect, I think I should have elaborated more on the work scope of a teacher (the various unrelated-to-teaching tasks), its joys and tribulations - so as to give the participants a clearer and truer picture. Photographs would have helped as well. Maybe I needn't focus so much on the structure of the programme and other technical aspects. What's more important is not 'how to apply for the programme' (because that's easy to find out), but 'whether teaching is the right career for them'. Plus, my voice was a bit high-pitched during the presentation - as it tends to be when I'm nervous and excited.

After Zohor, we trekked the jungle nearby. I thought they were a bit crazy scheduling an outdoor activity at the height of the stifling afternoon heat. But amazingly, once we stepped into the jungle, the air was cool and refreshing. The trek was quite challenging. I wore my trusty sport shoes but I still nearly fell a few times on the slippery slopes. But I loved the experience nonetheless. Living in the city makes you appreciate pristine nature so much more.

That evening, we had a team-building exercise. There were 3 tasks that we had to complete - all of which demanded critical-thinking skills as well as great teamwork. We had to:
1) build a gadget that can protect an egg from extreme demolition measures (courtesy of the juries),
2) build the most solid building, and
3) design and create a uniform for a chef, a soldier and a silat instructor.
We had to accomplish all these using only the limited materials supplied. Progress was a bit slow since many were tired from the trekking but everyone was lively again when the juries started to throw and smash the gadgets with all their might in an attempt to break the egg.

That night, we had our 'Malam Kebudayaan'. The theme given was: 'Remaja dan Gejala Sosial'. There wasn't enough time for practice but the participants did a very good job. I was impressed by their confidence, talent, and creativity. They managed to give entertaining performances and convey meaningful messages all at the same time.

On our last day (Dec 27), the participants were coached on how to excel in interviews for scholarships. They were told the Do's and Don'ts and several people shared their interview experiences. Unfortunately, due to time constraint, a mock interview couldn't be carried out.

The closing ceremony followed afterwards. Prizes were given to the groups as well as the best and most sporting participant. After a group photo, the Zohor prayer and lunch, people started to head home...


What made the camp so special to me was the great people I met there. I knew a few of them, but the rest were strangers to me. But in just 3 days and 2 nights, we really bonded with each other. I'm grateful and honoured to meet these amazing individuals. I've learnt a lot from them. Their enthusiasm was just infectious. They reminded me of this quote from Hassan Al-Banna:

"We need spirited, energetic and strong young people whose hearts are filled with life, enthusiasm, zeal and dynamism; whose souls are full of ambition, aspiration and vigor and have great goals, rising and aspiring to reach them until they eventually arrive at their destination."

May Allah strengthen and bless this ukhuwwah (bond).


-It has been a truly great experience. I've learned a lot so I strongly recommend you to get your younger brother/sister/cousin to join the same programme next year.

-More pictures and videos will be uploaded later, inshaAllah.

-Pictures taken from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/46056694@N08/

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Road to Mecca

Last night, I attended a screening of the documentary 'The Road to Mecca'. The title is derived from a very famous book written by the late Muhammad Asad.

Asad, born Leopold Weiss, converted to Islam in 1926, when he was 26 years old. He studied the Quran and the Sunnah passionately and later produced invaluable written works for the Muslim world. Besides 'The Road to Mecca', which basically tells of his "discovery of Islam and of his integration within the Muslim community", he also wrote:

-This Law of Ours And Other Essays (a compilation of his essays which aim to clarify the confusions prevailing in the Muslim Ummah)

-Sahih Al-Bukhari: The Early Years of Islam (an English translation of the most important compilation of the Prophet's Traditions)

-The Message of the Quran (widely regarded as one of the best English translations and commentaries of the Quran. It took Asad 17 years to complete it)

-Islam at the Crossroads (which was written as a plea to the Muslims to avoid a blind imitation of Western social forms and values)

-The Unromantic Orient (a travelogue that tracks the author from Jerusalem to Cairo, Amman, parts of the TransJordan, Palestine, Damascus, and Istanbul, before his conversion)

-The Principles of State and Government in Islam (which is self-explanatory :-p)

Anyway, the said documentary was beautiful, engaging, and at times, funny. It ran for one and a half hours, but I was deeply-engaged throughout.

I like that it tries to convey so many things to the audience: Asad's thoughts, views, character, and life journey and relate them to today's tough issues such as extremism, the general backwardness of the Muslims, religious (in)tolerance, the notion of jihad, and the difference of opinions even amongst the Muslims.

The documentary traces Asad's journey from Austria (where he was born) to Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Pakistan and Spain.

-Asad remains a major figure in Pakistan-

It also features interviews with people who have known Asad personally and those whose lives he has touched through his writings. These people include his stepbrother, his son (Prof. Talal Asad), his Jewish friends, journalists, Palestine pilgrims, and the Arab Bedouins.

-An Arab Bedouin engrossed in reading 'The Road to Mecca'. He later asked, "Is this the only copy you've got?"-

I love that all these people speak in different languages and come from different cultures, yet their lives were decidedly influenced/affected by this one man.

It really illustrates how "the ink of a scholar is more sacred than the blood of a martyr".

The documentary is packed with really good quotes.

One that really struck me was when a journalist said:

"If Muhammad Asad was alive today, he would still have fallen in love with Islam. But he would distrust the Muslims. Muslims today do not deserve this beautiful religion"

Another one was by Asad himself:

"We are the stupidest community. We have the greatest guidance in the Quran. And we have the greatest teacher/model in Muhammad (peace be upon him), yet we are now the lowest of the low".

[Sorry, these quotations might not be verbatim since I'm only relying on my poor memory. But they contain the essence that I'd grasped]

Both the quotations were a big wake-up call for me.

I was just so affected by the documentary that I wish I could buy the DVD and get other people to see it too. Thankfully, the Islamic Book Trust (IBT) is given the distribution rights to the documentary. It is slated for release in March 2010.

Till then, enjoy the trailer:

-All the pictures are taken from: Mischief Film (the production house of the documentary)
-More information on the books can be obtained from the Islamic Book Trust site. You can also purchase the books online.