Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sirah Muzikal

The idea of an Islamic musical theatre is not a new one. Erma Fatima presented her "Sirah Junjungan" back in 2008. It was well-received which prompted a 2nd season a year later.

It wasn't that long ago but I've forgotten how the theatre ended. Was it during Fathul Makkah (the conquest of Makkah), Haji Wida' (the Farewell Pilgrimage) or the passing way of the Prophet Muhammad SAW?

It was a tall order to summarise the eventful life of our beloved Prophet SAW in a 3-hour theatre. So, understandably a lot of important events had to be cut out.

PEMBINA's latest effort is far more ambitious. Instead of chronicling the life of Prophet Muhammad SAW, it aims to chart the rise and fall of the Islamic Civilisation. Right from the first revealed verse of the Quran, to the glory of the Umayyad and Abbasid Empire, to the demise of the caliphate system in 1924.

It's impossible to condense hundreds of years of history in just a few hours, but the show, Sirah Muzikal, is really worth watching because:

1) We all need to learn/be reminded of our history. I watched 7 Wonders of the Muslim World on Discovery Channel the other day. And one of the commentators, Ziauddin Sardar, said something about the Blue Mosque that really struck me:

"When I think of mosques, the mosque that comes to mind is the Blue Mosque because I think it symbolises the zenith of the Muslim Civilisation. To me, it speaks volumes about the Muslim thoughts and learning, sophistication, the architecture that we developed... and I see it as a symbol of HOPE. Perhaps what we achieve in the past, we can also achieve in the future.

So, the Blue Mosque for me is not just a beautiful, sublime building -an awe-inspiring building- it is also a structure of hope, a structure with a very deep past and hopefully also a very vibrant future"

Maybe this theatre will do the same? May we be inspired by the great things Muslims have achieved in the past and be spurred on to emulate their acts in the present and in the future.

2)History can teach us many things. Okay, this second point is very similar to the first but I just cannot stress it enough! ;)

Henry Steele Commager, a historian once remarked;

" For a people to be without History, or to be ignorant of its history, is as for a man to be without memory-condemned forever to make the same discoveries that have been made in the past, invent the same techniques, wrestle with the same problems, commit the same errors; and condemned, too, to forfeit the rich pleasures of recollections."

1924 seems like aeons ago but it's not. It's just 86 years ago. We can learn lot from what made the once-mighty Islamic Empire fall.

3) It's hard to find good and halal (Islamically-permissible) entertainment nowadays. And those who strive to provide us with one, should be given our support.

4) It's for a good cause. The proceeds from the ticket sales will be channeled to Sekolah Tahfiz Bayu Syahadah in Kampung Bitoon, Ranau, Sabah, which is chaired by Nazrey Johani (formerly of Raihan). So let's 'berhibur sambil beramal!' :)

5) There are many other prominent nasheed performers around. Besides Nazrey Johari, there will also be Far East, Muadz and Now See Heart.

Coincidentally, one of Now See Heart's members, went to my school the other day to give a talk on Ramadan. Kids can be rude and inattentive at times but they loved the talk! They were very attentive and involved (which was very uncharacteristic of them! Haha). I couldn't remember the name of the speaker though...

So, get your tickets now and I'll see you there?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Syawal 1431

My Eid celebration was kind of muted this year. I guess Raya becomes gradually less fun as you grow older. Especially in the year you stopped receiving the green packets (!).

This year's muted celebration was due to 2 reasons: I didn't get to join the Eid prayer and the absence of Abewan & family.

When they finally returned to KL on the 3rd day of Raya, and when we were playing bunga api at Pak Yan's, did I feel the Raya spirit.

Irfan came back with a bandaged left hand. He twisted his wrist when he was up to some mischief. He was given the VIP treatment when he arrived. Everyone was concerned and asked, "Irfan sakit ke?". He quickly learned to take advantage of the situation and milked it for all it's worth. When we went to Pak Yan's, he wore his bandage proudly like a wounded soldier.

Now that life is slowly returning to normal (people have started to work, cars are clogging the roads once more, mamak stalls are full, etc), I'm amazed at how easy it is to fall back into my pre-Ramadan routines. I have started to eat, sleep and watch TV excessively again.

Hadith of the Day posted this status on the eve of Eid:
"In a matter of hours or days (The Devil) will be released from Hell with his evil army with their guns blazing & their evil intentions. Let's all pray Allah protects us from the evils of Iblis and that we continue our good deeds outside of Ramadan. May Allah allow us to increase our Imaan, even if it's just a little every single day."

How sad is it that our behaviour hasn't improved significantly after undergoing Madrasah Ramadan? That Shaytan came out and were utterly unimpressed with the quality of (some of) this year's graduates?

For me, it's hard to keep the Ramadan momentum going. Just take food for example. It's hard not to overeat when you have free food in abundance and when your grandma and aunties cannot stop from feeding you ("tambah lagi Syada, tambah lagi").

When I read this hadith I feel so guilty because obviously I did not adhere to the one-third rule:
“No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for breath.” (Ahmad & At-Tirmidhi)

Aside from eating less, we can also strive to make the spirit of Ramadan last throughout year by following these 40 tips (taken from emel, a Muslim lifestyle magazine). The tips are broken into 8 categories which are: Ibadat, Intentions, Connections, Discipline, Patient Perseverance, Developing Focus, Health, and Want Less.

Remember that “the deeds most loved by God are those done regularly, even if they are small” (Bukhari and Muslim).

My favourite tip is #31:
God’s delays are not necessarily His denials. Maybe you have to learn something before the adversity will be removed. List what lessons you are learning from the current adversity and how it is benefiting your character.

May we all become full-time Muslims, and not seasonal ones. Ameen...

Saturday, September 04, 2010


Today was the last day of school before the mid-sem 2 break. It was an incredibly challenging day. I was so thirsty. More so than usual. My throat was completely parched. How I wished I could sip a drop of ice-cold water!

Today was the 24th day of Ramadan and you would have thought that I had the fasting routine down pat. My body has adjusted to it but certain days are just more challenging than others.

Somehow I survived. That's the amazing thing about Ramadan: You achieve things that you never thought possible. It reminds you of the fact that Allah is your Sustainer.

We Malaysians only fast for 13.5 hours. That's easy peasy compared to our brothers and sisters in the UK and US who have to fast for 17-19 hours (!). I really couldn't imagine how they could fast from 2 am until 9 pm for 30 continuous days in the heat of summer! MashaAllah! Could we do so if we were in their shoes?

I've been reading accounts of 14 Muslims from all over the globe (Pakistan, Brazil, France, USA, UAE, UK, Palestine & Kenya). They share what Ramadan means to them. The accounts are very fascinating. Do have a read of them yourselves.

Though we celebrate Ramadan in different parts of the world, there are certain things that are common to every culture.

Below are my favourite excerpts from the accounts and the things that I can relate to:

-"[Ramadan] demonstrates the capacity of each person to surpass normal limits". -Rachid Nekkaz, Paris, France-

We all can relate to this. Like I had mentioned before, despite the adversities, we all survived somehow. It's amazing. We realise how we are far stronger than we thought, both physically and mentally. And at the end of the day, our Iman is greatly strengthen by the whole exercise (inshaAllah).

-"As clich├ęd as it may sound, Ramadan to me is a time to spend with family. It’s the only month in the year where my parents, siblings and I eat together (we have different work schedules during the rest of the year which makes it difficult to share meals). So during Ramadan I cherish these moments and I have been feeling more strongly about this the older I get." -Hind Mezaina, Dubai, UAE-

I love breaking fast with all the members of my family! We don't get to this often because of everyone's work commitments. But last weekend when we did managed to have all 8 people sitting on the same table, it was really nice. We felt really blessed.

-"[Ramadan brings forth] many fruits; the poor are fed and the orphans clothed, worshippers flood the mosques and the whole town blossoms with goodness." -Mohamed Azhar, Ayub Mombasa, Kenya-

We automatically become the best version of ourselves during Ramadan. We are more conscientious about our prayers, we give to charity more, we are kinder to people, etc. Ramadan truly is the Month of Blessings!

-"We are always a little nostalgic when [Ramadan]'s over." -Mariame Tighanimine, Paris, France-

-"Ramadan, I feel, proves to us that if we sincerely wish it, we can bring the change to our lives that we as Muslims desire – the ability to balance worship with work, carrying on with our everyday activities but altering them in a way to fulfil our spiritual duties in a deeper manner. Despite the difficulties it poses, we long for the month of Ramadan to return and bless our lives." -Mohamed Azhar, Ayub Mombasa, Kenya-

*sigh* 6 days of Ramadan left and you start to feel that tinge of sadness. You reflect on your unfulfilled Ramadan Resolutions and regret not having utilised the month optimally. You fervently hope you will experience Ramadan again next year.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Festive Air

You know Raya is coming because...

-The students' attendance has been gradually declining.

- You've grown accustomed to the sounds of fireworks. (Although today, there was one which was particularly loud. The students rushed out of their classes to locate the source and to sibuk. Haha. One student remarked to me, "Seriously Teacher, that one was like a nuclear bomb!")

-The desks in the staff room are littered with Raya cookies, kerepek, rempeyek, baju raya, tudung raya, etc. It resembles a mini-Jalan TAR :p

-These lines are oft-repeated: "Raya ni, balik mana?" and "Boleh kami Raya rumah Teacher?"

-People are generally happier :)

How is your Raya atmosphere? Is it similar to mine?