Wednesday, December 26, 2012


There were many memories to choose from when I sat down to write about 4M.

There are 12 Form 4 classes in my school and 4M contains the creme de la creme. These smart kids might be all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when learning their science subjects, but unfortunately the same eagerness wasn't extended to English and other subjects "lower down the hierarchy". Thus, trying to capture their attention, fuel their imagination and gain their respect was no mean feat.

However, when the students did become engaged in the tasks assigned, MAGIC happened.

One such instance is the Activist assignment I'd written about. Another would be when the students dramatised the short story 'The Fruitcake Special'. The students got into groups of 8, with every one in the group having a role to play.

First, the students adapted the story into a script. Most of the groups modified the story to make it even more funnier. Then, they practised, practised and practised (after school) for 2 weeks or so. Every group was trying to outdo the others and was being very secretive. They would stop rehearsing whenever I passed by Pondok NILAM or elsewhere in the school compound where they held their practice.

Oh, the suspense and anticipation in the build up to Presentation Day!

The day finally arrived and all 5 productions didn't disappoint. The effort that went into the assignment was obvious from the execution of their plays, the costumes they had on and the props that they brought along/made themselves.

The extrovert students were given the platform to shine and I was bowled over by their talents. But it was the quiet, timid students who made me all warm and fuzzy inside. Performing in public must have terrified them and it was evident how nervous they were. But performed they did and it was wonderful to see them emerge from their shells.

I love the diagram below and I hope that all my students will take the message to heart :)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Saigon Trip

A Hungry Beginning

One of the most memorable passages from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit is when Gandalf was looking for someone "to share in an adventure". He lamented that it was hard to find anyone up to the task.

Bilbo Baggins replied, "I should think so - in these parts! We are plain, quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can't see what anyone sees in them."

Funnily enough, on Dec 7, 2012, my Vietnam adventure started off exactly with my having to miss my dinner. My flight was supposed to take off at 2050 but it was delayed to 2230. It was a brief delay so most people took it well, barring a few ruffled and disgruntled travellers.

While waiting for the revised boarding time, my mum and I prayed Isha and had some hot chocolate afterwards. While sipping the lovely hot choc, I was feeling smug because I didn't "sweat the small stuff" and was spending the time pleasurably.

When it's time to board the plane, we were told that our flight was delayed yet again (!). The plane would only arrive at 0000 and even then we would have to wait some more before it could take off to our destination.

By then, I wasn't feeling so smug anymore. This was the uncomfortable part of adventure that Bilbo talked about. And this was when I started to visualise my warm, comfy bed and wonder why I had signed up for the trip in the first place.

The neither-here-nor-there state we were in made everyone restless and anxious. No hot choc could have placated me then.

We finally took off for Ho Chi Minh City at 0050, four hours later than originally scheduled. The whole episode made me realise that I'm not as patient as I thought I was.

Inalienable Rights to Life and Liberty

We visited many places-of-interest on our first day in HCM but the two most memorable were the Cu Chi Tunnel Complex and the War Remnants Museum.

At Cu Chi Tunnel, we learned about the ingenious guerrilla tactics employed by the Viet Cong that stupefied the technologically-superior US Army.

Meanwhile, the War Remnants Museum has everything related to the Vietnam War on display: the pictures, the tanks, the planes, the shells, the torture chamber, etc.

You need a strong stomach to take in the pictures, especially the heart-wrenching ones that show the malformed victims of Agent Orange. The exhibition, for me, drives home the point that war is senseless and especially heinous when it involves innocent civilians.

Amidst the horrific images of war, an excerpt of the US Declaration of Independence was put up. It reads:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Sadly, these "self-evident truths" are disregarded, again and again, by those who profess to uphold them.

Malaysian Invasion

By the second day, I realised just how many Malaysians there were in HCM. They were visible everywhere; at all the tourist attractions, the night market, the halal restaurants, the hotel lobbies, etc. Malaysians have positively invaded the country!

Day 2 was spent doing touristy things which was fun! We rode a boat and a sampan, sampled local fruit, listened to folk music, did a LOT of shopping and watched a water-puppetry performance.

We got used to seeing so many motorcycles on the roads and the crazy traffic rules the Vietnamese seem to adhere to. I know that's rich coming from a Malaysian but I came across a T-shirt that corroborated my view. The simple design featured a traffic light with the caption:

Saigon traffic rules:
[green] I can go
[yellow] I can go
[red] I can still go

Even the bus that got us around made some spectacular maneuvers that left us shaking our heads in disbelief. My favourite has got to be the three-point turn it accomplished at a particularly busy intersection.

Kalau ada sumur di ladang

Our 4D3N trip (with POTO Travel & Tours) was very enjoyable and a large part of that was due to our tour guide, Mr. Le Van An, a Saigon native.

Mr. An was very helpful and accommodating. Besides having good command of Malay, he surprised and tickled us repeatedly when he talked about Dato' Siti Nurhaliza, Tongkat Ali and other Malaysia-specific things.

The clincher came when we were about to part ways. He recited the whole length of the pantun:
Kalau ada sumur di ladang
Boleh saya menumpang mandi
Kalau ada umur yang panjang
Boleh kita berjumpa lagi.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Heroes (Part 2)

Last Tuesday (Nov 20, 2012), I attended the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission - Hearing on Palestine. According to its programme book, KLWCC is "an investigation body empowered with jurisdiction to receive and investigate complaints from victims of wars and armed conflicts in relation to crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other like offences as recognised under International Law".

The hearing got off to a slow start. Maybe I was too influenced by the numerous courtroom dramas I had followed over the years... but the proceedings weren't as dramatic as I had imagined it to be.

There were no smooth-talking, immaculately-dressed lawyers a la Will Gardner or Harvey Specter, charming the audience with brilliant and witty arguments. In fact, most of the time, the prosecutor just went through the statutory declarations made by the witnesses.

The language barrier compounded the struggle I had in trying to stay focused. The use of interpreter disrupted the flow of exchanges and caused some things to be lost in translation.

There were 4 witnesses that day and they told the commission horrific tales of:
  • massacre
  • unlawful imprisonment & the ensuing (physical & psychological) torture
  • injury from prohibited weapons
  • illegal land appropriation
  • impossible living conditions (water cuts, checkpoints that severely restrict movements, etc)

These are the things we've all read before but hearing them first-hand had a deeper impact on me. The witnesses also underlined an important point; that as outrageous as the recent escalation is, this conflict and their sufferings have been going on for decades, not days.

The Israeli government has very systematically made their lives so unbearable that many commentators have described Gaza as an open-air prison.

And because the Palestinian land has been encroached upon, year by year, a witness candidly remarked that Palestine is no longer a viable country as it now closely resembles isolated ghettos instead.

There are 2 quotes that I particular remember from the hearing. The first came from Mr. Nabeel Al-Issawi who was wounded by a Dum-dum bullet (a bullet that expands upon impact, causing more severe wounds). Nabeel had to undergo multiple surgeries and his recovery took months. The prosecutor asked Nabeel whether he knew that the use of Dum-dum bullets is prohibited in international warfare.

He replied matter-of-factly, "Probably everything they [the Israeli forces] use is illegal. But they are above the law".

The other quote came from Mr. Jawwad Issa Musleh. He's my favourite witness for several reasons. Firstly, he didn't use an interpreter, so his replies were instantaneous and he articulated himself very well. Secondly, the story he related was nothing short of incredible and inspiring.

Mr. Jawwad had been imprisoned by the Israeli forces on 8 different occasions. The first occasion was when he was only 15 years old and that detention lasted for 20 months. He was just a regular teenager then, uninvolved in any political or resistance movement. But he was taken away from his family all the same.

A few other boys from the area were taken too. He suspected that young boys were targeted precisely because of their non-involvement. It was a tactic to scare them off the resistance movement for good.

But incredibly, the OPPOSITE happened. In prison, he met older Palestinians who taught him a lot about the history of the country, about its struggles, about the occupation, the resistance, etc. He likened his prison cells to a university because he learnt a lot there.

In his statutory declaration, he said, "The Israelis think that they can kill our souls and patriotism when they send us to jails. But they didn't succeed".


The commission will submit its report in 3 months' time and a charge may be filed.

But will it achieve anything? The atrocities committed against the Palestinians are already well-documented but the Israeli government has gotten away with their crimes time and time again.

But despite the improbable odds, every witness and attendee of the hearing fervently hopes that something will come out of it; that justice will finally be served.


I didn't go for Day 2 of the hearing. You can read snippets of it here.

I originally intended to write more about the Heroes Conference in this entry, hence the title (Part 2). But the witnesses made such an impact on me that I felt the need to put it down in writing.

You cannot help but admire the witnesses because even though they have gone through so much, they don't come across as hapless victims. On the contrary, they embody the words strong-willed, brave and resilient.

Mahmoud Al-Sammouni, for instance, spoke with such confidence that belied his young age. Testifying about the massacre of his family in front of hundreds of strangers in a foreign land must have been an unnerving experience but the 15-year-old carried himself most admirably.

Thus, I couldn't agree more with the sentiment expressed below:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Heroes (Part 1)

We crave heroes. Thus the proliferation of superhero movies on the big screen in recent years.

I guess the idea of a person or people with extraordinary abilities that fight for justice appeals to us. These heroes are able to set the world right with their superpowers -- something that we mere mortals cannot do.

So we extend our search for heroes far and wide. We search for them everywhere; on football fields, in reality shows, on the concert stage, in war-torn countries, etc.

But the thing with contemporary, living heroes is we don't know how their stories will end.

Take Greg Mortensen for example. He was once celebrated for building schools for girls in remote areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Girls that hitherto had no access to education. But in 2011, an expose by Jon Krakauer revealed that he may have misappropriated funds from his organisation, the Central Asia Institute and fabricated stories in his two best-selling books.

It's not wrong for us to look for heroes amongst contemporary figures but as Myriam Francois-Cerrah puts it, we must be careful not to let our idealisation lead to idolisation. "We want to be inspired but we must be discerning".

Last Tuesday (Nov 13, 2012), I was reacquainted with heroes of the highest pedigree. Heroes whose deeds and achievements continued to be a source of inspiration, hundreds of years later:

  • These people experienced unimaginable hardships; They went without food until they had to tie rocks on their bellies to alleviate the pangs of hunger.
  • They protected the Prophet (pbuh) until they were covered in dozens of wounds from swords, spears and arrows.
  • They lived a simple life. Some wore tattered clothes even when they held positions of power.
  • They truly strove for the deen with their wealth and their lives.
  • They personified the phrase sami'na wa atho'na (we hear and we obey).

MashaAllah, they were not ordinary human beings. Their unwavering faith made them extraordinary -- worthy heroes that we should strive to emulate.

To quote the line from the conference's leaflet:
"In a world where we are inspired by everything else, the time has come that we be inspired by those Allah SWT chose. The Muslim Heroes."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I once wrote 'convoluted!!' on a student's essay. Several weeks later, on another test, the student produced a much better piece of writing. I commended him on the improvement.

"So my writing's no longer convoluted Teacher?" he asked.
I laughed, "I can't believe you still remember that word!"
"Of course I remember it. It's a very hurtful word Teacher!" he replied.


The whole thing reminded me of Taylor Mali's poem:

"I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor and an A- feel like a slap in the face"

How true.

Students from the end classes (who are used to getting Fs) feel so proud when they (barely) pass while students from the front classes look so indignant when they receive anything less than an A.

But different people react differently to the proverbial slap in the face. Some are motivated to do better and ask how they can improve while some look so cross and feel that they are hard done by.


Just before the school holidays, I experienced the latter reaction.

I didn't handle it well; I wasn't able to reason things out and as a result, both parties felt utterly miserable.

I was sad. Incredibly sad for 2-3 days. It seemed like such a small matter; and really, I should have thicker skin... but I felt sad and a bit affronted that my professional judgement was questioned.

It seemed like, to them, it didn't matter that I had a college education, that I've been teaching for 4 years, that I've marked hundreds of essays --- I was wrong and they were right.

So after mulling over it for days, I came to the conclusion that we all need to have more humility.

For my part, I have to admit that I'm not 100% consistent and impartial (though I try to be). So there's a possibility that I was being overly harsh on them.

Further, maybe I didn't put across my feedback/criticism as diplomatically as I could have. Maybe the criticisms were more destructive than constructive. Maybe my feedback should be more like Paula Abdul's and less like Simon Cowell's.

And though I've taught for some years and have marked countless essays, I still have much to learn. It was arrogant of me to assume: "I know better".

For the students' part, I want them to know that high expectations lead to high performance.

Yes, they're good but not that good. They can do BETTER.

Moreover, they shouldn't compare themselves with those of lower proficiency. In this increasingly borderless and more competitive world, their standards should be higher.


So, the next time we are slapped in the face (figuratively of course!), let us take a step back and assess the situation with some HUMILITY.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

3I & 3H

Years ago, a sister of mine often talked about her favourite lecturer, Mr. K.

Mr. K had such a strong command of his subject that he would only bring one marker pen to his lectures. He didn't need to refer to any books to aid him in explaining theories, answering students' queries, solving tricky questions, etc. Now, that's what I call mastery of content knowledge.

In contrast, I remember my first year of teaching, where I would go to classes armed with textbooks, grammar workbooks, the dictionary, handouts of filler activities, etc.

I felt that I needed to equip myself with all kinds of materials to cope with any possibilities that might arise.

I often second-guessed myself too. I couldn't stick to one lesson plan. Whenever I came up with one, I would poke holes into it:

"It's not interesting enough!"
"It's not challenging enough!"
"You're going to bore your students to death!"

So in the end, I often stood in front of the class, armed with STUFF, but having absolutely no clue of what to do.

I think, in this respect, teachers are like homemakers; teachers worry themselves sick about lesson plans as homemakers do about what they should cook for dinner.

Homemakers do not only want to put dinner on the table, they want the food to be delicious, nutritious, special and prepared with lots of love.

Similarly, teacher do not just want to enter the classroom and say "turn to page so-and-so and do the exercises". They want the lesson to be interesting, challenging, inspiring and pitched at the right level.

Sadly, our efforts went unnoticed and unappreciated most of the time. Kids are glued to their computers when they're called to dinner and not all students would do the work assigned to them in class.


In 2012, I achieved a breakthrough of sorts. I was beginning to figure out and be comfortable with my teaching style. Of course it needed further refinement but the foundation was set and I was gaining confidence day by day. I even noticed that I had begun to march to class with a little bit of swagger. Haha.

[So for struggling beginning teachers out there; take heart. You'll get there eventually!]

However, at the end of March, when I was assigned 5N, some of that confidence dissipated away. Remember what I said about not having a clean slate?

Well, when I first entered 5N, I felt like I was transported back in time when I was still that hapless teacher. My swagger was crippled and whenever I was heading to Block E, I would break out in cold sweat instead.

But things worked out in the end. I just had to learn to trust my abilities and believe that I have valuable things to impart.

I love the quotation below taken from the book See Me After Class by Roxanna Elden (which I strongly recommend to all fellow teachers):

"On a bad day, I remind myself that when I look back on my own experience as a student, I don't remember specific lesson plans. In the end, we remember teachers, but the individual days  fade into the background. Forgive yourself for those rough days and bad lessons, and keep trying - because that's what the kids will remember"

I planned to talk about my Form 3 classes in this entry but ended up writing the above paragraphs instead. 

So, let me start over:
The Form 3 students that I taught this year are quite weak in English (with a few exceptions). Marking their essays was a torturous experience and it was a struggle to get them to do any work in class.

3 Intelek was the noisiest class I had this year. They were also the funniest. The naughtiest boys in that class also happened to be the friendliest ones when I met them outside.

They would smile and greet me enthusiastically whenever we crossed paths, oblivious to the fact that they drove me nuts in class!

3 Harmoni boys were roughly the same. So to preserve my sanity, I just concentrated on the conscientious learners (read: the girls) in class. 

An incident that involved 3H that I'll never forget was when they had to fill in a form evaluating me. I wasn't supposed to administer the evaluation myself but the teacher-in-charge was facing a looming dateline, so he told me to get 5 students from the class to assess me.

Let's disregard the invalidity of the exercise for a moment.

When I read the criteria they were supposed to assess me on, my heart sank. The criteria were:

  1. Menepati masa (Punctuality)
  2. Berpakaian kemas dan sesuai (Appropriately-dressed)
  3. Mengajar dengan suara yang jelas (Has a clear voice)
  4. Menggunakan bahasa yang mudah difahami (Uses comprehensible language)
  5. Sentiasa membimbing murid memahami pelajaran (Guides the students to understand the lesson)
  6. Ada menggunakan alat bantu mengajar (Uses teaching aids)
  7. Menyemak dan mengembalikan buku latihan murid (Checks & returns the students' work)
  8. Mengawasi disiplin murid dalam kelas dengan baik (Has good classroom management)
  9. Mengambil berat tentang kehadiran murid di dalam bilik darjah (Is particular about attendance)
  10. Sentiasa memberi peluang kepada murid untuk bertanya (Gives students the opportunity to ask questions)
  11. Mementingkan keceriaan bilik darjah (Emphasises classroom cleanliness)

Half of the criteria listed weren't really my strong points. If they had included things such as: 'Has good rapport with students' or 'Exhibits empathy', I might stand a chance of scoring better.

But surprisingly, when I collected the forms, all of them gave me mostly threes or fours (the instrument uses a 4-point Likert scale).

I knew that I didn't deserve the marks given but was deeply touched that the students liked me enough to overlook my faults. :')

I'm reminded of this quote: "Your students will not remember what you taught them... but they will remember forever the way you made them feel.”

So, teach your students and love them!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

5 Nekad

Today I had a workshop with 5 Nekad & 5 Waja. What was supposed to be simple exam practice, turned out to be something quite different.

Teaching the front classes is akin to facing a firing squad. While they were working on the SBP Trial papers, they shot me questions relentlessly.

"Teacher, what does 'interval' mean?"

Other words that they asked me to define were:

kept vigil
sodomy (!)
prosthesis vs. prosthetic
riddle with shrapnel

Half of the words were from the text they were working on. The other half? God knows where they came from.

It felt like being in a bad reality show (So you think can teach English?), where failing to answer the questions would result in being named and shamed as an incompetent English Teacher.

You know, it's one thing to know a word, it's quite another to try to EXPLAIN it to others. And contrary to popular belief, English teachers are not walking dictionaries (or at least not me).

But to refer to an actual dictionary to answer their queries would have been to lose face. So I employed one of the 3 strategies below:

  1. Find a synonym (e.g. interval = intermission)
  2. Find a Malay equivalent
  3. Use the word in a sentence

Only after I had given it my best shot, would I surreptitiously refer to the Merriam-Webster app on my phone to check the accuracy of my answers.

But there came a time where I had to surrender and admit: "I have no idea".

At the end of the workshop, Yan Jhong asked me what the phrase "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion" meant.

I'd never heard of the idiom before so there's only 1 thing I could do then: I googled it.


The above narrative was just one of the many memorable moments I shared with 5 Nekad.

I took over the class at the end of March this year when Pn. Mohana was transferred to another school. I wasn't too thrilled about it at first. My plate was already full, yet I have to be a class teacher too??

Plus, I had taught some of them before. I was a hapless newbie then. I made a lot of mistakes. That's why I prefer to have new students every year so that I can start off on a clean slate.

But teaching 5 Nekad was the opposite of having a brand new slate. This slate was not only old, it's also cracked and worn.

But Allah is the Best of Planners. After spending so much time and effort in keeping their affairs in order (taking their daily attendance, writing them testimonials, meeting their parents, tracking their academic performance, etc), I cannot help but be emotionally-invested in them.

I guess I've grown very fond of them. They are funny and they make me laugh all the time. They make absurd remarks. They have curious minds. They question and challenge new information which lead us to have stimulating discussions.

I know that I'll miss them dearly. I'm never sentimental when I'm in front of them but if they happen to read this, I want them to know that being their class teacher has been one of my main highlights of the year.

They also taught me that having a used and cracked slate isn't so bad after all, provided that you work hard at mending it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


The end of the 2012 school term is drawing nearer, which makes me feel more introspective than usual. I plan to write about the classes that I teach and some of my best memories of the year.

I'm going to start with hockey. I've written about it previously but this entry has to do with a special training session that we had with a national player; Izzat Rahim.

Izzat Rahim was not only part of the Malaysian contingent to the Road-to-London tournament, he also happens to be Cikgu Safrina's kid brother.

My students were so excited when he came on Apr 21. I was excited too because we would finally have a proper session after weeks of aimless and structure-less training.

After the session, the boys took pictures with him and asked him to autograph their shirts/shoes/hockey sticks. It made me happy to see my students happy :)

The next day, a student (who was more into football than hockey) asked me; "Teacher ajakla pemain bola Malaysia datang" (!)

I was flattered that he thought my social network was so far-reaching (it was a gross overestimation). But no, sadly, I don't have K. Rajagopal nor Ong Kim Swee on my speed dials.


It's tough to be in charge of something that you haven't a clue of. But teachers are asked to do so all the time. So if you happen to be good at something; be it hockey, debate, choir, choral speaking, drama, chess, zapin, photography, painting, whatever, do consider coaching students in a school nearby.

You'll discover that mentoring young minds is immensely satisfying. As William Butler Yeats said; "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire". You just need to light that fire in them, nudge them into a certain direction, and watch them do wonders.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Of Backbiting

We've all come across people whom we just cannot get along with; People who are too domineering to the point that they act like bullies; People whose aura is thick with negativity; People who do not play nice with others; whose harsh words wound us and may even have made us cry.

What do we do when we come across such people? We can try distancing ourselves but what if we have to work in close proximity to them? How should we react when we become victims to their tirades or tyrannical acts?


It happened to me and I did something that I was not proud of: I backbit.

At first, it was just to mengadu to a trusted friend ("I had a horrible day. You know what happened to me?...") but the conversation naturally evolved into a full-fledged backbiting session.

All that person's past mistakes were excavated, dusted off and put under the microscope so that after thorough analyses, it could be proven, beyond reasonable doubt that: "Yes, that person is horrible. Everyone knows it".


The thing is this method of coping provides only temporary "relief". It's not even real relief because we feel lousy about ourselves for stooping to their level.

Plus, we can never justify our backbiting by saying we are merely stating facts because the Prophet (pbuh) taught us that: "If what you say about your brother is true, you are guilty of backbiting, but if what you say concerning him is not true, you are guilty of slandering him." [Reported by Muslim]

Further, we can never be fair when we backbite. We either:
1) exaggerate our injuries to gain more sympathy and to vilify our aggressors. OR
2) we understate our injuries in order to appear martyr-like. However if our listeners fail to comprehend the gravity of the situation, we change tack and resort to tactic#1.

We just can't win. We just damage our characters instead.


So how do we vent our frustrations then?

We complain to Allah.
It sounds so cliche but it's true. Allah alone knows our troubles. He's closer to us than our jugular veins. We need not exaggerate nor understate our cases before Him because He knows our predicaments EXACTLY. Thus, complaining to Him will give us the greatest solace.

It's hard to be patient when we were hard done-by. But resist the temptations to backbite "for Allah is with those who patiently persevere"

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Celebration of Mercy

Lately, my news feed has been inundated by responses to the infamous film, 'Innocence of Muslims'. Public figures, organizations and individuals have been working on overdrive posting statuses, videos, articles, commentaries, etc as a response to it.

Unsurprisingly, this whole episode has bewildered the onlookers. The non-Muslims are asking themselves why are we getting so worked up? Why is this thing blown way out of proportion? Why can't the Muslims just get over it?

Personally, I haven't watched the film and am not planning to. Ever.

But the reason I keep on sharing others' responses is because I found them to be inspiring. Ironic isn't it? A film that's supposed to defame the Prophet (pbuh) has actually opened the floodgates to responses celebrating and honouring him.

It's exactly like what Br. Nouman Ali Khan said;
"They can't hurt the Prophet. They can't take away his honour; It was given from the sky. It was given from Allah. Nothing on earth can take it away. No article, no cartoon, no film, no speaker, no hate speech, no form of "art" is going to take away the dignity of our Prophet (pbuh)."

Reading and viewing the positive responses have made me love him more. These are some of my favourites:

1) Hadith of the Day Status:

I know a man who lost his parents but refused to be called an orphan. He was man enough to love a strong woman years older than him, worked for her and made her stronger, opened his heart to her, shared his fears to no one but her. He was romantic and was faithful to her till her last breath. Cleaned after himself and sewed his own clothes. He was good looking, courageous and fearless. He never judged anyone on their pasts or looks, and was moderate, open minded and tolerant. His neighbor was Jewish and his cousin-in- law was a Christian priest. Beaten and exiled when he was helpless, he was merciful when he became stronger. Intelligent, wise and a hard worker, he built a long lasting nation out of nothing in the last 20 years of his life. He had no parents, but loved his daughters and grandchildren. His last will was "Be good to women". This man was a mercy for all mankind, this is my Prophet Muhammad Peace be Upon Him

2) Boona Mohammed's status: "They insult our Prophet with the things that they say but we insult our Prophet by not following his way"

3) Br. Phil's video:

4) Kamal Saleh's video:

If you took the time to view the videos, you'd get a glimpse (just a glimpse) of how great of a man the Prophet (pbuh) was. How beautiful his teachings are. He truly was sent as a mercy to the 'Alamin. To quote Br. Phil; "Why you don't all just LOVE him, to me, it's a mystery".

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Eid Mubarak everyone!

Now that Ramadan is over, it's a good time to reflect on what we have done and how to navigate the times ahead.

Ramadan typically provides the stage for our finest moments as Muslims. Sadly, this wasn't the case for me this year as I was too distracted by the Olympics.

I read an article recently about how the coverage of the Olympics was designed to be addictive. It can even make you engross with seemingly "boring" sports like archery and road race (cycling).

"[The crew] prepared hours before the event. They checked out the stadium for the best camera spots... to capture that iconic shot that would convey peak action, tears and cheers, power and intensity."

As a consequence, we viewers were riveted to the screens; watching shots of the beautiful venues, close-ups of the athletes' facial expressions, replays of crucial points and the commentators' sound knowledge of the games.

So yeah, I was sucked right into the hype, kind of like the blokes in the video below. Haha.

Only when the London Games finally ended did I realise how much time I'd wasted - time that could have been better spent in light of Ramadan. Like all other amusements, all that euphoria proved to be fleeting and I was left only with regrets.

So, on the second day of Eid, feeling spiritually starved (but physically full from all the rendangs), I perused Quran Weekly's page and came across this video:

I highly recommend it to everyone. The lecture focuses on verse 186 of Surah Al-Baqarah:

"[Prophet], if My servants ask you about Me, I am near. I respond to those who call Me, so let them respond to me, and believe in me, so that they may be guided."

The above translation in itself is beautiful but the lecture gives you a better understanding of the verse, by explaining its connotations that are lost on us, non-Arabic speakers.

Now when I read the verse, I am reminded that Allah knows my troubles specifically and will respond to my invocations. I just need to keep the faith.

Do watch and share the video!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Fighting well

Malaysians' hearts were collectively broken when Lin Dan made good his first match-point opportunity.

We had waited so long for the country's first ever gold medal and Lee Chong Wei had to (unfairly) carry that burden alone as there were no other genuine contenders that could possibly deliver.

When LCW won his semifinal match against Chen Long, the whole nation was whipped into frenzy. Malaysians were breathless with anticipation; could this be it? Will our wait finally be over?

Businesses started promising Malaysians tantalising treats - from free ice-cream to Nasi Kandar - if LCW won that elusive medal.

But alas, Lin Dan dashed our dreams and left us Baskin-Robbin-less

Despite the agonising loss, LCW is still a national hero for he fought valiantly. And his feat (finally) puts Malaysia in the medal tally. Dzof Azmi's piece in today's paper was spot-on in which he quoted Pierre de Coubertin: "The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well".

Following the Olympic news, I was drawn to one recurring theme: These Olympians had to overcome great odds to get to where they are today. As Mo Farah puts it; "[Success] doesn't just come overnight, you've got to train for it and believe in yourself".

Everybody loves a winner but before public victory and adulation are achieved, a great private battle has to be waged alone.

These Olympians had to struggle and slog for years before their hard work bore any fruit. They also had to pick themselves up after every setback and vanquish any (personal or public) doubts that may arise.

This lesson is applicable to everyone isn't it? Excellence is by design, not accident and perseverance is key.

This maxim holds true for success in this world as well as the Hereafter.

It's a good time to ask ourselves; have we been doing enough?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ramadan 1433

In the days before Ramadan, I was in a state of physical exhaustion and spiritual lethargy. I was completely unproductive and was distracted by a lot of things.

Ramadan is said to be a period when we recharge our Iman, but I was already running on fumes a week before reaching the fuel station.

I hadn't made much preparation for this year's Ramadan. So when it arrived, it sort of caught me off guard; I haven't written down my resolutions, haven't figured out my daily routine, etc.

But Allah has mercy on us even when we do not have mercy on ourselves.

Even when we self-destruct and make things complicated for ourselves, He is there to give us yet another chance :')

On the first night of Ramadan, I found myself in Masjid Wilayah (due to unforeseen circumstances). Listening to the beautiful recitation of the Quran, I grew conscious of how, despite my transgressions, Allah showers innumerable blessings on me.

And one of the biggest blessings is that I get to make the most out of this blessed month again.

I always thought of Ramadan as the bonus mode in Digger. I don't think many are familiar with the game but my siblings and I were addicted to it when we were kids. This was before PlayStation, Nintendo and Xbox came along.

In the bonus mode, you get a free reign to achieve your purpose because the "monsters" run away from you rather than towards you for 15 seconds.

Similarly, Ramadan affords you a chance to better yourselves in 30 days with minimal interference.

So, will we grab that chance or let it pass us by?

Like a friend of mine wrote; the only thing that stands between you and “a better you” is: YOU!

Having said that, please go easy on yourself if/when you slip up. Don't mentally abuse yourself; acknowledge that human beings aren't perfect. Thus, nobody can be infallible throughout the entire month. So just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again :)
That's one of the things I learnt from the lecture below:

May Allah be pleased with our endeavours and may we be stronger and better Muslims by the end of the fasting month. Ameen...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What Teachers Make

In the previous post, a student of mine gave me a link to the video below. I loved it so much that I thought I'd share it here:

 The whole poem can be found at but my favourite bits are these:

You want to know what I make?
-I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
-I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor
and an A­‐ feel like a slap in the face.
-I make parents see their children for who they are
and what they can be.

You want to know what I make?
-I make kids wonder.
-I make them question.
-I make them criticize.
-I make them apologize and mean it.
-I make them write.
-I make them read, read, read.

Here, let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
Teachers make a goddamn DIFFERENCE! Now what about you?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

I’m making copies for good

One of the TV programmes that I follow is Fairly Legal. In the second episode of Season 2, Ben Grogan, the new partner of Reed & Reed, starts planting his roots in his new office. He doesn't have a PA yet so he orders Leo around, much to Leo's chagrin. After many subtle hints which go unheeded, Leo finally tells it to him straight:

"The thing is, Mr Grogan, Ben. The essential thing that I’ve been trying to communicate to you is that I don’t work for you. I work for Kate Reed. And that might seem like a subtle distinction to you but to me, it is huge. Because Kate does meaningful, positive things in this world and I know, in my own way, that when I’m making copies for Kate Reed, I’m making copies for good. I’m xeroxing for a better America. And that’s why I work for her and not you. And if you have a problem with that, then you can fire me. Oh! Wait! You can’t! Because I work for Kate Reed!"

I like the part when he says: "...when I’m making copies for Kate Reed, I’m making copies for good. I’m xeroxing for a better America."

Though we all work so that we get paid at the end of the month; so that we can use that money to pay our bills and do whatever we want with what's left of it, we do hope that our work enables us to contribute positively to our communities. We want our work to carry some MEANING.

If Leo feels like he's xeroxing for a better America when he makes copies for his boss, likewise, as teachers, I feel we're contributing to a better Malaysia when:
we make copies of handouts for our students
we sacrifice our weekends to send them to competitions
we stay back after school for extra-curricular activities
we give free tuition
we listen to their family troubles/relationship problems and give advice accordingly
we drive them around and absorb the cost of petrol & tolls

Thus, our job satisfaction is derived from this notion that we're serving a higher purpose.
That's why I teach for Malaysia :)

What about you?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

All men have tongues

These past 2 weeks, have been very challenging. That's actually an understatement because I was under enormous pressure trying to cope with so many things.

I was on the verge of a breakdown. Thus, when I finally finished marking and keying-in the marks, a HUGE weight was lifted off my shoulders.

Suddenly, the air seemed fresher, the sky bluer and the world was a beautiful place once more ;)

I'm very much indebted to my colleagues especially Kak Saf and Kak Fidzah for their help and understanding. Even my principal was nice even though I fell way behind in my work. I hope that I won't have to take advantage of their generosity again.

No one is infallible. People mess up all the time. And when they do, they tend to avoid the people they've wronged so that they won't be called into account. It's incredibly hard to own up to your mistakes. For example, when I had not finished marking, I wished I had an invisibility cloak so that I could avoid my students and the SU Peperiksaan.

But sooner or later, you've got to bite the bullet. I love this quote by Sheikh Yahya Adel Ibrahim: "You know you are #OnTheSunnah when you accept responsibility for a mistake and do your best to correct it."

So, own up and start making amends. It's not going to be easy but "when the going gets tough, the tough turn to Allah for assistance".

So, don't despair of Allah's Mercy :)

Talking about fallibility, I have a theory that one of the reasons people like to talk/gossip about others is to make themselves feel better.

For example, when you hear the latest gossip about a colleague known for his/her inefficiency, you cannot help but feel good about yourself. Subconsciously, you're thinking; "Thank God, I'm not as bad as that!"

But before you get on your high horse and proceed to pass and circulate the latest piece of gossip, remember this advice by Imam Ash-Shaafi'ee; "Let not your tongue mention the shame of another. For you yourself are covered in shame and all men have tongues."

(I remind myself before I remind others)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Same old story

I remember this particular Calvin & Hobbes cartoon strip. Calvin was putting off working on his writing assignment. He complained; "You can't turn creativity on like a faucet - You need to be in a specific state of mind/mood".

"And what mood is that?" Hobbes asked.

--->"Last-minute panic", Calvin replied, deadpanned.

I've only started marking recently and with the school about to reopen soon, I'm having acute panic attacks.

Tu la... menyesal dulu pendapatan...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Teachers' Day 2012

On the eve of Teachers' Day, I rented out the DVD Dangerous Minds but I only got to watch it just now.

I've watched it before but it was years back. Now that I'm a teacher, the movie struck a deeper chord in me.

When Louanne decides to quit, she had this conversation with her colleague:

Louanne: I feel so bad about leaving I can hardly breathe.

Hal Griffith: I know, but-Oh, what the hell. You're right. You gotta be crazy to stay here and teach these programme classes. There is no money. It's killer work.

Louanne: Why do you stay?

Hal Griffith: Why do I smoke? I'm crazy.

Teaching is hard and those who do it are superheroes. Yes, I'm masuk-bakul-angkat-sendiri (blowing own trumpet) but it's Teachers' Day so I can get away with it :p

Effective teachers have superpowers because as Donald D. Quin so eloquently explains:

‎"If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn't want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher's job"

So why do people choose to be a teacher and STAY in the profession?

One of my best friends, Ainur, sent me an SMS which reads: [Teaching is] experiencing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows".

How true.

For me one of the highs of being a teacher is seeing my kids' bright smiles every day. Of course, not everybody smiles; some sulk, some look the other way, some are indifferent... But those who do smile & wave & greet you with such joy, - they make you feel that you're not such a bad teacher/person after all.

Another high is getting the students rapt in attention in your lessons. This does not happen often (at least not in my case!) but when it does, it's pure magic. In such moments, you feel like you can impart anything and it will stay with them for a long time (instead of in one ear and out the other). And when you impart to them these life lessons and see some of them nodding their heads imperceptibly, you feel like one of the wisest sages to walk the earth. Haha.

Further, when your kids appreciate what you're doing, it means A LOT. There was this one time when a lesson went very well and when it ended, a student came up to me and said; "Thank you Teacher. I've really learnt a lot today".

Those few words really made my day :')

If you look at the literature, there are many qualities that a great teacher should possess (e.g. creativity, flexibility, sense of humour, passion, etc) but I think, as in life, the two most important characteristics are PATIENCE and PERSEVERANCE.

So, hang in there if you're going through a particularly tough time right now... Remember, after hardship, comes ease :)

Oh, I forgot to mention another definite high of being a teacher: You get presents on Teachers' Day! Yippee!

P.S. If my kids are reading this, I want you to know how much I love you guys!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I meant to write this sooner but hadn't had the time to do so...

Weeks ago, as grammar practice, I had my class write 3 sentences using the past tense to describe a famous personality. Even though I told them that their famous personality can be anyone; a politician/an athlete/an author/a historical figure/etc, most of them chose to describe their favourite celebrities.

Thus, when they were writing their sentences/clues on the board, I felt like I was the host of E! News because I was reading tidbits of one celebrity after another. I came to know when the celebrities were born, what expensive things they got for their birthdays, how they got their big break, whom they used to date, etc.

I was pretty down by the end of the lesson. The exercise really reveals what preoccupies the students' minds and it's sad to know that they're so engrossed with such trivial stuff. [And can you blame them? They're only consuming what gets aired on TV...]

A few weeks later, we had an activity which overturned my previously negative impression of Generation Z. After viewing the documentary 'The Cove', the students had to (in groups) present about an activist that they admire. They tested my patience somewhat when they kept asking for the presentation to be postponed ("We're not ready yet Teacher!"). I was bewildered; Why are they taking such a long time? Everything is readily available on Wikipedia after all...

On the day of presentation, I finally knew why. Several groups did an exceptional job and I was completely wowed.

Instead of just "dumping" all the information that they had gathered on mahjung papers, they arranged it to produce a well-scripted performance that's engaging, spirited & humorous. Phrases/pictures/drawings that are significant to their stories were pasted on the board bit by bit so that the board was gradually filled up.

The pieces of papers were done so beautifully (I could imagine the painstaking work that went into producing them) and together, they formed a stunning collage. Their polished performances also indicated that they had spent a lot of time perfecting their routines. I was just wowed by their effort+creativity+enthusiasm.

The cherry on top was when Joy delivered this inspiring speech about the youth not being the leaders of tomorrow; but are the leaders of TODAY and her call to action for all youths to stand up and be counted. She delivered her speech with such conviction and confidence that her classmates voted her the "Best Presenter".

My heart just swelled with pride after that lesson :')

Conclusion: It is possible to get the kids to talk about Aung San Suu Kyi, Rachel Corrie & Mohamed Bouazizi in place of Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber & Barney Stinson.
Kids are by nature inquisitive and full of energy. It is up to us teachers to harness/redirect these qualities towards more beneficial endeavours.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Productive Muslim Seminar Malaysia

I think I started subscribing to the Productive Muslim newsletter during Ramadan last year. Being productive when you're tired, hungry and thirsty might seem impossible to many. Thus the PM team shared tips on how to make the most out of the blessed month of Ramadan through their newsletters and videos. I benefited greatly from the input and thus had no hesitation signing up for the seminar when I got to know about it.

The seminar was held on 25 & 26 Feb 2012 at the main hall of the ICT faculty of IIUM. Around 500 people attended the seminar with some coming all the way from Indonesia, Singapore and even India! The main speaker was Mohammed Faris a.k.a Abu Productive, the founder & CEO of Productive Muslim.

Throughout the 2-day course, I had 2 major questions that I wanted answered. The first question was: How can you be productive in all facets of your life? I mean I think I'm quite productive at work, working long hours & sometimes even bringing home work. But because I over-exert myself at the workplace, I become so unproductive once I reach home. I only want to unwind, relax and sleep. Thus, I'm not doing my fair share of the housework. So, how do one become productive round the clock? Is it even possible?

My second question was: How do you strike a balance between not 'biting off more than you can chew' and not doing too little that you're not contributing much to the society? (Because sometimes we start off with all these good intentions & we sign up for a lot of things. But later we discover that we cannot be consistent & end up disappointing people when we can't commit.)

My first question was answered when the speaker talked about the 'minimum performance level' concept. What's a minimum performance level you say? Well, imagine a simple bar chart that has 5-7 bars indicating the roles that you play (e.g. a Muslim, daughter, wife, mother, sister, employee, neighbour, etc). Now, the length of these bars indicates your performance level. Ideally, all bars should be above the minimum level but most often than not, we have some bars lingering below the critical threshold.

So what should we do to address the imbalance? The answer is simple enough: We scale back on the things we are over-performing in to give due attention to the areas we've been neglecting. But the answer's easier said than done because we live in a society where achievements at the workplace is the ultimate barometer of success. We look up to millionaires and people with important positions, not those who lead balanced lives and have great relationships with their families & friends. So we may not be willing to cut down on work because of the recognition that comes with it plus the validation that we derive from it.

However, as Muslims, we have to remember that our parents, children, siblings, friends and neighbours have rights over us & that we are accountable for our actions (or the lack thereof).

This particular input was a wake-up call for me. Much as I love my parents, I do take them for granted at times. Parents are the people most forbearing of your faults & shortcomings. Therefore, you tend to "slip" in your filial duties, knowing that they'll love you regardless.

It's high time that we stop taking the people in our lives for granted and be more conscientious in discharging our responsibilities. Let's keep all our "bars" at or above the minimum level!

I didn't get to ask my second question but there was a whole session on being socially engaged. Maybe I'll write about it in my next entry (or you can subscribe to the newsletter and follow the ongoing series on social productivity). The second option is highly-recommended ;)

If all the input from the 2-day seminar can be condensed in one phrase, it would be: Have sincere intentions & work hard. For more "gems" or bite-sized wisdom, do read the tweets from the event #ProMMalaysia.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Celebrate Mercy 4

I signed up for Celebrate Mercy after viewing the above poster. With such an illustrious speaker lineup, I can't help but register for it even though I knew little about webcasts and how the whole thing will work.

So on Feb 18, I turned on my computer to view my scheduled webcast. A private link was sent to me via email with which I can access the broadcast. It was supposed to run for 2 hours but mine ran for a little over 3 (not that anyone was complaining).

In that 3 hours, we viewed pre-recorded videos from the various speakers and performers mentioned in the poster. Each speaker spoke for 4 to 8 minutes, but though their lectures were short, the stories they told were very profound. I'd like to share my favourite lessons here but I don't want to spoil the surprise for you :)

Suffice to say my favourite speakers were: Dr. Amr Khaled, Safaa Zarzour, Abdel-Rahman Murphy & Habib Ali Al-Jifri. Actually, all the speaker were amazing but these four told stories about the Prophet SAW that particularly touched me.

The theme of Celebrate Mercy 4 is Love & the Beloved; Muhammad SAW: Lessons from His Married Life. So, we got to hear beautiful stories about his relationship with his wives. Each of the vignettes told reinforces what an amazing man he was. He truly was the Quran personified and a mercy sent to the 'Alamin.

To encourage interaction and to allow people with slower internet connection to catch up, the talks were interspersed with polls, chats and brief ads by the sponsors. The mood was also lighten by performances by Dawud Wharsnby Ali, Junaid Jamshed, Raef [of It's Jumuah fame (a song that gives a fresh twist to Rebecca Black's Friday)] & Mona Haydar.

So, do register for the webcast if you haven't already. There are 5 more showtimes to sign up for and it only costs USD5 (equivalent to MYR15.50). An advice: a fast internet connection is essential in order to keep up with proceedings and to enjoy the experience.

Besides the wonderful talks, it was great being a part of the online gathering of people from all over the world. It's amazing to comprehend that all of us (from vastly different backgrounds and geographical locations) came together for the sole purpose of celebrating our beloved Prophet SAW :)

How I wished I had attended Celebrate Mercy 1, 2 & 3...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Weird Day

The topmost floor of Block D has been without electricity since last Friday. And when you have 40 students in a class in a 30 degree Celsius weather..., well that's just recipe for disaster.

Today, even when it's quite early in the morning (7.30am), 3H asked to go to the library (where there's air-conditioning). But I managed to placate them by promising to bring them to the library later this week.

But it was already 10.10am when I entered 3I and the air had warmed up considerably. All the students were busy fanning themselves with whatever material they happened to have at hand and they all looked agitated.

As anticipated, they assailed me with requests to go to the library as soon as I walked into the class.

"Let me think about it", I replied while thinking of a brand new lesson plan to be carried out at the library.

Some of the naughtier boys started chanting "Library, Library, Library" in the hopes of influencing my decision.

I ignored it at first but the chanting grew louder. Now the other boys have joined in the "Library, Library, Library" chant.

Then something weird happened. Two boys started dancing to the beat of the chorus. It looked like a cross between zapin and an ancient tribal dance. Is the heat making my students unstable?

Noticing my perplexed and amused face, now the girls joined in the chants "LIBRARY, LIBRARY, LIBRARY".

My resolve was finally broken when a student said something hilarious while fanning his underarms for effect.

I burst out laughing and said the magic words, "Okay 3I, I'll see you guys at the library". This was met by loud cheers. It was as if I had said tomorrow was a public holiday...

I hope the fans will be working tomorrow as I don't think I can face the tribal chants and dance again...

Saturday, February 04, 2012

For The Love of Poetry

Poetry is hard to get. Some people are really into it but I think most people just don't get it.

I've always loved literature. But even when I was a student, I only gravitated toward the short stories and novels. I felt that poetry is a bit "phony".

I only started to think differently when I attended the International Conference on English Language Teaching (ICELT) last year. The conference's theme was 'Teaching English as a Performing Art'.

Paul Cookson, a poet, was one of the speakers there. He related how one day his daughter asked him to read a poem she had written. He flatly refused.

"Now you may think I'm a heartless father" he said. But he went on to explain that poetry is not meant to be read (silently). It has to be recited out loud. So he asked his daughter to recite her poem and he gave her feedback afterwards.

That was a light-bulb moment for me. So that's how you appreciate poetry!; you have to read it out loud and infuse it with appropriate emotions and some theatrics.

Besides Cookson, Adisa was another poet at the conference. And after attending his session and workshop, I was beginning to like poetry. *gasp*

This new development means that I no longer dread teaching poetry. Below is a lesson that I did recently. It combines the teaching of poetry with a listening activity.

[An aside: We English teachers are trained to teach the 4 skills: Reading, Writing, Listening & Speaking. All 4 skills are supposedly equal (in importance) but for the longest time our education system only tests or focuses on the R & W skills. Speaking skills are only starting to get more attention with the introduction of PLBS & ULBS (school-based oral assessment). But listening skills continue to be neglected.]

I was introduced to Boona Mohammed at the Twins of Faith Conference. I bought his album and thought that 'For The Love' is the perfect poem to share with my students.

The poem's opening stanza really captures their attention:
You should only say "I love you" when it is completely obvious,
And does not actually need to be said.
So I pray to God that I love her,
Until my very last breath.
Once they're hooked, you can teach them about rhyming words, simile, metaphor, personification, etc. Another possibility is to do a vocabulary exercise with the weaker students.

All these, however, are supplementary activities because my main objective is to get them to appreciate poetry; to realise that poetry can be engaging; that it is meant to be performed, not read.

So hopefully, after this, my students will be more excited when learning the poems in their literature component and will give a more lively recitation when asked to read the poems aloud.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


I'm one of those people who worry too much. I worry about work, about my finances, the future, etc.

At the beginning of the year, when I got to know that I have to be in-charge of hockey, I worried myself sick.

In my school, the boys who enter hockey are the most problematic hard-to-manage kids.

I shouldn't say kids though because the majority of the boys are big and burly (they look more like rugby than hockey players). Any female teacher would be dwarfed in their presence.

Anyway, I was imagining all sorts of horrible situations. The boys would do as they please; skipping classes in order to "train", disregarding my commands, creating a ruckus at the district-level tournament, etc.

I pitied myself and asked why? why me?

To further compound my misery, the district-level tournament (MSSD) was held in the 3rd week of January.

Somehow or other, I had to build a team and get them ready for MSSD in a week's time.

And what a week it was!

Despite being incredibly tired running around attending the training sessions, getting all the darn forms ready, procuring the jerseys, 1st aid kit, drinking water, etc, I was pleasantly surprised by the boys' cooperation.

They were not so hard to manage after all. In fact, I was impressed by their commitment. They came on time for practice, did everything their captain told them to and lo and behold, they actually LISTENED to my instructions!

Admittedly, the notorious boys from last year had left school and I was spared from much grief.

But still, the ones in the team are what you would call "challenging" if they were in your classrooms.

Somehow, they are different on the field. They exhibit traits like dedication, commitment, respect for authority, etc that you didn't know they had it in them.

What I'm getting at is this: We should learn to be more positive and worry less. I bet most of the things we worry about don't even come to pass.

But even if they do, "worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles; it empties today of its strength".

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Love in a Headscarf

"At the age of thirteen, I knew that I was destined to marry John Travolta. One day he would arrive on my North London doorstep, fall madly in love with me and ask me to marry him. Then he would convert to Islam and become a devoted Muslim."

When I read the hilarious excerpt above, I knew that I had to buy the book. After a long search, I finally bought it at Kinokuniya KLCC on New Year's Day. It was my first purchase for 2012!

Though the book's main narration is about the author's journey to finding Mr. Right, there are also vignettes on what it means and how it feels to be a modern Muslim woman.

For example, Muslims are told to look beyond physical attributes and 'chemistry' when assessing potential life partners. We are told to give more emphasis on that person's religious commitment.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said in a famous hadeeth: Women may be married for four things: their wealth, their lineage, their beauty and their faith (religious commitment). Choose the one who is religiously-committed, may your hands be rubbed with dust (i.e. may you prosper).

But of course, knowing something doesn't necessarily mean we practise it. Thus we find people nowadays over-emphasising beauty and wealth while neglecting the most important component of all.

The author also shares her experiences after the September 11 and July 7 tragedies. Her headscarf singled her out from the crowd and inadvertently labeled her a terrorist. She recounted how that date marked "the very first time that [she] felt subhuman in Britain, and the first day [she] felt scared to live in [her] own country".

The headscarf plays a major role in the book. Not only is it featured in the title, it has a whole chapter dedicated to it. The author answers frequently-asked questions about her headscarf (the most popular being: "What's it like under there?") with a healthy dose of humour. Her eloquent answers also reject claims that the headscarf is oppressing Muslim women.

I also love stories about Khadijah, Safura, Aasiya, Maryam and Hagar inserted in intervals throughout the book. We should draw inspiration from their remarkable life-stories on how to be strong, brave and independent.

The book ends with the author finally finding 'the one'. After many misadventures and disappointments, the right guy finally shows up. And he was worth the wait, she professes. She counsels those still looking to be patient and to find Allah first, to love Allah and to trust Him.

"Perhaps he wasn't ready for us yet and still needed life to polish him up. Or maybe it was us that life needed to polish before we were ready for the one".