Saturday, 26 December 2009

Happy belated new year 1431H

Assalamualaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh,

UK was a great trip and the graduation went well alhamdulillah. After I was back in Malaysia, there were just too much things to catch up with because the week after my arrival back in Malaysia is the beginning of the new semester. I was given three new subjects and I have taken some times in Cambridge to look for some materials. Yet, when I came back, it wasn't preparing for the lectures that I was assigned to do but other administrative stuff like quality assurance, accreditation, auditing, bla, bla, bla. It actually wasted like a week of my time while combating with the awful jet lag (I literally sat on my office chair and started to snor away in that upright sitting position without any support!).

Anyway, this is the end of the second week of the new semester, so things have begun to get a bit more stable. And it was Christmas holiday yesterday, so took a bit of time off and remembered that I still have a blog to update, after leaving it behind my mind for a long time.

A brief reflection of my visit to the UK. GREAT! No other words can describe it. Though I didn't get to meet everyone I want to but I have met more people than I would have ever imagined in a very short visit. Alhamdulillah. Really appreciate those friends who kindly let me stay at theirs, use their space, eat their food, take their time, etc. May ALLAH reward them abundantly and may they make all these halal for me.

Taking on new subjects is a big challenge for a new lecturer like me. More so, if it is a master subject because I have to prepare for 42 hour of intellectual and academical lectures for the level of a master degree. I have to prepare and deliver more than what I know and read. This can only mean that I won't be able to sleep the night that I am preparing the lecture because I feel like doing an assignment that dues every week! And there are four assignments (four subjects this semester - two undergraduate's and two postgraduate's) with four different datelines every week! Do you still want to be a lecturer?

Anyway, as time passes, we are now already in the new year of 1431H. So, happy belated new year! Today is 9th Muharram and tomorrow is 10th Muharram or the Ashura Day. Don't forget to fast today (if not, take the 11th) and tomorrow because the Prophet Muhammad (saw) had asked us to do so though it is not compulsory. Why 9th or 11th? Well, the explanation should start with why 10th?

10th of Muharram in the Abrahamic faith has a significant history. It is on this day that ALLAH saved Prophet Musa or Moses (as) and his people (most of them are what we known today as the Jews or actually they are the children of Prophet Ya'akub or Jacob (as) or the Israelites). So, when the muslims immigrated to Madinah from Makkah, they saw that many Jews fasted on this day to remember the day that their ancestors were saved. This marks the day they called Yom Kippur - which literally means the day of attonment. The Jews fast for 25 hours on this day. When this news came to the Prophet Muhammad (saw), he said that the muslims are more deserving to fast on this day because Musa is more deserving to the muslims than the Jews.

And it was actually made compulsory to fast on this day before the commandment of obligatory fast for the muslims in the month of Ramadhan in the year 624. So the fast on this day is highly recommended although not compulsory. Later, the Jews started to mock the muslims for following them to fast on the day of Ashura, the Prophet Muhammad (saw) made the determination by saying "inshaALLAH" that he will fast another day together with the day of Ashura in the coming year to differentiate the fast of the muslims from the Jews. But ALLAH took his life away before he met the next Muharram. So, fasting on 9th or 11th of Muharram is recommended as well because it is like a will of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) to his ummah.

If this doesn't get you to want to do some voluntary fast, what about this hadith:
Muslim reported from Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him), that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said , "The best of fasts after the month of Ramadan are in the Month of Allah, which you call Muharram. And the best of prayer after the obligatory prayer is the night prayer." [Muslim, 1163]
So, it is good to fast anyway in this month. Pick any days that you are convenient to do so. Only that Ashura Day has more signficance than the other days in this month:

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Fasting the day of `Ashura' (is of great merits), I hope that Allah will accept it as an expiation for (the sins committed in) the previous year”(Muslim)

It is mentioned in Bukhari and Muslim from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him and his father) that he was asked about fasting the Day of `Ashura [10th of Muharram]. He said, "I did not see the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) fast a day while more avid to seek its virtue than this day, (meaning the Day of `Ashura)." [Bukhari (2006), and Muslim (1132)]

It has been reported from Abd Allah ibn `Amr ibn al-`As (Allah be pleased with him), that "Whoever fasts `Ashura it is as if he has fasted the entire year. And whoever gives charity this day it is like the charity of an entire year."

So, happy new year and may your fast be accepted by ALLAH, that your fast is counted as like fasting for an entire year and all you sins of the previous year will be expiated. Amin.



Monday, 2 November 2009

No Way Through

Assalamualaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh,

This is quite a powerful short video:

Ctrl.Alt.Shift Film Competition Winner: No Way Through.


Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Kursus Kepimpinan Pensyarah Muda 1/09

Assalamualaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh,

I have attended a great course over the past week or less. It is a course designed for young lecturers from government universities across the country. So far, there are 20 such universities in Malaysia and each of them have to nominate 5 lecturers below 35 years old to attend the course. I was hesitated to attend because previously the course was held at BTN, which is like in the remote area of nowhere and the training was like semi-military, living in a big dome with poor facilities and so on.

However, this time, for the first time, the course was organised at INTAN, a venue that usually is used for executive government servants like the school principals, professors, senior officers, etc. We were lucky to be placed here where we each were given a room with another room-mate. The room is en-suite and air-conditioned. Really, we have no complain on the accommodation and food here. The facilitators were very friendly, supportive and helpful. Not like the BTN's facilitators that are trained to pressure the participants.

There were a few sessions of talks by various senior government officers from the departments of anti-corruption, national security, diplomat, protocols, islamic affairs and leadership training. We also had a few physical training in groups and daily exercises. The most exciting part is the adventure in the jungle where we did some hiking, crossed some rivers and walked into two caves with the water level went up to 6 feet deep and filled with lime stones. There is also no examination for this course. I really enjoyed it and would like to recommend it to other young lecturers who have not attended this course before.

The most valuable experience in this course is the friendships built throughout the course with all the young lecturers across the country. This is a great opportunity to get to know each other, exchange opinions and update each other about stuff happening around the country. Even a facebook group is set up for all the participants in this course.



Monday, 19 October 2009

Faculty's Family Day

Assalamualaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh,

For the past two days, I stayed at a resort about an hour away from my house for our faculty's family day. I didn't expect that much from this event because I thought that it really is a waste of time, energy and money. All I can see from an event like this is just to strengthen the bonds between the members of the faculty. We work at the same place everyday and probably see each other like nearly everyday. Although there are more than 150 of us in a faculty, both academic and administrative staffs, it's not like I don't know them. Of course, not that close, that's why I thought that the ultimate goal for a family day like this is to make the relationships between us closer.

Anyway, it was a packed event. We started on Saturday morning with telematch. Before that, I have arranged a few other female staffs to go there in my car to save money and environment! It was a pleasant journey. After the fun of telematch, we went for bowling. This was my second time and my first time was like 8 years ago. I have never been a good bowler and I obviously sent the ball into the gutter a few times and hit a strike randomly, I think that has nothing to do with my skill.

We checked in a big villa together with another 10 bacheloresses (or more precise, single ladies). It was fun staying with just girls because in other 14 villas, each room was occupied by a family, so it's like 5 families in a villa, not that fun. Anyway, in the afternoon, it's the Quality Day of the faculty - a formal function to celebrate the success of the faculty in various fields of academia and non-academic matters. In the evening, it's the Eid Dinner (though it's the end of Shawal, people still are celebrating Eid in Malaysia - it's a month of celebration here, funny Malaysians. Also, Saturday was Deepavali Day or Diwali). I really enjoyed the night cause those in my table were a bunch of happy young tutors and lecturers. We had a big roasted whole sheep! This is the first time I saw a big roast sheep on the table.

The next morning, we played futsal while the guys played netball. My team won the match and now my body is aching and soar all over, after like a few good month not having any proper exercise. On the way back, we dropped by a fishing village to buy fresh crabs. When we arrived, the fisherman just brought in two baskets of freshly-off-the-boat sea crabs. Later, we dropped by Nando's for lunch before we headed back.

This Wednesday until next Monday, I'll be at Sungai Petani, Kedah for a boring and purposeless (or for useless purpose) training - BTN - basically to make you more patriotic to the country by going for a week of camping. It's really a stupid idea, a product of the governing party who think that people can be brain-washed and fixed in just a few days of camping, who think that people will not vote for them if they don't play racial issues, who think that by not voting them means that they don't love the country, who think that they are the only legitimate party to govern this country and plunge the money of the people of this land. Really, I think I just want to fail this camp (yes, they test you at the end) and they can tell my employer about my performance there, so they will never want to send me to this kind of camp anymore. See, by sending me means that I represent this institution. If I failed, and this camp has nothing to do with my job as a lecturer, they will not want the name of UTM shamed. Why not just fail it?



Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Cambridge, here I come!

Assalamualaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh,

I can't wait to tell everyone that I'm coming to the UK between 24th November 2009 and 5th December 2009. The apparent purpose is for my graduation on 28th, but the hidden agenda is to see all my lovely sisters in the UK. Miss them all and hope to see them soon. I don't know how to arrange my schedule, but here it is, a very tentative one:

24th - arriving at Heathrow, stay at Dina's
25th - visiting Imperial sisters!
25th evening - travel to Cambridge, stay at Fatima's
26th - Arafah Day - fasting in Cambridge, go to TJ's house in the evening for dhikr
27th - Eid Day! Pray at Kelsey Kerridge Sports Hall as usual, meet all the sisters in the community!
28th - Graduation Day
28th evening - travel to Birmingham
29th - 30th - in Birmingham, visiting
30th evening - to Oxford
1st - Back to Cambridge for a research group meeting
2nd - 3rd - chill in Cambridge
4th - 5th - London, want to see Rihla sisters!
5th - off I fly back to Malaysia.

Not sure if it will work. I just hope that I get to see as many sisters as possible. The graduation is not important, it's seeing the sisters, those who have always been there supporting me, directly or indirectly, throughout my study in Cambridge. The graduation is not for me, but for them. May ALLAH increase them in their rank, deeds, rewards and mercy.



Monday, 12 October 2009

I'm a Chinese Malaysian Muslim... get it? - Part II

Assalamualaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh,

I can't believe that I have to write this same topic for Part II because just as I went to register as a voter (yes, only now that I register!), the officer at the post office reproduce a confirmation sheet using the information from my Identification Card where she put race as Malay for me and asked me to sign the sheet. I explained to her that I am not a Malay. She said, is it not written in my Identification Card. We checked and there was no such information on it, only my religion - Islam - on it. Clearly, from my very long name, there is no way that she can't believe that I'm a Chinese, especially with my surname 'Phang' on it. Then she said, but your name is a Malay name. I was like - NEVER MIND. I signed it anyway, since the queue behind me was quite long. I was going to say, that is an Arabic name, even your name is an Arabic name, only it is written in English letters.

Is it that difficult to understand the difference between race and religion?

Probably I'm expecting too much.