Special celebrations Singaporeans relish and cherish

Special celebrations Singaporeans

relish and cherish

“According to a study of 232 countries by the Pew Research Centre based in Washington, Singapore is the most religiously diverse country in the world. If there was an Olympics for religious diversity, we would have won the gold medal,” says Mr Mohammad Alami Musa, Head of Studies in Inter-religious Relations in Plural Societies (S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies) as given in an opinion piece, “Inter-faith dialogue in Singapore must go deeper”, published in The Straits Times of 27 October 2017.

Yes, Singaporeans are people of various races, cultures and faiths and they live together harmoniously.

“In the last 50 years, there has not been a single religious conflict in Singapore. But this is not the situation in the world today. Pew Research Centre has shown that the number of religious-based conflicts faced by many countries has gone up,” continues Mr Mohammad of the Muis Council. Muis, abbreviation for Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, is the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore.

“As a Muslim, I know more about Islam if I know more about other religions,” Mr Mohammad adds. Indeed Singapore Muslims ought to know some facts, at least about the special days of people of other faiths. Similarly, people of other faiths ought to have some knowledge about Islam and other religions of Singaporeans.

In this short article, only the celebrations and commemorations of four main religions are given – Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Taoism. Such knowledge will make us understand the meaning and significance of these special celebratory days and make Singapore’s multi-racial, multi-cultural people come closer to each other to uphold peace and harmony among us.

Visiting friends during their festive celebrations is among the social activities that foster friendship and enhance harmony.

(1) Translated, the title of the writer’s article in the Malay national newspaper, Berita Harian (of 26 Sep 2009), goes “Eating together (with friends) enhances value of harmony”.
(2) The captions says: Family of the writer (wife, Khairon; and daughter, Munirah) with two guests (who are Munirah’s Chinese friends), Ms Karen Teo (left) and Ms Karen Dawn Yap, who came to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

The article begins with the celebrations of Muslims.


The major celebrations/commemorations of Muslims are:

Islamic New Year
The Islamic New Year falls on the first day of the first month, Muharram, of the Islamic calendar. For example, this year, 2017, the Muslim Year is 1439H (“H” stands for Hijrah or migration of Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina) coincided with 22 September 2017.

As the Islamic day begins after sundown of the previous day, the ushering in of the New Year 1439H was on the evening of 21 September after 7:02 pm (exact time of the sundown on 21 September 2017).

In the mosques, Muslims gathered about an hour before sundown to recite collective dua (supplications) for the end of the Muslim year 1438H. Then, after performing the congregational maghrib obligatory prayer (fourth prayer of the day), which began in Singapore at 7:02 pm on that day, the congregation read certain chapters of the Qur’an and recited the 1439H New Year dua.

The Islamic calendar starts from the Hijrah (migration of Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina). The migration took place because the Prophet was persecuted in Mecca for his preaching of Islam. The Hijrah coincides with the Gregorian date of 16 July 622.
The Hijrah is significant in the life of Muslims because it highlights the accomplishment of a goal by way of a change in strategy or lifestyle. It signifies growth, progress and success. Muslims take lessons from the significance of the Hijrah to better their lives by way of education, hard work and practising proper teachings of Islam as well as embracing compassion and friendship towards people of any race or creed.

Birthday of Prophet Muhammad 
Known as “Mawlid Nabi”, Prophet Muhammad’s birthday falls on 12th of the third month (Rabi’ul Awal) on the Islamic calendar. (This date is not fixed on the English (Gregorian) calendar as the Islamic year is shorter by 11 days and so advances by 11 days in each English year.) Muslims mark this day by attending lectures, remembering the life of the Prophet and learning about his exemplary character in the pursuit to emulate those examples.

Eid ul-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice)  
Also spelt as Aidiladha, the day (in Zulhijjah, the twelfth month, marks the culmination of the pilgrimage in Makkah (Mecca), Saudi Arabia, called the Haj. The pilgrimage is the Fifth Pillar of Islam and all Muslims aspire to perform it at least once in their lifetime, if they can afford it.
Aidiladha, also referred to as Hari Raya Haji, starts publicly with morning prayers in the mosques. After that, livestock such as sheep are sacrificed at designated places and the meat is donated to the poor and needy.

Ramadan fasting
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. Muslims fast the whole of Ramadan as fasting in this month is the third of the Five Pillars of Islam. Muslims abstain from food, drink (and smoking for those who smoke), and seek to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds like giving to charity. This reminds Muslims of the values of patience, sacrifice and humility. In the evening after the Ishak prayer (final prayer of the day), Muslims perform the special Ramadan night prayers, called terawih prayers, in the mosque or at home.

Eid ul-Fitri (Festival of Charity)
On this day (first Shawal, tenth month), also known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Muslims celebrate the end of the fasting month (Ramadan) with special morning prayers at the mosque. It is customary for Muslims to spend the day by visiting relatives and friends while seeking forgiveness from each other, greeting one another with such phrases as “Assalamu-alaikum (Peace be upon you). Selamat Hari Raya (Happy festive day). Ma’af zahir dan batin. (Forgive me if I have offended you knowingly or unknowingly)” Muslims also give charity to the needy and give monetary gifts to the elderly and children in packets, and enjoying festive goodies at home and in the homes they visit.

Road decorations in Geylang Serai for Hari Raya Aidilfitri.


The major celebrations/prayers of Christians are:

A season of love and giving, Christmas (on 25 December) commemorates the birth of Jesus and is widely celebrated with exchanging of gifts, decoration of Christmas trees, displaying of nativity scenes and mistletoes, and going for church services and festive parties.

Christmas decorations at Orchard Road.

Good Friday
On this day, Christians commemorate the passion and suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross, or crucifixion.


The major celebrations/commemorations of Chinese/Taoists are:

Chinese New Year
Also known as the Spring Festival, and popularly referred to as the Lunar New Year because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar; it uses both the moon phase and the solar year.
In preparing to celebrate Chinese New Year, it is traditional for every family to thoroughly clean the house to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for incoming good luck, happiness and longevity. Usually, Chinese families gather for the annual reunion dinner on the evening preceding Chinese New Year’s Day. Monetary gifts are given to the elderly and the young in red paper envelopes.

Road decorations in Chinatown to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Mid-Autumn Festival
Legend has it that Chang’e, wife of the archer Houyi, flew to the moon after swallowing his pill of immortality. The tale goes that since her ascension, she has been worshipped by the Chinese as a Moon Goddess. The Chinese celebrate by carrying lanterns and enjoying mooncakes while admiring the full moon.

Hungry Ghost Festival
The Taoists believe that the Gates of Hell open on the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar. To appease the wondering spirits, they burn hell money, offer food, hold “getai” (road concerts), opera shows and dinner auctions.

Qing Ming Festival
Also known as “All Souls Day”, the festival is observed by the Chinese by paying their respects to their ancestors by sweeping their tombstones, making food offerings and burning joss sticks.


The major celebrations/prayers of Hindus are:

Also known as “Festival of Lights”, Deepavali celebrates the triumph of good over evil, the way Lord Krishna destroyed the demon of Narakasura. Hindus celebrate by lighting up oil lamps at home.

Road decorations in Little India for Deepavali celebrations.

Honouring the Hindu deity Subramanian (Lord Murugan), Thaipusam is a day of prayer and thanksgiving for wishes granted and vows fulfilled.


The major celebration/commemoration of Buddhists is:

Vesak Day
On Vesak Day, Buddhists commemorate Buddha’s birth and enlightenment (Nirvana) by performing good deeds, fasting or going on a vegetarian diet.

There are many other celebrations/commemorations, including the Birthday of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, founder of Sikhism, and Naw-Ruz (New Day), the first day of the Persian New Year, celebrated by the followers of Baha’i Faith.

The Qur’an instructs Muslims to be friendly with people of all religions and cultures as what is honourable is righteousness: good behaviour, friendliness and compassion. Addressing everybody, irrespective of ethnicity or creed, God says in the Qur’an: “O mankind! We created you from a single pair of male and female, and made you into nations and tribes (races) so that you may know (and be friendly with) each other (not to despise each other). Verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is the one who is most righteous.” (49:13)

Righteousness is the cornerstone of Islam, and Muslims honour it by enhancing peace and harmony in the society.

(Information on the various celebrations/commemorations have largely been taken from the table calendar of the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC). IRCCs serve as important bridges between religions, ethnic and community groups at the local level. They also aim to deepen people’s understanding of the various faiths, beliefs and practices.)

Shaik Kadir
15 November 2017

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Knowledge is the Islamic light  that brightens the path to Heaven

Knowledge is the Islamic light 
that brightens the path to Heaven

In the 1980s, that is just about 35 years ago when the bulky landline table telephone was king, if someone were to tell you that in 25 years’ time your telephone would be so small as a wallet and you could carry it around in your pocket and that you could also use it anywhere, even in moving vehicles, to watch Youtube videos, take still and moving pictures, chit-chats, transfer money, and write notes, just to mention a few features, you would probably think that that person was crazy and his idea was crazy. But by 2005, what’s more today, that “crazy” idea had become reality – all because of knowledge.

Did Islam say anything about the importance of acquiring knowledge? Yes. One Hadith (Sayings of Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him) says: “The acquisition of knowledge is the obligation of every Muslim, male and female.”

Knowledge is the accumulation of learning, research and experiences.


Islam, as a complete way of life, gives advices and directions indicating the advantages and importance of knowledge in life. It instructs that both worldly knowledge, including skills, and religious knowledge need to be acquired, not either one only, because in Islam both worldly knowledge and religious knowledge complement each other. The pursuit of knowledge refers to basic and further learning as well as research in both worldly and religious matters.

Knowledge, whether discovered or imparted by Muslims or non-Muslims, is universal.
Allah is “He (who has) perfect knowledge of all things.” (2:29) Hence, one of the 99 beautiful names (Asma ul-Husna) of Allah is “All-Knowing.” Throughout the Quran, Allah is described as One Who knows everything. In Chapter 9 alone, the information that Allah knows everything is given in such terms as: “Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom.” (9:60) “Allah is He who hears and knows all things.” (9:98). “Allah is All-Knowing.” (9:110) and “Allah has knowledge of all things.” (9:115).  Since Allah is “All-Knowing,” He instructs people to “Read! In the name of thy Lord and Cherisher….”, urging us to seek all knowledge indiscriminately according to priority and interest.

Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) advised us: “Acquire knowledge, because he who acquires it in the way of Allah performs an act of piety; who speaks of it praises Allah; who seeks it adores Him; who imparts and dispenses instruction in it bestows alms; who teaches it to the deserving ones performs an act of devotion to Allah.” It is clear from this advice that Islam makes it a religious duty for every Muslim to acquire all knowledge, and teaches it to others to spread knowledge.


Some of the gems from Prophet Muhammad on the importance and acquisition of knowledge are:
• “The quest of knowledge is a compulsory duty on every Muslim.”
• “A piece of knowledge from wherever gained is like a lost property recovered.”
• “Receive knowledge from whatever the vessel in which it is presented. It will not do you any harm.”
• “Knowledge enables the possessor to distinguish right from wrong; it lights the way to Heaven; it is our friend in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when friendless; it guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is an ornament amongst friends and an armour against enemies.”
• “Knowledge gives life to a dead heart, it is a light for the eyes in darkness and gives strength to the body in weakness. By its help, man reaches the ranks of the pious. To think of it is like fasting and its study is like prayer. By its help, Allah is obeyed and worshipped and the Unity of God is understood and faith is strengthened. By its help, ties of blood are maintained and lawful and unlawful things are known.”
• “Knowledge is a treasure-house and its key is enquiry.”
• “Knowledge is the life of Islam and the pillar of belief.
• “The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of the martyr.”
• “With knowledge, the servant of Allah rises to the heights of goodness and to a noble position.”
• “To the student who goes forth in quest of knowledge, Allah will allot a high place in the mansions of bliss; every step he takes is blessed, and every lesson he receives has its rewards.”
• “The seeker of knowledge will be greeted in Heaven with a welcome from the angels.”
• “Him who favours learning and the learned, Allah will favour in the next world.”
• “He who so treads the path of knowledge, Allah will admit him in Heaven, and whoever dies in the pursuit of knowledge, Allah will take him as a martyr.”
• “He who leaves his home in search of knowledge, to him Allah shows the way to paradise.”
• “Whoever seeks knowledge and finds it will get two rewards: one of them the reward for desiring it, and the other for attaining it; therefore even if he does not attain it, for him is one reward.”


In the book, “Muhammad, the Educator of Mankind,” the author, Afzalur Rahman, says: “Man rises to a higher status through knowledge, demonstrating his superiority to other creations. He wears the crown of dignity and honour through learning, enquiry and study and will lose that status if he leaves it and follows the ways of ignorance. Learning leads to virtue and power, while ignorance, to vice and degradation. Thus the basis of preference according to the Qur’an is learning. It is through learning that man proves the value of himself and also finds proof of the existence of God. In fact, he finds the whole truth and reality of the universe, the value of thought and morality and the nature and value of the forces and mysteries of nature and how to harness them and use them for his own benefit. Thus endless secrets and mysteries of nature and their uses become known to man through learning and research.”

Islam attaches great importance to the acquisition of knowledge and considers it the basis for human development and the key to the growth of civilization and harmony among peoples of the world.  God says in the Qur’an: O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. (Qur’an, 49:13)

One must put lots of effort in pursuing education and acquiring knowledge for wisdom, harmony and progress. I myself have put efforts in writing numerous articles and several books for sharing of knowledge.

The following are my books, aimed at sharing knowledge on aspects of Islam with all, Muslims and non-Muslims, with my very first book, published in 1989, being “Read! – The Islamic inspiration on guidance, wisdom and progress”:

(1) “Read!”, published by Pertapis in 1986; and (2) “The Straight Way”, published by Darul Arqam Singapore in 1993 and reprinted annually till 2000.

(1) “The Haj: The annual pilgrimage of Islam” and (2) “Commanding an Islamic Personality” published by Pertapis in 1995 and 2000 respectively.

(1) “Inside Islam” and (2) “Pendekatan Islam”, published by Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) in 2004 and 2009 respectively.

(1) “Splendours of Islam”, published by Darul Arqam Singapore in 2000 and reprinted annually and updated in 2004, 2011 and 2016; and (2) “Allah”, published by Partridge Singapore in 2016.

“Islam Explained”, published by Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) in 2006 and its Second Version in 2017.

Let us make full use of Allah’s Guidance on the importance of acquiring knowledge and strive to acquire to do so, both religious and worldly knowledge. At the same time, let us also pray as taught by Allah Himself: “O my Lord! Advance me in knowledge.” (20:114)

Shaik Kadir
11 November 2017

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An eye-opening visit to the Ba’alwie Mosque

An eye-opening visit to the

Ba’alwie Mosque

The Ba’alwie Mosque, at Lewis Road near Bukit Timah Road, is an interesting mosque that provides an area for the exhibition of an impressive collection of ancient copies of the Qur’an and other holy scriptures.

Among those who learned much about Islam from the Imam of the mosque himself is Reverend Song Cheng Hock from the Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church. He was in the group of 21 people who visited the mosque on Saturday, 4 November (2017). In the group, 13 were non-Muslims.

Mr Yacob Hussain, Chairman of the Malay Activity Executive Committee (MAEC) of the Siglap Community Centre, said that the visit was organised by the Siglap Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC) whose Chairman is Dr Daniel Tan.

He added: “Specifically, this trip is to give an opportunity to understand Islam better to the non-Muslim members of the Siglap IRCC, and also to see the collection of  ancient copies of the Qur’an exhibited at the mosque’s museum.”

Mr Syed Hassan Bin Muhammad Al-Attas, the Imam (prayer leader) of the mosque, popularly-known as “Habib Hassan” (“Habib” is the title for a learned Islamic personality in Arabic), personally briefed the visitors on some aspects of Islam, especially the importance of friendship and trust, drawing samples of focus from his own past experiences.

Habib Hassan, prominent amongst inter-faith leaders of Singapore, also elaborated on “bad Muslims” who tarnished the good name of Islam by involving in violence, reiterating the fact that Islam does not condone violence and killings. Pointing out that the Qur’an strongly condemns the killings of the innocent, he quoted a verse that says that if anyone killed a person it is as if he had killed the whole of mankind. [This verse is: “Whoever kills an innocent person, it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one, it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.” (Qur’an, 5:32)]

A section of the visitors listening to Habib Hassan focussing on certain aspects of Islam.

Praising Habib Hassan, Reverend Song said: “He is indeed very knowledgeable on Islam and we have learned much from him. He is a kind and hospitable person and very friendly, possessing a good-humoured personality.”

Habib Hassan has even established a small museum in a section of the mosque to showcase some Islamic artefacts and a collection old copies of the Qur’an printed on materials of those times from different countries. There were also ancient copies of the Torah and the Bible.

The Imam himself took us into this museum area to explain about this valuable ancient scriptural collection.

Ms Suryani as well as the other visitors were amazed at the collection of the ancient copies of the Qur’an, the Torah and the Bible.

Ms Suryani Nasiruddin, who came with her son, Muhd Shukran, 9, to make him meet Habib Hassan and hear him talk about Islam, admitted: “I, too, have learned more about the importance of trust and respect for each other irrespective of race and religion.”

Amazed by the exhibits, she remarked: “I find it interesting to see so many ancient copies of the Qur’an here. I’ve never seen such a good collection. I’ve taken many photos of these Qur’an exhibits to show to my friends.”

Dr Daniel Tan (in white tee-shirt) and others in conversation with Habib Hassan.

When the azan (prayer call) for the Zohor (second prayers of the day) was called out, the Muslims in the group went to take their wudhu (ablution) and then headed into the prayer hall for the Zohor prayer.

The congregation, led by Habib Hassan, stood behind the Imam shoulder to shoulder in straight rows, all facing the Ka’aba in Mecca for unity in the Islamic ummah (world Muslim community) and consciousness and faith in the One God.

The prayer (called solat) took not more than a few minutes while the non-Muslim visitors stood just a few metres away to watch the prayer being performed. [Yes, “performed prayer”, not entirely “said prayer” as various body postures, like standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting, are instituted in the solat, and finally a doa (supplication.) is said as a conclusion to the solat.] The non-Muslim visitors, including Reverend Song, had never seen Muslims at prayer at such close range.

Mr Yacob Hussain (extreme right) and I (Shaik Kadir, writer of this article) with Habib Hassan. I am with Reverend Song in the other photo.

The group was treated to a hearty lunch, and everyone received a goodie-bag containing souvenirs, including a booklet and three pamphlets on aspects of Islam written by the Habib.

And, finally, it’s time to bid farewell to Habib Hassan with a big “Thank you” from all of us. We shall always remember this wonderful visit. “We are overwhelmed by the hospitality shown to us by the Imam of the Ba’alwie Mosque,” says Mr Yacob Hussain.

We thank Habib Hassan for the hospitality accorded to us, and we must admit that we learned much from the visit. We shall cherish it.

Shaik Kadir
4 November 2017

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SK’s general and Islam-related articles for sharing


general and Islam-related articles

for sharing

(Earliest 10, from Aug 2012)

Beauties of nature.

Dear readers

I started blogging in August 2012, introduced and guided by two of my close friends who are bloggers themselves, Mr Dick Yip and Mr James Seah. I thank them for initiating me into this sharing platform five years ago.

Since then, I have made more than 130 entries – general articles and Islam-related articles to share the knowledge with both Muslims and non-Muslims in the spirit of togetherness and friendship. What we need is a world where peace and happiness reign among peoples of all races, religions and cultures. As the Qur’an says: O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). (Qur’an, 49:13)

As new entries appear right on top in the blog, appearing in chronological order, so, just to revive the earlier articles, I am presenting the headings and their links of the first TEN articles, placing them in a table for easy reference and connection here:

The first ten articles from 24 Aug 2012 to 8 May 2013 are as follows:

(10) Do good to your parents, show your gratitude to them


(9) More work needed to promote interfaith ties


(8) Saving Planet Earth (Part 2): Be proactive in helping to keep the environment clean and unpolluted


Nature’s mangoes (from Singapore roadside mango trees)  and radiant sunset:  We need to live in harmony with nature for our enjoyment and fulfillment in life. Therefore we ought to see that no harm comes to Planet Earth because not only we human beings depend on it for our subsistence but also all other creatures that crawl, walk, swim and fly.

(7) Saving Planet Earth (Part 1): Be responsible in maintaining the eco-balance of our environment


(6) Quit smoking in the spirit of Islam


(5) Prostration in Islam


Gratitude to God:  The prostration is the humblest act in a Muslim prayer session. It is an act of adoration, gratitude and devotion to God. The Muslim, alone or in a congregation, does at least 34 prostrations in his obligatory prayers of each day.

(4) Student and Muslim volunteers to promote peace with roses


(3) Muslim pilgrimage and offerings go on despite limits


(2) Important to promote Christian-Muslim heritage and values


(1) Spirit in old kampung still relevant in modern living


Thank you.

Shaik Kadir
15 October 2017

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The Islamic headscarf connection: A modesty badge for the Muslim woman in hijab

The Islamic headscarf connection: A modesty badge for the Muslim woman in


Singaporeans of all racial and religious groups congratulate and salute Madam Halimah Yacob on her appointment recently as the President of Singapore. They are honoured to have her as Singapore’s first female president.

And indeed Singapore Muslims are proud that she wears the hijab (Islamic dress-code). The hijab is worn to conform to Islamic guidance for decency, modesty and Islamic values.

President Halimah Yacob was a unionist, politician and Speaker of Parliament. TV screenshot photo on the right shows Mdm Halimah taking her oath of office on 14 September and the other photo, from World Bulletin, 19 September 2017, is captioned: “Singapore’s first woman president — and the first to wear a headscarf — Halimah Yacob, hails from Singapore’s Malay minority, the first to come from that group in 47 years.”

As more and more Muslim women become educated all over the world, more and more of them use the hijab, it’s most prominent part being the headscarf or tudung in Malay.

Youngest doctor in the world: “Iqbal El-Assaad is a Palestinian Muslim woman who was set by the Guinness World Records as the youngest doctor in the World.” She started her medical education at Cornell University’s Qatar branch, when she was just 14 years old and graduated with an Honours Bachelor degree in Medicine in 2013 when she was 20.

AirAsia pilots in hijab (AirAsia Inflight Magazine Travel 3 Sixty, August 2017 issue), and popular Malaysian singer Siti Nurhaliza who started wearing the hijab upon her marriage in 2006. Siti was listed as among the world’s top 500 influential Muslims. (AsiaOne, 6 October 2015)

In Singapore it is common to see tertiary students, school teachers, civil servants, professionals and entrepreneurs wearing the tudung, worn in various and varied style.

Singaporean Shereen Williams, 35, was made an honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her community work in Wales where she resides now with her Welsh husband. (“S’porean honoured for community work in Wales”, The Straits Times, 10 July 2017) The photo on the right shows Miss Noorul Wasima, 23, a student at the National Institute of Education (NIE), being awarded the Best Trainee Teacher Award at the Most Inspiring Tamil Teacher’s Award ceremony on 2 September 2017.(“Tamil Teachers lauded at award ceremony”, The Straits Times, 3 September 2017.) The photo in the middle, bottom, shows Ms Noor Syafizah Mahadi, 20, a student of the Singapore Polytechnic. She is a lifesaver who donated her bone marrow to a patient living overseas through the local Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP). (The Straits Times, 16 September 2017) (Photos: Page-shots of The Straits Times)

Singapore Professor Jackie Y. Ying, 50, a Chinese convert to Islam, who is the executive director of the Institute of Bio-engineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), was awarded the Mustafa Prize in the Top Scientific Achievement category in Teheran, Iran, in 2015. The young lady in the bottom photo is her 15-year-old daughter, Chan Hsi-Min. (The Straits Times, 25 December 2015, and Berita Minggu, 10 January 2016.) (Photos: Page-shots of The Straits Times and Berita Minggu)

The Muslim woman is taught that the earlier in her life she starts wearing Islamically-approved attire (hijab), the better it is for her well-being both in the worldly and spiritual sense. So, often, she begins wearing hijab upon reaching puberty as advised by Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him. There are also references on hijab for both men and women in the Qur’an, especially in Chapter 24, Verses 30-31.

Still, the Qur’an (Word of God) does not specifically make it a command for Muslim women to cover the hair, unlike the command to perform solat (Islamic prayers performed five times a day) and the month-long fast in Ramadan which are obligatory. But, Muslims hold to the term “hijab” which means “conceal” or “hide from view”. The term refers to the way a Muslim woman dresses to hide the bosom and any part of the body that attracts male strangers, with the addition of using the headscarf to hide the hair and neck.  Thus, using the headscarf, according to some Muslim women, is a personal choice for a total hijab. One could just ask: “Being a Muslim, if I wear mini-skirts and plunging neck-line blouses, other Muslims can easily see that I am in the wrong in the Islamic sense; but if I wear the hijab and in addition the headscarf, would other Muslims see me as Islamically wrong because I wear the headscarf which is not a clear-cut command in the Qur’an?”

Most Muslim women, depending on their individual level of knowledge of Islam, religious awareness, social opportunities, or from the time they performed the Haj (pilgrimage in Mecca) or Umrah (minor pilgrimage), would begin to wear the headscarf at some point in time of their adult life.

International sportswomen in hijab…

Hijab-clad Muslim women who participate in international sporting events, even in the Olympics, are allowed to wear appropriate hijab sportswear. The first athlete to take part in the Olympics wearing a hijab was sprinter Ruqaya Al-Ghasara of Bahrain in 2004. Then, in 2008, in the Beijing Olympics, 12 of them wore Islamic garbs. Since then, Muslim sportswomen in hijab has become commonplace.

US fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad: “Sports is something you can do in a hijab.”

US fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, an African-American Muslim woman, (above) in an entry on the Women’s Media Center, said: “Sports is something you can do in a hijab. You shouldn’t let your faith compromise how athletically gifted you become.”

More international sportswomen in hijab…

Hijab for any specific sport is no longer a concern in today’s context. Enterprises have come up with suitable hijab for Muslim sportswomen in almost all sports.

Malay Muslim participants at the Mass Zumba Exercise 2017 for all Singaporeans on 24 September 2017 at the “Our Tampines Hub”: “Wearing the hijab is no deterrent to our daily routine or doing exercises, even such as in this vigorous Zumba,” says Mdm Khairon Mastan, a participant seen in the top photo on the right wearing blue blouse with a stripe.

Mdm Khairon Mastan and her friends.

More friends of Mdm Khairon Mastan.

Mdm Khairon Mastan with her daughter-in-law, Shuhaila Sidik (in grey tudung) and Shuhaila’s sister, Rashima, both school-teachers. The child with Mdm Khairon in the photo on the left is her 3-year-old granddaughter, Nur Iffah Muhammad Imran, while the child in the photo on the right is her 4-year-old grandson, Adam Rayan Dula.  The tudung-clad girl is Mdm Rashima’s 9-year-old daughter, Arinal M Zuhal.

There are numerous highly educated Caucasian converts who cover their heads. Among those who are seen with the hijab and involved in speaking for Muslim understanding are:

• Ms Lauren Booth, English broadcaster and journalist.  She is the sister-in-law of the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

• Ms Kristiane Backer, British, was one of the very first presenters on MTV (Europe) in the early 1990s. As she reached the height of her success, she realised that something very important was missing. In her famous book, “From MTV to Mecca”,  she relates the story of her conversion to Islam.

• Ms Yvonne Ridley, British journalist and war correspondent, (below) was captured in 2001 by the Taliban in Afghanistan. She converted to Islam soon after her release.

In 2008, Ms Yvonne Ridley (above) was voted the “most recognisable woman in the Islamic world” by Islam Online.

• Dr Myriam François-Cerrah, British, is a research associate at the Centre of Islamic Studies, University of London.

• Dr Ingrid Mattson, Canadian, is professor of Islamic studies at Hartford Seminary, USA.

• Dr Susan Carland, Australian. She teaches gender politics and sociology at Monash University, Melbourne.

Converts to Islam: Top photos, from left:  Ms Lauren Booth, Ms Kristiane Backer and Dr Myriam Francois Cerrah, and bottom photos, from left: Dr Ingrid Mattson and Dr Susan Carland.

You may see these Caucasian women speaking in conferences, TV forums and interviews on Islamic issues from postings on the Youtube. (Just type their names on Youtube search and you will be able to get to the videos.)

Converts to Islam from all over the world love wearing the hijab. One of them, a Japanese convert, Mdm Keiko Soeda, said: “More people are realising the reason behind the use of the hijab. When we value certain things, we love them. This is just the case with the hijab.  Many people are starting to realise this.”

She added: “We are not oppressed or forced to wear the hijab as some non-Muslims think.  We choose to wear the hijab on our own choice. Even western converts and highly educated Muslim women love to wear the hijab because of its Islamic value and to follow the ideals of Islam.”

Japanese converts: Photo on the left shows Mdm Keiko Soeda (Japanese convert) with Mdm Khairon Mastan (Singaporean Indian Muslim), and that on the right shows Mdm Keiko Soeda (extreme left) with her Japanese friends. Mdm Soeda says: “We took this photo with my Japanese friends right after our tea gathering at Arab Street near the Sultan Mosque.”

Singapore Chinese converts: Photo on the right shows, from left, Nur Sumaiya Tan with her baby, Janice Ee, Joyce Ee, Mrs Ridzuan Wu and Mdm Salmiah Sayadi, who teaches Islamic prayers to female converts, at the Muslim Converts’ Association Singapore (also known as Darul Arqam). The photo on the left shows the two Ee sisters and Mdm Iman Wong.

Muslims of European countries such as Albania, Bosnia and Chechnya.

More photos of Muslims of  European countries such as Albania, Bosnia and Chechnya.

Muslims in China. Photo on the right shows a view of Chinese Muslim women performing their Islamic prayers (positioning in straight rows, shoulder to shoulder) in a mosque with Chinese architecture.

Singaporean Muslims in Sydney: Main photo shows Ms Munirah Shaik Kadir (standing at extreme right), a final-year PhD candidate in Sydney, and her friends at the Muslim Women’s Welfare of Australia’s Annual Ramadan Dinner in June 2017. Attached Internet photo shows Australian Dr Susan Carland, who lives in Melbourne, giving a talk on her conversion to Islam at a different venue.

Muslim women heed Islam’s advice on modesty in different ways based on their respective cultural background. In Inner Mongolia, for example, almost all the Chinese Muslim women in a social gathering were wearing identical hat-like white headgear (when the writer of this article had an occasion to visit them).

Some women in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan cover the whole body, including the face, but this is a tradition of certain communities, not a universal instruction from the Qur’an. Islam does not instruct that all Muslim women in the world must wear white head-cover or wear black robes or cover their faces.

The full-face veils such as the niqab, which has just a slit for the eyes, and the burqa, which has a mesh screen over the eyes, are not specifically mentioned in the Qur’an. Muslim scholars say they are, in fact, cultural origin, dating back before the advent of Islam. Women, even men, in desert regions, such as in Africa, the middle-east and the Indian sub-continent, cover their faces from fine dust and dust-storms. But, the costume of any race or culture or fashion choice can be worn as long as it fulfils the requirement of the Islamic dress code of decency and modesty.

There are also Muslim women who do not wear the tudung but that does not mean that they are less Muslim. They may perform their daily solat (prayers) with head-covering and fast in Ramadan. Although they do not wear the tudung in public, they may be modestly dressed, wearing long-sleeved blouses and long pants as well as the baju kurung or Punjabi suit. They wear the tudung when they go for terawih prayers in Ramadan and when they attend Islamic functions or read the Qur’an to show respect.

Qur’an reading: It is respectful for Muslims to read the Qur’an wearing the tudung.

Westerners speaking about their journeys to Islam.

Muslim women who had been asked why they wear the hijab had given various reasons that include:
• “There is no compulsion in Islam to wear the tudung, yet, you see more and more women are wearing the hijab nowadays. This happens because of Islamic awareness or awakening. As more Muslim women become educated, they learn more about Islam from the Qur’an. They read about Islam and attend lectures on Islam. Therefore, they understand Islam better that those Muslims who had never attended Islamic courses.”

• “I dress the way I do for religious reasons. People will accept you for what you are, what you stand for and the contributions you make.”

• “Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, was always depicted in paintings in hijab – covering her head and her body. And Mary is mentioned in the Qur’an in high esteem as a woman “Above the women of all nations.” (Qur’an, 3:42)”

• “The hijab provides the Muslim woman the right to keep her body sacred and not made to be exploited and gawked at by men, even in advertisements. One such advertisement of a car shows a half-naked woman leaning against the car with the words ‘Test drive me’. Thus, Islam’s advice to women to observe modesty is actually to provide status and respect to them.”

• “In Islam, every woman is given the opportunity to attain the highest level of piety at all times. There is no restriction as to the colour, fashion or cultural origin of the dress. As a Muslim woman can be of any race – Indian, Arab, Malay, Thai, European, African, Chinese, American or Filipino – she can observe the Islamic dress code in any way she desires or in her cultural dress. In Singapore, Muslim women love to wear the baju kurung, a Malay traditional attire, with long blouse and sarung with the addition of the tudung.”

• “The dress code of Islam is actually a liberating force for women. Definitely, wearing Islamic dress, which includes the headdress, does not deter our thinking ability or our intellectual capability. The Muslim woman observes the Islamic dress code to obey God in observing modesty and to uplift and maintain her spiritual purity.”

• “A Muslim woman in hijab is simply obeying the commands of God to attain and enhance her spiritual purity by covering her whole body except the face and hands.”

• “A Muslim woman observes the Islamic dress code to earn the love of God, safeguard her modesty as well as promote decency in the society.”

• “Since I wore the tudung (headscarf), many good things happened to me. When I wear the tudung I am more respected. When my waiting male fans in Shanghai saw me wearing the tudung, they hesitated and asked me first whether they could embrace me. Of course, I said, ‘No’.” (Nur Shahila Amir Hamzah, popular singer, who started wearing the tudung after returning from Umrah, a minor pilgrimage in Mecca, as reported in Berita Harian.)

• “Man in the early times was almost naked, and as his intellect evolved he started wearing clothes. What I am today and what I’m wearing represents the highest level of thought and civilization that man has achieved, and is not regressive. It’s the removal of clothes again that is regressive back to ancient times.” (Tawakkul Karman, the first Arab woman and youngest Nobel Peace Laureate when asked about her hijab by journalists, as reported in Haute Hijab.)

• “The hijab does not prevent a Muslim woman from acquiring knowledge or from contributing to the betterment of human society.”

World Hijab Day (WHD) is an annual event founded by Nazma Khan in 2013. The event takes place in 140 countries worldwide with the purpose to encourage women of all religions and backgrounds to wear and experience the hijab. Organizers hope World Hijab Day will “create a more peaceful world where global citizens respect each other,” the Express reported. “WHD focuses on fighting bigotry, discrimination, and prejudice against Muslim women.”

My granddaughter, Nur Iffah Muhammad Imran, trying out the hijab.

A blog, The Islamic Garden, under “Requirements of the Muslim woman’s dress”, mentions that anyone can wear a headscarf – gypsies, fashion models and certain non-Muslim communities. But it takes much more than that to fulfil the conditions of the Islamic dress-code. The hijab is an entire way of dressing and behaving in accordance with Islamic teachings to obey the commands of God.”

Indeed it is, thus what is really important is for the Muslim woman (as this article’s focus is the woman’s hijab, though the Qur’an provides advices on both men and women), is her righteousness and modesty. The Islamic dress code for a woman is a total package that deals not only with clothing but also with her speech, manners, behaviour, demeanour and attitude. What is required for the person in hijab is not seclusion from society but  contribution to society, even in a small neighbourly or community way,  towards its peace, harmony and progress.

Shaik Kadir
1 October 2017

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Muslims’ New Year 1439 is here: Enhance peace and harmony with prayers and resolutions

Muslims’ New Year 1439 is here: Let’s enhance peace, harmony, compassion and righteous living  

Salam Maal Hijrah (Happy New Year) 1439H.

The Muslim New Year 1439 begins today – Friday, 22 September 2017. Let us hope and pray that our lives and righteousness will be better during 1439H than in 1438H.

The Islamic New Year 1439H is on 22 September this year (2017) and begins in the evening (at 7:02 pm) of 21 September 2017.

As the Islamic day begins after sundown of the previous day, the ushering in of the New Year will be this Thursday (21 September) evening after 7:02 pm (exact time of the sundown) with special prayers.

In the mosques, Muslims would gather about an hour before sundown to recite collective dua (supplications) for the end of the Muslim year 1438. Then, after performing the congregational maghrib obligatory prayer (fourth prayer of the day), which begins in Singapore at 7:02 pm on that day, the congregation will read certain chapters of the Qur’an and recite the 1439 New Year dua.

During the recitation of the dua (supplication), Muslims, dressed modestly, open their palms to receive God’s Blessings.

On Friday, the Friday prayer sermon will focus on the Hijrah (betterment of life) and throughout the day and in the month of Muharram (first month of the Hijrah year), religious lectures will be held in the mosques and other locations on the Hijrah theme and of new year’s resolutions, pursuit and endeavour of Singaporean Muslims and also pray for the well-being of the Islamic ummah (Muslims throughout the world).

The Muslim New Year has an “H” after the indication of the year. For example, for the year 1439H, the “H” stands for “Hijrah” which means migration or a journey undertaken to a friendly, desirable and congenial place. In the case of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), he undertook the Hijrah from Mecca, the place of his birth and receipt of prophethood, to Yathrib some 350 km away in the year 622 of the Common Era (CE).

The Prophet emigrated to Yathrib upon learning of a plot by the opponents of Islam to assassinate him. One night, he and his closest Companion, Abu Bakr, left Mecca where he was persecuted for 13 years for his preaching of Islam which the pagan Meccans felt went against the practices of the pagan belief of worshipping idols, killing of female babies (infanticide) and taking women as mere chattels and given no rights, among other negative issues.

When the Prophet reached his destination, a large group of people were waiting for him, many with tambourines, to welcome him, and the moment they sighted him, they started the welcoming song, Ala al-Badru Alayna. This Islamic song (nasheed) has become so famous that even Mr Yusuf Islam (British singer, formerly Cat Steven) has recorded the song and sings it.

Yathrib was soon renamed Medinatul Nabi (City of the Prophet) or simply “Medina” (The City).

The Islamic calendar starts from this date of the Hijrah (migration of Prophet Muhammad, PBUH), which coincides with the Gregorian date of 16 July 622. That means, today Friday, 1 Muharram (coinciding with 22 September 2017), the Hijrah took place 1438 years ago of the Hijrah calendar or 1395 years of the Gregorian calendar. (The Islamic year is shorter by 11 days from the English year and as no leap year is allowed, any Muslim festival, like Hari Raya Aidilfitri, goes through all the months of the Gregorian calendar over a period of 33 years.)

The Hijrah is significant in the life of Muslims because it highlights the accomplishment of a goal by way of a change in strategy or lifestyle. It signifies growth, progress and success.

Muslims ought to take lessons from the significance of the Hijrah to better their lives by way of education, hard work and practising proper teachings of Islam as well as embracing compassion towards people of any race or creed.

May the year 1439H bring Allah’s Blessings to all Muslims and all mankind to live peacefully and harmoniously, resisting evil and wrongdoing, and our lives and righteousness be better during 1439H than in 1438H.  Ameen.

[Detailed explanation of this event is given in my recent books, “Allah: Understanding God in Islam” (2016) and “Islam Explained – Essential reading for anyone who wants to know more about Islam” (2nd Edition, 2017)].

Shaik Kadir
20 September 2017 (Updated: 22 September 2017)

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Congratulations President Halimah!

Congratulations President Halimah!

She’s the  symbol of  our multiracial, multicultural, multi-religious nation and national endeavour

We Singaporeans congratulate and salute President Halimah Yacob, 63, for being Singapore’s first woman president. We are proud to have her as our president who is humble and possesses great capability and commitment in her responsibilities.

Mdm Halimah Yacob taking her presidential oath to serve Singapore as President for a six-year term.

Sworn in today as Singapore’s eighth president, she is the first woman and second Malay to be the head of state of Singapore. She makes history, and her story, as our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said during his speech at the Singapore Presidential Election 2017: Swearing-in 1-hour ceremony this evening (14 September, from 6 pm), is the story of Singapore – she grew up from a poor family to become Singapore’s Head of State. Likewise, Singapore had experienced hard times but developed from 1965 to become what it is today, a prosperous and harmonious multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation.

President Halimah Yacob delivering her maiden presidential speech at the Swearing-in 1-hour ceremony this evening from 6 pm (14 September 2017).

President Halimah’s journey to the presidency is interesting. Here’s her journey as given in The Straits Times (12 Sep):

• Aug 23 1954: Born in her family home in Queen Street, the youngest of five children.

• 1962: Her father dies. As a child, she helps her mother, who sells nasi padang from a pushcart plying Shenton Way before getting a hawker stall licence

• Late 1960s: Attends Singapore Chinese Girls’ School; one of the few Malay pupils there.

• 1970s: Goes to Tanjong Katong Girls’ School and the University of Singapore where she graduates with a law degree.

• 1978: Joins the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) as a legal officer. She spends more than 30 years there, eventually becoming deputy secretary-general.

• June 1980: Marries her university sweetheart Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, a businessman. They have five children.

• 2001: Enters politics at the urging of then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, and goes on to contest and win in four general elections. She was most recently a Member of Parliament for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.

• 2011: Becomes Minister of State at the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.

• 2013: Appointed Singapore’s first female Speaker of Parliament.

As reported in The Straits Times, President Halimah had, a couple of days ago, said: “My promise is to really serve everyone. I will serve with great vigour, with a lot of hard work, with the same passion and commitment that I have served … for last the four decades.”

She had also said: “I would like to encourage Singaporeans to work together with me so that we can work together for a united Singapore and a much stronger Singapore. This is a journey that we must take together.”

In her maiden speech as Head of State after her oath-taking, President Halimah said: “I have seen how much we can achieve by working together. Now, as President, my duty is to unite the people, to overcome the many challenges ahead of us, together. I pledge to continue this journey of service to our country. I call on all Singaporeans to join me in this endeavour. Our goal must be to leave behind a better Singapore for future Singaporeans.”

In her first public event as Singapore’s President, Mdm Halimah Yacob visited the Centre for Adults of the Association for Persons with Special Needs (ASPN) yesterday (15 September 2017).

Ms Nor Ain Saleha Hamid, writing her comments with regard to this blog article (see below), says: “Congratulations to us Singaporeans in having the first female President who embodies our values. She is a Malay but of mixed parentage of Indian & Chinese. Married an Arab husband. She’s Muslim and English educated. A high flier in her career, yet a mother to five!  Look forward to her huge contribution to Singapore. InsyaAllah, MasyaAllah, Alhamdulillah (Praise God).”

Indeed, we Singaporeans will work together with the President and the Government for our country’s peace, prosperity, progress and harmony.

Shaik Kadir
14 September 2017/16 September 2017
(Photos of President Halimah Yacob in this article are photo-shots of the photos in the recent issues of The Straits Times as well as TV screen-shots of the live telecast by Mediacorp of the President’s Swearing-in ceremony.)

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