Touring Bandung with Iffah, meeting Adam in Sydney

Touring Bandung with Iffah,
meeting Adam in Sydney

In December last year (2018), my wife and I had the opportunity to be in two cities – with Iffah in Bandung and Adam in Sydney.

Adam (in Sydney) and Iffah in December 2018 and both together in Singapore in December 2017 (middle photo).

Adam Rayan Dula and Nur Iffah Binti Muhammad Imran are my two grandchildren – 5-year-old Adam is the son of my daughter, and 4-year-old Iffah is the daughter of my son.

We went to Bandung for a short holiday with Iffah and her parents and relatives, an 11-member group, termed “Keluarga” (Family). The group, in the 6-day Bandung trip from 10 December, included three children, the other two being Iffah’s older cousins.

A day later after we returned from Bandung, my wife and I left on 17 December for Sydney for a 12-day holiday to be with Adam and his parents who are staying there as my daughter is working as a science education researcher in a university, the same university where she graduated with a PhD (in Physics education).

A few days before 17 December, my nephew, his wife and his mother had flown in to Sydney to meet Adam. My wife and I couldn’t go together with them as we were in Bandung at that time. They returned to Singapore on Christmas day but we stayed on for a few more days.

As a photo is worth a thousand words, the following photos presented in slides provide a good image of our holiday with Iffah and Adam.

In Bandung with Iffah

The 11-member “Family” at Patenggang Lake in Bandung:  From left, Iffah and her parents, Shuhaila and Imran; Iffah’s cousins, Bill Haque and Arinal (in red headscarf) and their parents, Rashima and Zuhal; Iffah’s paternal grandparents, Shaik Kadir (Atuk) and Khairon (Nani); and Iffah’s maternal grandparents, Salama (Nenek) and Sidik (Atuk).

After touch-down from the Silkair aircraft in Bandung, Iffah’s fun began.

Iffah at a deer farm:  Iffah enjoys feeding the deer with vegetables bought at the farm.

Iffah even ventured into the farmland and, although she was carried, felt uneasy when a deer came too close to her “asking” for food.

At “Fairy Garden”, a kids’ wonderland.

More excitement at the Fairy Garden…

Iffah’s fascination is boundless…

A group photo with some of the characters of “Fairy Garden”.

By a crater lake at Kawah Putih (White Crater)…

Wooooo…it’s so scary:  Iffah in the world of ghouls and ghosts.

Eh, Iffah and her grandmother (Nani Khairon) went to the Netherlands? No, she and the “Family” are still in Bandung – at the Dutch Village in “Farmhouse Bandung”…

….and ”turning” themselves (Nani Khairon, Cik Nur, Iffah and Mammy) into Dutch ladies.

Dutch Village facination.

At the Saung Angklung Udjo to watch the angklung (Indonesian musical bamboo instrument) performance. Then, at the end of the performance, the angklung dancers, mostly children, hastened in all directions of the gallery to get members of the audience to dance with them as a grand finale of the angklung performance. A cute little girl, about 3-years old, climbed up all the way to the top-most level of the gallery and came up to me. I was unable to say “no” to this angel and I held her hand and we went down to the dance floor and did a mass dance to the enticing sound of the angklung music.

Iffah looks sad; probably she thinks we are going to leave Surabaya by taking a hot-air balloon to Singapore. No! No! We can’t ride on a balloon to Singapore, and Iffah looked cheery after the assurance. 

This place in Maribaya, called The Lodge Maribaya, is an “Escape to Nature” adventure park.

With our driver (white tee-shirt) and guide (black tee-shirt) with Zuhal, our tour organiser.

Iffah’s maternal grandmother, Salama (yellow headscarf), and paternal grandmother, Khairon (green headscarf), had a nice time together.

Iffah’s maternal grandfather, Sidik (yellow shirt), and paternal grandfather, Shaik Kadir, are always game for  family tours together, the last being to Krabi, Thailand.

Yes, we did visit many interesting places in Bandung and enjoyed every one of them.

Iffah’s Bandung expressions…

In Sydney with Adam

That’s Adam who is as always  active as Iffah, his cousin.

The 8-member Family under and near the Sydney Harbour Bridge:  (From left, Allen Munirah and their son, Adam; Khairon, me, Hamid’s mother, Zainab; Hamid (yellow tee-shirt, and writer’s nephew who is Munirah’s cousin) and Hamid’s wife, Suriani.

The Family at the Blue Mountains and at the Werrington (train) Station (small photo).

At the “Anna Bay at Port Stephens”:  Adam loves the beach, so we took him to two beaches, to this lovely Anna Bay Beach and Bondi Beach.

Sand dunes?  What’s this photo taken in the Arabian desert doing here? Wrong photo? No, it’s correct photo. It’s in Australia, in Anna Bay near Anna Bay Beach.

At the iconic Sydney Opera House area:  Adam was attracted to the “Disney Mary Poppins Returns” exhibition bus and boarded it.

Photo-shoot inside the “Disney Mary Poppins Returns” exhibition bus.

Resting and strolling in “The Rocks” area.

Under and near the majestic Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Halal:  Nowadays it’s easy to get halal meat (beef, mutton and chicken) in Australia.

Briyani and kebabs:  There are many Muslim eateries and restaurants where one can buy or eat briyani and kebabs.

“Blacktown Thai” (in Blacktown), Malay restaurant where we ate gado-gado, green-curry, tom-yam and other cuisines. The food was so good and tasty that, in appreciation, I took a photo with the chef, Mr Hidayat. Seated on my right is Ms Nurli (black headscarf) who owns the restaurant with her husband, Mr Nizam (who was not present at the restaurant).

At the Irukandji Shark and Ray Centre.

At the home of Mr Bakar (black tee-shirt) and his wife, Ms Mazlifa (pink apron):  We were welcomed with a barbeque lunch.

Adam even found a new companion – the hosts’ son, Abang Zac (Brother Zakaria).

At the Werrington Lake Park (which is just 5 mins drive away from Adam’s home):  Adam loves feeding the ducks and swans at the lake.

Blue Mountains:  A range of three rocks, named the “Three Sisters”, is the main attraction of this mountainous region called the “Blue Mountains”.

Blue Mountains:  After a little rest, the team took steep pathways down this mountainous region to view a long and narrow waterfall exactly opposite it. (See the waterfall in the extreme right photo.)

Pre-kindergarten graduation ceremony (held in December 2018) for entry into Kindergarten in 2019 :  Adam and the other children excited to have received their pre-kindergarten certificates.

Pre-kindergarten graduation ceremony held in December 2018:  Adam is looking forward to attend kindergarten classes this year (2019) in February.

Moments with Adam…

Adam’s expressions during our stay in Sydney…

At the Sydney Airport:  I (Atuk) and Khairon (Nani) leaving for Singapore – a sad moment for Adam…and for the grandparents, too.

Adam and Iffah in Singapore

In September last year (2018) when Adam and his family came to Singapore to attend Munirah’s niece’s wedding, Adam and Iffah had the opportunity to have some nice time together.

September 2018:  Adam’s mother, Munirah and her family were in Singapore in September for three weeks last year, and Iffah’s parents, Shuhaila and Imran, gave Munirah a surprise – they brought a cake to our home.  It read: “Happy 41st birthday and congrats Dr Munirah”. (Munirah’s birthday was in September and she graduated with a PhD four months earlier, in May 2018.)

In September 2018:  Adam and Iffah having fun together.

Hopefully this year, these two close cousins, who are about one year apart, would have a nice time together again.

Shaik Kadir
19 January 2019

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Journey into the heart of briyani country

Journey into the heart of briyani country

 

Briyani! Wow! That glorious briyani, the favourite of many Singaporeans. To try the best briyani in the world, eight friends, nicked-named the Kashmir Gang, decided, after much deliberation during our last Hari Raya gathering, to take a trip to the heart of briyani country – Hyderabad, in India.

But just two months before the trip, one of the couples, Aminah and Masod, had the opportunity to go for Umrah in the same period, so we roped in our mutual friends, Latifah and her husband, Maznan, and so decided to call ourselves the “Hyderabad Gang”.  (There are two Latifahs in the Hyderabad Gang, Latifah Ibrahim, the younger and energetic Wefie Queen, and Latifah Majid who initiated the trip.)

During the 6-day trip, from 22 November this year (2018), we had lots of fun sightseeing in the areas outside Hyderabad city, where wonderful sights are aplenty, historical and current.

The following pictures show the places we enjoyed and the sights that gave us immense knowledge.

Hyderabad Gang

First of all, let me introduce the Hyderabad Gang.

From the photo on the left: Maznan and his wife, Latifah Ibrahim; Noor Mohamad and his wife, Latifah Majid; Ahmad Fraij and his wife, Radiah; and Shaik Kadir and his wife, Khairon Mastan.

Briyani, oh glorious briyani

Briyani, the wedding food of Singapore Muslims, is the favourite of many.  Even Chinese Singaporeans like it.

In Hyderabad, everyday for lunch, we had briyani from different restaurants with splendid masala tea or Iranian tea to end the meal; and for dinner, there was briyani as well as naan/chapati from our hotel where the breakfast was marvellous – idli, thosay and as well as western food and fruits and fruit juices, and brewed coffee done and served by the restaurant staff.

(Top photo)  The message in between the two rows of framed photos says: “Some of the world’s favourite people have enjoyed the World’s Favourite Briyani.” The photos include those of (from top row, left, Hindi film superstars Amir Khan and Salman Khan and legendary Indian cricketer Sachin Tendukar. 

Noor (in the last photo) looks so depress. Guess, he wants nothing but briyani. The lady in the left photo sitting on the extreme left with head uncovered is Mdm Shashi, our tour guide. 

Golkonda Park

Among the places we visited was Golkonda Park which is one of the most magnificent fortress complexes in India.

Salarjung Museum

Works of an ingenious artist: Even the folds, creases and transparency of the robe of the woman’s attire are carvings out of a marble block.

Works of a inventive artist: A mirror placed at the back of the male figure reflects a female figure.

Easiest public transport

In Singapore, gone are the days of the “becha”, a peddling trishaw.  We also do not have any motorised version of it for easy and cheap public transport for travelling into the villages simply because we no longer have villages – but the motorised three-wheeler exist in other parts of Asia.  In the Philippines it’s called “trike”, in Indonesia it’s called “bechak” and in Thailand, it’s called “tuk-tuk”.  In Hyderabad, and in other parts of India, it’s called “auto-trishaw” or simply “auto”.

We very much wanted to try the Hyderabad “auto” but we had no opportunity due to the pressing time of our itinerary, even for a fun half-kilometre ride. However, my wife and I did try the three-wheeler in Vietnam: it was not a fun ride; yes, it was a terrifying, sweaty ride with us holding on tightly to the vehicle as it zoomed away beating masses of motor-cycles along the way. It was a great relief when we safely alighted from it at our destination, with our bones cracking.

The burqah

Most Muslim women in Hyderabad wear the burqah.  There are many shops selling this outfit, one of which is the Deccan Burqah House.

The iconic Charminar

“Char” means four in Hindi and “minar” is minaret. The Charminar or “Four Minarets” building, constructed in 1591, is a splendid monument and, in its early days, a mosque. An easy landmark surrounded by shops and mobile bazaar, it has become a global icon of Hyderabad.  A  stone’s away from it is the equally iconic Makkah Mosque.  At the time of our visit, the Charminar as well as the Makkah Mosque are under renovation.

Makkah (Mecca) Mosque

The Mecca Mosque (Masjid Makkah) is one of the oldest mosques in Hyderabad, and is one of the largest mosques in India.

Fruits on wheels

Photo on the left:  Latifah Majid, middle, and Khairon seem to be interested to buy the fruit while the man, Mr Abdul Rahim, our driver, is helping them make the bargain in Hindi. 

Muslim shrines

Magnificent buildings

Boat-ride

We missed Hyderabad’s “auto”- ride but we did try Hyderabad’s boat-ride.

We took a boat in the Hussain Sagar Lake to see the statue of the Buddha. This is the tallest monolithic monument of Gautama Buddha, located at the famous Lumbini Park in the Hussain Sagar Island.

Hyderabad roads

Like many parts of India, Hyderabad is no exception to, sometimes, funny sights. It is nice to watch the roads, they are busy, they are exciting, especially the motorcycles.  If you want to cross the heavily-loaded road, don’t dash across but walk normal with your hand raised to stop the the traffic and they would slow down to let you cross. If you are afraid to do that and wait for the road to get clear, you would probably have to stand at the roadside for three hours! And the roadsides accomadate other small busineses too.

Nehru Zoological Park

In this zoo, apart from the harmless animals like deer and giraffe, we used well-protected coaches to experience its safari where lions roamed around freely looking at us and wondering why we humans were caged.

There were also many groups of primary and high school students as well cute little post-primary school children who have come to see the real-life animals whose pictures they had seen only in books.

Visits by students:  From pre-primary school to secondary school students visit the zoo in droves with their teachers.  Some children are very “brave”! (But never ask them to disturb the animals or try dangerous stunts as shown in this made-up photo done up for a laugh.)

Ramoji Film City

Ramoji Film City is the largest film studio complex in the world.  Opened in 1996, thousands of movies were shot here since then and viewed by millions all over the world. We spent the whole day in this film city, walking on our own or taking coaches on conducted tours.

My wife desired to watch a scene of a movie being shot, but a message says: “Locations where shooting is in progress will be out of bounds for the tourist.”

The epic movie, “Bahubali”, was shot in its entirety in this studio city. Khairon managed to take a photo-shot against the giant “Bahubali” poster as seen in the first photo.

We went on a conducted tour in coaches around all these beautiful houses and roads – all used for filming scenes of homes of “rich” people.

Wefie Queen Latifah is always alert in not missing taking group photos with scenic backgrounds.

Snow World

Of course, like others, we had fun playing with the snow and dodged snow-balls thrown by others in a snow fight.

Express train to Chennai

Our wives suddenly felt young at heart and wanted to take the express train to Chennai leaving us at the train station with the hope that we husbands would throw a tear-jerking parting scene, like those in Indian movies.

But Maznan looked unhappy and told his wife: “Latifah, if you leave me and go to Chennai, I’m going to Russia with the men here.” But, he did hold both hands of his wife as the train slowly moved away and Maznan running along, still holding her hand, right to the end of the train platform,  and with some tears welling in his eyes, he almost fell over the platform…and at that crucial moment, the director shouted “Cut!” and praised Maznan for his act that was as good as that of Shahrukh Khan’s.

Home sweet home

We are back home safe and sound, and I’ve even displayed the group photo we took in Golkonda Fort complex.

How we wished our Kashmir Gang friends, Aminah and Masod, are also with us, but they are on a big mission – Umrah. We wish them all the best and hope that they get blessed with Umrah mabrur.

But, the taste and aroma of Hyderabad briyani still lingered on in Noor and Latifah Majid’s home.  The couple had bought a couple of boxes of vacuumed-packed briyani from the Paradise restaurant a couple of kilometres away from the Hyderabad International Airport during our return trip.  A day after we returned home, Noor WhatsApped us: “We are still enjoying the briyani we bought in Hyderabad. It is still hot when we reached home yesterday. Siapa tak beli rugi. (Those who didn’t buy are losers).”

 Shaik Kadir
5 December 2018

(Photo credits:  Some of the photos were contributed by Ms Latifah Ibrahim and Mr Ahmad Fraij.)

 

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Birthday celebration of the most beloved man on earth, Prophet Muhammad

Birthday celebration of the most beloved man on earth – Prophet Muhammad

The celebration of the birth of Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, has begun and goes on for a month in the Muslim month of Rabiul Awal, the third month of the Muslim (lunar) calendar.  Across the world, mosques and Muslim organisations organise Islamic activities for Muslims to attend to celebrate the joyous occasion of the birth of Islam’s final prophet.

Prophet Muhammad was born on 12 Rabiul Awal of the Muslim calendar, in 570 of the Common Era (CE). This year (2018), the date coincides with 20 November.

Muslims, as they love Prophet Muhammad with their heart and soul, would always say “Sallallahu alayhi wasallam” (Peace Be Upon Him) after mentioning his name. The Prophet is referred to as Nabi (the Prophet) and Rasul (the Messenger), “Messenger” because he brought and delivered the exact Message of Allah (the God) from Allah’s direct Revelations to him through Angel Gabriel. He was not the author of the Qur’an, nor was he the founder of Islam. Islam is not a new religion but the culmination of the teachings of all the numerous prophets of Islam from Prophet Adam, Prophet Noah (Nuh), Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim), Prophet Moses (Musa) and Prophet Isa (Jesus Christ).

Muslims in Singapore and Malaysia refer to the commemoration of the Prophet’s birthday as Maulidur Rasul or Maulud Nabi.  Other spelling variance includes Mawlid, Mevlid in Turkish or Milad, all come from the Arabic word for birth and usually refers to the anniversary of the Prophet’s birth.   

Maulidur-Rasul is celebrated by sending their blessings to Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, with recitations of praises and blessings (marhaban). Islamic inspiration talks are held in mosques and other hired premises about the prophet’s life and his exemplary good character. Qasidah Burdah (a poem written in praise of the Prophet, comprising nearly 160 couplets) is read in a melodic way and the selawat (praising of the Prophet) sung in a very tuneful way, too, during these occasions.  The selawat is usually accompanied by just by one or two instruments like the tambourine-like hand-held drums.

A 12-evening Maulidur Rasul celebration, organised by the Singapore Kadayanallur Muslim League (SKML), was held at its premises with the peak of the maulid held on the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him) – 12 Rabiul Awal (20 November 2018).

Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday celebration: Information poster of Maulidur Rasul celebration – Grand Meelad – organised by the Singapore Kadayanallur Muslim League, at the Masjid Mujahidin (2 -4 pm) on 25 November 2018. All are invited.

Mr Naseer Ghani, President of the Singapore Kadayanallur Muslim League, above: “Annually over the last 75 years, we have been holding Maulidur Nabi for 12 nights (1-12 Rabiul Awal) at the premises of the Singapore Kadayanallur Muslim League. This year, the Grand Maulid will be held on 25 November at Masjid Mujahiddin in Queenstown from 2 pm to 4 pm with Nasyid, Sermon and Presentation of Bursary to students.”

In some countries Maulidur-Rasul is celebrated with large street parades and mosques and homes decorated with colour lights. It is also a day of public holiday in many Muslim countries.

While the large majority of Muslims all over the world celebrate the Prophet’s birthday, some Muslims do not participate in such open public celebrations; instead, they celebrate the occasion by fasting the whole day and reading the Qur’an, the Holy Book of Islam.

Also, some sections of Muslims see the celebration as contradictory to Islamic norms.  Those who celebrate Maulidur-Rasul and those who do not cite the Hadith (words and deeds of the Prophet) to support their views. Those who do not often point out that birthdays were never celebrated during the Prophet’s time.

However, the vast majority of Muslims, who take part in the celebration of the mawlid, say the occasion provides another avenue in enhancing Islamic values as the celebration is not conducted with wild merry-making but gracefully conducted with reading of the Qur’an, Islamic lectures on the Prophet’s life and deeds as well as singing songs in praise of the Prophet (selawat), thus intensifying the love for the Prophet. The occasion also brings Muslims together to maintain Islamic relationship, bonding and unity.

Mdm Latifah Ibrahim, above: “I pray that with the celebration of Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday, we become more aware of his good deeds and become better Muslims. Let us be near to our Prophet and give selawat to him everyday so that we get blessings from Allah for doing so.”

Mdm Azizah Abdul Rahim, above: “May the celebration of our Prophet’s Birthday bring us together in unity as we strive towards becoming an ummah that does justice and charity to people; an ummah that is loving and merciful to all.. May we be blessed by Allah with noble values; and may we always receive Allah’s protection and guidance in this world and in the Hereafter. Ameen, ameen, Yaa Rabbal ‘Aa’laamiin.”

Allah says in the Qur’an about Prophet Muhammad: “You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) a beautiful pattern of conduct for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah.” (Qur’an, 33:21)

At the Prophet Muhammad’s Last Sermon, the Prophet advised people: “I leave behind two things, the Qur’an and my example (the Sunnah) and if you follow these you will never go astray.”

Shaik Kadir
20 November 2018

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SSEAYP family celebrate Festival of Light – Happy Deepavali –

SSEAYP family celebrate Festival of Light

– Happy Deepavali –

Two dozen people, who have connection with the Ship for South-East Asian Youth Programme (SSEAYP), met on Saturday evening (3 November 2018) for a get-together during which food was aplenty. The drizzle and the wet environment did not dampen the spirit of the attendees who comprise SSEAYP officials, past Participating Youths (PYs) of SSEAYP and homestay hosts.

The gathering aimed at building and strengthening rapport and fellowship among them. My wife and I are among the homestay hosts. We have been contributing our services and giving close attention to SSEAYP PYs as well as participants of a few other student-exchange programmes for their homestay stints over 25 years now, since 1989.

The usual 3-day, 2-night stay homestay stint is part of the participants’ official learning programme in Singapore for about 10 days. During their homestay, the participants get close-range exposure to Singapore’s cultural practices of their hosts and experience the Singaporean way of life.

The get-together, headed by Mr Hairil Johari, newly appointed SIS’ Director of Alumni Affairs, and supported by Mr Imhar Said, long-time SIS’ Director of International Affairs, and Mr Desmond Yee, Director of Homestay, was held at the compound of the historic Matilda House of A-Treasure-Trove Condominium in Punggol Walk.

In the compound of Matilda House: It was difficult to take this photo. Imhar gave me his handphone asking me to take a photo of this special group but I was not able to click it, even after trying a few times. But somehow I managed it and then I used my own handphone to take a photo of the group, also successful after a few tries, but the photo was dark as you can see. It could not brightened up. But who is that person behind Imhar and on the right of John?
By the way, this sheltered barbeque pit area is just opposite Matilda House.
Wikipedia says that Matilda House, now beautifully renovated, was built in 1902 and later went into disuse. Rumours had it that “it cannot be demolished. It was referred as “Ghost House” or Istana Menanti (The Waiting Palace)”.
Rumours also had it that some people had seen a stranger – a tall, slim pretty woman – aimlessly walking around this area, always alone and looking sad, sometimes with a noose-like ring around her neck. Some people in this area had even complained that a woman had photo-bombed their photos but complainer had seen the photobomber coming and leaving the photoshoot scene. (See ‘PS’ for more about the “stranger”.)

Gloomy weather

The weather that evening was not that welcoming. Nevertheless, the get-together function went on smoothly with some absentees.

Mdm Hadijah Osman with her husband, Mr Zakaria Mohd Shariff, and their granddaughter, Maryam Nuwaira, together with the youths from the JENESYS programme, Ayumi (left) and Saya (tall girl), who stayed with the couple for the homestay stint in October this year (2018). Hadijah says the Japanese girls love to the Muslim attire and they tried it with excitement.

Among those who did not turn up for the function were homestay hosts Mr Zakaria Mohd Shariff and his wife, Hadijah Osman. When contacted, Mdm Hadijah said: “I really wanted to attend the SSEAYP to meet up with friends. But, my husband and I had something on. The SSEAYP officials and homestay hosts are like my family. We share the memories we had with the homestay participants and that of the annual SIGA meets. I miss them. But, I hope to meet them next time. InsyaAllah.”

She added: “Apart from missing my friends, I also miss Kak Khairon’s favourite cuisine – subsuka; it’s nice and spicy. I also like Bro Imhar’s cooking. He’s a good cook. I miss Joyce’s dosey and dhal and Kak Zainah’s kueh mueh.”

Preparation of food, the glorious food

Not all food were cooked on-site as the function was a potluck event. Almost everyone brought home-cooked food. Fruits, cakes and various kueh were also contributed for dessert.

Getting ready for the feast: Perhaps former PY Evelyn Chua is asking Imhar how he can cook so well. Serious faces show cooking is not easy.

More hands, many ideas, more bonding…

Wow! A enticing spread of food items fit for a King’s belly. Yah, we even have a Queen who helped out in the “kitchen”.

Wait! Wait a minute! Don’t stating yet! Let’s take a selfie first. Yah! Good effort, Hairil managed to take a nice shot…

Okay, time to really sit and fill up your empty tanks…there are crab sambal, mutton briyani, subsuka, mee siam, mee goreng, chicken curry, roti kirai, ayam lemak chilli padi and more…

“Kak Khairon! You eat just one piece? How to grow fat like this…” Anyway, Chef Im would not be happy if the visitors ate little as he had spent much time in cooking super hot stuff…

Time to relax, chat and joke

There were jokes and laughter. Many chatted away as they did not meet each other for some time. By the way, this was what the gathering aimed at – building and strengthening rapport and fellowship.

All handsome lah!  From left are Zahari, Youth Leader of 1996; John (in pink shirt); Ramlan, National Leader of 1991; and Hairil, PY of 1996 and current SIS’ Director of Alumni Affairs.

Among the jovial and chatty gathering was John Vijayan Vasavan, Advisor to SSEAYP International Singapore (SIS). He was SSEAYP PY in 1986 and National Leader in 1996.

Asked for his thoughts on the day’s event, he beamed with a “Wow!” and poured out his feelings: “I must say we have an awesome group of homestay hosts who helped out to make the event successful. They, especially the ladies, laid out the tables with a professional touch and loving hospitality.”

Although the drizzle wetted the floor, John felt that the spirit of SSEAYP helped the attendees’ mood soar high and about. “Their happy mood lingered throughout the event. With mouthful of foodstuff or not, they moved here and there to chat and exchange ideas. I was indeed overwhelmed by the display of closeness and camaraderie amongst us.”

After a few moments of reflection, he added: “I think, the word ‘SSEAYP’ is magical. It keeps us close, regardless of whether we are officials, former PYs or members of homestay host family.”

John (in all seriousness): “If anyone dares, let him come near me. Don’t play play with me, I know karate. One strike with my right hand and I don’t know what will happen to him.”
Juliana, hiding behind Imhar and holding him tightly for protection: “Alamak! Why is John so fierce today? I’m scared! I’m really scared!”
Habsah in doubtful thought: “Wah! He’s so strong, kah? One strike with his hand and his opponent will roll in mid-air like in Indian movie fights. Sure or not?”

Happy family: Those who remained behind had the opportunity to be in this group photo. By the way, why is the baby looking the other way? Is she attracted to someone behind the group and her cute face has made the “stranger” not to photobomb the group this time!!! Maybe.

The SSEAYP gathering went happily well. In the words of John: “Today’s gatherings is certainly an excellent starting point to make plans to host the 46th SSEAYP in Singapore next year (2019).”

I wish all Hindus connected with SSEAYP as well as other Hindu readers A Happy Deepavali.

Shaik Kadir
6 November 2018

PS:
The “photobomber” mentioned in the caption of the first photo in the article is fictional. It was an inserted photo of my wife from a photo that appears under “About the author” of my book, “A kite in the evening sky”. See photos below.

“A kite in the evening sky” was first published in 1989 by EPB Publishers (far left) and republished by Marshal Cavendish this year (2018). It is available online at Amazon and at Popular and Kinokuniya.

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Enhancing compassion and humanity among all people Happy Islamic New Year 1440

Enhancing compassion and humanity
among all people
Happy Islamic New Year 1440

Today, 11 September 2018, is the start of the Islamic New Year – 1440 Hijrah, abbreviated as 1440 H.

Today, the first day of the first month of the year, Muharram, called Maal Hijrah, is a religious day of joy, enhancing compassion and humanity among all people as Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, came for all mankind (Qur’an, 21:107).

Happy Islamic New Year 1440.

Like all Islamic celebrations, the Islamic New Year celebration involves no wild merry-making like dancing and shouting or drowning oneself in ecstasy. Instead, all mosques in Singapore as well as across the world conduct two special prayers (solat sunat) at about sunset on 10 September 2018 (yesterday in Singapore):  one, to leave the last day of 1439 H, and the other, after the obligatory Maghrib or after-sundown prayer (fourth prayer of the five obligatory payers of the day), to usher in the New Year, 1440 H. Following the lunar calendar, the Muslim day begins after sundown, not after mid-night.

Roughly 14 centuries ago, an important event took place in Arabia – Prophet Muhammad, born and bred in Arabia was chosen by Allah (God) when he was 40 years old to be the last and final Prophet of Islam, the way of life or the Straight Way, that began in Paradise in its basic form with Adam and his wife, Eve, the first two human beings with the Advice and Instruction to obey Allah for righteous living.

At one point in Paradise, Adam and Eve who had been instructed by God not to eat the fruit from a certain tree, disobeyed the instruction and ate it. But God, in His Merciful and Compassionate nature, pardoned their disobedience and they remained pure and sinless until the “ripe” or right time when they were placed on earth to start the human race. Adam became the first Prophet of Islam, at that time “Islam” was simply referred to as the “Straight Way, a religion of right” (Qur’an, 6:161).

From the point of view of Islam, Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, as well as all the other prophets of Islam, 124,000 of them sent to all nations in the world (Qur’an, 10:47), including the well-known Prophet Abraham, Prophet Moses and Prophet Jesus (commonly known as Jesus Christ), Peace Be Upon Them All, who came to instruct people to believe in the One God and obey His Advice and Instructions for righteous living.

The last of this long chain of prophets was Prophet Muhammad. He was the final or the “Seal of the prophets.” (Qur’an, 33:40), sent to complete the “Religion of right” (6:161) and to formally establish Islam (Qur’an, 5:4), a word suggesting peace, and carries the meaning “Submission to Allah”.

As can be seen, Islam, in its essence, started from Paradise where Adam and his wife were nurtured and prepared for their earthly mission. This concept makes Islam neither a new religion nor founded by Prophet Muhammad but one that continued and developed from what the first prophet, Prophet Adam, and all the subsequent prophets, taught, till it reached its zenith and finality and given a name by God Himself – Islam (Qur’an, 5:4).

This developmental stages of the “Straight Way” were necessary to prepare people for the totally developed stage – Islam, the stages of teachings from the first Prophet to the final Prophet being similar to the education system: simple to difficult, informal to formal, an example being the prayer:  In the earlier stages, people prayed with any words they preferred and at any time, but in Islam, prayers became formal – there is specific time for the formal prayers, five times a day and with specific utterances taken from the Qur’an (Holy Book of Islam) and the Hadith (Sayings, Deeds and Examples of Prophet Muhammad) with the prayers being preceded by the wudhu (ablution taken to be clean in both body and soul) and that includes no shoes to be worn when praying.

The Muslim prayer can be performed alone or with more than one, the larger the congregation the better to enhance friendship and humanity. The prostration unit of the Muslim prayer, with the forehead touching on the floor, is the greatest humility shown to God.

Persecution and perseverance

The story of Prophet Muhammad would be incomplete without briefly mentioning the most trying and challenging period of his life – the series of persecutions which resulted in his migration to Medina. (Most prophets, including Prophet Abraham, Prophet Moses and Prophet Jesus suffered persecution and trying times as well.)

The migration of the Prophet from Mecca to Medina in the year 622 is a milestone event in Islamic history. It is a story of patience, endurance, striving and eventual triumph in the face of seemingly extreme hostility and hopelessness.

The Prophet lived at a time when the pagan Arabs worshipped numerous deities; they indulged in intoxicants; they practised infanticide (killing of female babies); they treated women as mere chattels. This was their culture and way of living.

Islam advocated the worship of the One God; prohibited intoxicants, banned infanticide, condemned superstition and gave women their rights. All these and other positive changes made the pagans feel that their culture and traditions were being destroyed by the teachings of Prophet Muhammad. However, there were some people who saw the beauty of the teachings and embraced Islam. This made the pagans turn on them. But the converts remained firm in their belief.

The pagans then approached the Prophet’s uncle and guardian, Abu Talib, and urged him to force his nephew to stop his preaching. They were willing to offer the Prophet wealth and status in return. When his uncle told this to the Prophet, he replied: “O Uncle, if they could place the moon on my left hand and the sun on my right, I would still not give up the mission entrusted upon me by Allah.”

The persecution of the Muslims then intensified. Many were tortured; many were killed.

For 13 years, the Prophet carried on with his mission patiently, bearing all the agony and hardship of the persecution. At one point, for the safety of his growing number of followers, the Prophet sent some of them to Abyssinia (presently Ethiopia), a country whose devout Christian ruler, the Negus, gave them refuge on the basis that the fundamentals of his religion and those of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad were very similar; namely, that there is One God and that Jesus Christ was a great prophet born of a virgin.

One day, in the year 621, some traders from Yathrib, an oasis town some 340km north of Mecca, came to the city. Having listened to the Prophet’s preaching, they embraced the religion. The following year, these same Yathribites returned, bringing another group of their fellow citizens. All pledged their loyalty to the Prophet. When they left, the Prophet sent with them one of his Companions to teach their fellow citizens back home the fundamentals of Islam. As a result, the Islamic teachings spread in Yathrib.

The pagan Arabs became even more furious when they learned about the spread of the Islamic faith in Yathrib. They now threatened to kill the Prophet and his followers in Mecca. On the appointed night when the assassins burst into the Prophet’s room, they saw that the Prophet had already left his home unseen by anyone. Accompanied by his closest Companion, Abu Bakar, their destination was Yathrib.

Horsemen were despatched immediately to hunt down the Prophet. Rewards were offered for his capture, dead or alive. Bounty hunters eagerly searched the deserts.

At the time the enemies combed the deserts around Mecca, the Prophet and Abu Bakar, were in a cave in Jabal Thaur, a mountain some 6 km from Mecca. They hid there for several days. Once or twice they even heard voices of their enemies outside the cave. Knowing that a mere glance into the cave would have been sufficient to end their lives, Abu Bakar, whispered: “What can we do, we are only two.” But, the Prophet consoled his Companion with the words: “Do not grieve, Allah is surely with us.” (9:40)

Welcome and Victory

Then, with the help of a camel guide, the Prophet and Abu Bakar started on the long and arduous journey across the burning, hostile desert, to Yathrib. The people of Yathrib welcomed him, with a large group of people singing the welcome song using tambourines to receive him, a song that has become famous and sung right to this day: “Ya Badrul Alayna”.

This historic journey to a friendly and welcoming place was called the Hijrah (Migration).

On 2 July of the year 622, the Prophet stepped onto the soil of Yathrib. This oasis town henceforth became known as Madinatul Nabi (City of the Prophet) or simply Medina (Madinah). The Islamic or the Hijrah calendar begins from this triumphant event, a date that changed the history of the world.

After 10 years in Medina, the Prophet decided to visit his beloved Mecca, the place of his birth, then still in the hands of his enemies. With more than 10,000 Muslims and, with the Treaty of Hudaibiyah which allowed them to perform the Haj, Prophet Muhammad entered Mecca – without resistance or bloodshed. The Prophet freely forgave all his enemies. Many, including the enemy leader, Abu Sufiyan, embraced Islam on their own free will upon realising the compassion and beauty of Islam.

People reading the Qur’an, the Holy Book of Muslims.

The Hijrah is significant in the history of Islam because it highlights the accomplishment of a visionary goal for those who were God-fearing. It also signifies steadfastness, perseverance, progress and success.

See also my previous article, “Muslim New Year 1438 begins tonight”, at https://readnreap.wordpress.com/2016/10/01/muslim-new-year-1438-begins-tonight/

Shaik Kadir
11 September 2018
(1 Muharram 1440)

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Homestay for Japanese students:  Iffah spends an interesting day with Hira and Yuki

Homestay for Japanese students:  Iffah spends an interesting day with
Hira and Yuki

Iffah was with Hira and Yuki for only one day, yet it was an interesting day for her and them, Iffah affectionately calling them “Kakak” (elder sister in Malay).

Ms Hira Dodo and Yuki Tsutsumi were in my home for three days, from Saturday 11 August (2018), staying for two nights for a homestay experience during their 3-week marine-study stint in Singapore. They are first-year students from the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.

Iffah with her Kakaks (elder sisters), Ms Hinako Dodo (left) and Ms Yuki Tsutsumi.

Before Hira and Yuki started their homestay, Hira emailed to me: “We would like to wear Malay dress. Also we are looking forward to being able to do exercises this Sunday morning because we do not have enough opportunity to do exercise since we arrived in Singapore.  We are excited about homestay. We would like to learn and experience many things about Singapore’s life.”

Yuki too emailed me, saying: “Spending time with you and your family
is the first priority, and I wish to learn about the Singapore culture deeply.  I am looking forward to meeting with you and your family.”

Iffah didn’t know of the coming of the Japanese students. It was a surprise for her when she saw them early in the morning of Monday, 13 August, the third day of their homestay, when her parents sent her to my home.

Nur Iffah Binti Muhammad Imran is my 4-year-old granddaughter who my wife and I look after during the day from Mondays to Fridays when her school-teacher parents, who live about 10-minute drive away, go for work. Iffah got attached to the Japanese “Kakaks” in the afternoon, after her 3-hour preschool programme at Sparkletots, till her parents came to fetch her that evening when all of us took my wife’s home-cooked dinner together.

The following photos tell the story of the students’ homestay stint in my home:

Our friends (from right) Mr Yacob Hussain showing thumbs-up and his wife, Mdm Keiko Soeda and Mr Imhar Said visited us to talk to Hina and Yuki.

Relaxing at home…with Hina and Yuki learning to use fingers when eating food.

Second-day outing:  Taking breakfast – the majestic prata, one of Singapore’s favourite breakfast dish – in a neighbourhood coffeeshop, and relaxing with cold drinks, Milo at National Stadium and soyabean at Changi Airport. And there is the all-time Singapore’s favourite rice – nasi goreng.

Hina and Yuki journeyed by train, then by bus to the mangrove forest  in Pasir Ris to look for King Kong but only saw King Fishers.

At Pasir Ris Beach: Yuki was fascinated to see a live eel-fish washed ashore by the wave.

At Pasir Park:  Hina is fascinated by  the abundance of coconut trees and flowers by the beach and long paths leading to other attractions in the park.

At the Pasir Ris Park: The beach park, located in the eastern part of Singapore, is one of the largest parks in Singapore and has a mangrove forest within the park with boardwalks that enable visitors to explore the forest. Hina and Yuki were excited to see various kinds of fish, mud-crabs, various species of birds like the long-legged white storks that flew and perched on the trees, and a monitor lizard.

Fun in the city

In the evening, by the Singapore River at Boat Quay…

An evening at Marina Bay, an area with plenty of sights to enjoy like the Merlion and Theatres on the Bay or the durian-shaped Esplanade Theatres: A view of the Singapore Flyer from the Helix Bridge, a braid-like steel structure, and a splendid view of the iconic Marina Bay Sands (MBS) with Yuki “supporting” it on her head. The young ladies also had an opportunity to watch the “Laser Light and Water” show in front of MBS and to tour the shopping complex in its interior.

Iffah joins the visitors

Relaxing at home…with Iffah warming up with her Japanese Kakaks.

The Kakaks sending Iffah to school at 8:30 in the morning.

The Kakaks fetching Iffah from school at noon and, at the same time, enjoying the neighbourhood.

At Changi Airport, not to fly off somewhere but to relax and relish its beautiful sights with Iffah showing off her stunts and poses.

Enjoying the displays at Changi Airport with Iffah playing at the children’s play station.

Still in Changi Airport, still enjoying its attractions…

Changi Airport is a pleasant place to visit: The three girls love the place.

Yes, Singapore is good.  Thumbs up for Singapore.

Relaxing at home…

Fascinated with Malay attire: Hina and Yuki appreciatively wearing Malay dress, complete with the tudung (Muslim head-cover) for the first time. Many photos were taken to be shown to their relatives and friends back home.

It’s time for parting

Only four students, all girls from the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, came to Singapore for their 3-week attachment. At the end of Hina’s and Yuki’s homestay with, and upon reaching the hotel, the students met up with the other two fellow-students, Sae (centre) and Sanami (extreme right) and we together had some cold drink.

Showing gratitude for the homestay: Hina and Yuki had artistically laid “thank you” notes on the bed in their room to surprise us.

It is a joyful activity for us to volunteer our time and services to foreign students for the homestay programme during which they learn about Singaporeans and the interesting Singapore cultures.

My blog articles on the Japanese students’ homestay stints at my home in the last two years are:

My wife and I have been taking various exchange students and youths programmes since 1989 to give the youths the homestay learning experience. The programmes include:
• Ship for South-East Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP)
• Iwate Global Seminar Program
• Singapore-Vietnam Youth Exchange Program
• Indonesian Icon Youth Visit
• JENESYS
• Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology
• Shelton International College Student Exchange Program.

We must say we enjoyed taking them for the homestay stint just as much as they enjoy staying with us and learning a lot about our family lifestyle.

Shaik Kadir
26 August 2018

 

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Eid ul-Adha: A day that reminds people of the importance of sacrifice, mercy and charity

Eid ul-Adha: A day that reminds people of the importance of sacrifice, mercy and charity

By 7:45 in this morning of Eid ul-Adha (Celebration Day of Sacrifice) and referred to as Hari Raya Haji and even Hari Raya Qur’ban in Malay), all the over 65 mosques in Singapore were full to capacity with those congregants, who could not get a place in the mosque, sitting outside the mosques on mats and canvas rolls. They recited the takbir – Allahu Akbar (God is Great) in chorus until the start of the prayers.

The mosque, my 39-year-old son and I attended, was the nearest to my home, the Al-Taqua Mosque in Jalan Bilal where even this short road was used by the late comers to perform their Hari Raya Aidiladha prayers as the mosque was already full to capacity by 8:00 am. The prayer started at 8:15 am.

After the prayers, the imam (prayer leader) read out the Hari Raya Haji sermon that focussed on the importance of sacrifice to achieve anything good, having a good character, enhancing interaction with all Singaporeans of various faiths and ethnicity and living together in peace and harmony as one united people.

Since a couple of days, Muslims and non-Muslims have been sending Eid ul-Adha greetings to their Muslim relatives and friends. Among them is Mr Fred Dula, who is not a Muslim, from North Carolina, USA. He emailed me this morning: “May Allah’s blessings be with you today and always. Eid Ul Adha Mubarak!” And from Ms Rohani Rahim from the United Arab Republic: “Eid al Adha Mubarak to you and family, Sir, and May the Almighty’s blessings be upon you.”

The other greeting images I received in my Facebook include:

From Ms Azizah Abdul Rahim.

From Ms Jamaliah A. Aziz.

From Ms Junainah Hassan.

It is good to show to the world that Singapore Muslims are people who practise Islam as it should be practised for spiritual enhancement, educational development and harmonious living.  Islam is not a religion meant only for worshipping God and asking favours from Him, but one that encompasses everything one does for righteous living such as mercy to all, extending help and charity and maintaining peace and harmony for one’s country and the world.

God says in the Qur’an that Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon him, came as a mercy to all humankind. “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” (Qur’an: 21:106-107)

QUR’BAN

After the Hari Raya prayers, a number of mosques with space and expertise for slaughtering sheep conducted the qur’ban (spelt korban in Malay), sheep and goats being the smallest of the three animals meant for the qur’ban; the other two being cattle and camel.

As Islam is a religion of Mercy and Compassion, it teaches Muslims to be kind to even all creatures, and especially to those animals meant for sacrifice.

On Eid ul-Adha during the subsequent three days, livestock (like sheep and cattle) are slaughtered. The slaughtering of these animals ought to be conducted with strict guidance as given in the Qur’an and the Hadith which advises how to prepare the animals for slaughter (to calm them) and how to slaughter them based on mercy and compassion to the animal.

FUNDAMENTALS

The most important Islamic rules (basic fundamentals of slaughtering animals) to be observed when slaughtering an animal for consumption are:

 the animal must be fit and healthy and not handicapped in anyway like even with a broken horn,
 the animal must not be pregnant, and
 the animal must be properly fed and maintained before the slaughter.

Other rules include:
 the slaughter can only be performed by a sane person, an adult Muslim man who is strong and fit,
 the knife used for the slaughtering must be very clean and sharp and resharpened after each slaughtering,
 the slaughter must on the point of pressure and reach the jugular veins to ensure a quick death to the animal,
 the head must not be separated from the body and, at no time, should the knife reach the back bone or spine,
 the animal must be comforted and given water before slaughtering,
 the animals are separated from each other out of respect for they too are conscious of the surrounding and have feelings of fear.

The invocation of Allah’s name is a must and the intention for the slaughter must be consciously realised with the basmallah (with the words uttered in a low voice or in the heart, such as: “I slaughter this animal for consumption in the name of Allah”), an instruction given in the Qur’an (at 22:36) when slaughtering animals with lots of blood (and indeed any halal animal, even chicken).

PIETY

The educational point of the qur’ban is given in the Qur’an, thus: “It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches God. It is your piety that reaches Him.” (Qur’an, 22:37)

“Piety” in Islam, as indicated in the above verse, includes compassion to the poor through sadaqa (voluntary charity) and zakat (compulsory charity), both most often in monetary form, as well as, in this case, distribution of the qur’ban meat to the poor and needy.

In Islam, no animal should be even tortured or killed for game, sport or gambling.  Cock-fighting, bull-fighting and game-hunting are all haram (prohibited).

The book, published in 1995, narrates the experiences of the author who, with his wife, went for the Haj in 1992. The Preface mentions: “To perform the Haj is the desire of every Muslim…Those who have performed the Haj or Umrah (minor pilgrimage) once usually entertain the desire to perform it again…They say the trip to the Ka’aba is worth more than any visit to any part of the world.”

In my book, “The Haj – the annual pilgrimage of Islam”, (above), a narration of my experiences of my Haj in 1992, I mentioned in “Chapter 11: Rites and rules of the Haj” that: “(Qur’ban) is a praiseworthy act to do, if one has the money….qur’ban is a symbolic act. Spiritually, the act of animal sacrifice signifies sacrificing one’s life for God in all areas of living and human development.  In offering an animal for sacrifice, a Muslim is aware that it is not the meat or blood of the animal that reaches God but his piety (good deeds).”

The book, under the section “Qur’ban” in Chapter 11: Rites and rules of the Haj” provides details about the Qur’ban which is carried out in Mina near Mecca on Eid ul-Adha and subsequent three days as well as in Muslim communities all over the world. The sacrificed qur’ban meat is donated to the poor and needy.

In another book of mine, “Splendours of Islam: Answers to more than 100 common questions about Islam”, under a question on Eid ul-Adha, I mentioned: “Those (pilgrims) who have the means also sacrifice animals like sheep, cattle or camel.  The meat is deep-frozen (by the Saudi government) and donated to the poor in other countries. In other parts of the world, Muslims also slaughter sheep and cattle (on Hari Raya Haji) and the meat is distributed to the poor and charitable homes.”

In the past 15 years or so, many Singaporean Muslims have been conducting their qur’ban outside Singapore for they feel that more Muslims in other Asian and African countries are poor and delighted to eat meat.

Wishing Eid Mubarak and Selamat Hari Raya Aidiladha to all.

Shaik Kadir
22 August 2018

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