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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Trust and understanding, the locus of unity and harmony

Trust and understanding, the locus of unity and harmony

Recently (on 22 July 2018), Christians and Muslims gathered at the Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church and spent about three hours receiving knowledge, building rapport and strengthening friendship

They listened to Habib Hassan Al-Attas, Imam of Ba’alwi Mosque, who talked about the importance of keeping close relation among people of the various races and religions in Singapore through trust and understanding. (“Imam” is a prayer leader.)

The event, the fourth in a series of Interfaith Dialogue & Networking programme, was organised by the Siglap Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC) in conjunction with the church, located at East Coast Road.

The Guest-of-Honour of the event was Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Mayor of the South East District of Singapore, Senior Minister of State for Defence & Foreign Affairs and Advisor for East Coast GRC.

Rev Song Cheng Hock, Associate Pastor of the Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church, and Dr Daniel Tan Thuan Siah, Chairman of the Siglap IRCC, and Ven Dr. K. Gunaratana of Mahakaruna Buddhist Society were among the guests in the audience.

Rev Song Cheng Hock making his welcoming remarks, while the other photo shows Dr Maliki Osman giving his opening speech in which he mentioned that many Singaporeans are still ignorant of the nuances of the Singapore society, hence the need for information-sharing programmes such as this “In conversation with Habib Hassan” event.  

Imam Hassan explaining the importance of having trust in promoting mutual understanding and appreciation and strengthening relationship among all Singaporeans.

Listening to prominent speakers in a gathering such as in this event is a good way to get people understand and appreciate our diverse cultural and religious practices.

Imam Hassan even passed round some photos on the subject of his talk for the audience to see, two of which are of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In his talk, the Imam mentioned that right to this day the main door key of the Holy Sepulchre is in the hands of a Muslim family. The other photo-shot shows a man in the Muslim family opening the door in the morning as people waited to go in.

The IRCC aims to deepen the residents’ understanding of the various faiths, beliefs, cultures and practices through inter-faith and inter-ethnic activities such as talks, forums, heritage trails and visits to places of worships.

Imam Hassan’s focus advice about the importance of keeping good relationship among all Singaporeans is “trust”. We must trust people to enjoy harmony, he reiterated.

He delved into the history of Islam from Islamic sources as well as his own research to explain “trust” by giving examples of how Muslims and non-Muslims as well as Christians enjoyed peace among them by trusting each other. He mentioned a few examples, such as:

(1) When Muslims were persecuted by the pagan Meccans, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) sent his followers to Ethopia where its Christian King gave refuge to them. Later, he himself, upon being invited by Medina (Madinah), left Mecca, the place of his birth, and migrated to Medina.

(2) The Prophet, after 10 years in Medina, re-entered Mecca with 10,000 of his followers. He instructed his followers not to take revenge on the pagans by abusing them and not to enter their homes and destroy their idols. He only removed all the idols that were displayed on the Ka’aba by the pagans because the Ka’aba, by God’s Revelation, is the point towards which Muslims face when doing their daily solat (5-times a day prayers).

(3) The door-key of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is kept by Muslims for centuries. (“The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is one of the most important shrines in Christianity. Many Christians believe that it marks the place where Jesus was crucified and buried, and where he rose again from the dead. It has been a special place of pilgrimage since it was founded in AD 326.” – Google.) (See also article and CNN video, “Two Muslim families entrusted with care of holy Christian site for centuries” – https://edition.cnn.com/2016/03/26/middleeast/easter-muslim-keyholder/index.html )

Question-answer time: The microphone being handed over to a man sitting among the audience who wanted to ask a question.

More questions being asked. The questions included:   (1) Why do Muslims avoid touching dogs or take them as pets?
(2) Can Muslims eat vegetarian food (cooked) in Chinese restaurants?
(3) Can non-Muslims greet their Muslim friends with the phrase “Assalamu-alaikum” (Peace be upon you)? 

Dr Maliki presenting a memento to Imam Hassan. A photo was then eagerly taken with the speaker: (From left) are Dr Daniel Tan, Ven Dr K Gunaratana, the Imam, Dr Maliki and Rev Song.

Another eager pose with the Imam.

At the end of the fruitful knowledge-sharing session, a fruit fiesta followed with the King of the Fruit (Durian), Singaporeans’ favourite, taking the main attention.
While enjoying the durians as well as the other fruits like bananas and rambutans, those who attended the function mingled and chit-chatted.

“Durian, oh our glorious Durian! If it’s not for our love of you we would have gone home by now,” they seem to say, with Mdm Noorliah Howdi (in the second photo) looking so happy for having chosen one that smells so very tempting.

Is Dr Maliki’s happy wife, Mdm Sadiah Shahal, signalling to say that she has eaten four durians or just four fleshy seeds?

The cheerful faces show that the fruit fiesta is superb; however, it is ending soon. But the knowledge, friendship, understanding and trust acquired in the event ought to remain for us to further build and maintain a happy, peaceful and harmonious Singapore.

Indeed by mingling together and understanding each other we can move in unity and harmony, a good effort which we Singaporeans have been cherishing and which we have to maintain for our happiness and survival together as “One People, One Nation, One Singapore”.

Shaik Kadir 

[Thanks to Mdm Noorliah Howdi (3 photos) and Dr Daniel Tan (4 photos) for their photo contribution.]

1 August 2018

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The glorious kampung spirit

The glorious kampung spirit

“A kite in the evening sky”, an autographical novel divulging in tales of kampung life in Geylang Serai, gets 3 publication rights since 1989

“A kite in the evening sky” has been published by three different publishers at three different period of time.

Just two days before Hari Raya Aidilfitri this year (on 13 June 2018), some 3,770 ketupat casings were hand-weaved from stripped coconut leaves in a marathon dubbed “Ketupat-thon”, a 12-hour feat for charity at the newly-opened Wisma Geylang Serai.

Called “Ketupat-thon Charity” the event was led by Malay Grassroots Advisers to support Tabung Amal Aidilfitri (TAA). More than $36,500 were collected and donated to TAA for distribution to the poor and needy.

Some 600 participants, some expert weavers, some novices, weaved the casings which would be used to make ketupats (rice cakes) fr Hari Raya guests.

I was present at this event

Shaik Kadir with Dr Yacob Ibrahim and the other participants of “Ketupat-thon” at Wisma Geylang Serai on 13 June 2018.

SK’s article, “Tulis sejarah untuk warisan”, in “Pandangan”, Berita Harian of 13 July 2012. 

SK’s article, “Growing up in the heart of Geylang Serai”, in “Think”, The Sunday Times of 21 August 2011 : “A diabolical yell from a man inside the jamban (shared village lavatory) rang out, followed instantly by a continuous terrified scream from the well area. I jumped off and fled.”

Two scenes were nostalgic to me – the area now occupied by Wisma Geylang Serai and the weaving of the ketupat casings (with young coconut leaves called janur).

Way back in the early 1960 I lived in Geylang Serai and used to play bola chapteh (chicken feather “ball”) and gasing (wooden tops) with friends who lived in this very ground of Wisma Geylang Serai where attap- and zinc-roofed houses as well as a prominent wooden-beam and plank shop, occupying a sizable area, stood. It belonged to a Chinese construction supplies dealer.

The other nostalgic memory is that of ketupat casing weaving, a practice among some kampung households, held a couple of days before Hari Raya Aidilfitri. The ketupat would be cooked on the eve of Hari Raya, and eaten with serunding, lodeh and sambal goreng on Hari Raya when relatives and friends come visiting with the greeting “Assalamu-alaikum. Selamat Hari Raya”.

SK’s article, “Masa berkampung di Geylang Serai”, in “Pandangan”, Berita Harian of 13 July 2009.

Well, for us male teenagers, voluntarily joining a group of young people weaving ketupat casings not only enlivened the festive mood but we got to throw glances at the girls sitting in the same circle absorbed in the task.

In the late 1980s, with the memory of such kampung indulgence and spirit still fresh in my memory, I wrote my kampung days’ experiences in a book, “A kite in the Evening sky” which was published by EPB Publishers in 1989.

“A kite in the evening sky” was published by EPB Publishers in 1989. (115 pages)

I wrote it with the hope that present-day people would know that there were kampungs in Singapore. In the “Epilogue” of the book, I wrote: “I enjoyed kampung life with all its difficulties, peculiarities and qualities. And there was that kampung spirit we cherished…neighbours mingled easily to chit-chat or give a helping hand as houses do not have fences and children played together outside theirs or their neighbours’ homes.”

“A kite in the evening sky” attracted the attention of the Times Heritage Library to produce five books from five different authors to be made into school literature texbooks, and in 2000 Federal Publications published it.

“A kite in the evening sky”, published by Federal Publications in the year 2000 under the Times Heritage Library, became a secondary school literature textbook. (136 pages)

To revive and cherish the kampung spirit, early this year (2018), “A kite in the evening sky’ was republished by Marshall Cavendish with two additional chapters.

“A kite in the evening sky” was republished by Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) in 2018.  This edition has two additional chapters. (160 pages)

SK’s article, “Pandai main chapteh”, in “Ekstra”, Berita Harian of 8 March 2010.

SK’s article,  “Tak boleh main di bawah pokok kelapa”, in “Ekstra”, Berita Harian of 15 March 2010.

The book contains my firsthand account of growing up in a Geylang Serai kampung in the late 1950s and 1960s. It was a time when children spent the hours after school playing with friends, eating fresh jambu directly plucked from the tree, hauling pails of water home from the public standpipe located at some distance away, attending prayers at the surau, learning to fast, learning to read the Qur’an as well as frequently attending cowboy movies from the 10-cents open-air cinema deep in Jalan Alsagoff and doing kampung roaming and visiting the Taj cinema, Garricks cinema and the Queen’s cinema, all along the Changi Road-Geylang Road stretch, to look at the display of photos of “Now showing” and “Coming soon” movies.

Like the chicken which had plenty of fresh air and exercises when they fought and chased each other, we teenagers had plenty of exercises too when we played catching, hide and seek, lereng, gasing, marbles; we went picking up thrown bus-tickets at the bus-terminus near the Taj cinema to play guessing numbers, we went “hunting” with self-made catapults; we climbed trees; we made our own chaptehs; we erected lampu colok to light up the kampung in the last ten days of Ramadan to enliven the Hari Raya mood.

SK’s article, “The thrills and spills of kite flying”, in “Review”, The Straits Times of 27 September 2010 : “Soon the blue kite for battle and started to ‘provoke’ it. A fierce battle ensued.”

We glassed our strings to fly kites; we flew kites high and far; we engaged in fierce kite-battles and we chased after “lost” kites during battles, sometimes injuring our bare-footed legs when we stepped on pieces of broken glass or exposed nails.

Many games we invented ourselves; many of the game rules we formulated ourselves, and many a times we furiously argued when the rules were flouted, and sometimes fist-blows ensued, but soon forgotten.

We admire the people of those days but we would not want the environment and its inconveniences, for instance of rushing to go to the jamban and finding it occupied; lining up to the “bathroom”, carrying pails of water from the government standpipes, all away from home. Definitely not!

Those were the days, my days and the days of many others, the days when kampung spirit prevailed. Today, we need to bring back the kampung spirit – the gotong-royong practice, the berkawan practice, the tolong-menolong practice.

Many in the kampung were poor but they maintained friendship. My family too was poor. My “jaga” father passed away when I was about seven and my widowed mother took care of me and my two sisters as we grew up enjoying our kampung days.

SK’s article, “The kampung memories that last a lifetime”,  in “Review”, The Straits Times of 22 July 2009: “My house had no tap, so I had to collect fresh water from the government standpipe some distance away. I usually did this at night, carrying two pails. It took a few trips to the standpipe to fill the water-drum in our tiny kitchen area.”

Subtitled “Tales of kampung life in Geylang Serai”, the book, in its blurb, records: “Thoughtful, amusing and heartwarming, these stories hark back to simpler days and humble ways, offering us a vivid glimpse of the kampung that raised the child.”

The book is sold at $15:80.

According to the publisher, “In Singapore, the book is available in all Kinokuniya Bookstores and the Kinokuniya webstore: https://singapore.kinokuniya.com/bw/9789814794428 as well as in Popular bookstores. In Malaysia, the book is available in Kinokuniya KLCC and Popular Malaysia stores. Online, the book will be available over all Amazon platforms, The Book Depository and Fishpond World.”

The kampungs of Singapore are gone for the better but we need to retain and maintain the glorious kampung spirit in our satellite towns.

Shaik Kadir
26 July 2018

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Towards a harmonious society: Building a friendly and compassionate personality from young

Towards a harmonious society: Building a friendly and compassionate personality from young

On 20 July 2018 pupils of PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Kampong Chai Block 135 came to school, not in their usual prominent white shirt and red skirt school uniform but in colourful costumes.

The school at Block 135 Bedok North Street was celebrating the annual Racial Harmony Day. This event was a commemoration to remind Singaporeans of the importance of living together peacefully with people of different races working and living in Singapore.

The majority of them were wearing ethnic costumes – Malay, Indian and Chinese attire. My grand-daughter, Nur Iffah Bte Muhammad Imran, was wearing a purple baju kurung and sarung set.

Iffah with her teachers and a school friend.

Apart from wearing their respective communities’ costumes, a number of classrooms had been turned into mini museums with items belonging to the main races living in Singapore. “So that the children can better understand the different cultures,” says Mrs Ruth Neo, Centre Principal, in a circular to parents.

Some of the photos of the classroom cultural exhibits are given below:

Chinese language section.

Chinese and Malay cultural items and practices.

Home-use items and congkak (Malay game) and ketupat casing making.

Indian clothing and cultural items.

Good habits.

The school also participated in a food drive with the Food Bank that day. “Our objective for this initiative is to advocate awareness of food wastage and inculcate in the children the habit of helping people in need,” Mrs Neo added.

Delivering non-perishable food items to the Foodbank officials who collect and store them in the FoodBank van: Iffah’s grand-mother, Mdm Khairon, leading Iffah to hand over her two bags of donation. 

And for remembrance, a photo of Racial Harmony Day 2017:  Iffah with Teacher Casey (left) and Teacher Pauline at the carpark near the Foodbank van. (For last year’s Racial Harmony Day’s article, go to:  https://readnreap.wordpress.com/2017/07/22/racial-harmony-day-a-day-to-maintain-respect-understanding-and-friendship/ )

It is hoped that such initiatives as the Racial Harmony Day and the food donation and other character-building programmes would help form a personality in these children that would make them become responsible, caring and peace-loving future adults.

Shaik Kadir

(With thanks to Ms Suraya Md Hanif, Teacher, for the photos of the classroom cultural exhibits.) 

23 July 2018

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A successful epic mission: All cave-trapped footballers rescued

A successful epic mission: All cave-trapped footballers rescued

With the prayers and survival hope of relatives and friends and others all over the world, all the 12 young Thai footballers and their coach who were trapped in a flooded cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand, were rescued by 11 July.

Picture of photo in the front page of The Straits Times of 12 July 2018.

We salute the 13 stranded people for having the resilience in enduring the hardship they faced for 17 frightful days in a cave that was flooded, cold and dark. What’s also amazing is these young boys went without proper food, drink and sleep during this period.

A Singaporean diver, Mr Doughlas Yeo, who was among the international group of rescuers, was quoted by The Straits Times, 13 July, 2018, as saying: “When I look at the boys from the football team, they are my heroes because if they didn’t have the guts, they would not have survived.”

Picture of photos in The Straits Times (Page A6) of 12 July 2018.

We also salute and thank all the people involved in this rescue operation, including the expert divers and the rescue and medical teams as well as the numerous volunteers and countries that extended help to save the trapped 13.

Pictures taken from Page A6 of The Straits Times of 12 July 2018.  The picture on the left is that of Mr Ekkapol Chantawong, 25, the coach who, during their ordeal in the cave, motivated the boys and gave them encouragement. The other picture is that of Mr  Saman Kunan, 38, diver, who died when he ran out of oxygen while returning from the chamber where the boys were trapped.

It was a great relief to hear of the good news that the 11- to 17- year-old boys and their soccer coach, Mr Ekkapol Chantawong, 25, have been rescued and are recuperating from their ordeal in a Chiang Rai hospital and will be discharged soon.  Welcome home, heroes!

While we celebrate the safe return of the football team, we are reminded of Mr Saman Kunan, the diver, who lost his life in an attempt to save the stranded young people. Rest in peace, Saman.

This episode is a display of great humanity and unity.   Trully “Great things can be achieved when people from various nations work together for a commom goal,” wrote former Thai minister Nalinee Taveesin on her Facebook on 10 July 2018. True indeed.

We are facing great natural disasters like droughts, floods and earthquakes in many parts of the world that have destroyed crops and homes and killed people.  It is about time that people all over the world set aside their political, religious and racial differences and work together for humanity’s common good.  This Chiang Rai cave rescue operation is a good lesson to follow in forging humanity and unity for our common survival on the face of this earth.

Shaik Kadir
13 July 2018

Previously posted on 7 July 2018 in this blog:

Ordeal of stranded Thai boys: We are with you, and we pray that all will be rescued soon”  ( https://readnreap.wordpress.com/2018/07/07/ordeal-of-stranded-thai-boys-we-are-with-you-we-pray-that-all-will-be-rescued-soon/  )

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