Qurban in Medan Hari Raya Haji celebration delight

Qurban in Medan
Hari Raya Haji celebration delight

A group of  friends, comprising 12 Singaporeans and one Indonesian working in Singapore, went to Medan for a 5-day trip from 8-12 August (2019), the objective being to celebrate Eid ul-Adha (or Hari Raya Haji in Malay), and to perform the qurban (slaughtering of sheep and cows) whose meat was distributed to the poor.

An Idul Adha or Eid ul-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) banner displayed on a building in Medan welcoming the celebration of sacrifice of  halal livestock for the meat to be distributed to the poor, an act of charity held over three days. (1440 H is the Islamic year, Hijrah, which means Islam was instituted 1440 years ago.)

In the group of 13 friends, three are non-Muslims – Rachel, Thana and Suguna.  We had an interesting time together.

Four people made some comments about our Medan trip.

Ms Suguna Ramasamy.

“Our Medan trip was simply awesome. It’s not just because my best buddies were with me but because I had the privilege of getting to know some new people who made the trip a memorable one.

Be it during the breezy boat ride, or stopping on an impulse for durians, or visiting the Batak execution chamber or taking the crayfish lunch, we broke jokes, shared anecdotes and had so much laughter, fun and joy.

It was one of those trips where it matters not where you go but who you go with!”  – Ms Suguna Ramasamy

We were lucky to have Ms Sri Zuraida Zainal Abidin in our group, whose father, (her mother has passed away) and siblings live in Medan. We visited their home early in the morning of Hari Raya Haji and together went for the Hari Raya prayer in a mosque near their home and later went for the qurban ceremony in a vacant area in a village.

During the trip, we often met up with the Medan family members of our Singaporean friend, Sri Zuraida who was in the group.

Ms Sri Zuraida Zainal Abidin.

“I feel very honored for the group to have visited Medan and met my family members.

I am thankful to the Muslims in the group to celebrate Aidil Adha and making the qurban in my family’s village.

Many poor people in the village got the opportunity to meet Singaporeans and they found them very friendly. 

From the qurban of the Singaporean Muslims in the group and that from some people in the village, those kampung people who are poor had more qurban meat to eat, and the kampung people are very thankful for that.  It is good charity.

Thank you.”  – Ms Sri Zuraida Zainal Abidin 

On Sunday, 11 August (2019), while the Muslims went to Sri’s sister’s home some distance away from the hotel to perform the qurban rites, Rachel, Thana and Suguna went shopping, accompanied by their Muslim friend, Juliana, from the group.

Shopping was a delightful activity.  Members of the group bought things from batik and baggage to fruits and foodstuff to be taken home.

Some of the interesting places we visited included cruising in the huge and scenic Lake Toba, Samosir Island where we visited Batak houses at the Ambarita Village and learned of the history of the Batak people, Barastagi province where we visited its Grand Mosque, and in the Medan city, we visited the Maimoon Palace.

Lake Toba cruise: The cruise in the extensive waters of Lake Toba was a slow boat-ride allowing us to enjoy the scenic beauty of the lake and mountains surrounding it. We were heading for Samosir Island in the far end of the lake.

At Samosir Island, we were given an in-depth explanation of the history of the Batak people, their culture and lifestyle. We were also taken into one of the Batak houses of olden days to see its interior and later to the criminal execution area where beheading for extreme crime was executed, an act now forbidden.

Travelling along the mountain roads was enjoyable as we frequently see Lake Toba, and we even stopped to enjoy the beauty of the lake spread below from the mountain edges.

Resting and enjoying the view of the lake and its surroundings, stopping along the road for rest and snacks as we carried on travelling along the mountain roads.

We even stopped over for a super multi-herb hot tea drink at a resthouse surrounded by flower plants.

And the ladies couldn’t resist touching the mountain flowers…

And then we came to a strawberry plantation where we could walk along its bunds to pluck the fruit ourselves to be weighed for purchase.

And then, as we rode on in our tourist mini-bus, we spotted a durian seller along the road and we could not resist our temptation to go near the king of fruits to smell them and finally relish them to our hearts’ content.

During our tour, we visited a Pagoda, temple of the Buddhists, and explored its interior, beholding the relics displayed in its hall.

In the afternoon, after completing our qurban rites, we had an audience with the Sultan Langkat, Tuanku Yang Mulia Azwar Aziz Abdul Djalil Rahmadsyah Alhaj, during which I proposed that we could have a student-exchange programme for our students to visit them and experience village life and observe the  mountains, fruit trees, plantations and farms and their students can come to Singapore to learn about our lifestyle, and enjoy our food and attractions.

And later in the day, we had audience with Sultan Langkat, Tuanku Yang Mulia Azwar Aziz Abdul Djalil Rahmadsyah Alhajj.

And, at the end of the meeting with the Sultan, we had the opportunity to take photos with him.

Mr Imhar Said.

“We were lucky to meet up with an important person for an audience. He was Tuanku Yang Mulia Azwar Aziz Abdul Djalil Rahmadsyah Alhajj.

A soft-spoken person, Tuanku told us his roots and his past extensively.  He also told us how the people in the villages lived, and the challenge taken to make the Malay language recognised internationally. 

He would like to see the young people of today with western influence coming back to their culture and be more open-minded.

We admire his vast knowledge of this region and of his people.”   – Mr Imhar Said

Of course, Muslims crowded the many mosques in Medan to perform the Eid ul-Adha solat (prayer) at around 7:30 in the morning.  Then, at about ten, the qurban activity began.

The Muslims in our group visited mosques where we performed voluntary prayers as well as our obligatory payers, and in one of them, middle photo, we performed the Eid ul-Adha prayer, beginning at around 7 am on 11 August (or 10 Zulhijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic year).

The slaughtering was done following Islamic rites and instructions to relax the animal and to be compassionate to them before and during the slaughtering them, and keeping some distance away from each other with the blood flowing into a pre-made hole in the ground.

A gathering to watch the qurban: After the Eid ul-Adha prayers in the morning, it was time for the qurban, the sacrificing of livestock like cows and sheep carried out by trained butchers, for charity – with the meat given away to the poor later when the meat has been cut up into chunks.

The slaughtering of the animals is done according to Islamic rites to minimise the suffering of the animals with some set rules, notably to relax the animal and show compassion to them during the qurban activity.

Cute children…and Mdm Khairon couldn’t resist carrying the tudung-clad child.

The Muslims in the group are happy to have accomplished our main objective of going to Medan – to celebrate Hari Raya Haji and offering our qurban to benefit the poor.

Regarding the qurban (or spelt in Malay as korban), God says in the Islamic Holy Book, the Quran: “Celebrate the name of God through the days appointed over the herds for sacrifice.  Then, eat and feed the unfortunate and the needy.” (22:28).

As for the qurban meat, God says: “It is not (the animal’s) flesh or blood that reaches Allah. It is your piety that reaches Him.”  (22:37)

The qurban ceremony, held during the Haj in Mecca, is conducted at a location far away from the crowd, and the meat is deep-frozen and donated to the poor in countries around the world.

Sri’s siblings, Adhe Ahmadsyah Ramadhan Zainal Abidin, Nur Asmanissa Zainal Abidin, Sri Rahayu Zainal Abidin and her brother-in-law Agung Kurniawan (husband of Sri Rahayu), were also happy to take us shopping. We are very thankful to them for their hospitality and generosity.

Mr Agung Kurniawan.

“Salam to everybody in the Singapore group.

Alhamdulillah! I am pleased to welcome the delegation from Singapore and I wish everyone all the best.

I hope, all of you had a nice and enjoyable time in Medan and also during your cruise in Lake Toba and the tour to Samosir Island and Brastagi.  

Thanks to those who visited my home and gave us the opportunity to do the Aidil Adha prayer together.

I hope, members of the Singapore group will stay healthy so that we can see each other again next time.

Ameen.”   – Mr Agung Kurniawan (Sri’s brother-in-law) 

Photos are a must for remembrance: The hotels we stayed during our Medan trip.

As for our three non-Muslim friends, they too enjoyed the Medan trip. Best of all, we all gained deep friendship and we shall keep it.

Shaik Kadir
16 August 2019

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Towards unity as one people of Singapore Understanding and appreciating religious practices via interfaith dialogues

Towards unity as one people of Singapore

Understanding and appreciating religious practices via interfaith dialogues

More than 50 Singaporeans of multi-racial, multi-religious composition attended a talk on marriage from the perspectives of the Sikh and Ba’hai religions at the Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church on Sunday, 28 July 2019.

This is the fifth annual Interfaith Dialogue presentation organised by the Siglap Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC).  The previous four assemblies, first organised in 2015, were also held in this church.

The speakers in this session were Ms Harjit Kaur who spoke on Sikh marriages and Ms Ang Ing Ing talked on Ba’hai marriages.

Though the approaches and rituals of marriages in each religion might be different, the objective and direction is the same – the marriage ought to last with love and happiness. Each married couple needs to be responsible in developing the family and seeing that understanding, love and compassion dominate the family unit.

Earlier in his introductory remark, the Guest-of-Honour Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman cited the importance of being aware of false posts which is rampant in modern time with the widespread use of social media. Fake news, misinformation, wild opinions and untruth and even rude and uncalled for rhetoric are flooding the social media, and these could create tension and hatred among the various races living in a country.

Unlike the print media, social media posts spread across the world in matters of seconds, and if the subject matter has taints of anti-racial issues or/and presented in vulgar and abusive language, it can generate mistrust, even discord, among the people in the communities.

At the Fifth Interfaith Dialogue: Dr Daniel Tan (left) opening the session with his welcome address, while Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman made his introductory remarks on the importance of maintaining peace and harmony in Singapore.

Praising Singapore and Singaporeans, Dr Maliki, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Mayor South East District and Advisor East Coast Group Representation Constituency (ECGRC), mentioned that although Singapore is a small island, and indeed a red dot, its multi-racial, multi-religious people have shown resilience in the onslaught of fake posts and remained peaceful and harmonious but this peace and harmony should not be taken for granted.

Hence, everyone has a very important role to play in making Singapore a unique nation where its multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious people live together as one united people of Singapore, and that such interfaith dialogues are held with the aim of uniting people together by understanding and appreciating each other’s cultures and religious practices.

Ms Harjit Kaur talking about the rituals in a Sikh marriage.

Ms Ang Ing Ing elaborating on marriage from the Ba’hai perspectives.

Two people agreed that such educational and social gathering is good for people to know and understand the various cultures and religions practised in Singapore and, at the same time, come close together in lasting friendship. Their comments are as follows:

Ms Suryani Nasiruddin.

“From this interfaith talk at the Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church on 28 July, I now understand more about the practices of other faiths, especially, in this case, about marriages in the Sikh and Ba’hai communities.  Understanding about other religions is important to live together peacefully.  I shall definitely attend future interfaith dialogues to gain more knowledge about other religions in Singapore.”  – Ms Suryani Nasiruddin

Rev Song Choon Hock.

“Our ongoing interfaith talks and dialogues provide a useful platform for meaningful conversations, exchanges of information and clarifications. More significantly, they open us to perspectives outside of our own circles and help us gain a greater appreciation and understanding of each other’s beliefs. In this digital age, unfriendly rhetoric, offhand opinions and sometimes careless conclusions surface in the media, so this makes our interfaith dialogues extremely useful in countering provocative inferences and presumptions.” – Rev Song Choon Hock

 The interfaith dialogue session at the church ended with a fruit fiesta. The guests really enjoyed the local fruit treat and chatted away making new friends and renewing friendship.

Fruit fiesta: Food and fruit bring people closer together in friendship and that the King, Princes and Princesses of fruit give the multi-racial, multi-religious gathering an opportunity to come together to chat and enjoy the treat.

Ms Harjit Kaur is perhaps chatting about the smell of the King of Fruit – the durian, a fruit which you either love (Ooooh!) it or hate (Yek!) it because of its soft flesh and strong smell.

Ooooh, so shiok lah…and closing the eyes will give you an even better feeling of the taste of the region’s cherries, longans, mangosteens, durians, and rambutans, all available at the fiesta. Ooooh! Nice lah…one more durian, please.

Standing from left are Mr Yacob Hussain, Chairman of the Siglap Community Centre’s Malay Activity Executive Committee; Mr Shaik Kadir, retired teacher and writer of this article; Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Guest-of-Honour; Rev Song Choon Hock of the Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church; and Dr Daniel Tan, Chairman of the Siglap Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC). Seated are Ms Ang Ing Ing and Ms Harjit Kaur, speakers of the Interfaith Dialogue session.

In recent time, there have been cases of colour supremacy and racial slurs in some countries, causing tension and fear to the residents.  With globalisation, as people work and even live in other countries, racism and colour supremacy should no longer exist or tolerated. We need to forget race and colour and work together as one humankind.

More than 1400 years ago, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), in his famous long and last sermon, apart from reminding Muslims on their religious obligations and social responsibilities, advised all humanity to keep away from racism and colour supremacy.

The Prophet said: “All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also, a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white except by piety and good action…Remember, one day you will appear before Allah and answer your deeds. So, be aware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.”

Shaik Kadir
1 August 2019

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Significance of Ramadan and iftar at Heartbeat

 

Significance of Ramadan
and
iftar at Heartbeat

Some 250 people, including non-Muslims, were invited for iftar (breaking of the Ramadan fast) event on Saturday evening of 25 May 2019 at the Heartbeat community hub in Bedok, officially known as Heartbeat@Bedok.

The Malay Activity Executive Committee (MAEC) of eight community centres in the East Coast GRC district organised the iftar function.

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, was the Guest-of-Honour.

Today (28 May) is the 23rd  day of the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims have now been fasting for 23 days.

Details of the iftar event at Heartbeat@Bedok.

As the invited guests were streaming in and, while waiting for the arrival of the Guest-of-Honour, three converts to Islam, (from left) Ms Nur Zafirah, Mr Ismail and Mr Firdaus, shared their fasting experiences. 

Guest-of-Honour Dr Maliki addressing the guests while they waited for the azan (Islamic prayer call), which for 25 May 2019 was 7:09 pm in Singapore, before breaking their fast.  The other officials on stage too took turns to address to the gathering.

In Ramadan, apart from fasting to develop self-restraint and spirituality by reading the Qur’an and performing extra prayers than the usual daily five, is also the time for the Muslim to be more humble, charitable and forgiving.

Divine Revelations  

Ramadan is also a holy month for Muslims because of Nuzul ul-Qur’an or the commemoration of the commencement of the Qur’an on 17 Ramadan.

It was in 610 AD on 17 Ramadan that Muhammad, when he was 40 years old, received the following Message:

“Proclaim! In the name of thy Lord and Cherisher Who created,
Created man from a clot of congealed blood,
Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful,
He who taught the use of the pen,
Taught man that which he knew not.”

The above 5-verses were the first Revelation Muhammad received from the Archangel Gabriel (Jibrīl) sent by God. That was the beginning of Muhammad’s prophethood, and Muslims call him Rasul (Messenger of God). From that time, Muslims add the salutation “Sallallah alaihi wassalam) in respect of his status whenever they utter his name. In English it is “Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him”.

This 5-verse Revelation makes up the first five verses of Chapter 96 called Iqra (Read or Recite).

The Qur’an consists of 114 chapters, and it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) over 23 years. These Revelations were recorded verbatim as and when each of them was received by the Prophet and formed the Qur’an.

From the time the Qur’an was revealed, this Holy Book has been read and recited from memory.  Today, millions of Muslims all over the world are able to recite the whole Qur’an from memory (without reading the words on its pages).   And, being in poetic prose, the Qur’an can be read melodioudly and tunefully that have touched the hearts of not only Muslims but non-Muslims too.

Fasting Message

Invited guests included non-Muslims and they too waited for the azan before enjoying their dinner.

The  first photo show Mr Tan Kim Hock, Vice-Chairman of the Changi-Simei IRCC and Ms Felicia Wee, the Chairwoman.   The iftar gathering at Heartbeat@Bedok also gave the opportunity for some to meet their friends. 

Goodie bags for all guests:  Mdm Sadiah Shahal (left), wife of Dr Maliki, and Dr Maliki giving away the goodie bags.

The Islamic fast is prescribed in the Qur’an. God says: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you…that you may learn self-restraint.” (Chapter 2: Verse 183)

In the next verse, a long verse but in part, God says that if any Muslim is ill or on a long journey, the person need not fast but has to make up the missed number of days any time (after Aidilfitri) but before the next Ramadan starts.

Then, in the following verse, Verse 184, also a long verse but quoted partially here, God says: “Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Qur’an as a guide to mankind, also clear Signs for guidance and judgement (between right and wrong).  So, every one of you should spend the month in fasting, except a person who is ill, including menstruating women, or on a long journey.

Muslims start their fast before dawn on each day of Ramadan in a meal called sahur.  They break their fast upon an official signal, usually at the call of the azan of the maghrib (after sundown) prayer which is the fourth of the five prayers of the day.

At Heartbeat@Bedok, invited non-Muslims too have been invited to eat together with Muslims when they break the fast. This is a good gesture recommended by Islam.

Ramadan is a compassionate month when Muslims become extra charitable in many ways. Mosques throughout the world offer free iftar meals which often consist of dates as the starter, and distribute, usually porridge, to the poor or to whoever, even to non-Muslims, who want to take home the spiced rice porridge for the family.

Bonding

Food is a good way to bring people together. Inviting non-Muslims, especially the residents of homes of the aged, is a good move being practised in Singapore, a move in building bridges of bonding and understanding among the various ethnic groups.

Among the guests is Dr Daniel Tan who said the iftar gathering is a good time for multi-racial, multi-religious bonding.

About the mix racial guests, Dr Daniel Tan (above), who is the Chairman of the Siglap Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle, said: “This annual iftar event brings our multi-racial and multi-religious community together to break the Ramadan fast with our Muslim residents. Understanding each other’s customs and religions is a small step towards bonding, and enhancing racial harmony in our multi-religious country.”

Terawih prayer

Muslims perform the long terawih prayer in Ramadan nights. This prayer can be performed at home together with the family members, in the mosque or even in any hall or at the void decks of flats in congregation after the Isya prayer, the fifth prayer of the day.

After the iftar at Heartbeat, my wife and I and Mr Najib Ahmad and his wife went to the Taqua Mosque in Bilal Lane to continue with our ibadah (acts of devotion) by performing the long night prayer, terawih, and, at the mosque, we met Dr Maliki who was the Guest-of-Honour of the iftar event at the Heartbeat earlier on.

Then, after the terawih prayer at around 10:20 pm, and after most of the worshippers had left, we sat down in the outer hall of the mosque to relax and chat for about 15 minutes while drinking the mosque’s well-known teh tarik served free for all who went to this mosque.

The top photo shows worshippers, after their Isya prayer, waiting to begin their terawih  prayer in the inner hall. The other photo in the outer hall shows some officials of the mosque and us, including Dr Maliki and his wife, after the  terawih prayer was over.

Night of Power

Muslims, in the last ten nights of Ramadan, at home or in the mosque, do more devotional acts because of “Laylatul Qadr (the Night of Power).

Laylatul Qadr is described in the Quran as a night “better than a thousand months” (Qur’an, 97:3). Any devotional deed done on this night, such as reciting the Quran, doing the zikir (remembering Allah) and so on, gains more spiritual merits for the doer.

This chaper is always recited during the terawih prayer in the last ten days of Ramadan.

Aidilfitri

Eid ul-Fitr (Festival of Charity) or often written in Malay as Aidilfitri or mentioned verbally simply as “Hari Raya” (Grand Day) is just round the corner. This year it falls on 5 June. (Roughly translated, “Eid” means “Festival”.)

Hari Raya begins with prayers; first, with the daily suboh prayer (the pre-dawn prayer, the first of the five prayers of the day) which is usually performed at home, and then at around 7:30 am, Muslims, usually males, start to go to the mosques – any mosque for convenience as Muslims do not belong to any mosque but to all mosques – for the Hari Raya Aidilfitri prayer which usually commences at 8:15 am.

Mosques are always over-loaded on Islam’s two Hari Rayas, the other being Eid ul-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) or Hari Raya Haji which is about two months away. When the interior of the mosque is full, you may even see worshippers performing their prayers outside the mosque on concrete spaces with mats laid down or even on bare grounds. (Muslim females are not barred from praying in the mosque on these two Hari Rayas but they do not go to the mosque, knowing that mosque space is limited.)

Selamat Hari Raya

Gift money packets in various lively patterns and colours.  They are given to children of visiting families by the host in keeping with the Hari Raya traditon.  

After the prayer, at around 11 am, Muslims begin to visit their parents who are not living with them and relatives and friends, offering both the verbal salam “Assalamu-alaikum” (Peace Be upon you) and the hand-touch salam when they meet, and greeting each other with the phrase “Eid Mubarak” or “Selamat Hari Raya”.

It would also be good for non-Muslims to visit their Muslim friends to enhance greater mutual understanding and mutual respect for each other, and to uphold our ideals of unity in diversity.

Food and drinks (no alcoholic beverages) will be served to guests, and children and the elderly get monetary gifts in attractive packets, after all, Eid ul-Fitr means festival of charity.  Anyone is welcome to the home to celebrate Hari Raya.

I take this opportunity to wish all readers of this article Eid Mubarak (Happy Eid). Selamat Hari Raya (Have a Grand Day).

Shaik Kadir
28 May 2019

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SIGA in the Abode of Peace (Darussalam)

SIGA
in the
Abode of Peace
(Darussalam)

Some 110 people attended this year’s SIGA, the 31st SIGA, in Brunei Darussalam (Abode of Peace) from 26-29 April 2019.  The four-day meeting was organised by SIGA Brunei Darussalam with the theme “Reunite and reignite”, meaning in a sense, to reunite old friends and reignite the flame of friendship with new participants. In a broader sense, it means reuniting previous accomplishments and reigniting new endeavours in various fields of common interest.

SSEAYP is the Ship for Southeast Asia Youth programme mooted by Japan. Its programme first started in 1974 with just five ASEAN nations, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.  SIGA is the abbreviation for SSEAYP International General Assembly, an annual meeting held, taking turns, in the current 10 ASEAN countries.

SIGA is an annual event of the SSEAYP stakeholders, comprising government representatives, alumni members, administrative officials and associates from different programmes as well as homestay host families.

Assalamu-alaikum

The Singapore SIGA contigent receiving a warm welcome at the Brunei International Airport.

“Assalamu-alaikum,” was the first phrase we heard when representatives of SIGA Brunei greeted us at the Brunei International Airport when we emerged from its Arrival Hall.

(For the unfamiliar readers of the other faiths) “Assalamu-alaikum,” is the Islamic greeting which means “Peace be upon you” and the reply is “Wa-alaikum salam” (and peace be upon you, too).

Assalamu-alaikum Wa-Rahmatullahi Wa-Barakhatu is the often-heard Islamic greeting phrase by all the Muslim personnel when they went up the stage to present their speeches or make presentations whether in-house or at visiting places. It means “May the Peace and Blessings of God Be Upon You”, a greeting that can be made at any time of the day or night and at formal gatherings or by individuals when they meet and depart.

This meaningful greeting phrase has become well-known the world over when New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Britain’s royalty Prince William used the phrase in the aftermath of the Christchurch mosques killings.

Welcome dinner

Mdm Sarintan Kanting asking Mr Desmond Yew for the direction to the Welcome Dinner hall, and Desmond seems to reply: “No problem, there are direction and welcome  posters everywhere.”

Part of the Singapore contingent: Yah, that’s a good idea, let’s take a photo first before we begin our dinner, the well-attired Mr Ramlan Bin Rasidi (Rambo Rams) seems to agree, spreading his three fingers to show consent, happiness and gratitude.

Yes, yes, our Big John (Mr John Vijayan Vasavan), Advisor to SSEAYP Internal Singapore, receiving the SSEAYP International Award from YB Major General (Retired) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Hj Abidin, Minister of Culture, Youth & Sports.

In the SIGA gathering a man approached me and introduced himself, saying he had come to my home years ago and that I had given him a gift – a book I wrote, titled “The Haj: the annual pilgrimage of Islam”. After that we met him, Hj Jailani Hj Ibrahim, a few times during the Brunei SIGA event. My wife and I took photos with him twice as seen in the two bottom photos.  The middle photo shows two young Japanese ladies, members of the Japanese contingent, in Malay attire during one of the SIGA events.

SIGA beauty pageant?  No, its just for memory.  Group photos are always the favourites, always starting with two or three “stars” and, in seconds, the row gets expanded.

Yeh, handsome men and beautiful ladies at the staircase in the lobby of our hotel – The Centrepoint Hotel.

Knowledge sharing

The annual SIGA is significant and essential as it provides a platform for international relations and sharing of knowledge on culture, economy, industry and country lifestyles of the country where the meeting is held.

Speeches from the Guest-of-Honour and officials, country reports from each ASEAN member country and Japan, and a forum on entrepreneurship and business initiatives dominated the first-day programme of the assembly.

Outings for social contributions and village industry involvements were conducted on the second and third day of the SIGA programme.

Social contribution activities

Some 90 participants of SIGA, including me, were at the Pusat Bahagia (Happiness Centre) to offer our contributions to the “special” people of the Centre in such areas art, cooking and sports, under the “Social Contribution Activities” of the SIGA schedule. The aim is to befriend these “special” people, be involved in their routine activities and, at the same time, keeping in mind that they are “special, so we need to be loving and gentle with them.

I was with a dozen SIGA participants who had pre-opted to be with the “special” people who were doing picture painting at the time of the visit.

Entering the art painting room, I went close to the five youths (four males and one female) who were engrossed in their painting, I was enthralled by the dexterity of their artistic ability. They copied intricate images of designs and people on their drawing paper with skilful strokes of their brushes.

The visitors were also given the opportunity to practise their artistic skills to encourage the Centre’s budding artists.

Teacher Hayati (left, top photo) and Teacher Faridah supervising five “artists” (a girl and four boys) at the art painting room of Pusat Bahagia (Happiness Centre).

Mr Nasrullah Mohammed, Manager of the Centre, said these “special” people of the centre can be “between seven and 70”.  He said: “There is no age limit. The Centre is open to any people who are autistic and of low IQ. Here, they not only learn art but also Islamic knowledge and participate in other activities like cooking, gardening, sports and music. They can join at any age and leave any time when their parents or guardians want to take them back or if they have secured a job elsewhere.”

The completed works of the Pusat Bahagia “artists” are often displayed for sale.

Eleven members of the SIGA contingent, who opted to be together with the Centre’s “artists”, also delved in the painting and produced their masterpieces.

While these SIGA visitors were in the art painting room, the other SIGA participants, having made their choice of interest a day earlier, went with their respective groups to the other activity rooms of the Centre, and involved themselves in activities such as sewing, cooking and facial paintings.

Facial painting:  Tiger, leopard, Superdevil…anything will do for fun to entertain the “special” people of Pusat Bahagia.

Cooking:  Food, glorious food! Men enjoy whatever eatables the ladies cook.

And chocolates and desserts…

Tutong District Village Industry

On the third day, the participants visited the Tutong District where each village produced one product. The SIGA participants had the opportunity to watch and have hands-on experiences with the villagers in doing their respective products.  I, together with a dozen others, opted to be with the Pusat Kegiatan Warga Emas (Senior Citizens Activity Centre) and separated in the village in different groups.

The senior citizens not only showed us how to weave bamboo baskets of different sizes with varied patterns but also taught us some cooking. After that, we had a delicious lunch prepared by them.

At the Pusat Kegiatan Warga Emas (Senior Citizens Activity Centre), the elderly people taught us basket weaving and cooking.

And the group that visited this centre had a delightful lunch cooked by these kitchen experts. 

The other groups went for other “industries” like virgin-coconut oil production and kropok (crackers) making.

The group that went to the virgin coconut oil production factory get to see how the oil was prepared for sale.

SIGA members

Among the SIGA participants this year 26 were from Singapore, comprising SSEAYP homestay host families, ex-SSEAYP Participating Youths and SSEAYP International Singapore (SIS) officials.

More group photos…

Shuuu..don’t tell the others!  John and I are doing part-time job as door-keepers. Good pay, lah!

SSEAYP objectives

SIGA is a nice name to hear and an interesting knowledge-sharing assembly. However, there would have been no SIGA if there was no SSEAYP.

SSEAYP, or the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Programme, has a threefold objectives. It aims:

  • to promote friendship and mutual understanding among the youths of Japan and the 10 countries in Southeast Asia,

  • to broaden the youths’ perspectives not only of ASEAN and Japan but of the world, and

  • to strengthen the participants’ spirit of international cooperation and practical leadership skills for international collaboration.

The participants of SSEAYP develop leadership abilities by interacting with youths from ASEAN and Japan, organising activities, visiting educational institutions, and, the most popular of all, staying with the country’s families in a 3-day stint.

This year’s SSEAYP, which will be held for 51 days from 24 October to 13 December, is the 46th.   Singapore families are waiting with excitement to receive them for the homestay from 16 to 18 November when the famed Nippon Maru embarks in Singapore waters for five days.

Farewell to Brunei Darussalam

The closing  ceremony and the farewell dinner was held at the Royal Berkshire Hall of the Royal Brunei Polo and Riding Club’s Clubhouse.

The Singapore SIGA contingent had a wonderful time in Brunei Darussalam, learning many aspects of the Brunei culture, entrepreneurship and people.

We love Brunei people and their food and, most of all, the Brunei peoples’ friendship. We love Brunei Darussalam, the Abode of Peace.

Sabah Dinner Reception

We left Brunei DarussaIam with a sad heart but we were heading for Sabah for a couple of days’ holiday before returning home.

At the Sabah International Airport, Kota Kinabalu, our SIGA contingent was welcomed by the members of SSEAYP International Malaysia. That evening we had a special dinner reception hosted by its alumni, Kabesa Sabah/Labuan.

The top photo shows Mr Yacob Hussain, President of SSEAYP International Singapore (SIS), receiving a special token of appreciation from Dato Juhari Haji Janan, President of Kabesa Sabah/Labuan. On the extreme right of the row, with black headscarf, is Ms Siti Hidayah Bte Mohamad Taha, Secretary of SIS. And what are Mr Rahim and Mdm Sarintan doing sitting in the middle?  Oh, yah, they have been chosen as King and Queen of 2019 for being best dressed. 

On behalf of the Singapore contingent, Mr Yacob Hussain thanks Dato Juhari and his team for organising the dinner reception. 

The next SIGA will be held in Pattaya Thailand (the Land of Smiles) in March 2020, and it is slated to organise interesting and educative programmes.

Ramadan Kareem, Ramadan Mubarak

Now that Ramadan, the fasting month, begins tomorrow (Monday, 6 May 2019), I take this opportunity to wish all Muslims connected with SSEAYP and SIGA as well as all Muslims around the world “Ramadan Kareem” (Have a charitable Ramadan) and “Ramadan Mubarak” (Adore the Blessed Ramadan).

Assalamu-alaikum.

 Shaik Kadir
5 May 2019

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Halal food and its importance to Muslims

Halal food
and its
importance to Muslims

Muslims eat halal food. But what is halal food and why it is necessary for Muslims to eat halal food?

The writer of this article gave a talk on halal food in a “Workshops together with M3” event at Masjid Al-Taqua on Saturday, 30 March (2019), in the Dietary Understanding and Restrictions workshop during which two other speakers gave their explanations from the Buddhist and Hindu perspectives. The presentations on “Vegetarian and halal food” was attended by grassroots leaders of the Siglap constituency.

“Vegetarian and halal food” presentations for the Siglap Constituency grassroots leaders: The three speakers were Venerable You Guang who explained vegetarian food from the Buddhist perspective; Mr Shukul Raaj Kumar who explained vegetarian food from the Hindu perspective, while Mr Shaik Kadir, writer of this article, talked about Muslim food, known as halal food.

Due to the short time given to each of the three speakers, the halal food subject could only dealt briefly. Therefore, in the postscript of the previous article which focussed more on the event, the writer mentioned: “The next article will be exclusively on halal food as this is an important topic on Dietary Understanding and Restrictions from the Islamic perspective which would be good for sharing, especially with non-Muslim Singaporeans, as we often eat together at Muslim wedding invitations and at social and office celebrations.”

The “exclusively on halal food” article, presented in the question-answer format for easy emphasis, is as follows:

Why non-Muslim Singaporeans need to know about halal food?
Food is one of the binding factors of Singaporeans. We eat together during marriage invitations, and during office, public and social functions. As Singaporeans are of various races, cultures and religions and their dietary necessities might differ from each other’s, it is good to know about Muslims’ dietary requirements, popularly termed “halal food”.

Why must Muslims eat halal food?
Being followers of Islam, Muslims follow and obey the instructions of God as given in the Qur’an, the Holy Book of Islam.

To live in Islam is not merely to prepare for the spiritual world in the Hereafter, but also to live a complete way of life right here in this material world.

“Muslim”, in its root sense, is one who follows a lifestyle as advocated by Islam – totally submitting to God. So since Muslims totally submit to God, they have to follow the instructions of God, like performing the five times a day prayers, fasting the whole month of Ramadan, giving charity and eating halal food: all for the sake of keeping oneself totally pure and clean in accordance with Qur’anic teachings. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) had said: “Purity and cleanliness is half the Islamic faith.”

Islam aims at a total package of human development and enhancement in all human dealings and matters.

How to ensure if the food is halal?
If the whole country comprise Muslims, the word “halal” will not be labelled for food as all food is deemed to be halal. In the same way, a Muslim eatery will not label the food it sells as halal since a Muslim eatery will not be selling non-halal food. Only in a country where there are people of many religions, and when the owner of an eatery or food production company is non-Muslim, the word “halal” (with its identification “halal” logo obtained officially) is displayed to indicate that the food sold is halal.

Singapore as well as some other countries have authorities to oversee halal food and food products that can be consumed by Muslims with their own respective iconic “Halal” logo. The “Halal” authority in Singapore is the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, popularly known in its Malay term as Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS), issues halal certification after thorough examination.

The most familiar halal food logo to Singaporeans is the circular one in the middle with one, the first one, on a food package. Examples of halal logos from other Asian countries shown here are from Malaysia, Thailand and Japan.
The 3 letters in Arabic (from the Qur’an) are, from right, hah, lam-alif, lam = halal.

The Singapore halal logo being prominently displayed to attract Muslims. Polar also displays the Halal certificate which all food companies receive after successful application for halal certification upon thorough inspection of the premises, including cleanliness of the kitchen, utensils used and other necessities by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, popularly known in its Malay term as Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS).

What does the Qur’an mention about eating halal food?
Halal is an Arabic word used in the Qur’an.  (The Qur’an is in Arabic, it’s original language, and is available in almost all Muslim homes and can be bought from Muslim bookshops.)  ”Halal” means allowed, permissible or lawful in Islam. (The opposite of halal is haram.) Thus, halal food simple means food that is lawful for Muslim consumption.

As has been reiterated, Muslims take halal food in obedience to God’s command.

Instructing Muslims to be mindful of what they eat, God says in the Qur’an:

• “O you who believe! Eat of the good things that We (God) have provided for you.” (2:172)

In the above verse, God is saying that He has provided for us huge varieties of good things that can be eaten.

• “Lawful (halal) to you are all things good and pure …” (5:5)

In the above verse now, God explains that halal (lawful) to Muslim consumption are all items that are “good and pure”. That is to say, anything that is NOT good and pure is haram and Muslims should avoid them. That may include alcohol, drugs and cannabis, etc.

With regard to smoking, some Muslim scholars say smoking is NOT “good” for health and therefore is haram, while some other Muslim scholars say that smoking may not be haram but definitely makruh, meaning it is “good to avoid” it for very good reasons, in this case, smoking is hazardous to health and incurs wastage of money.

Warning dangers of cigarette smoking shown on cigarette boxes. Smoking, related to intoxicants (agents that can cause addiction and harm to one’s own-self and others) can cause several problems, including cancer, heart and lung diseases and even miscarriages.

Smoking is such a health concern that “No Smoking” warnings are advertised in newspapers and posters displayed. It is against the Singapore law to smoke in places such as work areas, public buildings, public areas such as exercise corners and children’s playgrounds, school premises, stadiums, cinemas, shopping malls, restaurants, hawker centres and in bus-stop shelters.

What is haram for food?
Pork is one of the animal flesh that is haram for Muslim consumption. God says: “(O you who believe!) Forbidden to you (for food) are … the flesh of swine …” (5:4)

Consumption prohibition does not apply to pork only, but other “things and actions” related to eating are prohibited too.

An example of these prohibitions is given in Chapter 5, verse 4 and they are given below for easy reading). God says: “(O you who believe!) Forbidden to you (for food) are:

• dead meat
• blood
• the flesh of swine
• that on which has been invoked the name of other than God
• that which has been killed by strangling
• or by a violent blow
• or by a headlong fall
• or by being gored to death
• that which has been partly eaten by a wild animal, unless you can slaughter it before it dies
• that which is sacrificed on stone (altars)
• (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows (gambling).”

Since pork is haram, the derivatives of pork like lard, ham and bacon are also haram.

In Islam, the meat of predatory animals, like lions, wolves and so on are also haram for consumption.

Is showing compassion important in slaughtering animals?
Yes it’s very important. Cruelty to animals whether during slaughtering animals for eating or during any other time is a sin. There are a number of Hadith narrations which show Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon him, praising those who showed compassion to animals.

During slaughtering of animals for eating, the animal needs to be calmed down, and the cut, with a sharp knife, is to be effected on the jugular vein at the neck which would stunt the animal and it would not feel any pain. There should be no twisting of its neck, knocking its head on a hard surface and so on as sudden death would suppress blood flow out of its body. In Islam, drinking blood or eating congealed blood is haram.

The Muslim person slaughtering the animal is to have the intention of slaughtering the animal for food and he softly says: “In the name of God, I slaughter this animal for food.” Or just “Bismillah” (In the name of Allah) as his intention and action is understood. In the most basic form, if he has many chickens, for example, to slaughter, he need to say the slaughtering prayer only once at the time of slaughtering the first chicken.

If ever the animal feels any pain before it dies, the prayer that has been said is the defence – that the slaughtering is done not for fun, game or gambling but for food. In nature (as you could watch from any wild-life documentary video), you will see a cattle, for instance, suffers enormously when attacked by a group of lions biting the victim’s legs, back and neck until it falls from its standing position and then still biting all over its body as it struggles till it finally dies – but all for the sake of food to live: one cattle dies, several lions live.

Can Muslims be vegetarians, eating only vegetables and fruits?
Eating vegetables only is a choice if a Muslim wants to, but Muslims are allowed to enjoy eating meat and vegetables for a balanced diet as nutrition is found in vegetables, meat of all halal animals, eggs, cereals, nuts, fruits, and so on. Muslims eat them as long as they are “halal, good and pure”.

Also, by nature, certain animals, like lions, eat only meat; and certain other animals, like goats, eat only vegetables. But, human beings are creatures that can consume any halal animal meat as long as they follow their respective religious restrictions and health advice, if any.

Are alcoholic drinks prohibited?
In Islam, not only food must be halal but drinks too.

In the Qur’an the prohibition of alcoholic drinks is mentioned in an all-encompassing term as “intoxicants”, and is cited together with gambling.

God says in the Qur’an: “O you who believe! Intoxicants and gambling are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork: Avoid such abomination that you may prosper.” (5:90–91)

“Intoxicants” as mentioned in the Qur’an refers to any agent that causes the mind to befog and lose the ability to reason, and can cause addiction. Thus, intoxicants include alcohol, drugs, marijuana, cannabis, and so on. They are all haram in Islam.

“If you drink, don’t drive.” Singaporeans are familiar with this slogan which was initiated many years ago by the Singapore Traffic Police, the Singapore Police Force and the Singapore Road Safety Council.

Referring to intoxicants and gambling, the Qur’an uses the phrase “an abomination of Satan’s handiwork” for their possible dire consequences, such as divorces, broken homes, fights and loss of dignity. Many marriages have broken down; many matured, even educated, people have ruined their lives. Many families have been shamed because of their spouses or children’s indulgence in alcohol, drugs and gambling.

Over the last several decades numerous experts have commented on the ills of alcohol. For instance, Dr Tan Chue Tin, consultant psychiatrist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, has this to say: “Alcohol does two things to a person. It dissolves moral constraints and social inhibitions. Second, it diminishes judgement.” (The New Paper, 9 April 2006)

Social drinking, that is, taking small amounts of alcoholic beverages, is also haram. This is because it is easy to get indulged in it at social gatherings; and easy to turn to it to drown worries. All hard drinkers, problem drinkers and alcoholics indeed started out innocently with small amounts as social drinkers. As a warning to this, the Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon him, said: “What intoxicates when taken in big quantity is also haram to consume in small amounts.”

Since alcohol is haram because they are connected with numerous social ills, it is also haram for Muslims to sell alcoholic beverages, like beer, brandy and whisky, as well all the other addictives.

“More seek help for gambling problems” and “Initial high of winning led to addiction and losses of $60,000” are articles from The Straits Times of 8 April 2019, while “Address social impact of gambling….”, by Dr Ho Ting Fei is from “FORUM” of the same newspaper.
Dr Ho says that “…gambling and the extent of damage it has brought to families and individuals – for example, through bankruptcy, suicides, divorces, violence and physical abuse” – has to considered before expanding casinos in Singapore.

Apart from eating halal food, are there advice on other food and eating habits?
Islam commands believers to eat halal and taiyib food and drinks.

God says in the Qur’an: “O mankind! Eat of that which is halal and taiyib and follow not the ways of the devil.” (2:168)

This verse provides three sets of advice:
• the food should be halal (lawful),
• the food should be taiyib (good and clean), and
• when eating, a person must not “follow the ways of the devil”.

According to Muslim scholars, the advice “Follow not the ways of the devil” refers to dirty ways of preparing the food, dirty utensils like plates and bowls and spoons, drunkenness, over-eating, like eating too much mutton, sugar etc, gluttony and food wastage, like bedecking one’s plate with food at a buffet and leaving it half-eaten while blind to the fact that in your own country or in some corners of the world people do not even get one proper meal a day.

Kitchen hygiene, namely freshness in food items and cleanliness of kitchen and utensils, is important in food preparation: Hygiene grades of a restaurant and four food caterers downgraded by the National Environment Agency (NEA) because “They were involved in food poisoning cases last year which affected hundreds” is a report from The Sunday Times of 24 March 2019..
The other report from The Straits Times of 6 April 2019 talks about the need for PCF pre-school centres to have their own cooks “in the wake of a recent outbreak of food poisoning across several centres.”

In Islam, eating is part of the total Islamic package of positive and gratifying living. It therefore teaches Muslims to eat halal (lawful) food and taiyib (good and wholesome) food and avoid following “the ways of the devil” because such food impresses on the spiritual uplifting, well-being and health of the individual believer.

( The article on “Workshops together with M3” event at Masjid Al-Taqua on Saturday, 30 March (2019) is published on 4 April 2019 in this blog, titled, “Workshops together with M3 – Interesting, informative and insightful” at: https://readnreap.wordpress.com/2019/04/04/workshops-togeth…e-and-insightful/ )

Shaik Kadir
12 April 2019

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Workshops together with M3 – Interesting, informative and insightful

Workshops together with M3
Interesting, informative and insightful

During a talk on halal food in a “Workshops together with M3” (or in Malay, “Bengkel bersama M3”) event at Masjid Al-Taqua on Saturday, 30 March (2019), the speaker delved on what is halal food and why it is important to Muslims.

The talk on halal food comes under the Dietary Understanding and Restrictions workshop, which is one of the four workshops in the “Workshops together with M3” event organised by the Malay Activities Executive Committee (MAEC) of Siglap Community Centre and supported by Mesra, Mendaki and MUIS (with the 3M elegantly branded as M3).

One of the banners of that gives basic information about the “Workshops together with M3” event held at the Taqua Mosque on 30 March 2019.

The Dietary Understanding and Restrictions talk, presented by three speakers, shared food information from the perspectives of three religions – Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam – aimed at fostering racial harmony and cohesion in Singapore’s multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious society.

The speakers, Venerable Shi You Guang and Mr Shukul Raaj Kumar, talked on vegetarian food from the Buddhist and Hindu perspectives respectively, while Mr Shaik Kadir talked on halal food.

“Vegetarian and halal food” presentation for grassroots leaders:  The first speaker, Venerable Shi You Guang explaining vegetarian food from the Buddhist perspective.

“Vegetarian and halal food” presentation for grassroots leaders:  The second speaker, Mr Shukul Raaj Kumar explaining vegetarian food from the Hindu perspective.

“Vegetarian and halal food” presentation for grassroots leaders:  The third speaker, Mr Shaik Kadir talking about Muslim food, known as halal food.

The “Halal food” speaker drew his presentation information from two of his several books on Islam:  “The Splendours of Islam – Answers to more than 100 common questions about Islam”, published by The Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore (or Darul Arqam Singapore); and “Islam Explained – Essential reading for anyone who wants to know about Islam”, published by Marshall Cavendish (Asia).

Question & Answer time:  A number of questions were asked and each speaker answered the questions directed to him. (Two questions were asked about halal food, one in during the Q & A time and other after the Q & A session, and the answers would be presented in the next article exclusively on halal food in this blog.)

The other talks in the “Workshops together with M3” event were on exam motivation and preparation, breast cancer and dental health.

Some of the guests, including children, at the event.

Some 100 residents, parents, students and grassroot leaders of the Siglap Constituency attended the event.  The Guest-of-Honour and advisor of the event was Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Mayor of South East District.

Time for a quick photo with the Guest-of-Honour Muhamad Maliki Osman. In his address, Dr Maliki highlighted the importance to continue strengthening the social cohesion of all Singaporeans.  He encouraged the staging of more of such events with religious organisations, such as the mosque, to continue connecting with people of all races and religions in Singapore.

Token of appreciation for the presenters at the Dietary Understanding and Restrictions workshop:  From the left photo, Venerable You Guang, Mr Shukul Raaj Kumar and Mr Shaik Kadir.

Token of appreciation for the presenters at workshops on preparing for exams, breast cancer prevention and dental care:  From the left photo, Dr Nurhidayati Muhamed Suphan (Understanding breast cancer), Dr Ma Han Ni Tun (Importance of dental care) and Dr Noradlin Yusof (Motivating students and parents in exam preparation).

Muhamad Ansar from Mendaki, left, who talked on “Getting ready for PSLE”, had to leave before the appreciation token presentation by Dr Maliki, and so his token, like that shown in the other photo for Mr Kadir, was presented to him by an MAEC office-bearer, Mr Mohamad Jeffery Low, at the workshop hall itself.

Mr Yacob Hussain, Chairman of the MAEC of Siglap Community Centre, said that the objectives of the event to provide relevant information for educational development and social awareness, and getting the residents come closer together have been achieved.

“Malay parents and students, and other residents as well as the grassroots leaders have benefitted much from the respective workshops they attended,” he said.

He added: “The event was well-received, and there was great interaction. For instance, the information the grassroots leaders received from the dietary understanding requirements talk, especially on halal food, was a good take away.”

A group photo for memory of an interesting, informative and insightful (I3) event…

It would be good for the Siglap Community Centre’s MAEC with the support of M3 and others to organise more such events, and to include inter-faith sharing talks on Singapore’s major festivals and celebrations such as Hari Raya Aidil Fitri & Hari Raya Aidil Adha, Deepavali, Christmas and Chinese New Year for our common good and deeper understanding of these yearly celebrations.

Singaporeans value mutual respect and sensitivity.  Let us uphold such values by further sharing the knowledge of our cultures and religious practices to further understand and enhance the racial and religious harmony that we have been enjoying.

Shaik Kadir
4 April 2019 

PS:  The next article will be exclusively on halal food as this is an important topic on Dietary Understanding and Restrictions from the Islamic perspective which would be good for sharing, especially with non-Muslim Singaporeans, as we often eat together at Muslim wedding invitations and at social and office celebrations.

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Spread the spirit of“Salam” (Peace)Time to seriously tackle racial hatred, hate speeches, Islamophobia, bigotry, racial supremacy, and be united, supportive and loving to all races in human brotherhood

Spread the spirit of
“Salam” (Peace)

Time to seriously tackle racial hatred, hate speeches, Islamophobia, bigotry, racial supremacy, and be united, supportive and loving to all races in human brotherhood

“Assalamu-alaikum”.  This is a greeting of peace in Islam. It means “Peace be upon you”  It is the greeting of the Muslims at any time of the day or night. (The reply is “Waalaikum salam” which means Peace be upon you, too).

It is heartening for Muslims to hear this greeting coming from a sincere non-Muslim.  New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern used this Islamic greeting in Parliament when she emotionally delved into the recent terror attacks at the two Christchurch mosques that killed 50 Muslims immediately and injured 50 others.

More than a week has passed since the brutal shooting tragedy in the New Zealand mosques, and during this time the world has surprisingly seen the natural inner beauty of the New Zealand people through their outpouring of emotion, support and love to the dead victims, the grieving ones and to all other shocked Muslims around the world.

The focus is also on the country’s Prime Minister who called the day of the mosque massacre as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”, and showed her affection in action by doing lovable and appreciative deeds.  She banned gun sales and paid for the burial service of the fallen Muslims, donned the Muslim headscarf, gave prominence to the azan (Islamic prayer call), kissed grieving families, quoted from the Hadith (sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon him, and greeted Muslims in the Islamic way: “Assalamu-alaikum” (Peace be upon you).

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern supporting the Muslims during their grief and denouncing hatred and terror acts.

Consoling and supporting those who live to see their loved ones perish in the tragedy that killed Muslims while they were at prayer at the two Christchurch mosques, the New Zealand Prime Minister began her speech with the beautiful and meaningful Islamic greeting and said she finds it disgusting to mention the name of the person who murdered the innocents in those mosques, and indeed she did not mention his name throughout her address and said she would never want to mention his name.

To most people of the world, Muslims and people of other faiths alike, the perpetrator, himself a foreigner in New Zealand, did a cowardly crime by gunning down unarmed people – the elderly, men, women and children – from their back while they were concentrated in their congregational Friday prayer in a mosque. He said that he did it because of the Muslim “invasion” of western countries but he was certainly unaware that numerous westerners have become Muslims, saying they converted to Islam because of its beauty and logic.

Students dancing the Haka, a Maori way of showing disgust at wrongdoings and honouring the victims of the Christchurch mosques massacre.

I am happy to see (on TV news broadcasts) New Zealand students performing the haka (Maori) dance to honour the victims of the massacre. I also salute the tens of thousands of white New Zealanders who went to the two targeted mosques to offer condolences and laying flowers and candles at the sites and shedding tears of grief and sadness. Many hugged grieving Muslims, offering their support to them and condemning the depraved act of the gunman.

Solemn days: Consoling the grief with flowers and candles.

Solemn days: More flowers, candles, messages and tear.

My wife and I, together with a few family friends, have been to that country (south island) some years ago. New Zealand is not only beautiful but also peaceful. So it was not only a great shock to me but to New Zealanders themselves when the terrorist mowed down men, women and children when they were performing their congregational Friday prayers at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque in the city of Christchurch.

The affected Muslims received overwhelming condolences and support from around the world from Muslims and all the good people of other faiths. As for the perpetrator, his aim for heroic bravery and fame backfired.

Jacinda, darling of the Islamic world

The opposite happened.  Ms Jacinda Ardern shot to fame with her compassion and love for all people of New Zealand. She became the favourite heroine of the Islamic world with her adorable words and actions. Dubai, giving tribute to her even beamed out an image of a grieving Jacinda from the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

Ms Jacinda  Ardern shot to fame worldwide and became the darling of the Islamic world with her adorable words and actions.  

One of those who denounced the terror attacks was Mr Fred Dula, a non-Muslim Caucasian from North Carolina, USA. He said: “The Christchurch massacre was an incredibly insane attack on a peaceful people during their prayer time with God. How much worse than that get to be?  No one, no matter their religion, should ever have to worry about being attacked at their place of worship. Let’s all say a prayer for those who died or were injured during this most heinous crime.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, quoting the Qur’an, the Holy Book of Islam, said that Islam is a peaceful and compassionate religion, and that the depraved acts of some recalcitrant should not be blamed on the majority of peace-loving followers of Islam.

Embracing unity in diversity and humanity

In Singapore too, condolences poured in. I am also greatly touched by the two New Zealanders who went to two different mosques in Singapore to show their concern to those killed in the two New Zealand mosques last Friday (15 March 2019).

One of them, Mr Graeme Merrall, went to the Al-Falah Mosque near Orchard Road.  According to The Straits Times (“NZ duo visited mosques here deeply affected by shooting”, 19 Mar 2019), Mr Merrall said: “I wanted to show solidarity with the Muslims here in Singapore because what happened in New Zealand affects New Zealanders and Muslims globally.”

The other New Zealander is Mrs Kim Forrester who visited the Al-Huda Mosque in Bukit Timah.  In condemning the massacre, she said: “There is no place for intolerance in New Zealand and the world.”

New Zealanders in Singapore deeply affected by the Christchurch killings visit mosques to offer their condolences: Mr Graeme Merrall (left in left Photo) with Ms Noor Khairiyah Abdul Rahman (mosque official) at Al-Falah Mosque, and Mrs Kim Forrester wearing the tudung or headscarf with Mr Azman Kassim (mosque chairman) at Al-Huda Mosque.

Masjid Al-Abrar (Al-Abrar Mosque) in Telok Ayer Street, built in 1927, is one of the Singapore mosques that received condolence flowers from non-Muslim well-wishers who showed their concern and love to Muslims. 

A Singaporean, Mdm Azizah Abdul Rahim, said:  “My eyes misted reading about those Muslims in the two mosques perish under the hail of bullets from the gunman. May Allah elevate them to be the martyrs.  They died on the holy day of Friday in Allah’s House and during Friday prayers.  May Jannah (Paradise) await each of the martyrs, In Shaa Allah (with God’s Grace).  My deepest condolences to all the affected people of New Zealand and thank you New Zealanders for the outpouring of love and sympathy you have shown during these sad days that shattered the good name of New Zealand.”

Men carrying the dead victims to the burial ground in Christchurch. (Knowing that one day they too will pass away and be carried for pre-burial prayers for the dead at home or in the mosque and then to the burial ground, Muslims personally love to rush to help hold the carriers on the way for prayers and/or burial.)

The photo on the left shows a full-page NZ Newspaper with an Arabic word that says “Salam” which means “Peace”, published a week after the mosque attack, with the names of the 50 persons killed mentioned at the bottom of the page. “Peace” in Arabic is spelt with three letters SLM or S for Sim, L for Lam-alif and M for Mim.
The photo on the right shows a common printed despatch that was often shared on WhatsApp to offer condolences in the Islamic way whenever relatives, friends or public figures pass away; in this case to the victims of the Christchurch shootings. It reads: “Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajiun” (with a bit of variations in the spelling in English alphabet in some despatches). It is often uttered in a low voice to acknowledge God’s will, and the phrase simply means “From God we came and to Him is our return”.

In the same 19 March The Straits Times article, Mr K. Shanmugam, Singapore’s Minister for Home Affairs and Law, said: “Our prayers are with the victims and their families. It is heartbreaking that people praying in a mosque should be mowed down.”

Singapore, as the world knows, is a beautiful country with its beautiful multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious people living together in unity and harmony – all because Singapore does not allow hate speeches and hate acts to take place.  Singapore justice comes hard on anyone attempting to disrupt the peace and harmony that is being enjoyed by everyone living in this small but no-nonsense nation.

Also in the same article, Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob was quoted from her Facebook post as saying: “Hatred against Muslims and immigrants were the causes for the Christchurch massacre.  When things go wrong or not as people desired, it is so easy to blame a community or a group instead of analysing the causes more deeply and finding the right solutions.”

She added: “We must stay united and do our utmost to fight against xenophobia and hatred in whatever form.”

Prayers for the dead

On 22 March, exactly a week after the terror attacks on the two Christchurch mosques, Singapore’s 74 mosques, like in many mosques in the world, carried out “Solat Ghaib”, which in this instance, means “Prayers for those killed” after the Friday prayers of the day. In Masjid Kassim (Kassim Mosque), a message on the TV monitor announces that “Solat Ghaib” would be conducted after the Friday prayers. The other photo, taken in the same mosque after the Friday prayers shows worshippers standing in rows getting ready to start “Solat Ghaib”. (The photos were taken from the third storey of Masjid Kassim and shows parts of the first and second storey of the 3-storey mosque.)

All countries in the world need to work together to eradicate terrorism, bigotry, radicalism, Islamophobia, terrorism and hate speeches.  It is urgent – think of the children who will hate us adults if we pass the mess that we have created to them.  As the world advances into maturity and civility, let us not go backward with narrow-thinking and destroy ourselves. Progress should mean in this civilised time as enjoying peace and harmony among all races in the country, and act fast to curb hatred and killings committed by the few zealots.

All people of Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority countries around the world need to be united, supportive and loving to all races like what we are witnessing happening in New Zealand in the days since the mosque massacre. Salute to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and all New Zealanders for showing the enlightened way.

Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon), in his “Last Sermon” before he passed away, in the year 633 CE, amongst other instructions and advices, said: “All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab over Arab, also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white except by piety and good action….Remember, one day you will appear before Allah and answer your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.”

The sermon of the congrgational Friday prayer (on 22 March) in Singapore centred on the terror attacks on the Christchurch mosques.  The sermon prepared by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, known popularly as Muis, quoted the Qur’an to show that Islam values lives, thus: If a man kills an innocent person, it is as if he has killed the whole of mankind; but if he saves a life it is as if he has saved the whole of mankind. (Qur’an, 5:32)

Actually “Islam” means “surrender” or “submission” to Allah (the God), and “salam”, which means “peace”, is the root word of “Islam”.  The word “peace” itself is mentioned more than 700 times in the Qur’an, the sermon stated.

The sermon went on to highlight the importance of forgiveness as given in the Qur’an and mentioned that “the beauty of the Christchurch incident is that, the families of many of the victims have expressed their forgiveness towards the individual who murdered their loved ones. Subhanallah! (Glory to God!)  This, my dear brothers, is the epitome of unity and harmony…”

The Straits Times, 25 March, in “WorldBriefs” mentions that a national remembrance service for the victims of the mosque massacre and their families will be held this Friday (29 March).  The brief report quoted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as saying that the service will provide an opportunity for “New Zealanders and people all around the world to come together as one to honour the victims of the terrorist attack.”

 Flowers and messages outside Lakemba Mosque in Sydney:  The emblem of Singapore is “Unity in diversity”, so should it be in other countries, too. 

A Muslim man, as portrayed in “Spotlight Humanity”, said: “Thank you New Zealand for showing the world how to deal with hate.”  Indeed we agree.

We need to spread the spirit of “Salam” (Peace) to the world and be Brother-in-Humanity.

Shaik Kadir
26 March 2019

(Acknowledgements:  Most photos were shots of photos from The Straits Times’ articles and screenshot of videos on Youtube used in this article for sharing of wisdom to improve inter-racial relationship.)

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