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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Kashmir Gang meets regularly after success of Mission Kashmir

 Kashmir Gang meets regularly after success of Mission Kashmir

Recently the Kashmir Gang met again, this time at Mr Ahmad’s home in Woodlands for a Hari Raya gathering as well as to discuss the Gang’s next mission.

At Ahmad’s home: The four couples take turns to gather at the home of one of the couple for each Hari Raya and discuss their next mission location. Sitting from left are Shaik Kadir and his wife, Khairon; Latiffah and her husband, Noor Mohamed; and Masod and his wife, Aminah. The hosts (standing) are Ahmad and his wife, Radiah.

After a hearty briyani lunch and tempting sugi dessert prepared by Ahmad’s wife, the Gang comprising four couples then relaxed themselves with teh tarik to discuss where to go next. After toying with some suggestions, the country agreed was India again but this time to Hyderabad where its briyani is world-famous.

One may ask, first of all, why these four couples call themselves the “Kashmir Gang”.

The couples, who have performed the Haj, are Ahmad Fraij and his wife Radiah; Noor Mohamed Shaik Hussain and his wife, Latiffah Abdul Majid; Masod Ros Majid and his wife, Aminah Markam; and Shaik Kadir Shaik Maideen and his wife, Khairon Mastan.

These eight people who separately registered for a tour of North India (Kashmir, Delhi & Agra) met at the Changi Airport on the day of the departure on 5 December 2009 and found themselves among the only four couples going for the trip.

North India tour: At the famous ski resort, Gulmarg, Kashmir. At extreme left is our Kashmir guide, and second from right is Shaik Kadir’s daughter, Munirah, who joined her parents for the tour. 

In Agra, India, with the calm and enchanting Taj Mahal in the background before the Gang entered the monument to view its interior.  Taj Mahal was built by the  Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as an emblem to his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. (The lady on the extreme left is our Agra-New Delhi guide while the lady second from right is Shaik Kadir’s daughter who came for the tour.)

The four couples had a wonderful and enjoyable time together, and became fast friends.  Henceforth, they took turns to gather at the home of one of the couple for each Hari Raya and discuss the suggestions for their next tour.

Last year the Gang met at Masod’s home and the previous year at Shaik Kadir’s home and next year it would be at Noor Mohamed’s home, insya-Allah.

Since 2009 the Gang had gone to: Sri Lanka, South Korea, Vietnam (Hanoi), Europe (a number of countries including Italy, France and England) and Spain & Morocco, the last being in December last year.

Shaik Kadir’s article in Berita Harian (8 April 2016): ” ‘Kashmir Gang’ meets in Hanoi”. The red pen marking in the second column shows the comments of Shaik Farouk, Ahmad’s son, rendered in English in this blog article.

Shaikh Farouk, Ahmad’s son, who was present at our 8 July 2018 Hari Raya gathering, believes that friendship is important for the well-being of a person. In my article in the Malay national newspaper Berita Harian of 8 April of 2016, he said: “It is clear that all people love to have close friends, especially when they are abroad. My parents are lucky to have met with three other couples during their visit to Kashmir a few years ago who share similar interest – travelling.

Shaikh Farouk Ahmad: “The name ‘Kashmir Gang’ is really creative.”

“Travelling fosters friendship among them, and they became close friends and frequently contacted each other by phone or via Facebook,” Farouk said.

The Kashmir Gang too felt that friendship ought to be lasting:

  • Ahmad: “We are helpful, and easy-going and very concerned about each other in the Gang. This is important in maintaining friendship for long.”
  • Khairon: “We talk and laugh aloud. We connect very well. We understand each other’s feelings and we tolerate each other. There is chemistry in us.” 
  • Noor Mohamed: “We feel good when we are in each other’s company. We talk about anything under the sun. We joke and we share our thoughts.”
  • Aminah: “We have been enjoying the most beautiful and true friendship since 2009. We are happy when we are together. This is important in friendship.”

In the Berita Harian article Farouk was reported to have added: “The name ‘Kashmir Gang’ is really creative. I also like to listen when members of this Gang talk. It’s full of fun and laughter. They will talk happily for hours. Only close friends talk like that.”

Shaik Kadir
11 July 2018

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Ordeal of stranded Thai boys: We are with you, we pray that all will be rescued soon

Ordeal of stranded Thai boys:
We are with you, and we pray that
all will be rescued soon

Photo of The Straits Times article (partial) of 3 July 2018, front page, announcing that the missing group of 12 boys and their coach has been found stranded in a cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Photo of The Straits Times article (partial) of 7 July 2018, page A10, announcing the death of the rescue diver.

We are greatly saddened by the death of the diver who swam in the flooded waters of the cave to bring aid to the 12 schoolboys and their coach who were on expedition to the Chiang Rai cave when a sudden rainfall flooded the cave, trapping the group for about two weeks now (7 July 2018).

The group’s ordeal has been flashed across the world and many countries, including Singapore, have sent their expert divers and rescue teams to Thailand to extend help to the trapped group.

We salute all the rescuers and the sympathisers all over the world as well as the bravery and resilience of the boys and the coach in battling thirst, hunger, fatigue, worry, lack of sleep in the cold and dark cave.

We extend our condolences to the family of the rescue diver who gave away his life to save the boys, and we pray that the group will be rescued soon.

Shaik Kadir
7 July 2018

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Reviving kampung spirit via “Ketupat-thon” 

Reviving kampung spirit via


More than 3,000 ketupat casings, weaved from stripped young coconut leaves, were hand-made in a marathon dubbed “Ketupat-thon”, a 12-hour feat for charity at the newly-opened Wisma Geylang Serai yesterday.

Weaving ketupat casings is a kampung skill worth reviving to maintain kampung spirit of working together among neighbours.

“Ketupat-thon Charity” was led by Malay Grassroots Advisers to support Tabung Amal Aidilfitri (TAA).

The event, started from 4:30 am with the sahur (the pre-dawn meal) in preparation for the day’s fast – 28 Ramadhan coinciding with 13 June 2018.  Meals for the sahur as well as for iftar (breaking of fast at exactly 7:14 pm that day) were catered for at the venue.

At 7 am, “Ketupat-thon” commenced after a half-hour instruction on how to weave the ketupat casings or moulds in reviving kampung skills as well as maintaining the kampung spirit of working together or gotong-royong. Local celebrities entertained them with jokes and songs.

The multi-racial presence of Sparkletot kindergarten children and residents from an elderly home made the event livelier.  The children and the seniors tried their best to weave as many casings as they could and had lots of fun showcasing their effort.  They were among some 600 participants.

Multi-racial participants

Not sure of the next weaving move.  No problem.  Just glance at the huge LED monitor nearby that repeatedly provides all the weaving instructions.

The elderly, the youthful and the very young – all weaving themselves together for charity and fun.

Great concentration: Thanks for taking time to volunteer for the charitable event, “Kethupat-thon”

Participants’ comments

Two participants were interviewed for some comments about their skill in weaving ketupat casings.

Mr Rahmat Rabi…initial confusion eased within minutes.

A participant, Mr Rahmat Rabi, was a bit confused with the weaving. He said: “I forgot. Actually, I can weave kerupat casings but I did not do it for a long time, so I am doing it by trial and error now.” However, some 20 minutes later, Mr Rahmat, who said that he volunteered to participate in Ketupat-thon to revive this home-skill, had already weaved three casings.

Mdm Salmah Bee…learned ketupat casing weaving from her late mother.

Another participants, Mdm Salmah Bee Abdul Kader seemed to be an expert ketupat-casing weaver. “I have done over 150 moulds already since the marathon started this morning,” she said with joy, looking at her watch.  The time was 10:30 am.  She said that she had the experience of helping her late mother, Mdm Ainon, in weaving ketupat moulds every Hari Raya when they were living in the kampung in Jalan Senang.  “The young ought to learn this skill which is creative,” she added.

Result of “Ketupat-thon”

It was a great success.  The charity drive won an entry into the Singapore Book of Records with more than 3,775 ketupat casings beating the previous record of 2,200.

Achievement:   Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman receiving the Singapore Book of Records Certificate.

Charity collection

The “Ketupat-thon” participants’ ketupat casings went on sale for three hours from 8 o’clock last night.  More than $36,500 were collected from the sale and well-wishers and donated to TAA.

Another achievement and Grassroot Advisers show happiness: From  right, Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Mr Masagos Zulkifli and Mr Zaqy Mohamad (extreme left) showing happiness to have collected $36,568. The cheque will be handed over to Mr Muhammad Harmizan Abdul Hamid (second from left), Chairman of the Executive Committee of TAA.

When the ketupat casing is almost completely woven, a gap or a small opening was left at its top.  It is through this opening that, when the ketupat is to be cooked, rice is poured in three-quarter filled and then the opening is sealed with a final weave.

Bundles of the rice-filled casings are immersed in boiling water till the rice gets fully cooked, occupying the whole mould tightly.

The squarish-shaped rice cake, flavoured by the young coconut leaves, called ketupat is cut into convenient pieces before the casings are removed easily wih the fingers. The rice cake is eaten with dishes like rendang, sayur lodeh, serunding, sambal tumis and sambal goreng. It is a favourite of the Malay Muslims for Hari Raya Aidil Fitri (Eid ul-Fitri or Celebration Day of Charity) which falls tomorrow (1 Syawal or Friday, 15 June).

Time for celebration

The writer of this article with Dr Yacob Ibrahim, retired Minister, who watched the participants in action in the morning, and “SSEAYP Friends” with Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman.

Weaving ketupat casing is an art.  Malay mothers, during kampung days, did  pass on their skill to their children by even weaving the casing with colour ribbons for Hari Raya Aidil Fitri home decorations.  However, such ketupat decorations as well as woven ketupat casings can be bought, nay, even bunches of already-cooked ketupat are available on sale, especially at Hari Raya Bazaars.

Eid Mubarak and Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Eid ul-Fitr) to all Muslims.

Shaik Kadir

14 June 2018

(Photo credit:  While most of the photos were taken by the writer, three of them were contributed by Mr Yacob Hussain with thanks.)

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Singapore mosques hold Khatam Qur’an as Ramadan ends

Singapore mosques hold Khatam Qur’an as Ramadhan ends

The World Qur’an Hour is a day during which Islamic institutions and mosques in Muslim communities in a number of countries hold Qur’an reading for an hour on a day in Ramadhan to encourage Muslims to read the Qur’an, understand it and apply its instructions in their daily lives to be good practising Muslims.  Singapore held Qur’an Hour recently in Ramadhan.

A Qur’an app can be downloaded for easy reading of the Qur’an at any convenient time. The “Qur’an Hour” poster at Kassim Mosque, Changi Road, says: “Reading Chapter At-Hujurat – The day when mosques in Singapore reverberate with the reading of the Qur’an”.

Qur’an Reading Hour at Khadijah Mosque, Geylang Road.

The Qur’an is so important in the life of a Muslim that children as young as three have been taught to learn the Qur’anic Arabic alphabet and recite the shorter chapters of the Qur’an. Photo above, left, shows my 9-year-old daughter Munirah Bte Shaik Kadir (now Dr Munirah, PhD, and is married), reciting  the short chapters of the Qur’an at a Children’s Qur’an reading contest (primer stage). The other photo shows my 4-year-old granddaughter, the daughter of my son, Nur Iffah Bte Muhammad Imran, showing off her Certificate of Completion of five short chapters: Al-Fil, Al-Masad, Al-Khautar, Al-Maun and Al-Qadr.

But, way before the introduction of the Qur’an Day, actually since the Qur’an, the Holy Book of Islam, came into existence from the time of Prophet Muhammad, a session called Tadarrus Al-Qur’an (gathering for Qur’an reading) was held in the mosques every night in Ramadan, usually after the terawih prayer (special prayer performed only in Ramadan nights) till the whole Qur’an is completed on a final session called Khatam Qur’an (completion of reading the Qur’an).

Many, especially those who are unable to attend the Tadarrus in the mosque, might also read the Qur’an at home in their spare time as the Qur’an is always available in every Muslim home. (The Qur’an is called the Qur’an only if it is in its original Arabic.  Translations in Malay, English or any other languages are not called the Qur’an but translations or interpretations of the Qur’an.)

Ramadhan is so special to Muslims because it is not only the fasting month when Muslims throughout the world perform total fasting – no food and not even a sip of water – from dawn to dusk, but also because the month is when the Qur’an was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad – on 17 Ramadan, beginning with five verses as shown below.

These verses of Chapter 96 called “Read!” are the first five verses Prophet Muhammad received from God (Allah) through Angel Gabriel and the Revelations went on for 23 years till the Qur’an became completed, with the religion for mankind named as “Islam” as mentioned in the Qur’an itself.

The Qur’an has 114 chapters divided into 30 Jus (sections). For the daily Ramadhan Tadarrus Al-Qur’an session, the Qur’an is often read in a group led by a leader, often reading one jus a night, or two jus where the chapters are short. In the final reading for the Khatam, the group would read the last ten chapters of the Qur’an where the chapters are shorter – for instance, each of the last three chapters comprises not more than six short verses:  Chapter 112 (Ikhlas or Purity) – 4 verses; Chapter 113 (Falaq or The Dawn) – 5 verses, and Chapter 114 (Nas or Mankind) – 6 verses.

I attended a Khatam Qur’an session at the Al-Taqua Mosque last night – 27 Ramadhan coinciding with 12 June 2018. The following are the photos taken at Masjid Al-Taqua.

At the Khatam Qur’an session at Al-Taqua Mosque, Jalan Bilal:  The Qur’an reading leader, right, leading the session is shown on the TV monitors for all in the mosque to watch and read together.

The other lead readers facing the audience, some of them are young people apt in reciting the Qur’an.

A section of the audience. The women are in an adjacent hall.

Eid ul-Fitr (Celebration Day of Charity) or commonly called in Malay as Aidil Fitri is on 1 Syawal (10th month of the Islamic or Hijra calendar) and it falls on 15 June in Singapore and in neighbouring countries.

Eid Mubarrak and Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri (Eid ul-Fitr) to all Muslims.

Shaik Kadir

13 June 2018

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Eh!  She did all the hard work and I got the name! 

Eh!  She did all the hard work and I got the name! 

I do not know if any Malay Muslim lady had ever got her name mangled into a rojak (food that has a mixture of various fruits and raw vegetables).  My daughter had. Her name is Munirah Binte Shaik Kadir and her name had been, from time to time, strangely moulded, even, horribly mauled.

Irritated, way back in 2007, I wrote an info-edu piece, “Clearing up confusion over Muslim names“, which was published not as a letter in the “Forum” page of The Straits Times but an essay in the “Review” section of the newspaper (26 May 2007).

Straits Times article

Munirah’s father, exasperated at the variance in his and Munirah’s names wrote an  article in Review/The Straits Times, 26 May 2007.

In the first five paragraphs of the article I wrote:

“Recently, I received a letter from an insurance company. It left me exasperated. Why? Because the company somehow managed to mangle my name beyond recognition.

My full name is Shaik Kadir Bin Shaik Maideen. This means my personal name is Shaik Kadir, and I can be called Shaik or Kadir. Bin means “son of”. Shaik Maideen is my father’s name.

Such a pattern in a Muslim’s full name is very common in Singapore and Malaysia. Nevertheless, in the letter the insurance company sent me, it somehow managed to address me as “Shaik Maideen Shaik Kadir Bin”.

A few days after this letter arrived, my daughter received a letter from a well-known Singapore company. She was addressed as “Kadir Binte Munirah Shaik”. Binte means “daughter of”.  (In other words, the company, with abracadabra, has transformed my daughter, Munirah, into me, a man, who is the daughter of Munirah, herself! Confused? Well, blame the computer, the company would say.)

It is strange that even large, well-known companies in Singapore are unable to correctly write Muslim names. So allow me to try to explain how it goes.”

In another 17 paragraphs I explained “how they (Malay Muslim names) are written and what they mean”. As the sub-head of the newspaper article says:  “Names matter a lot to Muslims, so here’s a primer on how they are written and what they mean”. (The whole article is reproduced in the “Notes” at the end of this blog article.)

Well, but for now, let me talk about my name again which had gone into many mouldings like “Shaik Maideen Shaik Kadir Bin” and “Bin Shaik Maideen Shaik Kadir” and how I got the doctorate title.

My daughter, Munirah, who was a former Physics and Mathematics secondary school teacher went on to pursue her full-time 4-year doctorate program in a university in Sydney, Australia. Before going abroad for her studies, she had married an American in Singapore. A year later, (while studying in Sydney) she became pregnant and four months into her pregnancy, she and her husband came back to Singapore to be with my wife and me, and soon, a few months later, Munirah gave birth to Adam Rayan Dula. A year later, she went back to Sydney and restarted her studies from year one, with an additional member in the family. Credit must go to Munirah’s husband, Allen Dula, for taking care of their son when Munirah was on campus five days a week.

As a final-year PhD candidate, Munirah, who has had experiences in making conference presentations in Hong Kong and Helsinki, Finland, and was once attached to University of Washington, USA, presented “Analyzing the Effects of Managing Element Interactivity in Science Learning” at the International Conference in Florence, Italy, themed New Perspectives in Science Education, in February last year (2017).

Munirah’s Husband, Allen and their son, Adam Rayan, accompanied Munirah for the conference in Florence and even visited Rome for sightseeing.

Patience and hard work

Then, after four long years of being a wife, mother and student, her patience and hard work paid off. Her graduation ceremony was held on 10 May this year (2018) with her husband and son attending the grand function in which Munirah was the only person to be conferred a PhD amongst hundreds of candidates from Masters and Bachelors programs.

Munirah described her graduation ceremony as “very special” and different from her Bachelor’s and Master’s graduation ceremonies in Singapore. As a PhD graduand, Munirah got to be a part of the academic procession with the chancellors, mace bearer and others. And, instead of sitting in the audience, she was seated on stage with the academic processional gathering throughout the graduation ceremony.

“I am the first person to be conferred in the ceremony. Dr Stephen Weller, the Chief Operating Officer & Deputy Vice-Chancellor read out a brief of my thesis to the audience. Then, I walked up to Professor Margot Hillel, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), who happily congratulated me and presented my PhD certificate,” Munirah said.

Munirah receiving her PhD Certificate from Professor Margot Hillel, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic).

Remembering her professors

Dr Munirah flanked by her Supervisors, Prof Alexander Yeung and Prof Richard Ryan.

Dr Munirah flanked by Dr Stephen Weller and Prof Margot Hillel, and, in the photo on the right, with Prof Michelle Cambell, Faculty Dean.

Munirah’s friend, Dr Alicia Franklin, congratulating Munirah with a card made by her. And husband Allen and 4-year-old son Adam are proud to be with the newly conferred “Dr Munirah”.

I couple of days later, my daughter received an official letter addressed as “Dr”, the honourable title for which she had been working hard all these years. The letter began: “Dear Dr Kadir”.

Munirah WhatsApped to congratulate me: “In all official documents now, I’m known as Dr Kadir.  Abah, you are so popular here!”

Wow! That’s news!  She did all the hard work and I got the title!  I rest my case.

Shaik Kadir
8 May 2018

Note:  The full article:

Clearing up confusion over Muslim names

Names matter a lot
to Muslims, so here’s
a primer on how they
are written and
what they mean

By Shaik Kadir Bin Shaik Maideen
For the Straits Times, Review, Saturday, May 26 2007

Recently, I received a letter from an insurance company. It left me exasperated. Why? Because the company somehow managed to mangle my name beyond recognition.

My full name is Shaik Kadir Bin Shaik Maideen. This means my personal name is Shaik Kadir, and I can be called Shaik or Kadir. Bin means “son of”. Shaik Maideen is my father’s name.

Such a pattern in a Muslim’s full name is very common in Singapore and Malaysia. Nevertheless, in the letter the insurance company sent me, it somehow managed to address me as “Shaik Maideen Shaik Kadir Bin”.

A few days after this letter arrive, my daughter received a letter from a well-known Singapore company. She was addressed as “Kadir Binte Munirah Shaik”. Binte means “daughter of”.

It is strange that even large, well-known companies in Singapore are unable to correctly write Muslim names. So allow me to try to explain how it goes.

I will begin with some common names that should be familiar to people in Singapore.

First, there are Muslim names that are similar to Christian names. This arises because Islam, Christianity and Judaism are all Semitic religions. Historically, they come from the same religious line, from Prophet Abraham.

Of these names, many Muslim ones have small spelling variations to those of Christian names, like Ishak for Isaac and Yusof for Joseph; and Mariam for Mary and Supiah for Sophia.

Some Muslim names, in fact, are exactly the same as Christian names: for example, Adam, Benjamin, Martin and Daniel, for men; Alicia, Sarah and Sharon, in the case of women.

In addition, with some female names an “h” may be added to the end of the name, like Dianah for Diana, Ameliah for Amelia and Sabrinah for Sabrina.

Next, many male Muslims are named after prophets, like Musa (after Prophet Moses) , Ibrahim(after Prophet Abraham) and Dawood (after Prophet David).

Other male names take after the attributes of God, like Rahman which means “the merciful”. Hence, Abdul, which means “servant of”, is added to the name. Thus, Abdul Rahman means “Servant of the Merciful”.

It is strange that even large, well-known companies in Singapore are unable to correctly write Muslim names. So allow me to try to explain how it goes.

It is strange that even
large, well-known
companies in
Singapore are unable to
correctly write
Muslim names

Nur or Noor is a popular forename. It means “guidance” or “light” in Arabic. Thus, Noor Muhammad (a male name) means “Guidance or Light of (Prophet) Muhammad” and Nur Ain Saleha (a female name) means “Light of the eyes of a pious personality”.

When a man converts to Islam, it may be necessary for him to adopt a Muslim name. This is just for official documentation purposes. For instance, only Muslims are allowed into Mecca. Therefore, an official document is required to show that a person intending to enter Mecca is a Muslim.

An official conversion document also is important in a multi-religious country like Malaysia, where the official religion is Islam. Burial problems may arise, as has happened there, if the Muslim convert left no “convert certificate” when he died.

In Malaysia and Singapore, it is common practice for a convert to Islam to take a Muslim name with Abdullah (meaning “servant of Allah.”) added to his name. Some converts use their Muslim names and their original names separately, while other use their Muslim names together with their surnames. Islam does not object to this practice.

A few examples of names of converts (taken from various issues of The Muslim Reader, a periodical of The Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore) are: Norashikin Abdullah alias Lim Ai Lin, Murliani Abdullah alias Janet See Kim Gek, Mazlan Abdullah Soh, Siti Aminah Han and Adam Abdullah Brown (the last three persons retained their Chinese or Western surnames).

Married Muslim women are encouraged to use their maiden names instead of taking their husbands’ names instead of taking their husbands’ names. This is a right given to Muslim women by Islam. Thus, if Miss Faridah Binte Ali marries Mr Jamil Bin Ahmad, she might not prefer to be addressed as Mrs Jamil or Mrs Faridah Jamil or even Mrs Jamil-Faridah Ali. She might prefer her maiden name: Madam Faridah Ali or Ms Faridah Ali.

Names of Muslims are often taken from the Quran. Islam advises Muslim parents to give their children meaningful names (and, of course, to bring them up honourably). Names that are distasteful to Islam are out. For example, Ah Kow, which means “dog” in a Chinese dialect, may not be retained by a Chinese man with such a name when he becomes a Muslim. Cat Stevens, the British pop idol of the1960s, when he embraced Islam, adopted the name, Yusuf Islam without retaining his former name, Cat.

The all-time boxing great, Muhammad Ali, dropped his former name, Cassius Clay, altogether. The well-known author of Islamic books, Margaret Marcus, became Maryam Jamilah. A convert is free to adopt any meaningful Islamic name of his or her choice.

Lastly, Islam disallows calling a person by a nickname.

So, as personal names matter a great deal to Muslims, it would be excellent customer service and a good public relations endeavour for companies to pay some attention to their names of their Muslim customers, clients and staff.

The writer is a senior lecturer at ITE College Central (MacPherson Campus) and author of Inside Islam: 101 Questions And Answers.

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Qur’an reading: Capturing the Qur’anic spirit for better living

World Qur’an Hour

Qur’an reading: Capturing the Qur’anic spirit for better living

The Qur’an is the greatest blessing that God – “Allah” in Islam – has been given to Muslims. This Islamic Holy Book ensures that, by following its guidance, the lives of Muslims remain guided and organised. God says: “Indeed, this Qur’an guides to that which is most suitable and gives good tidings to the believers who do righteous deeds that they will have a great reward.” (Qur’an, Chapter 17, Verse 9)

A copy of the Qur’an can easily be bought from a Muslim bookshop or acquired from a Muslim religious organisation. In fact, most Muslim homes at least has one copy.

 The Qur’an, left (within red boundary), shows the 7-verse first chapter of the Qur’an, called “Al-Fatiha” (The opening Chapter) on the Qur’an’s right-hand page, and, on the left-hand page, the start of the 286-verse second chapter, called “Baqara: (The Heifer). The photo on the right (within blue frame) is strictly not called the Qur’an as it does not contain the Arabic text only but also its translation and commentary in English, hence it’s called “The meaning of the Holy Qur’an – text, translation and commentary”, a splendid job by the well-known scholar, Abdullah Yusuf Ali from India who excelled in English at Oxford University.

A copy of the Qur’an can easily be bought from a Muslim bookshop or acquired from a Muslim religious organisation. In fact, most Muslim homes have at least one copy.

Friday prayer sermon

In this regard the sermon (kuthbah) of the Friday prayer of 1 June 2018 amplified on the importance of reading the Qur’an and applying the guidance given in it for comprehensive living.

The sermon posed several questions, such as: How is your relationship with the Quran? Do you recite it often? Do you reflect upon its verses and strive to enliven Allah’s commands? Are we among those who adhere to the Qur’an and strive to emulate its teachings? Do we take steps that we can pursue in order to further strengthen our relationship with the Qur’an?

The sermon points out it is important that Muslims, if they have done so, take “small steps to study and understand the verses of the Qur’an.”

To this effect, an interesting event, held to capture the spirit of the Qur’an in Ramadan, called the “World Qur’an Hour” is here again in Singapore. This event is also held in other Muslim communities all over the world in Ramadan.

Qur’an Hour:  Reading the Qur’an in groups at Aliman Mosque.

Qur’an Hour:  Reading the Qur’an at Istiqamah Mosque.

Qur’an Hour:  Reading the Qur’an at Mydin Mosque. (Those with knee problems sit on stools available in the mosque.)

All mosques in Singapore held the World Qur’an Hour on 2 June to coincide with 17 Ramadan (day of the first Qur’anic Revelation received by Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon him).

The event aims at inspiring the ummah or the Muslim community worldwide to interact with the Qur’an by reciting, understanding and applying the knowledge and wisdom it offers so as to instil Qur’anic values in them, build correct Islamic character and make a difference in the way they live.

At Kassim Mosque: The Friday prayers sermon on 1 June (2018), in mentioning Muslims can also easily read the Qur’an from the handphone, expounds: “The advancement of technology today has made the Qur’an more accessible. We can even browse the Qur’an through our mobile phones. Hence, let us not deprive the Qur’an of its role in our lives. If we are constantly busying ourselves with smartphone applications to ease our daily affairs, should we not find time to utilise a Qur’anic application to better understand the Qur’an’s contents and the explanation and interpretation (tafsir)? If we are able to spend hours surfing the Internet, would it not be better that we set aside some time to ponder upon the verses of the Qur’an?”

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, last year (2017):  World Qur’an Hour aims at encouraging reading, understanding and practising the Qur’an. It also aims at guiding people to foster happy and compassionate living.

As the Qur’an is so important in a Muslim’s life, let me in this article, mention a few aspects of the Qur’an to serve as a motivator to Muslims to read and study the Qur’an to benefit from it in their lives.

First of all, the Qur’an, in its entirety, is God’s Words. That means, the Qur’an was not written by Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon him, because he was never schooled and so was unlettered. The Qur’an was also not written decades after his death by any person or persons.

What happened was, the Qur’an was recorded verbatim as and when its verses were revealed to Prophet Muhammad by God through Angel Gabriel (Jibrail) over 23 years. This book is called “Qur’an” (Book of Recitation or Reading), a name mentioned in the Qur’an itself in a number of verses.

The first Revelation, containing just five verses, was received by the Prophet in the Cave of Hira on 17 Ramadan. These first five verses, appearing in Chapter 96, called “Iqraa” (Recitation or Read!), are shown in the following slide

This Islamic date, 17 Ramadan, is known as Nuzul Al-Qur’an, the celebration of the day of the beginning of the Revelation of the Qur’an. And Muslims would read the Qur’an in groups or in one large group, especially in the mosque, in celebration of the start of the Qur’an. The “Qur’an Hour” event neatly falls into this annual Qur’an reading practice.

The Qur’an reading practice is not held on just one day or one hour in a year, but for about one hour each night of Ramadan, after the terawih (Ramadan night-time) prayer in a session called “tadarus al-Qur’an” (Qur’an recital) until “khatam” (completion of the whole Qur’an), a few days before Ramadan ends.

The Qur’an says that it is for all mankind. It contains not only religious guidance but also a wide spectrum of subject matter with themes on social behaviour and the sciences to history and reasoning, all interwoven with the central theme of Tawhid or Oneness of God (Allah): “There is no god but Allah”.

Uniqueness of the Qur’an

The features of the Qur’an are unique in many ways, a few of them are as follows:
• The Qur’an came in Arabic and exists in Arabic, the original language as spoken by Prophet Muhammad himself. Arabic is a living language, one that is widely spoken and written right to this day.

• The entire Qur’an was recorded in writing as instructed by the Prophet in his presence. It was also seen and recited by Prophet Muhammad himself as a means of approving its entire contents and coverage.

• The Qur’an’s text over 114 chapters remains entirely intact and reliable. It has not been altered, edited, or tampered with since the time it was revealed more than 1400 years ago.

• The entire Qur’an was recorded by scribes in the presence of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) as and went the verses were revealed to him by God. The Prophet then asked the scribe to read what he had recorded to ascertain accuracy and then keep the recorded verses after his Companions and others had memorised the verses as instructed by him. Thus, the Qur’an has been preserved from the start in two ways – by always reading the whole Book in Ramadan and at other time of the year as well as by memorisation. (Those who have memorised the whole Qur’an are called Hafiz, people who might have graduated in Hafiz-training schools.)

• The Qur’an’s chapters have been memorised by generation after generation of Muslims right from the time they were delivered by Prophet Muhammad. Also, the entire Qur’an is memorised by millions of Muslims right to this day through an unbroken chain of reciters from day one, so much so, as someone said, if all the copies of the Qur’an in the world were to disappear mysteriously, exact copies of the Qur’an could be produced overnight from the recitation of these people.

• The Qur’an comprised verses as received from God, not in a narration form as any writer, professional or not, would write; not in a continual development style like a story book but the verses in the Qur’an are all instructions, guidance, advices, mention of previous prophets and what happened to them, and so on.

• The Qur’an is called the Qur’an only when it is in Arabic, the original language by which it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad and recorded in print and available to anyone. If a translation is totally in English or in any other language than Arabic, that volume is not the Qur’an but a translation or interpretation. Hence, all those verses quoted in the non-Arabic language, strictly speaking, are not Words of Allah but words of the various writers, though for ease of communication, Muslim writers, might use such indicators as “The Qur’an says” and “Allah says”.

Great opportunity

With such a unique and comprehensive Holy Book right in their hands, the Muslim ought to take this great opportunity to read the Qur’an and gain from the wisdom it offers.  God tells Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon him: “[This is] a blessed Book which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], that they (people) might reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded.” (Qur’an, Chapter 38: Verse 29)

God also says: “The month of Ramadhan (is when) the Qur’an was revealed, as a guide to humankind, and clear signs for guidance and judgement.” (Qur’an, Chapter 2: Verse 185)

The 1-June Friday prayer sermon urges Muslims: “In this blessed month of Ramadan, let us reflect upon the verses of the Qur’an,” and be guided.

Shaik Kadir
3 June 2018

(1) The whole Friday prayer sermon (kuthbah) of 1 June 2018, prepared by Muis, is available on Muis’ website: https://www.muis.gov.sg/officeofthemufti/Khutbah

(2) Photo credit for current article: Apart from the writer’s own photos and one taken from the internet, credit goes to Mr Abdul Karim Aludeen, Mr Abdul Halim Amin and Ms Mukminah Abdul Razak for their photo contributions.

(3) The writer’s other articles on the World Qur’an Hour lin the last two years can be accessed in this blog:

(a) 17 June 2017: “’Quran Hour’ gains huge success”: https://readnreap.wordpress.com/?s=quran+hour

(b) 8 June 2017: “Qur’an Hour: Let’s read Al-Quran together this Sunday, 5 – 6 pm”: https://readnreap.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/quran-hour-lets-read-al-quran-together-this-sunday-5-6-pm/

(c) 16 Sep 2016: “World Qur’an Hour- Enhancing Islamic spirituality and togetherness”: https://readnreap.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/world-quran-hour-enhancing-islamic-spirituality-and-togetherness/

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