Obituary Andy Iskandar – he leaves us but in our heart, we shall remember his friendship

 Obituary

Andy Iskandar – he leaves us
but in our heart, we shall remember
his friendship

Inna lillahi wainna ilayhi rajiun (From God we came and to Him is our return).

My deepest and heartfelt condolences to the mother of the late Andy Iskandar Ajes, 42, who passed away today (Wednesday 24 June 2020). May Allah bless his soul and place him in Jannah (Paradise). Ameen Ya Rabbal Alamin.

Andy Iskandar Ajes, Singapore National Leader of SSEAYP 2018.

I came to know Andy when he was 18 years old when he was a student at Temasek Junior College.  He was my son’s TJC school-mate and my son, one day, did take him to my home to take lunch with us.

A few years ago, after many years of taking in the participating youths (PYs) for the homestay stint of the Ship for South-east Asian and Japanese Youth Programme (SSEAYP), we met up with Andy who was a PY in SSEAYP. Then, last year (2019), on behalf of SSEAYP International Singapore, I wrote the book, “The Ship that Spreads Friendship”, and I interviewed Andy for a chapter (Chapter 6) titled “Reaping SSEAYP Benefits”.

In late November of last year (2019), my wife and I met Andy during the Farewell Ceremony onboard Nippon Maru and chit-chatted with him. That was the last time my wife saw Andy, but I had the opportunity to see him for the last time – in early March this year at the Changi General Hospital where he was hospitalised for gastric cancer stage 4. I did take a photo of him at the hospital bed, but I am too sad to place any photos of him during his ailment.  I shall place only the happy photos of him in this message to remember him and of his friendship.

The section on Andy in Chapter 6 of “The Ship that Spreads Friendship” goes:

===========================================  

 “SSEAYP gave me the opportunity to challenge
myself to develop further.”Andy Iskandar

Mr Andy Iskandar Ajes is the Singapore National Leader (SNL) of last year (2018).  In mentioning the leadership role he shouldered as the leader of the Singapore contingent, Andy said: “It was all hard work but rewarding.”  A PY of 2005 and a representative at the On-Board Ship Conference (OBSC) in 2014, he has much to say about his leadership experiences.

Andy returned in July from a two-day Facilitators’ meeting in Tokyo and facilitated this year’s (2019’s) Singapore PYs. He said: “SSEAYP gave me the opportunity to challenge myself to develop further. First of all, I committed myself to be more patient. Working with, and preparing and managing a group of 28 youths of different personalities in last year’s Singapore contingent for a period of about six months, gave me the opportunities to stretch my patience.”

He added: “Furthermore, moulding a big number of individuals into people with one attitude to represent Singapore is not easy but to overcome the differences and obstacles, I believe, is the most important leadership skill. Leading with humility, genuine consideration and mutual respect overcome intimidation, objections and fear.”

Working with his fellow National Leaders from the other participating countries and the administrative staff of SSEAYP as well as the representatives of other countries gave Andy the opportunity to practise and improve his leadership and diplomacy skills.  

When asked what advice he would give to future national leaders, Andy said: “I would advise them to use the opportunity they have in SSEAYP to not just lead the Singapore contingent but facilitate the youths’ development and learning opportunities.”

He added: “Numerous learning moments and opportunities will be presented to them in the course of the preparation for the SSEAYP activities, not to mention during the actual programme itself. They need to do their best to take advantage of these moments and extract as much educational value for them to take on leadership roles effectively.”          

SSEAYP participants 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 host families for three days.

======================================================

I received news of the passing of Andy this afternoon at 1:15 pm through a WhatsApp message from a long-time associate of SSEAYP and a close friend of mine, Mr Imhar Said.

But due to Covid-19 precautionary and preventive limits on attendance at funerals, many of his SSEAYP and personal friends as well as my son and me, had to miss attending Andy’s funeral and the jenazah prayer at the mosque.

I understand from my son that Andy was single as he had pledged to take care of his single mother who is wheel-chair bound. I salute his good intention and I pray that his mother would take the passing of her son with reda (willingness) as her son is returning to where every one of us will return one day.

We pray for the well-being of his soul, and say: Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun, a Qur’anic phrase which means “Verily we belong to God, and verily to Him do we return.” (Qur’an, 2:156)

(Some of the condolences received are shown below.)

Shaik Kadir
23 June 2020 

===========================

Condolences

Among the many condolence messages received for the obituary of Mr Andy Iskandar are the following:

“Indeed, sad that we lost a promising young man too soon but fond memories of him will be cherished for a long, long time. May his soul rest in peace.” (Ms Jenny Koh, Adviser, SSEAYP International Singapore.)

“We lost a friend and a brother of SSEAYP fraternity. May the Almighty bless his soul and place him in Paradise among the pious people. Aamin.” (Mr Yacob Hussain, President, SSEAYP International Singapore.)

We will miss you, Andy! Rest in peace.” (Ms Quake Garrido, Past PY from the Philippines.)

From Ms Latifah Abdul Majid and Ms Zoe Hameed.

From Ms Fatimah Bee and Ms Kasmah Latiff.

From Ms Zainab Bee, Ms Jamaliah and Mr Razali Jan.

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Time to race to eliminate racism

Time to race to eliminate racism

On 25 May 2020, an incident happened in the United States of America. A white policeman killed a black unarmed man in a cruel manner, an incident that created horrendous anger among black Americans as well as the white Americans and others all over the world. That incident in the US is an awakening call for other countries in the world to highlight the importance of implementing strict non-racist national policies for the benefit of humanity.

What does Islam say about race and racism?

In the Qur’an, God says: “…We created you from a single pair of a male and female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you.” (Qur’an, 49:13)

In this verse, God says that He made human beings, starting with two persons (Adam and Eve) and He made their progeny populate the earth, breaking into numerous races with varied cultures and traditions so that human beings, with their thirst for knowledge, can learn from each other and expand their intellectual ability to live harmoniously – not to despise each other and debase themselves along the way with hatred and discrimination.

Prophet Muhammad, in his famous Last Sermon, among other advice, 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.   (Al-Bukhari, Hadith 1623, 1626, 6361)

There should be no colour supremacy or superiority of race; everybody is equal in the eyes of God.  Prophet Muhammad advises people to end racism and superiority complex and adopt character that embellishes “piety” like obeying God’s Commands and showing kindness and compassion, and “good action” like extending charity and help to the poor and needy as well as neighbours in need of help.

What Islam teaches in the Qur’an and the Hadith with regard to race, colour and status is demonstrated in practice.  Here are some of the notable ones:

• Non-racist preference

The azan (prayer call) is executed by the human voice before each of the five daily prayers of the day. At the time when Prophet Muhammad was to initiate the azan, there were rich and prominent Arab friends of the Prophet as well as his close Arab Companions who, the Prophet could choose to do the first azan in Mecca, yet for the very first muezzin (caller of prayer) the Prophet chose a black man by the name of Bilal to climb up the Ka’aba (the pivot point of the direction of the Islamic prayer) to make the prayer call, which he gladly did, and the people were pleased to see that the Prophet did not base his choice on race, colour, status or wealth. That act is remembered right to this day so much so the muezzin (the person who makes the call on today’s audio system of the mosque) is referred to as “bilal”, and the bilal can be anyone, even a boy as long as he is apt in the words of the azan.

• Fraternity and brotherhood 

In Islam, performing the prayer at the mosque with many “unknown” Muslims from anywhere around the mosque coming and praying together is an opportunity on establishing Islamic fraternity and brotherhood. In the Islamic prayer, the worshippers (males and females praying separately) position themselves shoulder to shoulder in a straight row, row after row, behind the imam (prayer leader). Who are the worshippers? Well, they can be anybody – young teenagers to the elderly, poor or rich, less educated or highly educated, manual labourers or prominent businessmen, and people of any race or colour, all praying together side by side performing the same postures (standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting) as the imam does, and as performed by Muslims in exactly the same way all over the world, and all facing in one direction  – towards the Ka’aba in Mecca in spiritual unity.

• Inter-racial mingling

The fifth of the Five Pillars of Islam (core practices of Muslims) is the performance of the pilgrimage (Haj) in Mecca. The Haj is a superb example of inter-racial mingling where people of any colour – black, brown, white or yellow – perform the rites together with the men wearing only two pieces of unsewn cloth over their bodies and no one will be able to distinguish them of any high status or huge wealth – everyone is equal in the eyes of every pilgrim. As for the ladies, they are well attired in hijab (modesty clothing with the headcover) and following Islamic rules to expose only their faces and palms of their hands.

Regarding his Haj, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X, talks about the contrast in the human relationship amongst the pilgrims of many countries who converged in Mecca for the Haj.  An American Muslim minister and human rights activist, he was a popular figure during the civil rights movement of his time in the United States. In 1964, he performed the Haj.

In his letter from Mecca, dated April 25, 1964, which was published in The New York Times on 8 May 1964, under the heading “Malcolm X Pleased By Whites’ Attitude On Trip to Mecca“, Malcolm X described how he had arrived at his new insights on race relations while on a pilgrimage.

He wrote: “There are Muslims of all colors and ranks here in Mecca from all parts of this earth.”

Excerpts of his letter go:

“During the past seven days of this holy pilgrimage, while undergoing the rituals of the hajj [pilgrimage], I have eaten from the same plate, drank from the same glass, slept on the same bed or rug, while praying to the same God—not only with some of this earth’s most powerful kings, cabinet members, potentates and other forms of political and religious rulers —but also with fellow‐Muslims whose skin was the whitest of white, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, and whose hair was the blondest of blond—yet it was the first time in my life that I didn’t see them as ‘white’ men. I could look into their faces and see that they didn’t regard themselves as ‘white.’

“Their belief in the Oneness of God (Allah) had actually removed the ‘white’ from their minds, which automatically their attitude and behavior toward people of other colors. Their belief in the Oneness of God has actually made them so different from American whites, their outer physical characteristics played no part at all in my mind during all my close associations with them.”

“I have never before witnessed such sincere hospitality and the practise of true brotherhood as I have seen and experienced during this pilgrimage here in Arabia.”

“If white Americans would accept the religion of Islam, if they would accept the Oneness of God (Allah), then they could also sincerely accept the Oneness of Man, and they would cease to measure others always in terms of their ‘differences in color’.”

(From The New York Times archives.  This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996. To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. ( https://www.nytimes.com/1964/05/08/archives/malcolm-x-pleased-by-whites-attitude-on-trip-to-mecca.html )

A good read on the personal “experience of a racially segregated America in the 1960s” is the article, “Black Lives Matter: A Singaporean’s perspective” in The Straits Times, 11 June 2020, by Professor Tommy Koh, a veteran diplomat, who was ambassador to the USA from 1984 to 1990. (stopinion@sph.com.sg)

What is very important in our life today is to be righteous in our living by interacting with our fellow human beings, avoiding social and political conflicts, which could escalate into economic disasters and affecting the lives of people.  Instead, we ought to learn from each other and extend support and help to other nations in need as well as our own respective poor and deprived so that together we can survive happily on this planet of ours. Thus, in Islam, it is not a person’s race or colour or his status or wealth that God recognises but his righteousness.

Shaik Kadir
13 June 2020

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Experiencing a unique Ramadan and Aidilfitri Part 3 The Meritorious Post-Ramadan Fasting  

Experiencing a unique Ramadan and Aidilfitri

Part 3
The Meritorious Post-Ramadan Fasting

 

Aidilfitri (Celebration of the Ramadan accomplishments) was held on 1 Syawal, the Islamic year being 1441, which coincides this year on 24 May. The mood of Hari Raya will go on for more than a week, usually in the past, with some Muslims on the move to visit relatives and friends and others, in taking turns, staying at home to receive guests for siraturrahim (bonding of ties).

In my Parts 1 and 2 articles on the theme of experiencing a unique Ramadan and Aidilfitri, many of my non-Muslim friends have wished me and Muslims in general “Selamat Hari Raya” in Malay or “Eid Mubarak” in Arabic, both closely meaning “Have a happy day of celebration”. The greetings of those that had a universal thrust were made into “cards” accompanied by their photos requested from them. Here are three more:

It is only good to share with non-Muslims the knowledge that after Ramadan, some Muslims still fast, this time it is not an obligatory one but voluntary (sunnah).  Yes, some Muslims, including me, are now fasting – for an extra six days only.  This final part, Part 3, tells more about the voluntary fasts.

On the very day of Aidilfitri on 1 Syawal fasting is not allowed. But from 2 Syawal many Muslims fast for six days consecutively with the dos and don’ts of fasting being observed exactly like that of Ramadan (see Part 1 of the article) except that there is no tarawih prayer which is for Ramadan only.

The 6-day fasting as well as any other fasting done throughout the remaining 11 months after Ramadan is not obligatory (not must do) but sunnah (meritorious if done, but no blemish if not carried out).

Muslims do the sunnah fasting as well as the sunnah prayers as carried out by Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him.

Merits of voluntary fasting

Mr Hafidz Abdullah is among the many Muslims who are carrying out the 6-day fast in Syawal and other sunnah (voluntary) fasts.  A wealth consultant by profession, he is teaching prayer classes at the Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore, popularly known as Darul Arqam Singapore.

I asked Mr Hafidz the following questions on post-Ramadan fasting:

Q:  Since when have you been doing the six-day fast in the month of Syawal?

I have been doing it since my teenage years when I was a polytechnic student.

Q:  Why do you do the six-day fast?

Islam encourages Muslims to perform voluntary (sunnah) acts of worship to gain extra spiritual merits.  The 6-day fast in the month of Syawal after Ramadan is one of the acts of worship.

Q:  Apart from the Ramadan obligatory fast and the 6-day fast in Syawal, are there any other fast in the other months of the year?

Fasting has numerous benefits, spiritually and physically, thus it extends over the whole year, not confined to a period once a year only.

Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, has encouraged us to do another extra fast throughout the year, such as the fast on first 9 days of the month of Zulhijjah, the 13th, 14th, and 15th of every month and on Mondays and Thursdays every week.

Q:  What are the medical benefits of fasting?

From the medical perspective, fasting has numerous physical benefits that are given in Islamic books and Islamic online sources as well as sources from the medical profession.

In recent times, even non-Muslims are becoming aware of the benefits of fasting.  One example is the intermittent way, known as16:8 fasting, the details of which can be read through this link:  ( https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327398

So, the Monday and Thursday fasting of each week is a form of intermittent fasting.

Q:  As we are still in the Hari Raya mood, and to conclude this interview on sunnah fasting, what would you like to say to Muslims?  

My wife, Mimi Sayadi, and I would like to wish Eid-ul-Fitr Mubarak to our Muslim friends in Singapore and abroad.  We humbly seek your forgiveness for our shortcomings and mistakes. Let’s keep the spirit of friendship alive!

Another person interviewed for doing her 6-day fast is Ms Nur Zahrah Yuko, 18, who is a third-year polytechnic student. Her father is Malay, Mr Yacob Hussain, and mother, Mdm Keiko Soeda, Japanese.  Mdm Keiko is a convert to Islam.

“First of all, I must say that fasting is an act between Allah and the person who is fasting. It is spiritual, and the gain is spiritual, too,” said Zahrah (standing second from left in the above photo) when asked what she thinks of fasting as an act of divine worship.

She added: “There are many sayings of the Prophet which mention that voluntary  (sunnah) fasting in Islam is encouraged, not only the 6-day fast in Syawal but also the fasting on Mondays and Thursdays in other months of the year.”

When asked if she knows the benefits of voluntarily fasting, Zahrah replied: “They reap numerous benefits.  Muslim scholars explain the benefits. One explanation mentions that voluntary fasting serves as a back-up in case our obligatory fast during Ramadan is unknowingly spoilt. Also, Allah rewards us for doing extra fasting as it makes us more disciplined, like no lying, no gossiping, and no wasting time.”

Does Zahrah find it difficult to do the 6-day fasting since one has just completed a whole month of fasting? “No,” she replied. “Since I have just completed a month of fast, therefore doing another six days fasting is not that difficult.”

About her Islamic practices, the polytechnic student said that she practises them as best as she could to be a good person.  “Talking about fasting alone, after learning much about the numerous benefits of fasting, my family and I tried our best in doing the extras, like extra fasting and extra prayers, to please Allah. Only Allah knows best about us and what we do.  We are not the judge of ourselves.  Allah decides,” she said humbly.

Zahrah wishes: “Eid Mubarak to all Muslims”.

Islam, a religion of faith and deeds 

Islam is a way of life that comprises faith and deeds, thus anything that is considered to be harmful to the body, mind, soul, or society is prohibited (haram). On that ground, Muslims have to be responsible human beings and so anything that causes danger and harm to human lives which are uncontrollable by individuals requires the advice and guidance of the authorities and medical professionals to curb the threats as soon as possible.

With the Covid-19 pandemic becoming a serious threat to human lives, Muslims, together with the other non-Muslim Singaporeans, have been abiding by the precautionary and preventive measures of the circuit breaker by spending their time at home.

Muslims were not able to go to the mosques in Ramadan for their obligatory prayers and the special Ramadan prayer called tarawih – but all these are carried out at home as the 70 mosques in Singapore are all closed. They are not able to go for their silaturrahim (strengthening of ties) visits to their relatives and friends during this festive period of Aidilfitri but many used modern technology to contact, even see their relatives and friends on the screen to talk and wish them “Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri”.

Yes, things are different this year, but the spirit of Ramadan and Aidilfitri looms high.  Indeed, it has been a unique Ramadan and Aidilfitri.

Wishing all Muslims, my heartiest Eid Mubarak!

Shaik Kadir
27 May 2020

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Experiencing a unique Ramadan and Aidilfitri – Part 2: The Joyful Aidilfitri –

Experiencing a unique Ramadan and Aidilfitri

– Part 2: The Joyful Aidilfitri –

Hari Raya Aidilfitri is a day to celebrate the accomplishments of Ramadan. It is a joyous occasion. But it is still a religious occasion during which Islamic morals and teachings have to manifest in their post-Ramadan life – the virtues accomplished in Ramadan is to be kept alive in one’s daily life.

This year, the fasting month of Ramadan and Aidilfitri (in the month of Syawal) are right in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic, and Muslims have to abide the circuit breaker cautionary and preventive measures, making their Ramadan routine restrictive, like unable to go to the mosques for communal activities such the tarawih prayer.

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore Muis, in its website message, praised the Muslims by saying Our community has shown great resilience and responsibility throughout Ramadan in fulfilling our religious obligations and is committed to doing so throughout Syawal and the months ahead.”

Ramadan ends at 7:09 pm today (23 May) when the Maghrib azan (prayer call) is called out, and the last iftar (breaking of fast) is done. Then, after the Isyak (fifth and final obligatory prayer of the day), there is no more tarawih prayer to perform until the next Ramadan. Syawal, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar, has begun.

Those in the mosques in previous years recited the Hari Raya takbir (enunciating God’s Greatness – Allahu Akbar), in welcoming Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

Muis, in its website, publicised that this evening (23 May), for the first time, “the community will recite the takbir in their own homes together with family members, led by Mufti and various asatizah, via YouTube Live on SalamSG TV, Live on Muis’ Facebook and on the FB pages of mosques.”

Then, “Following the “live” online takbir, the Mufti will address the community on SalamSG TV on how the community can fulfil its religious duties during Hari Raya amidst the COVID-19 situation. The Mufti will be joined by former Mufti Dr Fatris Bakaram and, the President of Singapore, Mdm Halimah Yacob, as a special guest.”

The joyful Hari Raya Aidilfitri is tomorrow.

This year’s Hari Raya Aidilfitri is also uniquely different. Previously, Muslims went to the mosques in large droves for the Aidifitri prayer which started at about 8:15 am. And, after the prayer, they listened to the Hari Raya sermon delivered by the imam (prayer leader).

This year, also for the first time in history, Muslims will perform the Hari Raya prayer at home.

Muis announced: “Muslims will celebrate the morning of Hari Raya in their homes with their family members of the same household. They can join in the “live” takbir via (Malay radio station) Warna 94.2 FM, or online through the Facebook pages of our local mosques. After the traditional Aidilfitri prayers at home, the Mufti will lead a “live” Hari Raya sermon which will be broadcast over the radio, and various online channels such as SalamSG TV.”

In past years, by noon of Hari Raya, wearing new clothes, families began their silaturrahim (bonding of ties) visits to relatives and friends.

They give the salam (gesture of peace) and greet them “Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri” or “Eid Mubarak”, both closely mean “Have a happy day of celebration”.

With today’s technology, Muslims can still, from their homes, use “teleconferencing tools and mobile messaging applications,” says Muis “to fulfil our religious obligations and even make “virtual” Hari Raya visits to our loved ones, so as to keep our ties and traditions alive.”

Tomorrow is Aidilfitri, a happy day for Muslims. A number of my personal non-Muslim friends have extended their Hari Raya greetings “Selamat Hari Raya” via WhatsApp.  Some with universal messages have been made into special “cards” with their photos (upon my request) accompanying their greetings – something unique, too.  The “cards” are:

 

With Covid-19 looming over us, we need to perform the Aidilfitri prayer at home, and celebrate the occasion at home – a challenge that will make us emerge as a stronger Muslim community.

From our homes, we can still hear the powerful and moving takbir over radio and other media to lift our Aidilfitri spirit high. Indeed, it is a unique Aidilfitri we are experiencing.

Every Singaporean is going through the hardship of Covid-19, but the relief will come if we Singaporeans are united in battling the pandemic together. The Qur’an says “For every difficulty, there is relief (94:5) so “Do not lose hope, nor fall into despair.” (3:139)

I wish all my Muslim friends “Selamat Hari Raya, maaf zahir dan batin”. And to all Muslims in Singapore and all over the world, I greet them with the universal greeting “Eid Mubarak”.

Shaik Kadir
23 May 2020

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Experiencing a unique Ramadan and Aidilfitri – Part 1: The Holy Ramadan –

Experiencing a unique Ramadan and Aidilfitri

– Part 1: The Holy Ramadan –

Like the Islamic prayers and the Aidilfitri visits to relatives and home, the breaking of the Ramadan fast is also communal – many break their fast in the mosques, sitting and facing each other in long lines, and eating together.  In the homes, before Covid-19 circuit breaker and now, families break their fast together, too.

Demonstrating unity in diversity, Singaporeans of various races and religions have often joined Muslims in iftar (breaking of Ramadan fast) sessions in the mosques, while Muslims have been invited for iftar organised by churches and synagogues as well.

Congregants of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and members of Jamiyah (Muslim Missionary Society of Singapore) at an iftar (breaking-fast) session at the church in Bukit Timah Road. (Newspaper-shot photo of a Ramadan breaking of fast scene in The Straits Times, 28 May 2019.)

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the iftar session at Masjid Alkaff Upper Serangoon. (Newspaper-shot photo of a Ramadan breaking of fast scene in The Straits Times, 29 May 2019.)

Members of various faiths join in to break Ramadan fast at the Maghain Aboth Synagogue in Waterloo Street. (Newspaper-shot photo of a Ramadan breaking of fast scene in The Straits Times, 4 June 2019.)

Muslims are indeed very sad today for tomorrow Ramadan is leaving them.  Every year, in the last few days of Ramadan, Muslims feel sad as they had already got themselves soaked deeply in the holiness of the month.

The holiness of this year’s Ramadan, which is in the midst of the circuit breaker period, is the same while Singapore Muslims experience it in a unique way, never experienced before.

The Holy Ramadan

The holiness of Ramadan is manifest in several factors, such as:

1) Fasting by past prophets: Fasting was carried out by many of the prophets of Islam, including Prophet Isa (Jesus Christ).

2) The Islamic fast: The Muslims’ fast is not only “No eating, not even a morsel of bread” but also “No drinking, not even a sip of water” from pre-dawn to post-dusk – almost 13 hours daily (in Singapore) for the whole month of the 29- or 30-day Ramadan.

3) Total fast: In Ramadan, a Muslim becomes conscious of what he speaks, sees, thinks or does: like no cursing, no backbiting, no looking at objectionable sights, no negative thoughts and no wasteful entertainments. Some say, the fasting is not difficult but the other do’s and don’ts are, as any slip can easily nullify the fast.  This is a challenge of the Islamic total fast.

4) Obligatory and extra prayers: Apart from the five times a day obligatory prayers (Suboh, Zohor, Asar, Maghrib and Isha, Muslims perform extra prayers in all days of the year before and after each of their daily prayers, but in Ramadan, there is another extra prayer, a long prayer called tarawih, performed at night after the last prayer of the day.

5) Ramadan charity: In Ramadan, Muslims do extra charity, like sadaqah (personal alms to the poor directly) and zakat-fitrah (personal obligatory payment for the poor via a collecting body, in Singapore, it’s the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, popularly known as Muis.). In 2020, the zakat-fitrah is S$5.10 (normal rate) and S$7.50 (higher rate) per head.

6) Qur’an reading: Muslims read the Qur’an as many chapters as they can, or try to memorise them. Many would read the whole Qur’an, each part a day till the whole Qur’an is completed (khatam) before the end of Ramadan. [The Qur’an comprises 114 surah (chapters) divided into 30 juz (parts)].

7) Special Ramadan day: Ramadan is also the month when the first Revelation of the Qur’an was received by Prophet Muhammad from God through Angel Gabriel. This happened in any one of the last 10 days of Ramadan called Lailatul Qadar which means the Night of Power or Night of Decree. The Qur’an provides this message in Chapter 97, adding that this night is better than a thousand months (97:1-5), and so Muslims spend extra time in reading the Qur’an and performing more intense extra sunat (voluntary) prayers in the last ten days of the holy month.

This Ramadan, because mosques are closed as precautionary and preventive measures to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, Muslims perform the Ramadan night long prayer, tarawih, at home, eliminating travel time and providing the opportunity for more focus on the prayers and any subsequent merit-accumulation deeds, like reading the Qur’an.

Apart from observing Islam’s total fast and performing the obligatory and voluntary prayers, the “stay home” Covid-19 circuit breaker advisory does not deprive Muslims of giving sadaqah, donations and zakat-fitrah by cheque or via online platforms to mosques, organisations and Muis for the disbursement to the poor and for other Islamic expenditure.

Mr Ganesh Sundram, a Hindu, in his Facebook post on 16 May (2020), wrote:
“I feel we can all learn smthg so powerful from the muslim community during this covid-19 period ….
For a race that sees going to a mosque to pray as a must do ….
For a race that sees going to haj as a sacred thing and also a must do ….
For a race that has always promoted family togetherness and reunions …
For a race that takes alot of pride and joy in their religious festivals and ceremonies …..
I swear when i say this …..
I have yet to see any form of complaining abt anything from any muslim … either on social media, in person or in any other way …..
I have never seen such unity, obedience, tolerance, patience, maturity and understanding ….
I am completely floored by the behaviour displayed by the muslims in Singapore …..
Thank you …”

(Note, Mr Sundram’s long narration is not edited here but some lines have been removed to shortened his message.  Also, there is an unintentional mistake in word usage – perhaps in his hurry, he had made a little slip by saying “a race” instead of “a community” as not all Muslims are of one race.)

Yesterday (21 May), many Singaporean Muslims participated in a virtual togetherness in breaking their fast during an e-Buka Puasa livestream on the Facebook of Wisma Geylang Serai. A number of people were connected in the livestream, including Environment and Water Resources Minister, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, and Member of Parliament and Senior Minister of State, Dr Maliki Osman, as well as personnel from Muis and other Muslim organisations.

The participants in the E-Buka Puasa livestream on the Facebook of Wisma Geylang Serai.

As the azan (prayer call) for the Maghrib prayer is being called out by an appointed imam (prayer leader) from a home, the breaking of the fast begins.

The moment the azan is heard in the mosque (in previous years), over radio, or in this case, livestreamed from their homes as shown in the photos, Muslims throughout Singapore break their fast.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat who appeared in the livestream before the breaking fast, thanked Singapore Muslims for their steadfastness in this difficult time and making adjustments to the practices of Ramadan and Aidilfitri.

He said: “Let us stay vigilant, be socially responsible, and do our part to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone…We can overcome these challenges (of the Covid-19 threat) and emerge stronger.”

Shaik Kadir
22 May 2020

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Beauties of nature (mushrooms)

Beauties of nature
(mushrooms)

Yes, staying at home during this Covid-19 pandemic for so long is indeed boring, so I went for a short walk in the neighbourhood, yesterday morning (5 May 2020), of course, wearing my mask following the Singapore circuit breaker measures to stay safe.

And I came upon these beauties of nature among the patches of grass on the sides of the walkways.  They are beautiful indeed.

These mushrooms seen in your lawns or in patches of grass at other places are actually a fungus.  The white ones are called Agaricus campestris while the brown ones are Marasmius oreades.

Mushrooms are not harmful to your lawn; in fact, they are almost always a good sign! They are a clear sign that the soil is healthy, and healthy soil is what we want for promoting healthy lawns and strong trees.

If your lawn’s soil is healthy with good organic matter, Mushrooms will grow in your lawn as these conditions are perfect for fungi. They love damp and carbon-rich soil, so usually after an extended period of rain and cool weather with decaying organic matter in the soil, you may see a variety of fungi growing.

(The brief information given here is from Wikipedia and other Internet sources. If interested in more information visit their websites.)

SK
6 May 2020

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From SPH Website – Fighting Covid-19 in the spirit of Ramadan

(From SPH Website,  published: APR 25, 2020, 5:00 AM SGT )

OPINION

Fighting Covid-19 in the spirit of Ramadan

Shaik Kadir For The Straits Times

Opportunities for spiritual development and charitable acts can still flourish at home

Yesterday was the first day of the Ramadan, and Muslims are fasting.

Ramadan has always been a busy month, one which offers Muslims the opportunities to further enhance their spiritual development and for charitable acts. However, many of the traditional Ramadan activities cannot be carried out this year because, under the circuit breaker, gatherings in places of worship are not permitted as precautionary and preventive measures to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

What were the scenes in mosques before the Covid-19 outbreak?

(See the rest of the article in The Straits Times Website.)

A largely empty street in Geylang Serai on Thursday. Many of the traditional Ramadan activities cannot be carried out this year because, under the circuit breaker, gatherings in places of worship are not permitted as precautionary and preventive measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2020, with the headline ‘Fighting Covid-19 in the spirit of Ramadan’.  A photo of the print edition is as shown below:

 It is hoped that the spiritual development and charitable acts gained from home will further flourish after Ramadan.

Shaik Kadir
2 May 2020

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“Eat of that which is lawful and good,” says God

Ramadan Mubarak (Have a blessed Ramadan) 

“Eat of that which is lawful and good,”
says God

A non-Muslim friend of mine asked me this question: “If a Muslim man is visiting a non-Muslim friend for Chinese New Year, and the friend’s mother told him that she had cooked halal food for him, would he eat it?  Also, I would like to say that in the olden days when my friends came to my house they would eat no-pork food cooked by my mother but they don’t now.  Why?”

The response is as follows:

Muslims, by their religion, Islam, have been instructed by God in the Qur’an to eat halal (lawful) food.  (In the Qur’an, it is God who speaks. He speaks directly to Muslims, to people for instructions and reflections and to mankind in general.)

For beef, mutton and chicken, the animal needs to be slaughtered in the Islamic way by a Muslim after saying a doa (short prayer or supplication). For example, for chicken, the slaughterer would, in his heart, say: “I slaughter all these chicken for food in the name of Allah” which needs to be uttered once only even if he has to slaughter 50 chicken one after another.

In Singapore, for instance, there are many food stalls or restaurants owned by non-Muslims, with all the cooks being non-Muslims, but the food is halal – it is certified by the Muslim Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).

The main halal requirements stipulate that (1) all meat and cooking oil used preparing food must conform to halal rules with the meat, such as beef, mutton and chicken, bought from halal sources; (2) all cooking utensils, cutlery, forks and spoons, and crockery must be newly bought and never to be used for cooking or serving non-halal food; (3) at least one Muslim must be employed as restaurant staff, and (4) that none of the non-Muslims in the kitchen or restaurant should drink alcohol or bring non-halal food to eat in the premises.

Muis’ halal logo has to be displayed prominently and the halal certificate must be displayed inside to show the certification validity.

Now, let us look at another situation of halal food prepared by a non-Muslim.

I have a friend in Singapore whose wife is Japanese. My friend met her after she has converted to Islam upon “discovering” it when she was studying for her masters at the National University of Singapore. They have three children now. (I have featured the family in my book, “The ship that spreads friendship”, published in 2019.)

The family often visited the lady’s parents in Japan, staying at their home for several days. During that time, her Japanese parents would cook for them halal food.

The parents had bought pots and pans especially to use for the cooking during their visits. So, the family shows no was-was (doubt) about the knowledge of halal food preparation and handling as their daughter had instructed her parents about halal matters.

In the second part of the question, let me take an example of a Muslim visitor to the home of a non-Muslim family, and the lady of the house informed him that the food she had cooked was halal and insisted on him to eat together with them.

The Muslim guy, at this moment, would be in a quandary and quickly throw some questions to himself regarding the situation.  Perhaps the questions might run as follows:
• Okay, she might know that Muslims don’t eat pork but does she know that any product of pork, like lard, is also haram (not halal)?
• Does she know that other meat, if it is in the dishes, must be halal too?
• Are the pots and pans she used to cook the halal food totally new or have they been used to cook non-halal food before?
• My friend’s mother says the food is halaI so, I think, I would eat otherwise she would feel bad. I don’t want to hurt her feeling, so, I hope, God would forgive me if anything does not conform to halal requirements.

Islamic awareness

Some Muslims of the 1960s might be a bit more accommodating than those Muslims today because of intellectual development and knowledge of Islam now because of Islamic knowledge and awareness.  With knowledge, superstitions and blind beliefs like seeking divine help from dead saints or holy men are dying off in Singapore.

The tudung (headscarf) is a visible example of Islamic awareness.  In those days, Muslim women didn’t wear the scarf; at most, some elderly ladies might have the selendang (long scarf) wound round their necks.  Today, most Muslim ladies wear the tudung and cover their bodies properly following Islam’s advice to be modest, while those who do not wear the tudung, most do wear modestly with long sleeve blouses and long pants.

Before, Muslims learned about Islam from parents or from kampung elderly people, but today religious teachers are mostly university graduates so the knowledge imparted is more Qur’an-based and in-depth. There is also religious education conducted in mosques by Muis-approved religious teachers. In other words, Muslims today understand the logic and implication of Islam and they try their best to become good Muslims.

To be pure and clean at all times in both the physical (outward) and non-physical (inward) sense is part of the Islamic Deen (the believers’ way of life as practised by all God’s prophets, including Prophet Abraham, Prophet Moses and Prophet Jesus or Jesus Christ, Peace Be Upon Them All.) (Jesus Christ is also Islam’s Prophet.)

“O mankind!”

Muslims take halal food in obedience to God’s command. Instructing all people to be mindful of what they eat, God says:
• “O mankind! Eat of that which is halal (lawful) and good and follow not the ways of the devil.” (2:168)
• “O you who believe! Eat of the good things that We (God) have provided for you (on earth).” (2:172)
• “Lawful to you are all things good and pure…” (5:5)

Apart from the prohibition of pork, alcohol and drugs, the Qur’an also provides a list of other things that people should avoid eating. An example of these prohibitions is given in Chapter 5, verse 4 (numbered below for easy reference). God instructs: (O you who believe!) Forbidden to you for food are:
(1) dead meat
(2) blood
(3) the flesh of swine
(4) that on which has been invoked the name of other than God
(5) that which has been killed by strangling
(6) or by a violent blow
(7) or by a headlong fall
(8) or by being gored to death
(9) that which has been partly eaten by a wild animal, unless you can slaughter it (invoking God’s name) before it dies
(10) that which is sacrificed on stone (altars)
(11) (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows (gambling): that is impiety.”

The principles of halal and haram thus focus on the development and purification of the body and soul together.

Thus, if the Muslim guest is able to sense that the food cooked by his non-Muslim host is totally halal in every sense of the word, he or she should certainly eat the food.

Still, just like even twins are not alike in every facet of their physical and intellectual characteristics, different people think differently.  In matters of halal food, some might give leeway for certain unavoidable reasons (with God being the Judge over this), while some might be very strict.

Thus, in Singapore, it is good for non-Muslim Singaporeans to know about halal food as well as other Islamic practices for all of us to live together in harmony.

Shaik Kadir
29 April 2020

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“Fighting Covid-19 in the spirit of Ramadan”

Ramadan Mubarak (Have a blessed Ramadan)

“Fighting Covid-19
in the spirit of Ramadan”

Salam and good day to everyone,

My article on the Islamic view of Covid-19 has been published today (25 April 20) in the Opinion page, page A19, of The Straits Times. The heading is “Fighting Covid-19 in the spirit of Ramadan”

A page-shot of the article is below:

Page-shot of the article in The Straits Times of 25 April 2020.

You can also read the article online, upon logging in. Here’s the link:
https://www.straitstimes.com/…/fighting-covid-19-in-the-spi…

Shaik Kadir
25 April 2020

 

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Terawih, the special Ramadan night prayer

 

Ramadan Mubarak (Have a blessed Ramadan)

Terawih, the special Ramadan night prayer, begins tonight

A Singaporean friend, Ms Chang Soh Kiak to whom I am dedicating this article for inspiring me to compose it, asked me this morning (23 April 2020, via WhatsApp), a sincere question on an Islamic practice.  She asked: “Is solat terawih a special event? Is it like the Chinese reunion dinner on the eve of Chinese  New Year ?”

I am answering the question here with some relevant details with the hope that other non-Muslims, too, would benefit from this explanation. (To adorn the article, some of the images on Ramadan greetings I received are included for the Muslim readers.)

Solat terawih is not an eating of a meal function like eating at a family-reunion dinner on the eve of the Chinese New Year – a Chinese custom that is praiseworthy; it is good to be with family members and eating and chatting together.  Solat terawih is not such a function; it is an Islamic prayer performed every night in Ramadan.

The month of Ramadan starts tonight (23 April 2020) after sundown and Muslims will perform their terawih – special Ramadan-night prayers.  So, it happens to be an appropriate time for my friend to have asked the question on terawih.

(Usually mosques are filled to capacity on 1 Ramadan to welcome the holy month and happy to perform this special terawih prayer which they performed a year ago. But, as mosques are closed for precaution of the spread of Covid-19 virus infections, Muslims will have to perform the terawih prayer at home alone or with their same-home family members.)

Here are some points that explain the question:

Solat means the Islamic prayer, not any prayer made, as for instance, at the spur of the moment or when needing divine help.  Such a prayer is called doa, like “Oh, God, please end Covid-19 quickly so life can return to normal.” A general doa is often said, with hands raised at chest level, after each obligatory solat. A doa is not a required component of the solat, so one need not say the doa if one has to urgently leave after the solat is completed – any solat of the day.  But Muslims would always say the after-solat doa heartily to conclude their prayer.

The terawih is a special long prayer performed only in Ramadan nights, not in any other months of the calendar.

Obligatory prayers

As far as prayers are concerned, they are an important daily practice for spiritual presence with God every day. The solat is so important that it is the second pillar of the Five Pillars of Islam.

The five-times-a-day prayer is the obligatory prayers performed at the appropriate time of the day. The prayers are:
• Suboh (pre-dawn prayer of 2 units),
• Zohur (early afternoon prayer of 4 units),
• Asar (late afternoon prayer of 4 units),
• Maghrib (after-dusk prayer of 3 units) and finally
• Isya (late evening prayer of 4 units).

(A unit or rakaat consists of four features – standing for attentiveness, bowing for respect, prostrating for humility, and sitting for togetherness.  At each position, there is certain recitation made, including short chapters of the Qur’an, all silently.)

In the Qur’an God speaks to the reader. About the solat, God says:
• “Perform the solat and give alms…” (2:43), and
• “Establish regular solat, enjoin what is just and forbid what is wrong…(31:3)

As readers can see, God asks Muslims to perform not only the solat but other righteous acts as well in tandem. In other words, there is no point in performing the solat and, at the same time, rob people or do other objectionable or illegal things.

The daily prayers need not necessarily be performed in the mosque. As Muslims do not belong to any particular mosque, they can perform the daily prayers individually anywhere – in the mosque, at home or in any clean place, like in the office or even at any corner of a building except where the prayer is not disturbed by inconvenience to others or disruptive to the prayer, like loud noise, terrible smell.

The other special prayers are the:
• Juma (Friday weekly prayer), an obligatory prayer with a sermon by the imam (prayer leader) performed in the mosque in a congregation,
• Aidilfitri (Celebration of Charity) prayer performed a day after Ramadan, commonly referred to as Hari Raya Puasa among the Malays. (Aidilfitri is celebrated on 1 Syawal which is the tenth month of the Muslim calendar.), and the
• Aidiladha (Celebration of Sacrifice), commonly referred to as Hari Raya Haji. (Aidiladha is celebrated on 10 Zulhijjah, the tenth day of the 12th month of the Muslim calendar.

(So, neither Hari Raya Aidilfitri nor Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the Muslim New Year as some non-Muslims think Aidilfitri is the Muslim New and greet their Muslim friends “Happy New Year”.  The Muslim New Year is on 1 Muharram which is a public holiday in Muslim majority countries.)

Muslim calendar

Muslims follow a lunar-based calendar without any off-set. To clarify this, let’s take the Chinese lunar calendar.  It has an off-set of days, and that is why the Chinese New Year is always in January or February, never in other months.

In the case of the Islamic calendar, Islamic events are never fixed to any month, so it “travels” around the solar calendar (Gregorian calendar) lesser by 11 days each year.

Example: Hari Raya Aidilfitri is on 24 May this year, so next year it will be on 13 May.  In 2022, it would be on 2 May; then in 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2026, it would be on 20 April, 9 April, 30 March and 19 March respectively, and so on, receding by 11 days a year. As Chinese follows the lunar calendar too, it is possible for Aidilfitri to fall on the same day.  Then, we shall have double celebrations like it happened some 30 years ago.  Therefore, Aidilftri is good-humouredly referred to as a “visiting” festival as it may fall on or near any religious or cultural celebration day of other faiths during its “travel” across the time cycle of 33 years. Thus, Aidilfitri, for instance, takes 33 years to make a full cycle.

If, for example, Aidilfitri is off-set to be celebrated every year in December, then Aidilfitri will be forever celebrated in the cold winter in the countries in the northern hemisphere while it will be forever celebrated in the heat of summer in the southern hemisphere. The Muslim calendar, in its nature, allows any celebratory events like the Ramadan, the two hari rayas and the Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday, to be celebrated in any season of the year over a 33-year cycle and cycle after cycle.

Coming back to solat terawih, this special Ramadan night prayer is performed about 10 minutes after the congregational isya (final obligatory prayer of the day).

Tonight, since everyone in Singapore stays at home following the circuit breakers measures, Muslims will perform the terawih prayer at home after performing their isya (final 4-unit prayer of the day).

The terawih prayer is very long; it comprises 20 rakaat (units) plus 3 rakaat (units) of concluding prayer.  However, there is also a shorter terawih for those are unable to perform the normal 20 plus 3 units, like old or sick people; it is the 8 plus 3 units terawih.  Still, the terawih prayer is sunat prayer, a voluntary one, not an obligatory one, yet most Muslims would not miss this once-a-year prayer!

Quran reading

In the mosque, just after the terawih prayer, Muslims would form a group to read the Qur’an.  Reading the Qur’an and completing it in Ramadan is a blessed deed as the Qur’an was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad in Ramadan with the following verses:

“Read! In the name of your Lord and Cherisher who created,
Created man from a clot of congealed blood,
Read! And your Lord is Most Bountiful,
He who taught (the use of) the pen,
Taught man that which he knew not.” (96:1-5)

It’s a perfect educational first Revelation of the Qur’an – to read to gain knowledge, like you are doing now by reading this article to know about solat terawih and the main prayers of Muslims.

So, in the mosque, whoever wants to join the Qur’an reading group could do so. The Qur’an is read audibly, a juz (section) or two a night, till all the 30 sections in the 114 chapters of the Holy Book are read a few days before the end of Ramadan.

Tonight, Muslims would welcome Ramadan by performing the one-year missed terawih at home. Many would also read the Qur’an.

Ramadan is the month that offers Muslims the opportunity to further enhance their spiritual development and charitable acts.

Ramadan Mubarak! (Have a blessed Ramadan!)

Shaik Kadir
23 April 2020

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