SIGA 2018: An assembly of wisdom, contribution, togetherness and fun

SIGA 2018: An assembly of wisdom, contribution, togetherness and fun

Forty-nine Singaporeans went to Bandung, Indonesia, in April looking for Singapore’s favourite food – Mee Bandung, Rojak Bandung and Air Bandung but found none of these there, instead they found SIGA Bandung and enjoyed it.

SIGA or SSEAYP International General Assembly 2018 was held in Bandung, the capital city of West Java Province.For three days from 20 to 23 April 2018, the Singaporean delegates as well as delegates from the other Asean nations and Japan spent a profitable time involving themselves in social and economic projects in Bandung, Indonesia’s centre for learning and creativity.

The sights and sounds of Bandung and the friendship attained with the Asean and Japanese participants while learning and contributing together gave the participants a great occasion to remember SIGA Bandung.

The enchanting sights and sounds of Bandung…

This year’s assembly, the 30th, carries the theme “In the spirit of art, heritage and youthpreneurship”. The theme offered lively panel and group discussions as well as activities on the three aspects of the theme – art, heritage and youthpreneurship.

The annual SSEAYP International General Assembly (SIGA) in the last two years were held in Cambodia (SIGA 2016) and in the Philippines (SIGA 2017). Next year it will be held in Brunei Darussalam

This is my third participation in SIGA though my wife and I have been annually hosting the participants of the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Programme (SSEAYP) for over 20 years since 1989.

Remembering SSEAYP

At SIGA Bandung, my wife and I were happy to have met one of the Participating Youths who stayed in our home for the 2N3D homestay programme of SSEAYP 1992. She is the official photographer of SSEAYP International Indonesia, Ms Yulia Indahri (see the photos below), who was equally elated to see us. We briefly talked of our old days during SSEAYP 1992, even mentioning the other Participating Youth who stayed with us, Ms Hairos Nor Hairos C. Mat from Malaysia, who is always in contact with us via Facebook.

My wife, Khairon Mastan, and I are happy to meet our homestay foster daughter Yulia Indahri at SIGA Bandung: Yulia is the lady between my wife and I (in the main photo) at the SIGA site. The other person is Ms Nor Hairos C. Mat from Malaysia who both stayed with us during the SSEAYP homestay in 1982.

The following photos provide a glimpse of the activities, togetherness and the fun we had in SIGA Bandung:

Discovering Bandung City: Special buses took us to various places during the Bandung City tour.

Official speeches and presentations

Speeches and presentations were held in this hall, the ballroom of the el Royale Panghegar Hotel where the SIGA delegates stayed for three nights.

The attentive SIGA participants during a speech delivery.

Participants, divided into groups, deliberating on the topics given to them.

Groups coming up with suggestions and solutions.

Country leaders and representatives happy to be together.  Singapore’s leader, Mr Yacob Hussain, in prominent red shirt, is all eager to present the country report of Singapore later in the morning.

Panel discussion on the theme of SIGA 2018: “Spirit of Art, Heritage, and Youthpreneurship”.

A country-report presentation by Mr Khairul Ariffin from Brunei Darussalam.


Khairul Ariffin from Brunei Darussalam.

‟Attending SIGA 2018 in Bandung was my fifth SIGA experience, and I have learned much from them. SIGA Bandung was especially memorable to me.

The activities lined up for the SIGA participants educated me in terms of social contribution. In SIGA Bandung, I learned skills like making cookies and playing the angklung. Any new knowledge or skill learned is an achievement for you.

My contribution to the local community through SIGA’s activities is actually giving something back to the society and I am happy about it. It is small to me but big to the community.

During SIGA, I met many former Participating Youths, National Leaders, facilitators and foster families. Talking to them has made me expand my circle of friends, bringing lots of benefits socially.

To be with people who have the same interest as you is a great feeling. Connecting with people other than from your countrymen will make us appreciate what the world has in store for us to explore and experience.

My experiences in all the five SIGA assemblies will definitely help me in organising SIGA Brunei next year.”

– Khairul Ariffin, Assistant Director, Public Relations, Resource and Volunteers Section, Community Development Department, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, Brunei Darussalam, is the Vice President of SSEAYP International Brunei Darussalam. He was in the Brunei Participating Youth (BPY) 2008 (cum Youth Leader) and On-Board Ship Conference (OBSC) 2017.


Photos for remembrance is always cherished.  Top photo:  On the right of the Singapore contingent leader Yacob Hussain (in red shirt) is Ms Pia Adiprima, President of SSEAYP International Indonesia.

Some of the Singapore delegates met up with Mr Abdul Halim Kader, President of the Singapore Sepaktakraw Federation (PERSES) who was present for a meeting.

Making cookies at Bakery Academy

Youthpreneurship Activities: One of the groups went to the Bakery Academy in Baker Street to make cookies. The other groups went to several places for their workshops, like Rumah Batik Komar and Brotherwood Bandung Creative Hub.

Chefs at work: The delegates in the group are actively indulging in making cookies right from the start – mixing the flour and putting what they had prepared into the baking oven.

Hard work and happiness go together…

The hardworking “trainees” eventually “graduated as chefs” and were happy to see their fruit of labour when everyone gets boxes of the cookies to take home.

At the hotel lobby

At the hotel lobby…waiting to go for an outside activity.

Part 2 of the article on SIGA 2018 Bandung will be published soon in this blog. Look out for it.

Now that this is the month of Ramadan when Muslims throughout the world fast, may I wish all Muslim readers of this article Ramadan Kareem and may you receive the blessings of Allah for the heightened worship, charity and righteousness you do in this holy month.

 Shaik Kadir
19 May 2018

Posted in General interest (Wide-ranging) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Part 2 Prepare for Ramadhan: Be conscious about the bad habit of smoking and begin to quit it from the start of this fasting month

Part 2

Prepare for Ramadhan: Be conscious about the bad habit of smoking and smokers do get ready to quit it this fasting month


An imaginary conversation between Ibrahim and his friend in their office after the Hari Raya Aidil-Fitri public holiday.

Friend: “Let’s go out for our (smoking) Happiness.”

Ibrahim: “Sorry. I’ve quit smoking.

Friend: “What? Quit smoking? But fasting is over?”

Ibrahim: I quit smoking during Ramadhan. I became aware that Ramadhan is the best time to quit smoking as you don’t smoke in the day because of the total fasting, but smoke only after breaking fast. As you know I used to smoke 12 sticks…

Friend: Wah! And you stopped smoking suddenly?

Ibrahim: “No, no, you can’t stop suddenly. Nobody can. It has to be done gradually. You see, as I just said, I used to smoke about 12 sticks a day before Ramadhan but after breaking fast till about my bed-time I smoked only four sticks – how can you smoke 12 sticks in about hours! It will be disastrous! So, I did it gradually. In the second week of Ramadhan, I smoked only three sticks, then in the third week, I smoked two and in the final week of the fasting month, I smoked only one stick. Then on Hari Raya Aidil-Fitri, I didn’t smoke at all.”

Friend: Wow! What an achievement!”

Ibrahim: “So, now I can proudly tell people who asked me about it that I quit smoking because of Ramadhan.”


Seize the Ramadhan opportunity

Yes, take the opportunity during Ramadan to quit smoking. Be aware that without effort, there is no gain.

The smoking habit is indeed a bad habit as it brings nothing beneficial to the body by way of maintaining or improving good health, instead it brings harm.
The Friday prayer sermon of 11 May 2018 (25 Syaaban 1439H) dwelt on the subject of the bad habit of smoking and urged Muslims to have some will-power to quit smoking this Ramadhan.

With the heading, “Observing Our Physical Health in Preparation for Ramadhan”, the Muis-prepared sermon delivered by the imams (prayer leaders) of all Singapore mosques, asks: “Have we ever taken notice of the things that can possibly harm our health and body?”

This question was surfaced because Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) had said: “One should not harm one’s self and one cannot harm others in Islam.”

Harm of smoking

This advice can also refer to the bad habit of smoking – smoking harms the smoker himself and the smoke harms others around him.
The sermon asks the people in the congregation: “What are the consequences of smoking on our health and finances?”

The sermon mentions about the money wasted on purchasing cigarettes, thus: “Did you know that a smoker spends about $395 every month if he smokes a pack of cigarettes a day? That would then total up to $4,740 a year.”

Smokers who are Muslims: Heed the numerous warnings and advices given for smoking on the cigarette boxes and other articles and quit smoking as from this Ramadhan.   

About the harm a smoke inflicts on his health, the sermon emphasises: “This (the money spent in purchasing cigarettes) is not inclusive of the costs that he has to bear for the treatment of health complications which arise due to smoking, such as lung cancer and other diseases.”

The sermon further advises: “One of the best times for us to improve the quality of our life is during Ramadan itself, when we train ourselves to abstain from eating, drinking, and other things that can nullify our fast. May Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala, or Glory to Him, the Exalted) grant us the strength to curb our bad habits.
“There are many initiatives that we can consider if we intend to quit smoking. One of these is the “28-Day Countdown Programme” initiative organised by the Health Promotion Board.”

Previous articles 

The links for my previous articles on the harm and how to quit smoking in Ramadhan are:

(1) Smokers, heed the advice in the spirit of Islam
(February 27, 2014)

(2) Quit smoking in the spirit of Islam
(March 13, 2013)

(3) Ramadan: An assessment month to enhance self-improvement
(July 2, 2013)

In Islam, “Faith (iman), that is believing in God”, and “action (ibadah), that is carrying out God’s Guidance” go together hand in hand, Hence, each person is given the opportunity to reap the rewards of Ramadhan by carrying our God’s Guidance as much as he or she possibly can through his or her own effort. A person making an effort to quit smoking and quitting it within Ramadhan will indeed earn great Ramadhan reward.

(“Part 1: Prepare for Ramadhan” appeared three days ago, on 9 May 2018)

Shaik Kadir
12 May 2018

Posted in Discovering Islam | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Prepare for Ramadhan: Be compassionate, do good and receive God’s Blessings

Part 1

Prepare for Ramadhan: Be compassionate, do good and receive God’s Blessings

Ramadhan’s coming, and what better things that can be done to welcome it than to prepare for it before it arrives.

Last week’s Muis-prepared Friday (4 May 2018) prayer sermon, “Purifying the Heart in Preparation for Ramadhan”, delivered in all Singapore mosques, urges Muslims not to allow the holy month of Ramadhan pass by “without leaving a positive impact in our lives.”

Strengthening ties

The message says: “Allah enjoins upon us – in preparation for Ramadhan – to rectify and reinforce the ties we share among ourselves and to better our perception of others.”

The message urges Muslims to be compassionate and helpful to all people regardless of race and religion. “Let us purify our hearts and minds such that we view others, regardless of race and religion, as fellow beings that deserve respect and fair treatment. We must ease the affairs of others – be they our brothers in faith, nationality or humanity.”

The message reiterates that Allah (the one God of all) loves the person with whom the people around him have ease and peace.

Muslims excitedly welcome Ramadhan, the month of mercy and forgiveness, and pray for Allah’s blessings in our good deeds.

Health and family

In similar context, two functions I attended recently emphasised the fact that Muslims ought to begin preparing themselves for Ramadhan before it begins on 17 May.

The first function, held on Saturday, 28 April, was organised by MAEC of the Siglap Community Centre. Themed “Persiapan menjelang Ramadhan” (Preparation ahead of Ramadhan), two specialists in their own field, gave their thoughts and advices on what to do at least a month before the start of the holy month of Ramadhan.

Dr Fadzil Bin Mohamed Hamzah explained the importance of having good health in facing the rigours of the Islamic full-day total fasting from dawn to dusk every day of the month.

The second speaker, Ustaz Hamrey Bin Mohamed, talked about the ‘importance of increased family unity and togetherness in upholding the virtues of Ramadhan.

The Guest-of-Honour, Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Senior Minister of State and Mayor, South East District, in rounding off the event, mentioned that it is important for Muslim to prepare themselves well for Ramadhan by being healthy as to be able to successfully complete the month’s fasting in order to enjoy Aidil Fitri together with family members.

Motivational talks in preparing for Ramadhan: Dr Fadzil Bin Mohamed Hamzah (left) and Ustaz Hamrey Bin Mohamed discussing the importance of having good health and loving family.

Guest-of-Honour Dr Mohamed Maliki Osman in his address to the audience also emphasised the importance of maintaining good health and family bonding not only for Ramadhan but every day of our life.

After the talks, the audience, both male and female, performing the maghrib solat (the daily fourth and after-dusk prayer of the day) in congregation.

After the maghrib solat (after-dusk prayer), the audience gets treated to nasi ambeng (traditional Indonesian dish eaten together, usually using fingers, from a big plate in camaraderie spirit). Dr Maliki (extreme left) and Dr Daniel Tan (on Dr Maliki’s left) also joined the gathering for the dinner.

The ladies are in excited mood too; some taking selfies and didn’t mind if only half the face is captured.

The second function, a joint-initiative of the Moral Home for the Aged Sick and Masjid Al-Taqua (Taqua Mosque), both located at Jalan Bilal, was held on Sunday, 29 April at the moral home to discuss ways to ease the car-parking congestion at this small road shared by the moral home, the mosque and a number of residential homes.

Car-parking issue

In Ramadhan, the Taqua Mosque receives a bigger number of Muslims from about 4 pm to 10 pm daily for the iftar (breaking of fast after dusk) and the terawih (long Ramadhan-night prayers performed after the isyah prayer). Many who drive to the mosque park their cars along this road, posing inconveniences for the Jalan Bilal residents in getting in or out of their own carparks.

Mr Daniel Tan, Chairman of the Siglap Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle, was the emcee of the event while the discussion panel, led by Dr Mohamed Maliki Osman, comprised Mr Chang Meng Teng, Chairman of the Moral Home for the Aged Sick and Mr Azman Ariffin, Chairman of the Taqwa Mosque Management.

Various suggestions were offered by the panel members and the audience, including the suggestion to provide a return bus shuttle service from the Tanah Merah MRT Station to the mosque.

In his closing remark Dr Maliki said that, as this was not a weekly 2-hour use of Jalan Bilal like for the Friday prayers, but, on the other hand, the Ramadhan activities of the mosque entail a one-month parking inconveniences for the residents, so further practical suggestions and action would be undertaken by the focus groups of the mosque to tactfully solve the issue.

The audience listening to Dr Mohamed Maliki  talking about options to solve the car-parking problem at Jalan Bilal during Ramadhan. He is flanked, on his right, by Mr Chang Meng Teng, Chairman of the Moral Home for the Aged Sick, and Mr Azman Ariffin, Chairman of the Taqwa Mosque Management.

Dr Maliki as well as the rest of the attendees, after the car-parking discussions at the moral home building visiting the special one-day Ramadhan Bazaar in front of the Taqua Mosque.

After the tour of the bazaar, Dr Maliki and all the others attended a short talk about Ramadhan at the Taqua Mosque after which a briyani lunch was served to them.

Spiritual rewards

Ramadhan is a month when Muslims get much spiritual rewards for observing righteousness which includes deeds that would make people, both Muslims and non-Muslims, enjoy serenity and peace. In the case of indiscriminate parking when going for prayers, such righteousness includes avoiding parking along roads that would inconvenience the residents and avoiding parking close to bus-stops.

Indeed, Ramadhan is a training month for a Muslim’s spiritual and social development. Muslims need to be aware of it and practise righteousness as constantly as reminded by Allah in the Qur’an.

Allah says in the Qur’an: “Allah loves those who act right” (Qur’an, 3:76) and “If any does good, the reward to him is better than his deed…” (Qur’an, 28:84)

With such good messages directly from Allah, let us, as from now, aim and aspire to be a gracious and excellent community that inspires and radiates blessings to all.

(“Part 2: Prepare for Ramadhan” appears on 12 May 2018)

Shaik Kadir
9 May 2018

Posted in Discovering Islam | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday celebrations

Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday celebrations

Indeed Muslims love to celebrate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad as a reminder of his splendid manners and personality, of how compassionately he dealt with Muslims or non-Muslims around him, and of how he inspired humanity in various fields, such as in education and human and women’s rights.

In his book, “The 100 – A ranking of the most influential persons in history”, Michael H. Hart, after examining in great detail the character and accomplishments of 100 influential people, from political leaders, top scientists and well-known religious figures like Gautama Buddha, Prophet Moses and Jesus Christ, says: “My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels….Today (about 1400 years after his death), his influence is still powerful and persuasive.”

From left, books by Martin Lings (a convert whose Muslim name is Abu Bakar Siraj al-Din), Michael H. Hart and Afzalur Rahman. Michael, a non-Muslim, puts Prophet Muhammad first in his list of 100 most influential persons in history. In his concluding last line of his 8-page elaboration on the Prophet’s achievements, Michael says: “It is this unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad (570-632 AD) to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.”

Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) is always remembered by Muslims for his lovely character and personality, his great mission and success in completing the teachings taught by all prophets, including Prophet Abraham, Prophet Moses and Prophet Isa or Jesus Christ, Peace Be Upon them all, which finally God gave a name – Islam, indicating that he was not the founder of Islam but a Messenger of God (Rasullulah, that is, Messenger of Allah).

Honouring the Prophet
The Prophet was born on 12 Rabi’ul Awal (the third month of the Muslim or Hijrah (H) calendar. His birthday, called Maulidur Rasul or Maulud Nabi, is celebrated throughout the world by Muslim communities.

The celebration programme always includes sermons in remembrance of the Prophet’s teachings and lectures on his personality and life as learning points for emulation by Muslims, both children and adults. Other activities in the programme held to honour the prophet include selawat and zikir (salutations and praises to the beloved Prophet) and processions at designated places.

On Sunday, 29 April (2018, or 13 Syaaban 1439 H), an event to celebrate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad was held at the Singapore Sepaktakraw Federation in Bedok North. Dato’ Abdul Halim Bin Kader, BBM, President of the Singapore Malay Youth Library Association (Taman Bacaan) and President of the Singapore Sepaktakraw Federation (PERSES), was the Guest-of Honour. His speech and the whole event was live-streamed that day on:

Guest-of-Honour Abdul Halim Kader delivering his speech at the opening of the Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday celebrations at the Singapore Sepaktakraw Federation in Bedok North.

The 5-hour event that started at 9 in the morning consisted of speeches and religious lectures and activities, such as the Qasidah (poems recited in a highly rhymed form in praise of the Prophet) presented by the well-known Qaafilah Zikrullah.

Among the female audience are four participants of “SSEAYP International General Assembly (SIGA) in Bandung (20 -23 April 2018)”, from left, Mdms Normadiah Hamzah, Wan Shamsiah, Siti Zainah and Khairon Mastan, who actively volunteer as homestay hosts for the Participating Youths of the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP) and, at the same time, do not miss out on gaining religious knowledge by attending religious lectures and events.

Among the guests are, from left: Dr Ustaz Leyakat Ali Mohamad Omar, Shaykh Ahmed Tijani Ben Omar from USA, Mr Fazlur Rahman, Malay-Muslim activist, Ustaz Omar Maulana, organiser of the Maulidur Rasul event, and Mr Abdul Halim Kader, Guest-of-Honour.
The other photo shows “Qaafilah Zikrullah” making their lively presentation.

Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday celebrations can be held in any month between his birth date (12 Rabi’ul Awal) to before Ramadan, the fasting month when Muslims perform total fasting from dawn to dusk every day of this ninth month in the Hijrah calendar.

Last month (on 7 April or 20 Rejab), Jamiyah Singapore, with the support of a number of local Muslim organisations, held Maulidur Rasul at the Bedok Stadium from 5:30 to 10:30 pm. Apart from the usual activities like religious lectures, praises of the Prophet and Qasidah, a lively procession of groups representing Muslim organisations, including the kompang troupes (Malay hand-drum performers), paraded along the running tracks around the field of the stadium. Congregational prayers were also held, especially for the Maghrib (dusk-time) prayers.

Before that, Maulidur Rasul was also held at the Expo Singapore and at various mosques.
During such events, whether in hired premises or in the mosques, attendance was always overwhelming and free food, usually briyani, was served or given away in packages.
During the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), there was no such culture as celebrating birthdays, so none of his Companions or followers celebrated his or their birthdays. However, in the fifth century, some religiously motivated people initiated the celebration of his birthday to honour him for his advice, guidance and achievements as the final prophet of Islam.

Valuable learning occasion
This initiative was not well-received by some Islamic scholars. They felt that celebrating the Prophet’s birthday is a bida’a – something not taught by the Prophet, so it ought not to be practised. However, many other scholars say that though it is a bida’a, it is a good bida’a as the celebration event is totally religious, involving nothing that is Islamically prohibited (no wild merriy-making, no dancing, no alcohol, no mixing of the sexes), but totally an Islamic gathering beneficial for character and social development.

Maulidur Rasul serves as a valuable learning occasion for Muslims to come together to become better Muslims by working together for the good of all Singaporeans, contributing together to the peace and harmony of the nation.

Shaik Kadir
1 May 2018

Posted in Discovering Islam | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spending a beautiful morning with friends and nature  at the world-famous Singapore Botanic Gardens

Spending a beautiful morning
with friends and nature 
at the world-famous
Singapore Botanic Gardens

Members of the Briskwalk-Zumba Gang had a fun morning at the world-famous Singapore Botanic Gardens last Sunday (8 April 2018).

The huge and lovely Gardens is the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a pleasant place for family and friends to gather, exercise and relax.

The trip was the first outing this year organised by the Malay Activity Executive Committee (MAEC) of the Siglap Community Centre for its quarterly outing programme for its Siglap constituency residents in motivating community bonding and interaction.

MAEC organises briskwalks, conducted by Mr Najib Ahmad, and Zumba sessions, conducted by Ms Victoria Ng Teng Yin, at the community centre every Sunday morning.

The Briskwalk-Zumba Gang’s good habit of exercising, making friends, getting together for outings to lead a healthy lifestyle continues…

The group of about 51 people who went for the Briskwalk & Zumba at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on Sunday, 8 April 2018.


The very first activity in the programme was the fitness exercise conducted by Mr Najib Ahmad followed a leisurely briskwalk around the huge Gardens to enjoy the beautiful morning atmosphere and the sights and sounds of nature.

Varieties of flowers and plants…: “A flower cannot blossom without sunshine, and man cannot live without love.”

More varieties of flowers and plants…: “Happiness radiates like the fragrance from a flower and draws all good things towards you.”

Still more varieties of flowers and plants…: “Life is the flower for which love is the honey.”

And more flowers. Well, what is a garden without flowers!: “Be honest, be nice, be a flower, not a weed.”

And fruits of many varieties too: “A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.”


Some of the group members relaxing along the scenic briskwalk route. The lady in the middle is not ready to have a bull-fight but getting ready to resume her briskwalk with a command: “Okay, okay, friends. Enough rest. Start moving.”

Enjoying the surrounding from a bridge.

Some Chinese residents also joined us for the outing. 

And they saw gushing water:  “Ah! A nice fountain! Come, let’s take a photo here.”

Enjoying the swing of a suspension bridge and hurrying to a nearby pond to enjoy the sight of swans swimming in it. 

Yes, there are children too in our group…but wait a minute, there’s a acute white child! Whose child is that? Ms Sri Zuraida’s? Can’t be. Sri adopted her? May be. O my gosh! Hope Sri didn’t kidnap her! (The white child and her parents are among those on-lookers who excitedly joined us in the Zumba exercise.)

More members of our group posing for more pictures.


Splendours of nature and its mysteries: “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of nature – mountains, trees, flowers, birds, insects, swans swimming in the pond, the air, and  I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.” 

A tree lizard turned around and “posed and smiled” for a photo-shoot…


Mr Yacob Hussain is so amused by Ms Noorliah Howdi taking a photo with a “statue” kingfisher: Perhaps he’s thinking: “I’m the real king here and I can not only catch fish but also cook them into curry – delicious fish curry – and she’s posing not with me but with a dummy kingfisher!  So sad!” (Photos combined for humour.)

“Woo! Look at that couple, Mr Najib Ahmad, our Brishwalk & Exercise instructor, and his wife, Susilawati, so romantic lah! But, look at my husband, Yacob Hussain, he married me (Keiko Soeda), a Japanese, and now he’s looking skywards, perhaps hoping for a Korean girl to drop from Heaven.”


Ms Victoria (in orange shirt) leading us in Zumba with body-shaking Hindi and English songs after our briskwalk.

The fast-moving Victoria makes even children marvel at her vitality and energy, motivating them to do regular exercise to be physically fit.

Even some outsiders joined in to shake their bodies a bit…

After our Zumba session and when our lunch boxes were about to be distributed, my wife, Khairon, and I happened to meet a member of our Umrah group, Ms Hairani Osman, who went for the Umrah last month (March). (See the 3-Part article about our Umrah and Ms Hairani’s comments in “Part 1, Our Umrah: Opening friendship opportunities” at ).


Ms Zainab Mahmood.

“Everyone in the group enjoyed the day at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Apart from coming closer in friendship, the trip was educational.

The participants learned much about the rain forests and the varieties of plants, flowers and fruits.

Even our Chinese friends in the group wanted us to organise more such outings. They like our friendly and cheerful members in the group.

We appreciate their participation and feedback.” – Ms Zainab Mahmood, member of the MAEC organising committee.

Hey! Why is Ms Susilawati climbing up the safety rail without her husband’s notice? Wow! A balancing act? She got talent, man! (Tapi Najib, jaga cermin mata isteri awak baik baik, jangan jatuh. Mahal cermin mata dia…) (Photos combined for humour.) 

See you on Sunday mornings for the weekly Briskwalk and Zumba sessions at the Siglap Community Centre. And, of course, the Briskwalk-Zumba Gang is waiting for the next outing. Where and when will it be?

For some of the past outings, see my blog. Type “MAEC” in the “Search” and read about those outings that I have written.

Shaik Kadir
11 April 2018

Posted in General interest (Wide-ranging) | Leave a comment

“Part 3, Our Umrah: The enthusiasm of Masjidil Haram” 

Part 3, Our Umrah: The enthusiasm of Masjidil-Haram

Makkah, where the holiest mosque, Masjidil-Haram,
is located, is held in high esteem by Muslims
throughout the world as the most sacred spot on earth.
There is no other spot in the whole wide world that 
has been so sanctified, honoured, respected and
visited in multitudes as Makkah.

Makkah Al-Mukarramah (Makkah the Blessed or Ennobled) (or “Mecca” as spelt in English) is a unique city in Saudi Arabia and most the well-known city in the history of Islam because of two reasons: one, it is the birthplace of Islam and its final Prophet, Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, and two, it contains the world-famous Ka’aba. It is the sanctity of the Ka’aba that had made Makkah a sacred city.

The Ka’aba is also a focal point on earth towards which Muslims throughout the world face, termed “Qibla” or prayer direction, when performing their solat (Islamic prayer).
It is in Makkah that the Haj (major pilgrimage) and the Umrah (minor pilgrimage) are undertaken by pilgrims.

Photo of wall-picture of Masjidil-Haram taken in Museum Haramain, Makkah, during our visit to the museum.

Postcard photo: Another view of Masjidil-Haram.

At Museum Haramain: Photo of the model of the planned enlargement of Masjidil-Haram, the construction of which is being carried out presently (March 2018) and might be fully completed in a couple of years.

Mr Irwan Ramlan.

“Makkah is an important city in Islam; it’s the centre of Islam. During my journey to Makkah, I felt extremely excited and very nervous at the same time.   Makkah is near and dear to us Muslims.

When I reached Masjidil Haram, I felt so happy, and on seeing the Ka’aba, I was so awed.  Though it was my second time to see the Ka’aba, I still shed tears on seeing this simple but magnetic structure.

When performing the tawaf and the sa’i for my Umrah, I was overwhelmed. I felt fortunate that I’ve been invited by Allah to do the Umrah for the second time.    

It was also an amazing to see people from different continents coming together to perform the Umrah, and friendship was forged along the way.

InsyaAllah in two years’ time, I would come back. In fact, I am already beginning to miss Makkah and Madinah.”  – Irwan Ramlan     

(1) My wife, Khairon, standing in front of Dar Al-Ghufran Hotel Makkah in Al Safwah Tower where our group stayed for five nights. Our hotel is in the low building on the extreme left of the Clock Tower located right in front of Masjidil-Haram. (2) With our Umrah friends in the hotel.

Various hotels across the marble-floor of Masjidil-Haram. This floor is also used for prayers when the mosque is full, especially during the evening prayers, Maghrib and Isha prayers.

Pilgrims going to Masjidil-Haram for prayers and returning after their prayers in all directions to their respective hotels located around the mosque.

In Masjidil-Haram: Pilgrims await the azan (prayer call) to perform their congregational obligatory prayers, while a group of young students in ihram who had just entered the mosque are performing their sunat prayer (voluntary prayers in respect of the mosque) before the start of the obligatory prayer.

After the congregational obligatory prayer and the prayer for the dead, the dead, placed at one area of the mosque, are taken away for burial in Makkah.

Zam Zam water, together with disposable paper cups, is readily available everywhere in the covered part of the mosque via newly constructed dispensers.

Renovating and expansion of Masjidil-Haram: While the enlargement of the mosque on the opposite of the circular mosque (see photo of the model of the enlargement of the mosque shown in Museum Haramain presented earlier) is being carried out as is seen by the cranes, internal improvement renovation works are also on-going with safety being observed as thousands of pilgrims descent on Makkah every day while thousands of others leave after completing their Umrah every day. Masjidil-Haram as well as the pilgrims performing the tawaf go non-stop around the clock every day – yes, even in the dead of night people are going round the Ka’aba every second in the daylight-turned Ka’aba open-air area.

Visits to places of interest: Jabal Rahmah (Mount of Mercy), the hill where Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, had stood to deliver his last sermon, known as the Farewell Sermon. Some pilgrims climb the hill though it is not a sunnah to do so (nothing meritorious about it) but from sheer love of the Prophet.

Masjid Namirah in Arafah: Arafah is the plain where the Haj (not Umrah) pilgrims have to be present for a period enroute to Muzdalifah and finally Mina when Eid ul-Adha (or Hari Raya Haji) is celebrated. Huge tents are erected in the Arafah plain for the stay which could be even for a few hours or even a few minutes (for the late comers) to accomplish the wukuf, climax of the Haj on 9 Zulhijjah of the Islamic calendar. Masjid Namirah is in Arafah where the Haj pilgrims, whose tents are near it, perform their prayers, otherwise, if their tents are far away from it, they perform their prayers in their respective groups’ tents. Some of the men in our group performed a sunnat (voluntary prayer) at the spacious corridor of the mosque as the huge mosque, being in the desert where nobody resides, opens only during the Haj period to cater to the huge number of Haj pilgrims.

At Museum Haramain: Various artefacts, like early copies of the Qur’an, photos/drawings of Masjild-Haram from its early days till today and of its future shape in the form of a model, are displayed for information of the visitors.

A view of the Ka’aba area from the roof-top floor (fourth level) of Masjidil-Haram: The Ka’aba, pilgrims making the tawaf (in anti-clockwise direction) and other pilgrims sitting or performing their sunnat (voluntary) prayers while waiting for the azan (prayer call) for the next congregational obligatory prayer.

Another view of the Ka’aba and the tawaf area with two of the photos taken from the ground level.

The roof-top level of Masjidil-Haram is also occupied for prayers, especially after sunset.

Since the Ka’aba area is limited in size for performing the tawaf, pilgrims also perform the tawaf from the mosque’s second, third and roof-top levels. The two long photos show pilgrims performing the tawaf at the roof-level floor but performing the tawaf from any of the levels of the mosque is a number of times longer in distance and time than that performed closer to the Ka’aba due to its larger circumference though the merit gained for the tawaf (a complete tawaf being seven rounds) is the same. The moment the azan comes on, pilgrims making the tawaf at any level stop and perform their congregational obligatory prayers at the spot they stop and after their obligatory prayer continue to complete the remaining rounds of their tawaf as each pilgrim is responsible for his or her own counts of the rounds he or she has completed and needs to complete during each undertaking of the tawaf.

At Jabal Nur (Mount of Light): Some members of our group, on their own during our stay in Makkah, took a trip to Jabal Nur to visit the Cave of Hira. (The climb up this hill is not a sunnah, that is, there is nothing meritorious about it, but pilgrims climb it for their sheer love of Islam’s final prophet in treading along the steps taken by him. Ms Hairani Osman, who was in the group, said: “The trip up Jabal Nur to see the Hira Cave where our prophet, Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, received his first Revelation, was definitely unforgettable.” (See her comments in “Part 1, Our Umrah: Opening friendship opportunities”.)

Mr Asmali Tarmon.

“This is the fifth time I have climbed Jabal Nur to visit the Hira Cave where our prophet, Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, used to meditate about life and later received his first Revelation from Allah.

The path to the cave was bad at that time, yet our prophet climbed it, and his determination made me determined to visit the cave every time I go for my Umrah.

During the recent climb, we started at 10 pm with 14 people from our Umrah group and reached the cave area in 35 minutes.

We spent 45 minutes viewing the surrounding below. From that height, we could see the clock tower near Masjidil-Haram glowing stunningly.

I performed a sunat prayer in the small cave and chatted with co-climbers from Malaysia.

I feel, it would be a loss if we young people go for Umrah and not visit the Hira Cave.” – Asmali Tarmon

Many of us in this Umrah group might have undertaken the Haj, the Fifth Pillar of Islam, previously and the Umrah, too.  For instance, Mr Irwan Ramlan says that this was his second Umrah while for Mr Asmali Tarmon, it’s the fifth. I, too, performed my Haj, which is required only once in a Muslim’s lifetime and that too if he or she could afford it in terms of his health and finance, in 1992, and have gone for the Umrah, not a must, several times since then. But why do people go to the Holy Land more than once?

The direct answer by some people is: “The trip to the Ka’aba is worth more than any visit to any part of the world.”  And I quoted this significant remark in my book, “The Haj:  The annual pilgrimage of Islam”, published in 1995, about my Haj experiences.

Shaik Kadir’s 152-page book, “The Haj: The annual pilgrimage of Islam”, published in 1995, provides “a general feeling of this great event”. The writer’s article on Umrah in the “Life!” section of The Straits Times of 19 November 1996: “The number of Singapore Muslims who are going to perform the Umrah in November and December this year (1996) is set to reach a record high – exceeding 6,000.”

To undertake the spiritual journey for the Haj or Umrah is the desire of every Muslim, an ultimate goal, and for many their desire materialise, for others, not.

We pray to Allah that the 46 enthusiastic pilgrims together with our guide, Mr Nuddeen Sultan, who went for the Umrah recently (28 February to 12 March 2018) receive Allah’s Barakah (Blessings) for Umrah mabruh (Accomplished Umrah).  Ameen.

(This is the last of the 3-part article on “Our Umrah”.   “Part 1, Our Umrah: Opening friendship opportunities” was published in this blog on 21 March 2018 and “Part 2, Our Umrah: The pleasantness of Masjid Nabawi” was published last week on 30 March.)

Shaik Kadir
7 April 2018

Posted in General interest (Wide-ranging) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Part 2, Our Umrah: The pleasantness of Masjid Nabawi


Part 2, Our Umrah: The pleasantness of Masjid Nabawi

Madinah, where Masjid Nabawi is situated, is the only city
in the world which is so respected and visited every day 
by millions of Muslims from all over the world for the love
of one man – Prophet Muhammad.

Madinah Al-Munawarrah (Madinah the Enlightened or Radiant) is the other city where the feet of Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, had trodden – for 10 years.
The Prophet was born and bred in Mecca and began receiving Revelations from God at the age of 40. In the next 13 years he preached the Revelations he received from time to time but the pagan Meccans were not happy as what he preached went against their culture and way of living.

The Prophet lived at a time when the pagan Arabs worshipped numerous deities; they indulged in intoxicants; they practised infanticide (killing of female babies); they treated women as mere chattels and buying and selling them. But Islam advocated the worship of the One God; prohibited intoxicants, banned infanticide, condemned superstition and gave women their rights. All these and other positive changes made the pagans feel that their culture and traditions were being destroyed by his teachings and so treated him badly.

But the Prophet carried on with his mission patiently, bearing all the agony and hardship of the persecution. However, when the situation became unbearable, he decided to migrate to Madinah, which, at that time, was called Yathrib.

When Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, and his close Companion, Abu Bakr stepped onto the soil of Yathrib (in the Gregorian year 622), the Yathrib people, who were waiting to receive the Prophet, and as soon as they saw him approaching, burst into singing the famous nasheed (Islamic song), “Tala al-Badru Alayna” (The full moon rose over us).

The Prophet’s migration, called Hijrah, was a turning point in Islamic history. The Islamic or Hijrah calendar begins from this triumphant event, a date that changed the history of the world. This oasis town, Yathrib, henceforth became known as Madinatul Nabi (City of the Prophet) or simply Madinah (Medina).

The Prophet and his followers built a mosque near his simple home, which became known as Masjid Nabawi (the Prophet’s Mosque).

The Prophet passed away in 632, and was buried near the mosque and whose tomb is today enclosed in a chamber at one end of the huge Masjid Nabawi building.


Madinah’s central attraction is Masjid Nabawi, in which is located not only the Prophet’s tomb (no entry for people but they can look into the tomb-room from one side of the grilled wall) but the Raudhah ul-Jannah or simply Raudhah (Garden of Paradise) where people yearn to perform their prayers.

Off-wall photo of wall-picture of Masjid Nabawi of some three decades ago taken in Museum Haramain in Makkah during our visit to the museum.

Two of the numerous gates located around the compound of Masjid Nabawi. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Off-screen photo of a video of an aerial view of Masjid Nabawi by Hussain b Alsubhi (

Among those in the group of 46 people who went for Umrah from 28 February to 12 March, are Ms Nurlyana Abdul Rahman and her husband, Mr Aizuddin. Nurlyana feels blessed to get the opportunity to visit Madinah and the Prophet’s Mosque.

Nurlyana at Jabal Rahmah (Mount Rahmah) in Arafah, during one of our visits to historical places in Makkah.

“The blessed land of Madinah will always hold a special place in my heart. The people who come in droves every day from all over the world with pious hearts and devout thoughts make this city very holy and special to me and to all Muslims in the world.

I will also never forget the tranquillity in my heart. The longing and thought of Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, who is so loved by the Muslims bring great peace to my heart and to all – young, elderly, the poor, the rich – who come to Masjid Nabawi to be near his tomb and feel his presence.

At the Raudhah I prayed in tears of joy for being blessed to be given a chance to be in this holiest area of the mosque.

I pray I will be invited again by Allah to this holy land, InsyaAllah.” – Nurlyana Bte Abdul Rahman 


The huge doors on all sides of Masjid Nabawi.

In the marble-floor compound all around Masjid Nabawi, gigantic umbrellas that automatically open in the late morning provide shade to people performing their prayers and close at sunset for people to enjoy the evening atmosphere while waiting for the next prayer time or enjoy the serenity of the place after their prayers.

Views of the hotels located outside the compounds of Masjid Nabawi where people relax in the evening as the sun sets..


Some of the Umrah group members during the visit to a date plantation to see date palms at close range.

Masjid Quba: The first mosque built by Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, during his migration to, and before reaching, Yathrib (Madinah). Like Masjid Nabawi, Masjid Quba was initially a simple mosque built with materials of those days.

Masjid Sayyid al-Shuhada in Uhud: The mosque was built in honour of Prophet Muhammad’s uncle, Hamzah bin Abdul Muttalib, who was martyred together with 70 other warriors in the Battle of Uhud that took place in this area in 3 Hijrah (or in the Gregorian year 624).

(1) Masjid Qiblatain (Mosque of the two Qiblas): The Qiblah is the prayer direction that points to the Ka’aba in Mecca. In the beginning of Islam, the early Muslims’ Qiblah was the direction towards Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem. Then, after the Prophet received the command to change the Qiblah from Jerusalem to Makkah, the entire congregation led by a companion changed direction during a prayer session. The old mihrab (prayer niche) had been removed to avoid confusion.  (2) Mr Azman, a member of our group, likes the way the copies of the Qur’an are placed – in creative shelves.

Jannaṫ al-Baqī (Garden of the Baqi), near Masjid Nabawi, is the burial ground of many of Prophet Muhammad’s relatives and Companions, including Caliph Uthman.


Visitors (men’s turn) waiting to enter Raudhah ul-Jannah (The Garden of Paradise): “Between by house and my minbar (pulpit) there is a Garden from the Gardens of Paradise,” said Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him. Visitors to Masjid Nabawi would always look for an opportunity to perform a sunnat (voluntary) prayer at the Raudhah with men and women allotted different time to visit the area.

Another lady member in the group, who came with her husband, Mr Zaidi, is Ms Sarimah Safi’ee who was overwhelmed with blissful emotion when she entered the Raudhah (Garden of Paradise) in Masjid Nabawi.

Sarimah in front of one of the numerous doors of Masjid Nabawi.

“When the time came for the female members in our group to go to the Raudhah, I was a bit scared but I braved myself. Indeed, the crowd was huge but when I entered this special place, I was overwhelmed.

The moment I stepped onto the green carpet, suddenly my tears flowed uncontrollably. My heart burst with joy to be right in the Raudhah. And I kept saying ‘Ya Allah! Thank you very much for allowing me to be in this blissful place which I likened to Paradise.’
The crowd was thick, but I managed to perform my sunat pray, and I said my heartfelt personal doa,

After we went out of the Raudhah, I felt at ease. I was happy to have been given the chance by Allah to be in the Raudhah, even for a short time. and I am very grateful to Him for that. Alhamdulillah.” – Sarimah Bte Safi’ee

The intricate and unique architecture of the interior of Masjid Nabawi is a marvel to behold.

High decorative ceilings and air-con provide comfort to the worshippers.

Chandeliers, wall lights, huge pillars and domes (interior) enhance the exquisite atmosphere of the interior of the mosque.

(1) Zam Zam water is readily available for anyone to drink freely. Zam Zam water drums with disposable cups as shown are placed within short distances along the pathways and topped up hourly. (2) Copies of the Qur’an are placed at every pillar (with air-con outlets) for anyone to read it at leisure and worn-out copies are replaced every day. (3) Every Friday night, simple free meals are given to those who are fasting and breaking the fast, and the plastic cover-sheets and trash are cleared quickly to get ready for the Maghrib prayers. (4) Chairs are available for those who are unable to sit on the floor because of leg or knee problem/injuries. (These jobs, including vacuuming the carpets and cleaning the floor inside and outside the mosque, are carried out by a huge team of well-trained uniformed workers.)

The Green Dome is the exact location of where Prophet Muhammad’s tomb lies beneath in an enclosed chamber with Quranic verses forming grilles (gold mesh) for people to take glimpses of the tomb of their beloved prophet as they walk past the corridor of the chamber. (Visitors are not allowed to remain at the grille wall longer than a few seconds as to allow smooth flow of the unending movement of the large number of visitors.) Next to the tomb of the Prophet are located the tombs of his Companions, Caliph Abu Bakr and Caliph Umar.

In Madinah Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, gave form and continuity to the Muslim community and the state with all the various elements of social, economic and political life he had been commanded by God to establish. From Madinah, the first Islamic state in Islam, the religion rapidly spread throughout Arabia. The next state to become Islamic was Makkah. It is in Makkah that the Haj and Umrah are performed.

(“Part 3, Our Umrah: The enthusiasm of Masjidil Haram” will be featured soon. “Part 1, Our Umrah: Opening friendship opportunities” has been published in this blog last week, 21 March 2018.)

Shaik Kadir
30 March 2018

Posted in Discovering Islam | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment