Sunday, 30 December 2012

Ashes to ashes...

A few years ago, if you ask me to help wash a corpse and shroud it, I would be running away screaming like a banshee. Why? It's the fear of the dead. I blame it all on the horror movies that I've watched when I was small. I still remember the nightmares I had after watching Salem's Lot. I imagined the ghost floating outside my window. For years, I slept with the curtains closed. 

Ever since then I did not like funerals. If I went to pay my respect, I made sure I stay clear of the deceased. I did not even want to look at the body. Going to the graveyard is definitely a big No-No. I used to imagine zombies clawing their way out of their grave. Brrr......just the thought of it gave me shivers down my spine.

Then, in one of our chit-chats, the Wise Owl said to me, "sister, to bathe and shroud our deceased fellow muslim brothers and sisters is an obligatory duty upon all Muslims, fard kifayah. You must learn how to do it. All Muslims should learn". I looked at him blinkingly, and asked" Err..will the soul of the decease follow me back home and disturb me later if I help wash and shroud it? " to which the Wise Owl replied " No sister, don't worry, you will be fine". Unconvinced, I asked him again " you are sure I won't see any floating ghost outside my window? " The Wise Owl smiled and shook his head. I have to say that the Old Wise Man and the Wise Owl, both have been very patient with me. I have a tendency to ask silly questions and I know at times, the Wise Old man would just love to put his hands around my neck and squeeze the life out of me. hahahahah

Anyway, I decided to join a course on bathing and shrouding a Muslim woman, conducted by this sweet old lady.We were taught how to wash the body. We must do it gently and move it as minimum as possible. It is advisable for the family members to help wash the deceased. A husband is allowed to bathe his wife and a wife is allowed to bathe  her husband. As children, we should all help wash our parents as they had countless times bathe us when we were small. We should wash them with the same gentleness and care like they did with us.

We were also taught how to prepare the shroud cloth and how to tie the corpse.

Today, we were supposed to continue with our lessons but our instructor, (sister A), called to say she could not make it as there has been a death and she was required to wash and shroud the deceased. Sister A asked me to join her and help her out.

Oh dear! Moment of truth...I hesitated....can I conquer my fear? Can I do it or will I faint in the washing room? I mean, practising on a dummy is nothing compared to the real thing. In the end, I gathered my wits, grabbed my car keys and headed out to the mosque where the body was brought to. I was determined to do this. I have been asked to help so now, the obligation is already upon me to perform the task.

When I arrived, sister A was already in the hall and was cutting the cloth in pieces to prepare for the shrouding. I went straight to the washing room to help the others prepare for the washing. After that I went into the hall and helped sister A cutting and arranging the cloth in its places. Once we were done, we went into the washing room to start washing the body. I must say, its actually mind over matters. When something needs to be done, surprisingly, our body will automatically follow our brain and carry out the task without delay. It was really an experience to wash a real corpse. We washed the deceased as gently as we could. One thing that we must never forget is that even though the body is lifeless, we must always take care to ensure the aurat of the deceased is never exposed. We must respect the deceased and handle her body with outmost care.

After the washing was completed, the body was moved into the hall for the shrouding. We carefully wrapped the body and allowed the family members to kiss the deceased one last time.

The whole process took us about an hour. I must say that I was not afraid throughout the whole thing. I felt that it was process that each of us must go through one day. I was actually delighted to be able to do it in real life. It was also a humbling experience as it reminded me that death can come at any time and when it comes, we will leave everything behind, and we will only take 3 pieces of white cloth with us to the grave.

One thing I  must stress here is; Do Not Wait. If any of your family members pass away, please arrange the burial process as soon as possible. Bury as soon as you possible can.

I went home happy today. I have conquered my fear. Will I have nightmares tonight? Hopefully not, but I have already closed the curtains just in case.....

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Am I a Muslim?

Many people have told me that I have got my title all wrong. The correct title is "trying to be Mukmin" not "Trying to be Muslim". I beg to differ. To me, my title is exactly accurate to ME. I do not know if this title applies to others but it does apply to me. I do not expect people to agree with me and I do not impose my views on others but I do want to share my experience because I do feel that there are many like me.

You see, For years, I really thought that I was truly a Muslim. I was born a Muslim, I was taught to pray and recite the Quran. I fasted and celebrated Eid. That was enough right? Actually, it wasn't. I remember an incident when I was still in University in UK in 1995, where a fellow dorm-mate had asked me about hijab. He though hijab was a nationality thing, like the African ladies who wear a turban like head-covering. The first thing that I wanted to do, was to smack him in the head for being so ignorant but I didn't. Laughingly, I told him I'm not African and no, its not a nationality thing. In 1996, Islam was not as widespread and most UK residents have never heard of a country called 'Malaysia'. I painstakingly explained to him, (his name was Richard) that hijab is part of the religion that I believe in i.e. Islam. So I told him that in Islam, women are like precious jewels, that we only reveal our beauty to our husbands and permitted members of the family. I confidently told him that this is part of the teachings of the Holy Quran but honest to God, I did not know at that time, which verse in which this teaching lies. 

That incident and a few others got me thinking. What is Islam anyway? All that I have been taught were rituals in Islam but how do one become a Muslim? I needed answers but first I need to know the definition of a 'Muslim', so I picked up the most logical book to me (being a law student), the Oxford English Mini dictionary.! According to the dictionary  a 'Muslim' is :-

           "a. of or believing in Muhammad's teaching. - n.believer in this faith."

Hhmmm...let me see...I believe that Prophet Muhammad pbuh is our messenger but I did not know any of his teachings.....OMG!!!!!!! I don't even fall within the definition of Islam in the Oxford Mini dictionary!!!!!! 

I then looked at the definition of 'Muslim' in the BIG Oxford Dictionary and the definition is 

        "a.relating to Muslims or their religion. - n. a follower of religion of Islam."

That  is bad...I felt like a impostor, a fraud! I was arrogantly declaring myself to be something that I was not. I was not a follower because I did not follow. I was not a believer because I did not have any knowledge of what I was supposed to believe in. I did the basic ritual but it was not enough. I can't call myself a chef just because I know how to boil an egg! I can't call myself a doctor just because I know CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, in case you guys are wondering!). To me, I can't call myself a Muslim just because I follow (not diligently) certain basic rituals in Islam. 

Years after, I asked the Old Wise Man about the true definition of a 'Muslim' and he said that being a Muslim, to him, is to fully submit to the Will of God. I looked at him blankly and, " what is the Will of God?" His answer was, " lets go back to basic. Study and understand about the pillars of eaman and Islam."  The Old Wise man also said, being a 'Muslim' is not about the title or status, but it is what's inside your heart. Does your heart accept wholly and unconditionally Islam?. I remember reading about the journey of a born Jewish journalist named Leopold Weiss. His journey into Islam was one of the most moving stories I have ever read. He said that his heart accepted Islam before his mind did and that he was already living like Muslim. After that, he recited his syahadah and took the name Muhammad Asad. 

His story is a living example that being a Muslim is not just in the name or declaring to be one. Islam is a way of life and being a Muslim is to follow the Islamic way of life. In fact, there is no need for a person who reverts to Islam to change his or her name. He can still be known as 'Geoffery' or 'Susan'. 

I then understood that before I could really admit that I am a 'Muslim', I must live like one. I must know what Islam is and most important of all, I must fulfill all the conditions and criteria of a 'Muslim'. Until then, I shall remain to be "trying to be Muslim'.......

Friday, 28 December 2012

Glorious Friday...

I often wondered why Friday was special amongst other days.Why do we only have Friday prayers? Why not Sunday prayer or Monday prayers? Of course, when I want answers, I either go to the Old Wise Man or the Wise Owl. Don't get me wrong, its not that I'm lazy and I can't google or look it up for myself but being extremely lacking in Islamic knowledge, I would not know whether the result of my research is authentic or not, so it's best to ask the experts.

The Old Wise man will never let me have the easy way out. He will always ask me first, what have I found out before he explains any point to me. The Wise Owl on the other hand, will just simply tell me, anything I want to know. Reason being, the Wise Owl knows that I have been properly trained by the Old Wise Man, in that, I will do my research 1st before coming to any one of them.

So, this is what I know now. Friday is best day for all Muslims. Why?

"Abu Huraira reported the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) as saying: The best day on which the sun has risen is Friday; on it Adam was created. on it he was made to enter Paradise, on it he was expelled from it. And the last hour will take place on no day other than Friday."

Saturdays are for the Jews and Sundays are for the Christians, that is why the Christian have their mass and prayers on Sundays.

    Book 4, Number 1862: Sahih Muslim
It is narrated by Abu Huraira and Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: It was Friday from which Allah diverted those who were before us. For the Jews (the day set aside for prayer) was Sabt (Saturday), and for the Christians it was Sunday. And Allah turned towards us and guided us to Friday (as the day of prayer) for us. In fact, He (Allah) made Friday, Saturday and Sunday (as days of prayer). In this order would they (Jews and Christians) come after us on the Day of Resurrection. We are the last of (the Ummahs) among the people in this world and the first among the created to be judged on the Day of Resurrection. In one narration it is: ',to be judged among them".

During my Uni days, in my ignorance, I used to ask my male Muslims friends, why do they go to Friday prayers every Friday. Why couldn't they just pray in their rooms. The common answer they gave me, was that they were renewing their passport every weeks. Huh? What passport?

        Book 4, Number : Sahih Muslim
Abu-Huraira reported Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying: He who took a bath and then came for Jumu’a prayer and then prayed what was fixed for him, then kept silence till the Imam finished the sermon, and then prayed along with him, his sins between that time and the next Friday would be forgiven, and even of three days wore.

Oooooo...that passport! So what about us women folks? It is not compulsory for us to go for Friday prayers like the men but we can if we want to and if there is space at the Masjid. Somehow, in Malaysia, unlike in Middle East countries, women do not go for Friday prayers. Perhaps because of lack of space. So, are we at loss? Fear not! We women can still get brownie points and renew our passports too!

   Narrated Abu Hurairah (RA): Allah’s Messenger () talked about Friday and said: 'There is an hour    on Friday and if a Muslim gets it while offering Salat (prayer) and asks something from Allah (SWT), then Allah (SWT) will definitely meet his demand.' And he (the Prophet () pointed out the shortness of that particular time with his hands.[Sahih al-Bukhari]

   "The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said, ‘Whoever recited Surah al Kahf in the same manner in which it  was revealed, it will serve for him as a light on the Day of Judgement, from his domicile to Makkah. And whoever recited the last ten verses, and it happens that the Dajjal should appear after that, Dajjal will not be empowered over him’." Hadith 

    "The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said, ‘Whoever recited Surah al Kahf on a Friday, Allah will kindle for him abundant light to brightly illuminate the period between the two Fridays (the Friday on which the recitation was made and the next Friday)’  Hadith

SubhanAllah! The importance of Fridays. How many Fridays have gone by without me taking advantage of its benefit? While I was caught up with life and busy with everything else, I have failed to stop and value the importance of Fridays. I am determined now, to savor each Friday that comes, as it may be my last and if God Al Mighty were to call upon my soul, I pray that He will do it on a Friday....Ameen...

    "Rasulullah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: "The Muslim who passes away on the    night or during the day of Friday, Allah Ta'ala saves him from the punishment of the grave. " (Tirmidhi)

Thursday, 27 December 2012


I remember watching a tv program, with my hubby, about people who keep an enormous amount of stuff in their house and 90% of it are useless things. They are practically buried under all those junks. These people are called 'hoarders'. Mind you, I'm not name calling because I didn't give them that name, I'm merely repeating what the tv calls them!

Anyway, I commented to my hubby "how is that possible? how can they not know that they have accumulated so much stuff and how can they live in such mess? " to which my dearest hubby looked at me lovingly and said " Babe, you are also a hoarder. You have too much stuff  and if you don't do something about it, our house will look like that. You have already taken over my closet!"

I looked at him "Seriously? I'm not that bad! See! everything is neatly arranged! " Hahahaha. Utter denial! who am I kidding? Hubby dearest is absolutely right (but don't tell him I said so!)

I remember one of the stories that the Wise Owl told me, about our beloved Prophet Muhammad pbuh. He hardly had anything in his house and more often than not, his household went hungry.

" Your riches and your children may be but a trial: but in the Presence of Allah, is the highest, Reward."
Surah At-Taghabun 64:15

 " Narrated by Abu Huraira;

Allah's Apostle said, "If I had gold equal to the mountain of Uhud, it would not please me that it should remain with me for more than three days, except an amount which I would keep for repaying debts."
Sahih Bukhari

The Wise Owl told me that on Judgment Day, everyone will be questioned, to the very last cent, as to how they spent their wealth during their lifetime. Did they share their wealth or did they kept everything to themselves? Hmmm....if God were to ask me that question, then my answer will be...a closet full of clothes, handbags, knick-knacks, plates and other useless things! hhmmmm... I might want to rethink my answer as I don't think God will be too please to hear it; but the thing is, if I want to change my answer to " I bought loads of stuff but I gave most of them away", I must actually do it! Remember! on Judgment Day, the mouth and tongue will have a mind and will of its own and I would not be able to control it anymore.Yikes! Its time for drastic measures..

So....the quest began...I started with my my husband's closet which I have invaded. I took out all of the clothes and handbags that I have not touched the last 3 months and put it all in a big bag. Next, I took out all of my shawls and scarves, that I have not seen for a very long time time and put it all in a big bag.That big bag will go to those who are in need of them. Truth be told, once I started it got easier and soon, there was a huge space in my closet! (oh, I gave my hubby back his space!). I just needed to let go my attachment to 'stuff''. I do not want to be buried with my 'stuff' like Pharaoh and my 'stuff' is not worth me going to Hell! My goal is, when I die, I would only have stuff that I need and not that I want. Have I achieved my goal? Are you mad? Of course not! I have only emptied my closet, there is still the cabinet in the dining hall, the drawers in the living room and......

Sharing is Caring

The Wise owl always tells me to share whatever knowledge that I've acquired with Friends and families. I keep telling him that friends and families are not interested in listening to me preaching about religion. Some of them think I have horns on my head, a pronged tail and a pitchfork to match, hence I'm the last person they want to listen to. I suppose I deserve that since I was extremely naughty when I was younger and smaller. Unfortunately for some, the memory of my mischiefs, stays with them.

Anyway, the Wise owl told me to share and not preach. He said sharing is just imparting whatever knowledge that I have learnt. I must not expect that they will be receptive or that they will accept wholly whatever it is that I'm trying to share. He said to just share and let God do the rest. Once you share imparted your knowledge, you have fulfill your obligation. He reminded me that one of the questions that God Al Mighty will ask on Judgment Day is, 'what have you done with the knowledge that I have bestow upon you?'...errr....okay!. I do not want a scenario where the gates of Hell are open and I get thrown inside for giving the wrong answer!

Hence, I decide to start writing in this humble blog. Here is where I can babble away without stepping on anyone's toes ( I hope!). I am not sure if anyone would read my ramblings, but at least, I'm hoping that I can plead my case convincingly when I am asked by my Creator, "In the name of God, most Gracious, most Compassionate"...the chapter begins...