MY UMRAH – MADINAH


The first stop for my umrah was Madinah, the city Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had migrated to due to extreme torture and hatred towards Muslims in Makkah.

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King Abdul Aziz International Airport (Hajj Terminal)

The journey took approximately 5 hours by bus from Jeddah’s King Abdul Aziz International Airport, a special airport which is used specially for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims. All praise to God, immigration clearance didn’t take long compared to a friend of mine who had to wait 5.5 hours to clear. We took about 1.5 hours.

The scene at the airport itself gave us an indication of how packed this umrah was going to be. Our flight from Singapore which had a stopover in Dubai, mostly consisted of pilgrims from Indonesia.

As we arrived in Madinah, I continue to have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was appreciative and excited at the opportunity to be here, to be able to be in the presence of God’s Prophet to mankind, Muhammad (PBUH) and on the other, I worried about unpleasant experiences.

But all that changed the moment I laid my eyes on Masjid Nabawi, one of the most majestic and one of the three highly revered mosque in the world (Masjidil Haram in Makkah and Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem are the other two).

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Masjid Nabawi

I did not let slip the opportunity to perform my isyak prayers there when my roommate asked if I wanted to join him and his brother there before the group had a proper tour. Walking to the masjid, I was beaming with excitement and immediately, I fell in love with the mosque the moment I stepped into its compound.

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The intricate architecture was breathtaking, the marble floor was cool to walk on and I looked forward to pray at Masjid Nabawi at every prayer because the entire atmosphere was unlike any other I’ve been to. There were areas within the mosque where one could sit to read and be corrected on your Quranic readings by a tahfiz al-quran (expert at Quranic recitations) but the highlight of the mosque is the resting place of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his two closest companions who later became the Caliphs after his passing, Sayidina Abu Bakr and Sayidina Umar as well as a small area within the mosque referred to as Raudah.

It is an obligation for every Muslim to greet Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his two companions when you are in Masjid Nabawi, and so that’s what we did after our prayers. Immediately, you realise that your faith is being tested as large groups of people would start moving in the same direction.

Some at slower speeds and some at faster speeds, either hustling their way through the crowd or following the flow of the crowd. If you’ve ever been to a sell-out concert, that’s how it’s like, except that instead of hearing people hurling vulgarities at people who push and shove, you hear people reciting verses from the Quran or ‘Sabr!’ (Patience).

And this scene is how it’s like on a daily basis. Besides paying your respects to the Prophet and his two companions, everyone also wants to pray in the Raudah area. The many columns in this area represented many different things that have happened during the period of God’s final messenger, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), stay in Madinah and is also one of the reasons why his companions wanted to pray at those areas.

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Masjid Nabawi open area

Besides that, it has also been mentioned that Raudah will be one of the gardens in paradise and prayers or supplications made in Raudah will be granted. Therefore, it is no wonder why everyone wants to have the opportunity to pray and supplicate there. And all praise to God, I was given 3 opportunities to pray and supplicate in Raudah. I hope my prayers and supplications are accepted as much as I hope everyone else’s is.

Aside from Masjid Nabawi being the centre of attraction in Madinah, there is also another special mosque, one which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had built himself when he first came to Madinah, Masjid Quba. This Masjid is a little further from Masjid Nabawi and is also the first mosque you’ll see when you enter Madinah.

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Masjid Quba

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Masjid Quba main prayer hall

Life is Madinah was slow paced and I enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t feel the need to rush to pray as I always had more than enough time to find a comfortable spot in the masjid, to read the Quran or to just perform the ‘iktikaf’ by either resting or reflecting on my life or to pray. In fact, I actually realised that I didn’t even visit the malls or restaurants in the area until I was asked along because otherwise, I would have just sat in the masjid.

So, when people tell me they love Madinah, I understand why now because I love Madinah too. I love it because of the slow pace and also because it is where I get to be close to the Prophet. I truly hope that perhaps, you’d have the opportunity to one day be ‘invited’ and be able to visit and pray in Masjid Nabawi.

My UMRAH – The Beginnings


The day finally arrived. It has been a lifetime, literally, since I began learning and listening to stories about the prophets (peace be upon them) and my opportunity finally arrived when I was ‘invited’ (Muslims believe that God needs to invite you to visit his home in Makkah) to visit God’s home this year.

I began talking about going on my pilgrimage about 2 years ago, jealous at my friends who have been ‘invited’, but also motivated to visit as age was catching up and I feared of dying carrying too much sins. 

So, I began looking through my options a few months ago, stuck between my conventional backpacking vs following a tour group before finally settling on the latter as the former might be overstepping my boundaries, not in terms of travel but in terms of my understanding of the rites required to perform a proper umrah. 

So, I made my booking online with Shahidah Travels on Deepavali, the second agency I approached after the first seemed to have a full flight to and fro, and attended 2 classes that they organised to orientate all pilgrims on the rites to be done as well as to mentally prepare us for the challenges that lie ahead.

During the classes itself, I had a mix of emotions. Unsure of what to feel; excited, nervous, scared, especially when we were reminded that, “We have been invited to God’s home. It is a privilege.” I almost teared at that point thinking about how much disappointment I have caused God for all the things I have done in my life and yet, still be receiving his grace and love to repent and to visit his home before it is too late.

The few weeks leading up to the trip, the same emotions kept running through me. I have been told of stories of people arriving in Makkah but not being able to see the Kaabah or people being lost for days because they had spoken in arrogance or people suddenly turning crippled, unable to walk because they had commented on someone else. 

I wasn’t sure if I would be ready to face my creator in his home, to ask for his grace to grant me a place in the heavens. But this is something that I had to do before my days on earth come to an end. I don’t think anyone else would be.

So, when I began planning on what to pack along, I decided, that if I was going to go for my umrah, I wanted to share it with as many people as I could. And the best way I knew how to, was to pack in items that has been given to me and to pray that hopefully, the people who lent me or gave me these items that I’ll be using, will be given a share of the deeds. 
This would also be more meaningful for me. 

And for those of you who are already following me on my Instagram, I’ve also began sharing some photos of the places that I’ve visited. It is my hope that through sharing my journey, you may also be inspired and motivated to want to visit or to learn more about my journey itself. The hashtag for this journey is #ABD2UMRAH.

And as for this blog, I’ll update my journey and experiences from time to time, to share with my non-Muslim friends who may wonder about what umrah is all about. 

For now, I hope you can keep me and the group I’m with here in your prayers as much as I am keeping you in mine. 

The Next Decade – 30 to 40


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At the turn of my 30th birthday, I reflected on my life and told myself that I had to do or achieve a list of 30 things before I turned 31. This list was of course, a list of goals for me to work towards, rather than something that I really needed to achieve.

At the start of 2015, I had my list. I knew exactly what I wanted and perhaps needed to achieve. These were the things that would keep me motivated, focused as well as kept me in good momentum for the next decade or rest of my life.

I lost my list along the way because I had hand-written them but I never lost the spirit of trying to achieve the list.

Now, because the list was finalised only in January and my birthday is in December, that gives me an additional month to finish whatever else that I’ve set myself out to do.

Though I can’t quite remember all the 30 things on my list and also because things took several changes along the way, here’s the list of things that I’ve managed to achieve or done thus far this 2015:

  1. Got myself a 400cc motorcycle, a Super 4 Spec 3 – awesome deal
  2. Invited as judge for NUS PBMUKS ‘Pesta Pantun’ competition
  3. Climbed ‘Danau Tujuh’ – an alternative to Mt Kerinchi as it was closed
  4. Launched By Definition Pte Ltd‘s first book, ‘Lagu-Lagu Rakyat – Belajar Bernyanyi Bersama’, the first fully illustrated phonic friendly Malay sing-a-long book in collaboration with my very good buddy, Reyza Hamizan.
  5. Conducted an overseas youth motivational programme
  6. Grew By Definition Pte Ltd’s clientele and number of projects
  7. Performed in ‘Semoga Bahagia’ production:)
  8. Emcee-ed several functions
  9. Watched Maroon 5 concert ‘LIVE’ in Singapore
  10. Joined a political party, Singapore People’s Party (SPP)
  11. Stood as a political candidate for General Elections 2015 as an SPP candidate in the SPP-DPP team at Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC
  12. Passed my IPPT
  13. Ran my first injury free 10km run (the first 10km in a long time)
  14. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle (balance of exercise and healthy diet)
  15. Met a gorgeous lady who became my partner
  16. Booked and God Willing, my mini pilgrimage to the holy land

I’m far short from my intended list of 30 things but I’m happy with what I’ve managed to do in a year.

To put everything into perspective, there’s only so much I can do in a year. 30 things may have looked too much to achieve given time and situational constraints.

Looking back on the past 3 decades of my life, I can’t say that I’ve had any regrets. I’ve done pretty much most of the things I really wanted to since I was young and while I’m far from the multi-millionaire appearing on FORBES and TIME magazine cover page by 26 years old that I had set my sights on since I was 12, I’m still on path towards that dream now that I know what needs to be done.

Moving forward, to start the next phase of my life on the right track, I’m really looking forward to my upcoming pilgrimage and because I’ve received several requests from dear non-Muslim friends who are interested to know more about this, I’ll be blogging my experience from time to time throughout my entire journey.

While my experience may differ from others, I hope that the information and journey that I will share with my dear non-Muslim friends (whom I hope will read la hor) will be helpful to them as since we may have shared experiences, it will be an emotional journey for us as well.

For now, I need to think about my 10 year plan before I break it down into my yearly goals.

“When you’ve worked with the best, you know what it takes to be the best”


“When you’ve worked with the best, you know what it takes to be the best”

AIRCRAFT INTERIOR CLEANER

I consider myself really lucky to have had the opportunities to work with a lot of awesome people who are not only the best at what they do, but also the best at being a human.

I’ve learnt a lot about how to work and I’ve also learnt how to be a good person.

I worked as a cleaner at 16, fresh out of the GCE O Levels. I worked in a system that requires one to not only work fast but also be effective. The makciks I worked with taught me that I needed to clean the interiors of the airplanes within 30 minutes for the smaller ones (777,737) to 45 minutes for the big one (747) because that’s exactly how much time most planes remain on the tarmac for.

And quality of cleaning had to be high because regardless of the aircrafts (SQ, Aeroflot, China Air, etc), passengers want to sit in a clean and comfortable airplane.

So, working in a team of between 4-6 people, each of us had our designated tasks and responsibilities, and we had to perform them with integrity because if we failed to do so, the other team members had to pick up on the slack we left off to redo what we had done wrong or to help us finish our job, and we would inevitably also cause a delay in boarding.

The shifts weren’t long, 3pm-11pm, but we always had to report at least 30mins to an hour before we start work to allow the big boss to arrange us according to our teams based on how many people decided to turn up for work.

Then we were assigned which terminal and stations we would be handling before we got in our van to be driven immediately to our first aircraft.

There were times when we had to wait because there was a delay in the aircraft landing, and with every delay, it also meant that we had to work doubly faster whilst maintaining the same quality of work because boarding times for the next flight, rarely changed due to tight schedule of aircrafts landings and take-offs.

And when the aircrafts did land a little later than on schedule, those were the times we took to bond with one another. The makciks shared stories and food while we listened, but the moment the aircraft lands, everyone gets into ‘work’ zone mode and from the time we get into the aircraft to the time we are done, rarely do we hear anyone talk about anything else other than the task on hand.

The values I learnt from being a cleaner, are still some of the values I believe is important to be successful.

Through being an aircraft interior cleaner, I learnt about the importance of:
– Timeliness,
– Producing High Quality of Work,
– Integrity,
– Teamwork,
– Organisation,
– Delegation,
– Time Management,
– People Management,
– Adaptability,
– Focus and
– Professionalism.

Today, these values are the same ones I believe is important in the success of a business which is why at By Definition, our values are:
– Honesty
– Integrity
– Timeliness and
– Customisation

Most importantly, having worked as a cleaner, I’ve learned to appreciate the cleaners we have and the amount of work they have to put in and the job has taught me to be humble, to remind myself constantly of my humble beginnings.

Every time I go to the airport or when I board the plane, I will always remember the times when I was the cleaner and I’m proud of the people who do the cleaning.

Most of us never see them because they are hidden away from sight before we board the plane but they are truly the beginnings of a pleasant trip the moment you sit on the chair in the plane.

PREPARING FOR THE NEXT GENERAL ELECTIONS – ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES


This past General Elections provided me first hand, on the different roles that are crucial to the success of any candidate or party. Let me break it down for you in terms of the roles and responsibilities:

Campaigning

Campaigning

ELECTION AGENT

The right hand man of the candidate. The election agent plays an extremely crucial role and you need to have the following:

– GOOD ORGANISATIONAL SKILLS

– GOOD COORDINATION SKILLS

– GOOD INTERPERSONAL SKILLS

– RESOURCEFUL

– GOOD ADMINISTRATION SKILLS

Your job is basically to manage all expenses of the candidate which needs to be kept properly. To help organise the schedule as well as plans for the candidate. To coordinate the schedule that has been planned. To manage people that the candidate needs to be in touch with such as media. To be adept at finding resources and be good at negotiating to get the best deal out of it.

PRINCIPAL ELECTION AGENT

Same as above but this person is the OVERALL IN-CHARGE of ALL THE ELECTION AGENTS in the team. In the case of Singapore, we have the GRC. So, the Principal Election Agent’s job is to manage the other Election Agents and ensure things run smoothly and according to what has been planned.

Besides the ELECTON AGENT and PRINCIPAL ELECTION AGENT, the other roles which will go towards the success of the candidate and help ease the candidate’s stress level, as well as help the candidate conserve and focus his energy on the campaign are the following roles.

MEDIA MANAGER

Each candidate should preferably have a media manager. It is basically someone who will help to manage the media for the candidate. This person should help the candidate receive as much media coverage as possible and to ensure content on released by the concerned media is favourable to the candidate. Media forms include mainstream media as well as social media.

Preferably someone with experience from the media industry with friendly connections.

PHOTOGRAPHER

Each candidate should also have a personal photographer tagged with him. The job of the photographer is to take photos that the media would have otherwise missed as well as to ensure that photos uploaded to social media pages of the candidate are favourable and provides an alternative to photos that other media outlets may upload that may jeopardise the candidate.

SPEECHWRITER

The candidate is busy campaigning during the day and may not have time to prepare his own speeches. The speechwriter helps the candidate by going through the news first thing in the morning, updating the candidate on the news that may be of concern and preparing the speech that the candidate needs to deliver at the rallies that will address issues highlighted in the news by the opposing candidate or information highlighted by residents/constituents.

RUNNER

Each candidate should preferably have at least 2 runners. The job of the runner is basically to assist in any other duties that is required by the Election Agent or the candidate. This could be as simple as buying meals or being the advance party in block visits, to prepare constituents to meet the candidate.

CONCLUSION

With all these that is required for a candidate. Where does one learn and hone his skills in being an ORGANISER, COORDINATOR, MEDIA PERSON, SPEECH WRITER, RUNNER?

That’s where being in Grassroots Committee helps you hone the skills.

Being in Grassroots, you’d need to learn to be a runner, you’d also need to learn how to coordinate and organise events and if you’re really good with people and with words, you get to hone your skills to manage the media and be in the contact with the media frequently.

If you’re good with language, very likely you’ll get to the opportunity to write Press Releases and this is where you get to hone your skills as speech writer as well. Well, not exactly, but at the very least, you’ll know what kind of information the media needs and the knowledge to craft proper words is important as well.

And the photographer?

Well, the more events you’re used to, the more you’ll know how and when to position yourself to take those good shots that could tell the story for the candidate without any need for words.

So, when someone says preparation for the next elections begins now, it really does begin now. If you’re really keen to get started and prepared for the next elections in any of these roles, let me know!

GENERAL ELECTIONS 2015 – MY REFLECTIONS


If you believe in something, stand up and fight for it.

I’ve always been the kind of person with such a strong conviction in my beliefs. Like how when I was 5 years old and all my cousins said that it was impossible to go down a flight of stairs with two bicycles, I believed I could and I tried. It worked for the first 2-3 steps before I took a tumble and landed at the bottom of the stairs with two bicycles on top of me.

Stupid? Maybe or perhaps I just hadn’t figured out the right balance to do it back then.

Or perhaps like how someone once told me that I could never go to University of California Los Angeles. Well, I didn’t end up there as a student but I ended up in University of California Irvine as a teaching assistant and advisor to a student group. What made it even more sweeter was that it was on a fellowship by the United States Department of State.

So, now that the dust has somewhat settled on the recent Singapore General Elections, while my team nor party won any seats in parliament, I am certainly proud that we took a huge step to stand up for what we believed in – in Democracy, in speaking up for the voices of Singaporeans and in competing as fairly as we could, even if the decks were stack against us.

I remember when I was in Secondary School, my friends used to say, “Cakap tak guna, tembak tak kena” (No use talking, won’t hit the target when you shoot) or perhaps an easier term more familiar with most Singaporeans would be “No Action, Talk Only”. I always believed that if you wanted to make a change, you’ve got to be the one to make that first move. It has to be an action and not mere words.

Looking back on this experience, I am happy with my performance. I am happy with my team’s performance. In fact, I am happy with the performance of most, if not all the parties that came in to give the People’s Action Party a good fight. We gave options to Singaporeans and we let Singaporeans hear their voices.

Of course, the loss could be attributed to many factors as many have already mentioned, the sympathy over Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death, SG50 celebrations, pay raises for the civil service, SG50 handouts and the ever controversial, New Citizens voting.

That said, I also realise that Singaporeans are perhaps a group of people that would choose safety and security – a believe that perhaps only a minority would disagree with (especially entrepreneurs) because businessmen like myself have the belief that in order to achieve greater things, one has to be willing to step out of their comfort zone.

Like how, if Bill Gates or Steve Jobs didn’t drop out of school to work on growing their projects, we wouldn’t have seen the Personal Computer or Apple products in the last two decades. But these are things are most Singaporeans aren’t willing to pursue because these are ideals from the west, not an oriental culture.

Most Singaporeans are comfortable with their full-time jobs and as long as they can come home, put food on the table and take well-deserved holidays once in a while, cafe hop and receive pay increments, they are a satisfied lot. Inconveniences like having more people living in Singapore, frequent train breakdowns, raises in GST/ERP, language barriers with service staff are minor inconveniences which most Singaporeans can live with by posting their rants on Facebook.

Moving forward, while most of my friends are devastated by how Singaporeans have voted, I hope those who turned up in support for Workers Party or Singapore Democratic Party rallies in huge numbers would look towards volunteering for these parties because without good ground support, every elections will remain the same.

People speak of machinery and they don’t realise that machinery comes from people. The PAP has a good machinery in place with mainstream media, PCF Kindergarten, People’s Association and PAP branches, all of which are activated the moment General Elections is called and which constantly engage the public throughout the entire 4-5 years prior to the next General Elections.

So, unless the opposition parties is able to build their alternative grassroots to counter what People’s Association has and to begin developing their own Kindergartens which also acts as a party branch, opposition parties will remain on the fringes and will never be seen, no matter how hard they work the ground because they won’t be seen at events and the mainstream media won’t cover their events.

The future of Singapore is really in the hands of Singaporeans, not the PAP nor any of the other political parties.

My suggestion is really for Singaporeans to take an active role in shaping Singapore to be what they want it to be through activism. Volunteering for causes they believe in and standing up for what they believe in beyond just simply expressing them online because clearly, online noise is only rants if it doesn’t translate to what is being seen on the ground.

So, take action for your own future, for the future of your children.

As how George Bernard Shaw put it, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”.

Political Reform For Singapore


The National Day Rally is going to be held this coming 23rd August. I have no doubt for sure that perhaps in the week after or so, parliament will be dissolved and we will begin to see political parties campaigning to win the hearts of the voters to put them into parliament for the next 5 years.

All parties have been working hard at looking for new candidates whom they feel can best represent the party and the people they seek to serve at the respective wards that they are contesting for.

And as how the last elections has shown, Singaporeans are less interested in the affairs of the Town Council but are more concerned at what happens at the national level. Elections, is no longer just about municipal issues but national issues.

More than just that, we need the right candidates who can represent the people at the national level.

If anything, I believe that we need to have a political reform in terms of how elections are held. It should no longer be about representing wards alone. It should be about representing the people. What we need is a parliament that works like council members, elected not by wards but by the entire nation or by the community that they seek to represent.

For example, to have a good representation in parliament, we should perhaps try to work on this:

ALL Singapore Malays vote for a selected number of Malay Candidates who have been nominated by their organisations or have chosen to step forward to represent the community.

For instance, AMP, MUIS, MENDAKI, PERGAS, PERTAPIS, etc.. each nominates one member from their organisation whom they feel can best represent the Malay community. If these guys accept the nomination, then they go on to campaign to win votes of the Malay community for the available number of seats and these guys will represent the Malay-Muslim Community.

Let’s say there are 14 seats available for the Malay-Muslim Community and there are 30 guys contending for the seat. Voters can mark the ‘X’ on 14 of these names/faces who they want to represent them.

This way, no candidate shall be subjected to party politics and will truly represent the people and they can represent the people best because there will be diversity in terms of opinions and alliances. These guys, are then the Malay Members of Parliament.

For those individuals who are not nominated, they can campaign as well to win votes. Campaigning can be managed by the Election Department who will organise the ‘Campaign Tours’ to the different neighbourhoods to allow candidates opportunities to speak. Each candidate given a specific amount of time for their speeches. This puts additional pressure on candidates to be concise with what they want to campaign for and not beat around the bush.

Now, after they win and what about the choice for a Minister of Malay Muslim Affairs. The candidates representing the Malay Muslim community can discuss amongst themselves as council members and elect a person whom they feel best fits the job.

What about Town Councils?

Leave the Town Council management to private firms who have no political affiliation or interest. Town Council managers will have to submit their bids and proposals on how they wish to improve the town to the Ministry for National Development who can issue tenders.

In assessing the suitability of the Town Council to be issued or recontracted, MND can have a KPI or checklist or even conduct household surveys to assess performance of each Town Council. Town Councils that fail to meet a certain percentage gives a good red flag that they are perhaps undeserving of a contract extension.

And what then of the People’s Association and it’s CC Advisers?

Leave that to the staff and passionate volunteers of People’s Association. In doing so, we can eradicate party lobbying where volunteers feel obliged/indebted to help/vote their Advisers/MPs or are interested to volunteer because they’d like to be able to receive benefits (whatever that may be). 

I know I’ve only mentioned an example for the Malay-Muslim community but this can be replicated for the rest of the communities and causes as well because at the end of the day, we really want to vote for someone who knows the community really well, is committed to serving the community WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOUR, FOR JUSTICE AND EQUALITY (Borrowed this from the Singapore Police Force pledge).

I certainly do not want to vote for someone whom I know eventually is bounded by party politics and has their hands and mouth tied from speaking up, when that is exactly what they should be doing.