Insurance for Muslims, Yes or No?


Insurance, was a topic that I remember was quite sensitive for many years in my household as I was growing up. I never knew what insurance was but I knew it as ‘gambling with our lives’ or putting a price on our lives.

Even today, insurance is still debated amongst Muslims.

On one camp, we have those who say it is NOT PERMITTED, for the reasons I’ve mentioned earlier as well as we need to let God decide what’s best for us.

On the other camp, I’ve learnt that it is ALLOWED, because it provides you with financial security not just for yourself, but for your loved ones should something untoward happen to you. It is much akin to Muslims way of describing what the Prophet described as ‘tying your camel to a tree’.

I believe that both has its’ own merits and whilst the former has entirely submitted themselves to God’s will, the latter has decided that it is still better to be prudent even when we are submitting to God’s will.

I happen to belong to the latter group and let me share with you why.

In 2005 when I was serving my National Service, I purchased a Personal Accident plan from AVIVA Insurance. I paid $33.50/month for it with hopes that I never have to use it. That’s the whole idea of getting an insurance. It sounds stupid but that’s how it works.

5 years later, on August 13, 2010, I met with a motorcycle accident. I fractured my arm and couldn’t ride to work nor perform daily tasks nor work as a drama trainer for a whole period of 90 days, which extended to a further 90 days.

As a freelancer, not being able to work is the worst thing that could happen to me. No income, no form of sustenance and yet, the bills continue to need to be paid.

Thankfully, I remembered I had my personal accident plan.

I submitted a claim for it for the first time and it provided me with much relief. I didn’t have to beg anyone to give me money, or borrow from anyone. The amount wasn’t as much as what I could have earned as a freelancer but at the very least, there was INCOME REPLACEMENT for the time I couldn’t work.

This became a turning point in my life and changed the way I approached insurance.

Insurance is a cost that you need to include in your monthly overheads, but no doubt, it is as essential, like your mobile phone, a privilege only to those who can afford them. Nonetheless, I like to believe that if you can afford a mobile phone, it might be advisable for you to get yourself insured too.

As you can see from what I shared earlier, my Personal Accident insurance cost me $33.50, that’s cheaper than what I used to have to pay for my monthly mobile bill! And with more insurers out there, you can easily purchase a Personal Accident insurance for less than that which provides you with reasonable income replacement payouts for your rainy days.

Click here to see which insurers are recommended and charging you a low fee for it!

What are the other types of insurance that I think is essential?

  1. Personal Accident (is a must! Even a sprain or food poisoning is considered claimable!)
  2. Hospitalisation (is good to have. This complements your PA. Should you get warded, you’ll get paid additional for it)
  3. Medisave Rider (to avoid paying hefty bills even with a hospitalisation)
  4. Travel (if you frequently travel overseas, even to JB or Batam! For your peace of mind even for a 30 minute ride into JB to top up your tank)

These would be the essentials in my opinion in no particular order except for Personal Accident.

This post is not sponsored by any company, but seriously, insurance for me is ‘tying my camel to a tree’.

 

MANAGING PREGNANCY – TIPS FOR FATHERS-TO-BE


“MY WIFE IS PREGNANT!”

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THAT MOMENT!

That was how I felt when my wife informed me that she was pregnant. I also felt extremely happy to know that my man-device was fully functional.

But that was the initial phase.

What followed next was months of hard work, patience, prayers and lots of assurances that everything was going to turn out fine.

FIRST TRIMESTER

The first trimester was as how most people had mentioned – CHALLENGING.

My wife was constantly having ‘night sickness’ – feeling ill and puking when she got home from work. The only thing I knew how to help, was the one thing that always helped me when I felt pukish or whenever I puked.

RUB HER BACK

ENCOURAGE HER TO PUKE (she’ll refuse but hey, you always feel better after you puke)

LET HER PAY FOR MEALS (if she wants to, so if she pukes, she won’t feel that bad cause it was her money. heh)

But all said and done, the first trimester is one that requires the husband to provide plenty of motivation and support to ensure your wife pukes when she needs to, is given a massage when required and a tissue plus a drink of water to clear her throat for her to be comfortable enough to rest.

My brother-in-law and sister chipped in to help as well by giving us books on being prepared for pregnancy.

So, with that as my guide, off I went.

SECOND TRIMESTER

Also known as the best trimester and INDEED it was!

With the first hurdle over, this second trimester is a time to enjoy between both husband and wife *hint hint* Hehehe

It is also a good time for husband to begin working out together with your wife.

I was planning my training schedule around my wife with simple static exercises.

SQUATS (if she can’t do regular squats, do wide squats!)

LUNGES

TRICEP CURLS

DEADLIFTS

And most of the weighted exercises were done, seated on the swiss ball (yoga ball).

We also signed up for a class together to learn more about the labour and breastfeeding process!

THIRD TRIMESTER

THE MOST ANXIOUS PERIOD for the both of you.

The baby is going to pop out. When is it going to pop out? How will the baby look like? Is the baby healthy? Are you growing well? Is your wife eating well? Is her mood in check?

ALL THESE AND MORE!

It’s a time where there’s plenty of questions to ask and plenty of answers that can be given but what I found most easy for my wife and me is that she was disciplined on her food intake, drinking well and ensuring the food she eats is healthy (you can read more on what she did on her blog, click here!)

My job as a husband, was clearly define in my opinion.

CONTINUE TO GIVE SUPPORT

And so, I tried to be as supportive and as understanding as possible.

She may be uncomfortable to take long walks by now, so rather than ask her to take long walks in the park which could be such a bore, I would ask her to go to the mall to enjoy a drink or to get groceries (kill two birds with one stone!).

Whenever my wife felt unsure about what she was doing, I gave her assurance of what she was doing and how much she has progressed. (It’s easy for your wife to criticize herself because she can’t see progress or is unaware of the progress she’s making. So, it’s your job to let her know that what she’s doing is helping in the process.)

Malays have a saying, “Sikit sikit, lama lama jadi bukit” (small things will always add up)

So, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, TRUST THE PROCESS!

And remember, to enjoy it. So, plan for a date together!

CONCLUSION

If you noticed, this whole post about being a husband to a pregnant wife, if summarized, is simply about being there for your wife.

Give her the support she needs. Offer her the assurance she needs.  Be creative about how you want to support her.

And last but not least, as a Muslim, I try to remind myself and my wife as much as possible about prophetic stories or quotes from the Quran and of course, to zikr as much as possible because as a Muslim, prayers is our weapon isn’t it? (I do believe that even if you’re not a Muslim, you should still pray!)

Oh, I also downloaded BabyCenter app which turned out to be a lifesaver as it provided us with lots of articles for us to keep track of progress for both baby and mother.

MY UMRAH – My Reflections


It’s been a few days since I returned and now that I’ve had time to rest and do my cleaning up, the experience has begun to settle in me. There’s so much to talk about so I’m going to try to arrange my reflections as best as I can in chronological order – Pre-Umrah, Umrah and Post-Umrah.

PRE-UMRAH

I mentioned this in my first post (MY UMRAH – The Beginnings) that I started talking about going for an umrah about 2 years ago. Some might consider this as being given ‘hidayah’ or guidance but really, I think this whole journey began much earlier than that, probably as young as when I started learning about Islam.

As a Muslim, we abide by the 5 pillars of Islam followed by the articles of faith.

The 5 pillars of Islam are:
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Further to that, the articles of faith are:
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So, if we look at the pillars of Islam and articles of Faith, I believe that ever since I began learning about Islam, I must have expressed my intention to go on a pilgrimage at an early age and perhaps, God must predestined me to visit his home. The question would have been, WHEN?

Fast forward to about several years ago, something happened to me in the mosque. I remember I was performing the ‘iktikaf’ early before Friday prayers and was all alone in the mosque. My eyes were closed when suddenly a loud deep voice called my name out asking me to repent before it was too late.

I was jolted out of my rest and searched around me but there was no one around. I knew I had heard a voice and it wasn’t my imagination because the voice left my heart beating profusely. I wasn’t sure what that was but I was sure that it had to be a sign from God.

So, to say that I perhaps only made plans to go on this umrah 2 years ago would perhaps have been unfair but 2 years ago, I made a resolve that I had to go would be more apt. I made my bookings quite late actually, on Deepavali (what a way right? Festival of Lights) and immediately after I made my bookings, I began to physically and mentally prepare myself which was why if you had been following me on Instagram, you’d have noticed me going on runs.

Not that it was necessary but I really wanted to prepare myself well. I knew that there was going to be a lot of walking involved with the circumambulating the Kaabah plus walking/jogging/running during the Sa’i. Hence, I really wanted to be physically ready and began my runs with my intention focused on God. I suppose in doing so, I was also mentally preparing myself for this journey.

Besides my own preparation, I also had to attend two classes to learn about performing the umrah organised by the travel agency. This was essential towards preparing all pilgrims for the DO’s and DONT’s especially when one is in ihraam.
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Once classes are complete, all that’s left is to pack your bags.

UMRAH

The umrah itself only takes a few hours, 2-3 hours and it can be done as many times as you want. In performing the umrah, there are 5 rules to follow:
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The 5th rule not mentioned in the photo above is ‘Proper Procedures’ – One needs to perform all of the above in accordance to proper procedures which have all been listed out in the photo.

One of the most important things to take note of when you’re in ihraam, is that there are DO’s and DONT’s as well. If you break the rule, you have to pay ‘DAM’, which is a penalty. There is the small penalty and the big penalty depending on the seriousness of which rule was contravened.

It all sounds like a lot to do but really if you think about it, it’s really about exercising one’s self control at a higher level, above and beyond what Muslims usually do which is why I think God made performing the Hajj the last one on the pillar for Muslims.

I haven’t been on the Hajj yet but the Umrah is a smaller version of the Hajj. It is perhaps half of what Hajj pilgrims have to go through, which means that the challenge, is only half as well. When I have the opportunity and should I be invited, then of course, the next phase will be to perform the Hajj.

POST-UMRAH

Having gone through the umrah, like all who have been there, I definitely want to go there again. I haven’t had the opportunity to do several things yet like praying in the Kaabah at Hijr Ismail and Multazam.

Do I feel different now that I’ve been on an umrah?
I certainly learnt a lot more about my religion and because of a higher appreciation for Islam, that’s probably why I feel different.

Have I changed?
That’s perhaps too soon to answer and is best not answered by me. I have to let others who interact with me be the judge. I’m not sure if change is a good word too, I’d rather use improvement.

What are my future plans?
I definitely want to go for my Hajj and perform another umrah again, where possible, once a year for my spiritual retreat. I don’t think there is a better way for a spiritual retreat than to go for an umrah. Only this time, I’d like to also visit Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, Israel which is another revered mosque in Islam. It being the mosque where Prophet Muhammad had ascended to the Heavens.

But besides that, I’m probably gonna take up Arabic classes and attend religious classes once again. I’m also considering pursuing a proper studies in Islam to fulfill a wish my dad once had of me. While I wasn’t prepared in the past because I was too young and rebellious, I think I’m a bit more open to the idea now.

How things will change or evolve over the coming year or the future, that is something for me to work on. But for now, I’ll need time to come out with my list of things to achieve by the end of 2016 and also to reflect on my 2015. 

MY UMRAH – MAKKAH 


From Madinah, we travelled between 5-6 hours through the desert before we reached Makkah. Throughout the bus journey that I was awake, I thought about how arduous the journey must have been for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the small group of Muslims who had to leave their home, properties and for some, family members to make the migration through the desert where the days could be extremely hot and the nights, extremely cold either on foot or/and on camels.

As we approached to enter the city of Makkah, I was reminded of how excited I was to see buildings after a long drive from Los Angeles through the desert to Las Vegas. What an irony indeed, from Sin City in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2013 to the Holy City of Makkah, Saudi Arabia in 2015. Both located in the desert with contrasting differences.

Throughout the entire journey, we were all in ihraam and within the hour of our arrival in Makkah, we performed our first umrah close to 0100hrs, setting us up for a meeting with the Kaabah. This would be my first meeting with the Kaabah, also known as Baitullah or God’s house.

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In Ihraam

Walking towards the Kaabah, I had many things running through my mind – what might happen to me being one of the biggest question.

And then there it was, the Kaabah. Nothing happened. I didn’t get emotional as how I’ve heard others tell me before. I felt weird. And soon, I was circumambulating the Kaabah. This is WHEN IT HAPPENED.

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Pilgrims circumambulate the Kaabah

I didn’t cry but I was told that the devil will whisper in your ears to distract you and it truly did. I swear that I have never been more distracted in my mind and heart at the same time about my faith. I was close enough to just stop circumambulating and leave by the second round because of thoughts that out of nowhere, entered my mind but I somehow managed to find myself back through continuous recitations of ‘Astaghfirullah’ which means I seek forgiveness from Allah and complete all 7 rounds.

This was then followed by the Sa’i or running/walking/jogging between two hills, Safa and Marwa, 7 times. This process of Sa’i was a different challenge from the circumambulation. This time, I found myself questioning about my abilities as a person because as history has it, pilgrims perform the Sa’i to remember and reflect on Hajar (Hagar), Prophet Ibrahim’s (Abraham’s) wife, who was left near the Kaabah with young Prophet Ismail (Isaac) with one bag of water left by Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) as commanded by God.

Hajar then ran between the two hills 7 seven times in search of assistance before God sent down an angel to dig out ‘Zam Zam’ water from underground to provide sustenance for Hajar and Prophet Ismail (PBUH). Once this was done, cutting of at least 3 strands of hair is required before one has completed the umrah.

The whole entire process takes between 2-3 hours.

This is where I finally understood why plenty of adults have told me that it is better to perform one’s umrah or haj when younger. Why? Because you need to be physically and mentally healthy and strong.

Each time we need to perform our umrah, we need to leave Makkah to enter an area where the meeqat is located for us to make our intention. This area is also referred to as ‘Halal land’ whereas Makkah and Madinah is considered ‘Haram land’. In this particular trip, I performed a total of 4 umrah, the first and compulsory umrah is the arrival or welcome umrah. Subsequently, it was umrah Jiranah, umrah Tanaheim and finally, umrah Hudaibiya.

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On our way for our final umrah when the bus broke down

Besides performing umrahs, we were also brought sightseeing or in this case, visiting of historical places that have been mentioned in the Quran. Visiting places of importance to understand where the Prophets before us have been.

These places include:
– Location where Prophet Adam and Hawa (Eve) had met or were reunited on earth

– Location where Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) had gone to sacrifice his son, Prophet Ismail (Isaac)

– Location where Prophet Muhammad had hid at when he was escaping from his Quraysh tribe 

– Location where Prophet Muhammad had received his first revelation as God’s Messenger

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Jabal Rahmah in Arafah

These visits gave a lot of context and insight into how life was like, especially how the Prophets had climbed mountains in the middle of night, in complete darkness to seek solace or fulfill God’s requests. With a better understanding, then there is more appreciation for the sacrifices and challenges they made.

Being in Makkah though, is a totally different lifestyle from Madinah. I can’t speak for everyone but I found myself sleeping between 3-5 hours per night and really walking a lot more than I was in Madinah. Schedule seemed to be a bit more tight as well as between each call for prayer to the next with the exception of Subuh, is only about 1-2 hours each time.

But I suppose, it is okay to have a lack of sleep when you’re in Makkah because you never know when you’ll be ‘invited’ by God again and you want to maximise your time in prayer or in trying to gather as many good deeds as possible.

There is a believe that one prayer in Makkah is 100,000 times better than one prayer in any other mosque in the world. This benefit also applies to circumambulating the Kaabah, performing the umrah and even, just looking at the Kaabah. With such a carrot being dangled at you, why won’t anyone want to maximise that opportunity.

But that’s not all, there are special areas within Makkah and Kaabah itself that God has given his guarantee to fulfill anyone’s prayers. Those areas, like Raudah in Madinah, has people hustling over it day and night.

However, the most important benefit of Makkah is perhaps God’s word that when anti-Christ or Dajjal comes to earth, it will not be able to enter Makkah and Madinah. Therefore, all who remain within these two cities will be protected and safeguarded by an army of angels.

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.

I Have Touched Dogs


Note: The original posting of this was first published on my Facebook. This post here comes with a few additions.

The recent ‘I want to touch a dog’ event in Malaysia has stirred quite an interest with the Malaysian Islamic authorities. Islamic authorities are claiming that such an event was an insult to clerics and were seeking to misguide Malaysian Muslims.

What has long been seen as a taboo topic, suddenly opened and thrown out in the open and has gotten the Islamic community in both Malaysia and neighbouring Singapore split and divided on this discussion. While most of the robust discussions have remained on online platforms, it is clear that we are seeing once again, a rise in the number of Facebook clerics, who make their appearance to share their knowledge of Islam to others.

And there are clerics on both sides, debating the merits of why it was a good and bad event. (I’m curious to hear MUIS position on this) (I came across this link on MUIS website with regards to Guide Dogs but is applicable to all kinds of dogs nonetheless)

But at the end of the day, as a Muslim, I think it is more important to ask of the intention. Even when you commit a crime, in passing judgement, your intention plays a very important role towards how the sentence is passed.

So anyway, Malay-Muslims (have to emphasize on this because I only hear from Malay-Muslims) LOVE to say this, “yang penting nawaitu” (what is most important is the intention) and the organizer’s intention I believe was clear when he mentioned education – to help overcome their fear of dogs and bring Malaysians together to promote tolerance and understanding that goes beyond culture, race or religion’.

Even for myself here in Singapore, it’s been close to 2 years that I’ve had plans to organise a similar event but hasn’t quite had the capacity or time to stretch myself to organise one.

The event would have the following objectives:

  1. To educate Muslims and non-Muslims alike on what sertu is and how one performs the sertu (I’m sure many of us wouldn’t know how to because we believe it’s better to avoid than to go through the hassle)
  2. Muslims to get over their unfounded fear of dogs (Muslim parents here have a habit of saying that it’s Haram to touch a dog)
  3. To clear misconceptions and to educate Muslims and non-Muslims on Islam’s relationship with dogs

I, for one, grew up never being scared of dogs and wouldn’t keep my distance from them. I was raised in a family that loved animals and I also knew that our family leftover food were being fed to the dogs at my dad’s workplace because he would often collect the bones of the chicken we ate and leftover rice to be packed and given to the dogs every single morning when he went to work. (May God bless my dad for his loving soul)

While we won’t be keeping dogs at home because we may need to sertu the whole house, this doesn’t mean that we cannot learn to love these animals the same as how we love cats or hamsters or birds or rabbits. And while I’ve been told that there is no need for such an event because Muslims could always go to an animal shelter to show love and care as well as to touch the dogs, how many Muslims would actually bother to go to an animal shelter to visit much less volunteer and volunteer specifically to care for the dogs?

We just happen to live amongst people who keep dogs as pets and the likelihood of us meeting a dog daily is much higher than the chances of us going to the animal shelter to care for the dogs there.

If sertu is our concern, then all we need is just soil. If soil is a concern, then buy the sertu soap (can support a fellow brother’s business also).

While we continue to debate this issue in Singapore, I believe that my other Muslim friends in the Arabian peninsular and in Indonesia are probably puzzled because they have dogs living in their household and have been living with them for a very long time.

Yes, we can argue and debate based on mazhab but none of the mazhabs ever said that touching a dog is haram. I just have the opinion that I will do what I feel is just and right in how I deal with people and animals because at the end of the day, what really matter is, as how everyone puts it, “nawaitu” (intention).

Just like how when my students like to ask me if I’m Malay or Chinese, Muslim or Christian and all I’ll tell them is that I am of the human race and it doesn’t matter what religion I belong to because what matters more is whether or not I am a good person and whether or not I am a good teacher.

As for me, ‘I have touched dogs’.

Sermons – Keeping it Lighthearted


As a Muslim living in Singapore, I grew up attending secular school on the weekdays and madrasahs on my weekends or in the afternoons after secular school ends. And every Friday, like every other Muslim globally, I go to the masjid for my Friday prayers.

Friday prayers for me, have always been some sort of a holiday. When I was younger, Friday prayers meant leaving school earlier and coming back to school slightly later. When I began working, Friday prayers meant shorter working hours on Fridays, which transitioned perfectly into the weekend.

Friday prayers, is also significant for the poor because it is considered as their day of celebration. A day where the congregation will donate to those who beg outside the masjid. In this day and age, even in Singapore, we still have people who beg and while I question the legitimacy of some of those who beg because I have seen them use a mobile phone, speak impeccable English and travel in a car to beg, I’ll save that for another day.

Friday prayers is also not considered to be complete if one does not arrive early or in time to listen to the sermon. The sermon, is considered to be part of Friday prayers and no one is allowed to talk during this period of time. You are expected to listen to the stories and advise given by the Imam.

In Singapore, our sermons are written and prepared by Office of Mufti. All sermons across all masjids in Singapore will speak to you of the same story and same message, except for one masjid which is owned by the Johor Sultanate.

In the years that I’ve travelled and attended Friday prayers in the different masjids across different countries, I discovered that between the different countries, sermons or Friday prayers were conducted differently. In Brunei, before the commencement of Friday prayers or even the call for prayers, a tahfiz would be reciting verses of the Quran welcoming the congregation. In Malaysia, when the names of Prophet Muhammad’s sahabahs are called, the congregation do not echo praises for them. In Indonesia, it’s a bit different as well.

And across these Southeast Asian nations, the sermons were always delivered the same way, one where the tone was always serious and I thought that this was the standard way of how sermons were delivered globally until I went to the US. I was living in Irvine and there were only two places I go for my prayers, one was at the Islamic Center of Irvine and another was at the University of California, Irvine itself, where prayers were held in a space shared by all the other religious groups.

In both locations, the sermons were delivered differently.

The Islamic Center of Irvine delivered its sermon much like how it is in Singapore but with personal stories. Given the fact they are not subjected to the same standards of Singapore masjids, minus the personal stories, the atmosphere was pretty much the same although the people in attendance were attired differently and had a different take on sermons.

People were more comfortably dressed in whatever and however they want to worship God – in bermudas which covered below their knees and even in basketball jerseys (sleeveless).

But the sermons at the University of California, Irvine, were the ones that I enjoyed the most because they were lighthearted and were filled with personal stories of the Imams, who were mostly students. The student-led or alumni-led congregation resonated deeply with me on Islamic issues without forgetting the lessons of Prophet Muhammad’s (Peace Be Upon Him) life. Congregation were tickled at times by the stories that were shared and it made Islam as a religion seem friendlier compared to how it was always perceived as.

Most recently, I attended a Thanksgiving Mass at a Catholic Church here in Singapore. I thought that it was similar to my experience at the University of California, Irvine. The Bishop was sharing the stories from the Gospel and also included his own personal stories at the same time. This made the sermon extremely lighthearted and connected deeply with the congregation, myself included.

The messages delivered were by all coincidence, my personal reflections through my “Before I go to bed tonight”, but most importantly, the messages and the way the sermon was delivered was in-touch with personal and recent events that everyone could relate to.

I couldn’t help but feel that this was the missing piece in the way our sermons were being delivered in our masjids. The way our sermons are delivered gives the impression that much should be focused on death and life after death when instead, we should perhaps try to give better focus on how a Muslim should live our lives, without losing focus on what comes in death and life after death.

Or maybe our sermons already do so but as how I was once told, “It’s the messenger, not the message”.

Surely, it would be awesome if we could experience how Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) delivered his sermons and how he gave advise to people. Though we read and we know how he did it, never having experienced it, we wouldn’t know how it feels.

Wear Pink with White Polka Dots


In recent weeks, there has been robust debate online over the #WearWhite campaign and the #PinkDot event, both of which is slated to be happening tomorrow.

Whilst the #WearWhite campaign was initially a movement to welcome Ramadhan, it has somehow evolved to be a movement joined by other group(s) of the religious community to be an anti-pinkdot event. Believing that the PinkDot movement will harm the religious view of how a family unit should be, many have begun to take sides.

In response, the #PinkDot organizers has also come out and welcomed ‘constructive criticism/debate/discussion’ in their pursuit for a more inclusive society where everyone can have the right to love anyone.

The preamble to this entire situation could be well summed up by a video where a hijab wearing Muslim lady was potrayed by PinkDot to be supportive of their campaign. This led to an onslaught of comments from the Muslim community here in Singapore and a widespread debate started, which probably eventually led to the #WearWhite campaign.

Now, here’s the thing, I’m a Muslim and I’m not LGBT and here are my views on this issue.

  1. #PinkDot is a very welcoming movement. It buys you in, into the idea that everyone should be given a fair chance to love regardless of gender, race or religion.

    I’ve nothing against this. 

  2. The #WearWhite movement is there to welcome Ramadhan and now, to call LGBTs to return to the religious view of what is a persmissable family unit – Husband and Wife comprised of a Male and Female.

    I’m all for the welcoming Ramadhan. I’m all for male and female as a family unit.

Here’s my take, taking into consideration that I am a Muslim:

  • LGBTs can have the right to love who they want because they are humans.
  • LGBTs can have the right to sexual lust for who they want because as humans, we all have sexual lust.
  • LGBTs can marry whoever they want because as humans, we have that right to get married.
  • Muslims can have the right to love who they want because they are Muslims.
  • Muslims can have the right to sexually lust for who they want because even as Muslims, we all have sexual lust.
  • Muslims can only act on their sexual lust on whom they are legally married to (muhrim). Otherwise, it would be a sin.
  • Muslims can marry whoever they want if they want a Civil Marriage. The wedding just won’t be recognized in Islam and whatever sexual that happens even after the marriage, will still be considered a sin.
  • Muslims can only marry someone of the opposite gender if they want a Muslim Marriage. Females need a Wali (Father, brother, uncle) to approve of the marriage and the marriage will be solemnised by a religious cleric known as Kadi.

At the end of the day, we all make our own choices in life and are answerable to our creator.

As a Muslim, life on earth is a jihad (struggle) and the biggest jihad to overcome to be successful is our personal struggle. At the end of the day, we are judged for the good and bad we have done on this earth. 

Only God can grant his grace and mercy on any of his subjects.

Most importantly, while we are alive and living on earth, let’s recognise that everyone has the right to love and lust and marry anyone they want, but know that your personal choices in this life will affect you in the afterlife. Your parents are answerable to what they taught you in this life as you are the responsibility that God has entrusted upon them. 

And heaven is beneath our mother’s feet. So, granted that our mothers do not forgive us for our sins, we won’t get to heaven.

On this issue of #WearWhite and #PinkDot, let’s just agree to disagree shall we because isn’t peace more important?

#WearPinkWithWhitePolkaDots