Community Voices with Bakri Musa


June 18, 2018

Community Voices with Bakri Musa – Reflections on observing Ramadan in a secular society

Published in the June 20 – July 3, 2018 issue of Morgan Hill Life
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Dr. M Bakri Musa
To many Muslims and non-Muslims alike, Ramadan means fasting, and only that. Viewed as such Ramadan can be challenging, more so in our food-celebrated culture.
However, Ramadan is more than just fasting from sunrise to sunset. It is a time to pause and to ponder, to be forgiving and to seek forgiveness, and to be generous not only to others but equally important, oneself. It is also a time for self-restraint and self-discipline.
Unlike the other tenets of Islam like praying, paying tithe, and pilgrimage to Mecca, fasting is a private and personal act.
Living in secular and predominantly non-Muslim America, nobody forces me to fast. There are no religious Police wandering around looking for sinners, as in my native Malaysia. I fast because I want to, and for that reason it is much more meaningful.
In today’s harried and hurried world, it is easy to be caught up in the maelstrom. The change in my daily routine during Ramadan forces me to pause and reflect. In short, it is my “time out.”
The quiet of the morning, with ample time now available that was previously consumed with preparing and eating breakfast, is ideal for contemplation. Those moments, alas, are only too rare during my regular day.
My lunch break is now my most productive time as I am alone in my office, uninterrupted. I can also count on losing five to 10 pounds during Ramadan. It is flattering to hear comments on how fit I look at the end of the month!
Concomitant with the change in my daily routine is the alteration of my metabolism. The inevitable reduction in caloric intake can only be good for my body. Scientists tell us that it enhances longevity, at least in laboratory animals. There is no disputing that excess caloric intake and the consequent obesity is today’s major public health issue.
Experts also tell us that after a few days of fasting we begin breaking down our fat cells. The weight-reduction aspect aside, that invigorates our stem cells, especially those of our intestines. This in turn enhances healing and disease prevention, as well as mitigates the effects of aging. No surprise that experts now advocate fast-mimicking diets.
Sadly today, fasting in many Muslim societies has been “modernized,” with evenings consumed with never-ending feasts. Many gain weight during Ramadan; their gluttony switched from daytime to nighttime, the very antithesis of the spirit of restraint called for during Ramadan.
The traditional teaching is that fasting reminds us of the hunger endured by those less fortunate. It is hard to empathize with the poor when you know that your own hunger will be satiated — no, indulged upon — come sunset.
An element of even greater import during Ramadan is charity. For those who for a variety of reasons cannot fast, the giving of charity is an acceptable substitute. Just as important is the generosity of spirit and the renewal of family and societal bonds, as expressed in our communal iftars (breaking of the fast).
I am blessed with good health that I could partake in fasting; peace that I could do it with tranquility; and prosperity that I could fulfill my charitable obligations as well as being assured that my fast will end come sunset. I am also mindful that millions of others are less fortunate, which makes me even more thankful of my blessings.
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Last Friday, June 15, our community celebrated Eidul Fitri, the end of Ramadan. Following a communal prayer, with everyone dressed in their finest, many in their traditional attires, the rest of the day was spent visiting friends and family, enjoying, as expected, food and other tasty treats!
Bakri Musa is a local surgeon and former President of South Valley Islamic Community.

 

Granted Her Majesty QE2’s Wish–HRH Prince Charles to be next Head of the Commonwealth


April 21. 2018

Granted Her Majesty QE2’s Wish–Prince Charles to be next Head of the Commonwealth

State leaders honour Queen’s wishes and agree Prince of Wales should succeed monarch

Peter Walker Political correspondent @peterwalker99

https://www.theguardian.com

 

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HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales to become the Next Head of the Commonwealth after Her Majesty The Queen

Commonwealth leaders have agreed that Prince Charles will become the next head of the organisation after the Queen, it has emerged, in one of the less surprising diplomatic developments of recent months.

The role is not hereditary, but the Queen, who turns 92 on Saturday, used the ongoing Commonwealth heads of government (Chogm) gathering in London to say it was her “sincere wish” to be succeeded by her son.

Commonwealth leaders, who were meeting at Windsor Castle on the second and final day of the formal Chogm programme, had agreed to her wish, sources told the Press Association and others.

After the Queen made her wishes known, there would have been little prospect of the 53 Commonwealth leaders and foreign ministers, who met at Buckingham Palace on Thursday, not endorsing the plan.

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Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales attended the formal opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Buckingham Palace — Getty

 

Addressing what is most likely her last Chogm summit – she no longer flies long distances and it is not due to return to the UK for some years – the monarch said: “It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations, and will decide that one day the Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949.”

Earlier on Friday, the foreign minister of Vanuatu, Ralph Regenvanu, supported Charles, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “we see it almost naturally that it should be the British Royal Family because it is the Commonwealth after all”.

He added that there was no discussion in the island state regarding a different Commonwealth leader.

At a Buckingham Palace dinner on Thursday evening, the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, said he had been “made to understand she’ll be winding down her duties as Head of the Commonwealth”.

The Queen has been head of the Commonwealth since coming to the throne in 1952.

The Chogm summit was due to discuss subjects including efforts to combat marine plastics, cyber security and trade.

Taking a Break from April 13-18, 2018


April 12, 2018

Taking a break from blogging

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I am taking a break from April 13-18. I shall be away from Phnom Penh to see the beautiful countryside and meet the folks who are the backbone of the Cambodian economy.

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I wish my Cambodian readers, friends and associates  a Happy and Peaceful Chhol Chhenam Khmer which falls on April 14, 2018.  –Din Merican

Be Courteous to one another, Malaysians


January 28, 2018

Be Courteous to one another, Malaysians

by Dr Mohd Sani Badr

https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/ikim-views/2018/01/09/the-state-of-malaysian-courtesy-we-belong-to-one-big-family-that-relies-on-mutual-love-and-respect/

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 They are the future of a pluralistic and secular Malaysia

THE Rukunegara, the national philosophy, affirms courtesy and morality (kesopanan dan kesusilaan) as the most important character traits in maintaining good relationships in our plural society.

On the other hand, arrogance and causing offence to the sensibilities of others are thoroughly condemned, regardless whether committed by the rich, the powerful, or linguistic and cultural chauvinists.

Observing discussions on social media and reports in traditional media, especially in relation to partisan politics and hawkish pressure groups, this writer wonders whether Malaysians care more about being respectful of diversity than being arrogant. Or is it now the other way around?

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That is why Malaysians must not vote UMNO Racists and bigots

 

Respect, politeness and arrogance are character traits inculcated mainly by parents, families, teachers and educational institutions. Have we taught our children and students sufficiently about being respectful to humanity without arrogance?

 There is an Islamic tradition on being respectful, where Mu‘adh ibn Jabal said, “The Messenger of God commanded me saying, ‘O, Mu‘adh, I command you to fear God, to speak truthfully, to fulfil the promise, to deliver what you are entrusted with, to shun perfidious actions, to care for the neighbour, to have compassion towards the orphan, to be soft-spoken, to be generous in extending greeting, to do your best no matter what you do, to curtail your fallacious hope, to cleave to the faith, to study the Quran, to love the hereafter, to be anxious in regard to the Day of Reckoning, and to act with humility.” (narrated by al-Bayhaqi).

This writer cautiously believes that many Malaysians, regardless of religious affiliation – or rather, because they are inspired by their faith – are indeed respectful of each other.

The Malaysian founding fathers called this muhibbah, which means mutual love or affectionate friendship among humankind. It is more than mere tolerance.

Merciful human relationship is a great idea from scriptural Revelation, recorded in the Quran. Its basis is the understanding that humanity originates from the common origin called nafs wahidah – a fact emphasised throughout the Quran.

There is essential unity of all people as God’s creatures. All of us belong to one human family without any inherent biological superiority of one over another. The Prophet Muhammad was quoted as saying, “Man is but a God-fearing believer or a hapless sinner. All people are the children of Adam, and Adam was created out of dust.”

In the worldview of Islam, while among Muslims there is “religious brotherhood”, between Muslims and followers of other faiths, there is “biological brotherhood” of the human race. According to this teaching, all of us are biologically brothers and sisters as we are from one living entity (nafs wahidah), whose proper name is Adam.

It is one of the wonders of God’s creation that from one person (Adam), we have grown to be so many; each individual has so many faculties and capacities, and yet we are all one. In other words, this common origin should appeal to the solidarity of humankind, as all of us are brothers and sisters.

Arising from this kinship, we humans have mutual obligations, rights and duties. In another universal verse, God says, “O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain has spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty towards God in whom you claim your rights of one another.” (4:1).

Because all humankind is one, our mutual rights and dignity must therefore be treated with the full respect they deserve. This is valid even if each of us has his own religious community. It is in this context that the Prophet Muhammad states, “All creatures are equal dependents upon God (‘iyalullah), and those dearest to God are the ones who treat His dependents most kindly.”

Or in another translation: “The whole of mankind is the family of God and he amongst His family is dearest to Him, who does good to others.” (narrated by al-Bayhaqi).

Indeed, the Prophet highlights the fact that all humanity is equally under the care of God, He who feeds, nourishes and sustains them. Moreover, those dearest to God are the ones who are of benefit to others.

Thus, Islam strongly condemns all racial prejudices. Our “natural” outward differentiations – whether in terms of gender, race, language and skin colour – are deemed by Islam to be merely superficial labels.

It is a person’s inner goodness, that is, his “nurtural” ethical quality – measured according to universal religious values – that should be the basis for our esteem for him.

We should never ridicule, insult or unnecessarily be suspicious of another just because he is of a different gender, race, language or hue. Racial quarrels must, by all means, be avoided through proper understanding of one’s own religion in relation to the religions of others.

Dr Mohd Sani Badron is principal fellow/director of Ikim’s Centre for Economics and Social Studies. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

Read more at https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/ikim-views/2018/01/09/the-state-of-malaysian-courtesy-we-belong-to-one-big-family-that-relies-on-mutual-love-and-respect/#GFDZIWB4bepcUH1L.99

Greetings from Kuala Lumpur and Phnom Penh for Xmas and 2018


December 23, 2017

Greetings from Kuala Lumpur and Phnom Penh for Xmas and 2018

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Dr. Kamsiah Haider in Kuala Lumpur and Din Merican in Phnom Penh wish all our friends and associates around the world a Merry Christmas 2017 and prosperous New Year, 2018. We are indeed grateful for your warm friendship and support we enjoyed during 2017. We forward to working with you in the coming year and together we can make our world a better place.
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We have little time for politicians and ideologues as they are a crop of egoistic, misogynistic  and greedy people. All we have to do is to look at Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan and other places to see for ourselves their handiwork. People are their victims, especially women, children and the elderly. They have lost the moral high ground and we must put our differences aside and work hard for peace.
On the occasion of Christmas and the New Year 2018, may we ask Michael Jackson to sing for us his famous song, Make The World a Better Place. –Dr. Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican.

Thanks, Zainah Anwar, for Your 2017 Toast to living honestly


December 5, 2017

Thanks, Zainah Anwar, for Your  2017 Toast to living honestly

by Zainah Anwar@www.thestar.com.my

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So to all those reading this column, do not allow regrets to paralyse your life. There is still time to make the choices you need to make to live the life you want, and not what others expect of you. So, here’s to a new year of living honestly.–Zainah Anwar

AS 2017 comes to a close and we head into yet another new year, I want to share this discussion I heard on radio on the subject of regret. It was based on a book by an Australian palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, on The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

The pain of those regrets were so huge that she said she knew she did not want to end up like that. It made so much sense and I thought what a good way to start the new year with a new resolve to live life with courage and to make conscious choices to make it worth living.

According to Ware, the most common regret of the dying is their lack of courage to live a life true to themselves, not the life others expected of them.

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This was the most painful regret because as they looked back, they realised that their lives were shaped and defined by others, and their dreams were unfulfilled because of the choices they had made, or not made. And the older you are, the more your regrets centre on the choices not made.

You regret because this was something that was within your control, but you made those choices to make others happy, instead of you happy.

Some years ago, I heard a radio interview with a gay rights activist who was pressured for years by his father to give up being gay (as if that was a choice) and to get married and have children.

One day, in yet another fight with his father, he said: “How many people must be unhappy in order for you to be happy?”

I thought that was a profound statement. Indeed, it was that statement that finally made his father see the light and accepted his son’s sexual identity. I admired him for his courage and honesty to be persistent and frank with his father and to make that difficult decision to be true to himself.

The second most common regret is, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”. I guess few people die wishing they had worked harder.

It seems this regret afflicted mostly men who missed out on their children’s youth and the companionship of their wives. They regretted that they had not honoured other aspects of their lives, like care giving and being there for their loved ones.

It’s good to know that many younger men these days make the time to care for their children and actually find joy in that.

Some friends even have regular “date nights” with their husbands, making sure that just the two of them go out for dinner to talk – to catch up with each other’s thoughts and feelings and ideas and plans.

The third most common regret is one that I thought only afflicted emotionally repressed Asians. But it seems everyone wishes they had the courage to voice their feelings. I bet many more women expressed this regret than men as women often suppress their feelings in order to keep peace with others.

These regrets are mostly over relationships. They regret for not speaking up in their own defence and not treating themselves with the kindness they deserve. They regret for not telling their children, partners, friends how much they loved them. They regret staying in, or leaving, or not pursuing relationships.

Such regrets can do damage to body and mind. At best, you feel like punching yourself for not having the courage to speak out against a hurt, an injustice; at worst people develop illnesses and suffer chronic stress because of bitterness and resentment bottled up for months, years or lifetimes.

Whenever I am angry or upset, I will always ask myself if this person or this incident is worth my time and my emotion getting livid over

Most of the time they are not; and if they are, I will set a time limit to my negative feelings. Usually not more than three days. Then life must go on. Either get the feeling out of your system, or get that toxic person out of your life. Although, I must admit that for those with spouses, this is easier said than done.

An activist friend who works with single mothers said she regretted crying for three years over the breakdown of her marriage. In hindsight, the man was worth just three days of tears. And she should have gotten on with her new life much earlier.

The fourth most common regret is, “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.” Families naturally go into grief in the presence of loved ones dying. But Ware said that person actually wants to live as fully as they can. They want joy brought to the bed, they want to hear laughter, and birds singing.

They want to know what’s going on outside. They don’t want to stop living until the body stops breathing. Old friends tell stories of a past their adult children are not a part of and this brings joy to the dying.

But there are friends who don’t know what to say to a dying person, except look on with grief that the person’s life is coming to an end.

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I remember my father who passed away two months short of his 100th birthday expressing indignation when his surau friends came to visit and sat there in silence and sorrow.

When they left, he turned to me and said, “Do they think I am dying?” He still wanted to live and to know what’s going on in the outside world.

The fifth regret, says Ware, is a surprising one: “I wish that I had let myself be happier.” Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice, that life is a choice; and they did not exercise the choices they could have made.

Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were content, that things were all right, when deep within, they longed to laugh heartily and loudly and feel a lightness of being.

We feel the biggest regrets over things that are within our control. That is why it is such a negative emotion.

So to all those reading this column, do not allow regrets to paralyse your life. There is still time to make the choices you need to make to live the life you want, and not what others expect of you. So, here’s to a new year of living honestly.