a piece from shaykh.hamz/a yu.suf

Shock Dead, Everybody’s Gone Mad: Reflections on the Death of Michael Jackson
By Hamza Yusuf


On the news
Everybody’s dog food
Bang bang
Shock dead
Everybody’s gone mad…

From “They Don’t Care About Us” by Michael Jackson

As a little boy, Michael Jackson had an extraordinary charisma — as well as an absolute innocence — that was disarmingly charming. It captivated millions of Americans and eventually people around the world.

As the years went by, his career took strange turns and he slowly turned white, transforming his face eerily into a pale and ghastly masque, perhaps to conceal the pain of alienation from his own self and family. He was also rumored to have unsavory predilections that would never have been suggested if one used the rigorous criteria of Islam before hurling an accusation. Despite the rumors, he appeared to have had a genuine concern for children, wanting to provide them with a world that was denied to him as a child due to the abuses he claimed to have suffered.

I was very happy for him last year when he reportedly became a Muslim. He had apparently followed the footsteps of his dignified and intelligent brother, Jermaine, who converted to Islam 20 years ago and found peace. It seemed befitting that Michael sought refuge from a society that thrives on putting people on pedestals and then knocking them down. He was accused of many terrible things, but was guilty of perhaps being far too sensitive for an extremely cruel world. Such is the fate of many artistic people in our culture of nihilistic art, where the dominant outlet for their talents is in singing hollow pop songs or dancing half-naked in front of ogling onlookers who often leave them as quickly as they clung to them for the next latest sensation.

In the manner of Elvis or the Beatles, Michael is unwittingly both a cause and a symptom of America’s national obsession with celebrity, currently on display in the American Idol mania. Celebrity trumps catastrophe every time. Far too few of us make any attempt to understand why jobs are drying up, why mortgages are collapsing, why we spend half-a-trillion dollars to service the interest on the national debt, why our government’s administration, despite being elected on an anti-war platform, is still committed to two unnecessary and unjust wars waged by the earlier administration, wars that continue to involve civilians casualties on an almost daily basis. Instead, we drown in trivia, especially trivia related to celebrity. And the response to Michael’s death is part of the trivial pursuits of American popular culture. The real news about death in America is that twenty Iraq and Afghan war veterans are committing suicide every day. But that does not make the front page nor is it discussed as seriously as the King of Pop’s cardiac arrest.

Nevertheless, Michael’s very public death notice is a powerful reminder that no matter how famous or talented or wealthy one is, death comes knocking, sometimes sooner than later. Michael has now entered a world of extraordinary perception, a world that makes his “Thriller” video seem mundane. It is a world of angels and demons, and questions in the grave, a world where fame is based upon piety and charity. Given Michael’s reported conversion to Islam last year, Muslims count him as one of our own, and we pray that he can finally find the peace he never found in this world and that he is in a place, God willing, of mercy, forgiveness, and solace.

While he is sleeping

There is something therepeutic about watching Milo sleep. He would curl his paws and sometimes give cute whimpers as though he is having some kind of a dream. He drools too. We’ve had other cats before Milo and Tito but Milo is the only one from amongst our feline companions that drools in his sleep. Sticky, slobbery saliva which sometimes sticks onto the floor on which he sleeps on, or on my blouse or shirt if he happens to choose my comfy body as his mattress. But that is rare. He loves the cold terrazo flooring or the warm carpet or simply our bed, with his head on our pillow. When that happens , he would sometimes stretch that half asleep stretch,  and if I happen to be near, reach out to my face for a quick sniff to make sure that it is me that he is sleeping on or next to and then go back to his deep slumber.

Krispy and Kremeee

So it is now settled that they have nicely  landed on Malaysia’s shore, giving the overly sweet and dense Dunkin’ and the oh so delicious Big Apple a run for their money. In midvalley, it’s nicely tucked in about 10 metres away from Dunkin and a corner away from Big Apple. Of course, the sinfully  ( but a tad too sweet, I find ) delicious KrispeKreme is here, tantalising and cajoling us to add more calories in the already hard to resist food haven.

Oh well, I had 2 for brekky with old friends on holiday here yesterday. New York cheesecake donut ( which was so rich it was ‘muak’ towards the end ) and the freshly fried original glaze, which we were all given free, hot and piping. Washed them down with ice latte.  Ohhhh.

In denial, I rightfully reminded myself that Ramadan is coming 😛 … Alas…before I left, I couldn’t resist parting with another Rm 2.80 to wolf down their chocolate cake flavoured donut. Ya, it’s nice to be here :))

Image taken from here.

Get up, now.

I have not written about aikido for a long time because I have been out of training for two months almost for health reasons ( and no it is not pregnancy, as suspected by fellow classmates ). I miss it very much but as a senior in class reminded me, it is not just about the physical training, it is about a way of life.

The one extremely important lesson I learnt in aikido is the ‘ukemi’. That is the falling technique. To fall gracefully.

I have since realised that ‘ukemi’ is not just about falling and landing nicely on the mats of the dojo, in the ‘hakama’, while sparring with the ‘uke’. It is about practising it in life where there are days when one really needs to fall, so that one can learn to get up again and continue fighting. And then fall again. The more ‘ukemi’ we do, the more graceful our falls become. This, I realised happens in my life as well. The more often I fall, the more graceful I take my failures and the stronger I get up to face life’s ‘uke’ . Challenges in life I have since learnt, are like ‘uke’. They are not really opponents, just sparring partners to teach one the martial art of life.

Of his early days

I am currently reading Memoirs of a Menteri Besar,  Tan Sri Datuk Dr Mohamad Said– Early Days, ( just don’t ask how I came to own a copy of it, which you can neither buy nor borrow out from the National Library ) formerly the Menteri Besar of Negeri Sembilan.

Reading on how he travelled in those days, all the way from Linggi to Kuala Kangsar to attend school at Malay College Kuala Kangsar through all the odds and tests and whatever else physical challenges he had to face–just to get the best education he could possibly get, is not only inspiring, but tear-jerking as well. Definitely a welcoming break from other tear-jerking reads of Malay mat-rempit boys getting into hardcore social troubles.

One thing he wrote in there which struck me hard was that he wrote about his mother, that his thirst for knowledge stemmed from the very root that his mother was a voracious reader, despite their humble background. So what JohnWood wrote in this book is confirmed here in the Memoir-that once you educate a girl you educate many more generations to come. For the hand which rocks the cradle rules the world, kan?

New kid on the block

I’ve not touched our trusty oly for quite a while. It has served us really well and we have been to places with it, not forgetting the two times it came in handy in two minor road accidents we met with in the last two years. But oly has reached its twilight days and recently, a new breed of its kind made me gawk non stop since it was up in the limelight.

Image taken from here.

This new olympusep1 has the slim body of a compact camera/mobile phone but the full function of a dslr camera. Its price tag can pay our rent for about 3 months or so. Hence, at the moment I shall just continue to salivate over it.