It’s tonight, I think

The First Night of Rajab

It is recommended to turn to Allah in the first night of Rajab. It has been narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “There are five nights on which du`ā’ is not rejected: the first night of Rajab, the fifteenth night of Sha`bān, Thursday night, the night before `Eid al-Fitr and the night before `Eid al-Nahr (al-Adha).”[3] Sayyiduna `Ali, may Allah be well pleased with him, used to allocate extra amounts of time for worship on four nights – the first night of Rajab, the nights before the two `Eids, and the 15th night of Sha`bān.

…and so on

I was awake throughout the bus ride, waiting in anticipation for the moment I would once again enter the city of Medinah. The last time I did and that was when I was 20, I had just finished reading Martin Ling’s book: Muhammad. Lings was a writer in which his writings not only evoked vivid imaginations, but the way he wrote about the life of Muhammad (pbuh) was as though readers were living through that era, feeling Muhammad’s pain, fear, joys, sufferings, triumph and struggles. Without doubt, that first time I entered the city of Medinah, fresh from the journey on Ling’s opus caravan, I found myself slightly shivering when the coach made its way into the Prophet’s city.

This time round however, I was just simply tired. I had not finished Muhammad Asad’s Road to Mecca book that I had wanted to read prior to this trip and hence, emotionally, I was not yet pricked by any great writings to evoke any sentiments within me that I had felt previously. Hence I was not sure if the anticipation I felt had to do with the fact that I was exhausted and finally we could check in somewhere, or the fact that we were really on this journey now to meet the Prophet together. Probably a bit of both.

It was almost 3 am when the first sight of city lights came into view indicating that we were slowly but surely entering into Medinah. The husband was excited. The coach drove in through the bright but sleeping city and I noted the many changes I noticed about the city. At around 3 am in the morning, we were welcomed in true Swiss hospitality by the Arab staff of Movenpick Hotel.

Le Voyage

We have made many journeys together as a couple. However, I must say that nothing beats this journey we recently made together to perform the Umrah. The intention to go on this journey was made as early as late last year and till the beginning of this year, it remained just that, an intention. There were obstacles to overcome along the way, leave issues, visa issues and whatever else– to the point that my mother actually discouraged us from pursuing it with a text which said ” I think you both don’t push it. To go there, it is an invitation from Allah and the prophet. If so many obstacles like this, that means you are not really invited to be there – yet. So go for holiday to other places first lahhh”

Just shortly after that, true to her words that this journey is by invitation and if once invited, by hook or by crook, we would be able to make it there, everything fell into place. We got a good agent, our visas settled, we got our stuffs and we were ready and set to go.

My first umrah trip was when I was 20. I went with my parents, sister and a few of my relatives. The trip, as I remembered it, was easy going and was actually fun. It was not the peak season, we had good hotels, we had a good tour agent, there was plenty of space to move about. At 50kg then, I was very light, fit and fast that I was able to complete the whole ritual with ease. More than anything else, I guess at 20 years old, I was not so bogged down with life’s baggage, misgivings, sins and whatever else life can throw into the package.

More than a decade later, this trip with a ‘pilgrimage virgin’ husband and whatever I have accumulated in my own life’s suitcase, I became  nervous more than anything else as the day drew nearer.

When I look back, there was a blessing in disguise despite the challenges of getting the right dates and the visa issues earlier on. We ended up leaving on the morning of 10th April, the day after our marriage and myself turned a year older. Hence it was a significant beginning to start a fresh new year of our marriage with us taking a spiritual time out to do lots of reflections, cleansing and bonding.

The journey itself was not without challenges. Upon arrival at the KLIA  on Sunday morning, we were told that we had to hang around at the airport because our Saudi Arabian flight was delayed. Great. Called my dad. He reminded us again and again… “Sabar…be patient.. More to come”. And indeed.

We finally got into the belly of the aircraft at 4.30pm and the journey hence officially started. It was not a smooth plane ride mind you. There were turbulence here and there, but nothing quite prepared us for that incident over the Indian Ocean. It started out as  turbulence by the air pockets and then in the midst of it, we could feel the plane taking sort of a plunge  few meters down as though we were in a roller coaster ride. Everyone screamed, there was panic, I saw magazines and newspapers flying off table tops. I had experienced turbulence in airplanes before but nothing quite like this. Let’s put it this way. If it even scares season travelers like my husband, who is the epitome of masochism and who doesn’t fear many things– especially flights, it must have been a really bad flight.

But alas, we arrived safely at Jeddah Airport. It has changed so much since the last I remember it. The efficiency too, was up by about 10% (and that’s too good for Arab standards :P). Everyone was talking about the flight and how they felt towards it. One makcik said she zikr ‘Subhanallah’ all the way to Jeddah, some even cried, a lady was crying out thinking she would be leaving her only daughter behind, a Pakcik thought it was the end of him. Those exchanges in the wee hours of the morning sort of bonded us together. Bleary eyed and exhausted, the whole lot of us pilgrims were then herded into buses which would take us on a 6 hour journey into the city of Medinah, where our beloved Prophet ( peace be upon him) awaited us.

Journey

I’m on a journey with my husband. So far it has been challenging. But it is also humbling and physically draining. Not forgetting spiritually enriching. We are in the company of the most beloved man ever to live. And right now as I am typing this down, thousands of other travellers like myself from each and every corner of the globe, who love him like we do are here with me to be with him too.

I don’t know what is in store for me in the coming days. I just hope we are both strong enough to go through the challenges as they come to us…

About Godot…

A couple of days ago, Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett was playing at KLPac. It was said to be one with an interesting twist. I really wished I had caught it but for some reasons, I didn’t.

I studied Waiting for Godot the same year I studied Jane Eyre. I found it to be really absurd…Basically, it’s about 2 characters, Vladimir and Estragon, waiting for someone name Godot, who never appeared nor were they sure of who Godot is. In fact, Godot has been the subject of many interpretations. Some said he is a metaphor, some said he is a real person. Some said that the whole play is a political satire.

The play itself, has been debated on numerous accounts through the decades, with no conclusion on what the play is actually all about. While waiting for Godot, Vladimir and Estragon engaged themselves in a conversation that caused so many misunderstandings between themselves. They quarreled, they laughed, they agreed and disagreed on different subject matters. Basically, both of them were off tangent to each other during the conversation in which they were talking to each other. That’s how absurd I found this play to be.

However, this point now,  I came to realise that there were many Vladimirs and Estragons around and someone like myself is either one of them. To the extend, I am beginning to think that the play is not as complex or absurd as how I used to find them.

Everyone at some point or the other is ‘waiting for Godot’. We don’t know who or what Godot is, but we are waiting for it/him/her to fulfill something in our lives, or to give ourselves reasons to move on or to live. Some Vladimirs/Estragons within us just don’t move on, but continue to ‘wait for Godot’ while as the same time engaging in ‘parallel conversations/relationships’ with those around us, which sometimes don’t make sense at all. We may not be on the same page as them, but because we too, are waiting for our Godot and they are waiting for their Godot, we wait together and coexist side by side, without realizing how absurd the situation, if seen from the outside is.

The Godot in Beckett’s never did turn up for Vladimir and Estragon. But unlike Beckett’s Godot, sometimes mine does. And when it does, I would suddenly snap awake and realise  how absurd my coexistence with ‘Vladimir’ is if I am ‘Estragon’ at that point. Or vice versa…

Permeation

I hope by tonight I can go back to perform the terawih, which I have been missing for 5 nights due to biological reasons. It is not a nice feeling to spend the nights of Ramadan alone at home, while everyone seems to be in a blissful gathering full of angels above, prostrating and invoking HIS name in a sea of divine love.

This Ramadan, the word ‘permeating‘ comes to mind. I came to notice that on our own, just the two of us, we were able to block out the permeating process (of  all things unnecessary) from coming in and affecting our Ramadan and the coming Eid celebrations. It would be too easy for the permeation process to happen say, had Ramadan been celebrated perhaps in my hometown. Permeation process would render it difficult for me to say no to the various iftar gatherings outside (which, due to permeating process, I would surely would want to go!), a walk down to bazaar Geylang, the overflowing of food from the neighbors and from my overindulging mother.

Eid wouldn’t be spared either. Permeation process would actually dictate that the curtains/cushions/and everything else visible to the visitor’s eyes be changed for something new. And just one set of new Eid clothings would not be enough. It would  even be ghastly in my mother’s eyes (apa? satu jer baju kurung untuk raya ni?!!) and an endless table spread of raya cookies which could put Joseph and his Technicolor dreamcoat to shame.

But thanks to being on our own, where we carefully make the effort to block out this permeating process from getting into us,we managed to cut down on many unnecessaries. No cooking for iftar, just eat at the mosque, whatever they serve– even though it’s nothing much. That’s minus the wastage of food and the effort in preparing them.  The husband sahur with simple things which didn’t take long to prepare. I don’t drive so I don’t fancy taking a cab to any bazaar Ramadans so I spend my time mostly at my home-office, tutoring/working/sleeping/reading.

There is no pressure about giving the house a make-over either. It is a rental, and most of our closest friends here are like-minded, and also living in rentals hence absolutely comfortable with our’ temporary existence here so we cannot be bothered‘ mentality. Eid clothes, we would always buy last minute, whatever nice enough we could grab.

In other words, in not allowing the permeating process gets into us, we get away with being ‘bo-chap’ with the whole physical aspect of the season, and just welcome it, as it is and perhaps as how it should be.

I could only do this while I am away. I know back home, I would welcome and readily accept this permeating process into my life with open arms, because I want it to happen– due to my own weakness of the flesh.

Prescription

I was telling Elviza, over our ‘last kopek’ pet-pot session @ lunch/tea at Marmalades Bangsar village yesterday that I have an eating disorder. But mine, however, is the antithesis of the popular definition referring to teenage girls binging and vomiting all their food out, all in the name of the perfect weight obsession. My disorder goes all the way to the other side. I eat too much, without a care of what it does to my weight and the only way it goes out again is by the bottom. That may not be the clinical definition of eating disorder, but that’s gluttony and if that ain’t a disorder, I wonder why God listed it as one of the 7 cardinal sins in the bible.

Anyway.

Whatever it is, either eating disorder or cardinal sin, today comes my cure for it i.e fasting.

One of the biggest evils in our modern world is the food consumption that is full of all the toxic materials used in it in order to mass produce them. And for a foodie in me, what other thing can be more evil than illnesses which are caused by the accumulation of additives, preservatives, chemicals, pesticides etc in my daily consumption, bearing in mind that being a foodie, I tend to eat more than the average Jane (or in my case, Minah).

Spiritual and morality evils aside, the way I interpret this verse from the Quran verse 183

“Oh you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed to those before you, so that you may guard (against evil).”

Is that, fasting is the safeguard against evil i.e the evil of health problems caused by (over) consumption and also consumption of harmful ingredients.

There are many medical journals written now on the health and medical benefits of fasting, and I quote one:

“Whether the patient has a cardiac condition, hypertension, autoimmune disease, fibroids, or asthma, he or she must be informed that fasting and natural, plant-based diets are a viable alternative to conventional therapy, and an effective one.”Joel Fuhrman, M.D., author of Fasting And Eating For Health: A Medical Doctor’s Program for Conquering Disease

So with that, I would like to wish everyone who begins fasting this week for the next 30 days a happy detoxification process, may we detox physically, spiritually and emotionally and successfully too. For there is only goodness in this spiritually positive month and may be protected from losing the essence of why fasting was prescribed in the first place.

Ramadan Kareem.

Inception moment

Last night I dreamt of my late grandfather. My late yayi. He was still strong and sturdy just as I how I knew him when I was a little kid. I dreamt  that he was in our usual noisy gathering back at home and yet he had something to tell everyone. And when it came to my turn, he said,’ Jangan cuba sangat’ or something like that. Basically, the message  he was trying to get through me was that not to try too hard for something. I had wanted to go into his arms and hug him but I woke up.

It is not even Ramadan yet, but only eve of it and I already got my first spiritual lesson, me thinks. That there are some things in life I should work on because its success is within my reach. But there are other things which no matter how much I try, it is not for me to decide but to pasrah and redha to the One up there who decides.

In any case, it was an awesome pre Ramadan gift. It was great to see and ‘talk’ to you again, yayi. Even if it was just in my dreams. You looked great. Just like how I saw you when I was a little girl.

Thank YOU.

The leopard and her little baboon

Recently, I had written about compassion here. Unknown to me, I had another surprise awaiting me when I watched this National Geographic video, about a leopard and a baboon. A female leopard chased and killed a female baboon, not knowing that the baboon was pregnant.. in the process, the baby monkey was pushed out of the dying mother’s tummy. Oh compassion of the leopard! She then realized she had made a baby baboon an orphan, turned back, tried to nurse it  and ‘adopted’ the baby baboon as  its surrogate mother! 1 part of mercy sent to this earth. Just one part, and we are able to witness this. Glory be to HIM!