On straightening the saff

And as Anas (may Allah be pleased will all these blessed Companions) complained that people would run away from them like wild donkeys if they attempted to make full contact with their feet in the Saff, and that was THEN. So what are you guys complaining about now? I’m glad we still even STAND in a line!

A good read straightening your saff, folks. And I think I’ve found my new favorite blog.

More here: http://alternativeentertainment.wordpress.com/2007/06/14/feet-to-feet/



Pinkdot: A Muslim’s View

Pinkdot is an event which celebrates the freedom of LGBT, recently held in Singapore. I’m not sure what their objective is exactly, but as a moderate Muslim, I really disagree with the promotion of LGBT lifestyle.

The issue of LGBT itself is not new, but it seems that many Muslims forget the unanimous view among our spiritually-discerned ulama. Not one of the them said that homosexuality is halal. Not. A. Single. One.

Admittedly, the issue itself is complex. It is imperative that we focus our discussion not on men who may appear feminine and vice versa (there’s a specific hadith on that, by the way). Instead here, we are talking about people who engage in homosexual relationships.

What’s our position?

Homosexuality has been discussed for hundreds of years by the ulama. They concede that some people may develop certain tendencies towards people of the same sex. They even talked about the permissibility of praying behind someone with such tendencies, as Hamza Yusuf clarified:

But nowhere do they say that it is okay to act on those tendencies. In fact, as many others, including Tariq Ramadan (video below) have argued that these feelings represent the personal challenges for these Muslims. Just like someone who have tendencies to be violent, does it make it okay to act violently? Or someone who has the tendency to commit adultery or steal, does it make it okay for them to act on it? Definitely no. This self-improvement is among the focus on their jihad in this world, to gain the pleasure of Allah in the next.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we must excommunicate or totally ostracize the gay Muslims. Instead, we should take the steps to make them understand their religion even more, and create the necessary space for them, as Sherman Jackson argued:

My interpretation of the necessary space here is not one that encourages nor allow homosexual Muslims to engage in sinful acts, but a space for them to interact with true Muslims, those who love Allah and strive to make amends to improve themselves. We need the space so that we can identify and educate our fallen brothers and sisters, so they can get back on their feet .Because without such space, what we are doing it basically alienating them to one corner of society that envelopes them from outreach efforts.

With such a “space,” expert counselors can talk to gay Muslims and make them comprehend the hikmah of Allah’s law.  Spiritual guides can talk to their family and make them supportive of the correct Islamic teachings, instead of something which is heavily influenced by the we-can-do-anything-as-long-as-no-one-gets-hurt hedonism. Thinkers can help develop a plan at the strategic level so that our precious young ones fully follows deen from very early on.

The big(ger) problem

On a wider plane, I personally think that the “popularity” this gay lifestyle is a by-product of globalization, one with very modern-Western-centric influences.

One example is the TV. If we switch our TVs on, and our minds off, then we will unknowingly consume all that rubbish in our own living room. Take for example the drama Glee. Sure, they make for great entertainment, especially if you love singing and dancing. But the garbage that is deemed to be primetime TV is also a great waste of time. More critically, they bring about these unintended “values” that we Muslims are suddenly finding ourselves in its midst. The acceptance of homosexuality is definitely one of them.

Before we know it, our frame of mind is influenced by the premises set in such shows. Thus when we talk about rights, the modern Western definition of rights come up to our mind. Same goes for freedom. Freedom to wear what what the nafs (and billion-dollar fashion industry) wants. Freedom to watch what you want. Freedom to do as you please. Leaving nothing to be sacred.

Methinks, the proliferation of gay personalities on popular TV shows such as Glee, Ellen, How I met Your Mother, and many more TV shows is a contributing factor. At first Muslims might think, “Hey, these gays, they’re not bad people.” Of course they are not. We have nothing against the gays. What we oppose is their action.

But with increasing acceptance of such personalities, common everyday Muslims will find it hard to filter which is good and which is bad; which of their commendable characteristics should be praised (creative, hardworking), and which of their bad characteristics should be condemned. The line simply is blurred when they accept such people as a whole, instead of viewing an individual critically.

Now imagine a 12-year-old Muslim boy watching Glee, and suddenly remembers that he has a boy crush on his class monitor. In my time, those things are considered to be normal, and one grows out of it. In this time, he may very well think that he is “born different” and should “be true to himself” and “not succumb to the pressure of conservative family ideals.” In my time, boy crush means that you try and be best friends with that class monitor. In this time, boy crushes may be honed to be the the foundation of homosexuality.

Similarly, I believe our kids know Ryan Giggs, John Terry, Christiano Ronaldo very well. In addition to their football skills, news exposés also revealed their sexual misconduct (to put it mildly). So just as we tell them that these sportsmen train very hard to get to their peak, we should also be very clear to them that their merit is limited only to soccer, and not anything more. The lines drawn should be decisively clear.


As such, it hurts me to watch this scene (00:12 mark).

I don’t imagine handling such identity issues will be easy, but I pray that the family involved are taking steps in the right direction.

And my parting thoughts to my fellow Muslim brothers who see themselves as part of the homosexual community, please, be with the right company. Be with people who love Allah and His messenger PBUH. Those that pray five times a day, and realize that it trains the nafs. Those that fast often, and know that obedience comes before desire. For, when stepping on Allah’s land, and roofed with Allah’s sky, the least we can do is to make that effort live with Allah’s rules.

Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. It will have [the consequence of] what [good] it has gained, and it will bear [the consequence of] what [evil] it has earned. “Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people.” Al-Baqarah:286


Alcohol, cooked = Evaporated. Halal? No!

So it’s called flambé -ing. Now I know. (image source)

I admit, I love watching cooking shows, especially the new ones styled after reality-TV. They make me hungry, but it’s still fun to watch. In many segments, the chef/cook will throw a splash of wine in the frying pan and it will seem to burn off almost instantly. Many times I ask myself, if the alcohol burns off, is the food halal?

Short answer: no. Apparently even after cooking for hours, there’ s still some left.

This is a good table (source) showing the length of time cooked and traces of alcohol left in the food. Even after it’s flamed in the frying pan a la celebrity chefs, 25% alcohol still remains.

Alcohol that has been… …has this much ethanol (alcohol) remaining
   added to boiling liquid, then removed from heat
   set on fire, flamed, ‘flambé’
   left uncovered at room temperature, overnight
   baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture
   baked/simmered, alcohol stirred into mixture:
      for 15 minutes
      for 30 minutes
      for 1 hour (60 minutes)
      for 1.5 hours (90 minutes)
      for 2 hours (120 minutes)
      for 2.5 hours (150 minutes)

And yes, the references checked out. See the USDA report here, page 14. Even Wikipedia has a page dedicated to cooking with alcohol.


The ultimate method of avoiding handshakes

(Image credit)

Ever since I’ve posted the guide on avoiding handshakes (and tried each and every single method), I seem to have been caught in more awkward situations. Once I did the hand-over-heart gesture, and the lady still extends her hand. There must be better way to avoid something I don’t want to do.

Then recently, a memo was sent announcing a new female colleague. She will be doing her rounds getting introduced to everyone. Definitely some handshaking is going to take place. And I’ve got to figure out the ultimate way to get out of it.

I was still seated at my desk reading the memo when I saw the company rep walking towards my office. And with him, a lady who looks to be all chirpy.

A chirpy, jovial, and excited new employee. There’s definitely going to be some handshaking going on.

They were headed towards my office, nodding and smiling to whoever is in their line of sight. To those who stand close enough, a handshake is a inexcusable.

They walked, paused every now and then, and chatted to other employees. Once the customary introduction’s done, they continued their march in my direction.

Each step they took was a countdown.

I have to come up with something. Fast.

But what?

I can’t play dumb, they saw me. And they knew I saw them. Furthermore I’ll be all alone and cornered at my desk. I still haven’t perfected the hand-over-heart gesture; which usually – in my experience – leaves people walking away with an awkward look. And I actually prefer a more sanguine first impression.

I can hear their footsteps, meaning they’re just outside my door. Should I fake hand injury?

They knocked.

Without waiting for a reply, the office door immediately swung open.

It’s now or never. My eyes scanned the office. I see my stationery spread across the desk… My sight landed on my trusty ball-point pen.

Ah, the mighty pen. The mighty pen… Which unfortunately is rather useless at the moment. Unless if I use it to jab the lady’s hand. Yes, of course! That’ll spare me from an awkward situation. No, a voice whipered inside me. What are you crazy? Jabbing someone with a pen! Why, there’s a pair of scissors right beside it!

Wonderful sense of humor, my panicky brain.

“Hi,” a male voice broke the silence.

“Err, hi,” I said. I stood up and smiled at the two characters who just stepped into my office.

Good, I thought. Not yet an arm’s length.

My eyes stole a glance at my desk. Monitor… Hole puncher… Namecards… Paperclips…

They took another step forward. One more step to enter the “handshake zone”.

“This here is our new colleague, Miss X. She’ll be assigned to blah blah…” I looked at her and smiled, while my brain is racing to come up with some kind of evasive maneuver.

Namecards… My mind was on to something.

They took another step forward. An arm’s length.


She smiled, and I can see she was about to extend her arm. I quickly took one of my namecards and said,

“Oh so you’ll be working with them doing blah blah. I am xxx. And here’s my card. I’m a blah blah doing blah blah…”

Her extended hand naturally took my card.

The ultimate fool-proof tool to avoid handshakes at any cost. No acting, and best of all no explanations. (Image credit)

“So which project exactly will you be working on? Where were you at before this?” I continued with (honest) questions and pointed out my contact details on the card for – probably – future collaborations.

We talked, and a few minutes later they left. Sans the handshake.

So that’s the best tool to avoid any handshaking for whatever reason it may be. A namecard and perfect timing. And then talk.

Take some with you wherever you go. Whatever the situation, just make sure your hands are holding on to something. Like at a dinner party where a namecard is seemingly out of place, a plate of food on your left hand and a fork or your right would save you from the awkward handshake-avoiding moments.

And save the elaborate explanations when you know that person better.


Updated CPF nomination fatwa: (Re)state-ing Shariah?

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I had a discussion with a non-Muslim colleague recently. I find it pleasantly surprising that non-Muslims sometimes understand Islam more than I assume they do. While we have our disagreements, I was glad that the discussion was able to be expanded into the concept of tadarruj (graduality) in applying Shariah. Though I cannot answer all of his questions (I’m no jurist), the keenness of non-Muslims towards Shariah just shows how Islam’s publicity has given Muslims the opportunity to explain the religion to others more easily.

As a Muslim, I cannot say how important Shariah is to Islam, and a Muslim’s way of life. For a Muslim, the Shariah law outlines the dos and don’ts  of the religion, ranging from smiling as a courtesy to praying five times a day to the Islamic penal code. Sherman Jackson said it well:

…Shariah is not just “rules.” While the common translation, “Islamic law,” is not entirely wrong, it is under-inclusive, for shariah includes scores of moral and ethical principles, from honoring one’s parents to helping the poor to being good to one’s neighbor. Moreover, most of the “rules” of shariah carry no prescribed earthly sanctions at all. The prescriptions covering ablution or eating pork or how to dress are just as much a part of shariah as are those governing sale, divorce or jihad.

Such opportunities to explain and elaborate of religious issues shouldn’t be taken lightly.

The “updated” CPF nomination fatwa

Recently Shariah made news again, when the country’s government religious body made an update to a 1971 fatwa related to CPF nomation.

Unlike the commonly understood concept of writing a will to the inheritors – which by the way is also a part of Shariah called wasiyyah – the default status of a property left behind by a Muslim after his death is distributed under the faraidh system, where the inheritors are given a fixed percentage of the property according to Shariah.

This was also the crux of the argument under the previous CPF nomination fatwa in 1971, which stated that basically when a Muslim dies and he has a nominee for his CPF monies, that nominee is considered as a trustee. And as a trustee, the money left behind must be distributed according to the faraidh, instead of it being given solely to the nominee aka trustee.

I managed to catch local Malay channel Suria’s news coverage on the subject and they interviewed some guy in his office (I didn’t get his name). He said that the new fatwa is useful with the current times, and gave an example of a nominee who is also the deceased’s creditor; the creditor will get his loan back as he is the CPF nominee. Unfortunately this expert(?) overlooked the fact that any debt must be fulfilled to the debtor before faraidh can be exercised. Even if the deceased didn’t perform the hajj prior his death, and also has a debt to some guy, the debt to “some guy” takes priority over the deceased’s hajj expenses. And if there’s no money left for his hajj expenses after paying the debt, then so be it.

Debt always takes precedence before the distribution of wealth can take place. (See how sloppiness and lack of preparedness confuse real Islamic understanding?)

Was the “update” necessary?

Nonetheless it was understandable that problems arose when – for instance – greedy family members who were allocated shares of the monies under the faraidh, chose to abstain from compassion.  Example: Abdul the sole breadwinner of a family died and left his wife Minah as the CPF nominee. They also have a school-going daughter. Under the faraidh, the wife would get one-quarter, the daughter one-third, and the rest goes to the Abdul’s brothers. But what is the wife has to take of her sick, elderly parents alone? Or she herself is unwell that she can’t find other avenues of income? Or comes under unique circumstances where she really needs all the money – every single cent of it – left behind by her husband?

Such instances, although may be a rarity, denote the requirement for this specialized, tweaked fatwa. So this – at least in my deduction – partly led to MUIS revising their fatwa and coming up with the fatwa that a CPF nominee is no longer a trustee, but Minah (as in the example above) gets to keep more (if not all) of the money too, and spend it accordingly to her required needs.

A messy workaround

To recapitulate, with the new fatwa MUIS has outlined two clear choices for Muslims on what to do with their CPF money: (1) leave it without any nomination, and it will be distributed through faraidh, or (2) nominate it to someone, and he/she will get the whole lot under hibah, but only when specific fair needs arise.

Obviously here’s where it gets messy. One can always exploit the system when presented with choices. The faraidh system which was before this clean and clear becomes convoluted with decisions that is made based on assumptions. And negative ones at that; a person who chooses to leave a nominee will have to assume whether his relatives will look after his dependents.

I do not deny that there are sometimes complications when dealing with a lot of money, but I personally think that giving Muslims the option to bypass the faraidh is hardly the right way to go.

Faraidh is still faraidh, as the way to distribute money based on the Quran and sunnah. I see it as the fairest inheritance system revealed by Allah. The reason a man may get more than a woman, for instance, is because the man must support his dependents, while for the woman, her share is hers alone.

Fix only what is broken

The way I see it, the problem here was never about faraidh, but how the inheritors spend their money after distribution. So any kind of action or fatwa that is issued should not affect the the original distribution method (faraidh), but should instead focus what happens after the initial distribution, as therein lies the problem. Perhaps to implement rules which ensure the recipients to support the dependents accordingly, one which forces them to pay out money to the deserving dependents, such as a specific law for the deceased children’s maintenance.

In Islam, while there are disagreements between jurists on whether it is wajib (compulsory) to give nafqah (maintenance) to needy relatives, the fact that the fatwa is possibly preventing an uncle from getting his share already means that an uncle is effectively “giving” nafqah to his nephew, reflecting the Hanafi-Hanbali point of view in the matter (which I have no objection to).

The problem is that in Singapore, the maintenance law only covers a very limited scope, perhaps closer to the Shafi’i-Maliki view on nafqah, that it is compulsory only when the immediate parents or offspring are involved. I can see the intention to implement the Shariah (from whatever qualified madhhab it may be) that is indeed commendable and deserves the fullest support, but the confusing workaround that does is not backed by solid religious argument only over-complicates the whole process.

To be fair, the fatwa did state that it is a “moral guidance,” i.e. a disclaimer for it being being (a) non-binding, and (b) should used as the exception instead of the rule. That it why of a person leaves no nominee for his CPF monies, the default fatwa should still apply; it should be distributed according to the faraidh law.

Alternative motive?

It is also hard to dismiss that the updated fatwa serves to accommodate faraidh to existing intestacy laws as this was clearly one of the two options put on the Muslim’s table. Yet another thing that comes to mind is whether the fatwa issuance was a signal of any kind of pressure, specifically one caused by the difference in Islamic and secular law.

[By the way, there’s a recent CPF ruling that allows for automatic transfer of the CPF money to the nominee. This was highlighted to me after reading a report in The Sunday Times article a couple of weeks ago (“All-out effort to pay CPF monies,” 12 September 2010). Meaning once it is automatically and “conveniently” transferred, your nominee can’t take it out. So be careful if you intend to leave some money to buy food and clothe your dependents. Make extra care not to leave everything too automated. We all know once anything goes into the CPF account, it will hardly see the light of day.]

I thought I was out a bit of line to assume the existence of government pressure behind the fatwa, until today’s newspaper reported some ministerial support, especially when it managed to find the “common ground” between Islamic and secular law.

The Straits Times, 27 September 2010

This was also reported in the Malay daily, which after singing days praises for the “updated” fatwa, reported the same minister saying that “it is a positive solution which helps the reconcile the differences between Islamic law and national (secular) law.”

I didn’t realise they were being so straightforward in pointing out the real motive behind the new fatwa.

It doesn’t sit well with me when religious decisions are reached to accommodate systemic deficiencies of man-made law. The roots of Shariah and secular law – some similarities qualified – are still vastly different, and the objectives literally a world apart. So why even attempt to reconcile between the two? To “control” religion?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not dismissing all state-sanctioned fatwas, nor am I against all “new” fatwas. And I fully understand the need for the occasional fatwas based on recent medical findings or latest scientific discoveries. And neither do I question the good intent of the qualified ulama who painstakingly formulate the fatwa.

But what I view with deep skepticism are the factors which led to the call for “fatwa reviews”. I am rational enough to comprehend that certain times the are real needs for a fatwa review, like the Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA) fatwa. Other times, such as this, while the fatwa itself is perhaps arguable, the part where the trend is indicating a conformation to secular interests is where I draw the line.

I concede that the vast Shariah of Allah is being constricted perform only according to the Singapore’s existing secular legal framework, and so it has been for many years. That was touchy back back then, and it is still touchy now. The ignorant ones should be reminded that delicate existence of the two parallel systems should not be disfigured, just like a hornet’s nest should not be stirred. Disguised “updates” or “improvements” can be easily seen right through, especially when it constrict the Shariah further and further to in order to make it work (i.e. make it fit into Singapore’s system), leaving Muslims here with confusing and frustrating “solutions”.

It really does bring up the question of religion vis-a-vis the state. Maybe the state is actually hoping that issues like these will go unnoticed, such that we the good Muslims of Singapore will support any officially-issued religious edicts without thinking of its consequences. I pray that this fatwa is not a sign of things to come, where the Muslim is cornered and forced to nod to every secular (mis)interpretation of the Shariah. That will be tantamount to religious oppression.

Allaahumma n-Sur-naa yaa Jabbaar.


Further Reading:

General law will prevail over fatwa

General law will prevail over fatwa (Pt II): Nuzriah not as a substitute?


Text of updated CPF fatwa

“Fatwa tidak bermaksud perkecil hukum faraid,” Berita Harian

Lessons from a drunk

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Now I understand what you are saying! Before this I did not understand. I could go to hell for not understanding!” shouted the drunk from the middle of the prayer hall. He was oblivious to the stares and sniggers of the congregation. Perhaps most of them were agitated as they want to listen to the imam and make their way home. It was already past 10.00pm. But he doesn’t care. His attention was solely focused on the ustaz who was standing near the mihrab.

The night started out like any other night. I had decided to perform the nightly terawih in a large centrally-located mosque as I have heard of the guest imam’s ability in Quanic recitation. The prayer was led by a young and very qualified al-Azhar graduate, who is also a hafiz of the Quran.

Immediately after the witr prayers when the ustaz was about to share some of his thoughts in a short lecture to the congregation, the man had stood up, walked up to the ustaz, and whispered something to him. There were nods, a short conversation, and the man returned to his spot in the middle of the expansive prayer hall.

But almost as soon as the ustaz began his lecture, the tirades began. The man – who looked well-groomed and in his thirties – kept on questioning the ustaz, repeatedly asking whether he’ll go to hell if he does his prayers but doesn’t understand its meanings. The ustaz tried to answer his question but was always interrupted by the very questioner.

The poor man. I’m sure he hasn’t heard of the hadith where a man was granted paradise for giving water to a thirsty dog (see Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal). Or the man who was had his sins forgiven when he removed branches from a path (ibid.). Or the woman punished in hell for not feeding her cat (ibid., al-Bukhari and Muslim). All which shows that displaying compassion may be the tipping point in obtaining Allah’s grace. Not brushing off the importance of understanding Allah’s word, his query may also be answered simply with a copy of a Quran translation.

I contemplated on taking up the spot next to him to personally answer his question, but decided against it fearing that the wrong choice of words would spark off unexpected reactions and cause more disruptions in the mosque.

So the lecture went on, amidst the increasingly frequent interruptions and waning patience. What was initially thought as amusing is gradually being seen as an irritation. Even as constant haranguing was being directed at him, the ustaz pressed on with his mission, and broke into sporadic smiles to play down the congregation’s anxiety. Undeniably, tension was  in the air. Some members of the congregation were getting impatient. Some tried to approach the man, waiting for a nod or some gesture from the ustaz to approve his removal from the sacred prayer hall.

But the ustaz would have none of that. Though at a young age, the ustaz must have realized how easy it is for men to twitch from composure to tremor. He carried on with his lecture, occasionally waving his hands to men approaching the drunk, signaling them to leave him alone. Then another man approached, this time sitting beside the drunk, attempting to reason with him.

You can’t reason with a drunk man.

The nafs took over quickly. The ustaz was right to instruct the men to keep their distance. Because in the blink of an eye, the sanctity of the mosque was shattered by the sight of two grown men wrestling on the ground. Others quickly swarmed in. Then the men were standing again, and the drunk was flung hard to the floor. In the fracas, the crowd forcefully lifted the drunk and separated the two agitated souls. People were shouting. Mercy was lost inside the very prayer hall where Muslims ask for Allah’s mercy, in the very month where mercy is supposed to be embodied.

The ustaz then proceeded to quickly complete his lecture.

Afterwards he went out and met some of the mosque stewards. Some were commending him for keeping his calmness, but did not see that he was leading by example. He voiced his disagreement over the way the matter was handled. The way the man was handled. He reminded them of the Prophet’s ﷺ time when a man came to the mosque and started to urinate. In the hadith, the companions were about to stop him when the Prophet ﷺ said:

لَا تُزْرِمُوهُ، دَعُوهُ

“Do not interrupt him, leave him.” When he was done, the Prophet ﷺ called him and said,

إِنَّ هَذِهِ الْمَسَاجِدَ ، لَا تَصْلُحُ لِشَيْءٍ مِنْ هَذَا الْبَوْلِ ، وَلَا الْقَذَرِ ، إِنَّمَا هِيَ لِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ ، وَالصَّلَاةِ ، وَقِرَاءَةِ الْقُرْآنِ

These mosques are not meant for such things as urine and filthiness. Rather they are meant for making remembrance of Allah, and prayers, and for reading the Quran.” (see Muslim)

Maybe it was too long ago for Muslims today to remember our Prophet’s ﷺ teachings. Maybe it is nafs that failed to be tamed this Ramadan. Lest we forget, verily in you, my Liege ﷺ, is the best example.


Rethinking Islamic Reform

The Rethinking Islamic Reform conference, originally held May 26, 2010, features two of the world’s foremost Muslim intellectuals as they provide unprecedented guidance in the ever polemical topic of reform in Islam.

Oxford University Islamic Society is honoured to have hosted Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson (Zaytuna Institute, USA) and Professor Tariq Ramadan (Oxford University, UK) to participate at this ground-breaking conference.

The conference addresses the phenomena of how, in the post 9/11 world, it has grown to be an axiomatic truth that Islam needs to reform. Whether it is Western policy-makers seeking to protect themselves from Muslim extremists, humanitarian activists fighting to liberate silenced Muslims, or Muslims themselves responding to new paradigms faced in the 21st century, all are agreed that something within Islam needs to change. The question though, is what, and perhaps more pertinently, how?

Our distinguished guest speakers are well placed to answer.

As long as Avatar, but worth every second.