Woi Vote Betul2 La!

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Presenting our special guest writer today: Johan bin Haji Awang

“Melayu takde bodek!

Bila time berbual, satu2 macam betul je kutuk PAP itu lah, ini lah, harga HDB mahal nak mampos, harga bas/MRT asik naik even though tiap2 tahun untung ratus2 juta. Harga barang kat pasar naik pasal government pilih landlord ikut harga supermarket, harga hospital naik, obat naik, klinik naik, semua naik. Gaji je tak naik2. Kalau naik pon very pathetic.

Dah tu duit CPF sendiri, da lah kena paksa simpan tiap2 bulan, dah tua belum tahu dapat keluarkan. Suka aku ah nak buat beli kereta ke nak pegi haji ke nak bukak bisnes goreng pisang. Duit aku apa! Tiap2 bulan aku simpan! Da lah kau makan duit bunga dia puluh2 tahun tak kenyang2 ke?

Abistu orang melayu masuk army pangkat tinggi2 pon jadi apa? Berhenti masok Ass-tar? Pilot cume boleh bawak cargo plane je. Navy? Hahaha jangan buat kelakar sini ok aku serious.

Apa Singapore takde corruption? Takde nepotism? Kau tengok sape pegang post paling tinggi? Anak dia jadi apa skarang? Anak dia nye bini kerja mana? Gaji brape? Apa takde orang lain ke boleh buat kerja2 tu semua?

Please ah. Ada banyak lagi. Orang luar datang belajar ada scholarship, da tu dapat PR senang2. Gaji pon muai, NS tak kena. Sini punye policy semua pasal duit aje. Duit duit duit. Takde duit pegi mampos. Kau tengok casino. Kena pelawa mcm anak dara. Kompeni2 semua lagi precious dari orang. Ugama jangan cakap, aku tanya ustat2 aku, diorang pon tak tahu apa direction skarang.

Aku da give up. Ramai orang da give up.

Cuma yang aku tak paham, lepas ye2 berbual2 macam gini, aku tanye orang diorang nak vote sape, satu2 takot nak jawab. Bukan pasal secret, tapi pasal diorang takot kalau diorang vote PAP nanti tak dapat beli rumah, kena target pat kerja, hidop susah lah.

COME ON LAH!! Korang dah kenapa??! Berapa ramai orang vote PAP pon susah dapat rumah jugak, bodoh. Nak bet? Kau tanye makcik2 pengampu PAP yang selalu pakai baju putih, rebut2 salam cium tangan dengan MP PAP semua. Kau tanye diorang anak diorang senang dapat rumah tak? Kau tanye diorang time diorang bayar bill api air ada dapat special “Pembodek PAP Discount” tak? Ke diorang ada special EZ-link card bila naik MRT jadi orang cacat nak kena kasi diorang tempat duduk?

Takde dok! Semua sama je. Ni semua dalam kepala otak kita je. Aku baru baca pat suratkhabar hari ni, ada opposition punye orang dia dulu2 pon vote for opposition, padahal dia keje civil servant siak. Lepas tu dia masih dapat promoted macam biasa. Kawan2 aku vote opposition pon masih sama je. Pakcik makcik aku vote opposition pon lepas tu dapat promotion boleh tinggal bungalow some more!

Kenapa?

Pasal vote tu secret. Diorang tak boleh track. Blog agaknya orang boleh track, tapi vote tak boleh.

Memang voting card ada serial number, tapi tu untuk make sure yang that the card is authentic. Lepas tu kau tengok cara the vote is collected, dalam kotak, diorang longgokkan semua, dengan kehadiran (kan aku da pakai proper Malay word) opposition party members, it is impossible to know who voted for whom exactly. Kalau kau rajen sket pegi baca la pasal ni (link 1, 2). Jangan jadi pengecut tak tentu pasal! Macam mana Melayu nak maju gini?

Jadi kau, orang Melayu, yang konon2 berani, jiwa pendekar, cucu Hang Tuah, sepupu Badang, and most importantly orang yang ada agama. Kau tahu apa yang betul, apa yang salah. Kalau kau hidup bawah Fir’aun yang zalim, lepas tu Fir’aun intimidate/bayar kau untuk pilih dia jadi raja lagi, padahal kau tak agree dengan dia, AND kau ada choice lain. Tapi kau still vote for Fir’aun. Kau rasa what does that say about you?

Bodoh, focus sikit boleh tak. Walaupon PAP macam Fir’aun, aku tak cakap yang opposition tu Nabi Musa. Aku tanya, kau punye punye prinsip harga brapa? $600? $800? $1000? Atau the perception yang hidup kau akan susah?

Nanti lain kali kalau kau kene make hard choices, kau cuma nak pilih yang hidup senang dapat duit je? Kalau gitu, kau memang patot jadi PAP supporter sampai mampos.”

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“Islamic” Spammers

No they’re not. But I can’t deny the entertainment value it gives during the occasional email housekeeping.

The common ones usually take cue from the generic spam email template and pepper in some religious terms.

Like this one here.

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Then there’s the those that go the extra mile and try to appear as legitimately religious as possible.

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[Edit] Top prize goes to the ones who include Quranic verses (although wrongly referenced).

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Honorary mention: Spammers who read newspapers.

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Can’t say they didn’t try.

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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.

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Further Reading:

General law will prevail over fatwa

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

Fawaaid.sg

Text of updated CPF fatwa

“Fatwa tidak bermaksud perkecil hukum faraid,” Berita Harian

The Epitome of Interest

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The image above is from a blog posted last year. The picture notes the clear difference in the marketing strategy to attack attract the Malay demography. While the national standard seems to be “know the full price before you commit”, the Malay standard have been condensed to “$xx only per week”.

Pity the Malays. The vast majority of whom are Muslims, are also the milked cows for the profit of corporations. True, the religion teaches them to spend within their means, warned them against idolizing trivial trends, and prohibits them from getting involved in riba: usury or interest, be it on items borrowed or purchased.

Different what is being preached, different what is being practiced. The issue of borrowing money to finance some purchase or necessity has been long in existence. Circa 1400 years ago, the final Prophet ﷺ had warned against getting involved in such interest when borrowing, giving its ruling as forbidden. But after 14 centuries, we see the same thing giving problems to those who ill-manage their money.

Interest, usury, or riba, all are of the same name. The Qur’an has stated its prohibition clearly

الَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ الرِّبَا لا يَقُومُونَ إِلا كَمَا يَقُومُ الَّذِي يَتَخَبَّطُهُ الشَّيْطَانُ مِنَ الْمَسِّ ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا الْبَيْعُ مِثْلُ الرِّبَا وَأَحَلَّ اللَّهُ الْبَيْعَ وَحَرَّمَ الرِّبَا

““Those who devour usury will not stand except as stands one whom the devil by his touch has driven to madness. That is because they say: Trade is like usury. But Allah has permitted trade and forbidden usury…” (2:275)

Recently, community leaders have mentioned – while understandably sidestepping the issue of riba – another factor closely related to similar financial interactions, which is the long-term monetary commitment. Such commitments may lead to other, more important priorities being rendered peripheral, such as education.

…Concerned Malay MPs and community leaders are taking unusual steps this year to get a simple message across: Spend within your means, save for your children’s education.

A series of radio advertisements encouraging families to ‘Bijak Belanja’ (spend wisely) will air during the Ramadan fasting month, which starts on Aug 22, at the time of the morning call to prayer and the evening prayer ahead of breaking the fast.

For those who are unfamiliar, the same source lined out the attraction behind monthly installments.

Under such schemes, buyers pay by instalments instead of a lump sum. Big-ticket items are more affordable because of the lower monthly payments but overall, a buyer ends up paying more for the item because of interest payments.

The proliferation of purchasing the latest non-essential items has turned into a sarcastic Malay joke; if the home of some Malay doesn’t have an LCD television or some kind of home theatre system, then it is not a “true” Malay home. The importance of having the latest big-screen TV and entertainment system, which has now evolved into the obsession for the latest car accessories and handheld gadgetries, epitomizes the sad state of affairs for those who find pride in such items.

Sadly, I’ve been to a gathering where the homeowner was engaged in the discussion of why he proudly chose a Samsung Series 6 TV (or whatever it is called) as opposed to other TVs; this, bearing in mind that the homeowner still owe his audience a considerable amount of money.

While not understanding that their actions are being the butt of jokes, the trivial understanding of the issue is further compounded by the their showering of PSPs and handphones to their offsprings, and the purchase of jewelleries on installments (famously heard on radio: “pakai dulu bayar kemudian” – wear now pay later). While it is still very much a family affair, such irresponsible spending of money claims newer, weaker victims through peer pressure and the fear of being looked down upon.

Within Grasp

One factor of the problem is due to the availability of financial instruments to fulfill one’s desires. Such instruments, with banners promising payment starting in 2010 and $0 downpayment, is but a marketing gimmick which has been in existence for ages. But the increasingly so-called affluence of the Malays makes the instruments freely available within their reach.

Previously, lack of higher education means that the annual yearly income hover below the $30,000-per-annum standard to obtain credit. But now, after obtaining the diploma or degree, the $30k.p.a. isn’t really a rarity. The hand grabs what the heart desires. And the thirst Son of Adam will never be fully quenched.

لو كان لابن آدم واديان من مال لابتغى واديا ثالثا ، ولا يملأ جوف ابن آدم إلا التراب

“If the Son of Adam had two valleys of riches, he would ask for a third, for the cavity of the Son of Adam cannot be filed except with dust (i.e. he will never be satiated until he is dead).”

-Narrated by al-Imam Muslim

So as long as visitors and friends give that polite compliment, it’s worth it?

Buffet Spread

Another factor – even more vital perhaps – is the lack of religious education, combined with the lack of emphasis on the importance of spending within their means, aka the aspects concerning what some would term the  “essence of the religion” – matters which are taught not as rules and regulations, but mentioned as the attributes of the wise or characteristics of the scholars. But really, it’s actually just common sense.

While Islam has a holistic approach on life and lifestyle, ranging from everything to what to eat, wear, and spend, its followers still focus on the “regulation aspects” and decide to pick-and-choose which part of it they want to follow.

A non-Muslim friend commented that she always see Muslims abstain from pork and observe the Ramadan fast. But she doesn’t understand why they still do not cover up their ‘awrah, or refuse to perform the five daily prayers, or consume alcohol after dinner.

Giving the benefit of a doubt, I would say: “Well, maybe these people are new Muslims; perhaps they are just starting to learn about their religion.”

Confused, she would say: “But I thought Muslims believe in Allah? If they do, why don’t they follow His rules? You know, it’s not like God needs to reason his commands.”

Maybe she’s right. The religion we see now, after being practiced by our elders for so long, is increasingly being seen as a culture. While culture is usually more inclusive to others while at the same time giving some sense of belonging, the caveat is that – unlike religion – it can be changed, plucked, mixed and matched at whim.

The famous ketupat can be changed with lontong, the rendang with another dish, the pelita (candle lights) with electronic ones, and the list goes on. That’s culture for you. For religion, no mix and match dicated by fickleness; it must be based on religious basis and canonical principles.

Nevertheless, some Muslims are most known for abstaining from pork, but apparently not drinking. Most observe fasting, yet forget the five daily prayers. Almost all solemnize marriage religiously, even in mosques, but not all cover their ‘awrah.

Such is the epitome of the interest. The prohibition of riba and usury is clear, and interest is just another name. Perhaps as it is not both religiously and culturally inculcated in Malay-Muslims like the prohibition on consuming pork, it leads to most still being unaware that they need to give away the monthly interest in their bank account. Many still see fixed-deposits as nothing wrong, just as buying the shares of conventional banks, and profiting from their generous dividends.

Perhaps more focus needs to be given to educate Muslims on these issues. True, basic understanding of the religion starts with the five tenets such as solat (prayers) and zakat (tithe), but other aspects of the religion shouldn’t be neglected too.

Religion is not like a buffet spread.

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Better Rich or Better Poor?

As we toil day by day, partly dictated by the chains of this world, in an attempt to succeed in both, a question arises.

Which is better, being rich or poor?

The Prophets and the early predecessors were rich, and better than most poor. And there were those that were poor, and better than most who are rich. And the “perfect ones” (الكاملون) are those who fulfill the two criterias; they are completely thankful (when rich) and patient (when poor).

Like our Prophet ﷺ, and Abu Bakr and `Umar (radi Allah `anhumaa). But sometimes poverty is better for some than being rich, and for others, being rich is better for them; just like being healthy is better for some.

As narrated in a hadith by al-Baghawy and others:

“There are among my slaves who doesn’t benefit except (from) being rich, and if he is poor it will corrupt him. And there are among my slaves who doesn’t benefit except (from) being poor, and if he is rich it will corrupt him. And there are among my slaves who doesn’t benefit except (from) being ill, and if he is healthy it will corrupt him. I have arranged for my slaves, I am on them, all-knowing and all-seeing.”

Excerpted from:

Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmu’ al-Fatawa (A Compilation of Fatwas), Vol. 11.

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*The secret* to being a millionaire?

What’s the secret according to Reader’s Digest?

Spend wisely.

Every millionaire we spoke to has one thing in common: Not a single one spends needlessly. Real estate investor Dave Lindahl drives a Ford Explorer and says his middle-class neighbors would be shocked to learn how much he’s worth. Fitness mogul Rick Sikorski can’t fathom why anyone would buy bottled water. Steve Maxwell, the finance teacher, looked at a $1.5 million home but decided to buy one for half the price because “a house with double the cost wouldn’t give me double the enjoyment.”

And they continue on saying:

It’s not a fluke: According to the 2007 Annual Survey of Affluence & Wealth in America, some of the richest people “spend their money with a middle-class mind-set.” They clip coupons, wait for sales and buy luxury items at a discount.

The Quran Says

وَآتِ ذَا الْقُرْبَى حَقَّهُ وَالْمِسْكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَلا تُبَذِّرْ تَبْذِيرًا

إِنَّ الْمُبَذِّرِينَ كَانُوا إِخْوَانَ الشَّيَاطِينِ وَكَانَ الشَّيْطَانُ لِرَبِّهِ كَفُورًا

“And give to the kindred his due and to the Miskîn (poor) and to the wayfarer, but spend not wastefully (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift (tabziir). Verily spendthrifts (al-mubazziriin) are brothers of the evil ones; and the evil one is to His Lord (himself) ungrateful.” (al-Israa’:26-27)

Do you feel rich by spending a lot?

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