Wednesday, March 29, 2006

More on the Fate of Islam:

And an interesting anecdote on the liability of original thought in science and Islam -- how far is too far? For those intending to further their degrees in the science of genetics and microbiology, where we are constantly fed scum about evolutionism without the mere consideration of creationism, astaghfirullah:

And to all students of Melbourne Uni, in case you haven't been to the Frank Tate musolla recently, there is to be an Islamic Week beginning from the 3rd of April. There will be many interesting activities during lunchtime throughout the week, and I am sure that of particular interest would be the BBQ at the South Lawn (though it should NOT be so... :)) , the talk on the application of Islam in life, and the documentary of the Islamic empire. Seminars and discussion will be held.

Volunteers are needed to help publicize the event. Word of mouth is good, but hey, why not help put up some posters? InsyaAllah, it will all add up. :)

JazakAllahu khairan.

this has been a rant by Syazwina Saw at 11:56 pm


Assalamu'alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.

The post about choices will have to wait.

The topic of this article, rather hastily copy-and-pasted from, centres around a main topic of discussion in my head. I've been collecting different opinions and different views (some of which are reluctantly explained, and one which has been on hold for further research -- tak mengapa lah).

And so this is mui, mui importante to me, you see.

How to Attract Youth to Islamic Centers
By Fahad Mayet*
Mar. 21, 2006

In recent years, people have been posing the question many times, "How on earth do we get youth back into Islamic Centers where they will gain insights on their cultural and religious values and heritages?"

Whether you look at Islam, Christianity, Judaism, or even Hinduism and Sikhism, the solutions are fundamentally similar. To arrive at the appropriate answers, we must look at the spiritual needs of youth today and compare them with what religious centers offer.

Could it not be that many youths are not going to these centers because the needs of the youth evolve all the time, and that these evolved needs aren't being met? Our imams and community leaders need to get their psyche around the simple fact that what they once required when they were youth may have completely changed for the new generations.

We cannot load each teenager onto the same bandwagon that was used three decades ago and assume that the same formula will still work. Doing this will certainly achieve the antithesis of attracting youth to Islamic centers.

As a young person who frequently communicates with "community elders," I know that many of these people find it hard to accept change, let alone implement these changes into the activities of the mosques and centers that they are responsible for.

Young people today have more dynamic interests, and the work of religious institutions should begin working dynamically with them. If this does not happen, youth participation will decrease. Most youth are not going to walk into lectures at their local mosque or Islamic center on their own accord.

There are many things which contribute to young people's lack of participation, such as their fear that appearing religious will be perceived as being "uncool" by their peers, in addition to the lack of spiritual influence at centers and the lack of communal participation and interaction with other like-minded Muslims.

There is also a real need among our youth to be educated not only about the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), the Qur'an, and Sunnah, but also about the great spiritual thinkers of Islam. Learning about the immense cultural and intellectual heritage of Muslims who lived many centuries ago, and the role that Islam played on the intellectual world stage would be able to reversing the attitudes some of us hold about religion being "uncool."

Learning about the great intellectuals of medieval Islam, such as Imam Al-Ghazali, and our spiritual leaders, such as Jalal Ad-Din Rumi, will restore our pride in our heritage and help reverse the apparent "uncoolness" of religion. Reversing this trend will definitely bring youth and adults alike (some who hold the same attitude!) back into Islamic centers and circles. A few Islamic groups and institutions have already started discarding the "uncool" attitude by organizing fun activities that also incorporate religious education.

Many teenagers in our society feel that the spiritual nature of Islam is absent from the programs of many Islamic centers. Young people feel alienated in a way because they are bombarded with sermons that say they will suffer and be punished if they don't conform to such and such a law.

To be honest, Muslim youth recognize that there is more to Islam than the judicial aspect of it. Another side of Islam is the spiritual (Sufi) aspect of Islam. Although many of us do not know it by name, we recognize that there does exist a real spiritual dimension of Islam. We need not only to hear about punishment, but also how we can get closer to Allah and how we can earn His love.

It is this that modern Muslim youth yearn for but do not necessarily have awareness of. Many young people's disillusionment with religion may be changed if our institutions were to give a bigger picture of what this beautiful deen of Allah is all about.

We must also do away with the notion that Allah is vengeful and is waiting for us to put a wrong foot down — this notion is too often propagated by parents and imams. However, Allah is far from vengeful — it was related that there are eight doors to Heaven but only seven doors to Hell. This metaphor is used to portray the mercy of Allah and His favors upon His creation.
We must instill in our youth the idea that Allah is merciful so that they can appreciate Islam and seek to enlighten themselves in such matters by their own accord. Only through this will we be able to achieve true taqwa and piety.

Another aspect which we young people lack is a yearning for religious knowledge. This can be increased, as said above, by educating young Muslims about their heritage. But it also can be done in other ways. A friend once exclaimed to me — and this I, too, can relate to — "Wwouldn't it be great to understand what he [the imam] was saying?" My friend was of course referring to the Jumu`ah sermon which is traditionally given in Arabic.

Our zeal for knowledge would be increased by long overdue changes to the typical madrasah curriculum. Adding subjects such as Arabic into the conventional madrasah timetable would increase interest in Islam among many of us and would create a yearning for more religious knowledge.

However, credit must be given to many mosques and centers that have begun to overcome the problems of the lack of youth participation. Some places have begun with what teenagers like the most — being with their peers. Here in the United Kingdom, many mosques have begun programs and conferences designed primarily to engage youth and help them network with each other.

These programs usually attract massive numbers of children, teenagers, as well as the parents of the young people. They often deal with current issues concerning Muslim youth. Although this has begun, there is a long way to go before such activities are perfected.

It must also be said that although there are "youth conferences," the majority of these cater for brothers and there is a real lack of resources and facilities for the sisters of our communities. Something must be done to tackle this problem.

There was one such conference held in Lancashire, United Kingdom, which some friends and I attended.

Many of my friends described the conference as "exciting" and "really interesting," which proves that the organizers were on to something with regard understanding what appeals to youth. These ideas must be built upon to attract a wider range of Muslim youth who may have different interests, and facilities must be built up the for sisters.

These are just some of the obstacles the Muslim community faces with regard to getting "us" back into Islamic centers to study and learn about our faith. Only once these problems are overcome will youth participation increase in our communities. This is something we must all strive for, so it is ensured that we, the youth, are equipped with the adequate knowledge to face the world with regard to Islam.

At this point in time, Islam has been receiving so much bad press that it is necessary to educate our leaders of tomorrow so that this culture of bad publicity is reversed and Islam will be revered for what it really is about.


this has been a rant by Syazwina Saw at 8:49 pm


Sunday, March 26, 2006

I’m leaving on a Jet Plane

* This is a journal entry, one of the few publicly-readable ones, almost verbatim, from my very own diary (the one I shall keep in my room and leave to my grandchildren to read, so that they’ll be able to think, “Gee, no matter how boring my life is, at least it was never this boring.” Laughter.) Enjoy. *

Dear Diary,

It’s another year. Isn’t it funny? All this while – worrying about exams, my (non-existent) love life, my faith – and I suddenly find that Allah is giving me one of the greatest trials in my entire life: My acceptance and now-guaranteed departure to Melbourne University, Victoria, Australia.

Isn’t it funny – in that inanely ironic way -- that something you have strived for for years can suddenly be like the crazy dream you never expected would come true? Like when I was in INTEC, my friends and I never stopped saying, “When we fly…” And now that we can mean it, we attempt to stall the moment, just a little longer.

At least, I do.

I find it absolutely remarkable. It’s astounding that such a cause for joy (hello, Allah gave me a 97.45 TER, which is totally unexpected, thank you!) could bring me to the unravelling of my world as I knew it. Now that all the chaos has quieted down, what with my parents coming back from Makkah and my MARA forms mad rush, there’s more time spent in my head. Which may be both a good and bad thing.

First of all, there’s life without my parents. I have never really been without them, long term. I always came home for the weekends. And now, I’m going off for a whole year. I mean, how bizarre an experience can I expect? I am also going to be without Syamir. His annoying presence has always reassured me of my being home. I will definitely miss him. Now people are making this awful fuss about me. So I am going to Melbourne – it’s just Australia. Nearer to home than people would admit. Syamir’s going farther, I can feel it. I just hope he can too.

Next, there’s the packing. Which is insane. I don’t know what to do first – what needs to be done – what I will wear there. I try to picture life there, but it fails me. I just picture a room which is not mine. I’ll be living a life so different from my own. But at least I have Allah to help me cope. He will always help those who ask for help.

Which brings me to another issue: My newfound faith. I hate how it sounds so Christianish, but I guess few Muslims have said it in English. I feel brand-new. I feel reborn. I know what this is – hidayah. It’s the real deal – I feel it in the fibres of my being. I have a purpose in life now. I see the logic in every single aspect of Islam, even those which I did not see the point in before. My life fits, and the picture clicks.

I feel much closer to Allah. At times I feel I am too carried away by hal duniawi that I lose a bit of my connection to Allah. Alhamdulillah, I seem to know when. So I suppose that’s good. (*note: This is what I refer to as ‘tahap iman turun naik’. Now, return to reading.)

I’m just concerned that I’ve been changing because I want to live up to others’ standard of piety. For example, brother Ikhwan (*note: a good senior, abang angkat, and ‘atok’ kodi nombor satu) has been preaching about brothers and sisters and uhkhuwah. My parents are somewhat concerned that I might get carried away and join the tabligh. Maryam and Didie are the least fazed, following the Quran more closely than the rest of us, who seem to dodge around the rules most of the time. Na’uzubillah.

People freely use the words “conservative Islam” and “extreme spectrum” and “moderate Islam”, and I’m uncomfortable with all that. Islam is Islam. Ad-Din. The one and only path. Siratul-mustaqim (in one of its many contexts). There shouldn’t be subcategories or classifications. There may be differences in how we interpret the Quran and Sunnahs (insyaAllah not for our own worldly convenience), but it’s either we really follow the Quran as seen fit, or we follow loosely (again, na’uzubillah). “We learn with iman; we apply it with taqwa.” (Ustaz Hasrizal 2005)

So, as I write this, I’ve begun to see clearer my own self; my own identity. I may never abandon all my worldliness – I don’t think I have it in me. We’ll see. InsyaAllah I will never be carried away by the world I live in now. But I will try my best to follow the Quran – Allah’s words of love towards mankind – as it was meant to be followed – by my aql first, and my nafs last.

And that is the right way.

*Author’s note: So, as you may see, when I am by myself, and writing for myself, grammar and logical thought is not a great priority. I try my best, but my brain goes faster than my hand ever could. Haha. But basically I wrote this when I worried that my changes, from my soul right out to my physical appearance, were influenced by how people wanted to see me. Plus, I was worried about coming to a foreign country.

Now, I see that being a foreigner isn’t so bad. In fact, it teaches you more about the world than you could learn from being in a comfortable spot, and knowing where you stand in this world, all your life.

And for another, I’m still trying to watch my pace. I want change to be from me, and not from something I am told or taught or assumed to do. I want change to happen because I want it to, and because I am ready for it, insyaAllah. I want to istiqamah. I want my change to be constant, and not something I will only remember to do every now and then. Which brings me to the subject of choices and living them.

But that’s another blog.

this has been a rant by Syazwina Saw at 12:55 am


Friday, March 17, 2006

*I posted this on Syazwina Saw Stops Here, my other ranting blog, and the original continuance of this oft- and long-neglected blog. I thought it was one of my posts with a better train of logical thought, and alhamdulillah, it has at least one comment tagged to it, by Maddie the BraveHeart: "How... refreshing. :)"

And I don't know about you, but I take it to be a pretty good sign. Heh.

Wish my right leg the best of health, so I can go do the tourist thing tomorrow at Phillip Island and see the fairy penguins. I don't care what Zulus says; a penguin is a penguin, and I shall squeal even if it walks in an undignified way. And even if it's so tiny, tak penuh pun celah gigi. I am NOT that barbaric...*

Assalamualaikum w.b.t.

Excuse me, but just what is happening in the world today?

I personally think some people in the world made some very, very awful New Year's resolutions. Otherwise, how would you explain the fact that everywhere we turn, there are news victimizing Muslims all over the world? All of a sudden, we are becoming fugitives in our own world. Fingers are pointing at us, with hypocricy leading the way openly and shamelessly.

Iran is being persecuted, merely because they think their right to sovereignity is more important than to succumb to the outstanding pressure by people who simply do not understand them.

Our teacher, our guide, the al-Muallim who led a revolution for all mankind, and possibly the most tolerant, kind and patient leader we have ever known -- mankind's last prophet, Muhammad (may peace be upon him) has been ridiculed in widely-syndicated press, and all in the name of freedom of speech.

Rallies and demonstrations by people who are simply defending our right to practicing our religion, and demanding the same respect we give to others, are depicted as barbaric people in white turbans.A nation who has been persecuted recklessly and without valid excuse, Palestine, is not even granted their rights to tax rebates, merely because they have practiced the democracy that the West claim was theirs to begin with.

This all begins and ends with ignorance.

People of the world are ignorant of Muslims and what we represent. They do not know the truth of our religion, because somewhere throughout the years, we have felt shamed by being Muslims. We feel restricted in our own skin. We feed our own ignorance without shame. People who outwardly show their piety are 'uncool', 'conservative', 'behind the times', 'lost in modernity'. Islam, according to most people, is not relevant in the world anymore.


Seeing as how I do not have sufficient knowledge to discuss the merits of the religion while comparing its simple logic to others, I will not touch upon that here. After all, "we seek to understand, before we seek to be understood." But I think that that's exactly what has to be stressed upon here:

The importance of knowledge.

That's one misconception that people have of Islam. They think that in order to be Muslims, we have resist ourselves form the wave of knowledge and modernity. Islam does not, in fact, encourage ignorance, what else complete and total ignorance. Allah despices ignorance. Allah has promised to raise a person in His favour, should the person seek to learn.

So there is nothing holding back the new generation of the ummah from rising again, really. Nothing but ourselves.

When we judge something we do not know, and do not bother to learn, merely from what is being said about it from other parties, then we have truly discredited ourselves as human beings. For example, I would like to invite all of you, especially my Muslim friends, to read Dr Kareem's article at There, we can see the fully atrocious, shameful, ridiculous comments against people who have merely stated their opinion in a calm, logical manner. As it turns out, some people do not need an excuse to be barbaric. In fact, they are more often than not, the very same people who preach civility and condemn terrorism.

Now, THAT is a first-class example of how ignorance looks like. A'uzubillahi min zalik. Allah protect us from such a pitiful state.

But the real reason I brought that up is because I am frustrated at the way many of my friends refuse to opine about anything. Maybe I find it frustrating because I usually like to talk about stuff that are mind-provoking, although they usually end up people-provoking. But really now, every time I mention something about, say, politics, or current amendments in law.

More often than not, the general excuse given will be that it is a 'sensitive issue', and should not be discussed in public.Now, I think that that is another case-example of ignorance. I personally think that if you want to succeed, you have to have principles. You have to let them grow and flourish, but never let them dominate your mind until you have no space for new opinions and principles, even if they opposed you own. I mean, if something is right and true, then nothing can change that, right?

Why are we so scared to tackle serious issues? I mean, this is our country, whether we love it or hate it. We will inherit it. And we hold the metaphorical key to fixing the world in our hands. Why must we shy away from something that is our birthright? We must we prove right the adults who look down on us with disdain, because they think we are ignorant and irresponsible and shallow?

I'd hate to prove them right. And everyone else claims that too, but 'fess up: What have YOU done to better your mind today?

Time is a neutral thing. It will chase us down our road if we misuse it and take it for granted, or it will guide us to better and greater things, insyaAllah, if we learn to appreciate what we have been given. That is stated in the Quran. And though I know some people shall disagree, when it is stated in the Quran, it is true. Don't believe me? Take a look for yourself. It is no man-made marvel, honey. Because trust me, no human is that good.

And another thing? Tolerance is key. If nothing else, when we our opinions differ so much, we must simply agree to disagree.

Sigh. Such troubles in the world today.

As a final word, if anything I have said or done may have hurt or insulted you in anyway, I apologize in advance. I admit, my brain is very loopy, and I may not have all the facts straight. But I hope I have done them justice.

Wallahu 'alam.


this has been a rant by Syazwina Saw at 9:58 pm


Assalamualaikum w.b.t.

It's the first hour of Friday morning.

Do forgive me if you read this regularly (I seriously doubt it, though) and find that I am a tad too melancholic this rant around. It's just that I have gone through an emotional past few days. I can easily blame my hormones, or my environment, or the people around me, but upon further observation, I have found that the problem usually lies within me.

We just got back a few hours ago from another majlis tahlil and the following tazkirah. I enjoy these sessions -- in a land where you feel a dearth of faith, you tend to grab hold onto any strand of home and closeness to Allah that you can get your hands onto.

Plus hey, the food is good. The rezeki is good for those who seek knowledge, I suppose.

For the past week, my days have been decorated with a myriad of emotions, some too hard for me to decipher. I can only guess that it's a mix of terrible, awful homesickness, plus the anticipation of my --ahem-- monthly visitor (ah, the vagaries of the menstrual cycle!) and rush in trying to get everything done and into routine, so that I can get a hold of my life.

But now, come to think of it, it probably has a lot to do with my iman.

See, one's iman faces highs and lows. Sometimes, your faith is so strong, you feel like you can rock nations and face mountains with it. Other times, it feels like it's slipping away. Like a kite you're letting go, letting loose and free.

The latter feeling's awful, simply awful.

I feel that ever since I got here, in the busy bustle of trying to learn how the country works, I've sort of lost the plot. I forgot the reason, the intention -- the nawaitu -- of why I came here in the first place. In the midst of 'living the Australian dream', and struggling with the hectic timetables and the ever-changing prayer times and cooking (you were always right about my needing to learn to cook, Ma), the remembrance of why I decided to come to Melbourne sort of lost its way in the convoluted mess that is my brain.

My nawaitu, which is, quite honestly, fisabilillah, sort of slipped away.

Kak Ulfa's question to us newbies during the tazkirah really hit me hard. It was a plain and simple reminder of my purpose in life, and why I strive to survive here. I wanted to do this for Allah. Because of Allah, azza wajalla. For the Lord who has given me so many blessings, and presented this wonderful opportunity to experience life as an outsider, when it seemed like I least deserved it.

That was the only thought that made me brave enough to venture to this alien land, and this alien weather, and the alien people (though that seems grammatically wrong). The thought that we're all travellers in this lifetime anyway, and what difference does it make where on this earth I am, if I have Allah close to my heart?

But I feel as if I haven't tried enough to keep Allah close to me. Nauzubillahi min zalik.

Alhamdulillah though, recent incidents have reminded me that Allah still loves me, and gives me what I ask for, and definitely beyond that, Allah keeps on giving me what I need. A reminder here, a granted doa there. Lots of love and ukhuwah everywhere.

It all adds up to one lucky lifetime.

Alhamdulillahi Rabbil 'Alamin.


P.S:- An anecdote from one of the Kak Dayah's, "The local sisters, they used to come up to me and say, 'Assalamualaikum sister. How's your iman today?', and it shocked me, because just how often do we say that in Malaysia anyway?"

Or something like that. My memory sucks, and I am bad at paraphrasing. Sorry Kak Dayah.

this has been a rant by Syazwina Saw at 12:24 am


Sunday, March 12, 2006

Growing Up Muslim: No One Understands Me
By Altaf Husain, MSW
Sept. 14, 2005

News flash from the world to the youth: The young Muslim lives in many worlds. News flash from the young Muslims to the world: We already knew that and it’s no walk in the park. While the adults are busy declaring this week, this month, this year, and indeed this century as “the century of the youth,” “our future,” and the “next generation,” you, the young Muslims, are busy trying to get their attention to start a dialogue. You don’t want too much, you just want a chance to be heard. You just want a chance to share what you are experiencing as you grow up in majority non-Muslim societies. It is clear that growing up in such an environment poses formidable challenges to you. Whatever reasons, our community has not give much thought to helping you face those challenges and you are left thinking to yourself, “no one understands me.”

The last thing you want to do is to feel sorry for yourself and do nothing to help improve that dialogue, that communication with your family and with the community. You potentially face a lot of stress in negotiating the various worlds in which you live. With that in mind, here are some pointers.

Know Yourself
No matter what your family situation is like with regard to practicing Islam, remember that you have been blessed by Allah Most High to be a Muslim. If your family is practicing, most likely you were raised in an environment that helped you to understand and learn more about Islam and your obligations to Allah as a Muslim. If your family is not practicing or engages in minimal practice of the religion, and you did not have other relatives or friends who were practicing, there is a possibility that you were not exposed to the beautiful religion that is Islam. In either case, if you have come of age, if you have reached puberty, the responsibility to learn about Islam and to practice the religion rests fully on your shoulders and your shoulders alone. You cannot simply say “practicing Islam is too difficult because I live in a society that is mostly non-Muslim. How am I supposed to pray when I am in school? How can I fast when everyone around me is eating? How can I not date when everyone my age has a girlfriend or a boyfriend?”

You cannot say “the pressure is too great and I do not want to look or feel different.” On the other hand, you have to struggle to be a better Muslim in the face of all these challenges to your identity. You have to learn to navigate these challenges because of Islam not in spite of Islam. Once you exert some effort at exploring the religion and becoming comfortable with its teachings, you will begin to enjoy worshiping Allah and to develop a relationship with Him.

Take precaution as you learn about Islam so that you are traveling the middle path and not being tempted to veer from that middle path.

Know Your Family
When you feel like talking to someone, do you turn to your mother or father or neither? Too often, young people write off their parents as people who will never understand what they are going through so they do not even talk to their parents. To some degree, parents might not be able to relate to exactly what you are going through, but the general themes of what young people face while growing up are fairly consistent. Themes such as fitting in; struggling with peer pressure; choosing friends; spending time with friends; engaging in pastimes frowned upon by one’s parents; balancing social, academic, family, and religious responsibilities; and so on might vary with regards to how important each of them is to you in comparison to how important they were to your parents’ generation. But the themes, you will agree, are just as applicable to you today as they were to your parents when they were growing up.

The critical ingredient to making sure that your parents understand you is not to give up on them and to struggle hard to make sure they do not give up on you. Be fair, frank, and friendly with your parents. You cannot expect them to know everything about what you are feeling nor can you expect them to relate automatically to what you are experiencing. Be fair to them by communicating with them regularly and keeping them updated on what you and your friends talk about, what troubles you at school, and even what troubles you at home. The least effective dialogue is one in which you never speak to your parents and then show up one day with a major problem, expecting them to understand you, empathize with you, and rescue you. Be fair.

In addition, you should be frank. It is possible to be frank and courteous, respectful and gentle all at the same time. The key is to make sure that you are not using words or phrases to which your parents cannot relate. Just make du`aa’ and tell your parents clearly whatever it is that bothers you or is bothering you. Do not speak in circles or be vague. If you have made a mistake, admit it to your parents so that there can be a level of mutual trust. Admitting mistakes is a sign of maturity and seeking forgiveness is a sign of humility. Be mature and be humble, but remember to be frank.

As you bridge the gap between you and your family, remember to treat them as your friends. There is no reason for interactions between children and parents to be full of anger, frustration, and exasperation. Over time, you will find that your parents can relate to you and, in fact, your relationship with them will expand such that in addition to having a parent-child relationship, you will also develop a strong friend-friend relationship. You will realize you are friends with your parents the day you can share a joke with them or the day you can laugh together about a mistake that either the parents or you made. So remember to be fair, frank, and friendly!

Know Your Community, Your Imam
Often parents will seek to involve you in the local community and to interact with the local imam. Rather than treating their efforts as a threat or as a potentially uncomfortable experience, treat their efforts as an opportunity for growth. Throughout your interactions with community members and the imam, look carefully for the bright side, the learning opportunities. Some community members will be more interested in making sure that you keep up your cultural obligations than practicing Islam. Some members will mistakenly consider their own culture as superior to the American, British, Australian, or whichever country’s culture surrounds you. For them, any sign of your adopting the cultural practices of the “non-Muslim” cultures will be tantamount to turning your back on your origins.

Again, look at such a situation as an opportunity to grow. Help them to understand first that Islam is the filter through which you view the world. Therefore, with the assistance of this filter, you will accept practices from your culture of origin that are in line with Islamic teachings and you will accept practices from the majority non-Muslim culture that are in line with Islamic teachings. Of course, writing about all this is far easier than the stress associated with you knowing how and when to apply the filter. There is even greater stress associated with you trying to help the community members, and even sometimes the imam, understand that accepting Islamically-allowable practices from the non-Muslim culture does not make you any less appreciative of your culture of origin! Be patient and respectful with the community members and the imam. Just as we suggested with your parents, you should also be fair, frank, and friendly with the community members and the imam. Your goal should be to help them understand you better even as you begin to understand their perspectives on various issues.

Final Thoughts
Caught between managing the difficulties in living in a majority non-Muslim society and finding your way in the Muslim community, with families, community members and even the imam who do not understand you or the issues you face, is stressful to say the least. However, you are young, resilient and can overcome the stress with the help of Allah and through effort that you exert on your own. It is critical to know yourself, to know your family, and to know your community. Your goal is to move the dialogue from a state of “no one understands me” to a state of “with the help of Allah, I’m going to become understood by my family and community.” After all, when you face stress in your daily life, you should turn to Allah for sure, but also to your family and your community for support!

** Altaf Husain is a social worker in the United States and has been a contributing writer to IslamOnline since its inception.

this has been a rant by Syazwina Saw at 11:47 pm


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Assalamualaikum w.b.t.

Last Friday night was our very own Friday night party – Sisters’ Night, as organized by MUIS in the campus musolla (in Malay, ‘surau’, or as the locals call it, ‘mosque’). We all went there in anticipation of free food (less time in the kitchen!) and to meet local sisters. Instead, it turned out to be more of a Malaysian welcome for the influx of students from Malaysia. Still, it was definitely enjoyable. It was informal, and warm and cosy, plus the food was really, really good. I wish to learn to make pasta like they can.

But I digress, as I wantonly do.

There were three speeches, made by regulars in the musolla, as I have learnt from observation. Each gave a speech with an underlying current: the unity of the ummah, and living as a minority in a foreign land. Still, all three presented in their own way their experiences and added little anecdotes of their life here so far, and when placed side by side, they all made up for a very inspirational evening.

The first speaker was Sister Saraa, a Syrian-Australian (or is it better the other way around?), and a key dakwah figure in Melbourne. She was very sweet, and some of her first words were in praise of Malaysia. The way she said it made home seem better; nicer, more welcoming, more worthy of my love for it. That in itself was enough to make me choke up. And she hadn’t even begun her speech yet.

She spoke of how we as Muslims have fallen to separating ourselves from the rest of the world (please note my half-sleepy attempt at paraphrasing). She spoke of segregation in our own subconscious regarding the rest of the world; how we feel that because we have received the message of Allah, and because we know that Allah is on our side, we look down on – as I often see phrased in various English articles and translations of the Quran – the unbelievers; the kafirun. Sister Saraa said that the key to becoming a Muslim is to look upon others, and always feel in your heart that you are inferior to them. By being humble, we open our selves and our hearts to others, and we refrain from straying from the teachings of Rasulullah (peace be upon him). Also, she said, how were we to know how they would end up at the end of their life? Whether or not they would be in Allah’s favour when they leave this world is not something we have a right to predetermine. Wallahu’alam.

That point really struck me, as I have, admittedly, begun building this sense of feeling slightly superior to the people around me (more specifically, the non-Muslims), to counteract the tinge of fear and cautiousness that I feel whenever I stray outside the College Square community. I sat there, listening to Sister Saraa and felt a mixture of embarrassment and gratitude. I had acted in a shameful way. I had thought less of others, and in a way, degraded myself beyond their level. And my gratitude lay in the fact that Allah had chosen for me to attend the Sisters’ Night. It was as if every word Sis Saraa spoke referred to me; almost as if it was directed to me.

Sister Saraa also reminded us that the best way to live as a Muslim is simply to live Islam in every single way. The other Malaysian sisters have mentioned this to us. Presenting a proper example of Islam is a form of dakwah, and as Sister Lyn said, you would be surprised at how easy it is to be a Muslim in a land which is not yours.

Sis Saraa warned us of the temptations that lay ahead. The deterioration of ummah unity and the degradation of morality seemed to have evolved at almost the same time, resulting in some very trying times ahead. “Sins are presented to you on a silver platter,” she said (if I can quote her correctly). “And so that is my greatest fear for you. Because – don’t get me wrong – I trust you. I trust your soul. But I do not trust your nafs. Just the same way I do not trust my own nafs.”

It should be noted that nafs is how Malay got the word ‘nafsu’, and the commonness of the word in my mother tongue (literally, is it not?) sort of denies the strength of its threat, in all actuality. Alhamdulillah, living in a foreign country has given me a test of the nafs many, many times, and I now know my capabilities, and the extent of my strengths.

Part of the struggle, I’ve realized, is due to feeling estranged and different. It is definitely very easy to fall into the trap of wanting to belong. I have felt the lure (I still feel it, in fact) of the Nano iPod countless times, and I haven’t even been here for a month. It’s a common commodity; everybody owns one. And yet again, is it really necessary? I know for a fact that I don’t have ears enough to listen to all the MP3s a Nano can store. So what do I really need it for?

Resisting temptation is only half the battle won.

Next, Sister Nik Natasha spoke of her experiences in Melbourne. Being a 4th year student of medicine, she has seen many, many things, and said that she had a deeper sense of faith and a stronger hold of her religion. She told us that as Muslims, we were to hold strong to our beliefs, as we are the living, breathing, working examples of God’s divine words. To emphasize what Kak Lyn explained just the night before, she added that were we to give in to the unbelievers’ test of our faith and conviction, we might feel as if we are excepted, but at the price: we shall lose their respect in us.

And finally, there was Sister Rayyan, who is a displaced Malaysian, who has called Melbourne ‘home’, after she and her family migrated when she was really young. I’ve been told that she’s an active member of the Islamic Council of Victoria, and that she is a third year law student at Melbourne University. Her major shows in the fibre of her every being. She spoke to us on the importance of wanting to make a difference for the ummah – the importance of us wanting to take a stand in something we believe in. she described to us how the Taliban movement began: when two Islamic scholars decided that the atrocities that surrounded them had to end, when they witnessed a fight between over two tribe leaders over who had the right to sodomize a boy. And while she said that it did not justify the extent of the severity of rule in Afghanistan, she stressed that they had waited until the morality of the nation had reached its breaking point. When the time came, they had acted upon the best interest.

So I guess the question trying to be said is this: Should we, the youth, empowered with knowledge, wait until the world’s empathy and sense of probity reaches its ultimate low, before we begin to fight against the atrophy of demoralization?

Well, it definitely gives you something to think about, innit?

As we made our way home, we were greeted by a random gentleman, who was coming out of his car with his girlfriend at a parking lot opposite the university walkway. He said, “Hi girls!” in a rather jolly manner, though he seemed sober enough. He took a look at the plates laden with leftovers in our hands and said, “Came back from a party?” (Although it should be said that as his accent was rather thick, as with the case of most Aussie anecdotes, we only realized that he wasn’t speaking some foreign tongue like, ten minutes after he had left).

Come to think of it, we were at a somewhat party. But it was the best kind.


this has been a rant by Syazwina Saw at 7:55 am