Monday, December 18, 2006

Sound Advice

“You are truly selfish, that’s all I have to say to you!”

“Hey!” she protested, thinking it was a bit unfair to be hurled such heavy accusations in the middle of the night, with a pounding headache to match. She rubbed the creases on her forehead that seemed to deepen by the day. She shut close the laptop and turned to glare half-heartedly at her roommate, Nadirah. Her head couldn’t handle full-fledged at this point. It was ready to buckle, and the lone pillow that lay just less than a foot away from her was beginning to beckon seductively.

“Well, it’s true!” her opponent insisted. “Look, you’re tired, you should take a break. It’s impossible, really, seeing you work at those letters all night long. Plus, it’s pretty hard to sleep with the light emitted from that machine distracting my eyes from its deserved rest.” She shook her head in frustration. “You won’t even share the load, even though we work in the same department. I mean, come on, it’s not as if you don’t ask my opinion for half the problems in there, anyway.”

Dania let out a sigh and leaned back against the frame of the bed. She wasn’t in the right mind to argue to win. She’d just have to mumble her way through this one, because she recognized that obstinate look on her friend’s face.

“Dirah, come on, it’s my job, and I’d feel guilty if I don’t finish it on my own. You know how strict Hazirah is,” she reasoned, giving a feeble raise of the eyebrows. “She nearly came down on me this morning for asking for an extension for my deadline. Regardless of the fact that the impact of her merely sitting on me would be enough to cripple me for life. She’d freak if I don’t complete this month’s column by tomorrow.”

Nadirah shook her head again and tutted Dania’s choice of words, making Dania squirm. “No ghibah; no backbiting our fellow sisters, y’hear? You should apologize to her tomorrow. Even if she is sleeping in the room next door and can probably hear you anyway, since she seems to NOT WANT TO SLEEP!!” Dirah rapped the adjacent wall sharply, to the retorts of, “Yes, Cik Dirah, I will sleep after I’m done fixing this issue’s margins, okay? You get some sleep; you’re driving us around tomorrow, sister, and there will be no arguments about it!” An ominous chuckle emanated through the wall, and then the furious tapping of keys resumed.

“Read the du’a for sleep first, Haz!” Dirah grinned and sat down on the bed opposite her and absently tapped the humming laptop. “But get some rest, okay Nia? I know you still have that oral presentation for Ms. Ng tomorrow.”

The monitor was back up. “Hm. I’ve got it under control.” She had barely typed two characters when she looked up, straight into the concerned eyes of her friend. “Look,” she reasoned, “I only have one letter left. I’ll try to make it a really long solution, so I’ll fill it up to the margin. Then I’ll get to bed. Okay?”

Dirah hesitated for a second. “Fine. But only one letter. Or I’m calling your mother.”

“I didn’t know you’d stoop that low.”

“Hey, we had an agreement. I keep an eye on you and make sure you get out of this semester in one piece, and she gives me all the chocolate cake I need.”

“Careful, you’ll get sick with too much of that stuff.”

“You’re just jealous because you tire of chocolate easily.” She stood up in a flourish, finishing with a bounce of her feet. Dania marvelled at the abundance of energy her roommate had, even at – she faltered, checking her computer’s clock – 12.30 a.m. “I’m going to wash up and get ready for bed.”

“Ya. Just get some sleep, will you?”

“Going, going, gone.”

Dania fingered the letter which contained the predicament she was addressing. The author of the letter was having trouble getting enough sleep at night. Dania could relate. she still had a term paper to complete, plus she had to add the finishing touches to the graphics accompaniment to her oral presentation. Sleep was becoming a distant friend.

However, she thought the Sleepless in Selangor’s problem was a bit more medical than it was logical. SiS had been unable to sleep for weeks. She was dead tired, but she couldn’t seem to fall into slumber. Dania really didn’t see how she could possibly give any advice for this problem.

Salaam Sleepless in Selangor,

Your problem seems to be more complicated than you think it is. Trust me, I completely understand your dilemma. Now that we’re in university, slumber seems to be the only goal in mind; maybe even the one thing that keeps us going through the endless lectures and tutorials. The way I see it, I only have two options:

I can be irresponsible and recommend you this wonderful sleeping drug you can get over the counter, and possibly get slapped with a manslaughter suit, or
I can tell you to go seek professional advice (I suggest a doctor, rather than a shrink because no matter what you say, insomnia is a medical problem) and end this response now.

I choose the latter.

Sweet dreams!

Cracking her knuckles, she stole another glance at her pillow in the corner, and fixed her eyes on the computer screen determinedly. She scratched at a mosquito bite at her elbow.

“Lisa, will you fumigate the room with Shieldtox for us, please? Thanks, dear!” she called to her housemates in the next room.

“We’re all out. Will Ridsect do?”

“I can’t care less, as long as you get rid of these nasty creatures!” She clawed ferociously at her elbow again, and plucked out the final letter for the night.

Covering her yawn with a free hand, she fingered the edge of the paper. She recognized the crinkle of the paper and the smudge of the black ink. The person wrote the letter in a hurry, and she suffered from a severe form of hyperhydrosis. Also known as ‘really sweaty hands’. She knew the side effects firsthand.

Dania quickly skimmed through the letter to determine what she was dealing with, so she could work out the generic reply in her head. She did that whenever she was pressed for time. Sure, she felt ostensibly guilty about it later, but there was always last-minute editing. Praise Allah for technology.

Tapping her pen on the temple of her forehead into a percussion beat from one of her nasyid, she wondered absently why their magazine even ran an advice column, anyway. And then she remembered how it all evolved from a few questions addressed to the editor, before it became a teensy slot in the middle of the double-spread features presented monthly, and then became the sleepless epidemic it now was. How had a magazine focused on the female Muslim college student get an anonymous ‘big sister’ like its other more entertainment-focused, intellectually-insipid counterparts? If Dania wasn’t only doing this to help her fellow ukhti, she probably would never have taken up this job. It had started out being only a few lines long, but then the letters kept on coming, and they soon lost track of where the problems ended and where the solutions began.

There would be no problems in the world if everyone would just focus on accepting whatever God has presented them with in life – the good and the bad. But as she formed the words in her head, aimed to address her blog audience, she realized that that sort of generalization was really quite unfair. Some people really felt lost and alone on campus. She was just blessed because she had chanced across a close network of sisters who supported each other through everything.

There were also those who really knew what they wanted to do, but were just looking for a second opinion; a person to aye or nay their alternatives, because despite what we say all the time, we actually like having a majority support for what we do. It makes us feel more sure of our decisions, and less afraid of the consequences. So really, Dania couldn’t blame the people who (unwittingly) turned to her for advice. She had no business scorning them, even if in her head, because they were all only human, and relied on other humans to get by. But it still made Dania wince when she saw that some people just do not realize that sometimes the faith and strength they truly needed and wanted can only come from God.

How many times was it that the dhikr would bring such calm into her heart? And every time she cried a little after prayers, during supplication, she would feel the pressing burden on her chest recede and lift away. Every time she sought refuge in Allah, it gave her renewed faith, because she was sure that everything from then on would be alright. Even if it wasn’t, she would be fine with it, because God would not give her something she could not handle.

'Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity.' (2:286)

Dania calmly focused her now slightly aching eyes on the next letter. She was not really sleepy, but her head was throbbing a silent beat against her veins, and she felt sudden longing for rest. But she had promised herself sleep only after this letter was answered, and she could not do away with it. She soldiered on.

Dear Ukhti,

I know that this is not your usual run-of-the mill letter, and I would like to apologize firsthand, in case you do not approve of what I am about to say. I think I just really need to put my problem down on paper, before I can sort it clearly in my head.

I think I am in love.
I don't know if I'm in love.
But something that makes me suffer this much, it should be Love, shouldn't it?

I have what you may call a crush on someone. Actually, I've had a crush on him for years. Although I've spent most of my life trying to be an independent woman, I've found that a single man can still occupy the deepest threshold of the female heart.

My friends call it normal, but it worries me that so much of my emotions and my time should be preoccupied with him and his existance. I know he does not deserve my affections. He ignores me outright, even though the signs are all there. He looks away whenever he sees me. He talks to all my friends, male and female, but acts like he doesn't know me. If he can so callously treat my heart that way -- to pretend that I, along with all my feelings, don't exist -- then I know I should forget him.

But I've tried, and I can't.
Maybe I haven't tried my best.

I don't think I'm looking for advise. I'm not really looking for a solution. All I want is another person to know how I'm feeling, and not judge me for being me, but just for being another person in her life, who doesn't amount to much. I want my thoughts to be read by someone who does not know me, and cannot make the decision for me.
But I would really like to know what you think of this particular subject.


Dania realized that her gape was spreading, and that Dirah was giving her funny looks from the doorway. She decided to ignore Dirah, knowing that being the ukhti that she was, Dirah would not ask unless Dania said. And as for Dania herself -- well, she felt that she could find no way to explain this. Nadirah had not been a part of her world prior to university, and had not been present during Dania's more painful years. She found it hard to swallow as she contemplated telling her friend, who she knew would not judge her, of her old five-year heartache, pining over the same boy.

He was one of the more popular guys in school, back when popularity was the thing, and he had stolen her heart by accident, during that fateful afternoon when she had heard him sing for an end-of-year contest. It might not seem macho, the thought of a guy singing, but he did so in such a gruff yet sweet way that even though Dania had developed a resistance against all things superficial-cum-popular, she could not but think of him over and over again afterwards.

She supposed that was how all crushes began. With persistent thoughts, until a pattern, so hard to shake, developed.

Maybe she was to blame for nurturing what she had deemed to be harmless at the time. She had begun by confiding her person of interest in friends, and then allowed them and herself to create an obsession in her mind, making it fashionable and almost acceptable to be wallowing in self-pity over the level of his response. Dania could not suppress a groan from deep within as she recalled all the stupid things she had done to grab his attention, all of which were to no avail, because he had taken to studiously avoiding everything to do with her. This, of course, spurred on more indignation and depression. The painful cycle that came from having a crush -- the irony of the word's other meaning gave her a small smile.

“Nia, you okay, sayang?” Dirah ventured from her posting. “You’re being rather quiet, and it’s scaring me.” Dania could feel her grin without even glancing up. “That loud groan reminds me of when I wake you up in the mornings when you oversleep. Scary, by the way; don’t ever do that again.”

“Afwan,” Dania apologized. “It’s just…” She paused, taking in the scenario for a second. “Dirah. Do you remember your last crush?”

Dirah’s cheeks flamed on cue. “It’s definitely not something I like to talk about,” she admitted.

“Was it awful?”

She gave Dania a look. “That would be heading into the territory of ‘talking about it’.” She pretended to be miffed before relenting. “But yeah. It was pretty bad. I hate being in no control of my emotions like that. It was scary, being so uncertain all the time. I hope I never go through it again, insyaAllah… or if I do, that I’ll actually do something about it rather than sit around and mope.” Dania looked up from the letter to peek at Nadirah’s determined face.

“Taking a leaf out of Kak Basirah’s book, I take it?”

Another wicked grin. “For sure.” Kak Basirah was a senior of theirs, who had recently gained a reputation among their bi’ah for having proposed to her now husband. She had decided that she had had enough of letting thoughts of a guy cloud her head and her judgement, and felt that marriage would probably place them in a better perspective. She had reminded her sisters that it would be better to marry a guy and live with him for the rest of your lives, rather than to let obsessive emotions over him to weaken your memory and reliance on God.

Dania doubted whether she would ever have the gall to do such a brave deed, but she could relate, especially when she thought back to her school days. She gave another shudder. The things overreacting to feelings could make you do… Dania folded her legs under her and propped her elbow on the bed.

“Let me guess. The reader’s problem?” Dania nodded distractedly, handing over the letter. “What would you do without me?”

“Get less threats over chocolate cake bribes?”

“Su’uzon ke?”

“Eh, no. Only joking, dear.” Dania gave her an apologetic grin. “Forgive me?”


“Jazakillahu khayr. So. What should I tell her, you think?”

“The truth.” She snuck a glance at Dania. “How do you feel about crushes and dating? Start with that. Be completely honest, as she wants you to.” She gave a reluctant yawn. “A’uzubillahi mina syaitan nir rajim.”

“I’m sorry, habeeb. I forgot you were on your way to bed.”

“Ah, relax. A little less sleep didn’t hurt anyone. Waking up early tomorrow?”

“I can’t,” she said meaningfully.

“Ah. Oh, well. Salaam.”

“Wa’alaikumussalam. ‘Night.”

Dania had wondered what she could possibly tell this girl. It’s at times like these, when the responsibility squared itself on her shoulders, that she was reminded of how things were, before she understood. Before she saw how things really worked, and before she started fully embracing everything about her religion that she had previously been scared of. Before she realized that Islam was a way of life filled with ‘can’s, and few‘cannot’s.

Things back then had felt easy, perhaps because she had not felt guilty about being selfish. She had no need to consider the consequences of her actions. She could’ve been inconsiderate, for she had felt good manners to be merely a moral chore. She had not felt the need to stop and think. The memories gave her an involuntary shudder and she felt a pang of annoyance at the person she once was.

Well, she thought, better to learn now rather than never.

Dania kneaded the back of her neck, knowing instinctively that this would be a very long reply. Hazirah would be happy, and should she finish this soon, she would get some sleep, which would make her effectively pleased as well. But how to start?

She listened to the steady, reassuring tap-tap of Hazirah’s keyboard in the next room, knowing that Haz would work late into the early morning and not sleep much. She admired that her friend would sacrifice so much of her own pleasures for the sake of helping spread the message around, knowing that Hazirah’s intention, insyaAllah, God willing, would always be on the right path. Sometimes Dania found herself questioning the state of her heart, and the heart of her niyyah. She wondered whether anything had come in between her doing this purely for the sake of Allah.

She pleaded silently to God to keep her on this path He loved.

And then it came to her. Slowly taking form at its own pace, the thoughts, rearranging into words, settled themselves at the edge of her mind. She cracked her knuckles with a sharp cry of praise, “Alhamdulillah!”, and let it run through her.

Salaam Anonymous,

Trust me, at one point in my life, my situation was almost exactly like yours, except that it took place during my formative secondary school years, which were awful at educating me about how the real world worked. Try placing yourself out and away from the problem, and tackling it from that sort of perspective. Look around you and see whether there are guys better than this guy you’re crushing on. Ask yourself why you’re still hanging on to something that he doesn’t want to happen, and don’t fool yourself by thinking that you know better than he does right now.

And as your sister, I’m telling you: When that daydream involving him arrives at your doorstep, crush it like the bug it is. Don’t let it live, because it’ll just feed something that does not exist, and thus, is not worth your time.

I know I sound awfully harsh, but the truth is, Anon, that I have experienced firsthand the life-sucking capabilities such crushes have, and I am keen on removing such fallacies from anyone I know with even the earliest symptoms. I refuse to allow anyone to look back at their lives and feel a pang of regret over having wanted to date a guy who isn’t even man enough to acknowledge that you exist. Don’t sink further into the manhole, dear.

While we’re at it, and since you asked my opinion of it, I’ll give it to you straight: I do not believe in dating. I used to dream about it, often with the question nagging at the back of my mind: After all the fun is over, and we’re married, where would we begin again?

Close observation of the people around me tells me that we’re not honest when we date. Of course we’re not! We just want to be happy, to enjoy each other’s company. That involves hiding certain things and making up others, either with intention or not. In the end, the person you choose to spend the rest of your life with is no longer the person you fell in love with. Which upon even closer observation, reveals that it hurts.

However, if you love a person, and a person loves you for the sake of God, and you both share a great love for Him, then you would, in your deepest of hearts, not want to damage either relationship. You would both do what God asks of you (which is to not to even approach anything that encourages pre-marital relations, as a reminder), and do what is right by the both of you. You would learn about each other before marrying, as per sunnah, but if your love is for God, if it is fillah, then by God, you would do anything in your power to make it work, wouldn’t you? Despite differences, and despite odds.

With prayer and love and tolerance and understanding -- basically by doing everything Allah asks you to do -- it would work, insyaAllah. And I know this sounds idealistic and somewhat unreal, but I’m telling you because I believe in it; because I’ve seen it work, and working still.

So worry not about the future till it comes. If you find yourself falling for someone, take that faithful plunge and go for it; make it worth something by the sanctity of marriage, and then make it work. Don’t allow opportunities to let something as wonderful as love, mess with your head and make you lose hope.

I’m sorry if I sound too passionate, but something about your plight struck a chord, and here’s to hoping my dear editor would not cut me too much slack in making this a tad long.


Standing up, Dania trudged out the door and into the next room, leaning on the doorframe for a second, absorbing the sight of a person working harder than she was at 1.30 in the morning. Feeling someone’s eyes on her, Hazirah finally looked up from the thick pile of notes in her lap and gave Dania a nod.


“I’m done.” She was glad she could say this, finally.

“You want me to see it.” A statement, rather than a question.

She shrugged. “If you must.” She offered a grin, surprised when Haz smiled back. Haz had just moved into the house, and Dania found that she was slowly bucking almost all of Dania’s ideas of her from the very day she arrived. It helped allay the odd feeling of having her previously physically distant editor separated from her by a single wall.

“I will, then.” They both made the few steps into the next room and plopped down on the floor. Dania purposefully looked away as her editor’s eyes quickly scanned the laptop’s monitor. Suspense never agreed with her.

“I approve.” Dania looked back at Hazirah in surprise.


Haz nodded, a half-smile stuck to her face. “I think it’s a good response. Could lose the last sentence, though.”

Dania gave a loud chuckle, making Nadirah shuffle uneasily in her sleep. “Alright. Sorry about that jibe about you being able to cripple me, and all,” she said earnestly.

Haz shook her head. “Eh, forget about it. And you can tell her you were merely repeating what I said.”

“And let her tutting get at you instead? You serious?”

She considered this for a moment. “On second thought.”

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this has been a rant by Syazwina Saw at 2:32 pm


I want to write.

Assalamualaikum wrh. wbt.

I was blog-hopping as I regularly am, and I was stopped in my tracks by a story posted by my fellow blogger (go hunt the tale down Circling Thought by yourself).

It has been so long since I sat down to write something. I mean, really write something I could be satisfied of.

Ever since I learned how to read, I had started writing. There are several book from my early years, where proof of my writing by sheer mimickry is still evident. So I suppose that though I was late in realizing my natural gravitation to the written word (thanks to much prodding from my dear Weili), it was always there, waiting to come out.

Right now it feels like I'm being barraged by inspiring and aspiring writers. A quick stroll in the local bookstore, and I see the Cerekarama-type romance novels given cute, modern bookcovers. I pick up the paper, and I read a review on a book about a novella by a Malaysian teenager who had attempted something along the lines of Cabot's Princess Diaries (which I can't believe I fell for hook, line and sinker). I look out the window along PJ old-town, and I see a billboard for a movie based on a fantasy novel written by a mere kid.

It's enough to make anyone with literary aspirations and a sore case of writer's block frustrated.

Back when being famous was all the rage, I decided that I would write a novel. And actual novel, mind you, with chapters, and credits, and all that. Not to forget the current must-have of pop culture name-dropping.

I was going to write about the main plot of the story, but it sounds so contrived, unoriginal and silly that I've decided I won't even bother embarrassing myself.

But I take it that maybe a few people have read it, considering I even put up a blog for it, hoping to be discovered by some talent-hunting publishing house from the States.

Yeah. I truly was that naive.

Still, I have to admit that the narrative was much better, and sounds far more natural than anything I so much as attempt nowadays. It makes you wonder, how much self-restraint is enough?

I like to think that I've grown up, somewhat (although my parents, upon listening in to my first argument with my brother when I got back, prefer to disagree), and true to nature, my mind has made itself up about a lot of things. It contains a whole lot more principles now that insyaAllah, I will try hard not to jinx.

Along with this new turn of events, I've realized that writing has to be more than just a means to be rich. It's more than just a way to be famous.

It's about carrying the burden named 'responsibility' as best as you can.

If I can scoff at horrid novels and half-hearted writing, then I sure don't want to be all that.

I want to carry a message.
I want to help educate.
I want to set things clear.
I want to stimulate thought.
(A little argument may result of this, but a little, I can handle.)
I want to spark change.
And oh Allah, I don't want to be a hypocrite. Na'uzubillah.

(O Allah, prevent me from doing something for the wrong reasons altogether -- please let my niyyah be pure. Amin.)

I just wish I knew what I could write about.

I am very welcome to ideas right now.

Help is very much appreciated.


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this has been a rant by Syazwina Saw at 1:10 am


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Isnim bina, wa nu'min sa'ah.


I feel as if little time has passed between before and after Melbourne.

And then a nagging feeling strikes me between the lungs and asks me:
"Have you forgotten everything you went through in Melbourne?"

And every time someone asks me about how it's like, studying overseas,
I wonder if I have.

The things I do seem to suggest that.

Have I tripped at the first step, yet again?

Sometimes I stop to think. I falter at the thought of nixing my principles.
It's hard to be the bearer of change.
It's hard to tell people that something is wrong --
Not by you, but by God.

The thought unnerves me.
What scares me more is conforming to what I feel is wrong, merely because I feel like I cannot overpower culture, not on my own.

And when I see what goes on around me, it catches me by the throat that all I can do is just criticize it in my heart.

I do not agree.

I am so worried that I act as if I have never undergone change.

For now it often strikes me that I do not act like an example should.

So maybe this is a cry for a little help.


(Missing the bi'ah)

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this has been a rant by Syazwina Saw at 9:49 pm


Friday, December 15, 2006

Dissection of jumbled thoughts.

This past week has been pretty hectic. I've gone from spending languid days with my parents, them trying hard not to spoil me when we go out for meals and at family outings to the mall, to practically meeting a new relative every other day.

You see, my cousin is getting engaged to her best friend. This Saturday has been over twenty years in the waiting, and you'll be sure that everyone on both sides of her family will be there for noisy moral support. She won't have it any other way, either, what with half-joking threats to her cousins that they shall all attend without fail. A bride-to-be, regardless of how far off the wedding is, is a formidable thing to behold.

The relatives from our mothers' side are coming out of the woodwork. It's a funny thing. I get all excited and bubbly until I tend to forget myself, and start becoming as peaky as the younger children on Mentos. But large families are really something. They're filled with drama, laughter and a lot of undeclared love, the gruff, unconditional sort.

They're also a really good study case on human behaviour.

My mother always told us that the best way to know what a person is thinking is to observe the things they say and do; their reaction towards you. She particularly stresses on this whenever she feels that either one of us has crossed any limits. Taking her advice subconsciously to heart, I've found myself making inferences on what it's like to be STARTING a family.

All this talk about engagement and weddings, and having an insider's take on what goes on behind it all, has unnerved me somewhat. I have never been a fan of anything adult, and getting married, with a ton of responsibilities to boot, has always struck me as a dreaded but inevitable part of the future: to be put off for as long as possible.

Living by ourselves has led most of my friends and I to often ponder over what it's like to be married and living with someone you don't really know (take it from me, you never truly know what a person's like until you've LIVED with them). There's the initial deal about choosing the right person to spend the rest of this lifetime with, and then there's the part about procreating and setting forth your offspring into the great big world out there.

Shudder. Astaghfirullah al 'Azim.

If the idea of being responsible for a full-grown adult (in the form of spouse) scares me enough, the thought of having children simply terrifies me. Don't get me wrong; I love kids, and I no doubt want them as part of my future. I just can't imagine being responsible for the total well-being of a new person.

You'll have to raise them, feed them, make sure they're healthy and safe, give them an education, instill the best morals and principles, and try not to turn them into miniatures of you, all at the same time.

I mean, think about it. MasyaAllah, what a job. And it's been going on for eons, but still. Nobody really understands what it's like to be a parent until the dutiful day comes, and then nobody really treats it like its a big deal. But what an incredible responsibility.

Seriously, think about it.

In my case, I wonder what sort of a parent I would make. I wonder how I would go about explaining Islam to my kids, and making sure that I do all I can to keep them on the straight and wide. I wonder how I would deal during those formative years, so that I wouldn't have to worry so much later on.

Everything I place on/in my kids will be questioned on the Day of Judgement.

I try to place myself in my parents' shoes, and I feel their pain and agony. I guess my parents never expected that they'd still have to worry about their grown daughter, after all these years. I would never wish my lack of common sense on my kids. I can just picture my folks, worrying in the middle of the night over whether they've explained something correctly, or whether what they've given us, physically, spiritually and emotionally, is enough. How much is enough, anyway?

It's at times like these that I feel most grateful for my parents, and regret all those times I underappreciated them.

I look at my older cousins and their kids and feel a surge of pity for them. What a journey it must be. What a burden on such young shoulders, to have to pretty much SHAPE the next generation, the idea of things to come.

I wonder if they've ever thought of it that way, or if they just try to go through things day by day, so as not to feel overwhelmed.

I wonder if they've ever stopped to consider where they've gone wrong, or whether they think that there isn't enough time to muhasabah, so they shouldn't even bother.

I wonder if they feel as if they've loved their kids enough -- if they've considered being on the other end of all that emotion and affection. Do they think their kids understand how much they care? Do they expect love to come as a given?

I wonder if they're emulating their parents, or if they're trying to go in the opposite direction, or if they realize that no amount of concentration will undo the fact that they're raising their children the way their parents raised them.

I guess I cannot help such thoughts. I'm beginning to feel a lot older and sheepish, as I finally meet my younger cousins, all of them some nine months older -- gangly joints, toothy grins, mature vocabulary and all. They grow up so fast, and yet I am envious of their comparative youth.

I wonder if their parents have ever had the chance to stop and reminisce, and enjoy their children as people looking in from the outside. I also wonder what they would see, whether they would be pleased with their handiwork.

I also happen to know that no matter what happens to a child, they could barely be objective and look the other way in neglect, simply because he/she is their child. I'm almost positive that a parent has no room for hatred for their children, no matter how terrible the crime.

I completely admire the apparent selflessness of nearly all parents. No wonder they are blessed by God. How amazing it must be, to be granted the gift of being able to ignore yourself, and place the life of another above your own. How incredible the sacrifice, and what a feeling.

Here's to all parents of the past, present and the future. Us young ones can only dream of such courage. Until the day comes, insyaAllah.

And serve Allah and do not associate any thing with Him and be good to the parents and to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the neighbor of (your) kin and the alien neighbor, and the companion in a journey and the wayfarer and those whom your right hands possess; surely Allah does not love him who is proud, boastful

[Surah an-Nisa', 4:36]


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this has been a rant by Syazwina Saw at 8:48 pm


Thursday, December 14, 2006

To my Muslim Sisters.

I found this as I was browsing through I had a hearty chuckle when I read an article declaring Malaysia to be 'the image of an ideal Muslim country.' If that were the case, then why do most of its citizens not understand the meaning of the hijab, and how it's crux is a religious, not a misogynistic one?

(Direct reference to Kelantan's hijab reinforcement and the biased media hoopla that ensued.)

(And I do not believe the ancient and overused agnostic view that religion is excused sexism, so you can't argue with me using that stance.)

Anyhow, this was an interesting insight into what others think of us. I always have been particularly curious about what the typical non-Muslim Australian sees us, especially when the male ones tend to give us way more space and respect than we're used to in our homeland.

Maybe this is how they see us:

By Joanna Francis

Writer, Journalist - USA

Between the Israeli assault on Lebanon and the Zionist "war on terror," the Muslim world is now center stage in every American home. I see the carnage, death and destruction that have befallen Lebanon, but I also see something else: I see you. I can't help but notice that almost every woman I see is carrying a baby or has children around her. I see that though they are dressed modestly, their beauty still shines through. But it's not just outer beauty that I notice. I also notice that I feel something strange inside me: I feel envy. I feel terrible for the horrible experiences and war crimes that the Lebanese people have suffered, being targeted by our common enemy. But I can't help but admire your strength, your beauty, your modesty, and most of all, your happiness.

Yes, it's strange, but it occurred to me that even under constant bombardment, you still seemed happier than we are, because you were still living the natural lives of women. The way women have always lived since the beginning of time. It used to be that way in the West until the 1960s, when we were bombarded by the same enemy. Only we were not bombarded with actual munitions, but with subtle trickery and moral corruption.

Through Temptation

They bombarded us Americans from Hollywood, instead of from fighter jets or with our own American-made tanks. They would like to bomb you in this way too, after they've finished bombing the infrastructure of your countries. I do not want this to happen to you. You will feel degraded, just like we do. You can avoid this kind of bombing if you will kindly listen to those of us who have already suffered serious casualties from their evil influence. Because everything you see coming out of Hollywood is a pack of lies, a distortion of reality, smoke and mirrors. They present casual sex as harmless recreation because they aim to destroy the moral fabric of the societies into which they beam their poisonous programming. I beg you not to drink their poison. There is no antidote for it once you have consumed it. You may recover partially, but you will never be the same. Better to avoid the poison altogether than to try to heal from the damage it causes.

They will try to tempt you with their titillating movies and music videos, falsely portraying us American women as happy and satisfied, proud of dressing like prostitutes, and content without families. Most of us are not happy, trust me. Millions of us are on anti-depressant medication, hate our jobs, and cry at night over the men who told us they loved us, then greedily used us and walked away. They would like to destroy your families and convince you to have fewer children. They do this by presenting marriage as a form of slavery, motherhood as a curse, and being modest and pure as old-fashioned. They want you to cheapen yourself and lose your faith. They are like the Serpent tempting Eve with the apple. Don't bite.


I see you as precious gems, pure gold, or the "pearl of great value" spoken of in the Bible (Matthew 13: 45). All women are pearls of great value, but some of us have been deceived into doubting the value of our purity. Jesus said: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you" (Matthew 7: 6). Our pearls are priceless, but they convince us that they're cheap. But trust me; there is no substitute for being able to look in the mirror and seeing purity, innocence and self-respect staring back at you.

The fashions coming out of the Western sewer are designed to make you believe that your most valuable asset is your sexuality. But your beautiful dresses and veils are actually sexier than any Western fashion, because they cloak you in mystery and show self-respect and confidence. A woman's sexuality should be guarded from unworthy eyes, since it should be your gift to the man who loves and respects you enough to marry you. And since your men are still manly warriors, they deserve no less than your best. Our men don't even want purity anymore. They don't recognize the pearl of great value, opting for the flashy rhinestone instead. Only to leave her too!

Your most valuable assets are your inner beauty, your innocence, and everything that makes you who you are. But I notice that some Muslim women push the limit and try to be as Western as possible, even while wearing a veil (with some of their hair showing). Why imitate women who already regret, or will soon regret, their lost virtue? There is no compensation for that loss. You are flawless diamonds. Don't let them trick you into becoming rhinestones. Because everything you see in the fashion magazines and on Western television is a lie. It is Satan's trap. It is fool's gold.

A Woman's Heart

I'll let you in on a little secret, just in case you're curious: pre-marital sex is not even that great. We gave our bodies to the men we were in love with, believing that that was the way to make them love us and want to marry us, just as we had seen on television growing up. But without the security of marriage and the sure knowledge that he will always stay with us, it's not even enjoyable! That's the irony. It was just a waste. It leaves you in tears.

Speaking as one woman to another, I believe that you understand that already. Because only a woman can truly understand what's in another woman's heart. We really are all alike. Our race, religion or nationalities do not matter. A woman's heart is the same everywhere. We love. That's what we do best. We nurture our families and give comfort and strength to the men we love. But we American women have been fooled into believing that we are happiest having careers, our own homes in which to live alone, and freedom to give our love away to whomever we choose. That is not freedom. And that is not love.

Only in the safe haven of marriage can a woman's body and heart be safe to love. Don't settle for anything less. It's not worth it. You won't even like it and you'll like yourself even less afterwards. Then he'll leave you.


Sin never pays. It always cheats you. Even though I have reclaimed my honor, there's still no substitute for having never been dishonored in the first place. We Western women have been brainwashed into thinking that you Muslim women are oppressed. But truly, we are the ones who are oppressed; slaves to fashions that degrade us, obsessed with our weight, begging for love from men who do not want to grow up. Deep down inside, we know that we have been cheated.

We secretly admire and envy you, although some of us will not admit it. Please do not look down on us or think that we like things the way they are. It's not our fault. Most of us did not have fathers to protect us when we were young because our families have been destroyed. You know who is behind this plot.

Don't be fooled, my sisters. Don't let them get you too. Stay innocent and pure. We Christian women need to see what life is really supposed to be like for women. We need you to set the example for us, because we are lost. Hold onto your purity. Remember: you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. So guard your "toothpaste" carefully!

I hope you receive this advice in the spirit in which it is intended: the spirit of friendship, respect, and admiration. From your Christian sister – with love…

* This article is republished with the kind permission of the author. The original can be found onCrescent and the Cross.

Joanna Francis is a writer and journalist. She manages her ownblog.

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this has been a rant by Syazwina Saw at 1:29 pm


Friday, December 08, 2006


There is an internal struggle within
Where there lies truth and reluctance to face it
Where there lies facts and the tendency to turn the other way
And where there lies needs
With wants up-tipping the scale.

People call for 'balance'
Such narcissistic, greedy dreams do not exist
For yes, the decisions are extreme to the commoner
For the ends are extremes
And the means are the same.

Left and right
Right and wrong
The greys are few
And man-made out of the passion
To engulf this oyster with disgusting relish
And devour it whole
You deserve constipation, and no less.

And I --
I will be first to admit that
I still tread the lower tunnel at times
While glancing up at the upper highway
Of assurance
For the pleasure of the One.
I have been given the moderate path
(The upper highway whose turn I may miss)
Which is filled with 'extremes'
And which may seem ironic to you
But is right, you see
For there is no escaping oxymorons
And there are no extremes
As painful as prejudice
And the reluctance to overcome it.

So you see
I am struggling to extinguish the greys within me
And set my stereovision clear
Let there be two ways to me:



this has been a rant by Syazwina Saw at 7:04 pm


Burst your bubble.

Assalamualaikum wrh. wbt.

On the flight back, I was accosted by images of the Malaysian ideal -- a place for leisure; for shopping, for dawdling at odd angles in the sun, for eating, for bright sunny days and taking in the delights of the tropical rainforests.

And it scared me.
I was frightened.

Because the Malaysian ideal is becoming less and less Malaysian by the second.

Has it ever struck you that the standard and gauge we use to analyse the world is becoming less Malaysian, and more Western? Now, I'm not trying to segregate different schools of thought here, but it is very striking how much the way we evaluate something is becoming less of our own, and more to the ideals presented to us by the media, which is made up by, in turn, the ideals of a society hiding behind the facade of awe-inspiring glamour (read: Hollywood) -- a society which, in trying to figure out its own culture and ideals, seeks to enrapture others in their own way of thinking.

Just today, in one of the free tabloid dailies that arrive at my doorstep every morning, was a column dedicated to 'the voice of the youth'. Both were diatribes of the most trivial kind: the young woman went on and on about how age is nothing but a number, and the young man indulged in a self-justifying essay (which Mark Tredinnick would scorn for sure, for its lack of substance) about why he was only sticking around, 'shaking leg' in Malaysia, fulfilling his filial duty (towards his parents which he is 'not very fond of'), waiting for a transfer overseas to fall from the sky.

Both were topics that have been exhausted within an inch of their lives. Both were stale, and did not at all interest me. Both were rants of the most selfish kind -- superficial, and unpersuasive.

So tell me, is this the voice of Malaysian youth today?

My lawyer friend and neighbour had a chat with me the other day about the difference between the Australian youth and the Malaysian youth. We both observed that the youth in this country of ours had their opinions and their thoughts beaten into submission.

The Malaysian youth -- which I shall from this point onwards refer to as 'remaja', for want of a shorter phrase -- have evolved into self-centered, hedonistic young adults who can't care less beyond what affects them and transcends generations.

Don't get me wrong. I love my country. Or else, with all the livability of Melbourne, I wouldn't think of coming back home. I love my homeland -- the only country I've grew up in -- so much so that this slacktitude hurts me. It makes me sad. It also gives me a headache when I think about it for too long.

We are the people this country relies on to bring it forward. Instead, we're too concerned with petty relationships, our appearances and having a good time to care much about the state the world is in.

I don't blame the youth of Malaysia. Well, not completely. It's easy to get sucked into a mind-vaping environment. I've only been a week back, and I've gone from channel-surfing with disdain at the utter lack of substance of the shows screened here, to actually getting stuck in front of the idiot box for nearly hours at a time (admittedly, in front of the Disney Channel, which is the only channel whose shows seem to contain any semblance of a message, other than CNN and Al-Jazeera in English, which is simply awesome, man).

The thing I wonder is, isn't the generation before us, i.e. our parents, concerned by our lack of empathy?

Again, I don't fully blame them. They had lived through years of evolution of minds. Maybe they find this lack of action to their liking. Maybe they've decided that the revolutions of the youth have had more than their fair share of say.

Sadly, as a result, the remaja seem to be hurtling into a heads-on collision of self-destruction and disrepair.

Rempits, prostitution, porn, fornication, child-murder, rape. Those are just a few of the tragedies that seem to have become the norm in today's world. And Malaysia is no less prevalent.

I guess my point is that the remaja -- the crux of the future of Malaysia -- have to wake up and burst this little bubble they've enclosed themselves in. We have to realize that we hold the fate of our nation in our hands. We are the ones who will inherit this land, whether we like it or not, and sooner or later, we're going to have to lead and govern it. We're going to shape the way of things to come. For a start, we've got to realize that having original thought is not a crime, despite what others might say.

And while we're at it, let's stop caring so much what other people think, and start thinking more about the benefits, rather than the popularity of our actions.

Let's stop indulging in 'emoting' out thoughts out with rubbish vocab that is all style and little else, and start talking about things that matter -- things that have the potential to make a change in someone's lives. Let's take it a step forward, and match our talk with our actions. Talk is cheap (if done correctly, heck, it can be free!), and in the end, if we don't do as we say, the only people we're fooling are ourselves.

Let's dare to be different. Let's dare to brave through difficult times, just for the sake of what results in the end, even if we won't live to see it. If you believe in the Hereafter, show it with the things you do, and the principles you believe in. If you don't, well, think about what you're going to leave behind for your children. Do you want to let them inherit a shell of an existance?

If you love your country, the way God meant you to, then prove it. Make a change for the better. Think for others, not just for yourself.

Let's quit being full-time optimists and start being full-time activists. And stop acting as if CHANGE is a dirty word.

Because trust me, it's not. In fact, for a monosyllabic, it's actually quite rewarding.

'Rasulullah once mentioned in a hadith, as narrated by Imam Ahmad:
"Islam began foreign, and it will end foreign, so the foreigners (ghurabaa) should rejoice."

When asked by the sahabi, "Who are these foreigners, O Prophet of Allah?"

He explained, "They are those who make right what has been wronged by mankind."'

Thank you for letting this reminder for myself become a reminder to you, as well.

Jazakumullahu khayr.

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this has been a rant by Syazwina Saw at 6:48 pm