Wednesday, 21 December 2011

“The book that killed colonialism.”

I remember one particular observation made by an alim from India about colonialism. He said this back in the 1930s or so, in a book that I found in my friend's dorm room many years ago, and it sounds something as follows.

The British who came to India, look at how they live their life over there. They wore the same clothes, ate the same food as they did in England. They would never touch local food, let alone learn to like it. When they went home they are practically same person culturally. Compare them to the Indians who went to England. Within a short period of time they would to dress like the Englishmen, talk like them, and love their food, their way of life.

This was certainly no coincidence. The colonial officers went to great lengths to ensure that they wouldn't assimilate with the culture of the locals in any aspect. Their attitudes were shaped by colonial policies, some of which were documented in some books that my undergraduate lecturer, Dr. Fathi, mentioned in his class but I never got them because back then I was a big idiot who couldn't be bothered with anything about history.

But among them there were a handful who defied this way thinking and decided to look around to explore this new surrounding and mingle with the local folk. Malaysia once inspired Anthony Burgess to write The Malayan Trilogy, which painted an unflattering (and somewhat comical) picture of the Malayan colonial society.

Source: Cinta Buku

And in Indonesia there was Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company. Published in 1860, it sparked a worldwide debate on colonial policies and their exploitative ventures in foreign lands. Pramoedya Ananta Toer boldly claimed this book as, “The book that killed colonialism.”

The author of Max Havelaar, Multatuli (real name Eduard Douwes Dekker) penned the book after a series of disagreement with how the colonial administration of Dutch West Indies were subjugating the locals by instigating ethnic feuds, use of torture, and economic oppression. Dekker objected to  these policies and tactics through his writings, which led him to be transferred several times across Indonesia. He retired from his post as a colonial officer at 29 and moved to Belgium, where the book was first published.

I first came across Max Havelaar while reading my first Pramoedya book, House of Glass. I thought it was something fictional, a book that was made up for the story. It turns out that the book do exist and a trip to Kinokuniya confirms it. The book in printed form is priced rather heftily but a gratis digital counterpart is available through Google Books.

[ The Book that Killed Colonism ]

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Every Living Thing

Alf Wight was an ordinary veterinarian working in the country sides of Yorkshire Dales, until in 1969 he published a book, If Only They Could Talk. The book is a collection of stories about another veterinarian named James Herriot, loosely based on his experience treating the animals in a fictional but realistically portrayed town called Darrowby in the 1950s. Wight was already 50 then.

This book might never come into existence if it were not for one woman, Joan Danbury. Joan is inspiration for Helen, the wife of James Herriot, and Alf's real life wife. Anyone who have read any of Herriot books, especially the later titles, would have easily guessed this.

After a series of unsuccessful attempts at breaking into the writing scene, Alf Wight was convinced that he was hack. He tried writing about one of his passions, football, but attracted very little interest from publishers. Joan stepped in and challenged him write about something else which is closer to his heart.

For Wight it was, "Challenged accepted." Well, he probably did not utter those exact words, but the result of that was a dozen of titles of what Wight calls "little cats-and-dogs stories." And Wight's "little cats-and-dogs stories" went on to become one of most beloved book series of the 20th century.

Wight passed away in 1995. His name, or rather James Herriot's, came into my knowledge only about four year ago when my former boss enthusiastically recommended the first book If Only They Could Talk. My former boss and I are both bibliophiles, but we do not exactly have the same taste in our reading selection. I took the book with a slight feeling of trepidation. My former boss is a big time Herriot fan. If I find this book uninteresting, our friendship could be jeopardised. Not to mentioned our professional relationship. I could get fired for not liking this book.

It turns out that despite the differences in our literary predilection, this was the one book we both falling in love with. Falling in love with a book is a level above liking a book. If you like a book, I would tell other people to read it. If love a book, it could be either you would tell other people to read it or you would never ever tell anyone about it, because love, as you know, can be weird and selfish. It was the Herriot's charm at work and we could do very little to resist it.

Treating the animals in Darrowby is actually part veterinary and part public relations. There are farmers sceptical of modern treatments, pet owners who are clueless about their four legged family members, and the worst of all, the heartless folks who treat animals like discarded trash. Herriot's patient list is clearly a mixed bunch. A lot of them had me smiling till my face hurts. Others me made feel glad I am not veterinarian, although that used to be a childhood dream of mine.

I devoured each books expecting new experiences, and by extension, more things to be excited about the country side veterinary practice. Instead by doing so I found myself being satisfied instead with the simple tales about people and their animals. No earth-shattering plot twists here. Just as Herriot had said, little cats-and-dogs stories.

Every Living Thing brings the series to a close, although I doubt that was the plan. As a writer who had a late start, he keep writing till the end of his life churning out books about animals for adult and children readers. His sincerity, warmth, and love for animals were visibly retained throughout his book series, and I imagine if he were still alive we would be hearing more about the people of Darrowby, and their cow, horse, sheep, dog, and cat problems. I imagine problems with iguanas or tarantulas were still very much out of the picture back then.

I close the book after finishing the last chapter, in which Herriot had made a friend, a wild cat that keep showing up in his garden but refused any physical contact. A bitter sweet tale about a friendship earned, and a wonderful way to cap off the series and to sum up my feelings for the books. 

The biggest lesson learned from Herriot is to open myself the lessons that animals can teach us. Living in the city for the large part of my life has made me to see animals mostly as either pets, pests, or pictures in a book or magazine. This lack of positive relationship between human, nature, and animals is beginning to sound to me as a huge disadvantage of being a city dweller.

If you are willing to look past the Yorkshire accent sprinkled throughout, you will find yourself a treasure. I know I can be a selfish person, but out of love I say this, never pass up a chance to read James Herriot. You could become a better person because of it.

Source: alikewise

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Keluarga Si Mamat

Berbelas-belas tahun yang lepas, ketika saya membaca Keluarga Si Mamat buat pertama kali di rumah pak cik saya di Sungai Buloh, saya ingatkan Si Mamat adalah Lat sendiri. Lat atau Datuk Lat atau Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid nampak serupa di dalam kebanyakan kartun-kartunnya, dengan rambut seakan-akan afro dan muka dengan bulat (dan Lat itu asalnya singkatan daripada "bulat", nama gelaran beliau semasa kecil).

Keitka itu juga saya tidak tahu yang beliau juga mempunyai seorang adik bernama Mamat, yang sekarang seorang pengarah filem yang berbakat di sebalik Estet, Man Laksa, Rock, Di Kala Malam Bulan Mengambang, dan Hantu Mak Limak Balik Rumah.

Dalam merungkaikan kisah di sebalik kisah sesebuah novel, komik, filem, dan sebagainya, kita selalunya cepat untuk menganggapnya sebagai autobiografik atau sekurang-kurang biografi. Mamat itu Lat atau Mamat yang sebenarnya, kita sangka.

Sebagai nasihat kepada penulis fiksyen yang baru bermula, Pat Schneider berpesan menerusi Writing Alone and With Others, setiap karya harus diterima sebagai bukan autobiografi yakni tidak berkenaan sesiapa atau apa-apa peristiwa benar. Melainkan penulis yang mengaku. Pokoknya, sama ada penulisan itu fiksyen atau tidak adalah tidak relevan. Setiap karya adalah adunan antara realiti, fantasi, dan pseudo-realiti, yakni realiti tafsiran peribadi.

Seperti yang ditulis oleh Lat di awal Keluarga Si Mamat sama ada watak-watak di dalamnya benar-benar wujud, itu beliau tidak boleh beritahu. Barangkali Mamat adalah Lat, atau Mamat, atau watak komposit daripada kedua-dua mereka.

Saya faham kenapa orang bertanya sedemikian. Sesiapa yang digeletek oleh cerita-cerita Mamat dan gengnya akan ingin tahu bagaimana mereka ini mempunyai kehidupan yang diselangi begitu banyak saat-saat melucukan.

Sayangnya, pada pendapat saya, koleksi ini hanya mengumpulkan kartun-kartun Keluarga Si Mamat yang terkemudian kerana kartun yang seperti di bawah tidak disertakan.

Namun kekurangan ini tidak mencacatkan. Daripada tiga orang yang telah membaca naskah milik saya, tiga orang telah ketawa hingga menggigil badan.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Preview: Chihayafuru

Josei is a Japanese word meaning lady or feminine or female.

As the meaning suggests, josei is also a specific genre in anime and manga is caters towards a largely mature female audience, ranging from late teens to senior citizens. The stories in this genre tend to have a more realistic plot that are reflective of the female experience, and they feature characters that are often seen by the audience as believable and relatable.

Confession time: I'm josei fan. I like any story that have interesting characters that I end up caring about, like Daikichi the single father from Usagi Drop. Since josei isn't the most popular genre out around, there's little wonder why few people have heard of josei shows.

This year's fall season welcomes the première of Chihayafuru, a josei show based on the manga by Suetsugu Yuki. The original manga had won the prestigious Kodansha Award and the Manga Taishō Award, which is a good sign indeed. Understandably I was looking forward to it, until I learned it was going to revolve around a competitive card game called Hyakunin Issu Karuta. I wondered if things could get complicated.

The concept behind karuta is actually rather simple. Cards from a deck are laid in rows in front of two or more competing players as they sit facing each other. The cards have a name or phrase on them. An announcer will read aloud the name or phrase on one of the cards and players will try to identify the card mentioned from the rows of cards. The first player to grab that card wins the round.

There are several variations of karuta based on the type of deck, and one of the most competitively played in Japan is the Hyakunin Issu or a hundred poems by a hundred poets. Each card in a Hyakunin Issu deck contains single line waka poem. Highly skilled players build their advantage by memorising all 100 poems, which is the names of every card in the deck.

While Hyakunin Issu Karuta is somewhat a national sport in Japan, simpler variations of karuta are also played at the elementary school level that may use picture cards instead.

Suetsugu Yuki was a member of the karuta club during high school, so I guess rather than let all those experiences go to waste she channelled all that into writing a story about competing and winning, for a championship title or for love.

Ayase Chihaya is a younger sister of an up and coming famous model. To her, this was probably the biggest thing that could ever happen in her life. However deep inside, she longed for a dream of her own.

The quest for that dream began incidentally with Wataya Arata, a newly transferred boy in her class, who was constantly ignored or made fun of because of his Fukui accent. Chihaya began to sympathise with Arata and defended him against the rest of the class, including her close friend Taichi.

Chihaya soon discovered that Arata is actually a junior level karuta champion and a grandchild of a karuta grandmaster. Arata invited Chihaya to give the card game a try and as she experienced for the first time the complexity and beauty of karuta, she realises that becoming a karuta champion could the one dream she had been searching for.

Joined by an fumingly jealous Taichi, the three of them embarked the same dream together, only to see it foiled by reality. Arata was going to return to Fukui when the year is over and Taichi had been accepted to a better school. With the team mates gone, can Chihaya singled-handed keep that dream alive?

Chihayafuru may not be the best example of josei, mainly because (so far) the characters are still in school and the issues they struggle are not much beyond the usual lost friendship, love triangles (I think), and becoming competitive in something. What gives me some hope that Chihayafuru will become another memorable story is the characters.

Chihaya may share her sister's beauty, but the isn't type of girl who worry about breaking a nail or ruining the mascara. She believes strongly in karuta and goes all out to become champion by her own right. Her beauty coincidentally becomes an unrealised advantage, something she herself is unaware of and something her male opponent find very difficult to ignore.

The two leading young men are flawed in their own ways. Taichi is the overachiever of the bunch. He excels at nearly everything mostly because his family expects that from him, but in return he gets very little praise or recognition, almost the same amount of support Chihaya gets from her family in her karuta endeavours.

Arata is the brooding, misunderstood social outcast. He cherishes Chihaya's friendship more than anything (well, maybe except karuta), and is almost single-mindedly driven to become as good as his grandfather.

At first the common tie between Taichi and Arata is Chihaya's sudden interest in karuta. Taichi couldn't be bothered at first but he can't stand seeing Arata hogging all of Chihaya's attention.

After a few episodes, the story skipped a few years to high school. Time, as we know, changes everything in different degrees. Chihaya's dream remained unwavered but someone among the other two has unexpectedly given up karuta altogether, sending her on a new quest, to rekindle her old team mates' love for the game.

Hyakunin Issu Karuta is an interesting game to watch. It's not as complicated I first suspected, yet there's aspects of it karuta that makes it challenging. Players arrange the cards differently for every game. They must remember and forget the card positions quickly since karuta matches are often played consecutively, sometimes up to seven matches in one single day. Concentration, excellent hearing skill, and mental strength are determinants that set the excellent players apart.

Chihayafuru would be dull show if it revolves around only Chihaya, Taichi, and Arata. Episode six and above will introduce new characters and players as Chihaya rounds up members for her school's newly formed karuta club. 

I really hope the pace would pick up as the story progresses, but I don't feel should worry too much. The show is in good hands with Asaka Morio in the director's chair. Asaka has handled many shows that feature strong female characters, including my personal favourite, Gunslinger Girl. Gunslinger Girl started out with a group of little orphan girls who were secretly trained to become deadly assassins and slowly progressed into an examination the various types of mentor-protégé relationships.

True blue josei fans including myself will definitely stay tuned for 25 episodes lined up for the whole season. The jury is still out on whether or not it will rank among the most memorable josei shows, but Chihayafuru is easily one of the best shows the 2011 fall season has to offer.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

'Orang Gila'

Sumber: Steve Jobs Alive!
The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.
-Iklan syarikat Apple pada tahun 1997

Akhirnya saya mengalah dengan trend. Saya tidak bercadang untuk membeli buku ini hingga mungkin tahun depan. Tetapi memandangkan harganya yang 10 sen kurang daripada RM100 dan adanya rebat (diberikan bersama pembelian sebarang judul lain) sedang ditawarkan di kedai-kedai buku besar, saya kira harga yang selepas rebat agak boleh diterima.

Kata kawan saya Feek, seorang penyokong tegar Apple, harga buku ini terlalu mahal tanpa rebat. Bagi saya, ini tidak menghairankan. Harga buku import di Malaysia memang 'gila.'

Oleh sebab ini mungkin ada orang yang mengatakan membaca adalah hobi orang-orang kaya. Bagi saya, membaca bukanlah hobi orang-orang kaya. Membaca sebenarnya adalah hobi 'orang-orang gila.'

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Insanely Great

Ramai pengguna Apple membeli produk Apple bukan kerana mereka memerlukannya. Mereka membelinya kerana mereka mendambakannya. Dan kemudian mereka akan bersyarah dengan panjang lebar tentang kelebihan produk Apple kepada orang lain.

Syarikat mana yang tidak mendambakan pengguna sebegini? Ada yang mencuba dan berjaya menrekrut pengguna mereka menjadi jurujual dan jurucakap sukarela, tetapi hanya sedikit yang dapat menyamai sokongan dan kesetiaan tahap mania yang ditunjukkan oleh pengguna Apple. Sejak penubuhannya lagi Apple telah merancang untuk memposisikan serta membezakannya dirinya daripada para pesaing dengan membentuk satu sistem falsafah, cara berfikir, dan cara bekerja yang membawa kepada terciptanya produk-produk game-changing seperti iPad, iPhone, iPod, iTunes, iCloud, serta perkakasan, perisian, dan perkhidmatan lain.

Game-changing bukanlah satu istilah yang boleh digunakan untuk produk yang calang-calang. iTunes berjaya mengubah fikiran syarikat-syarikat rakaman yang pernah curiga dengan kemampuan untuk menjual lagu-lagu secara digital melalui muat turun. Kemunculan iPhone telah membuat gergasi telekomunikasi Nokia terduduk dan teraba-raba mencari arah.

Formula kejayaan Apple sangat mudah. Tunjukkan kepada dunia cara yang lebih mudah, menarik serta berkesan untuk melakukan sesuatu yang mereka mahu. Boleh dikatakan semua syarikat lain juga mempunyai matlamat yang lebih kurang sama.

Bagaimana Apple boleh berjaya sedangkan yang lain masih bertatih-tatih? Untuk memahaminya, kita perlu kembali ke zaman ketika Apple sedang berputik. Dekad 80-an dan awal 90-an merupakan di antara detik-detik paling kritikal bagi Apple, dan melonjaknya atau tersungkurnya syarikat ini bergantung kepada sebuah kotak berwarna kelabu yang kini dikenali sebagai Apple Macintosh.

Sumber: Wikipedia
Bagi ramai orang ketika itu, komputer sering sesuatu yang dikaitkan dengan kerja-kerja saintifik. Jarang sekali komputer dijumpa di luar makmal-makmal. Malah dunia perniagaan masih belum melihat komputer sebagai satu keperluan. Tidak  kurang juga yang berpendapat komputer adalah satu alat yang sangat sukar untuk digunakan.

and you wonder why linux is not more popular with the masses... - _MG_2104.dcraw
Contoh rupa command line (sumber: sean dreilinger)
Antara muka menggunakan command line yang memerlukan pengguna untuk menaip setiap arahan kepada komputer. Tidak hairanlah jika ada yang menganggap komputer zaman itu sebagai sebuah mesin taip yang lebih canggih.

Apple Macintosh boleh dianggap sebuah game-changer kerana ia memperkenalkan beberapa inovasi yang belum dilihat sebelum itu. Sistem ikon dan tetikus Macintosh jauh lebih senang digunakan berbanding sistem command line, dan juga jauh lebih mesra pengguna. Pendekatan Macintosh lebih kepada grafikal dan bukan tekstual seperti ada pada komputer dan sistem lain.

Sumber: Wikipedia
Apple sedar cabarannya yang sedang dihadapinya ialah perasaan gerun terhadap komputer masih menebal di kalangan masyarakat umum, dan mereka mahu mengubahnya. Itulah misi mereka. Misi yang mereka jiwai hingga ke tahap mengangkatnya sebagai satu misi dari Tuhan. Kumpulan yang bertanggungjawab membangunkan Macintosh bekerja dengan sepenuh hati kerana ini. Mereka tidak dibayar dengan gaji yang lumayan. Lagi pun Apple ketika itu masih setahun jagung. Apa yang mahukan ialah "sebuah komputer yang kami sendiri mahu gunakan." Matlamat yang tepat, ringkas tetapi sarat.

Pengguna komputer hari ini banyak terhutang budi dengan Macintosh dan Apple serta Xerox (banyak teknologi dalam Macintosh telah dipelopori oleh mereka) kerana membawakan inovasi-inovasi yang telah memudahkan masyarakat umum untuk menggunakan komputer.

Hanya sebuah syarikat yang dipenuhi orang yang percaya mereka akan mengubah dunia akan menghasilkan sesuatu yang game-changing. Falsafah dan kepercayaan yang mereka pegang turut tersebar di kalangan pengguna produk mereka. Dengan menggunakan dan mempromosikan produk Apple kepada ahli keluarga dan rakan kenalan, pengguna Apple merasakan diri mereka adalah sebahagian daripada yang sesuatu yang luar biasa.

Setakat ini pesaing Apple hanya mampu melihat dari jauh dan berharap, alangkah hebatnya jika pengguna kita juga menggilai produk kita sebagaimana pengguna Apple menggilai produk Apple.

Sumber: GUIdebook

Monday, 24 October 2011

Ubuntu 11.10 video: now see for it yourself

Read the last entry and thought what on earth was I talking about?

Well, fret no more, good people.

The delightful folks at omgubuntu have created this lovely video about Ubuntu 11.10, which sums up the best parts about the free operating system.

Hopefully you'll be able to make sense of what I've written earlier and when you do get the chance to try out or use or install Ubuntu, you'll know how to get started.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

11.10 Oneiric Ocelot: a very much welcomed Ubuntu update

I haven't written anything in a long time about Ubuntu Linux, the other operating system I have running in my machine. The latest version, 11.10 (codenamed Oneiric Ocelot), was released a several days ago, and which I am right now testing and so far liking a lot.

Why another operating system?, you may ask.

I'm running Windows 7 as my main operating system. My experience of using it for nearly a year has been good. I think it's the most polished version of Windows released so far.

As for Ubuntu 11.10, for a lack an original thought at the moment, is also the most polished version of Ubuntu yet.

The main reason why I started using Ubuntu was its cost,  which is zero ringgit. After I reformatted my old machine, I installed Windows XP and Ubuntu side by side (can't remember which version exactly, but I'm guessing it was 8.04 Hardy Heron). That turned out to be huge help when my Windows XP refused to work because I changed the motherboard. I tried to be a good customer by using original software, but when my hardware went kaput and had to replace it, my original software won't let me. Thanks a lot, Microsoft.

And thanks a million to God Almighty, Ubuntu allowed me to still open my documents and play my media files. So for about a year or so back then (was it really that long?), I was most on Ubuntu Linux, upgrading it whenever a new release was available. One upgrade usually takes me nearly a whole day through Streamyx but only a few hours using 3G.

Source: Wikipedia

Since release 11.04 earlier this year, Ubuntu uses a new user interface system called Unity. Visually, Unity is eye catching. It's one way to impress your friends and family, especially if they are long time Windows users.

I still haven't gotten used to how whenever I minimise any window, it disappear into the left side of the screen, and not at the bottom of the screen in Microsoft Windows. This isn't a bad thing actually since the same happens in Windows if set our taskbar to autohide, and the taskbar can positioned to the left if we want. However I kept finding myself losing track of which window did I open and where is that window that I wanted to close earlier? Turns out the solution for this was the good old Alt and Tab keys combo.

Unity takes a little getting used to. And actually the same goes for all operating systems being developed right now. We're witnessing the dawn of touch-based interfaces, which effectively makes some features we're so used to all this while obsolete. The developers are trying to balance the needs both of current desktop users and the growing touch-based device users. Even Microsoft is working hard on this with their Metro project.

There are many reason to get on board the Ubuntu train. Every Ubuntu users gets a free 5GB of free storage on the Ubuntu One. Ubuntu and most of the software on it are downloadable free of charge available the Ubuntu Software Centre, a centralised approach to managing software in Ubuntu, which I think something Windows should have. And social-addicts will love Ubuntu's built in social app.

In my opinion, Ubuntu is on its way to mainstream acceptable, though not quite there yet. To reel in the casual user crowd,  Ubuntu needs to fully embrace the 'don't make the users think' paradigm. I would love to be able to add new software to my Software Centre without fiddling with the PPAs. And if there are many people reading this thinking, what on earth is a PPA?, then this is another reason why we the casual, non-technical users need a simpler Ubuntu.

By the way, oneiric means dreamy or dream related, and this is how awesomely cute an ocelot is.

Source: (again) Wikipedia

Monday, 17 October 2011

Bermula dan Berakhir

Sumber: Blog Izyan Hazwani

Sudah lama saya ingin meneroka sastera Timur Tengah. Namun memandangkan penguasaan Bahasa Arab saya yang lebih lemah daripada seorang murid PASTI atau Genius Aulad, saya tidak banyak pilihan selain beralih kepada terjemahan Bahasa Melayu atau Bahasa Inggeris.

Kata seorang kenalan yang juga seorang penterjemah, salah satu tanda tanda terjemahan yang baik ialah apabila naskhah tersebut dibaca, ia seolah-olah ditulis dalam bahasa terjemahan. Saya sendiri menjadi terlupa yang saya sedang membaca sebuah novel Arab, bukan novel oleh penulis tempatan. Saya amat kagum dengan terjemahan novel Naguib Mahfouz Bermula dan Berakhir oleh Shamsuddin Jaafar. Di tangan beliau, novel setebal 622 halaman ini berjaya dibawakan secara intact.

Novel ini mengambil tempat di Kaherah sekitar Perang Dunia Kedua. Kematian seorang kakitangan kerajaan bernama Kamel Affendi 'Ali secara tidak disangka telah mengheret ahli keluarganya yang masih hidup ke lembah kemiskinan. Dahulu mereka dihormati, kini mereka dipinggir.

Masalah yang membelenggu keluarga ini sebenarnya bukan disebabkan oleh pemergian almarhum. Sebaliknya pemergian beliau telah menggugurkan hijab yang selama ini menutup mata isterinya Samirah dan keempat-empat anak mereka terhadap siapa diri mereka sebenarnya.

Hassan selaku anak sulung lebih selesa berfoya-foya di kedai kopi dan bergelumang dengan dunia jalanan. Tanggungjawabnya cuba ditebus dengan wang yang diperolehi secara haram dan kata-kata manis yang diharap akan meredakan hati ibunya. Anak kedua, Nafisah, terpaksa menebalkan muka mencari rezeki dengan menjahit baju, satu vokasi yang sering dianggap tidak padan bagi anak seorang pegawai kerajaan. Nafisah memekakkan telinganya demi ibu dan dua orang adiknya, Hussein dan Hassanein, yang masih bersekolah.

Mulanya saya membayangkan novel ini sebagai sebuah drama bersiri Arab Mesir, dengan plot yang tragis dan watak-watak yang bertimpa-timpa malangnya. Plot novel ini amat ringkas tetapi gaya penceritaan Naguib Mahfouz yang berjaya mengangkatnya daripada tahap sebuah novel biasa ke tahap sebuah novel sastera. Setiap ahli keluarga ini menghadapi pemergian Kamel dengan cara yang berlainan. Pilihan yang setiap mereka ambil untuk menghadapi tanpa hidup tunggak keluarga untuk menaungi mereka telah menjadi pemangkin metamorphosis peribadi yang telah membawa mereka ke jalan-jalan kebaikan dan juga kejahatan.

Semakin dekat saya dengan penghujung novel ini semakin jelas saya melihat bagaimana novel ini membantu melayakkan Naguib Mahfouz untuk menerima Hadiah Nobel bagi Kesusasteraan pada tahun 1988. Sebahagian daripada harapan saya terhadap novel ini tidak tercapai tetapi saya tidak terkilan, memandangkan zaman ketika ia ditulis. Selebihnya berjaya dipenuhi sekadarnya. Dua bulan lebih dan 622 halaman yang sukar dilupakan.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Dinged the universe, he did

Mr. Steve Jobs, the former CEO of Apple, passed away last week. He was 56.

To call Jobs fascinating is probably an understatement. Many things about him, from his usual sweater-jeans-sneakers ensemble to the way he runs his company, defy common wisdom. One of the last innovation he help developed, the iPad, was ridiculed by many observers when it was first introduced. Many year before other companies have tried to make the tablet PC market work. And failed.

By March 2011, 11 million units of iPad have been sold and now the industry is running to catch up with Apple in a market that was once considered unlucrative.

I'm not a fan of his management style and his perfectionist approach. His style clearly works but I don't see it as a management or leadership model that other people can easily emulate. Or should emulate.

I can't elaborate much on this because most of these are from unverifiable sources. Furthermore, the man has passed on. It's only proper to be respectful.

What I can say is Jobs isn't too big headed to even kill off his own ideas when they turn out to be a bad one. Case in point: the Power Mac C4 Cube.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who thinks we'll never find another CEO like him. But then, maybe we don't need to.

Here is his former business partner, hacker, and Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, (the other Steve) paying tribute to Jobs. I can only hope that my friends would say nice things about me after I'm gone, as did Wozniak. And to leave the universe dinged, for the better, as did Jobs.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Lelaki bandar, wanita kampung

Rumah tangga adalah sekolah baru bagi diri saya. Melalui isteri saya dan keluarga beliau, saya mengenali sudut-sudut baru masyarakat yang sebelum ini saya hanya dengari atau lihat dari jauh. Melalui perkahwinan, saya kini mempunyai pertalian dengan mereka.

Mereka yang saya maksudkan adalah orang kampung.

Saya adalah anak bandar. Inilah takdir Tuhan ke atas saya. Sejak lahir, saya dan keluarga mengikut ke mana sahaja Abah diarahkan bertugas. Hampir kesemua pejabat tempat Abah bertugas terletak di pekan atau di bandar. Pengalaman kehidupan kampung saya terbatas kepada waktu saya bersekolah rendah dahulu, mengikut kawan sekelas untuk turun ke sungai untuk menangkap ikan, mengorek pasir pantai untuk mencari remis, dan bersiar-siar di jalan-jalan kampung dengan berbasikal. Semuanya tercatit dengan indah di dalam kenangan saya.

Kini saya suami kepada seorang wanita yang menganggap dirinya wanita kampung. Jiwanya sebati dengan suasana masyarakat yang saling bertegur sapa dan bertukar-tukar hidangan, udara yang segar dan nyaman, kokokan ayam di waktu pagi, dan ladang dan kebun tanaman kontan. Sejauh mana dia mengikuti saya, hatta ke penghujung dunia, kampung itu tetap di dalam jiwanya. Takdir Tuhan ke atas dirinya berbeza daripada diri saya.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Mat Som

Source: kcbmanyala
I was in primary school when Mat Som came out. During that year end school holidays when my parents went for umrah, I was at my grandmother's in the kampung. In between the trips to river and the paddy field, I would reread Mat Som countless times, even when I didn't understand parts of it.

When I reread it recently, those parts finally made sense.

The 80s I remember from the movies and TV dramas is filled with young people from the kampung trying to make it in the big city. Kuala Lumpur, in particular. Mat Som is no different. He left his idyllic kampung in Perak for shot at becoming a reporter at a big name newspaper company.

There comes a stage in life when a man must make something out of himself. Basically, to stop leeching off the parents and to stand on one's own feet. And be a good Muslim, of course. Mat Som finds that stage to be his present. And so do I.

Often times "making it" means "get ready for a rough start." Without a permanent job, Mat Som makes his way by sending in pieces and waiting for the cheque to clear at the end of month. If that doesn't happen soon enough then it's a trip to the pawnshop. Out of kindness, his childhood friend So'ud's lets him crash at his rented setinggan house. In short, nothing to write home about.

Until home writes to him.

Like thunder on a clear afternoon, his father tells him to consider marrying Wan Faridah, the daughter of his close friend. They grew up together but Mat Som's memories of her isn't exactly fond. Meanwhile, his attention seems to be diverted towards Yam, a girl in his neighbourhood, for reasons he himself couldn't quite fathom. He keeps running into Yam but his conversations with her remains one sided and in his head only.

Mat Som was adapted into a movie by Hatta Azad Khan, with Imuda as the lead and Tiara Jacquelina, in probably her first major role, as Yam. I can't think of anyone else who could do justice to the character other than Imuda, although I did picture Mat Som more as a short dude and reasonably well-dressed as depicted in drawing by Lat. Imuda is not just an actor; he's done plays, drew cartoons for Gila-Gila and Dewan Pelajar, and is also a painter.

Mat Som is more than a comic; it's a testament of Lat's love for the arts. If you know your sasterawan and seniman, you'll be thrilled to see people such as Pyan Habib, Usman Awang (Tongkat Warrant), T Alias Taib and Ramli Sarip making their camoes appearances, either drawn or mentioned or both. There's even a funny scene between Mat Som and Lat's former boss, legendary editor and novelist A. Samad Ismail, which tempted me to conclude that Mat Som is semi-autobiographical, a recollection of his earlier days as a reporter at the New Strait Times.

Mat Som shaped my thoughts about how life as an adult would look like and I believe am now a better adult because of it. It's a real shame that Mat Som is not widely known or not widely read as Kampung Boy. Another shame is the sloppy design work done on the English translation. I would love to see Lat and the publisher redesign the English version (the one with the blue background on the cover) and for Lat to draw more stuff like this.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Preview: Usagi Drop

Although it's been quite some time since I last wrote anything about anime, it's not because I've given up watching anime. Not yet, anyway. It's because I haven't found anything worth writing about. There's a couple of reasons for that, and the main one is I'm no longer a teenager. Most anime cater for the younger crowd, and I want more than the usual giant robots and high school love triangles.

Which is why I find Usagi Drop a breath of fresh air.

I was initially reluctant to watch it because of the rumours about its ending. It's a controversial one to say the least, feel free to Google it if you wish. The manga it's based on ended earlier this year, and myriad of reactions ensued. I snooped around a few anime discussion boards before deciding to the first episode a try.

And I'm glad I did. I found a lot of things that resonates with current stage in life. The lead character, Daikichi, is also about the same age as me. I think this is the first time I found myself actually relating to an anime character.

Much of Usagi Drop is grounded in reality. Daikichi is a regular middle class, working guy whose grandfather passed away recently. He gets ready to attend the funeral, and is greeted with a surprise at the doorstep in the form of a six-year-old girl.

The girl is introduced as Rin, the illegitimate daughter of Daikichi's late grandfather. As preparations for the funeral goes underway, Daikichi notices that everyone seems to avoid talking to or about Rin. The whole thing is understandable since the idea of an octogenarian fathering a small child is a tad squeamish for some people to accept. And compounding the confusion further is the fact that Rin's biological mother is nowhere to be seen.

Daikichi makes several efforts to reach out to Rin, and in doing so gains her trust. He begins to sympathise with Rin who's too young to understand the situation she's in.

When the family finally sits down to discuss about Rin, things get a little heated. Nobody seems ready to welcome Rin into their home, and somehow perhaps due to confusion and embarrassment, the big picture is lost on everyone, except for Daikichi. He stands up, calls out to Rin and asks if she wants to go home with him, leaving everyone with their jaws on the floor.

Daikichi is single and living alone, and as the story has reveals even he realises that taking in Rin would severely affect his chances of finding a girlfriend.

I must say that I really admire Daikichi's guts. A character like him is rare in anime (heck, even in real life!), and this is reason enough for me to sit and watch till the end, no matter how it's going to end.

The next few episodes finds Daikichi making several important, life-changing decisions, including taking a demotion, as he hopes to spend more time with Rin at home. Having a child changes our life in huge ways. I suspect when one day I have one of my own, I'd be pondering over similar issues. I wonder too about whether there are young men like Daikichi out there, who'd selflessly give up the pleasures of the single life in order to care for somebody else's child. (And in Daikichi' case, the child is his own aunt!) I really hope do they exist.

Yeah, I know I'm starting to get all sentimental. Because, hey, I'm a 30-something-year-old anime fan. I'm supposed to.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Salam Aidilfitri 1432H Maaf Zahir Batin, walaupun hari ini sudah 5 Syawal

Balik kampung baru-baru ini membuatkan saya offline untuk beberapa hari, tanpa Internet sama ada berwayar atau tanpa wayar. Kampung saya agak dalam. Capaian Internet di sana masih rendah walaupun jiran kami dengarnya mempunyai WiFi. Saya mengambil peluang ini untuk melupakan seketika aktiviti menulis blog, berinteraksi di FB dan menyemak inbox emel.

Nyaman sekali rasanya.

Nyamannya udara desa.

Nyamannya mata memandang saujana luas.

Nyamannya beroffline.

Sekali-kala berdetik di hati, bagus juga kalau saya ada sebuah Blackberry atau iPhone. Cepat-cepat saya pejamkan mata. Saya menyedut udara nyaman desa dalam-dalam. Bau kuih dan lemang menyerbu rongga hidung. Bunyi mercun bola meletup, hilai ketawa sanak saudara, dan suara kanak-kanak bermain berlegar di kelopak telinga.

Lagi pun Internet tidak akan merudum tanpa saya.

Salam Aidilfitri 1432H Maaf Zahir Batin, walaupun Syawal sudah masuk hari yang ke-5. Sama-samalah kita puasa enam Syawal, dan bak pesan Ustaz Zaharuddin, lebih baik jangan hebah-hebahkannya.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Lessons of the Crusades and the Mongol Hordes

Lessons of the Crusades and the Mongol Hordes: Salahuddin al-Ayyubi and his Successors is a slim volume, just several pages short of a hundred pages. It's actually two chapters from another book, Saviours of Islamic Spirit (Volume I), by respected scholar Syeikh Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi, who think also wrote Riwayat Hidup Rasulullah SAW, one of the noteworthy books I read back in 2008, and in my life so far.

This books brings to our attention two pivotal events in the history of Muslim ummah; Salahuddin Al-Ayubbi's recapture of Palestine during the Third Crusade from the hands of the Christians, and the invasion of the Mongols which ignited the fall of the Abbasiniyyah dynasty. In short, one about Muslim being victorious and another about Muslim defeat.

I admit I don't know much about Salahuddin Al-Ayubbi, other than him being considered one of the greatest Muslim heroes. Reading this book made me understood why he deserve the respect and reputation. Salahuddin (better known in the West as Saladin) was in a do-or-die mission to defend Islam against the combined forces of the Christian Crusaders. When the Christian army conquered the Jerusalem, the population were slaughtered in the streets and in their homes. It was an opposite scenario when Salahuddin took control. He pardoned the enemy soldiers and allowed them to leave unharmed. This one reason why Salahuddin is revered even by Western historians.

That doesn't mean Salahuddin's soft-heartedness is misplaced. He executed the Reginald (Rayland) of Châtillon because of Reginald's plans to attack the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah and wanting to take the body of Rasulullah SAW from out of his blessed grave.

He also was once moved to tears by the plea of a Christian Frank mother whose baby was kidnapped and sold in the slave market. Salahuddin helped the mother until her child was finally found.

In the battlefield, Salahuddin was described as,
... a bereaved mother... who had been deprived of her only child by the cruel hands of Death. He could be seen trotting on his horse from one side of the battlefield to another, exhorting the people to fight for the sake of Allah. He would himself go round all the detachments, with tears in his eyes, asking people to come forth for the aid of Islam.
If Salahuddin's story is something we could be proud of, the story of the Mongol invasion is certainly a cautionary one.

The Mongol invasion didn't occur without any blame on the part of the Muslims. It was a time when Muslims had failed to uphold the commandments of Islam and Muslim societies had decayed socially, spiritually, and morally. The Khalifah of the day were paid obeisance by having the subjects put their forehead on the ground, an act forbidden even for Rasulullah and reserved only for the worship of Allah.

And the event that triggered the first Mongol attack was the murder of a envoy of Mongol merchants by Muslim ruler Khwarism Shah. He suspected that there were spies among them, and the surviving members of the envoy immediately went to Genghiz Khan, seeking justice. And justice came swiftly and severely for the Muslims.

What followed was so horrific that even the historical scholars couldn't bring themselves to describe, although they did so in the end, omitting the gory and possibly unnecessary details. (Unnecessary because, in my opinion, it would describing the tarnishing of the honour of many Muslims. In the Shariah point of view, protection of the honour of individuals is a must and an aim.)

But Islam didn't disappear by the swords of the Mongol, or the Tartar people, to be exact. In fact, generations later (in just approximately 40 years) the Tartar discovered Islam and several prominent Tartar Mongol leaders embraced Islam, which included Tuqluq Timur Khan and Tarmashirin Khan.

One important lesson embedded in both stories is the significance of jihad. Many people, Muslims and non-Muslims, understand jihad as waging a holy war against other religions. But this entirely false. Jihad is act of striving in the path of Allah in order to keep Islam alive, particularly in the hearts and minds of Muslims. The Tartar Mongol invasion left many Muslim governments in disarray, but the faith of Islam survived due to the efforts of pious and steadfast Muslims.

Tuqluq Timur Khan embraced Islam after a conversation with Syeikh Jamaludin, a teacher from Bukhara who accidentally trespassed on a land that belonged to him. Syeikh Jamaludin was caught and brought before Tuqluq. Tuqluq pointed to his dog and asked whether the Syeikh thinks the dog or the Syeikh himself is more noble. When Tuqluq learned that Syeikh and his travelling party were Persian people, he insulted them by saying that a dog is worthier than a Persian. To Tuqluq's surprise Syeikh Jamaludin answered, "Yes, if we had not the true faith, we would indeed be worse than dogs." Another source quoted Syeikh Jamaludin saying something similar, "If I pass away from this world with my faith intact, I would be better than the dog. If not, the dog would be better than me." The word faith shook Tuqluq so much that he had to know more about it and in doing so he found iman and Islam.

Salahuddin's role as a Muslim general and defender is an example of jihad in a time when brutal enemies are threatening the sanctity of Islam. It wasn't a time for round table negotiations. Like I said earlier, it was a do-or-die mission.

At the time when Muslims are weaken militarily, as shown in the days beyond the Tartar Mongol invasion, jihad is still a necessity. If the spirit of jihad had died in the hearts of Muslims at the time including Syeikh Jamaludin, even we wouldn't be Muslims today, let alone Tuqluq Timur Khan. Syeikh Jamaludin also defended Islam and his act is definitely an act of jihad. No swords unsheathed and not a drop of blood spilled.

As the current Muslim generation, we need to seriously ponder about our situation, as we are still in the cross hairs of people who wish to see Islam obliterated. The challenges that come our ways appear in many guises. The desire for jihad or the struggle for betterment should be in our heart and the heart of all Muslims.

On a separate note, I wonder if someone at the book's publishing company thought Photoshopping the face of George W. Bush on a picture of a crusader (I think) on the book's cover would be a good marketing idea. I don't know. Maybe. I only noticed it a few days after I bought it. (Is that really G. W.? I don't know.)

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Al-Fatihah, Azizi Haji Abdullah

Saya menerima berita daripada kawan di FB, penulis veteran kelahiran Kedah Darul Aman, Azizi Haji Abdullah, telah kembali ke rahmatulah pagi tadi.

Beliau lebih terkenal sebagai penulis novel Seorang Tua Di Kaki Bukit. Karya-karya beliau banyak mengedepankan masyarakat luar bandar serta kehidupan mereka dan banyak menggunakan humor (orang Kedah, kan?) di samping menerapkan nilai Islami dan dakwah. Semoga Allah menerima segala amal soleh beliau, mengampuni beliau dan merahmati beliau. Amin rabbalalamin.

[ Terdahulu: Memoir Seorang Guru ]

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Hadith about Jabir RA's marriage: the bigger picture

Alhamdulillah, we are now in the blessed month of Ramadhan. In the days leading to it, I kept thinking about what afida wrote on being given the opportunity to be alive long enough to be in it. Many people we know and perhaps we don't know are no longer with us now. Could we be joining them during next Ramadhan, or even before the end of this one?

I know it's a scary thought but then again we have very little control over the matter of life and death. What we do have some control over is how we spend the opportunity afforded to us. Ramadhan is here and we are, thanks to Allah, are still here as well. Let's make the best of it, shall we?

Source: Dar-us-Salam Publication

This year I try to follow my friends who decide to take a break from their regular reading materials to focus more on the Quran and Islamic books. In previous Ramadhans I didn't focus as much as I do this year and really I should've been doing this years ago. Better late than never, I guess.

I started with Dr. Muhammad 'Abd Al-Rahaman Al-'Ariff's Enjoy Your Life, a book I bought years ago but never really read seriously. I flipped through it a couple of times because of the way the content is organised, similar to other Islamic motivational books such as La Tahzan (Don't Be Sad) and Langit Ilahi, where the chapters stand on their own. We can easily pick a chapter and read it without worrying about losing sight of the book's message.

The book is introduced to us as "the art of the interacting with people... as deduced from a study of the Prophet's life." So maybe I was wrong about it being an Islamic motivational book, although they are many motivational stuff in it that backed with sources from the Sunnah and the Quran. At least it motivated me reassess my people skills. (In other words, I come to realise that I'm really not that great with people. Well... new rooms for growth.)

In one chapter I came across the story of Jabir RA, a companion of Rasullullah SAW who was mentioned in the hadith about marrying a virgin. Rasulullah SAW learned that Jabir RA was getting married to a women who had been married before (there wasn't any mention of whether she was a widow or a divorcée), and asked, "Why didn't you marry a virgin so that you could fondle one another?"

I have seen how frequent this hadith is used to argue for the advantage of marrying a women who has never been married over marrying a women who has been married before. I won't argue against this usage because I'm not qualified. I don't know about the related Quranic verses or Hadiths.

I prefer to is to relate the story in the context of what actually happened between Rasullullah SAW and Jabir bin Abdullah RA. I hope that being understanding the story behind the Hadith, the bigger picture, we would better appreciate the Hadith and its message.

Jabir bin Abdullah RA was a young Sabahah, and when the conversation recorded in this particular Hadith took place Jabir was a newly-wed. He was travelling with Rasulullah SAW back to Madinah at the time. The conversation was a friendly one and Rasulullah SAW was engaging with Jabir RA in a way that would interest a young man like Jabir RA. And since Jabir RA was recently married, it's only natural that sooner if not later they would veer into the topic of marriage.

(And as far I know young people, working with them at work, if you ever want to get their attention, start talking about marriage and married life and stuff related to it.)

Jabir RA was not only a newly-wed, he was had a father who was martyred in the battle of Uhud. And Jabir had nine sisters to take care of. Nine. Let that number sink in for a while.

Nine sisters plus debt collectors knocking on their doors, being financially destitute and a new wife. I can only to imagine the burden on Jabir RA's shoulders.

Coming back to the Hadith about Jabir RA's choice to marry a women who had been married before, Jabir RA replied,
O Messenger of Allah! My father died a martyr at Uhud, leaving behind daughters, so I did not wish to marry a young girl like them, but rather an older one who could take care of them and look after them.
In other words, he needed someone who would fulfil the role that is similar to a mother's, rather than a another 'sister.'

As explained by the author, Jabir RA was actually sacrificing his pleasure for the sake of his sisters. Being to someone who was married before is quite a challenge. Widowers, widows or a divorcées are sometimes influenced by their experiences in previous marriages. They normally enter their new marriages with their own emotional baggages. It takes incredible amounts of patient and love to make this type of marriage to work.

One part of this Hadith that people often neglect to mention is the reply from Rasulullah SAW,
You have made the correct choice.
This Hadith was reported in both sahihs Al-Bukhari and Muslim.

There are a few lessons can we learn from looking at the Hadith in its context.

When it comes to choose to a suitable candidate for wife, the fact that the woman was previously married (or not) shouldn't be made into the ultimate deciding factor. A virgin is not necessarily the better choice. Everything boils down to, again, the bigger picture.

Usually, the best match for someone who has never been married before is someone likewise. However, in Jabir RA's situation, Rasulullah SAW approved of his decision because his situation is an extraordinary one. Nine sisters, don't forget.

In fact, Rasulullah SAW was married to a Saiditina Khadijah RA, who was married a few times before she becoming his wife. This too is an extraordinary situation, for both Rasulullah SAW and Ummul Mukminin Khadijah RA were persons of exemplary characters, and no one in their society could imagine a better match than the two of them.

Wallahua'lam and Ramadhan Kareem.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Amalan soleh atau ritual?

Sebagai seorang ayah Michael Chabon menghadapi satu dilema. Dia seorang yang berpandangan progresif dan seorang ateis. Pada masa yang sama, masa telah tiba untuk anak lelakinya yang baru lahir dikhatan, selari dengan kehendak budaya Yahudi.

Kalau abangnya dikhatan, adik pun patut juga, bukan? Kalau tidak, mereka tidak akan sepadan. Itu kesimpulan Chabon.

Dilema tersebut diserabutkan oleh satu lagi faktor. Chabon pernah terbaca yang berkhatan dikatakan boleh mengurangkan nikmat hubungan kelamin. Kebenarannya tidak mungkin dipastikan oleh Chabon kerana dia sendiri telah dikhatan semasa kecil. Sedikit sebanyak dia berasa bersalah kerana menimpakan kemungkinan ini ke atas anak-anaknya.

Sumber: A.V. Club

Saya pula tergaru-garu kulit kepala saya yang tidak gatal ketika membaca tentang dilema ini di dalam Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son, koleksi esei Chabon tentang lelaki, kelakian dan kehidupan sebagai seorang lelaki.

Saya lansung tidak terfikir yang berkhatan boleh menimbulkan begitu banyak persoalan dan pertimbangan. Isu sebegini sebenarnya adalah tema berulang di dalam pelbagai novel, siri televisyen dan filem Barat, pertembungan di antara kepercayaan dan kebudayaan. Pada pengamatan saya, orang Yahudi yang paling sering mengalaminnya kerana pertautan mereka yang sangat kuat dengan asal usul mereka, walaupun mereka secara terang-terangan menolak aspek berkaitan kerohanian dan ketuhanan.

Alim ulama kita menerangkan perkara ini dengan baik sekali. Apabila amalan soleh dibuat tanpa menyedari kepentingannya (fikir) dan perkaitannya dengan Allah SWT (zikir), ia bertukar menjadi adat. Atau istilah modennya, ritual.

Islam berbeza daripada sistem kepercayaan lain dari segi matlamatnya. Segala amalan soleh yang kita kerjakan adalah kerana mencari keredhaan Allah. Segala niat yang selain itu akan ditolak. Bukan sahaja ia menjadi sia-sia, bahkan jika niat itu kerana selain Allah, ia menjadi syirik, dosa yang tidak sama sekali akan terampun. (Semoga Allah melindungi kita semua daripadanya.)

Satu lagi prasyarat bagi setiap amalan soleh adalah bertetapan dengan sunnah Baginda Rasulullah SAW dan kehendak syariah. Sekali pun niat telah diikhlaskan kepada Allah SWT, kaedah perlaksaannya perlu betul. Allah tidak akan menerima solat Maghrib lima rakaat yang ditunaikan hatta kerana cinta padaNya.

Perintah Allah tidak datang secara arahan semata-mata. Di samping peringatan dan amaran, amalan soleh juga mengandungi fadilat-fadilat yang tersendiri. Ada fadilat yang berbentuk janji di alam akhirat kelak seperti ganjaran pahala bagi solat fardhu berjemaah dan solat-solat sunat, dan ada fadilat yang dapat dirasai di dunia ini lagi seperti mendapat kasih sayang kerana mengasihi ibu bapa, anak-anak dan saudara seagama.

Ritual pula mungkin mengandungi signifikasi, falsafah atau sejarah yang tertentu. Oleh sebab lemahnya atau tiadanya perkaitan di antara ritual dan asas-asas daripada Al-Quran dan Sunnah, maka ramai Muslim terutamanya generasi ke-dua Muslim di negara Barat lebih banyak mempersoalkan amalan-amalan ritualistik yang sering diamalkan secara turun-temurun, berbanding Muslim yang lahir Muslim seperti orang Melayu.

Jika kita tidak berwaspada, tidak mustahil kita akan mencampur-adukkan di antara amalan soleh dan ritual. Lebih teruk lagi kita mungkin akan terkinja-kinja marah apabila orang lain meninggalkan sesuatu yang ritual tetapi sedikit pun tidak bersuara apabila amalan soleh dipinggirkan.

Dari pandangan Islam, kepentingan tentang berkhatan ada diterangkan. Rasullullah SAW bersabda di dalam sebuah hadis riwayat Bukhari dan Muslim,
Lima perkara fitrah: berkhatan, mencukur bulu kemaluan, memotong kuku, mencabut bulu ketiak, memendekkan misai.
Fitrah, menurut As-Shawkani, adalah perkara-perkara yang membawa kepada kehormatan dan kesopanan apabila diamalkan.

Namun bezanya orang Yahudi dan orang Muslim, termasuklah orang Melayu, ialah kuatnya pegangan orang Yahudi terhadap budaya mereka. Setuju atau tidak itulah identiti mereka selaku bangsa terpilih. Adakah perasaan yang sama wujud di dalam hati kita orang Muslim, yang sudah pun disebut sebagai ummah yang terbaik oleh Allah SWT di dalam Al-Quran? Walhal perintah dan amalan kita ada asas rujukannya, cara menunaikannya, kepentingannya serta kelebihannya; bukan berdasarkan sentimen ethnocentric?

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Cerita blog ini

Sejak awal bulan Jun lagi saya sibuk dengan pelbagai benda, termasuk menziarahi beberapa tempat yang sudah lama saya tidak ziarahi, seperti Tanjung Tokong, kampung nenek dan moyang saudara saya. Dan projek-projek yang sudah lama tertangguh, menyebabkan tumpuan saya kepada blog ini menurun.

Saya akui saya bukan blogger tegar. Saya masih mampu hidup tanpa mengupdate blog saya setiap jam hari. Apa yang penting bagi saya ialah satu tempat untuk menulis.

Ketika saya memulakan blog ini pada tahun 2003 atau 2004 (saya kurang pasti kerana ada entri awalan yang sudah didelete), saya lebih berminat untuk menyertai dan menyelami fenomena blogging yang baru masih berkembang pada waktu itu. Dengan bantuan seorang rakan sekolah dan blogger, ieka, saya membuka blog ini dengan nama "Awkward Living with Rollie." Tajuk itu ada maksud yang tersirat. Ketika itu saya masih tercari-cari arah tuju hidup dan baru sahaja tamat belajar. Walaupun saya lulusan dalam bidang komputer, saya agak lemah dalam kemahiran teknikal seperti pengaturcaraan dan pengiraan. Kerjaya di bidang teknikal tidak begitu menggamit minat saya.

Blog ini merupakan projek sampingan saya, tempat saya melarikan diri seketika. Dengan sokongan blogger lain seperti iena, mudin dan rakan-rakan blogger dan pembaca, saya terus menulis. Sedar-sedar, blog ini sudah melepasi usia lima tahun, enam tahun dan seterusnya hingga sekarang.

Alhamdulillah, sedikit demi sedikit penulisan saya bertambah baik, jika dibandingkan dengan masa saya mula-mula blogging. Saya percaya menulis blog adalah satu cara yang untuk meningkatkan kemahiran menulis. Saya sentiasa memberi galakan kepada kawan-kawan saya yang ingin membuka blog mereka sendiri.

Dari awal lagi saya sengaja meninggalkan ejaan kontot dan cuba untuk menepati tatabahasa sebaik mungkin. Keputusan ini secara tidak lansung menajamkan lagi kemahiran editing saya. Saya sekarang lebih teliti terhadap hasil kerja saya yang melibatkan penulisan.

Saya turut berpegang kepada nasihat Anne Lamott, penulis Bird by Bird, iaitu berkenaan "shitty first drafts." Selalunya entri saya akan diedit berkali-kali sebelum dipublish. Mungkin ada melihat ini sebagai satu bentuk self-censorship atau blogging yang tidak authentic. Bukankah blogging sepatutnya datang dari hati? Jujur sejujur-jujurnya?

Memang. Dan memang, ada banyak cara untuk blogging. Ada orang blogging untuk berkongsi pengalaman dan perasaan dengan orang lain. Dan orang menggunakannya sebagai satu wadah untuk ekspresi diri, siap dengan galeri foto dan portfolio karya.

Tentunya saya tidak boleh sama sekali mengatakan yang cara saya blogging adalah cara yang sepatutnya. Terpulang kepada empunya blogger masing-masing.

Satu perkara lagi, ketika mula-mula dahulu, saya menjadikan blog sebagai projek eksperimen HTML dan CSS. Saya mengedit template dan menjadikannya unik, dan sejak dulu lagi saya sukakan gaya minimalis yang kini dipopularkan oleh Apple melalui desain iPhone dan iPad. Satu soalan yang sering saya dapat ialah, "Kenapa blog ini tidak berwarna-warni?"

Sudah beberapa kali saya menukar template blogger ini, dan yang terbaru adalah beberapa hari lepas. Namun akhirnya saya membuat keputusan untuk terus menggunakan template yang sekarang, The Morning After. Desainnnya ringkas dan kemas serta tidak terlalu padat. Dan paling penting, rupanya yang minimalis.

Terima kasih yang tidak terhingga, pembaca dan blogger sekalian, kerana sudi berkunjung, khasnya buat afida yang menjenguk dan bertanya khabar setelah lama saya tidak blogging dan menjadi follower pertama blog ini. Mohon maaf kepada semua jika ada terlanjur atau tersilap. Saya orang tua baru belajar.

Izinkan saya untuk berkongsi semula sebuah entri berbentuk puisi dari 2005 bertajuk "No updates? Why?"
Are you
Too busy, to sit down and write something?
Too lazy, to think of something to write?
Too hungry, to even think clearly?
Too occupied, to even remember that you own a blog?
Too sad, from hearing the depressing news about the world around us?
Too stressed out, from the tremendous pressures of modern living?
Too tired, from running away from all your responsibilities?
Too guilt-ridden, from the thought of taking some time of your busy day to update your blog?

Or are you
Too scared, to face the readers who never really exist?

Monday, 11 July 2011

The Story of the Qur'an

Sumber: Wiley
Saya keberatan untuk memulangkan buku ini ke perpustakaan usai membacanya. Saya bimbang kalau saya membacanya secara terburu-buru lalu terlepas isi-isinya yang penting.

Niat asal saya membaca buku ini adalah untuk mencari maklumat tentang sejarah Al-Quran. Walaupun lahir Muslim, pengetahuan saya mengenai sejarah Al-Quran masih kelam. Misalnya, bagaimana ayat-ayat Al-Quran yang dahulunya tersimpan di dalam ingatan para Sahabat RAHum berjaya dihimpunkan dan dibukukan?

Keseluruhan proses mengumpulkan isi Al-Quran mengambil masa beberapa tahun, merentasi zaman beberapa Khulafah Ar-Rasyidin. Umat Islam sangat terhutang budi kepada Zaid ibnu Tsabit RA, sahabah yang menjadi jurucatat Rasulullah SAW, yang juga telah diperintahkan oleh Baginda untuk menguasai beberapa bahasa termasuklah bahasa orang Yahudi ketika itu, memandangkan betapa penting dan strategik peranan bahasa dalam usaha dakwah. Zaid dan sahabah lain RAHum telah menulis semula hafalan Al-Quran dan mencantumkan lembaran-lembaran ayat suci Al-Quran dari pelbagai sumber, menghasilkan naskhah Al-Quran yang kita semua baca hari ini.

Ini sebahagian kecil isi The Story of the Qur'an, sebuah kajian akademik oleh Ingrid Mattson. Beliau merupakan seorang Professor di Macdonald Center for Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, Hartford Seminary. Walaupun buku ini sebuah bersifat akademik, gaya penulisannya begitu mengasyikkan. Jarang sekali saya berjumpa dengan kajian yang bersifat tinggi (senarai rujukan yang panjang serta analisis yang luas dan mendalam) yang membuatkan saya rasa ingin terus menerus membaca dan berasa sayang untuk berhenti, malah berasa berat untuk memulangkannya. Prof. Dr. Mattson mengupas Al-Quran dari pelbagai aspek meliputi ertinya kepada umat Islam, sejarahnya, penafsirannya, dan peranannya di dalam lingkung hidup Muslimin.

Ada terdetik di hati saya, adakah Prof. Dr. Mattson seorang muslimah? Atau adakah beliau seorang lagi ahli akademik yang mengagumi Islam tetapi belum memeluk Islam?

Jawapannya, ya. Beliau saudara saya dan kita semua orang Islam. Semoga Allah mengganjari beliau atas penulisan yang amat bernilai ini, amin.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

This Earth of Mankind

Source: Nobelang Atisan
Some authors are known for their tendency to put their characters through hell. Pramoedya Ananta Toer, I suspect, is one of them.

The Buru Quartet is considered to be one of Pramoedya's most well-known work. The four book series consists of This Earth of Mankind (Bumi Manusia), A Child of All Nations (Anak Semua Bangsa), Footsteps (Jejak Langkah), and House of Glass (Rumah Kaca). Initially banned by the Indonesian government for propagating communism thoughts— an allegation that turned out to be entirely false— the books have been translated into many languages and have been critically praised for its boldness in exploring the intricate web of native-colonial relations.

Pramoedya himself had went through a hell of sorts. Buru Island was the place of Pramoedya's incarceration, and the books were originally told to his fellow inmates before later recollected in writing after Pramoedya was released. The prison prohibited any text whatever. According to Max Lane, the translator of the Buru Quartet, an inmate was taken away by the prison's authority because he was to found to possess a small piece of newspaper that was used to wrap some nails. His body was found floating in a nearby river a few days later.

My Buru Quartet journey began with its ending. House of Glass was a cat-and-mouse tale between a native-born colonial police officer and the figures of Indonesia's native liberation movement. One of them of the Dutch-educated Raden Mas Minke, the novels' most central charater. Minke's final fate was an ill one, a fate that could befallen upon the many who fought and died in the struggle for liberation. For every few names remembered in the history tomes, thousands are still buried in obscurity, doomed to be forgotten.

But Minke had a life, a beginning, and This Earth of Mankind is that beginning. We meet young Minke as young man, a promising native-born student at a Dutch school, the son of a Bupati (native officials in the Dutch administration). Minke was on the path to become somebody.

And that path would lead him to Nyai Ontosoroh. During an expected visit to home of businessman Robert Mellema, Minke becomes acquainted with the most cultured and intellegent native woman he ever met, someone so rare she is almost mythical; the self-educated native businesswoman. She would have been the jewel of her society if were not for one reason. Nyai Ontosoroh is not the legal wife of Mr. Mellama despite being the mother to their two children, Robert Jr. and Annelies.

Minke falls for Annelies as instantly as Robert Jr. despises Minke for winning the heart of his mother and sister. Annelies is fragile strand that holds the story together. Her naivete and exuberance are direct opposite of her mother's character, the indomitable manager whose fate were sealed when as a young girl she was sold by her parents to Robert Mellema. Annelies embraces her mixed heritage which similarly makes her what her brother is not; the self-loathing native-born Dutch. The family's patriach, Mr. Mellema, was first introduced as a man who is reduced to a shell of his former self.

The Mellema family continues to shape Minke's view of the future. In Nyai Ontosoroh, he sees the hope that education can bring. Before Mr. Mellema succumbed to frequenting a nearby brothel, he taught Nyai Ontosoroh all he could. He even admits that Nyai Ontosoroh was more educated than the average Dutch woman in the Netherlands. Nyai Ontosoroh tries to do the same for her daughter by getting her to be actively involved in the family business. Meanwhile, Robert's retaliatory behaviours constantly widens the gulf between him and both his mother and sister.

Towards the end, Minke becomes embroiled in a series of shocking events involving the Mellema family, including him getting married to Annelies. The young couple's happiness was cut short by the intervention of Dutch administration on the grounds that Annelies is underage. At this point it seems that Minke is destined for a difficult life, and thinking about his twilight days on earth in House of Glass really got to me.

To say that I thoroughly enjoyed the two books in this tetralogy so far would sound as if I enjoy seeing Minke and the other characters suffer, being oppressed and subjugated. The truth however is I am both appreciative of and shaken by the realism that Pramoedya conveys.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Mengenali Pendita Za’ba

Di sekolah menengah dahulu saya tinggal di asrama untuk beberapa tahun. Asrama kami bukan asrama penuh, sekadar sekolah separa harian. Sebahagian besar pelajarnya tinggal di asrama sementara yang lain berulang alik dari rumah. Ada yang memilih untuk tinggal di asrama kerana rumah mereka agak jauh dari sekolah. Ada pula yang memilih untuk terus tinggal di rumah, sanggup mengharungi kesibukan Kuala Lumpur saban hari tanpa sekelumit keluh.

Bangunan asrama yang saya diami dahulu agak kecil dan mempunyai enam bilik asrama, dua bilik air serta bilik membasuh awam dan dua buah bilik hujung yang juga merupakan rumah kediaman warden asrama sekeluarga. Menariknya bilik-bilik di bangunan ini semuanya dinamakan sempena nama sasterawan. Bilik saya A. Samad Said, setingkat dengan A. Samad Ismail dan Abdullah Hussein di sebelahnya. Di tingkat atas adalah Za’ba, Keris Mas dan Tongkat Warrant. Bangunan itu sudah dirobohkan dan kini sebuah bangunan baru yang lebih besar berdiri di tapaknya.

Salah seorang kawan sekelas ahli bilik Za’ba. Saya selalu ke situ kerana ahli-ahlinya sangat mesra terhadap tetamu. Jika ada makanan lebih mereka tidak pernah lupa menjemput kami menjamahnya. Sesiapa yang pernah tinggal di asrama akan faham kenapa makanan selalu dianggap satu kemewahan, apatah lagi jika sajian di dewan makan kurang membangkitkan selera. Malah seorang kawan lain pernah berpendapat yang penyakit orang yang tinggal di asrama ialah suka makan free. Mungkin penyakit ini tidak menimpa kebanyakan penghuni asrama tetapi ada kemungkinan saya salah seorang penghidapnya.

Layanan penuh budi ahli bilik Za’ba terhadap saya menyebabkan saya teringat-ingat dan terfikir-fikir tentang tokoh empunya nama Saya cuma tahu yang beliau adalah pengarang buku Pelita Bahasa Melayu dari sebuah rencana yang termuat di dalam buku latihan Bahasa Melayu UPSR saya. Selain daripada itu saya kurang maklum.

Kebelakangan ini saya tersua semula dengan nama Za’ba. Mula-mula di celah-celah halaman buku Ustaz Dr. MAZA. Kemudiannya di muka depan Berita Minggu bertarikh 15 Mei 2011 (“Za'ba Dipersenda”). Perasaan ingin tahu saya tentang tokoh Melayu yang jarang disebut-sebut ini mula menebal.

Beberapa kali Ustaz Dr. MAZA menyebut tentang buku Za’ba yang berjudul Perangai Bergantung kepada Diri Sendiri. Penterjemah buku Ustaz Dr. MAZA menterjemahkannya sebagai “Our Attitudes Depends on Us Alone”, tetapi merujuk kepada buku yang dimaksudnya, terjemahan yang lebih tepat mungkin berbunyi “The Attitude of Self-Reliance.” Atau “The Habit of Self-Reliance”, mengikut edisi rasmi Bahasa Inggeris terbitan Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.

Sumber: Fauzi Sabri
Menurut pengenalan buku ini yang ditulis oleh Hamdan Hassan, penulisan Za'ba tentang perangai yang khusus ini menerima kritikan dan kecaman ketika mula-mula diterbitkan. Kontroversi yang ditimbulkannya menyebabkan Sultan Perak terpaksa campur tangan lalu mengharamkan Risalah ke-I yang juga diberi judul Falsafah Takdir. Buku Perangai mengumpulkan Risalah ke-II dan ke-III.

Pandangan Za'ba tentang pemikiran orang Melayu amat menyengat. Saya tidak hairan jika nama Za'ba kurang disebut-sebut sehingga kini. Jika kumpulan ulamak pun boleh memohon Tuanku Sultan untuk masuk campur, bayangkanlah reaksi pada peringkat orang awam. Barangkali Za'ba menjadi mangsa perkara yang beliau tentangi iaitu sikap bertaklid dan tidak berusul periksa.

Misalnya tentang mencari rezeki dan menyara hidup tanpa meminta-minta (dalam konteks hari ini saya fikir ini termasuklah meminta-minta kepada kerajaan). Beliau menegur,
... (pada perkara dunia) jika hendak memasukkan anak ke sekolah, rendah atau tinggi, maka sentiasalah mereka hendak mendapat ‘free’ (percuma tiada bayaran), atau mereka terharap-harap mendapat pertolongan kerajaan akan memberikan ‘scholarship’ (biasiswa) kepada anak itu. Jika mereka tidak ‘biasiswa’ tiadalah upaya mereka membelanjainya, kerana mereka miskin dan sentiasa mengaku miskin dan mengaku tidak tahu dan tidak pandai berikhtiar mencari wang sendiri atau berjimat-jimat mengumpulkannya untuk membelanjai sendiri anak-anak itu ke sekolah...
Nah, bayangkan reaksi umum orang Melayu terhadap pendapat ini.

Selanjutnya beliau menerangkan,
Padahal orang-orang bangsa lain walaupun mereka sendiri tiada berpelajaran tetapi dengan sehabis dayanya berkebun sayur, berjual kayu api, berjual air batu, mengkayuh basikal kereta (trishaw), berjimat belanja, berceking makan minum, dapat mereka menghantar anak-anak mereka ke sekolah dengan belanja mereka sendiri dan dengan membayar tiap-tiap perkaranya. Kerana walau di sekolah bangsa mereka sendiri pun, mereka tidak mendapat “peri” semuanya seperti kita dengan anak-anak kita di sekolah Melayu. Maka yang demikian ialah terutamanya oleh sebab mereka kuat bergantung kepada usaha dan ikhtiar mereka sendiri dan percaya kepada kebolehan dan keledar diri mereka sendiri, serta malu meminta tolong.
Saya melihat ini sebagai satu peringatan yang wajar. Kita lihat saudara-saudara seislam kita seperti rakyat Palestin dan Iraq. Mereka banyak mengambil inisiatif sendiri kerana mereka tidak bergantung kepada kerajaan mereka seperti yang kita selalu lakukan. Ada sekali-sekala gerakan memohon derma untuk membantu rakyat Palestin oleh orang Palestin sendiri tetapi sangat jarang kita jumpa mereka yang ke hulu dan ke hilir meminta derma berterus-terusan. Begitu juga dengan rakyat Iraq yang sekarang ibarat ketiadaan negara.

Za'ba mengajak kita supaya mempergunakan kudrat dan nikmat pemberianNya untuk berusaha, di samping bertawakal. Beliau mengambil ibarat orang Kristian yang mengharapkan dosa mereka ditebus oleh syafaat Nabi Isa, di mana orang Islam pula mengharapkan syafaat Nabi Muhammad SAW.
Akan tetapi jika “semuanya” orang Islam hendak jadi begitu — hendak masuk syurga dengan jalan syafaat dan permohonan Rasulullah sahaja menolongnya, bukan dengan jalan amal sendiri atau dengan jalan kelayakan sendiri dari sebab amalnya itu — nescaya tentulah akan memberi malu yang besar kepada Rasulullah hendak memohon ke hadirat Tuhan. Kerana jika demikian maka bermaknalah bahawa orang-orang umatnya bangsat belaka, tiada mempunyai amal dan kelayakan sendiri!
Amal soleh kita adalah usaha kita untuk sejahtera di akhirat. Teguran beliau adalah khusus kepada orang-orang yang hidup tanpa beramal dan hanya mengharapkan pahala tahlil dan sedekah bacaan Qul Hua'llah daripada orang yang masih hidup sebagai bekalan. Hakikatnya setinggi mana pun amalan kita, tiada jaminan yang amalan itu akan diterima tanpa ditapis-tapis.

Ketinggian intelek tokoh Melayu ini gagal diiktiraf dengan sewajarnya. Ramai orang termasuk saya lebih mengenali Za'ba sebagai nama sempena bagi bangunan, jalan atau bilik asrama.
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