Unity in Diversity

This is my post in my Indonesian blog. It tells us about some misasumption people often made about my campus.

Catatan Acak

Terdorong oleh beberapa concern yang saya dengar akhir-akhir ini dari beberapa calon pendaftar KAUST, saya ingin berbagi pengalaman selama saya menimba ilmu di Univ Raja Abdullah ini, terutama tentang kehidupan keagamaan.

Di kampus ini, tidak ada pengaruh dari kelompok Islam manapun. Tidak ada yang mendikte kita untuk melakukan ini atau itu. Dalam hal pakaian misalnya, boro-boro disuruh pakai cadar, di dalam kampus kita bebas berpakaian apa saja, asal sopan. Standarnya sering disampaikan melalui email yaitu baju berlengan dan bawahan minimal  selutut. Instruksi ini penting karena banyak sekali ekspat-ekspat non muslim di sini yang sudah terbiasa dengan gaya hidup Barat. Di luar area kampus, wanita memang diwajibkan memakai baju kurung yang menutup dari leher sampai ujung mata kaki. Yup, sering kali kita lihat di Jeddah, wanita-wanita ber baju kurung tanpa berkerudung atau berkerudung tapi sekedar diletakkan di kepala (seperti westerner kalo masuk ke masjid-masjid di Indonesia :D). Baju kurung ini banyak…

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Watching an astounding TV series about second Caliph, Omar Ibn Khattab

These past few weeks, some of my friends and I have been in an excitement of a TV series uploaded in youtube. It has 30 episodes. The series was first shown Ramadhan last year in MBC1. It tells the story of the second Caliph in the past Islamic Empire, Omar Ibn Khattab (r.a). Started with a flashback plot,  the story began with a scene where aged Omar (r.a.) finished his Hajj and is riding camel on his way back home to Yathrib (present day Al Madinah) and passes by a place where he used to spent his time with his camels years ago when he was young. Looking back through time,  the story continues from that point till the end in forward fashion while showing the aged Omar every once in a while. The figure of aged Omar is somehow looks much different from his young character and this has made a friend of mine -who might have not paid full attention in the beginning- confused and said, ” Who is this grandpa, he showed up every once in a while  suddenly and very often… ” lol

It felt like being brought to the time of the Prophet SAW and be there witnessing every single narrated story in front our your own eyes. Not only I could understand more about the conflicts, background situation, culture, and the people’s character (compared to reading book), I felt more curious to know more about Islamic history. My friend and I ended up opening many resources to learn more about several Prophet’s companions who were screened there. It pictured numerous details while being accurate as it has been approved by a committee of seven leading Islamic Scholars ensuring the authenticity of the script, historical facts, and figures.

A picture worth a thousand words, similarly, movie is indeed more descriptive and furthermore, long-lasting in memory, at least for a visual-type person like me. Maybe it is true that before watching the series, I learnt about the story from my elementary school, yet it is not the same when you watch it as a movie.


Regardless of the controversy the series triggered because of the portrayal of some of  The Prophet’s companions, I found the series very informative. It has shed the light on Omar’s character, both before and after he became a Moslem. Despite his hardness, he maintained high moral value, integrity and kindness to everybody even before he became a Moslem. There is a scene where Abu Jahl abused Ibnu Mas’ud who was at that time a shepherd and had become a Moslem. Ibnu Mas’ud felt down. When Abu Jahl left, Omar (despite his hostility to The Prophet at that time as  Omar hasn’t embraced Islam) came and helped Ibnu Mas’ud.

Filmed with a high quality picture, animation and sound effect, the series brought us into many battles, as well as portraying wisdom, kindness, good governance, and justice of the Caliph in managing internal affair within the kingdom. Many other stories of The Prophet companions could be learnt from the series, including Abu Bakr, Khalid Ibn Waleed, Hamzah Ibn Abdul Muthalib, etc. We learnt how they are not after the world, rather just live in the cause of God, how obedience to leader is so important, how they love Prophet Muhammad more than themselves, and many others. One article will never be enough to mention these values one by one.

There were also several interesting-to-follow stories. For instance, the story about Suhail Ibn Amr family, one noble family in Quraish. He has two sons, Abdullah and Abu Jandal. These two brothers were so different. Abdullah is a resolute son while Abu Jandal is so obedient to his father, who was so hostile to The Prophet . Different incidents broken them apart but  in the end they are together in Islam.

This post is not intended to be a review for it can’t do justice for the series. I just want to share my experience in watching it. And stories that I quoted do not necessarily be the focus of attention nor it represents the whole episodes. They are just some parts of what I found amazing in this series. It was hard to stop watching it once you have started as you become so keen to know wht’s going to happen next. Sometimes I paused and looked online for more reference. My first encounter to the series, I watched four episodes in a row. Had it not because it was too late at night already and I had to come to office the next morning, I might have watched more episodes that night. The same thing happened to my friends. She finished the whole 30 episodes in 4 days, while the other one, she slept at four a.m. for two days in a row, just to watch this(not recommended to watch it this way unless you want to be so tired and forget about your day). We had been so immerse to the story such that we discussed about it almost every day at lunch, dinner, bedtime, etc. Lastly, while watching it, we can learn both English and Arabic as the audio is in very beautiful Arabic (seems so) and the subtitle is in English. I hope there will be many other series or movies about the Prophets and companions that we can learn from, especially maybe for children.

Image courtesy of MBC

Learn To Be A Good Outlier

Being a Moslem in a non Moslem community is quite an experience. You can tell so many unique, meaningful, funny, and perhaps unforgettable stories from being one. Randomly, this time I want to share some points on that note.

For the past two years, I’ve been part of a widely-diverse culture in terms of nationality and religion. First time I came here, I was assigned a house which was shared by two other students. They are from China and America. Within our chats, there were few times when we discussed about religion. Most of the time they asked many questions like why we pray five times, why women wear hijab. So indeed we need to have enough knowledge about these basic things people might ask. Sometimes what we find acceptable isn’t that simple and understandable for them such that we need to be able to see it from many point of views and be ready with answers. From my experience if we are not sure, it is okay and indeed better to say we don’t know, but we’ll do some research about it and get back to them later.

Also, I learnt that we have to be careful in giving explanation. Often at times we might want to relate a ruling with scientific findings or tell a verse which is proven by a recent finding. For example, why we don’t eat pork. Rather than answering by saying that pork is found to be harmful for health (some articles did write in this tone), it is preferable to say that it is written in the Quran, we believe in God’s words so we follow it. Then, we might or might not say about some additional recent facts. This is because that’s the sole reason, following God’s revelation. Besides, later on by more sophisticated scientific research it could be found the other way around. But we are not going to eat it in any case. There have been many scientific findings in trying to understand the rules and Sunnah such as the beautiful movement of Salah, benefits of eating seven dates in the morning, why lowering gaze is important, benefits of drinking zam-zam, etc. These discoveries are good to motivate us to be persistent on doing good deeds, yet, it is not the sole reason.

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Praises, good or bad?

Disclaimer : This is just an opinion of mine based on my understanding so far.

As a human being, we like to be praised, don’t we? Ladies usually will feel happy when they are praised about their outfit and look, men about their intelligence, student about their academic standing, employee about their work. In general, everybody likes to be praised. Even, some people need to be praised, otherwise they can’t be productive or demonstrate their talent.

However, in islamic teaching, praise is not considered that good, except praise between husband and wife (to develop and maintain the harmony in marriage life). Other than than, we are not encouraged to praise one since it can develop arrogance or pride to the one being praised, we never know. Unless we are sure that the person whom we praise is safe from developing such thing. Arrogance or pride are very subtle such that ourselves couldn’t really feel it when it begins to grow inside our heart.

The prophet says, when we praise someone, we actually (potentially) destroys him/her..  There are some hadith clearly show this. Also, there is opinion saying that it would be okay if it is done not in front of people, delivered in person. A suggested du’a by the prophet’s companion when we’re being praised :

O Allah, please do not account me for what they have said about me as they don’t know and You’re the All Knower, and please make me better than what they’ve said

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On Doing Good Deeds and Learn Quran

Earlier today I continued my thesis writing. In 1 hour 15 minutes (with 30 minutes fell asleep in between), I realized I only have 1 paragraph written. What a very difficult task to do. The most difficult part I think was arranging the logic. We had the points we want to write, but it is just very difficult for me to arrange it in such a way that reader would not lose the flow. So I thought maybe I need a practice, and here I am, writing a blog post 😀

I had so many things in my mind that I wanted to write, especially about all experiences here in Cambridge. Happiness and grief are mixed together. But I can’t post them together at once in one article, so I decided to write things I really wanted to write. I imagined if I didn’t have much time left and could only choose a topic, what topic would I write about.

These past few days, I felt that I was reminded to execute my good intention as soon as possible. It was a hadith if I am not mistaken, that encourages us to do good deed we have in mind soon, for instance shadaqah, or a visit to a friend. I had known this for so long but only these past few days I thought I knew the reason why. If we want to do shadaqah, the sooner the better, since we don’t know if we’ll still have our money tomorrow or even later today. You know what, I’ve just lost my bike yesterday. The bike I have possesed only for 1 month. It is not with me right now. It was stolen although I had locked it and parked it near my office. So we indeed have no control of our property, or should I say, His property that we borrowed. This also applies to time, if we want to visit a friend, or do something good, because of Him, do it as soon as we have time, who knows if we have more time tomorrow or later…

Second thing I wanted to write is about a sheikh message last Sunday. There was a seminar about Quran and sheikh Akram Nadwi from Oxford University (IslamIc Study program) came and gave a talk. He encouraged us to study Quran. And to get the benefit of it, it is best to study Arabic. It is not enough just to read the translation because there are soooo many beauty in its Arabic use, something that is so hard to be represented by normal translation. Tafseer maybe a bit helpful but still, won’t cover everything that we can get if we can understand Arabic, the Arabic used in Quran, not the daily conversation Arabic which I don’t know either…

That’s for now, for the random note 😀

a short chat about food

What do you eat everyday? Do you think you have supplied enough nutrition for yourself?

In a few minutes conversation last night, when I was having my supper, a friend of mine was talking about the elements that is needed by our body.

my friend : What is that (while pointing at my plate) Is it fish?

me : No, it is chicken and egg.

myfriend : Ou, ya, they are good, have lots of protein.

me : (gosh, for this past few moths, I’ve never thought about nutrition in my dinner, just about the taste :p )

my friend : how is the kiwi juice? is it nice ? (there’s a bottle of kiwi juice on the table)

me : yeah, want to try?

my friend : no, thanks, just wanna see, is it one hundred percent natural? (then she looked at the back label of the bottle)

Humm…, she mumbled.

me : (don’t know what she’s seen, then I turned the label to me) and I noticed that my juice is only 10% natural fruit. but it’s tasty though :p . “I will be more careful next time I buy juices”, I promised myself.

myfriend : u know, we need to take more calcium in our age, that’s why I prefer ice cream rather than chocolate candies… (a couple of minutes ago, she gave away her chocolate candies to me and others and excitedly take ice cream bars in fridge)… -ps. the ice cream is more milky than the candies-

my impression is that she really care about what she eat ^_^ .good. I should have managed to noticed what I eat.  Doesn’t need to have huge amount of food but more important is the quality, just like my friend. From what I’ve seen, she doesn’t eat a lot and mostly vegetables and fruits (but she loves chocolates :p ) and goes to the gym like everyday…. hm… sort of healthy life style..



Here we go, an old blog but new series…

It’s been several months ago since the last time I write in this blog… Now I want to write here again, hopefully I can do it continuously…

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