Showing posts from July, 2013

"Zammiluni" (Cover Me)

I wanted to direct my own short narrative video for a long time. I had a little taste of it with my collaboration with Umar Mita, but I didn't get a full grip of it. I kept on postponing on making one. Of course, with procrastination, comes excuses.

I believe in the concept of learning with experience. If I don't start, then how am I going to get experience?

Everything has to start somewhere.

So one day, while driving to Ottawa, I got an idea for a short video. I was driving, so I told my friend to take down some notes for me so that I don't forget. I ran the idea by my friend, Qayyum, because the idea involved a husband and a wife. Since he is recently married, I thought this would be a good opportunity. He agreed and his wife agreed to it too.

I revised my notes with another friend, just to get a fresh perspective on the idea. We refined the concept together, I gathered a few extras to help me out, we all went to the university to shoot the video, and the video above …

Ramadan Reflection Day 21: The Day I Stopped Eating Rice


So yesterday I decided to stop eating rice for a week.

You have to understand the "heresy" of that statement. Being an Asian, rice flows in my blood. I've been eating rice all my life - for breakfast, for lunch, and for dinner. Occasionally, I'll eat other stuff like noodles, burgers, bread, etc.

But rice is my staple food. It is in fact the official staple food where I come from i.e. Malaysia.

So when I decided to stop eating rice (just for a week by the way), I realized that the air is filled with a pinch of skepticism.

"Wow, if I was you, I can't do it."

"You can't just quick cold turkey like that. That's not healthy."

"I can't live without rice."

This is not a stunt that I'm pulling to lose some weight. That's not the main reason. The main reason behind this short experiment is to put into conscious perspective the things that I take for granted and to realize that I am not really dependent on thing…

Ramadan Reflection Day 20: A Radical Seed in a Land of Possibilities


Okay, I am going to stick my head in the clouds for a minute.

We are very susceptible to trends, and not just on Twitter. Almost everyone wants to stay updated. Those who don't are looked down upon.

Fashion, games, phones, cars, computers, television sets - you name it. If it's not the latest trend, then it's too old and must be disposed of. Nothing lasts. Everything has an expiry date.

A trend is a powerful thing, but it must be kept in check. Otherwise, trends will control us. We will follow everything that trends dictate. We will give little to no consideration to what trend it is and what does it lead to; as long as we're ahead of the game, we don't care. Why are we so obsessed with being ahead? Ahead of what? Where does this race lead to? Where is the finish line? Or rather, is there a finish line?

Capitalism is no secret. Capitalism is no conspiracy.

The idea behind it all is to make us consume more and produce less. Not too long ago in our history…

Ramadan Reflection Day 19: A Case for Diverse Intelligence


If you place a white kid and a black kid in a room, they acknowledge that each person is different from the other but they don't think that the other doesn't belong. Kids can make friends with virtually anybody; one is not better than the other. The criterion for our ultimate distinction between one another is one that no one can measure except for God, and that criterion is Taqwa (God-consciousness).

"O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted." (Surah al-Hujurat: 13)

At the essence of humanity is diversity. We unite on the basis of our collective and individual differences. Those who try to make everyone the same are always those who cause unnecessary conflicts.

Uniformity doesn't breed unity. Diversity does.

It just hit me quite recently that I have bee…

Ramadan Reflection Day 18: Living in the Present


I think the key to a good quality life is in the present moment. It is in the here and now. It is in the present that I am currently living in. I don't live in my past anymore and I don't know I am going to live in my future.

Too many people are preoccupied with their past; not letting go and moving on. Too many people are obsessed with their future; always rushing and looking at what's next.

But how many are mindful of the present?

The present is our centre. Our past and our future are in the periphery; not because they are not important, but because they are not the focus. The focus is on the here and now.

The past is history, we learn from it. The future is a mystery, we don't know much about it. Both the past and the future play a supporting role in the story of our life, but the present is the leading role.

It's all about the present moment.

God doesn't judge us based on our past or our future. He sees us in this present moment. But are we here,…

Ramadan Reflection Day 17: Community of Healers


A Muslim woman emailed me her story. I edited it a little bit, but the overall message is still in tact.

I believe everyone has his/her own dark past and I have mine that I have to deal with. I am a mother, but I am not married.

Despite being pregnant out of wedlock, I was determined to deliver this child. Abortion wasn't an option. I didn't care what other people think. I want to raise this child like any mother would. I don't want to punish my innocent child for the crime I have committed.

It has been three years. I accepted what had happened to me and I'm doing my best for my child, but I can't stop thinking about what I had done. Did I do the right thing by taking the responsibility and raising my child?

I can't go out. I can’t go to work. People are murmuring behind my back. I feel like people will keep judging me. I somehow lost the will to live.

I know that only to Allah I should turn for help, but I can't contain this feeling; this feelin…

Ramadan Reflection Day 16: The Father That I Am


I don’t have kids. I’m not even married, yet. So the title might throw you off a bit. But the title is not a gimmick, it is a statement. Rather, it is a question.

"What kind of father am I?"

Being unmarried and consequently having no kids, it's kind of a weird question to ask. It's even weirder to ask such a question in the present tense as oppose to the future tense. But my question is based on a principle that I'm trying to live by and it is this:

"Parenting starts before marriage and the first child you’ll raise is yourself."

I have learned enough about childhood, adolescence, and adulthood in my psychology classes to convince myself that the principle rings true. A lot of the psychological malfunctions can be traced back, partly, to the family and in essence, to the parents. Of course, I have to emphasize that there is no one specific and exclusive cause for a malfunction. A human being is influenced by so many factors. These factors are …

Ramadan Reflection Day 15: Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable


When I am outside of my comfort zone, I usually feel nervous.

I think that's normal.

When we venture into a new territory, we don't know what to expect. As a protective mechanism, we feel nervous. The nervousness turns our alarm system on so that we are alert and careful. So, in a way, it's a good thing to feel nervous, maybe even a little bit scared.

But at the same time, we have to manage this feeling so that it doesn't become a hindrance for us to explore our world. We need to explore our world. We can't stay in our bubble forever. Well, technically we can, but we shouldn't.

Nervousness typically arises from situations where I am on my own or where I am being evaluated for how I'm doing.

A good example of such a situation in public speaking. When you are in front of people, you feel like you're alone and you feel like you're being evaluated for your performance. Those are true; in a way you are alone and you are being evaluated. But th…

Ramadan Reflection Day 14: Humanity is Our Concern


Recently I received an honest question from a person who sincerely wants to know and understand. The question was (and I'm paraphrasing): "Why should we care about Palestine?"

If I was to give a one-sentence answer, my answer would be, "It's not about Palestine. It's about humanity." But of course, that answer is simplistic and requires further explanation to avoid any misunderstanding. So I will expand on my answer further.

What goes on in a lot of people's minds (I think) when the issue of Palestine is being addressed is that it is, exclusively, a Muslim issue. Yes, in part, it is. Palestine is dear to the hearts of Muslims and one of the reasons why is because of Masjidil Aqsa (Al-Aqsa Mosque). Masjidil Aqsa is one of three most treasured mosques in Islam, along with Masjidil Haram (The Sacred Mosque in Mecca) and Masjid an-Nabawi (The Prophet's Mosque in Medina).

But in the grand scheme of things, it is a human issue. Hence it sho…

Ramadan Reflection Day 13: It's Time To Wake Up


One of my Ramadan goals this year is to sleep less and I am still struggling with it. There were times when I might be sleeping more (Astaghfirullah).

I expect from myself more than I expect from anyone else because I know my limits and I know that I can do better. Even if I have reached my limits, I might be able to push those limits. So I am more strict with myself than I am with anyone else (but not to a point of self-harm).

That doesn't mean that I want to be productive 24/7, because I know that's not possible. Sometimes we need to chill. But when the chilling goes overboard, then I have to stop and recalibrate myself.

I can't sleep all day, wake up for prayers, and eventually wake up for Iftar (break fast). That's just madness.

That's not fasting. I will not settle for that.

I think to myself what were the attitude of the Prophet and his Companions during this month and I can pretty much summarize it in this sentence - they took a lot less and they …

Ramadan Reflection Day 12: You Can Do It!


Let me start with an obvious point: we are and will be tested by Allah and His tests are manifested in so many different ways. We can't think for a second that just because we are believers, Allah will give us an easy path to Jannah.

"Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: 'We believe," and will not be tested?'" (Surah al-Ankabut: 2)

The verse quoted above encompasses our life in this world. This is not the place where we experience happily ever after like what is being taught to us in fairy tales. I think the reason why happily ever after is only talked about in fairy tales is because it doesn't exist in this world.

Happily ever after is in the next-world - in Jannah.

Our Own Curriculum

I once attended a talk and in that talk, one of the speakers said something that resonates within me. She said, "Every one of us has a God-given curriculum specifically designed for us individually." How true is that? Not only w…

Ramadan Reflection Day 11: In Defense of Shyness


"I am a very shy person. How do I overcome it?"

It is rather unfortunate that our society today, for the most part, perceives shyness as a bad thing. I think the flaw in this perception is the understanding that you are either a shy person or you are a(n) outgoing/friendly/charismatic/fearless/brave/etc.

Shyness is put at one corner of the room where no one wants to be. We are encouraged to remove the shyness in us in order to attain all the other awesome traits, some of which I have mentioned above.

I don't think so. I don't think it's that black and white. I don't think you have to remove shyness to be awesome. Shy people can be awesome. In fact, shy people are awesome!

I think we should treat shyness (and shy people) with more fairness and respect.

So here's my proposal: In the overall scheme of things, shyness is an essential trait, one that all human beings should have. However, shyness can be somewhat inappropriate if one is unable to put…

Ramadan Reflection Day 10: Eye on the Prize


Lets call a spade a spade: the eyes have desires that we (Muslims and non-Muslims) have a great tendency to fulfill, as if there's a gravity-like force that pulls our sight to the things that we shouldn't be looking at. Like gravity, those who resist will feel the force acting on them while those who just go with the flow will feel little or nothing at all. Like gravity, it takes a lot of strength to escape it.

One of the desires of the eyes is the sexual desire. Some are following this desire willy-nilly, some are struggling to keep the gaze down, and others are somewhere in between the spectrum.

From the eyes, to the heart?

In Malay, we have this saying that goes something like this, "From the eyes, to the heart." Someone I know made a slight addition to the saying and said, "But really, from the eyes, it goes to somewhere further south than the heart."

If you catch his drift.

He was being witty of course, but the message he's trying to send…

Ramadan Reflection Day 9: Beyond Hunger and Thirst


The sweet irony of Ramadan is that we suddenly become obsessed with food. In some countries, you see food bazaars popping up like mushrooms, iftar (break fast) deals in restaurants and hotels, iftar recipes in magazines, and suddenly the TV has more food shows.

Don't get me wrong, I think iftar is one of the moments that we can use to create bonds with family and friends. It's awesome and I'm all for it. But when you see a banner that says "All-you-can-eat iftar buffet!", you know that we forgot to hit the breaks.

We either eat too much until we can't breath or we prepare too much food that a lot of it goes to waste.

I think the link between Ramadan and food has to be broken. It is the month when we eat less, not eat more. It is the month when we empty our stomachs and fill our hearts.

Cut down on our food intake - go easy on our suhoor (pre-dawn meal) and our iftar. A trick that works for me is to use a smaller plate. Somehow I have this tendency …

Ramadan Reflection Day 8: The Day I Met a Jew


I recalled the first time I met a Jew. His name was Lee Weissman (Twitter: @JihadiJew).

Before that meeting, I heard a lot about Jews so much so that it would seem like I had known them for years. For a large portion of my life, I have been hearing stories about the Jews, but the stories that I usually hear about the Jews were not positive. The mental image that was painted in my head about the whole group of people was ugly, as if every single one of them is evil.

But the funny part is, I have never even met one in my life, until last year.

Despite all the things that I heard about Jews, I was grateful to be able to open my mind to other possibilities. I gave him a chance.

Thankfully, that's all it takes.

He flew over to my university because he was invited to give a talk, and I was one of the organizers of the talk. My intention was simple: He was my guest and I will treat him like one. I want to get to know him as if I didn't know anything about him.

Quran 3:64


Ramadan Reflection Day 7: The Underrated Mind


Today, I finished reading John Taylor Gatto's amazing book - Weapons of Mass Instruction. I highly recommend anyone who can read to give that book a go. After reading it, my mind was swimming with thoughts and I'd like to share one of them here.

One of the things that I am grateful of in my lifetime is the joy of self-discovery i.e. discovering things on your own and creating meaning from those discoveries using your own original thoughts. It is indeed a joy and a reward in and of itself.

Like a small child who discovered that he/she can stand up, that he/she found a peculiar furry creature people called a cat, or that the sounds that people mutter to each other is a form of communication called a language.

Moments of discovery can manifest themselves in many ways, one of them is through connecting the dots. Often times, we are so focused on the individual dots that we don't see the connections between them.

For example, more often than not, whenever I tell peo…

Ramadan Reflection Day 6: One by One


As I gaze upon my Ramadan goals that I've loosely set for myself this year, I can't help but becoming overwhelmed by them.

"Am I being realistic? Can I do them all?"

But I really want to improve myself become a better person.

I think zeal for self-improvement is a feeling that every Muslim should have, but he/she should also be weary of it. Zeal should be managed properly.

When you are so high-spirited in your aspirations, you want to achieve them all. That could lead you to end up with too much on your plate (an imagery that I believe we can all relate to especially during this month).

A Bird's Nest

When I came up with the idea to write this post, the image of a bird building a nest came to my mind.

If you observe how a bird makes its nest, you'll see that it is a tiresome process. The bird flies out to find materials, e.g. sticks, and flies back to construct the nest. Since it can't carry a lot of sticks in its beak, it has to fly out and fly…

Ramadan Reflection Day 5: It's About Time


24 Hours

Time is fair.

Everyone has the same amount of it. Nobody has more, nobody has less. What fascinates me is that within is fixed amount of time, some of us are able to do so much while others among us complain about having not enough time.

One fine example of the former group is Umar Abdul Aziz. He ruled for only 2 years. However, within that short about of time, he managed to (with the help of Allah) bring so much prosperity to his people. So much so that he managed to eliminated poverty! There was a time during his rule when nobody was eligible to receive the zakah (obligatory charity), because everybody was well off. Subhanallah!

All of that in just 2 years?

I think time is neither too much nor too little. Time is enough, if only we use it wisely.

"Time is what we want most, but what we use worst." ~ William Penn

Free Time

2 days ago I started "fasting" from my social media. I am determined to only check my social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, …

Ramadan Reflection Day 4: In the Heat of the Moment


Scenario #1

If you ask me (in my calm and composed state) whether or not I will curse a fellow driver who cuts me off on the highway, I would say with confidence, "No, of course not. Besides, I'm fasting."

But imagine if that event is happening and I am in that moment; the moment when a person cuts me off on the highway. My emotions run high and I'm thinking to myself, "That person could've hit me. I could've been hurt, or worse."

In that moment, what is my reaction?

Now, I am not that confident anymore. I am not confident if I can maintain my composure in that moment and not say or do something that I will regret later.

Scenario #2

If you ask me (in my calm and composed state) whether or not I will shake the hand of a female celebrity, I would say with confidence, "No, of course not."

But imagine if I am in an event with a female celebrity and she approached me, extending her hand. There are people everywhere. All eyes on us.


Ramadan Reflection Day 3: A Day Without Social Media


The Challenge of Our Time

It goes without saying that we live in a world where social media is everywhere. Everyone is connected to the internet, some more than others. A lot of us, I dare say, can't be disconnected with the internet without being anxious even a little bit.

What happens when the power goes out, when the WiFi doesn't work, or (God forbid) you're in the no 3G zone for your phone?

Do you get a little bit anxious? Suddenly feel like there's nothing to do? Can't wait to go back online and check who liked your Facebook status you posted 3 seconds ago?

That's a problem, and I think I am not immune to it.

My Ramadan Goal

Last night before I went to bed, I reviewed my Ramadan goals. I listed down 9 things that I would like to achieve this Ramadan, some goals are easy and some are difficult.

One of the goals is to spend less time in social media. Being a social media junkie like myself, I would categorize that goal into the "difficult"…