Showing posts from August, 2013

How to Improve Your English

I was born and raised in Malaysia. I speak Malay for the majority of my life; I speak Malay with my family and with my friends. Many of you asked how I acquired my English speaking skills so allow me to share with you my (not-so-secret) secret about how I learned English speaking and how I continue to improve it.

The secret composed of two parts: exposure and practice.

What do I mean by exposure?

Before a baby learns how to speak, the baby has to be exposed to the language. The idea is to familiarize the ears with the language (in this case: English).

Keep in mind that when you are exposing yourself to a language, you can’t escape from exposing yourself to the culture that comes with the language. This is true with any language, not just English. Culture is embedded in the language. Our job is to filter out all the bad culture and to take in all the good culture.

I got exposed to the English language through English songs, English movies, English TV shows, English cartoons, and En…

Eid Cards - Name List

On Thursday, I posted a video on Youtube. I talked about the tradition of giving and receiving Eid greeting cards.

Oh, and I wanted to write Eid greeting cards to 50 of you!
A special thanks to Fiqri Ramli for designing these cards on short notice. 
The offer has ended and I received about 426 sign ups from people from different parts of the world. I randomly picked 50 people, but then, I thought that 50 is too few.
So I picked 100!  Puteri Noor Alia bt Megat Mohd Noor (Malaysia)Astrie Fadhilah Abdul Rahim (Malaysia)Ummu Atirah binti Muhammad (Malaysia)Siti Nurizzatee binti Azlee (Malaysia)Ainur Najihah bt Zulkifli (Malaysia)Nur Adibah bt Mohd Zaki (Malaysia)Nur Fadhilla binti Zainudin (Malaysia)Nur Aliah Izzah binti Abdullah (Malaysia)Zur Azureen (Malaysia)Mimie Hamidah (Malaysia)Nur Hanida binti Abdullah Thani (Malaysia)Izzati Hazirah Bohari (Malaysia)Amirah Wahidah Mohd Rusli (Malaysia)A'attiyyah binti Ab Alim (Malaysia)Diyanah binti Mohaidin Gani (Malaysia)Amira binti Mohd Nasi…

Ramadan Reflection Day 30: The Fragrance Of Ramadan Remains


Maghrib creeps in as the sun descents into the horizon; it's like Ramadan is waving goodbye while walking away, slowly disappearing from sight.

But just because Ramadan is leaving, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to totally disappear. The spirit of Ramadan can live on, but that depends on us. We have to keep Ramadan alive in our hearts and in our deeds.

A good test to know whether we did well or not in Ramadan is to observe ourselves outside of Ramadan. Have I changed to become a better person? Or am I reverting to my old ways?

Will I go all out, to "compensate" for all the "opportunities" that I've missed in Ramadan? Because you know, I can't be bad in Ramadan. I have to watch myself closely in Ramadan. But when Ramadan is over, the party is on right?

How many of us are thinking in this manner? That question is for you to answer and for no one to find out.

Ramadan is not there for us to be temporarily "angelic"…

Ramadan Reflection Day 29: The Ups and Downs of Istiqamah


For quite a long time, I've been under the impression that Istiqamah means that I am staying the same. For example, if I read one page of the Quran everyday, Istiqamah in that sense would mean that I read one page of the Quran everyday for the rest of my life without missing a single day. If I miss a day, that means that I am no longer Istiqamah.

Considering that the root of the word Istiqamah is "qaama" which means "to stand up straight", I can see where my understanding comes from. In retrospect, I think I was under the impression that Istiqamah means to stand up without falling down.

That is only partly true.

What I didn't realize is the nuance behind the meaning of the word Istiqamah. When I go deeper into it, I realized that I only understand half of the equation. I missed one word in that equation, which will make the meaning complete. Just one word, and that word changed my perception of the whole concept of Istiqamah.

Istiqamah, in totali…

Ramadan Reflection Day 28: Towards The End Of Ramadan


Towards the end of Ramadan, there are at least three types of people:

1) Those who are exclusively happy because Eid is coming.
2) Those who are exclusively sad because Ramadan is leaving.
3) Those who are having mixed feelings.

Which one are you? That's for you to answer and for no one to find out.

I think there can't be an extreme towards either end of the sad-happy spectrum.

Thinking about the Seerah, I know that the Prophet and the Companions were heartbroken when Ramadan was leaving them. Once Ramadan ended, they missed it so much that they already looked forward to the next Ramadan.

But at the same time, they realized that Eid is a gift; a parting gift from Ramadan if you will. Hence, the proper attitude when receiving a gift is happiness and gratefulness. So the Prophet and the Companions didn't accept Eid solemnly. Eid is not a time for mourning, it is a time for celebration.

A celebration of what?

We are not celebrating the end of Ramadan - no Muslim wo…

Ramadan Reflection Day 27: When Is Laylatul Qadr?


During the last 10 nights of Ramadan, it is understandable that we would be wondering when Laylatul Qadr (Night of Power) will come. We look for signs and we hope that we hit the target. But sometimes we might be preoccupied with the signs of Laylatul Qadr that we missed the point.

Despite knowing the signs of Laylatul Qadr (as authenticated by our Prophet), we should be working for it on all the last 10 nights and not just on a specific night. Even the Prophet himself went for all the last 10 nights, because even with all the signs, no one knows for certain when Laylatul Qadr will be. Not even our Prophet knows that.

The fact that we don't know for certain should make us hopeful, because we still have a chance of getting Laylatul Qadr. So for the nights that are remaining, we shouldn't lose focus and relax as if we already found Laylatul Qadr. Since there is no guarantee, we should continue our effort all the way until the final night of Ramadan.

That is the wisdom…

Ramadan Reflection Day 26: Will This Be On The Test?


I am grateful to be studying something that I am passionate about. I realized that there are people out there who can't enjoy what I enjoy, for whatever reason. When you learn about something you're passionate about, you show that you care. You show that you are not studying it for the sake of grades. The questions that you ask your teachers are questions based on curiosity in the subject matter and not, "Will this be on the test?"

That question is probably the most popular question in my university. Before this, I didn't care for it. But now, I get irritated when I hear it. The worst part is that those students who ask other questions, sometimes questions that are not relevant to the test, but they're good questions, are being shunt. They are known as the "the annoying student who always asks questions." I want to give an award to such a student. I think we should all be like that; thinking outside of the box and questioning the teachers…

Ramadan Reflection Day 25: Hope for the Ummah at 2am in the Morning


The picture above was taken at 2am last night in ISNA Masjid, Canada. For the last 10 days of Ramadan, the Masjid organized an i'tikaf (a period of isolation, usually to a Masjid) and qiyam (staying up at night for voluntary prayers and other acts of worship).

As I walked into the Masjid's compound, I was surprised at the amount of cars in the parking lot. The only times I would usually see that many cars are during Friday prayer and Eid prayer. So seeing that many cars at 2am in the morning was a sight to behold.

As I walked through the Masjid's main entrance, it didn't look like it was 2am in the morning. I saw children, youth, adults, and elders. They were all there. Subhanallah, my heart was filled with joy, especially seeing all the children there. I even saw a young man walking with a crutch (his feet was injured). I kind of felt a bit ashamed of myself after witnessing his determination to attend the qiyam, despite his condition. Not to mention that t…

Ramadan Reflection Day 24: I'm Still Fasting


2 or 3 days ago, one of my lovely housemates (who is a devout Christian) asked me, "So, what's your plan for Eid next week?"

I suddenly stopped for a second.

"Wait, Eid is next week?!"

Subhanallah, I was slightly oblivious about how fast the time flies by. I didn't know what was happening in my brain. I knew that I am in the last 10 days of Ramadan, but somehow I didn't add Eid to the calculation. Realizing that, I became grateful.

A few years back, when I was in the last 10 days of Ramadan, somewhere in my mind I would be thinking about Eid - what to wear, where to go, what to eat, etc. This year, that thought didn't enter my mind until my housemate reminded me of it. But even after that reminder, I still put Eid on the back burner.

Why? Because I am still fasting. Ramadan is not over yet.

Eid is dear to my heart, but I have no guarantee that I will meet it. The only guarantee I have is the here and now. My here and now is Ramadan. Eid w…

Ramadan Reflection Day 23: I Love Dogs


In 2011, I went to Turkey for about a day. It was my layover before my flight to Malaysia. Since I have about a day of free time, I thought it's best to take the opportunity and visit one of Turkey's finest - the Sultan Ahmet Mosque (the Blue Mosque). Praying in the mosque was an absolute treat. I am grateful to Allah for giving me that opportunity.

Other than the mosque, I walked around its vicinity in Sultan Ahmet Square to check out the place. Whilst walking around, a stray dog started following me. Freaked out at first, I calmed down after I figured out that it wasn't going to chase me. Maybe it was just curious. So I just walked around normally, and it was trailing behind me. A very nice dog. I even snapped a photo with it.

If you ask me which animal is most loyal to humans, I would have to say dogs.

I distinctly remember being in a grocery store in Toronto when a dog walked in and started wandering around in the store. At first, I thought the dog was hungry…

Ramadan Reflection Day 22: Stealing Childhoods


Yesterday I learned something personally disturbing in my psychology class. Apparently, there is such a thing as a school for kids around 2 1/2 to 3 years of age. It's called junior kindergarten.

It's the same as regular schooling: sit quietly at a desk, listen attentively to the teacher talking in front of the class, walk in line, stay in line, and do this for about 9 hours a day.

As soon as heard my professor explained to me what pre-kindergarten was, I couldn't digest it. Almost immediately I feel that the whole concept is abnormal. In fact, I was in Abnormal Child Psychology class.

The idea of schooling a child that young irks me. Why? Because schooling doesn't necessarily celebrate the freedom of childhood. A child, especially as young as age 2 1/2 to 3, needs to explore the world. Childhood is a crucial time for play. Play is work for a child; through play a child makes sense of the world and himself/herself.

They should be outside, not inside the clas…