This shouldn’t be a mysterious book

A frequent reader of this blog might already noticed how often I talk about Qur’an. Probably, I won’t get tired of talking about it. In this post, I just have one simple message: Al-Qur’an shouldn’t be a mysterious book for us.

Not long time ago, or exactly up until February this year, I was like many of us. My take on Al-Qur’an was that Al-Qur’an is a complex book, full with religious law, and unstructured. Alhamdulillah, now I realized, how utterly incorrect that view was. Let me tell you a bit of story.

One day in February this year, I went for Ashar prayer at UCL praying room. It was Friday. As I entered to room, there was no body inside. I put my bag and start cleaning up the praying mats. Then suddenly, there was a man entered the room. He left his shoes scattered in the door. With a bit of hurry pace, he asked me: is it already Ashar? I said, yes, the time just begun. Then he started praying. Looking at him already praying, I went out to take my wudhu’. On my way, I picked his shoes and put it in the rack. Five minutes later, I entered the room. He already left. I did my two raka’at sunnah; and then I realized, my bag was gone! When I was about trying to find him, some brothers came inside and asked me to lead the prayer. By the time the prayer finished, obviously the thief already got his way out.

At that time, I was wondering, o Allah, why did this happen? What’s your plan on this? In my bag there were only lecture notes, computer tablet, but most importantly, also contain my mushaf (book of Al-Qur’an). This mushaf is the mushaf that I used to memorize Qur’an. As its format is a bit unique (i.e. 18 lines), I can’t find a replacement copy of it in London. I was disappointed that my Qur’an memorization process is disturbed.

One day, I went to London Central Mosque. As I desperately need for a new mushaf, I went to the book store; and then I found a life-changing book, i.e. mushaf Al-Qur’an translated by Muhsin Khan, published by Darussalam. I think the translation is really good. Unlike other English translation, this translation uses a very easy or common words; put explanation for most of the ayah based on several tafsir; and also explanatory hadits.

Since then, my relationship with Qur’an changed. I was so addicted to read Qur’an such that I usually read the whole translation of a surah before reading the Arabic text. Since then, Alhamdulillah, I can understand what Al-Qur’an is actually saying. Previously I didn’t fully read translation of a surah. As a result, I had a view that long surah such as An-Nisa, Al-Maidah, Al-An’am, etc. are a dark-terrifying surah which mainly talk about rules and rules. Now I realized that this thought is very wrong. This long surah, as all other surah in Al-Qur’an talk about five main messages, which are repeated over and over again in Al-Qur’an. These five are:

  • There is only one God, Allah swt. Worship him and abandon all of the other Gods.
  • For those who believe and do righteous deeds, they will be rewarded with eternal paradise in the hereafter; while the disbeliever and sinful will eternally be punished in the hell fire.
  • Don’t be like previous nations, such as the people of Noah, ‘Ad, Tsamud, Lot, etc., who are rebellious; so that be destroyed.
  • Don’t be like ahli kitab (people of the book) who were given book but they changed it, hide some parts of it, and create lies about Allah. Then finally,
  • We have some ayah on Islamic laws.

Now I realized, Allah has a very beautiful way of correcting my understanding on Al-Qur’an. To conclude, my advice to all of us, let’s change the way we approach Qur’an. It’s not a mysterious book! Rather, it’s the light. It’s the light from Allah swt which will enlighten our heart and will guide us to be the winner in this life and in the hereafter, insyaallah. Wallahu’alam.

This worldly life summarized in five words

Like many other people, I very often ask myself, what is this life really about? Why are we here? How to be a successful one? And so on. In looking for this answer, I am very grateful that I am in touch with Al-Qur’an, the only book which consists of literal word of God possessed by human being nowadays. In surah (chapter) Al-Hadid ayah (verse) 20, Allah swt summarized this worldly life in five words. The verse read:

“Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children..”

I’ve read this verse many many times before, but I didn’t really catch the meaning and get the sense of it. Only now, thanks to a good Android app called Qamus alAthar, I can get the meaning of five Arabic words that Allah used in that verse. Arabic is such a beautiful, detail, comprehensive, and deep in meaning language; no wonder why Allah swt chose it as the language of the final revelation. In my experience, merely relying on the ‘common’ translation that we read in our Qur’an will result in lost in meaning as well as lack of understanding. In Qur’an, Allah swt repeatedly asked us to think deeply, over and over again on the ayah of the Qur’an. Only through this exercise we will realize how powerful the Qur’an’s message is. Without further ado, here are the words.

First is la’ibun. The root letter for this word is la-‘a-ba; which means: “played/sported/gamed/jested/joked, pastime (in an unserious thing), engage in idle sport without meaning of purpose, slaver/drivel, stupid/fool.” Looking at this meaning, I internalize the word la’ibun as engaging in something that is not meaningful or purposeful. By internalizing it like this, I personally can see the connection between this word and the reality of life that I observe. In academic world, for example, I’ve seen many people engage in research, which can take almost his entire career, in something that is not meaningful or have no meaning. In Economics for example, we usually try to model human behavior in a very complex mathematical model. Many people have spent most of their career in this field; but then suddenly, when the financial crisis come, unfortunately, these people came to an obvious conclusion, that we can’t model human behavior as a mathematical equation. The reason? Simple. Because we’re human; we’re not an apple who will subject to gravity force when it falls from the tree. Sorry for making it too Economics; but many Economists, they spent most of their life working on this mathematical model which then result in the state of Economics field whereby a good economist is not someone who can provide the most wisdom; rather, it’s the one who can produce the most sophisticated mathematical modelling regardless its relevance to the real world. Again, the point is engaging in something that is not meaningful or purposeful. I believe this phenomenon could be found in other branches of science or other life setting.

Second is lahwun. The root letter for this word is la-ha-wa; which means: “Become diverted from it as to forget it, to preoccupy, beguile, distract, sport/play/amusement, divert, diversion, forget, delight/cheer, turn away, what is thrown, unmindful/careless.” My personal take on this word is that this worldly life is something that will distract, divert, and preoccupy us from worshipping Allah. This is entirely true. We are a living witness of how we and many people are heavily occupied with our daily activities and ambition that we forget our obligation to Allah. Even many Muslim do not observe the five daily prayers, which is basically the minimum standard that we should abide to.

Third is zinatun. The root letter for this word is za-ya-na; which means: “To adorn, deck. Adorn, grace, honor. Adorned, ornamented, decorated, decked, beautified. A grace, a beauty, a comely quality, a physical/intellectual adornment, an honor or a credit, and anything that is the pride or glory of a person or a thing. It [states] are three kinds: Mental: such as knowledge/science and good tenants. Bodily: strength, tallness of stature, beauty of aspect. Extrinsic: wealth, rank or station, dignity.” As we can see, this is a very rich word; and amazingly, it describe vividly the life that we are seeing in our environment. We clearly witness how people around us, or even ourselves, are obsessed with adornment or beauty. The cosmetic, fashion, fitness, etc. are a massive industry. Many people are so obsessed with how they look that they even risk their life for plastic surgery, pay USD 500 just for a branded slipper, and so on. Alhamdulillah that Allah guides us that this is not the right way to go. Again, I should mention a caveat here. This does not mean that Islam wants us to look ugly, dirty, and smell. No. Allah mentioned that what we have in this world, such as pearl, gold, silk, fur, etc. are bounty from Allah. Islam teaches us to look good, smell well, clean, etc.; but what Islam strongly forbid us is to be excessive in doing this. I saw a (branded) slipper priced at USD 500 in Singapore Takashimaya mall. Without a doubt, this brand-worshipper behavior is what we shouldn’t be trapped in.

Fourth is tafaakhurun. The root letter is fa-kha-ra; which means: “Self-glorification/magnification, boast, to disdain/scorn, proud/haughty, long/tall/great, excellent quality, baked pottery/clay, earthen vessel.” This is again very commonly found in our life, isn’t it? A good example for this can be found in Qur’an surah Al-Kahfi ayah 32 to 43. Please take a look.

Fifth is takaatsurun. The root letter is ka-tsa-ra; which means: “To surpass in number in quantity, increase, multiply, happen often, copious, richness; to be much, many, numerous, a man whose ancestors are many or whose good deeds are many. A man possessing much good, river in paradise from which other rivers flow, talkative person.” As we can see, this word does not necessarily imply a negative thing, but what make it negative is what follows in the ayah, i.e. takaatsurun fil amwali wal aulaad; which means surpassing each other in terms of wealth and children. Again, this is very true and easy to spot in our life. Regardless whether it is a President or a gardener, human tends to surpass each other in terms of the quantity of their wealth as well as the (quantity and) quality of their children.

We should be really grateful to Allah swt for showing us things that we should be mindful of in this life. Allah swt then continue the ayah with an even more amazing lesson. Take a look to the continuation of the ayah below.

“…like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes [scattered] debris.”

flower-377744_640Allah swt then beautifully give parable for this worldly life. Allah said this worldly life is like a plant which grows due to rain; but then the plant won’t stay beautiful and strong forever. Slowly but surely, unstoppable, the plant will someday turn yellow; and what remains? It just scatters as debris. Subhanallah. This is a very deep lesson for us. No matter how beautiful we are, no matter how smart, strong, wealthy, etc., at some point in time, we’ll just like a plant, we’ll get old and dies. But, unlike plant, our life does not stop here; in fact, the real life has just begun. Prophet Muhammad saw once said, when a human is brought to his grave, three things follow him; but two will go back and one remains. The three things are his family, his property, and his deeds. Family and property will go back, while his deeds will remain with him. This is should be a very strong reminder for us to increase our good deeds before it’s too late.

Allah swt conclude the ayah with the following.

“And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion.”

That’s basically conclude this deep and powerful ayah. This life is nothing but a delusionary enjoyment. It may seems enjoyable, but it’s just a delusion. What is true or real is the life in the hereafter. It will be a constant punishment for the disbeliever and an eternal mercy for the believers. May we are among those winners.

Finally, this verse gives many insight to us. To be a successful person in this life and in the hereafter, we better watch out not to fall into the trap of this five words. In doing so, I think we must not:

  1. Engage in un-meaningful and un-purposeful activities. Let’s always ask ourselves before doing something; is this activity really meaningful and purposeful? If so, what’s the purpose?
  2. Being preoccupied with something such that we are diverted or distracted from worshipping Allah swt. This obviously does not mean we can’t do our work, have a career, and then be in Masjid for the whole day. No, it’s quite the contrary, actually. Islam ask us to spread in the earth, looking for Allah’s bounty; but, there is a key principle here, that is we do it only for Allah’s sake and we are continuously aware of Allah’s presence.
  3. Being obsessed to be adorned, either mentally, physically, and extrinsically.
  4. Being boastful.
  5. Surpassing with each other in terms of wealth and children. There is nothing wrong with being wealthy and have a lot of smart children; again, what is highlighted here is being obsessed with and preoccupied to achieve whether we are in the list of 100 richest people in community.

To conclude, I hope from this moment on, whenever we see a blossoming flower, we would be reminded that this world is just like this flower; like it or not, it will come to an end; and the real life will then begin. Wallau’alam bisshawab.

bunga-mekar

Few notes on QS Al-Hajj:78

And strive for Allah with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty. [It is] the religion of your father, Abraham. Allah named you “Muslims” before [in former scriptures] and in this [revelation] that the Messenger may be a witness over you and you may be witnesses over the people. So establish prayer and give zakah and hold fast to Allah. He is your protector; and excellent is the protector, and excellent is the helper. (QS Al-Hajj : 78)

Ayat tersebut merupakan salah satu ayat paling inspirasional bagi saya. Berikut beberapa inspirasi dari ayat tersebut.

Pertama, “And strive for Allah with the striving due to Him”. Allah swt menyuruh kita untuk berjuang sekuat tenaga, i.e. to exhaust our limit dalam mengabdi kepada-Nya; dan dengan pengabdian yang sepantasnya diberikan pada Allah swt. Ketika kita menyadari bahwa pekerjaan yang kita lakukan ditujukan pada seseorang yang sangat penting, biasanya kita berusaha to be as perfect as possible dalam melaksanakannya. Demikian pula hendaknya dalam ibadah kita pada Allah swt. Meskipun kita tidak dapat melihat Alah swt, kita dapat merasakan dengan jelas karunia Allah swt kepada kita. Kita perlu selalu berusaha untuk mengingatkan diri kita bahwa Allah swt senantiasa melihat kita.

Kedua, “He has chosen you…”. Allah swt melihat ada potensi kebaikan di dalam diri kita sehingga Allah swt memilih kita untuk menjadi seorang Muslim. Hal ini memberikan clue bahwa setiap kita memiliki potensi; yang dengan potensi tersebut kita bisa berjuang di jalan Allah swt dan memberi manfaat banyak bagi umat manusia. Hal ini haruslah membuat kita optimis dan berusaha untuk mencari dan mengembangakan potensi yang telah Allah swt berikan tersebut. Banyak di antara kita yang merasa bahwa diri kita tidak memiliki potensi apa-apa. No! That’s very wrong! Jika kita telah menjadi seorang Muslim, maka artinya ada potensi kebaikan luar biasa yang ada dalam diri kita. It’s our task to explore what that potential is. Ayat ini juga menunjukkan bahwa setiap muslim memiliki peran tersendiri bagi agama Islam ini. Mungkin ada yang bisa berperan melalui bakat entreprenurnya; ada yang berperan melalui ilmunya; ada yang berperan melalui tenaga. Ada yang berperan sebagai seorang petani, seorang ulama, dokter, dan seterusnya. Everybody has their share in this religion.

Ketiga, “…and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty”. Ketika kita mengetahui bahwa kita harus berjihad dengan penuh kesungguhan kepada Allah swt, kita tentu merasa mendapat beban yang sangat berat. Kita tentu berpikir, bagaimana mungkin saya dapat beribadah dengan sempurna pada Allah swt di setiap saat? Allah swt mengatakan bahwa Ia tidak membebankan sesuatu yang tidak sangggup kita lakukan dalam agama ini. Rasulullah saw pernah mengatakan, “Agama itu sangat mudah; barang siapa yang membebani dirinya secara berlebihan dalam agamanya, ia tak akan mampu untuk terus-menerus melakukannya. Kamu sekalian hendaknya jangan menjadi ekstrimis, namun selalulah berusaha untuk mencapai kesempurnaan dan terimalah kabar gembira, reward, dari Allah swt. Dapatkanlah kekuatan dari mendirikan shalat pada pagi, petang, dan di akhir malam” (HR Bukhari).

Keempat, “… [It is] the religion of your father, Abraham. Allah named you “Muslims” before [in former scriptures] and in this [revelation]”. Ayat ini menegaskan bahwa kita adalah bagian dari umat Nabi Ibrahim as yang menyembah Allah swt dengan aqidah yang murni. “Mereka tidak disuruh kecuali supaya menyembah Allah dengan memurnikan ketaatan kepada-Nya dalam (menjalankan) agama yang lurus, dan supaya mereka mendirikan shalat dan menunaikan zakat; dan yang demikian itulah agama yang lurus” (QS Al-Bayyinah : 5).

Kelima, “…that the Messenger may be a witness over you and you may be witnesses over the people”. Potongan ayat ini mengingatkan tugas penting kita di dunia, yaitu untuk berda’wah; untuk menyampaikan ajaran Islam. Having lived in London, saya sangat merasa kasihan kepada teman yang belum muslim. Mereka tidak memiliki pegangan. Hidup tanpa memiliki tujuan. Pada sebagian (kecil) waktu mereka memang berbahagia, misalnya saat berkumpul di bar pada jum’at malam, saat menonton sepak bola dan acara entertainment lainnya; but soon enough after that, they’re back to the uncertain and never ending question about the meaning of life. Jika mereka memutuskan untuk adopt certain religion pun, mereka tetap merasa ada yang tidak sempurna. This is not surprising as the guidance can only be found in Qur’an. This is our task.

Keenam, “…So establish prayer and give zakah”. Saya sangat amazed dengan potongan ayat ini. Pertama, betapa tugas yang berat ini, i.e. berjihad dengan sekuat tenaga, berda’wah, dll, dapat ‘diatasi’ dengan dua hal yang ‘sederhana’; yang semestinya sudah biasa kita lakukan, yaitu sholat dan zakat. Kebanyakan kita tentu belum merasa manfaat sepenuhnya dari sholat. My advice to myself and to all of us, mari kita terus memperbanyak ilmu tentang sholat khusyuk dan berusaha untuk mendapatkan kekhusyu’an tersebut. Surely, kita tidak akan pernah mendapat manfaat dari sholat jika sholat kita belum khusyu’. Kedua, potongan ayat ini juga menunjukkan bahwa hubungan sesame manusia dan kesejahteraan sosial merupakan hal penting dalam Islam. Oleh karenanya, kekuatan ekonomi merupakan hal yang mutlak. Bagaimana mungkin kita dapat membayar zakat, sebagaimana yang diperintahkan Allah, jika kita tidak memiliki penghasilan yang cukup?

Ketujuh, “…and hold fast to Allah. He is your protector; and excellent is the protector, and excellent is the helper”. This is very clear, but most of us haven’t practiced it. Di surat Al-Imran, Allah swt telah mengingatkan bahwa jika Allah swt menolong kita, maka tak ada yang dapat mencelakakakan kita; namun jika Allah meninggalkan kita, maka tak akan ada yang dapat menolong kita. So it’s crystal clear that we are very very dependent on Allah; or more precisely, kita tak akan bisa survive tanpa bantuan Allah swt.

This is only one ayat, but there are enormous guidance in it. Semoga kita bisa mempraktekkan hikmah dan petunjuk ini. Wallahua’lam bisshawab.

Diajarkan Allah swt

As life goes on, we encounter many new things in life. In workplace or career setting, this could be in the form on being assigned to a new task, being promoted for a managerial position, or other things which we haven’t previously experienced. In university setting, we same things happen; we could be mandated a leading position in an organization, attempting to join a competition, or as simple as working on class assignment. The question that we usually ask then, Allah, how should I address this? How should I handle this?

I personally have been in many such situations, and I believe I will continue to encounter it. Alhamdulillah, I think I found the answer of how to deal with it in the Qur’an. It’s a short sentence inside the longest verse in Qur’an, QS 2:282. That short sentence is this: “…So be afraid of Allah; and Allah teaches you. And Allah is the All-Knower of each and everything”. Yes, I think that’s the key; be afraid of Allah, and then Allah will teach you. As far as I understand it, this verse is in the context of writing a debt contract. Through this verse, Allah teaches us that a debt contract is an important element in our social interaction. In the verse, Allah teaches the rule regarding this, such as what if the debtor is of poor understanding; how many witnesses are needed; what if we can’t find male witnesses; what if the contract is between trusted parties, etc. As a bit meticulous as it seems, Allah swt, at the end of the verse said, “…So be afraid of Allah; and Allah teaches you. And Allah is the All-Knower of each and everything”. Simply, I understand it as: if you don’t know or unsure about something, then fear Allah; that He will teaches you.

In a larger context, I always internalize this short yet powerful sentence, as a solution for any challenges that I face daily. When I don’t know what to do, when the burden looks very heavy, things aren’t as smooth as I previously anticipated, etc., then we should turn to Allah. Always be afraid of Him. Be afraid that He always sees us, knows what’s inside our heart, and, literally, knows everything that is happening. Umar r.a. once said, fearing Allah swt is as if walking in a slippery surface, i.e. being extremely careful in every step.

Few years back, in the early period of my undergraduate study, I was assigned a leading role in a student organization. As someone who has never experienced a leading role previously, in addition to the fact that I was just someone who just arrived in the Metropolitan city of Jakarta, having previously lived in a small countryside, the task was very daunting for me. But then, Allah fulfilled His promised. He guided me step-by-step along the way. The organization went well; it’s probably among its peak in history; I learned how to deal with university’s top management, I made life-lasting friendship, and many other milestone. In short, my message is only that we should always try to fear Allah, asking His guidance, and, of course, work hard. Insyaallah, as Allah has never betrayed any promises, Allah swt will teaches us, Insyaallah.

Ignorance

Given there are so many non-Muslims, sometimes I ask myself, will Allah swt really punish them all later on? How about the reason why they do not embrace Islam is because they don’t know about Islam.

Then I came across an ayah (verse) from Qur’an depicting the scene when the disbelievers were tortured in the hell fire. They were asked by the angel who guards the hell why they were disbelieve in Allah swt. Take a note to what the disbeliever had to say.

“And for those who disbelieve in their Lord (Allah) is the torment of Hell, and worst indeed is that destination. When they are cast therein, they will hear the (terrible) drawing in of its breath as it blazes forth. It almost bursts up with fury. Every time a group is cast therein, its keeper will ask: “Did no warner come to you?” They will say: “Yes indeed; a warner did come to us, but we belied him and said: ‘Allah never sent down anything (of revelation), you are only in great error.’ “And they will say: “Had we but listened or used our intelligence, we would not have been among the dwellers of the blazing Fire!” Then they will confess their sin. So, away with the dwellers of the blazing Fire.” (QS Al-Mulk 6-11).

In the verses above, the disbeliever will regret that had they listened to the message or used their intelligence. I think this verse answers my doubt, that there are many people disbelieve in Allah just because of ignorance; they just don’t even want to think or consider the religion. In Qur’an there are many verses which point out to nature, which is an ayat (sign) from Allah. Honestly, any reasonable human being, whenever they see the trees, the mountain, the sky, and all creations, they should’ve pondered upon it, and say, all of these things are impossible to exist without a creator. Yet, many of the disbelievers just ignore it; as some of they say, I don’t want think about it at the moment. They keep doing that, until it’s too late that they realize it only when their soul begins to leave their body.

Whenever we look at the creations, we should’ve thought that all of these are impossible to exist without a supreme power who created them. When we’re willing to admit this, obviously we will try to look up for religion as it is where Allah gives guidance to human being. Once we start searching, if we sincere enough, we will easily notice how is Islam is the guidance from our Lord.

There are some verses from Qur’an which stimulate human beings to reflect on the creations.

“Do they not look at the camels, how they are created? And at the heaven, how it is raised? And at the mountains, how they are rooted and fixed firm? And at the earth, how it is spread out? So remind them (O Muhammad (Peace be upon him)), you are only a one who reminds. You are not a dictator over them. Save the one who turns away and disbelieves. Then Allah will punish him with the greatest punishment. Verily, to Us will be their return; Then verily, for Us will be their reckoning.” (QS Al-Ghosiyah: 17-26)

Tell Me! The seed that you sow in the ground. Were it Our Will, We could crumble it to dry pieces, and you would be regretful (or left in wonderment). (Saying): “We are indeed Mughramun (i.e. ruined or lost the money without any profit, or punished by the loss of all that we spend for cultivation, etc.)! [See Tafsir Al-Qurtubi, Vol. 17, Page 219]. “Nay, but we are deprived!” Tell Me! The water that you drink. Is it you who cause it from the rainclouds to come down, or are We the Causer of it to come down? If We willed, We verily could make it salt (and undrinkable), why then do you not give thanks (to Allah)? Tell Me! The fire which you kindle, Is it you who made the tree thereof to grow, or are We the Grower? We have made it a Reminder (for the Hell-fire, in the Hereafter); and an article of use for the travellers (and all the others, in this world). So exalt the name of your Lord, the Most Great.” (QS Al-Waqi’ah 63-74).

May we’re not among the ignorants; and may our belief in Allah increases whenever we see Allah’s creation.

 

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Note: the images are taken from http://earthsky.org/ and https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AsthadiSetyawan/posts.

On Institutional hypothesis of economic growth

There are various hypotheses or theories on the driver of economic growth. The informal one includes geography, culture, and institution. The most well-known among them is institutional hypothesis; proposed mainly by Daron Acemoglu, a professor in MIT Economics Department. In this writing, I want to a little bit discuss on what he said.

Acemoglu said, the quality of institution, such as the property rights protection, rule of law, etc., is the main driver of economic growth. Countries of which institutions are established will have a bigger chance of high economic growth and development. I completely agree with this notion; indeed, it is very easy to spot how weak the institutions in most of developing countries are. Here it comes the more interesting part.

Acemoglu tried to explain why the institutions in various countries are as it is today, i.e. why some countries have better institutions and why some don’t. He concluded, the quality of institutions is largely influenced by the colonials. In countries where the colonials settled, probably due to suitable climate, lower intensity of diseases, etc., the colonials established an institution which sustain good governance; while in countries of which the spread of diseases are quite high or the temperature are not suitable for the (European) colonials, they will tend to establish an extractive institution, i.e. the institution which focus on getting the resources as much as and as quickly as possible from the colonies. I have a little bit issue with this notion.

Implicitly, this notion implies two things. First, the quality of institutions that we are in right now in many developing countries are just as it is; and that we’re just unlucky that the colonial who colonized us were not quite interested to settle in our country. Second, the notion implies the (European) colonial is the main source of good institution, i.e. they know how to manage things well (good governance); while the others don’t. I think, both implications could lead to pessimism and the feeling of inability to change our fate in many developing countries.

Rather than joining the rank of the pessimist, I would rather believe that change is possible. I think it’s not that the (European) colonials were superior that they know to govern well; no. I believe it’s just that because at that moment, until today, they have the knowledge. So yes, the issue here I believe is about knowledge. In the middle ages, around 600 to 1500 A.D., the (European) colonials were in a very dark state; slums, diseases, etc., were everywhere; just like many developing countries today. But then the knowledge were passed on to them from the Muslims. Similarly, the Muslims early on were passed some knowledge from Greek civilization as well. In short, all of these show that what had happened in the past, let it be; we can’t change it; but we have the opportunity to be better, and that opportunity could be (or will only be) unleashed by education. Insyaallah, let’s get those knowledge as much as possible. The mountain of knowledge might be so high that we’re terrified to climb it; but if, we persistently make the effort to climb, insyaallah, we’ll get to the top.

Finally, I would like to conclude with the source of good governance. I could spend pages and pages arguing that Islamic teaching has the most superior set of good governance values. If there are many problems in Muslim majority countries today, it’s because we are the one who do not practice it. The Islamic teaching will just shine as it is. In short, let’s read and understand the Qur’an; let’s read the hadits, as well as the shiroh (Islamic history). We’re at the cover page of the best source of success. Not only in this world, but also in the hereafter, insyaallah. Wallahua’lam.

“See you not how Allah sets forth a parable? – A goodly word as a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the sky (i.e. very high). Giving its fruit at all times, by the Leave of its Lord and Allah sets forth parables for mankind in order that they may remember.” (QS Ibrahim: 24-25)

“Muhammad (SAW) is the Messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are severe against disbelievers, and merciful among themselves. You see them bowing and falling down prostrate (in prayer), seeking Bounty from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure. The mark of them (i.e. of their Faith) is on their faces (foreheads) from the traces of (their) prostration (during prayers). This is their description in the Taurat (Torah). But their description in the Injeel (Gospel) is like a (sown) seed which sends forth its shoot, then makes it strong, it then becomes thick, and it stands straight on its stem, delighting the sowers that He may enrage the disbelievers with them. Allah has promised those among them who believe (i.e. all those who follow Islamic Monotheism, the religion of Prophet Muhammad SAW till the Day of Resurrection) and do righteous good deeds, forgiveness and a mighty reward (i.e. Paradise).” (QS AL-Fath:29)

 

 

Being professional in ‘ibadah

I’ve heard quite often that the order of good person in Islam is being a Muslim; and then above that a Mu’min; and then the highest, a Muhsin. This is basically inferred from the quite well-known hadits, i.e. the one when Angel Gabriel visited Prophet Muhammad saw; and inquired about the meaning of Islam, Iman, and Ihsan. He hadits is the following, in case you don’t remember.

“Umar r.a. narrated: While we were one day sitting with the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, there appeared before us a man dressed in extremely white clothes and with very black hair. No traces of journeying were visible on him, and none of us knew him.

He sat down close by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, rested his knee against his thighs, and said, O Muhammad! Inform me about Islam.” Said the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, “Islam is that you should testify that there is no deity save Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, that you should perform salah (ritual prayer), pay the zakah, fast during Ramadan, and perform Hajj (pilgrimage) to the House (the Ka’bah at Makkah), if you can find a way to it (or find the means for making the journey to it).” Said he (the man), “You have spoken truly.”

We were astonished at his thus questioning him and telling him that he was right, but he went on to say, “Inform me about iman (faith).” He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, “It is that you believe in Allah and His angels and His Books and His Messengers and in the Last Day, and in fate (qadar), both in its good and in its evil aspects.” He said, “You have spoken truly.”

Then he (the man) said, “Inform me about Ihsan.” He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, “It is that you should serve Allah as though you could see Him; for though you cannot see Him yet He sees you.” He said, “Inform me about the Hour.” He (the Messenger of Allah) said, “About that the one questioned knows no more than the questioner.” So he said, “Well, inform me about the signs thereof (i.e. of its coming).” Said he, “They are that the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress, that you will see the barefooted ones, the naked, the destitute, the herdsmen of the sheep (competing with each other) in raising lofty buildings.” Thereupon the man went off.

I waited a while, and then he (the Messenger of Allah) said, “O ‘Umar, do you know who that questioner was?” I replied, “Allah and His Messenger know better.” He said, “That was Jibril. He came to teach you your religion.” (HR Muslim)

Previously, I kind of having trouble in understanding what Ihsan really means. Obviously, as it is the highest rank in Islam, I really want to achieve it. However, in Indonesian language, it is simplistically translated as being good, or doing good works. This translation, obviously, is not really helpful to understand what Ihsan really means. Alhamdulillah, my understanding improved last Sunday.

Last Sunday, I went to London Central Mosque, the biggest Masjid in London. While making wudhu’ (ablution), someone (i.e. a stranger) touched my back and said, roughly, “Brother, you should sit down; we are doing it for Allah; we should do it at the best possible way!” Then I looked at the wet small chair provided. He kind of understood what I thought, and said, “Brother, even though it’s wet, it’s okay; we’re doing it for Allah”. Obviously I don’t want to sit on a wet chair, besides, as far as I know it’s not compulsory to do ablution while sitting; nonetheless, I have no interest to argue with him, and then just moved finding a dry chair ablution facility. Later on, I kind of think what he just said to me. “We are doing it for Allah; we should do it at the best possible way”. Even though it’s very simple, I then found it very profound.

Doing something at the best possible way, in a more familiar word means being professional in doing something. I know what it means and what I takes of being professional in doing my work, in doing paper presentation, writing paper, etc. In doing paper presentation, for example, I understand-and has been practicing it-that every single move or body language should be measured; the intonation, the volume, etc. should be done in a measured way. Yet, the notion of being professional in doing something for Allah, i.e. ‘ibadah, in the sense that I should do at the best possible way, a clearly measured move, etc., has just never crossed my mind before. Suddenly, Alhamdulillah, I understand what Rasulullah saw means by Ihsan. I believe, to be precise, Ihsan should be translated as being professional, or doing something at the best possible way. I am very embarrassed and regretful, that how could when doing presentation, work, paper writing, etc., I can do it in a very very good way; while in ‘ibadah, such as praying, I didn’t regards it as something that should be perfectly done.

Since that day, Alhamdulillah, I think the quality of my sholat or praying has improved. When I stand up for praying, I tell myself, I should be as professional as possible in this sholat; be it in terms of perfect movement, good concentration; clear recitation, etc. Also in doing dzikir, for example, if previously while doing dzikir, quite often I might think about something else, now, Alhamdulillah, I understand that Allah is watching me, thus I want to act as professional or as good as possible in front of Him. Now I understand, what Rasulullah saw said about Ihsan, “It is that you should serve Allah as though you could see Him; for though you cannot see Him yet He sees you.”

Now, I internalized myself, that when I’m doing ‘ibadah, I am facing my Rabb, the Lord of the World, obviously, I should do it a perfect manner. All thanks to Allah swt who showed me the way; and obviously, many thanks to the (unknown) brother that is willing and courageous enough to remind me. Alhamdulillah, may we become a Mushin, someone that is professional in his ‘ibadah.

On discipline

Status

Most of the time, the main issue is not the lack of knowledge; rather it’s the lack of discipline to act on that knowledge. I’ve never think that Indonesia and many other developing countries are underdeveloped due to the lack of knowledge of proper policy; rather, I believe it’s because of the lack of good governance.

It’s as simple as thinking like our own affairs. A successful person is a discipline, ‘goodly governed’ person. We can’t expect someone to be a good artist, farmer, teacher, or merchant, without being discipline to their own. A developed country is the accumulation of a developed individual.

I’ve wronged myself

One of the main differences between Prophet Adam a.s. and Iblis is their reaction after they’ve wronged themselves.

After Allah swt punished Iblis due to their refusal to prostrate to Adam, Iblis’ response was to put the blame on Allah swt, i.e. to claim that it is Allah swt the one that has led them astray.

“(Iblîs) said: “Because You have sent me astray, surely I will sit in wait against them (human beings) on Your Straight Path (16) Then I will come to them from before them and behind them, from their right and from their left, and You will not find most of them as thankful ones (i.e. they will not be dutiful to You)” (QS Al-A’raf 15-16)

In contrast, when Adam a.s. was sent down to Earth as a punishment, the first thing that he did was to admit that he made the mistake and then ask Allah for His forgiveness.

“They said: “Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If You forgive us not, and bestow not upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be of the losers.” (QS Al-A’raf: 23)

We clearly has made a lot of mistakes. Allah swt has put a feeling, i.e. the feeling of guilty, inside ourselves that we may admit those mistakes and then ask for forgiveness and mercy to Allah swt. This is the right way to react on that feeling of guilty; instead of feeling desperate and despair from Allah’s mercy.

After admitting that we’ve wronged ourselves, the next thing that we have to do is to do as much as good deed as possible. Prophet Musa (Moses) a.s., when he fled Egypt after killing someone, he was terrified and felt guilty; but watch what he has to say to Allah swt after helping two ladies taking water from a well:

“So he escaped from there, looking about in a state of fear. He said: “My Lord! Save me from the people who are Zâlimûn (polytheists and wrong-doers)!” (21) And when he went towards (the land of) Madyan (Midian) he said: “It may be that my Lord guides me to the Right Way.” (22) And when he arrived at the water of Madyan (Midian) he found there a group of men watering (their flocks), and besides them he found two women who were keeping back (their flocks). He said: “What is the matter with you?” They said: “We cannot water (our flocks) until the shepherds take (their flocks). And our father is a very old man.” (23) So he watered (their flocks) for them, then he turned back to shade, and said: “My Lord! truly, I am in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!” (QS Al-Qasas: 21-24)

In short, Prophet Musa a.s. said to Allah swt that he is in a need of any good deeds that he can do to compensate the mistake that he did. This is a very inspirational example on how we should react towards mistakes that we made; we should admit to Allah swt that we made the mistake, ask for His forgiveness and mercy, and then actively seek any good deeds opportunity. Indeed, “the good deeds remove the evil deeds (i.e. small sins) (QS 11:114). May we always be on the straight path until we see our Lord in the hereafter.

Something extraordinary needs to be done

I believe we need to constantly ask ourselves; what are the reasons that we are worthy of Allah’s forgiveness and mercy? Most of the time, we don’t even consider success in the hereafter as indicator of our success. We are heedless and occupied with the never-satisfying worldly ambitions.

Living in non-Muslim majority country in the past four years has made me aware of the stark differences between western ideals and what Islam teach us. Islam teach us to obey and submit ourselves before Allah; while western ideals suggest to live a ‘successful’ life and ‘to have fun’. While we’re taught in Islam to have sami’na wa ata’na mentality; western ideals suggest to question religious orders; up to the point questioning the existence of God itself. Islam teaches what matters is what inside our heart; while in western world, what matters is how we look.

My position would just only be to absorb any good values that this society has; while putting a clear boundary between what I can accept and what I can’t. Now, my only concern is just how I can win Allah’s forgiveness and mercy. I don’t think by merely separating myself away from the ‘un-Islamic’ values would be enough. Alhamdulillah, that very often, before starting my study I would ask myself again and again why I am doing this; spending almost 12 hours in campus. Alhamdulillah that it helps me to stay focus on my intention; but obviously this is not enough. Something extraordinary needs to be done.

the big names that we often hear in Islamic history has clearly did something extraordinary. Some accomplished noble achievements; some endured great trials. Time is running out for me, and for all of us; we ought to answer and act upon: how can we win Allah’s forgiveness and mercy?

BJ Habibie

Bapak BJ Habibie has truly been an eternal inspiration for us. He’s the model for how a Muslim in the post modern world should be. His mind-set has always been as a problem solver, professional, and leader by heart. He has inspired us that we’re able. We’re capable. He will always be remembered as a good Muslim who continuously work hard for his people. His great legacy will always be continued, and insyaallah, with upcoming rewards from Allah swt in the hereafter. Now it’s our turn. It’s our time. Let us also be a problem solver, optimist, hard worker, contributor, and inspiring human being as he has always been. Barokallahu’alaik Pak Habibie.

Let’s raise the rhythm

Status

Where are our position in the companion of Rasulullah SAW? Will we be eligible to meet him and be with him later in akhirah? The companions of Rasulullah SAW had struggled with Rasulullah SAW in a way that we might not be even dare to do it today. Where are our position in the eyes of Rasulullah SAW? Unless we follow his path and continue his mission, we would remain far away from him. Let’s raise the rhythm.

Our life mission

Status

When Rasulullah SAW was sent by Allah SWT more than 1400 years ago, the people around him was in jahiliyah state; they worshiped idols, wealth, status, etc. Nowadays, the world is definitely in a much modern state, yet the state of the time is still the same as 1400 years ago. People still worship idols, wealth, status, etc. What a progress that Islam had made since the revelation of Qur’an until the set back which then brought the world back to the jahiliyah state.

Realizing this, we should be aware that our life mission is definitely to continue this message (risalah). We may live in a different set of time with Rasulullah SAW; but our life mission is unchanged; we live to spread the tauhid, that is there is nothing worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is his messenger. Thus, we may be a doctor, an economist, an accountant, merchant, farmer, etc., but still, our main role is da’i, i.e. those who call for tauhid. Let’s not be deceived by Syaithan with worldly orientation which will separate us away from Allah swt and our life mission.

Hari yang cerah

One morning in London

One morning in London

Hari yang cerah di kota London. Dari jendela kamar, terlihat langit biru dihiasi awan putih, seperti kapas yang bergerak diterbangkan angin. Di sudut jendela, terlihat pucuk daun yang masih hijau, masih basah, disiram hujan tadi malam. Daun-daun yang belum berguguran juga bergerak ditiup angin. Alhamdulillah, what an amazing scenery. Alhamdulillah atas ni’mat penglihatan yang Allah swt berikan.

Selepas sholat dhuha, hatipun sangat tergerak untuk membaca Al-Qur’an surat Al-Mulk. Ayat pertama cocok sekali dengan pemandangan di luar jendela. Tabarakalladzi biyadihil mulk, Maha Suci Allah yang menguasai (segala) kerajaan; wa huwa ‘ala kulli syai’in qadiir, dan Dia Maha Kuasa atas segala sesuatu.

Pemandangan yang indah ini tentu berlanjut pada pemikiran, what a beautiful world; what a great life; Dari jendela terlihat bus iconic kota London yang berwarna merah. Orang-orang sibuk dengan kegiatan mereka. Ada yang bahkan tak sadar dengan keindahan alam karena selalu dikejar kesibukan, atau mungkin lebih tepat, selalu mengejar kesibukan. Untuk apakah hidup ini? Apakah ia hanya life for the sake of life itself? Ayat kedua, dengan tepat menjelaskan, alladzi khalaqal mauta wal hayata, Yang menciptakan mati dan hidup; liyabluwakum, untuk menguji kamu; ayyukum ahsanu ‘amala, siapa di antara kamu yang paling baik amalnya; wa huwal ‘azizul ghafur, dan Dia Maha Perkasa dan Maha Pengampun.

Ayat ketiga lanjut meneruskan gambaran kekuasaan Allah swt di angkasa. Alladzi khalaqasab’a samawati thibaqa, yang telah menciptakan tujuh langit berlapis-lapis; maa tara fi khalqirrahmani min tafaawuts, tidak akan kamu lihat sesuatu yang tidak seimbang pada ciptaan yang Maha Pengasih; farji’il bashara hal tara min futuur, maka lihatlah sekali lagi, adakah kami lihat sesuatu yang cacat?

Alhamdulillah, segala puji dan syukur pada Allah swt telah menunjukkan tujuan hidup melalui Al-Qur’an; yaitu untuk beramal dengan sebaik-baiknya, di mana pun kita berada, pada apa pun pekerjaan kita. Insyaallah, mari beramal sebaik-baiknya sepanjang waktu, selama Allah swt masih memberi kesempatan untuk hidup di bumi yang indah ini. Semoga kelak kita bisa hidup abadi di Surga Allah swt yang indah dan penuh dengan kenikmatan.

Endorsement for Bayyinah.tv

Bismillahirrahmanirrahim,,

If I had to give only one advice for someone, then that one advice would be: study the Qur’an. Yes, study the Qur’an. I believe there is no other important things in this world other than Qur’an. It is the light, it is the healing for what’s in the chest, it is the guidance for everything in our life.

Probably some of us might think, if it’s that good, then why can’t we feel the benefit from our previous interaction with it? Well, first, probably we haven’t interact long enough with it; second, probably we haven’t understand what it really says. For the first problem, obviously, the only solution is to give more time for Qur’an. There are countless useless deeds that we might do everyday, let’s try to get rid of those. Indeed, when we spend more time with Qur’an, insyaallah, we’ll have more time to think and will be able to see things from different perspective. For the second problem, I believe it’s a very very common problem in every Muslim, in any country. If those who understand Arabic still don’t get the message; very understandable that we, who don’t speak Arabic, can’t comprehend what Qur’an says either.

Alhamdulillah, I think there is one solution for this second problem. Probably most of us already knew about this website: http://www.bayyinah.tv/sp/9942-bayyinah-tv. In this website, Ustadz Nouman Ali Khan tries to explain the messages of Qur’an which are hidden or missing from the current translation that we have; because indeed, Arabic is a very beautiful-precise language which sometimes challenging to be translated in a short space.

After listening for a year to the program, i.e. Qur’an cover to cover, alhamdulillah, I realize that there are many wrong perceptions that I had about Qur’an which really deteriorate the way I understand Allah’s revelation. For example, previously, I think that the order of ayah (verse) and surah (chapter) in the Qur’an does not matter because the Qur’an was not revealed all at once in order. Later on, I realize that there are many hikmah (lessons) that we can get from understanding why an ayah comes after certain ayah; or why a surah comes after certain surah. The understanding of this orderliness of ayah and surah in the Qur’an really makes me trust Qur’an even more. Another previously wrong-held belief is on the message of Qur’an. Previously, probably because of media brainwashing or secular education system, I treated what’s written in the Qur’an as something that Allah talked in the past, specifically to Quraish nation. Alhamdulillah, after listening to the program, now I completely convinced that every single ayah that Allah swt revealed in the Qur’an is indeed relevant to the present day.

Alhamdulillah, now, every time I read Qur’an, I understand it as personal message or personal order from Allah to me. Now, every time I read Qur’an, I read it as an instruction for action from Allah swt. I can’t say anything more than alhamdulillahirabbil ‘alamin; thank you Allah swt for introducing and giving me the Qur’an. May Allah swt always strengthen our iman.

“So whoever Allah wants to guide – He expands his breast to [contain] Islam; and whoever He wants to misguide – He makes his breast tight and constricted as though he were climbing into the sky. Thus does Allah place defilement upon those who do not believe.

And this is the path of your Lord, [leading] straight. We have detailed the verses for a people who remember.

For them will be the Home of Peace with their Lord. And He will be their protecting friend because of what they used to do.” (QS Al-An’am:125-127).

 

Note: access to Bayyinah.tv is restricted to subscriber; $11 per month; you can’t spend your money on thing better than this =)

Inspiration

Awareness of a mission is something that makes everything we do is worthwhile. People who wasted their life did so because they forgot to set or to recall what their life missions are. However, as we human being tends to forget and busy with daily routine, awareness of a mission itself is not enough. We need something to strengthen or to remind us of that mission; that thing is inspiration. In another words, we should surround ourselves with inspiration to stay on the track of our life mission.

Speaking about inspiration, one remarkable person who inspire me quite well is Pak Dino Djalal; Indonesian ambassador to the US who just resigned to join Democrat Party Convention. I am not only inspired by his bold decision of resigning from his job; but more importantly, I see him as someone who has a lot of positive energy. Indeed, he repeatedly stresses the importance of positive energy, optimism, and strongly against cynicism. As he put it, orang yang sinis tidak akan pernah sukses.

Let’s fill our life with positive energy; with optimism. Believing that we can do something, achieving something is already half way towards the victory. Indeed, there’s no success for the cynical person.

When I am back to Indonesia, especially Jakarta, I can feel the aura or the feeling of pessimism. Pasrah pada nasib, if we can call it. When I went back to my home town, a city 200 km from Padang, the aura is even more. People live with the feeling that there’s nothing that they can do with their life. This is obviously entirely incorrect. Allah almighty has endowed us with many assets. He gave us mind as well to think. Probably, most of us lost our optimism somewhere during our childhood.

Let’s dare to dream big and work hard to achieve it. Allah grant the wish of non-believer who work hard; and I believe He will even be more generous to those whose life mission is to uphold this religion and help this ummah. So restate again your life mission in accordance to what Allah order us to do and then work hard-really hard- to achieve it.

Lastly, I would like to close with Pak Dino’s tips for success in his Mata Najwa interview: take risk, keep innovate, and serve the people. I wish the best of luck for Pak Dino’s candidacy. Semoga selalu dalam hidayah Allah.

Ikhlas, Ihsan, and Istiqamah

We only live once and our life is very short thus it’s imperative for us to have a meaningful and impactful life. Let’s sail away from doing an insignificant thing and move towards doing something significant for the society.

Also, remember to keep doing and being the best. We’ve endowed with the best from Allah swt; thus everything we do should also at the best quality.

Insyaallah, when we become a Muslim who is productive and competitive, as we should be, we’ll realize that Islam is indeed a blessing for the world; and more importantly, Allah will grant us with this forgiveness and paradise, insyaallah.

Let’s purify our intention to serve Allah only (Ikhlas), being professional in everything we do (Ihsan), and commit in doing good deeds (Istiqamah). Insyaallah.

 

The Secret Recipe: Al-Qur’an

Alhamdulillahirabbil’alamin, all thanks to Allah who has instilled guidance in our heart. In this moment I would like to assert one ni’mah (blessing) that Allah has given to our life. What is it? It is the Al Qur’anul Kariim. Here are some description of Qur’an by Allah. I really hope, after reading this description we would be more eager to interact with, memorize, understand, and practice Al-Qur’an.

  • Al-Qur’an is the book in which there’s no doubt in it; it is the guidance for those who fear Allah. Allah said, “This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah.” (QS 2:2).
  • Al-Qur’an is the book which assert the previous books; as the guidance as well as delivering good news to the believers. Allah said, “by permission of Allah , confirming that which was before it and as guidance and good tidings for the believers.” (QS 2:97).
  • Al-Qur’an is the law by which we decide our affairs. Allah said, “Indeed,  We  have  revealed  to  you,  [O  Muhammad],  the  Book  in  truth  so  you  may  judge between  the  people  by  that  which Allah has  shown  you.  And  do  not  be  for  the  deceitful an  advocate.” (QS 4:105).
  • Al-Qur’an is a clear light which shows the right path. Allah said, “O  mankind,  there  has  come  to  you  a  conclusive  proof  from  your  Lord,  and  We  have sent  down  to  you  a  clear  light.” (QS 4:174).
  • Al-Qur’an is the lesson; healing for what inside our heart; guidance and rahmat for the believers. Allah said, “O  mankind,  there  has  to  come  to  you  instruction  from  your  Lord  and  healing  for  what is  in  the  breasts  and  guidance  and  mercy  for  the  believers.” (QS 10:57).

These are several description from Allah swt on Al-Qur’an. As long as we try to be closer to Allah with Qur’an and sincerely look for guidance, insyaallah, insyaallah Allah will give us the guidance.

Recommended book: Khalifah Rasulullah

Currently I am re-reading a book, entitled Khalifah Rasulullah, which I read around nine years ago when I was in senior high school. Truly, this book has shaped my characteristic since then. The book is about the leadership as well as the life of four khalifah rasyidin plus the “fifth khalifah” Umar bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz. Melalui buku ini, kita bisa belajar betapa kuatnya keimanan pada khalifah Rasulullah. Kita juga bisa belajar betapa mereka adalah pemimpin yang takut, malu, dan ta’at pada Allah yang terlihat dalam kezuhudan hidup dan keadilan mereka dalam memimpin.

I highly recommend all of us to read this book. Insyaallah, sangat banyak kebaikan dan pelajaran yang ada di dalamnya. Semoga Allah merahmati penulis buku ini. Here’s the detail of the book:

Judul: Mengenal Pola Kepemimpinan Umat dari Karakteristik Perihidup Khalifah Rasulullah

Penulis: Khalid Muh Khalid

Penerbit: Diponegoro, Cetakan X, 2006

IMG_5824

 

Morning thought

Alhamdulillah, segala puji bagi Allah swt yang senantiasa memberi petunjuk dan cahaya; cahaya bagi hati dan pikiran sehingga kita bisa memaknai sesuatu melebihi apa yang tampak oleh mata. Below are some thought atau lebih tepatnya lintasan pikiran which arise.

  • On the essence of our presence in this earth. Kita, manusia, adalah wakil Allah di muka bumi. In this sense, kita berkewajiban mengelola dan memakmurkan bumi. In another dimension, sebagai wakil-Nya, kita harus senantiasa tunduk, patuh, dan berserah diri kepada-Nya; karena memang, kita hanyalah wakil, yang sejatinya tidak memiliki apa-apa. Sangat celakalah orang yang lupa diri, yaitu orang yang berbuat kerusakan di muka bumi, seperti tidak menegakkan keadilan, corrupt, merusak lingkungan, dll; serta celaka jugalah orang yang menyombongkan diri atau ingkar pada Allah. Mereka boleh jadi a ‘good’ person, namun sikap tidak mempercayai Allah dan mengingkarinya merupakan penyimpangan atas peran seorang wakil. Mati kita menjadi seorang wakil (khalifah) sejati: orang yang memakmurkan bumi, namun juga taat pada Allah.
  • On social life. Jadilah orang yang mudah diterima; mudah beradaptasi; dan lovable. Ini adalah syarat bagi seorang da’i; but remember, selalu-lah berpegang pada petunjuk Allah dan sunnah Rasulullah karena dengannya kita akan tahu the red line. Hilangkanlah pre-judice. Jadilah the light of hidayah; just think, how Rasulullah saw would react and behave on something that we;re dealing with.
  • On worldly affairs. Jangan terjebak oleh rutinitas dunia yang semu. Jika kita mengejar dunia maka ia akan lari hingga kita akan terus-menerus mengejarnya. Kejarlah akhirat, kita akan mendapatkannya beserta dunia. Jadikanlah orientasi dan kalkulasi hidup kita berdasarkan pertimbangan akhirat. Dunia hanyalah sarana untuk menuju Allah. Jika apa yang kita lakukan saat ini tidak berguna untuk akhirat kita, maka tinggalkanlah ia atau perbaikilah ia.

Wallahu’alam.

First week at UCL

Alhamdulillah, segala puji bagi Allah yang senantiasa memberikan ni’mat dan petunjuk. This is my first week at UCL; and I can tell you that studying at world great institution is something that we should aim for. Dahulu, para khalifah di zaman bani Umayyah, Abbasiyah, Turki Usmani, most of them, get the very best education thus able to be someone ‘well-roundedly’ excellent.

I strongly encourage my fellow Indonesian to aim for this. Insyaallah in later time I’ll post writings on getting into great universities. Barokallahu ‘alaina.

UCL

UCL Campus in summer, London

Politics and education

High cost politics has caused high cost economy; this is understandable. But the fact high cost politics also lowered the input for growth, namely educated-skilled labor, is something that is often missing in discussion.

The Educating the World episode of Al-Jazeera below showed how a corrupt government and business community has prevented access to education in Afghanistan and other countries. The lack of political will is also reflected in less than one percent education spending over GDP in these countries. It is true that security and cultural reason plays significant role in Afghan poor education level; but in many other countries, existence of security goes hand in hand with minimum focus on education. Most leaders know that education is important, but probably they don’t care.

I haven’t study politics thus don’t really know which political system which works. Is it the social democratic system in Nordic countries? I also still don’t know how a governmental system or political system should be in Islam; especially pertaining to this 21st century where we have seven billion people of which close to two billion are Muslim, thus very different from population that we had in Madinah back then. Or is it not a question on political system, as semi-autocratic country like Singapore and democratic country like the US can both be developed?

Or is it the question about improving the aqidah of the people, due to the fact that people with a good aqidah would stay away from corrupt behavior and other noble traits, thus we’ll have good people and good leaders? But isn’t it that will not happen as the devil will continuously disorient people from the straight path? Probably I shouldn’t be this pessimistic; but clearly, a role model on a modern-Islamic country is needed.

Need to learn more on this issue.

Status

Bacalah dan tadabburilah Al-Qur’an. Perbanyaklah waktu bersama Al-Qur’an; insyaallah hati akan menjadi tenang. Mu’min yang diberi ketenangan (sakinah) oleh Allah tidak akan takut dengan apa yang akan terjadi esok hari dan tidak akan sedih dengan apa yang telah terjadi.

Let the life flow. It’s meant to be enjoyable; only, and if only with Him.

Life at Peace

Lately, alhamdulillah saya merasa lebih tenang dan lebih bahagia dari pada biasanya. Apa sebab? Saya pikir karena saya merasa lebih yakin bahwa Allah SWT senantiasa melihat saya; saya merasa yakin bahwa I’m not alone, namun ada Allah yang senantiasa menyertai, innallaha ma’ana.

Semua bermula ketika akhir-akhir ini saya mulai merenungkan ayat-ayat Al-Qur’an yang saya baca. Ketika saya sampai pada surat Al-Baqoroh ayat 45-46, yang artinya: “Dan mohonlah pertolongan (kepada Allah) dengan sabar dan shalat. Dan (shalat) itu sungguh berat, kecuali bagi orang-orang yang khusyu’; (yaitu) mereka yang yakin, bahwa mereka akan menemui Tuhannya, dan bahwa mereka akan kembali kepada-Nya“.

Saya bertanya pada diri saya, benarkah sabar dan shalat merupakan solusi bagi semua permasalahan? Mengapa Allah menyebutkan dua ibadah ini secara khusus di sini? Yang membuat saya lebih berpikir lebih jauh lagi, Allah menyebutkan bahwa hal tersebut berat, kecuali bagi orang yang khusyu’. Di sini saya menjadi sangat tertarik, apa yang sangat istimewa dengan sholat yang khusyu’? dan bagaimana mencapai sholat yang khusyu’ tersebut? Alhamdulillah saya kemudian menemukan buku pelatihan sholat khusyu’ karya Ustadz Abu Sangkan. Pada buku tersebut, Ust. Abu Sangkan menekankan bahwa ketika sholat kita harus meyakini bahwa kita sedang berhadapan, melihat, atau bertemu dengan Allah secara langsung pada saat sholat. Hal ini ternyata sesuai dengan penjelasan Allah, di ayat 46, bahwa orang-orang yang khusyu’ itu yakin bahwa mereka akan menemui Tuhannya dan yakin bahwa mereka akan kembali kepada-Nya.

Berbekal pengetahuan ini, saya pun memperbaiki sholat saya. Saya selalu meyakinkan diri saya. bahwa Allah menyaksikan saya pada saat saya sholat; bahwa saya sedang bertemu Allah pada saat sholat. Hasilnya? it was great; saya bergetar, merasa takut, namun juga merasa tenang bahwa Allah sedang melihat saya. Saya merasa sholat saya lebih bermakna. Alhamdulillah, banyak perubahan yang saya dapatkan setelah memperbaiki sholat saya. Saya pun menjadi semakin senang untuk sholat dan berusaha untuk mencari-cari kesempatan untuk sholat.

Fortunately, this doesn’t stop here. Alhamdulillah, keyakinan bertemu Allah secara langsung pada saat sholat, membuat saya terus merasa bahwa Allah is there; Allah always watches me where ever I am. Hal ini lah yang membuat saya akhir-akhir ini menjadi lebih bahagia dan tenang.

Selain itu, alhamdulillah sekarang saya mulai mengerti dengan apa yang Allah maksud dengan ulil albab (orang-orang yang berakal) pada surat Al-Imran ayat 190-191, yaitu orang yang senantiasa ingat pada Allah di saat ia berdiri, duduk, dan dalam keadaan berbaring (i.e. dalam semua keadaan). Insyaallah, selama kita yakin dan aware bahwa Allah senantiasa melihat dan bersama dengan kita, kita pun akan senantiasa ingat pada Allah.

Finally, saya pun sekarang juga mengerti mengapa Allah menyebutkan bahwa sholat itu mencegah dari perbuatan keji dan munkar pada QS Al-Ankabut ayat 45. I think it is very understandable karena orang yang senantiasa merasa diawasi Allah tentu tidak akan berbuat yang keji dan munkar. Kalaupn ia terpeleset sehingga melakukan hal tersebut, ia akan segera memohon ampun dan memperbanyak amal sholeh.

Semoga Allah senantiasa menganugerahi sholat yang khusyu’ serta menguatkan kita untuk senantiasa beristiqomah dalam menjadi hamba-Nya.