Come forth with good deeds or evil deeds?

My commuting time in the morning for work has become one of my favorite time of the day. During the time, I can read and reflect upon many verses of the Qur’an. This morning was on Surah An-Naml (The Ant). I have two main observations.

First, on the way to get hidayah (guidance). Please take a look on the ayah below.

إِنَّ هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ يَقُصُّ عَلَىٰ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَكْثَرَ الَّذِي هُمْ فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ

وَإِنَّهُ لَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ

إِنَّ رَبَّكَ يَقْضِي بَيْنَهُمْ بِحُكْمِهِ ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْعَلِيمُ

فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّكَ عَلَى الْحَقِّ الْمُبِي

إِنَّكَ لَا تُسْمِعُ الْمَوْتَىٰ وَلَا تُسْمِعُ الصُّمَّ الدُّعَاءَ إِذَا وَلَّوْا مُدْبِرِينَ

وَمَا أَنْتَ بِهَادِي الْعُمْيِ عَنْ ضَلَالَتِهِمْ ۖ إِنْ تُسْمِعُ إِلَّا مَنْ يُؤْمِنُ بِآيَاتِنَا فَهُمْ مُسْلِمُونَ

“Verily, this Quran narrates to the Children of Israel most of that about which they differ. And truly, it (this Quran) is a guide and a mercy to the believers. Verily, your Lord will decide between them (various sects) by His Judgement. And He is the All-Mighty, the All-Knowing. So put your trust in Allah; surely, you (O Muhammad SAW) are on manifest truth. Verily, you cannot make the dead to hear (i.e. benefit them and similarly the disbelievers), nor can you make the deaf to hear the call, when they flee, turning their backs. Nor can you lead the blind out of their error, you can only make to hear those who believe in Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.), and who have submitted (themselves to Allah in Islam as Muslims).” (Q.S. An-Naml (27): 76-81)

In the ayat, Allah SWT mentioned that Qur’an is a guide and mercy to the believers. However, we can’t make those who disbelieve (in the verse Allah SWT said they are the dead) to receive the truth. In fact, those who will listen to Qur’an are only those who believe and submit themselves to Allah SWT as Muslim.

Then, I ask myself, if people who will be benefited from Qur’an are people who believe in Allah SWT already, then how can the disbelievers will ever get their hidayah and listen to this Qur’an? Then I found the answer in several places in the surah. First, in the last ayat, Allah SWT mentioned, “And say [(O Muhammad SAW) to these polytheists and pagans etc.]: “All the praises and thanks be to Allah. He will show you His Ayat (signs, in yourselves, and in the universe or punishments, etc.), and you shall recognise them. And your Lord is not unaware of what you do.” (Q.S. An-Naml (27): 93). From this ayat, I learn that Alah SWT do justice to everybody by showing them ayat (proof) for everybody without exception. The ayat could come from the knowledge/science that they are currently learning, from an event around them, and so on.

The second place for answer of my question I found it in the story of Prophet Sulaiman (Solomon) and the Queen of Saba’. I found it very interesting how the Queen get her hidayah. Let’s look at the following ayat.

“It was said to her: “Enter As-Sarh” [(a glass surface with water underneath it) or a palace], but when she saw it, she thought it was a pool, and she (tucked up her clothes) uncovering her legs, Sulaiman (Solomon) said: “Verily, it is Sarh [(a glass surface with water underneath it) or a palace] paved smooth with slab of glass.” She said: “My Lord! Verily, I have wronged myself, and I submit (in Islam, together with Sulaiman (Solomon), to Allah, the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists).” (Q.S. An-Naml (27): 44)

In that ayat, I found it magnificent how the Queen received the hidayah. When she stepped on the Sarh by mistakenly thought that it was a pool, she quickly realized how the power and greatness that she has is actually very small compared to what the Lord has. She realized how small she really is. She then (smartly) quickly realized that she has wronged herself and then submit (enter) Islam right away. I am amazed, how the Queen get her hidayah in that way.

Then, as a Muslim, what should we do to help deliver the hidayah, if it could be of any useful? For this, I found the answer in ayat 91-92, “…And I am commanded to be from among the Muslims (those who submit to Allah in Islam). And to recite the Qur’an.” And whoever is guided is only guided for [the benefit of] himself; and whoever strays – say, “I am only [one] of the warners.” (Q.S. An-Naml (27): 91-92). Here, we learn that our task as a Muslim is to recite the Qur’an to whoever, that it may become a source of hidayah to them. I have a little story of experience on this, but maybe I’ll save it for someday to tell.

Finally, my second observation from this surah is about what we will bring to Allah SWT in the judgement day. Allah SWT described the Armageddon in ayat 87-88:

“And (remember) the Day on which the Trumpet will be blown and all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth, will be terrified except him whom Allah will (exempt). And all shall come to Him humbled. And you will see the mountains and think them solid, but they shall pass away as the passing away of the clouds. The Work of Allah, Who perfected all things, verily! He is Well-Acquainted with what you do.”  (Q.S. An-Naml (27): 87-88)

What a terrible day indeed. Then Allah SWT said, “Whoever brings a good deed (i.e. Belief in the Oneness of Allah along with every deed of righteousness), will have better than its worth, and they will be safe from the terror on that Day.  And whoever brings an evil (deed) (i.e. Shirk polytheism, disbelief in the Oneness of Allah and every evil sinful deed), they will be cast down (prone) on their faces in the Fire. (And it will be said to them) “Are you being recompensed anything except what you used to do?”  (Q.S. An-Naml (27): 89-90)

I think the most fundamental question that we should ask ourselves over and over again is ‘what will we bring in front of Allah?’ Is it ‘good deeds’? or ‘evil deeds’?  I think this is an enough reminder for all of us to purify ourselves and to collect as much as good deeds we can; and stay away from any evil deeds that will strain our records in from of Allah SWT. May Allah SWT always strengthens, guides, and shows us the way.

Youth to get prepared

How Indonesia will be in fifty years time depend on what we do with our youth today. The picture below is the landscape of Jakarta seen from where I live. Certainly we can see some tall buildings; but we also see sprawling low income household houses on the sidelines.

image

These tall buildings were erected during Indonesia’s new order era (1966-1998). During this time, despite massive progress recorded from the extremely poor Indonesia post-colonial, the economy was pretty much built upon rent-seeking activities. Many of the rich got their riches through monopoly right licenses obtained from the government. For example, the major noodle companies in Indonesia, actually was the sole owner of wheat (key ingredient of noodle flour) import license. In short, the economy during the new order period was not built upon genuine invention or technological progress.

Again, as I reflect on how the economy (and the people, of course) will be in fifty years time, I come into conclusion that the quality of education and the subsequent creativity by the youth is what matters. These young people, who embrace the technology and utilize the opportunity created by globalization, are Indonesia’s best bet for its future. They, unlike their grandparents and parents, will create real progress in the economy through innovation. Just look at some tech and non-tech startups created by some Indonesian youths today. The challenge is then how to expand this trend (beyond just Jakarta and Bandung) to the entire archipelago.

This lead us to questions, how are we doing with the quality of our youth education? Has the education system prepare them best? Has the quality of vocational training schools prepare them for the workplace? Has the universities provide quality training? I’m afraid the answer is still No; yet even more scary, there seems to be no serious effort to rectify this.

Part of the problem maybe the lack of initiatives from the current policy makers whom themselves are the product of new order era. Not that I am saying most of them are corrupt, but it’s more on the lack of drive for reforms and preferring the status quo. To rectify this situation, I think we need more educated youth to be in that policy making level. Just small example: Pak Anies, the relatively young minister of education, finally bans ‘MOS/Ospek’ in schools. These MOS/Ospek, as we all know it, tend to be uneducating activities or even bullying events. After 70 years of independence, finally we seems to get away with it. This is one small example of how young policy makers can bring something fresh to the system.

So, what we, youth, can do now is to prepare ourselves up to the international standard so that we ready to fill the position when the time come. Finally, speaking about international standard, I think we all Indonesian youth should work harder and ‘conquer’ the world. Sometimes I am stunned, realizing how can smaller countries like UK, France, Japan, Germany, etc has more international caliber economist, scientist, etc than Indonesia, given that Indonesia is world fourth most populous country? Again, this can only lead us to conclusion, that we, really need to work harder.

 

Merapat pada Allah swt

Sedetikpun hati tak boleh lalai dari Allah swt. Tak mungkin ada dua cinta dalam satu hati. Jika hati lebih sering berfikir tentang dunia, mungkin memang dunialah yang lebih ia cintai. Tujuan hidup adalah untuk mendapat cinta Allah swt dan menjalankan tugas risalah yang Ia berikan. Mari perkuat kecintaan pada Allah swt dengan terus mendekatkan diri pada Al-Qur’an dan Al-Hadits. Semoga kita termasuk pada kelompok hamba yang sholeh.

Terkait tugas risalah, ia adalah tugas da’wah yang telah Allah swt takdirkan untuk kita perankan. Saat kita di kampus, maka misi risalah kita adalah berda’wah di kampus. Saat bekerja, misi risalah adalah berda’wah di kantor. Saat menjadi pemimpin, misi risalahnya adalah berda’wah pada masyarakat banyak. Semoga Allah swt menumbuhkan kecintaan pada-Nya di dalam hati kita dan menguatkan kita untuk menjalankan misi risalah kita masing-masing.

Iman and Immune

The state of our iman is like our immune system. Our immune system will stay strong if we keep feeding ourselves with halal and good food; as well as stay away from the source of diseases. Similar with our iman. If we keep doing good deeds, for instance dzikr, reading Qur’an, etc, as well as stay away from ma’siyah, then our iman will continue to be safe and sound. The relationship between ibadah and iman is a reinforcing feedback loop. The more we do the ibadah, the stronger is our iman. Moreover, by doing more ibadah thus having strong iman, Allah swt will loves us more. Let’s ponder upon this hadits:

Al-Bukhaari (6502) narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Allah says: ‘Whoever takes a close friend of Mine as an enemy, I declare war on him. My slave does not draw closer to Me by anything more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory upon him, and My slave continues to draw closer to Me by doing naafil (sunnah) deeds until I love him, and if I love him I will be his hearing with which he hears, his vision with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. If he were to ask of Me, I would surely give to him; if he were to seek refuge with Me, I would surely grant him refuge. I do not hesitate about anything that I want to do as I hesitate to take the soul of a believer, for he hates death and I hate to hurt him.”

It’s time to feed our iman with ibadah again.

National program on Islamic mentoring

I couldn’t think of any other things that can save this country. It is the aqidah and iman that should be corrected first. In fact, it is the first priority. No use of being a wealthy country without iman. There is also no use of various development policies if the iman isn’t there. Not that I am a lazy economist. But think about it. When the population have good iman in Allah swt, there won’t be corruption in state budget; people will behave well thus less social problems; people will work hard because they understand that working is an act of ibadah, etc etc. I think there should be a national program on Islamic mentoring. In fact, it should be the priority of the government. At least at the current setting, the Ministry of Religious Affairs could carry out this program, for instance by requiring all students to have a one hour mentoring session each week in their school. So no need to have an Islamic-based constitution first to conduct this. Of course this policy won’t be realized until the Minister of Religious Affairs, or the President, or the Minister of Education, or the Minister of Finance is someone that experienced the benefit of mentoring it self. Until that happen, we should start with our own circle.

Life is only for a moment

Syaikh Hamza Yusuf is an amazing Muslim. May Allah swt grants him Jannah. Among thousands of video clips of his speech that I watched, the following is among my favorites. In the speech, Syaikh reminded us that we are in a good hand. We are in Allah swt’s hand. We live in this world is just for a very very short moment. Our true life, the infinity one is in the akhirah. This 70 to 80 years maximum of life in this dunya is incomparable by any measures to the infinite life in the hereafter. I am nervous whether in the final moment of my life I will still have imaan to Allah swt. I don’t even dare to imagine such thing. May Allah swt strengthens our imaan and take our soul in the state of husnul khatimah. Please watch the video.

Berkah

Status

Berkah adalah bertambah nya kebaikan hingga berjumpa kembali dengan Allah swt. Berkah membuat segala yang sedikit menjadi banyak, sepi menjadi ramai, sedih menjadi bahagia, sempit menjadi lapang. Berkah terus memberi kekuatan. Ia mengubah sesuatu yang biasa menjadi istimewa. Alangkah indahnya hidup penuh keberkahan. Indah di awal, di proses, dan di akhirnya. Mari hidup dengan baik agar Allah swt memberi keberkahan.

Dari Dunia Menuju Akhirat (part 2)

Kembali lagi kepada tauhid dan kehidupan, Allah swt telah memberikan pedoman, cahaya, petunjuk, dan pelajaran kepada kita; yang apabila kita tidak mengikuti pedoman dan cahaya tersebut, bukannya mendapat kesuksesan, kita sebaliknya akan menghadapi kehidupan yang sempit di dunia ini. Allah swt mengatakan, “Dan barangsiapa berpaling dari peringatan-Ku, maka sesungguhnya baginya penghidupan yang sempit, dan Kami akan menghimpunkannya pada hari kiamat dalam keadaan buta” (QS Taha:124). Atau dalam terjemahan Dr. Muhsin Khan, “But whosoever turns away from My Reminder (i.e. neither believes in this Quran nor acts on its orders, etc.) verily, for him is a life of hardship, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Resurrection.

Jadi sangat tidak benarlah pemikiran-pemikiran yang mengedepankan harta sebagai satu-satunya jalan untuk mendapatkan kebahagian. Allah swt telah memutuskan, bahwa orang yang berpaling dari peringatan Allah swt (i.e. Al-Qur’an), maka pasti, ia akan mendapatkan kehidupan yang sempit. Nau’dzubillahi min dzalik.

Terkait dengan Al-Qur’an, Al-Qur’an merupakan bentuk cinta Allah swt pada kita. Kita semestinya hidup dengannya dan memperkenalkannya kepada lingkungan kita. Namun sayangnya, pada saat ini, kita tidak menghiraukan Al-Qur’an. Kita tidak memperdulikan Al-Qur’an. Allah swt menyebutkan dalam Al-Qur’an bahwa kelak Rasulullah SAW akan ‘complain’ di hari akhir, bahwa umatnya telah melalaikan Al-Qur’an. “Berkatalah Rasul: “Ya Tuhanku, sesungguhnya kaumku menjadikan Al Quran itu sesuatu yang tidak diacuhkan.” (QS AL-Furqon:30).

Terkait dengan hidup bersama Al-Qur’an, menurut saya tidak ada deskipsi yang dapat mengalahkan untaian indah kalimat Syeikh As-Syahid Sayyid Quthb dalam kitab beliau Fi Dzilail Qur’an (di bawah naungan Al-Qur’an). Berikut adalah ungkapan beliau pada bagian pendahuluan kitab tersebut.

                Fi Zhilalil-Qur’an ‘Di Bawah Naungan Al-Qur’an’

“Hidup di bawah naungan Al-Qur’an adalah suatu nikmat. Nikmat yang tidak dimengerti kecuali oleh yang merasakannya. NIkmat yang mengangkat harkat usia manusia, menjadikannya diberkahi, dan mensucikannya.

Segala puji milik Allah yang telah memberiku karunia dengan hidup di bawah naungan Al-Qur’an dalam suatu rentang waktu, yang kurasakan nikmatnya yang belum pernah aku rasakan sebelumnya dalam hidupku. Kurasakan nikmat ini dalam hidupku, yang menjadikan usiaku bermakna, doberkahi, dan suci bersih.

Kutempuh hidup dengan kudengar Allah Yang Mahasuci berbicara kepadaku dengan Al-Qur’an ini, padahal aku sejumput hamba yang kecil. Adakah penghormatan yang tinggi dan mulia seperti ini? Adakah pemanknaan dan peningkatan harkat usia seperti yang diberikan oleh Al-Qur’an ini? Kedudukan manakah yang lebih mulia yang diberikan oleh Pencipta Yang Mahamulia kepada manusia?

Aku hidup di bawah naungan Al-Qur’an. Dari tempat yang tinggi, kulihat kejahiliyahan yang bergelombang di muka bumi. Kulihat pula kepentingan-kepentingan penghuninya yang kecil dan tak berarti. Kulihat kekaguman orang-orang jahiliyah terhadap apa yang mereka miliki bagaikan kanak-kanak; pikiran-pikiran, kepentingan, dan perhatian bagaikan anak-anak kecil. Ketika kulihat mereka, aku bagaikan seorang dewasa yang melihat permainan anak-anak kecil dan tutur katanya yang pelat seperti anak kecil.

Mengapakah manusia-manusia ini? Mengapa mereka terbenam di dalam lumpur lingkungan, tanpa bisa dan mau mendengar seruan yang luhur dan mulia, seruan yang mengangkat harkat kehidupan, menjadikannya diberkahi dan menyucikannya?

Aku hidup di bawah naungan Al-Qur’an sambil bersenang-senang dengan menikmati gambaran yang sempurna, lengkap, tinggi, dan bersih bagi alam wujud ini, tentang tujuan alam wujud ini seluruh nya dan tujuan wujud manusia. Kubandingkan dengan konspesi jahiliyah tempat manusia hidup, di timur dan di barat, di utara dan di selatan, dan aku bertanya, “Bagaimanakan manusia hidup di kubangan yang busuk, di dataran paling rendah, dan di dalam kegelapan yang hitam pekat, sementara di sisinya ada tempat penggembalaan yang subur, tempat pendakian yang tinggi, dan cahaya yang cemerlang?”.

Aku hidup di bawah naungan Al-Qur’an; kurasakan simponi yang indah antara gerak kehidupan manusia yang dikehendaki Allah dan gerak alam semesta yang diciptakan-Nya. Kemudian, kuperhatikan lagi kehidupan jahiliyah maka terlihat olehku kejatuhan yang dialami manusia karena menyimpang dari Sunnah kauniyah dan benturan antara ajaran-ajaran yang rusak srta jahat yang telah lama kemanusiaan bercokol di atasnya dan fitrah yang diciptakan Allah untuknya. Aku berkata dalam hati, “Setan keparat manakah gerangan yang telah membimbing langkah mereka ke neraka jahim ini?”. Wahai betapa ruginya manusia ini!!!

Aku hidup di bawah naungan Al-Qur’an; kulihat alam wujud ini jauh lebih besar daripada kenyataan lahiriyah yang terlihat ini. Lebih besar hakikatnya, lebih banyak sisinya. Ia adalah alam gaib dan alam nyata, bukan cuma alam nyata saja. Ia adalah dunia dan akhirat, bukan Cuma dunia ini saja.

Akhirnya, sampailah aku dalam masa hidupku di bawah naungan Al-Qur’an kepada keyakinan yang pasti bahwa tidak ada kebaikan dan kedamaian bagi bumi ini, tidak ada kesenangan bagi kemanusian, tidak ada ketenangan bagi manusia, tidak ada ketinggian, keberkatan, dan kesucian, dan tidak ada keharmonisan antara undang-undang alam dengan fitrah kehidupan melainkan dengan kembali kepada Allah.

Kembali kepada Allah-sebagaimana yang tampak di dalam baying-bayang Al-Qur’an-memiliki satu bentuk dan satu jalan. Hanya satu, tidak ada yang lain. Yaitu, mengembalikan semua kehidupan kepada manhaj Allah yang telah ditulisnya di dalam kitab-Nya yang mulia bagi kemanusian. Yaitu, dengan menjadikan kitab ini sebagai pengatur di dalam kehidupannya dan berhukum kepadanya dalam semua urusannya. Kalau tidak begitu, kerusakanlah yang akan terjadi di muka bumi, kesengsaraan bagi manusia, terbenam ke dalam lumpur dan kejahiliyahan yang menyembah nafsu selain Allah.

…Dan demikian pulalah yang terjadi pada masyarakat Islam sendiri. Langkah naiknya dimulai dari titik pertemuan hukum alam dengan nilai-nilai iman di dalam hidupnya, dan langkah kejatuhannya dimulai dari titik pemisahan antara keduanya.”

 

Kitapun di Indonesia sering kali menganggap nilai-nilai barat jauh lebih superior. Kita ikut tidak percaya (meragukan) ajaran Islam. Bahkan menuduh ajaran Islam ini telah lapuk ditinggal zaman. Sejak Islam mundur, manusia telah kembali kepada kejahiliyahan, mengagungkan kenikamatan dunia yang menipu. Negeri Islam pun telah terpecah belah. Para elit penguasa di setiap negeri berusaha mengambil sebanyak-banyaknya kekayaan negeri (extractive institution). Sungguh, solusi dari segala permasalahan sosial, ekonomi, keamanan, dll adalah tauhid. Tentunya sangat tepat bila kita mengatakan, Islam is the way of life; thus it is imperative to know Al-Qur’an and hadits to live Islam. Because in every single time, we are a Muslim.

Dari Dunia Menuju Akhirat (part 1)

Bismillahirrahmanirrahim. Tulisan ini bermula dari cukup seringnya saya diminta teman-teman mahasiswa maupun SMA untuk berbagi pengalaman. Tema yang paling sering diminta adalah bagaimana menjadi mahasiswa muslim beprestasi. Saya pikir prestasi tentu merupakan sesuatu yang relatif dan multidimensional. Secara sederhana, bagi sebagian mahasiswa, tentu prestasi disimbolkan dengan mendapat penghargaan Mahasiswa Berprestasi; namun prestasi tentu lebih dari ‘sekedar’ menjadi Mahasiswa Berprestasi. Ada prestasi dalam bidang akademik, sosial, kewirausahaan, seni budaya, olah raga, dan seterusnya. Lebih jauh lagi, prestasi tentu lebih luas dari sekedar prestasi di bidang akademik, sosial, dll tersebut. Sesuai ajaran Islam, kehidupan yang sebenarnya adalah kehidupan di akhirat kelak; sehingga tentu pertanyaan yang lebih tepat adalah bagaimana caranya agar kita tergolong pada yang berprestasi di akhirat kelak? Dari sinilah tulisan ini berawal, yaitu hakikat atas prestasi. Tulisan ini kemudian akan dilanjutkan dengan beberapa tips untuk menjadi Mahasiswa Berprestasi, ditutup dengan sedikit tekad, pemikiran, dan impian saya terkait peradaban islam abad ke-21.

 

A.  First thing first

Sebelum kita berbicara terkait mahasiswa berprestasi, tentu kita perlu berbicara tentang hal yang lebih utama dalam hidup. First thing first. Ia adalah tauhid atau kalimat la ilaha illallah. Tidak ada yang disembah selain Allah swt. Jika banyak mahasiswa yang ingin menjadi mahasiswa berprestasi karena mereka berpikir bahwa menjadi mahasiswa berprestasi merupakan suatu bentuk kesuksesan; mereka telah salah besar. Kesuksesan yang sebenarnya berada di akhirat nanti. Kuncinya adalah Tauhid. Ialah yang akan menentukan kebahagian kita di dunia dan akhirat. Tauhid merupakan hal yang terpenting dalam hidup kita yang singkat ini. Syaikh Murattib Al-Hajj mengingatkan, “and what is a man other than a comet which flashes brilliant light only then be reduced to ashes”.

Lalu apa itu kesuksesan? Bagaimana agar kita menjadi seorang yang sukses? Apakah ukurannya adalah banyaknya harta? Gelar? Atau sumber prestige lainnya? Tidak. Allah swt mengatakan dalam QS An-Nahl ayat 97, “Barangsiapa yang mengerjakan amal saleh, baik laki-laki maupun perempuan dalam keadaan beriman, maka sesungguhnya akan Kami berikan kepadanya kehidupan yang baik dan sesungguhnya akan Kami beri balasan kepada mereka dengan pahala yang lebih baik dari apa yang telah mereka kerjakan.” (QS An-Nahl:97).

Terlihat dalam ayat tersebut terlihat bahwa mengerjakan amal shaleh merupakan hal kunci dalam mendapatkan kehidupan yang baik dan kesuksesan; namun tidak hanya itu saja. Ada persyaratan yang mendasar, yaitu amal shaleh tersebut harus didasari oleh keimaman. Singkatnya, kita bisa mengatakan bahwa amal shaleh merupakan sesuatu yang necessary but not sufficient; ia harus dilandasi oleh keimanan.

Terkait dengan kata ‘amal shaleh’, kita sebagai orang Indonesia sangat sering mendengarnya dan menggunakannya. Inilah keterbatasan kita karena menyerap sebuah kata ke dalam bahasa kita sehingga kita tidak mengetahui makna asli kata tersebut. Kata ‘shaleh’ memiliki akar kata Shod-Lam-HA, yang berarti “to be right/good/honest/upright/sound righteous, suit, fit. Dari akar kata ini muncul: Aslaha – to set things aright, reform, do good. Saalihat: good works, fit and suiting deeds. Aslaha (vb. 4) to make whole sound, set things right, effect an agreement between, render fit. Islaah: uprightness, reconciliation, amendment, reformation. Muslihun: reformer, one who is upright, righteous, a person of integrity, peacemaker, suitable.” Dari definisi ini kita bisa mengetahui apa yang diharapkan dari seseorang yang melakukan amal shaleh, yaitu seseorang yang memperbaiki sesuatu sehingga menjadi benar kembali. Singkat kata, seseorang yang melakukan amal shaleh, adalah seorang reformer. Hakikat dari melakukan amal shaleh adalah melakukan reform. Saya teringat akan definisi seorang leader atau pemimpin. Kita sering mendengar sebutan pemimpin. Saya pribadi menjadi penasaran, apa yang sebenarnya dimaksud dengan seorang leader. Alhamdulillah atas bimbingan Allah, saya menemukan definisi leader pada sebuah artikel, yaitu seseorang yang memperbaiki sesuatu sehingga sesuatu tersebut kembali menjadi benar (i.e. someone who sets things right).Jadi bukanlah pemimpin, seseorang yang melihat sesuatu yang salah namun membiarkannya. Begitu pula, kita tak akan termasuk pada orang yang melakukan amal sholah jika membiarkan keburukan terus terjadi. Saya merasa takjub, ternyata, perintah melakukan amal shaleh yang Allah swt berikan dalam Al-Qur’an, pada hakikatnya merupakan perintah kepada kita untuk menjadi seorang pemimpin.

Selanjutnya, sebagaimana disampaikan di ayat di atas, untuk mendapatkan kehidupan yang baik, kita harus beramal shaleh dan dilandasi dengan keimanan. Tentu pertanyaannya, bagaimanakah ciri orang yang beriman? Apa yang perlu kita lakukan untuk menjadi seorang yang berimana? Allah swt yang Maha Agung memberi penjelasan yang sangat rinci dalam Al-Qur’an terkait hal ini. Misalnya sebagaimana yang terdapat di dalam QS Al-Mu’minun 1-11.

Subhanallah, dengan sangat jelas ayat-ayat tersebut menjelaskan kriteria seorang mu’min, derajat yang ingin kita raih. Untuk menjadi seorang yang beriman, kita mesti menjadi seseorang yang (1) sholatnya khusyuk; (2) menghindari hal-hal yang tidak berguna (lagwu); (3) membayar zakat; (4) menjaga kesucian private parts; (5) menunaikan amanah; dan (6) menjaga sholat. Tentu untuk dapat memenuhi kriteria yang agung ini, kita perlu memahami lebih lanjut key words pada kriteria tersebut.

Pertama adalah seseorang yang sholatnya khusyuk. Kata khusyuk memiliki akar kata Kha-Syin-‘Ain yang berarti “Lowly/humble/submissive, still and low, to lower the eyes or voice, sink/nearly disappear in a setting place, be eclipsed/go away, become lean, whither/dry up, feign lowliness/humility in demeanour or voice or eyes, eject a thing, bow or bend down the head and body, be fearful”. Dari deksripsi tersebut tentu kita dapat memahami bahwa sholat yang khusyuk itu ditandai dari hati yang humble and menyerahkan diri pada Allah swt. Saya pernah mendengar nasehat ulama bahwa seseorang yang dapat khusyuk dalam sholat hanyalah orang yang khusyuk di luar sholat. Artinya kita perlu menjaga perasaaan dan kondisi khusyuk tersebut sepanjang waktu. Jadi pengkondisian hati dan pikiran untuk sholat yang khusyuk perlu dilakukan sepanjang waktu.

Kedua adalah menhindari hal yang bersifat laghwu. Kata laghwu memiliki akar kata Lam-Ghoin-Waw, yang artinya “To talk nonsense speech, to make mistake consciously or unconsciously, use vain words, idle talk, make noise and raise a hue and cry (to interrupt), talk frivously (to drown the hearing of another), a slip in talk, unintentional talk, babble”. Dari definisi tersebut tentu kita dapat membayangkan tipe perbincangan atau aktivitas seperti apa yang tergolong kepada laghwu. Bagi saya pribadi, pikiran saya langsung melayang pada ‘kongkow-kongkow’ anak muda maupun dewasa yang berbicara panjang lebar disertai gelak tawa yang pada akhirnya tidak menghasilkan kesimpulan apa-apa. Sangat menyedihkan, ternyata perbuatan yang dilarang tersebut merupakan yang hal dianggap baik pada saat ini. Mereka bahkan digelari sebagai seorang yang gaul, atau si anak nongkrong. Di sini peran kita unutk mengingatkan rekna-rekan kita. Lanjut kembali, jika kita perhatikan, poin pertama di atas dan poin kedua ini sangat berkaitan. Orang yang menjaga kekhusyukannya tentu bukanlah orang yang mengerjakan hal-hal laghwu. Sebaliknya, orang yang sering atau terbiasa mengerjakan hal yang bersifat laghwu adalah mereka yang sholatnya tidak khusyuk, which means mereka bukanlah orang yang beriman. Na’udzubillahi min dzalik. May Allah swt protect us from that state. Lalu bagaimana kita menyikapi tawaran perbuatan atau kegiatan yang bersifat laghwu tersebut? Pada ayat tersebut Allah swt mengatakan yang harus kita lakukan adalah a’rada, yang berarti ”To turn away, back, slide; or having an excuse”.

Ketiga adalah mengerjakan zakat. Saya melihat betapa indah Islam pada ayat ini. Ternyata menjadi seseorang yang beriman itu tidak hanya mensucikan hati dan perbuatan saja; namun juga mensucikan harta. Jika kita semua paham tentang inti zakat ini, tentu tidak ada koruptor di negeri ini. Semua orang sadar dan ingin agar harta mereka suci dari mengambil hak-hak orang lain. Selain itu, ayat ini mengajarkan kita bahwa seorang mu’min yang diinginkan Allah itu adalah juga orang yang peduli terhadap kondisi sosialnya; bukan orang yang menutup mata. Indah sekali. Semoga kita bisa termasuk pada orang yang sentiasa membantu kondisi perekonomian orang-orang yang disekitar kita.

Keempat adalah menjaga private parts. Untuk kata ‘menjaga’ di sini Allah swt menggunakan kata hafiz yang akar katanya HA-Fa-Zha yang berarti “To preserve/guard/protect a thing, take care of a thing, prevent a thing from perishing, to be careful/mindful/regardful/attentive/considerate concerning a thing, to keep a thing,…, to remember, to defend, keep a thing from getting lost, to be observant or watchful, apply oneself/assiduously/constantly/preservingly, vigilant or heedful, to anger a preson or be anger”. Deskrispsi kata di atas sangat jelas menekankan bahwa seorang yang beriman senantiasa menjaga kesucian private parts mereka. Dua ayat selanjutnya menjelaskan apa solusi yang diberikan oleh Allah swt.

Kelima, menunaikan amanat dan janji mereka. Amanat sendiri memiliki akar kata yang sama dengan iman itu sendiri. Dalam konteks ini amanat adalah sesuatu yang dipercayakan. Kemudian janji (‘ahdun) yang berarti perjanjian, janji, kesepakatan, sumpah, ikatan, tanggung jawab, jaminan, persahabatan, dan keamanan. Indah sekali. Seseorang yang mu’min adalah orang yang menunaikan apa yang dipercayakan kepadanya (dari orang lain kepada dirinya) dan orang yang sentiasa memenuhi janji atau apa yang telah diucapkannya (dari dirinya kepada orang lain).

Keenam, menjaga sholatnya pada waktu yang telah ditentukan.

Saya berpikir bahwa semua karakteristik mu’min di atas merupakan sesuatu yang bersifat saling menguatkan. Pemenuhan atas satu hal akan berujung pada pemenuhan hal yang lainnya. Sebaliknya, meninggalkan salah satunya akan berujung pada rusaknya semua hal lainnya. Sunnguh, tidak ada setengah-setengah dalam agama ini. Dari urutan ayat ini, kita belajar dari Allah swt yang Maha Suci bahwa sholat khusyuk merupakan prioritas utama yang akan membantu kita menjalankan persyatan yang lainnya.

Kita tentu tidak punya pilihan lain. Kita harus menjadi seorang yang mu’min. Seorang yang mu’min kelak akan menjadi pewaris atau pemilik Surga Firdaus. Ya Rabb, kuatkan lah kami agar kami menjadi hamba-Mu yang mu’min. Kuatkanlah kami agar tidak tertipu oleh dunia ini. Kuatkanlah kami agar kami memiliki sholat yang khusyuk kepada Mu.

Pada akhirnya, keikhlasan jugalah yang menentukan

Setiap kita menempuh takdir masing-masing. Mencari, menggali, mengasah, dan menggunakan keunikan pribadi kita. Ada yang berhasil melakukannya dengan gemilang, namun tak sedikit yang bahkan tak menyadari keunikan pribadinya. Namun pada akhirnya, keikhlasan jugalah yang menentukan. Kontribusi besar seseorang boleh jadi membuat yang lainnya berdecak kagum. Namun pada akhirnya, kita semua akan kembali pada Allah swt. Pada hari itu, tak ada lagi sekat; tak ada lagi penghalang; juga tak ada lagi penolong. Allah Rabb yang mengetahui segala isi hati, tahu betul segala isyarat hati. Semoga pada waktu itu, segala yang kita lakukan bercahaya putih bersih; refleksi keikhlasan yang murni. Jika keikhlasan tidak ada, hanya penyesalan tak bertepi yang tersisa.

Entah kapan jantung ini kan terus berdetak. Sudahkah keikhlasan itu hadir? Sungguh kita tak sanggup menjadi yang hina di akhirat nanti.

Allah swt Rabb yang Maha Penyayang; yang Maha Adil. Ia Maha Lembut lagi Maha Penyantun. Semoga Ia senantiasa menguatkan kita untuk bisa ikhlas di jalan-Nya. Allohummarzuqnal hussnul khatimah,,

Being back in Jakarta

It has been two months since I’m back to Jakarta and start working. Previously, since I enjoyed a very comfortable life abroad for three and half years, I sometimes wondered how it feels joining millions of other Jabodetabek-ers who commute to Jakarta every single morning and back again at night. The result? Yes, it’s a little bit tiring; but then I again realize, actually the external environment does not really matter. Being in a rush hour train does not necessarily mean that we live an uncomfortable day. I’ve seen many people, who despite being in crowded train, keep making themselves busy with reading Qur’an through their phone or listening to its recitation.

Living in Jakarta again reinforce my source of inspiration to keep working; that is to serve the people. The politicians who selfishly fight in the house of representative probably unaware that the longer they’re stuck in conflict, the deeper the pain that many poor people are feeling. Isn’t it, it is the congressman job to be partner and evaluator of government’s programs? At the very least, these things will keep me motivated to be good; to always be more capable.

Another things which make me happy being back in Jakarta (and Indonesia at large) is the dynamic of da’wah activities here. I’m so inspired and so happy to experience it again, how spirited and sincere the da’i over here to convey Allah’s swt and His messengers’ message, that is none is worthy of worship except Allah swt and that Muhammad is His messenger. Alhamdulillah, may Allah swt strengthen all of da’i’s foothold in this path.

One thing, though, that I really miss from living abroad: the nature. I am a park lover. Being in Jakarta, working five days a week and lots of other activities on weekend, I almost never have any chance to interact with nature. I firmly believe, it is nature the one that makes our heart soft. Indeed, Allah swt repeatedly direct our attention to nature in the Qur’an. Not sure when it would be, I really hope, the city could be greener and fresher for its people to be happier.

There are a lot more things to be said about being back in Jakarta. I guess for now, I need to finish drinking my morning cereal 🙂

Sentral Senayan, 7.02am

On September 11th

Finally I had a chance to have a quick look on the (previously classified) joint inquiry report of the US senate and the US house on intelligence regarding the 9/11 attack. If you have time, I think it’s worth it to have a quick look on it.

After having a quick look, I think the root cause of the attack as well as the continuing conflicts up to this day, are two-sided. On one side, as the report also suggests, the involvement of the US, UK, and their allies’ government in the Middle East has brought great calamities to the Muslim world; thus inciting rebellion. The example of the ‘western’ involvement would be the sanction or embargo to Saddam Hussein government (i.e. the state of Iraq) since 1990 until 2003 as well as the unconditional supports given to the state of Israel, which continues even until this very day. The second cause is the miss-understanding of Islamic teaching by some Muslims who carry out the ‘jihad’. In one of his lecture, Syaikh Hamza Yusuf mentioned (minute 58) that Usama bin Laden, who was an accountant, has no legitimacy to issue any fatwa, moreover a fatwa on jihad. Usama bin Laden, when issuing the fatwa that any military and civilian of the US around the world are a legitimate target of jihad, referred to a fatwa issued by Syaikh Ibnu Taymiyyah (1263-1328) regarding the people of Mardeen. It turns out that Ibnu Taymiyyah’s fatwa was miss-printed. The original fatwa said the disbelievers should be treated as a disbeliever; but the print (that Usama bin Laden read) said, the disbelievers should be fought (the miss-printed fatwa is here).

Obviously I am very new to this issue; but I believe it is a must to understand this two sides of the story. Most of the western people will have a strongly negative view on Islam or Muslim community because they thought Islam or Muslim only want to kill them. On the other hand, many Muslims, especially those who are experiencing the western government ‘intervention’ (read: war) on their places, firmly believe that retaliating to western governments are a legitimate action to do.

Certainly I am far from being able to suggest any solution on this. But one thing that I am very sure will work: abstaining from unconditional supports to the state of Israel and various other interventions in many Muslim countries. Obviously this is most likely will never happen. The problem of eggs-and-chicken or miss-trust will always persist. The US will never back down from involving in Muslim countries affairs’ while the ‘jihadist’ will never back down too as long as the US still present.

Will dialogue help to solve the problem? For many Muslims, as long as the US still practice the hypocrisy, i.e. lecturing the world on human rights etc., while at the same time still supporting the terrorist activities of Zionist Israel, the dialogue will never ever be working. Why is it impossible for the US government to remove unconditional supports to Zionist Israel? Is the US support to Zionist Israel the only concern of many ‘jihadist’? or do they have other mission? There are many questions need to answered.

I am against any use of violence in the name of Islam, especially when it involves attacking civilians, yet I also clearly understand the disappointment of ‘jihadist’ towards US policies on Muslim countries. If it is fine for the US to directly support Israel in killing around 2,000 Palestinians in (just last) July-August 2014, then why the ‘jihadist’ are not allowed to kill US civilian as well?

This is certainly a very challenging issue.

Akhirah mentality

Status

We are building for akhirah. Everything we do is the preparation for akhirah. We ought to utilize whatever strength or potential that Allah swt gave us as a way to have long lasting amal sholeh. We surely indeed can’t afford to be the loser in akhirah. Prophet Musa’s du’a regarding potential is an excellent example: “My Lord! Truly, I am in need of whatever good that You bestow on me! (QS 28:24)

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.

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)

 

 

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.

 

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

Komite Inovasi Nasional-few notes

#Doesn’t mean to be an arrogant person by commenting government institution; rather, just wanted to evaluate our institution’s work based on what I’ve learnt.

Indonesia is one of the emerging countries which is said to be the missing additional “I” in the BRICS grouping. Even though it was severely hit by the Asian Financial Crisis 1997, of which the effect lasted until 2003, the new leadership in 2004 has helped Indonesia to gradually recover which then was even praised for weathering the 2008 crisis really well. This writing simply look on how Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) policy in Indonesia is (especially by looking at Komite Inovasi Nasional’s work) and whether this is sufficient to move the country form lower middle-income status.

In general, many developing country, including Indonesia, has adopted system of innovation approach to design its STI policy, nonetheless the practice usually follows old paradigm and rarely address the core problem (Intarakumnerd & Chaminade, 2011). The policy usually only focuses on increasing resources available for R&D, human resource development, and infrastructure development (i.e. linear model of innovation), while abandoning the importance of cooperation among various actors in the economy. I think this is mainly caused by the government’s assumption that researches from universities and public research institutions will easily be transferred to the private sector. Furthermore, there is usually dichotomy between STI policy and economic policy which means the STI policy was not design as part of industrial policy.

Realising the importance of national innovation system, Indonesian President established National Innovation Committee (Komite Inovasi Nasional) in 2010. This committee was tasked to help president in formulating a planned, integrated, and coordinated national innovation policy under national system of innovation framework.

In 2012, the committee launched 1-747 innovation initiative programmes which consist of several programmes (KIN, 2012):

  • 1% of GDP should be used as R&D spending.
  • 7 steps to improve innovation ecosystem, these are (1) incentive system and regulation to support innovation; (2) improving quality and flexibility of human resource movement; (3) development of innovation centre to support small-medium scale industry; (4) development of regional innovation cluster; (5) improving researcher innovation system; (6) revitalization of R&D infrastructure; and (7) establishment of system and management of research financing which support innovation.
  • 4 industries to accelerate economic growth, these are (1) basic necessity industry; (2) creative industry; (3) local-based industry; and (4) strategic industry, such as defence, transportation, and information and communication technology (ICT).
  • 7 vision of Indonesia in 2025, these are (1) increasing the IPR related to economic growth; (2) improving ST infrastructure; (3) achieving food, medicine, energy, and fresh water self-sufficient; (4) doubling creative industry export; (5) increasing  core products and value-added in industry; (6) self-sufficient in defence, transportation, and ICT products; and (7) achieving sustainable economic growth.

Based on system-theoretic approach concept, there are several ways to improve the programmes above. First is improving the paradigm. As pointed out by Intarakumnerd & Chaminade (2011), newly established national innovation system in developing countries usually follow old paradigm and rarely address the core problem. Most, if not all, programmes above focus on resource allocation matters, such as remuneration system, R&D infrastructure, research funding, and so on. The programmes should have been focused more on improving the learning process, that is addressing the question how the input (researcher, funding, etc.) could lead to innovative product. Second is by inserting diffusion of technology paradigm. The programmes above does not touch upon diffusion of technology and improving interaction across various actors. Certainly cooperation among firms, universities, and public research institutions is missing in Indonesia. Third, the program should include institutional or governance improvement strategy. Innovation would never be flourished when institutional or governance factors, such corruption, intellectual property right enforcement, custom procedures, overall investment climate, etc. are not fixed.

To conclude, even though Komite Inovasi Nasional is not a policy making body, rather it is (just) an advisory council which advice the president on national innovation policy; it has the strategic position in directing the development of Indonesia’s national innovation system. Thus I hope, it can move from old paradigm and embrace the ‘successful’ example of national innovation system in various developed countries. One thing is quite clear here, the committee members should read the latest research on innovation policy more =).

 

Intarakumnerd, P. & Chaminade, C., 2011. Innovation policies in Thailand: towards a system of innovation approach. Asia Pacific Business Review, 17(2), pp. 241-256.

The case of Indonesian fuel subsidy

The untargeted fuel subsidy in Indonesia is a very wrong policy; thus should be adjusted to be a targeted one. However, strangely, still, some political parties are opposing this policy change, reflecting the irrational or lack of intellectual-based politics in Indonesia.

Indonesia became net importer of crude oil since 2004, at the first year of the current President’s administration. Since then, the difference between oil production and consumption has widen, reaching 300,000 barrel or around 36 million liters per day in 2012 (US EIA, 2013).

The cause is easy to guess, that is surge in the number of motor vehicle due to increasing economic activity. Indonesian passenger cars has grown around 12% annually since 2004 reaching 10 million cars in 2011; while the motorcycle has grown even higher, at 17% per year, reaching 70 million units in 2011.

The amount of subsidy in Indonesia is enormous. It was around 14 billion US$ (Rp 137 trillion) in 2012 or around 10% of total government revenue. As of 2010, there are 46% of Indonesian or around 111 million people live below US$ 2 (PPP) per day. If we use all of these subsidy money in 2012 alone, then 59 million people will be out of poverty instantly, almost half of the current level*. To put it in another context, this Rp137 trillion is almost twice of ministry of education budget; seven times of agriculture ministry’s budget; or almost 20 times of fisheries ministry budget. The amount is unbelievably huge (every year).

In short, we need a game change here. (The current scheme of) Subsidy is bad for our economic development, bad for our environment, and bad for our mentality (dependent on subsidy). The subsidy should be a targeted one. By using government’s data that around 12% of Indonesian live under national poverty line, that is around 30 million people or 7.5 million household. By giving every household Rp100,000 every month (a very huge amount compared to previous cash transfer) as the compensation of subsidy removal, than it equals to only nine trillion Rupiah, or merely 6% of subsidy budget in 2012.

The time has come to Indonesia’s politics to be  more rational. The current political party should feel ashamed to our founding fathers and to all of heroes who sacrificed their life, family, wealth, and everything they had so that this country can gain independence and become a prosperous one. The Indonesian voters should also be more rational in choosing party which is taking ‘a make sense’ policy. I guess this is the job of us, the educated Indonesian to teach our people to be a rational voter. Wallahu’alam bisshawab.

 

Note: *) By using a very conservative assumption, that is all of these people will receive $2*365 or $730 (PPP) per year.