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

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.

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)

 

 

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?

As we grow up

As we grow up, our mind gets matured. The way we see things; the way we understand things. In Islam, I think Allah hinted that it (maturity) is usually when we reached 40 years old (see QS Al-Ahqaf: 15). Indeed, Prophet Muhammad SAW received the first revelation when he was 40 years old. Nonetheless, I think to understand the religion, and partly the life, it shouldn’t take that long. From the first and two generation afterwards in Islamic history, we know many Islamic heroes were also those who were in early 20s, some are even younger. In Islam, as long as someone’s heart, mind, and tongue get matured, then he’s in.

I believe this maturity should be or be reflected in the way we understand and practice Islam as the way of life. Let’s take Sholat as an example. When we were child, maybe we just memorized the supplication and other prayer’s reading without understanding its meaning and insights; but, as we grow up, we should understand and able to internalize all of these supplications. One example is in Al-Fatihah. It is definitely, absolutely not a coincidence that the surah or chapter in Qur’an that we read repeatedly-in every raka’ah of our sholah is Al-Fatihah. This is the essence of the religion and the summary of the Qur’an.

At the beginning of Al-Fatihah, we openly and immediately admit that we’re extremely grateful to Allah, the Lord or the world (Alhamdulillahi rabbil ‘alamin). Why? because He’s entirely merciful and especially merciful (Arrahmanirrahim); and then Allah reminds us, that this life is only the life in this world; rather, there will be the real life, in which we’ll be given rewards and punishment from what we did in this life. Allah said, He is indeed the sovereign of the day of recompense (Maa likiyaumiddin). As the logical consequence, we submit and worship Allah as well as asking for help to Him alone (Iyyakana’budu wa iyyaka nasta’in).

Then, here we go, Allah taught us, if there’s only one request or supplication to Allah, then what should it be? Allah taught us to ask for guidance to the straight path (Ihdinasshiratal mustaqim) because indeed, day by day, we’re confronted with so many things: options, temptation, etc.; thus we definitely need guidance from Allah. Allah then proceed to teach us on how to make du’a or supplication, that is to be specific. Then we have this attachment to the du’a: “..The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.”

The fact, that here we clearly specify in our du’a that we want the path of those who got ni’mah or favor from Allah, should make us think, who are these people? Who are these people who got the ni’mah. Right away, we come into realization that they’re the Prophet and all of the sholihin, of which the path that they chose was the path of da’wah. This should make us realize that Allah wants us to do da’wah, the path of those who got ni’mah from Allah.

Then Sholat is on and on. All movements and supplication in sholat are just amazing. We should really try to internalize it, so that we can be a better person from one sholat to another; from one time to another time until we’re back to Allah.

Let me close this post by stressing our supplication in tasyahud akhir. Do we realize that we, as a Muslim, at least, declare syahadah nine times in a day? Syahadah, as know, is an extremely powerful short-concise sentence; that is a declaration that Allah is the only God, the only priority, intention, and goal in our life; and that Prophet Muhammad is His messenger thus should be referred in any aspect of His life where applicable. Again, by declaring this at least nine times in a day, 365 days in a year, we should be reminded that this life is only for Allah and that whatever He asked us to do should be the priority of our life. Wallahu’alam; May Allah always guides and gives us hidayah.

Mengapa masih ada orientasi dunia dalam diri kita

Saya hanya ingin mengingatkan diri saya.

Terlalu sering pikiran dan hati kita dipenuhi oleh ambisi duniawi. Terlalu sering ibadah kita, tindakan kita, mencampurkan keikhlasan dengan riya. Terlalu banyak amal ibadah kita yang tidak murni keikhlasannya.

Mengapa kita manusia mau saja tertipu dengan kehidupan dan ketidakikhlasan ini. Sangat jelas bahwa kita akan dimintai pertanggung jawaban oleh Allah nanti. Mengapa kita terlalu sering lalai, lupa dengan tujuan kita diciptakan. Mengapa kita terlalu berambisi duniawi, dan menganggap remeh kehidupan akhirat.

Sungguh tidak pantas kita merasa tenang, merasa bahwa kita pasti akan terlepas dari azab Allah. Sunnguh tidak pantas, bila kita menganggap remeh siksa Allah. Belum tentu semua kemudahan yang kita dapatkan akan membuat kita semakin dekat dengan Allah. Boleh jadi ia malah menjauhkan kita.

Beruntunglah orang-orang yang beriman, beramal shaleh, dan memurnikan ketaatannya pada Allah saja. Orang yang tidak peduli dengan pandangan manusia, karena memang sudah sepantasnya hanya pandangan Allah lah yang berarti. Beruntung dan menanglah orang-orang tersebut; semoga kelak kita termasuk pada golongan orang-orang yang beruntung dan menang tersebut.

Sangat indah petikan do’a yang diajarkan Allah pada ayat-ayat akhir QS Al-Imran: “ya Tuhan kami, sesungguhnya barangsiapa yang Engkau masukkan ke dalam neraka, maka sungguh telah Engkau hinakan ia, dan tidak ada bagi orang-orang yang dzalim seorang penolongpun. ya Tuhan kami, sesungguhnya kami mendengar (seruan) yang menyeru kepada iman (yaitu), ‘Berimanlah kamu kepada Tuhanmu’, maka kamipun beriman. Ya Tuhan kami, ampunilah bagi kami dosa-dosa kami dan hapuskanlah dari kami kesalahan-kesalahn kami, dan wafatkanlah kami beserta orang-orang yang berbakti. Ya Tuhan kami, berilah kami apa yang Engkau janjikan kepada kami dengan perantaraan rasul-rasul Engkau. Janganlah Engkau hinakan kami di hari kiamat. Sesungguhnya Engkau tidak menyalahi janji.”

Ya Rahman, tunjuki dan sayangilah kami. Ya Rahman, bantulah kami untuk selalu ikhlas kepada Mu. Ya Rahman,,

One moment that I’m terribly afraid of

If there were one moment that I really afraid of, it would be the day when-with whatsoever reason-I become so much away from Allah. The day, when I-with whatsoever reason-accept the notion that Allah is not my creator. I can only pray to Allah to save my religion, to save myself from the stupidity that I might be doing. May Allah always guide us in this path, in Allah’s path. In this path, Allah has chosen and honored us. In this path, we’ve became different from others; we’ve been guided, and we can see beyond what eyes can see. All of these are only possible because of Allah’s hidayah (guidance) to us. Allah, please strengthen our heart to hold onto your guidance; and to keep remembering you. Allah, please give us Qalbun Salim, Qalbun Muthmainnah, hati yang selalu bersyukur kepada-Mu.

Economic Series (2): Economic Crisis and Crisis in Economics

Economics cannot stand alone. The decision should neither be based solely on econometric analysis nor any economics modelling. As a social science, economics need to understand the social behavior   The strong held believe assumptions in economics, i.e. efficiency of the market and participants rational behavior, are very often not true.

The side effects of current/mainstream economics, i.e. income inequality, climate change, financial crisis, are more than enough to prove that we need a new economic thinking.

Economics as part of social science is different from natural science. Evidence in natural science is objective, while in social science it is not. In social science there thinking participants while at the same time several events influence the thinking. So there is an absence of independent criteria in economics thinking. This hinders social science in producing a fixed law. Reality is contingent upon participants’ decision; while participants try to make decision based on reality (feedback reflexivity as called by George Soros).

Financial crisis has happened very often due to bubble. Thus it followed by regulatory response.  This will happen continuously without an end due to lack of bold move. The foundation of our economics and financial which is based on interest (unreal economic activity) is inherently unstable.

In addition, It becomes a never ending debate whether government or the market is the source of the problem. I think both. World is complex and change very fast. That is why I think we need a firm guidance-an objective one, which is Allah’s guidance, Qur’an.

Kebahagiaan

Kebahagiaan itu ada di dalam hati. Hati, ia akan merasa tenang dengan dzikir pada Allah. Lalu mengapa mencari kebahagiaan dari yang lain? Sungguh, Allah adalah Dzat yang maha pengasih dan penyayang. Kasih dan sayang-Nya sungguh tidak terkira.

Sangatlah merugi orang yang mencari kebahagiaan dari selain Allah. Money, position, power are only mata’u fil hayatiddunya, something that we use, but will never make us satisfied. Semoga kelak kita bisa berkumpul dengan hamba-hamba, yang Allah panggil dengan nafsul muthmainnah, jiwa-jiwa yang tenang. Semoga Allah selalu menguatkan kita untuk mengingat, bersyukur, dan beribadah kepada-Nya.

Islam, Al-Qur’an and Justice

Alhamdulillah,, all praises and thanks belong to Allah. Alhamdulillah, for hidayatul islam that He has given to us. I am very overwhelmed by the “amazingness” of Al-Qur’an. Even word by word in the Al-Qur’an was revealed with certain meaning and reason behind it. It contains a lot of lesson and obviously guidance for all of us. I strongly encourage all of us to dive deeper to Al-Qur’an tafsir. I think, one way to do that is to watch the Qur’an from Cover to Cover program by Ustadz Nouman Ali Khan here: http://www.bayyinah.tv/sp/9942-bayyinah-tv (paid subscription though, but obviously really worth it).

Listening to the tafsir, there’s one thing that ‘stuck’ in my head, which is the importance of justice in Islam. Allah sent down Islam to us as the guidance so that we can perform our role, as alkhalifatu fil ardh, with justice. The absence of Islamic or Qur’anic value application in our life, I believe, has contributed to the increasing injustice practices in our society.

The greedy bankers in UK, for example, who manipulated the interest rate (LIBOR) which is referred worldwide, is an obvious act of injustice. The corrupt practice in government procurement is another blunt example. Hopefully, soon enough, we’ll be able to play a greater role in removing these injustice practices in our society.

Al-Jazeera

One of my source of inspiration is Al-Jazeera, a 21st century television channel. It is not only informative but also inspiring. Whenever I watch Al-Jazeera program, I always feel, Al-Jazeera has done its part, by producing program with a highest quality, now it’s my part, to produce something, such as academic work, with a highest quality as well.

I just watched one episode of its program, called earthrise. A documentary which explore the possibility of living in a sustainable planet. I greatly admire the works that they did in this program. I realize how the way we run our country in the pursuit of higher economic growth has deteriorate our environment.

Currently, Indonesia is the race to be a developed country. From GDP per capita only around USD2,500 (PPP) in 2000 to almost USD5,000 (PPP) in 2011. I think this situation is very dangerous if we keep blindly aspire for higher GDP per capita even though by undermining our environment.

I’m not sure, whether this can be stopped or not; or maybe nature is the only power who can stop us forcefully. The result of Doha Climate Change Conference (COP18) which took place November, last month, further stress that many countries, are not willing to put more attention and action to reduce the environmental impact. It exactly fit with what Allah said in the qur’an, the earth will be damaged by human hands, and we will see that impact to our life. But have we changed?

Some community initiatives, such as what can be seen in earthrise series three-episode eight, are something that should be appreciated.

Mismanaged country

Living in foreign country can help to get an outsider view about our country. Something that I think quite important, moreover from experts in their field.

One of my Prof, when he talked about Indonesian economy, without aware that I am Indonesian, said that Indonesia is a mismanaged country. In another class, a professor, when he needs to make an example, about a bad infrastructure-country, he will easily take Indonesia, especially Jakarta as an example. In another class, about foreign aid, my prof said that Japan is very interested to give development aid to Indonesia because Indonesia has oil (previously) and gas, which is very important for Japan so that Japan needs to ‘good’ with Indonesia.

Listening to many of this occasions make me really believe how bad the situation in Indonesia is. Previously, not that I am not aware of this problem, but I thought in the last eight years, we’ve done a very good job; but not really. Decentralization, high-cost direct election, weak internal control system have paralyzed Indonesia’s development.

Obviously change in one person won’t be enough; but when we commit to be better and act better at individual level, I believe we as a country can move forward faster. Islam since the beginning has always emphasize the important of good individual, later in the judgement day, we will be held responsible as an Individual. Nonetheless, united efforts, such as uniting vision, conducting systematical change in government organizations, are equally important. What do you think?

Know your passion, then commit to be excellent in it

For my beloved fellow Indonesian, Allah mentioned that all of us are equipped with potential. Some are good at natural science, some at social science, some at entrepreneur, organization, and many others. When you realize what your passion is, then work hard to be excel on it.

Nothing impossible with hard work. Insyaallah, with Allah’s help and guidance our efforts will be even more effective. We are created equal. Anyone has the chance to be excellent. As long as we are willing to work harder, willing to commit, insyaallah we’ll get it.

Allah said in Qur’an surah Al-Imran verse 200:

3:200
Translation:

O you who have believed, persevere and endure and remain stationed and fear Allah that you may be successful.

So the key words are believe in Allah (iman), persevere (shabr’), endure, remain stationed, and fear Allah (taqwa). May Allah always guide in being excellent.
When you have time, please watch the following speech by our former president, Prof.Habibie. Salam,

Life in Japan so far

After living for almost two months in Japan, I found several interesting things which I think we should take example of from Japan.

First, the dedication or professionalism. I witness that most of Japanese are really dedicated to their work. Be it a safety guard, chef, cleaning service officer, train officers, and others. No matter how ‘low’ their position is, they seem to do it whole-heartedly. The result? Almost all of their works are ‘A grade’.

Second, the bright people in government. I asked several Japanese friends; all of their answers are almost similar, almost all central government official in strategic ministries, such as Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are staffed with the brightest mind in the country, the University of Tokyo graduates. I find this as quite impressive. No wonder why they have a relatively good public policies, well-run administration, etc.

Third, valuing teacher. One of my Japanese friends told me that teacher salary’s is quite high compare to the average; even it is quite difficult to be accepted as teacher. Thus the teachers are usually very dedicated, and of course, very busy. I think this is one of the reasons why Japanese has good education quality.

Nonetheless, I also found several things that should be improved in Japan. First is reducing the number of suicides. Quite often we can see in train announcement that certain train line is late because of ‘passenger injury’, which means someone jumped on the train rail. I think Japanese should learn more about optimism. May Allah protect us from that behaviour. The second thing is the limited English study material in the library. I think Japan needs to open itself more to the world. I found it is very difficult to find English books in university library. I believe by embracing the world, Japan’s growth potential, in education and ultimately economy, will be higher.

That’s it for now, I’ll keep you posted when I found new one. Salam.

Cut Nyak Dhien

Even though this film was produced in 1988, this is my first time to watch it. It is definitely the best Indonesian film that I’ve ever watched. I promised myself to really strive and struggle in continuing their struggle. So sad that after getting independence in 1945 with millions of people syahid, our current Indonesian are wasting this independence. Many are working with the sucker foreigner. Just as Cut Nyak Dhien said in the film, pengkhianat (betrayer) is the biggest enemy.

May Allah give jannah for all of syuhada in Indonesia, make us can gather with them later in akhirat, and so that we can continue their jihad.

Two years have passed

This month, two years ago, was my first time travelling to US, living and study there for one semester. That was a very memorable and life changing experience. I greatly thank Allah for that experience.

For that very first time, I saw how a developed country is: its great university, infrastructure, culture, etc. That very experience has also shaped my life until now. Everything has been arranged beautifully by Allah.

One thing that I keep reminding myself during that time was we need to build our country as good as this country. I dream of, aspire of great country such that one.

Through many discussion with friends, lectures, it is very clear that we need strong and capable leader which can set up a good system. Along with that, we need more nationalistic young (minded) people to contribute and stand by on this aspiration. During one past year, I’ve met quite a lot of educated and capable Indonesians. I do really hope can work together with all of them in advancing this country’s development later.

As for my role now, I will always try to maximize any opportunity that I have to make sure that my self is capable and can contribute greatly to Indonesia later. This past one year has been very impact-full and eye opening for me. The opportunity to interact with great minds around the world, visiting world main cities, and many other opportunities.

Lastly, I should thank Allah for great leader that Allah gave to Indonesia now. I often pray to Allah that these leaders always get guidance from Allah. May Allah always helps and guides us all. Kita harus yakin, kita akan sampai di sana.

Three points

Just wanted to deliver three points.

First, that Allah is capable of everything. Yes, Allah is capable of everything, including doing something that atheist rejects: to give life after we die. At the end of the day, Allah will make all of us alive again and then we will be held responsible for our life. Allah said in the Qur’an chapter Yasin, the last three verses:

36:81

“Is not He who created the heavens and the earth Able to create the likes of them? Yes, [it is so]; and He is the Knowing Creator”.

36:82
“His command is only when He intends a thing that He says to it, “Be,” and it is.”
36:83
“So exalted is He in whose hand is the realm of all things, and to Him you will be returned”.

Second, the fact that we can worship Allah is because of Allah’s help. This recognition shows: first, how weak we actually are, even to worship Allah, we need His help; and second, it shows how grateful we are to Allah. There are several examples or du’a which show how we need Allah in worshiping Him.

  • In one du’a that is quite recommended to be said after sholat: Allohumma ‘a’inni ‘ala dzikrika, wa li syukrika, wa lihusni ‘ibadatika. O Allah, please help me to remember You, be grateful to you, and to worship you.
  • In one of prophet Sulaiman a.s. du’a, he mentioned (as in QS 27:19): “So [Solomon] smiled, amused at her speech, and said, “My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to do righteousness of which You approve. And admit me by Your mercy into [the ranks of] Your righteous servants.” In the du’a above, even Prophet Sulaiman ask Allah to enable or to help him to always be grateful to Allah.
  • Lastly, in du’a that we usually read after finish reading Qur’an: “Allahummarhamna bil qur’an, waj’alhu lana imaamam….”. In this du’a, we ask Allah to give us rahmat or rezki, that is reading qur’an. So even to read qur’an is a rezki from Allah.

And the third one, about the important of knowledge, the mastery of science. There are many places (or even too many) where Allah mentioned something about natural science phenomenon. So it convinced me more that science mastery insyaallah will lead to more ketaqwaan or fear of Allah. Be always keen to learn knowledge which then can make us closer to Allah.

That’s it. Allah, berikan lah hikmah pada kami agar kami bisa melihat sesuatu jauh dibalik tampilan lahiriyah dan kuatkanlah kami untuk bisa beribadah dan bermanfaat besar bagi orang lain,,

Dzikir

Sometimes maybe we feel that we’re lost. That we’re uncertain of many things, or that whether we are on the right track in this life. I personally have experienced such thing, even quite often. If I may suggest, for myself and for you who read this post, Allah is the only way out. Perbanyak dzikrullah, dzikir pada Allah. Then also pray to Him. Just tell Allah what our problem is and where our weakness is. Insyaallah, relieve will come and Allah will show the way. This life is just so stressful if we have to bear it on ourselves, while actually we have Allah, the one who is able of doing anything. One advice from ulama that I remember: show Allah your weakness, then Allah will come to you with His greatness. Some times it’s just we the one who think that we’re so capable, that we don’t need Allah.Let’s always try to perbanyak dzikrullah, do’a, dan then tawakkal ‘alallah.

One favorite dzikir that I always try to remember: SubhanAllah, walhamdulillah, wala-ilaha illallah wallahu akbar, wala hawla wala quwwata illa-billahGlory be to Allah, All praise is to Allah, there is no god but Allah. There is no power and no strength except in Allah.

Semakin sering dibaca, insyaallah, hati akan makin tenang. Moreover, berhubung sudah bulan sya’ban, less than one month away from Ramadhan, sudah selayaknya kita warming up dalam hal dzikrullah dan ibadah sunnah lainnya.

Speaking about dzikrullah, I really think there is self reinforcing loop between dzikrullah and productivity. Semakin kita sering dzikrullah, hati dan pikiran menjadi tenang, more works and achievements can be done. Begitu juga sebaliknya, the less dzikrullah that we do, productivity akan semakin rendah, berimbas pada makin malas, and all the way round. Semoga kita dimudahkan untuk selalu dzikir pada Allah.

—–

One more thing that I want to share: the important of efforts. Some of us may feel that things are sometimes not fair, some people have a good head start, i.e. good family background, better facility, etc. I just want to tell them, what matter most is our effort. Yes maybe we have a bit disadvantaged background, but as long as we keep trying, work harder, insyaallah we’ll catch up, or even be better. Quite often what we find in Indonesia is the contrary. Even though we know that we start with a disadvantaged start, we still do not run faster to catch up. One example is in education. I really appreciate my friends or student groups which try to give better education access to others. That’s it for now. Smg bermanfaat.

Our life

Again and again, I would like to stress and remind myself that our life is a test from Allah, whether we are able to be someone who can give great benefit to others and ikhlas (sincere) in worshiping Him.

Let’s always remember that this life is not the eternal one. We have to be prepared for the real life. The fact that we don’t know when we will return to Him has to make us more aware and more ta’at in worshiping Him. May Allah always guides us.

Another Reflection

Sometimes, or quite often, I think about this life. This life is a test from Allah, to see, which one of us have a better ‘amal. We are definitely will be held responsible for everything that we’ve done in this life. Moreover, Allah mentioned repeatedly in the Qur’an that this life is just amusement and diversion, while the real and the eternal life is after our death. Thinking about this, sometimes make me want to drop anything that I currently do, concentrate more on religion study, teach religion subjects, being away from any duniawy (e.g. political, state) friction, etc.

But then, is that what Allah wants us to do? I think if many people are like that, then who will fix this messy world? Who will help the poor, weak, and disadvantaged society? Allah? For sure, but I believe His help should be channelled through human, and I believe that’s where our roles lie.

Looking back to the history, Prophet Muhammad, khalifah rasyidin, and some khalifah in bani umayyah and abbasiyah, all of them were a really good ‘abdullah (hamba Allah), and yet, also a very good leader who gave a lot benefit to the society. They transform the society, they made Islam world as the biggest power in the world for 700 years, etc. It reminds me to a training session that I attended several years ago. The trainer said, “Don’t ever contradicts things, such as, if I do this, I can’t do that. Insyaallah, everything can be done together and will result a good thing”. That time, the trainer gave example about being an academically sound student and a student activist, which later I discover being true; that it can be done alongside. Furthermore, Prophet said, the best human is the most beneficial to others, not just person who cares about himself. It’s person who gives the highest benefit to people around him.

Eventually, I conclude that, it is very possible to be someone that is close to Allah (have a lot of ‘amal,etc) and also involved in the state affairs for the good of society. Lastly, I want to share some lesson that I got from watching -my all-time favourite movie-Iron lady. Here they are:

  • First, in that movie, Margaret Thatcher, mentioned a really good quote (I believe we might already hear it) which stress the important of paying attention to our thoughts. Our Thoughts determine who we are. Thus, always think big, think holistically, don’t involve in trifling things. She said, ” Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, they become your destiny”. So my friends watch your thoughts! =)
  • Secondly, she mentioned the important of being firm, brave, and all out in everything. She said, “If we have a stand, we’ll fully stand on, or not at all”. So always be determined and brave. She also kind of mentioned something that I still have a bit reservation that is about being brave, She said something like: just think that other people don’t know anything, they’re dumb, just be confident.
  • “Never run with the crowd, go on your own way”.
  • “If you want to change this party, lead it! If you want to change this country, lead it!”
  • And finally, being a good leader is about saying the unsay-able and doing the undo-able. Never do thing that is just for the sake of popularity and the next election. Do it for the good of of our country.

That’s all, may we can a lesson from it. I believe our country can be much much better, if we, those who have the aspiration for the change, want to get involved, be prepared and take the lead. Insyaallah, as long as we keep being someone close to Allah, Allah will always help us, guide us, and strengthen us. May Allah always bless us all.

Rejuvenation

Bismillah,

I just got back from a three days visit to Jakarta. Since I traveled in the city mostly by taxi, there are some ‘classic’ lessons that I got from the driver. What I mean by classic is something that I might already have heard but sometime forget. Here they are:

  • From the driver from Soetta Airport to Depok, this minangese old man reminded me again about the power of Allah. He reminds me that there is no need to be so stressful. When we face a problem and already think and do many things to solve it,however the problem still exist, then pray to our God. He is the one who create and decide everything. Why don’t we just ask Him to help us. If He help us, then no body can defeat us; if He abandon us, then who else can help us? So no need to be that stressful.
  • Secondly from driver from Depok to Soetta. He again reminds me about the key thing in this life, that is to pray (beribadah) to Allah. He told me a story about someone who got punishment in his grave by Allah, just two hours after she buried. Na’udzbillahi min zalik. Allah, please place us among those who are saved from ‘azab kubur dan ‘azab neraka.
  • Lastly, from changi airport to college green taxi driver. He reminds me that this life should be fun. There is no meaning when we have a lot of money but we can’t enjoy it. Everything that we do, we should have fun. If we don’t have fun on it, then maybe we should choose another thing to work on. I’ll always try to enjoy things that I do.

That’s it, hope that’s helpful. I felt like this amazing trip not only give a lot of knowledge to me (since I interviewed top level government official in Jakarta), but also a spiritual refreshment for me. Alhamdulillah,, all thanks to Allah. Hope we can always be someone that is grateful to Allah, can always remember Him, and do a good thing in His way.

Some Lessons

There are several lessons that I got from the past few days. Hopefully can be beneficial for us.

First, Let’s always try to think big. When we act and live our daily life, let’s always think that we are part of future leaders that can help to bring a good change to this country, to this world. In our do’a (supplication), for example, it’s juts too bad that we’re only concern about our need. Why don’t we also pray for other people, like our leader, citizens in our country, Muslim around the world, and human kind in this earth. If we don’t like some of our leaders because of their behavior, then why don’t we pray for them, maybe Allah want to change their habit.

Secondly, I really believe in this verse: O you who have believed, if you support Allah , He will support you and plant firmly your feet (QS 47:7). Let’s always try to do good deeds and invite others to do so.

Thirdly, I really think that in living this dynamic life, where many thing happen, where challenges keep coming, I am so grateful that I am a Muslim. The consciousness that Allah is there, He’s watching me and He’ll always help me, always make me confident in going through all of this. Allah, may I always be close to you.

Lastly, sangat tidak pantas rasanya bagi seorang Muslim untuk putus asa. Allah is there, He’ll always help us if we ask Him. There must always be a solution. Hanya orang yang tidak percaya pada Allah lah yang putus asa. Allah created everything, He’s the lord of this world, he created all of us. Nothing that can’t be solved if He want. Semoga kita bisa selalu ingat,  yakin, dan dekat dengan Allah.

Have a great life!

 

Sahabat-sahabat Qur’an

Just wanted to say, betapa, alhamdulillah, saya sangat cinta Al-Qur’an. Semoga Allah selalu menanamkan rasa ini di dada, bahkan selalu meningkatkan rasa cintanya.

Saya teringat akan satu hadits Rasulullah SAW: “Bacalah oleh mu Qur’an. Sesungguhnya ia akan datang pada hari kiamat, sebagai penolong bagi sahabat-sahabatnya”. Semoga kita semua termasuk golongan orang-orang yang Rasulullah SAW sebut sebagai sahabat-sahabat qur’an.

I do really believe that whenever I read Qur’an, I feel so peaceful. When I am so sad, I’ll always read it. It’s the only physical thing that I trust, that I feel so calm when I’m with. I just felt something strange if I start my day without reading it.

Hope Allah always keep this feel inside my heart, my friend’s, and my family’s. Hope we always be a person who love Qur’an, who always be the living Qur’an.