Being professional in ‘ibadah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


On discipline


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

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

I’ve wronged myself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something extraordinary needs to be done

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

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

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

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

BJ Habibie

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

Let’s raise the rhythm


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

Our life mission


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

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

Hari yang cerah

One morning in London

One morning in London

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

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

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

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

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

Endorsement for


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Ikhlas, Ihsan, and Istiqamah

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

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

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

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


The Secret Recipe: Al-Qur’an

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

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

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

Recommended book: Khalifah Rasulullah

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

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

Judul: Mengenal Pola Kepemimpinan Umat dari Karakteristik Perihidup Khalifah Rasulullah

Penulis: Khalid Muh Khalid

Penerbit: Diponegoro, Cetakan X, 2006



Morning thought

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

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


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 Campus in summer, London

Politics and education

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

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

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

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

Need to learn more on this issue.


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

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

Life at Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

Indahnya hidup di bawah naungan Islam

Tidak terasa, insyaallah, sembilan hari lagi studi saya di Tokyo akan selesai, which means saya akan segera kembali ke Indonesia. Jika ada satu hal yang akan sangat saya rindukan nanti di Indonesia, maka itu adalah Mesjid Tokyo Jami’ beserta para jama’ahnya.

Walau kami jarang bercakap bersama, namun ada satu rasa yang berbeda, mungkin itulah getaran ukhuwah islamiyah. Saya sangat kagum pada para Jama’ah ini, meskipun hidup di lingkungan non-muslim, biarpun gelap, bersalju, panas, menempuh jarak yang jauh, mereka tetap datang. Tujuannya hanya satu, untuk menepati janji sebagai seorang Muslim, sholat berjama’ah di awal waktu.

Di bulan Ramadhan yang luar biasa ini, rasa ukhuwah itu semakin kuat. Berbuka bersama, tarawih bersama, mengaji bersama, dan ibadah-ibadah lainnya. Sedih sekali saat teringat akan berpisah; semoga Allah menerima ibadah kita, mengampuni dosa kita, dan memperkenankan kita berkumpul di surga nanti.

Tokyo Jami'

Tokyo Jami’


Inside the masjid

Inside the masjid

Ramadhan is the month of Qur’an and Du’a

According to QS Al-Baqoroh verse 185 and 186, Ramadhan is the month of Qur’an and Du’a. As Ustadz Nouman Ali said, let’s try tor read Qur’an and then make Du’a. This way, we would feel the joy of Ramadhan.

In the verse 185, Allah mentioned there are four things that we should do in Ramadhan: (1) To interact more with Qur’an; (2) To complete the fasting; (3) To declare the greatness of Allah for hidayah that He gave; and (4) to be grateful for everything that He has given us. Let’s always try to do it.

Finally, let’s immerse ourselves with ibadah this Ramadhan. We would never know whether we’ll meet with Ramadhan again next year. This is it, this is the time. This is the time to rebuild our relationship with Allah. May Allah always guides us and accepts our ibadah.

Kindly watch this must watch Ramadhan booster lecture by Ust Nouman.


Beberapa hari terakhir, tema siksa kubur; siksa akhirat, dan taubat sangat lekat di pikiran saya. Berawal dari membaca hadits berikut.

Dari Ibnu Abbas Radhiyallahu ‘anhuma, ia berkata: Rasulullah Shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam melewati dua buah kuburan. Lalu Beliau bersabda,”Sungguh keduanya sedang disiksa. Mereka disiksa bukan karena perkara besar (dalam pandangan keduanya). Salah satu dari dua orang ini, (semasa hidupnya) tidak menjaga diri dari air kencing. Sedangkan yang satunya lagi, dia keliling menebar namiimah (adu domba).” (HR: Bukhari, dalam Fathul Baari: 1/317).

Saya sangat kaget saat membaca hadits tersebut. Jika tidak bersuci setelah buang air menyebabkan seseorang mendapat azab kubur, lalu bagaimana dengan dosa-dosa lainnya yang lebih besar?

Perasaan takut ini berlanjut saat membaca terjemahan QS Al-Haqqah. Saya merasa hopeless, sad, dan afraid. Sempat muncul pikiran, is it really the life that Allah wants Muslim to have? That is life which full with sadness and fear? I wish the answer is no. But then when I came upon the following hadits, my fear grew even more.

Surga dan neraka ditampakkan kepadaku, maka aku tidak melihat kebaikan dan keburukan seperti hari ini. Seandainya kamu mengetahui apa yang aku ketahui,
kamu benar-benar akan sedikit tertawa dan banyak menangis

Anas bin Mâlik radhiyallâhu’anhu –perawi hadits ini- mengatakan, “Tidaklah ada satu hari pun yang lebih berat bagi para Sahabat selain hari itu. Mereka menutupi kepala mereka sambil menangis sesenggukan”. (HR. Muslim, no. 2359)

Saya merasa sangat sedih dan semakin takut. Kemudian saya bertemu dengan ayat berikut: 

Katakanlah: “Hai hamba-hamba-Ku yang malampaui batas terhadap diri mereka sendiri, janganlah kamu berputus asa dari rahmat Allah. Sesungguhnya Allah mengampuni dosa-dosa semuanya. Sesungguhnya Dialah Yang Maha Pengampun lagi Maha Penyayang. Dan kembalilah kamu kepada Tuhanmu, dan berserah dirilah kepada-Nya sebelum datang azab kepadamu kemudian kamu tidak dapat ditolong (lagi). Dan ikutilah sebaik-baik apa yang telah diturunkan kepadamu dari Tuhanmu sebelum datang azab kepadamu dengan tiba-tiba, sedang kamu tidak menyadarinya. (QS Az Zumar: 53-55).

Setelah membaca ayat ini saya merasa sedikit lebih tenang. Saya merasa, kita tidak boleh berputus asa dari rahmat Allah; rasa takut pada azab Allah, harus diimbangi dengan rasa harap akan rahmat-Nya. Pada ayat ini juga terdapat perintah untuk bertaubat, berserah diri pada Allah, dan mengikuti Al-Qur’an serta sunnah.

Taubat mensyaratkan tiga hal*: (1) Menyesal, (2) Berhenti dari dosa, dan (3) Bertekad untuk tidak mengulanginya. Taubat juga harus diiringi dengan memperbanyak amal ibadah, karena Allah mengatakan kebaikan itu menghapuskan kejahatan (QS Hud: 114). Semoga Allah mengampuni dosa-dosa kita dan memuliakan kita di hari akhir nanti.

*Dari artikel ‘Syarat Agar Taubat Diterima — Muslim.Or.Id

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.

Little note on film Di Bawah Lindungan Ka’bah

Tidak banyak film yang mengingatkan kita pada kehidupan akhirat dan membuat kita semakin ingin beribadah. Film “Di Bawah Lindungan Ka’bah” yang diangkat dari karya Buya Hamka ini menurut saya merupakan salah satu dari yang sedikit itu.

Memang film ini sarat dengan tema-tema cinta; namun menyertainya, sangat banyak pelajaran-pelajaran yang bisa diambil. Saya sangat senang dengan latar cerita ini, yang mengangkat kondisi masyarakat minangkabau pada tahun 1920-an. Saya sangat senang menyaksikan betapa Islam menjadi sangat dekat dengan kehidupan masyarakat minang tersebut. Saya hanya berharap, kekentalan nilai-nilai Islam akan kembali hadir di kehidupan masyarakat minangkabau dan seluruh penduduk Indonesia. Betapa indahnya hidup di bawah nilai-nilai Al-Qur’an.

Salah satu quote yang sangat berkesan bagi saya: “Apa pun yang terjadi, Hamid, ingatlah, ketika Engkau tak punya siapa-siapa selain Allah; Allah itu lebih dari cukup…

Note: saya sangat berharap Allah selalu memberi keridhoannya pada almarhum buya hamka. Saya sangat berharap, bisa bertemu buya nanti di surga. Allah, kami mohon ampun kepada-Mu; Allah, sayangilah kami, Allah, kuatkanlah kami.