(function() { (function(){function b(g){this.t={};this.tick=function(h,m,f){var n=f!=void 0?f:(new Date).getTime();this.t[h]=[n,m];if(f==void 0)try{window.console.timeStamp("CSI/"+h)}catch(q){}};this.getStartTickTime=function(){return this.t.start[0]};this.tick("start",null,g)}var a;if(window.performance)var e=(a=window.performance.timing)&&a.responseStart;var p=e>0?new b(e):new b;window.jstiming={Timer:b,load:p};if(a){var c=a.navigationStart;c>0&&e>=c&&(window.jstiming.srt=e-c)}if(a){var d=window.jstiming.load; c>0&&e>=c&&(d.tick("_wtsrt",void 0,c),d.tick("wtsrt_","_wtsrt",e),d.tick("tbsd_","wtsrt_"))}try{a=null,window.chrome&&window.chrome.csi&&(a=Math.floor(window.chrome.csi().pageT),d&&c>0&&(d.tick("_tbnd",void 0,window.chrome.csi().startE),d.tick("tbnd_","_tbnd",c))),a==null&&window.gtbExternal&&(a=window.gtbExternal.pageT()),a==null&&window.external&&(a=window.external.pageT,d&&c>0&&(d.tick("_tbnd",void 0,window.external.startE),d.tick("tbnd_","_tbnd",c))),a&&(window.jstiming.pt=a)}catch(g){}})();window.tickAboveFold=function(b){var a=0;if(b.offsetParent){do a+=b.offsetTop;while(b=b.offsetParent)}b=a;b<=750&&window.jstiming.load.tick("aft")};var k=!1;function l(){k||(k=!0,window.jstiming.load.tick("firstScrollTime"))}window.addEventListener?window.addEventListener("scroll",l,!1):window.attachEvent("onscroll",l); })();

M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Cast From The Herd: Excerpt # 76. Not So Heavenly

 Cast From The Herd:  Memories of Matriarchal Malaysia

M. Bakri Musa

Excerpt # 76:  Not So Heavenly

My first class at Malay College was chemistry. Mr. Peter Norton, who was also our form teacher, was from India but he did not look Indian, more Eurasian with his light-brown complexion. He also did not have the thick Indian accent; his was more American, probably a consequence of his Fordham graduate degree. He had a slight limp from childhood polio and looked serious until he spoke and smiled. Then he transformed himself into your warm, supportive favorite uncle. After a brief digression where we newcomers had to introduce ourselves, he dived right away into his subject. 

     “Folks, you are now in Sixth Form,” he reminded us. “No more spoon feeding. Much of the studying will be done by you!” as he wagged his index finger at us. “We also have to go much faster,” he continued. “No more hand holding. All right?” 

     With that he began his lecture. “Today we will cover ionic equations,” and the class was off to a roaring start. He lectured, wrote on the blackboard, walked across the room, and then wrote some more. When the bell rang, I did not realize that 45 minutes had gone by. He actually taught us. That was remarkable as my chemistry teacher in Kuala Pilah, that textbook writer Menon, just sat behind his desk and read from his notes. Norton explained things. And they said that Sixth Form would be tough! 

     Next was physics with Mr. K. N. Malhotra, another recruit from India. A former army officer, he had the bearing:  stiff, ramrod posture, and a commanding voice. He was a chain smoker and nicotine reeked through his hairy pores. He had a well-deserved reputation for being strict. He walked straight into our class and stood at attention, a platoon commander inspecting his raw recruits from the villages. It was the tradition at Malay College for the teacher to salute the class first. So there we were, standing straight and quiet waiting for him to say, “Good morning, class.” But he didn’t. He scrutinized each one of us in turn. It was unnerving. After what seemed like eternity, “Good morning, gentlemen!” 

We all responded and sat down.


     He too made us newcomers introduce ourselves. Unlike Norton who was free-flowing, Malhotra was targeted. “How many are you from Johore?” A couple of hands shot up. “Which school?” he commanded. 

Only my Tuanku Muhammad School had sent two students; I was proud of that! The others, only one each. Then after all we newcomers had introduced ourselves he continued, “In my class there will be no fooling around. You can do that in English, not here. Understand?” 

     “Yes, Sir!” We took our cue from his military bearing and commandant’s voice; our response was equally assertive and confident. 

     “Today we will start with optics.” He wrote a problem on the board. It looked familiar; I had solved it when preparing for the entrance examination. I smirked! Then he turned to the class for the answer. We were all quiet, afraid, looking down at our notebook fearful of making eye contact lest be called upon. 

He picked his first victim, one of the newcomers. Before the poor fellow could respond, Malhotra cut in, “Don’t guess! If you don’t know, say so right away! Don’t waste my time!” 

     The poor fellow, sufficiently intimidated, replied, “Err, um! I don’t know!” 

     He moved on. After many more I-don’t-knows, his eyes narrowed on a bespectacled, scholarly-looking student next to me. “Nik Zainal! Tell the class the answer!” 

     Nik was the top student ever since he joined the college at Form Four. Nik gave an answer that I knew was wrong. Mr. Malhotra jerked back, unable to control his disappointment, but quickly recovered. He then turned to me. “Bakri,” he commanded, “do you want to try?” 

     I had just introduced myself a few minutes earlier together with a dozen other new students and yet he remembered my name. Amazing! I gave the answer. He tried to rattle me, but I stuck to my answer. He went ahead and solved the problem step by step on the board. The answer was what I had given. 

“So that boy from Kuala Pilah got it right!” He even remembered where I was from! He looked at his watch, the period was ending. “Tomorrow we’ll go over the theory behind today’s problem.” Then the school bell rang. 

      I reckoned Mr. Malhotra was a good poker player; his face, voice, and posture could easily fool his opponents, but that morning I was confident of my answer.

While the rest of the class bolted out, I savored my moment of glory. I needed that after the humiliation of the day earlier. As I was picking up my books to leave, Malhotra approached me. “Did they teach you this back in Kuala Pilah?” 

     When I told him no and that I saw a similar problem when studying for the entrance examination, he was incredulous. “You mean you studied it on your own?” 

     He complimented me, and at that very brief moment I saw not a stern teacher but a supportive counselor. 

     The next class was calculus but as our teacher, Allen Brown, had not yet arrived from Canada we all drifted to the library. Brown was a Canadian Universities Overseas Organization (CUSO) volunteer, a Maple Leaf version of the Peace Corp. At the library the conversations gravitated to what had transpired earlier. Ramli patted me on the back and said that I did our old school proud. 

     Mokthar, one of the old timers, offered, “Bakri, you were lucky. Had you been wrong, he would have creamed you.” Mokthar had not seen Mr. Malhotra beyond his gruff military front. 

At recess I followed Nazuddin to the tuck shop. He assured me that it was good that I had started on the right side of Malhotra and confided that his gruffness was but a front and that when the crunch came, he would be very supportive. 

Next:  Excerpt # 77  A Dud For Biology And English

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Hari Raya's "Maaf, Zahir, dan Batin"

 Hari Raya’s “Ma’af, Zahir, dan Batin”

M. Bakri Musa


April 26, 2023


An iconic picture during this recent (AH 1444) Hari Raya Puasa celebration was of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim exchanging a double handshake in a mosque with Former Chief Justice Ariffin Zakaria, the man who in 2015 upheld the Appeal’s Court reversal of a trial judge’s acquittal of Anwar’s so-called second sodomy trial.


            In that unanimous five-judge 2015 decision, Ariffin infamously added that the five-year jail sentence for sodomy imposed on Anwar was “not too severe.” This coming from a British-trained lawyer, including a University College of London’s LLM, and well into the second decade of the 21st Century. That learned judge, his sterling British law credentials notwithstanding, did not pause to reflect that modern Malaysia still has that archaic statute in her law books, or that it had never before been applied except to Anwar. Even prudish Singapore is repealing this colonial legal relic.


            The traditional greeting during Hari Raya is “Ma’af, Zahir, dan Batin,” approximately translated as, “I seek your forgiveness, physically and spiritually.” To forgive, quoting Mahatma Gandhi, is an attribute of the strong.


            The first thing Malay children do on Hari Raya morning would be to bow down low and kiss their parents’ hands, pleading “ma’af, zahir, dan batin.” During my childhood my mother, being a school teacher, would go beyond that mere ritual and inquire what specifically do I seek forgiveness from her. That would force upon me an uncustomary if not embarrassing moment of self-reflection and introspection, making the exchange that much more meaningful beyond the ritualistic utterance of a well-rehearsed phrase.


            I am certain that being traditional Malays both Anwar and Ariffin too had uttered that hallowed “maaf, zahir, dan batin” during their handshake in that mosque, with both smiling. Going back to my mother’s tradition, what forgiveness did Anwar seek from Ariffin, and vice versa?


            For Anwar, could it be because he had criticized those Federal Court Judges for “bowing to the dictates of their political masters?” It cannot be, as that negative view was universally held beyond and even within Malaysia’s borders. One should never apologize for uttering the truth. Instead Anwar should be applauded by all, especially Malaysians, for exposing that ugly reality.


            As for Judge Ariffin, if what he did in upholding Anwar’s jail sentence was the “right thing to do” after weighing all the submissions presented to his court, then he too should not apologize. If Ariffin did utter that traditional greeting to Anwar, then what is it that Ariffin was seeking forgiveness from Anwar? Or was Ariffin’s Raya greeting mere ritual uttered with no meaning and even less emotion attached, as with the verdict he had rendered to Anwar back in 2015?


            Anwar’s magnanimity towards his jailors (and others responsible) reminds me of the much-revered Nelson Mandela when he was released from Robben Island prison. As he related in his memoir Long Walk To Freedom, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead me to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”


            The day before he was to be released, Mandela made a request to meet all his jailors who had worked in shifts to guard him. As it turned out, because of the huge crowd that had gathered, Mandela did not get his wish to meet his guards in person to bid goodbye or seek their forgiveness. Nonetheless his intention, or as we Muslims put it niat, is magnanimity bar none.


            Anwar too has come to terms with his ordeals. Like Mandela, Anwar had the magnanimity to forgive his main tormentor and the culprit most responsible for Anwar’s incarceration, former Prime Minister Mahathir. One consequence is that Anwar today is at peace with himself while Mahathir is still stewing in his self-destructive bitterness.


            What a supreme irony if not karma and poetic justice as well that today Anwar Ibrahim is Prime Minister while Mahathir is being totally rejected by the people. He suffered the rare abject humiliation of not only losing his last election but also forfeiting his deposit! Worse, he as well as his children and cronies all face possibilities for being hauled up to court for corruption. What a prospect, more so when you are in the twilight of your years! Who says that Allah is not All-Knowing and All-Just?


Sunday, April 23, 2023

Cast FromThe Herd Exceprt #75 First Day At MCKK

 Cast From The Herd:  Memories of Matriarchal Malaysia

M. Bakri Musa

Excerpt # 75:  First Day At MCKK

The coolness of the twilight and the cold shower refreshed me, soothing my frayed nerves after the harrowing afternoon’s hazing that began right at the train station. Soon the school bell rang again. That was to alert us for dinner, Raja Azman advised me. Two bells later and we were in the dining room. We all duly stood up while the duty prefect at the high table recited du’a. It was a beautiful short verse in praise of Allah and all His Blessings; in Malay, not Arabic. It was also the first time I had heard a du’a being recited in Malay, and it was that much more meaningful because I could understand what it meant. 

     Dinner was great. We had meat, a rare treat for me. We ate with forks and knives, as I had anticipated. I did not splash my food across the table nor drop my fork, and had no difficulty finishing my ration. Only my shyness prevented me from getting seconds. After dinner we had coffee, discolored with sweetened condensed milk. 

     Affendi’s earlier premonition was right. Following dinner all “freshie” Sixth Formers were gathered in the common room for another session of “treatment.” Learning from the afternoon experience I decided to be as passive as possible so as not to attract any attention. I was hoping that they would find me so boring and compliant that they would drop me for other more challenging targets. I was right. I was put through the obligatory indignities to satisfy their juvenile demands. My attitude was one of utter contempt mixed with an abundance of disdain, but I successfully camouflaged both. 

     Affendi had it worse. He made the near-fatal mistake of protesting, accusing his tormentors of going beyond the pale. That only emboldened them. Then there was an older-looking character; he tried to be above it all. Whenever they tried to make him do a trick, he would do it but not before his disdain showed through, which only enraged his tormentors. 

     Even the longest evening must end. With lights out, we all dispersed to our beds. Then from a dark corner, “Puki Mak!” somebody, undoubtedly an upperclassman, yelled, “this is not my sarong! Damn it! I’m going to find that incompetent freshie!” 

     Puki Mak is a crude expression–mother’s genitilia. Obviously some freshie Sixth Former had earlier mixed up his suitcases. 

     “I’m here!” responded an exaggerated, suggestive feigned feminine voice. 

     Soon other sexual innuendos were hurled. “Come and share my sarong!” offered one, to gales of laughter. 

     “I know it’s hard, but that’s not my bedpost!” blurted another, to ante up the porno humor. 

A creative writing instructor would be pleased at the shades of subtleties, richness of imageries, and rank double entendre! I would never be able to sleep in the cacophony. Soon things settled down and I was off to slumber. The dorm was like my chicken coop at dusk when those birds came in to roost. For the first few minutes there would be utter chaos as they jostled for the choicest positions, with the inevitable pecking and shoving, together with the chortling and crowing. Then they all settled down; peace and silence at last! 

     Deep in the night I was awakened by howls of laughter and hand clapping emanating from our bathroom at the end of the hallway. Through the dim light I could see that Affendi’s bed was empty. He must be the object of that merriment. I shut my eyes and pretended to be asleep. I did not dare imagine what was going on. Affendi was spot on with his earlier prediction. 

     Awakened by the morning bell, I got up, made my bed, and rushed to the bathroom. After lathering myself I turned on the tap – dry! I turned it back and forth, still nothing. By now the last morning bell had rung; I had no choice but to just wipe myself dry. Although I did not feel it, I smelled fresh. Later Nazuddin apologized for not warning me that the tap often dried up fast in the morning. I would have to get up early or else give up morning showers. 

     The new day began; after breakfast we all marched to the main school for our classes. It was a novel experience for me – walking to class. It was not quite 24 hours since I stepped off the train; I survived, more or less intact physically, and also I hope, emotionally. Yes, I admit that I had set a very low bar for my first day at Malay College Kuala Kangsar. I hope to keep elevating it during the next two years. 

Next:  Excerpt #76  Not So Heavenly

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Rahmatan Iil 'Alamin


Rahmatan lil 'Alamin (Blessings to the Universe!)

Nabila Fitri (Class 10, High School)


[With Ramadan ending, I post two prize-winning essays sponsored by the Silicon Valley, CA, non-profit organization GiveLight Foundation. The first is “Emulating Our Holy Prophet (s.a.w.)” by Damian Hardy, a twelve year old student at Rumah Kasih Harmoni Paya Jaras, Selangor. Tomorrow will be the second essay, Rahmatan lil'Alamin! (Blessings To All!) by Nabila Fitri (Year 10, High School, GiveLight Home, Indonesia. The originals are in Bahasa. I had the greatest pleasure in translating both.


            GiveLight Foundation was started by the former Proctor & Gamble Aceh-born executive Dian Alyan. She started the organization in response to the 2004 Asian Tsunami that devasted her home province and took the lives of 40 relatives of hers. Since then the organization has expanded its reach in over 13 countries including Malaysia and United States. Huffington Post’s O’Brien Brown described her as “The New Global Leader:  Dian Alyan, Building Homes And Futures For Orphans Around the World.” (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-new-global-leader-par_b_5964536)


If you wish to support this worthy cause, please visit the foundation’s website:  giveligh.org]



Rahmatan lil 'Alamin (Blessings to the Universe!)

Nabila Fitri (Class 10, High School)

GiveLight Home, Indonesia



Rahmatan lil'Alamin (Blessings to the Universe)! That is Allah announcing that He had sent Muhammad as a blessing to all, and with him, Islam. Islam teaches and spreads the culture of tsaqafah (charity), love, peace, tenderness, and respect for all human beings. It is a guidance for all. Islam transcends boundaries and limits. It means peace, and rahmatan lil 'alamin is love for all in the universe. The Islam of Rahmatan lil'alamin consciously puts God’s presence at the center of our life and community so as to foster peace and love for humans and nature. It is indeed a blessing for the entire universe, hence the same appellation given to Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w. For he had indeed given mercy and blessings to the ummah, lifting us out of our Age of Ignorance to the Age of Peace and Prosperity that we now enjoy. Rahmatan lil 'Alamin Islam also acknowledges the prophet’s presence in the center of our daily life and community so we too could foster peace and love, for humans as well as nature. 
               “And we did not send you (Muhammad), but to (be) a blessing to the universe,” as per Surah Al Anbiya (21:107). Allah did not send Muhammad except as a mercy for the whole world and to spread the message of Islam, not to destroy the infidels but to foster peace.


               The manifestations of the consciousness and presence of Rahmatan Lil Alamin are being tolerant; avoiding discriminatory attitudes, caring and concerns for others, and last, the mundane disposing of garbage in its proper place.

               An example of Islam rahmatan lil alamin is the teacher who is a resource to her students in helping them to learn. Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w., was sent to teach and spread Islam, as a blessing for the world and all mankind. Rahmat means grace combined with tenderness and compassion; hence the Prophet’s appellation, rahmatal lil 'alamin. He brought blessings for the whole world, and not just Muslims. This is the message of Islam preached by the Prophet, s.a.w., to bring peace and security for all.

               We need religion. It has an important role in organizing and guiding our social life as well as in helping maintain social norms and restraints. It socializes individuals and exercises positive influence over individuals and societies, more so communities that are diverse. 

               Rahim (generosity) is Allah’s sacred blessing unique unto Muslims, thus khoshshun lil muslimin. Allah dispenses everything. If Islam is practiced right, then Allah will shower upon us His Rahman (Mercy) and Rahim (Generosity). Interpreted thus, the laws of Allah, sunnatullah, apply to both Muslims as well as non-Muslims. If followed, they too would get Allah’s blessings–His mercifulness as well as generosity. However, even though they are Muslims, if they do not make the effort in being kind, then they will not get these rewards. 

               God exhorts us to compete for His Grace. From this emerges God’s command for us to compete to do good. From this it follows we have to be competitive in all our endeavors. For example, Muslims who are not competitive in economic activities cannot expect to survive and will not become prosperous. Likewise if a non-Muslim were to be competitive in those areas, then they would rightly reap the just rewards in those areas.

               While the right to entry into Heaven is the mercy of Allah SWT, that privilege is restricted to believers. As such we can conclude that the unity of rahmatan lil'alamin is the unity of God's grace that is encompassed in all His mercy. In the context of rahmatan lil'alamin Islam, it (Islam) has arranged the manner and practices with regard to the theological, ritual, social, and humanitarian aspects. In theological terms, Islam gives a firm formulation that must be believed by every adherent, but this cannot be the excuse to force non-Muslims to embrace Islam (Laa Ikrooha Fiddiin). Likewise with religious rituals; those have already been laid out in the Qur'an and Sunnah in terms of their details as well as practices.
               In the context of social life, Islam provides only the basic guidelines or pillars. The operational details and practices would have to be arrived at consensually within each community, based on its values, diversity, and uniqueness. Islam recognizes this plurality of human societies, and views diversity as an aspect of His blessings. It is His blessing to test us to choose our own unique path towards development after factoring those various social elements and other considerations. 
               Plurality and diversity are Allah’s will, as expressed in Surah Ar Rum, Verse 22 (30:22) which approximately translates, “And yet another of his signs He created the heavens and the earth, the differences in your languages and skin color. These truly are signs for those who know.”
               Likewise the words of Allah in Surah al-Hujurat, Verse 13 (49:13): “O mankind, indeed we created you from a single man and a single woman, made you into nations and tribes so you may know each other. In Allah’s eyes, the most honored amongst you are the ones most aware of Him,  Allah is All-Knowing and All-Aware.” 
               Those verses place social pluralism as a necessary condition (conditio sine qua non) in God’s creation. In the Qur'an there are many verses mentioning love and salvation, among others Surat Al-Hujurat (49:10) which commands us to take care of each other and strengthen the bonds of brotherhood:  “Truly the believers are brothers. Therefore reconcile the relationship between you and fear Allah, so that you may receive mercy.” The lesson that we can draw from this is that to have peace, we should all treat each other as brothers. In this context, the late K H Hasyim Muzadi (1944-2017, founder of Al-Hikam School in East Java and Chairman of Nadhiatul Ulama fromm1999 to 2010) proposed three types of brotherhood (ukhuwwah).

First is Ukhuwwah Islamiyah, brotherhood that grows and develops on the basis of religion (Islam), be it on the local, national or even international scale. Second, Ukhuwwah wathaniyah, the brotherhood at the national basis. Third, Ukhuwwah basyariyah, that on the level of humanity.

               These three ukhuwwah have to be developed in their balanced proportion. One does not oppose or contradict the other two for only through these three dimensions of brotherhood can we realize the ideals and blessings of Lil 'Alamin.


Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Emulating Our Holy Prophet, s.a.w.

 Emulating Our Holy Prophet, s.a.w.

Damien Hardy (12 Years)
Rumah Kasih Harmoni Paya Jaras, Selangor, Malaysia
[With Ramadan ending, I post two prize-winning essays sponsored by the Silicon Valley, CA, non-profit organization GiveLight Foundation. The first is “Emulating Our Holy Prophet (s.a.w.)” by Damian Hardy, a twelve year old student at Rumah Kasih Harmoni Paya Jaras, Selangor. Tomorrow I will post the second essay, "Rahmatan lil'Alamin! (Blessings To All!)" by Nabila Fitri (Year 10, High School, GiveLight Home, Indonesia. The originals were in Bahasa. I had the greatest pleasure in translating both.
GiveLight Foundation was started by the former Proctor & Gamble Aceh-born executive Dian Alyan in response to the 2004 Asian Tsunami that devasted her home province and took the lives of 40 of her close relatives. The organization has now expanded in over 16 countries, including Malaysia and United States. Huffington Post’s O’Brien Brown described Alyan as “The New Global Leader: Dian Alyan, Building Homes And Futures For Orphans Around the World.” (https://www.huffpost.com/.../the-new-global-leader-par_b...)
If you wish to support this worthy cause, please visit the foundation’s website: giveligh.org]
Emulating Our Holy Prophet, s.a.w.
Damien Hardy (12 Years)
Muhammad son of Abdullah, the Love of Allah Most High, the prophet who brought the true religion of Islam, our Last Prophet (and Allah shall not send any prophet after him), had endowed us with a special message – the Al-Qur’an. He also chose Muhammad to impart this precious gift to humanity, as he was the most noble amongst all the previous prophets. If Moses was the Friend of God, then Muhammad was the Love of Allah.
He was born on the 12th of Rabiul Awal, the Year of the Elephant. So named because that was when the angry King of Yemen, Abrahah, and his Army mounted on elephants tried to destroy the Ka’aba in Mecca. Why he wanted to do so is a long story that began much earlier before the Prophet’s birth.
The King wanted to make his country famous by building a grandiose church that could compete with the Ka’aba in attracting visitors and pilgrims. He hired the best architects and builders and poured tens of thousands of dinars into the project. The days turned into months, and the months to years before the expensive edifice was completed. Alas, that beautiful monument attracted no one. Even migratory birds did not see fit to stop there. Soon it was defiled by vagrants as people continued to visit and trade in Mecca.
That made the King angry and vowed to destroy the Ka’aba. He dispatched his soldiers of thousands, mounted on elephants, to destroy that shrine in Mecca. Instead of meeting a huge defending army, they were met by its custodian, Abu Mutalib. The King told him that he wanted to destroy the shrine. Mutalib replied in a calm a manner that the Ka’aba belong to God, and that He will protect and save what is His.
Whereupon the King marched his army to destroy the place where Prophet Ismail had grown up. The Ka’aba, built by Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail, faced the prospect of being destroyed, with only the memories remaining in the history books.
However, Allah protects what is His. So at the very moment of the attack, He sent forth a huge flock of ababil birds, each carrying in its beak a pebble that had been plucked from Hell, while carrying two more, one in each clutched claw. The birds pelted those pebbles onto the invading army.
Allah in His Miraculous Power had made those pebbles light and not hot while they were being ferried by the birds. However, once released they regained their original properties of being hot and heavy. Thus was the invading army destroyed, like leaves eaten by a swarm of locusts. Such was Allah’s power! What He commands, it shall be so!
That was the year our great Prophet was born. He was orphaned at a very young age. His father died before he was born, and he lost his mother Siti Aminah Binti Wahab in Abuah. She died after taking young Muhammad to visit his father’s grave in Medina.
Alas all that lived must die! What impressed me about our Prophet was his steely endurance considering that he was only four when his mother died.
Muhammad involved himself in trading during his youth. He never cheated, be involved in corrupt practices, or sold haram goods. By age 30 he married his employer, Siti Khadijah Binti Khuwalid. She was impressed by his honesty when conducting business transactions. The couple were blessed with eight children.
Allah had chosen Muhammad to be His Last Prophet. Meaning, there will be no more prophets following him. There may be another prophet when he was still alive but none after he died. It was said that after The Last Prophet died, one Musailamah Al-Kazzab (may the curse of Allah be upon him!) proclaimed himself Prophet. That triggered the gruesome War of Yamamah, pitting the followers of Khalid Al Walid and the other non-believers under the command of Musailamah himself against the followers of Muhammad, s.a.w.
Early in his prophethood, Muhammad, s.a.w., went to Taif to preach and proselytize. He was hoping to convert the majority of the population there but instead he was met with hostility by their leaders. Nonetheless he never lost hope and continued his preaching with the masses despite their hurling stones, excrements, and other assorted rubbish at him. They encouraged even their children to chase and humiliate the Prophet, s.a.w., such that his shoes were filled with blood.
The Angels came to his help, telling the Prophet, s.a.w, that they (the angels) could make the mountains swallow the whole city to avenge for the cruelty of its citizens upon him. The Prophet, s.a.w., did not want that to happen. Nonetheless the Angels repeated their offer of help, and promised that the earth would swallow the city should the Prophet’s blood drop to the ground. The Prophet, s.a.w, pondered the offer but opted instead to pray to Allah that the city instead be blessed by giving birth to a Muslim in its midst.
Thus was born one Muhammad Bin Harith who grew up to be a great Muslim military commander.
I am proud of my Prophet’s bravery in war. One day I hope to be like him. It was reported that once the Prophet, s.a.w., heard news of the movements of the Roman army and thus readied himself for war. His military commander at the time was Ibnu Zahid Al-Harithah who was only 16 then. Despite his youth, the qualities of his leadership was high and thus the Prophet, s.a.w., entrusted him with the leadership of the whole Muslim army.
The Romans had a force of over 100,000 while the Muslims, only 3,000. Nonetheless the Prophet, s.a.w, was undaunted and never wavered in his courage. Likewise his companions; they willingly sacrificed their lives in the cause of Islam.
If we Malaysians were to be blessed with such individuals as those early Muslims, the Portuguese, Dutch, British, and others would never have colonized us. As such we should emulate the leadership principles of our Prophet, s.a.w., in governing our country. That is the formula that would protect our sovereignty . Our Prophet, s.a.w., was not intimidated by an enemy of thousands. What he feared was Allah, and only Him!
One hundred thousand enemies? Can Malays face that? I have watched the movie “Mat Kilau” many times but I still do not understand the story. Am I watching it out of boredom? We had been colonized for over 500 years, yet our people have yet to understand what colonialism is.
Merdeka! Freedom! What is the meaning of freedom? To have fun? No! If the late Tengku Abdul Rahman had not negotiated for our independence, what would be our fate now? Like the Palestinians? A bleeding Gaza?
Instead, what do we Muslims do? Play Tik Tok? That is not our culture. That is not the culture of Muslims. So let us emulate our great Prophet, s.a.w., in leading our nation.
Damien Hardy (12 Years)
Rumah Kasih Harmoni Paya Jaras
Selangor, Malaysia.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Cast From The Herd Excerpt # 74: A Not-So-Pleasant Welcome

 Cast From The Herd:  Memories of Matriarchal Malaysia

M. Bakri Musa

Excerpt # 74:  A Not-So-Pleasant Welcome

On arriving at Kuala Kangsar, we (the new Sixth Formers) were forced to do a few silly calisthenics while the train was still in the station. Those remaining passengers must have wondered what on earth was going on. Then we were made to run across the street with our hands clasped behind our heads like prisoners. When we reached a meadow we were asked to crawl and then jump like frogs. I did not realize the infinite number of ways we could propel ourselves forward, and on that blistering day we tried them all. I thought this must have been how the Japanese treated their prisoners of war. By the time we reached the campus, a good few miles away, I was exhausted, drenched with sweat, and dying of thirst. At last, I thought as I saw the buildings, the end of my torture. 

            Wrong! We were directed to a pile of suitcases. Good, now I could collect mine and be allowed to settle down. Wrong again! Those were the suitcases of the Upper Six boys; we were to deliver them up to the second floor. We had to identify those suitcases (easy enough I thought as they would all have names on them) and then them deliver to their owners’ beds. So we lugged those heavy suitcases up the stairs. 

            For some reason the tags had been removed so I did not know who owned which suitcases, except for the ones that had names painted on them. The beds in the huge dorm were also not labeled. I had to look for names on books or other personal items to help identify the bed’s occupant. 

            That chore done, we were directed to another pile of suitcases; this time ours. I collected mine, and by now I knew where my bed was. At long last, tired, hungry and more than just a little bit angry (although I could not show it), I slumped on my bed. I had just drifted to sleep from the heat and exhaustion when I was awakened by the school bell. Someone tapped my toes and spoke, “Snack time. Better get used to the bell. It will govern your life here from now on.” 

            I woke up startled. “Hi! I am Raja Azman, your neighbor and senior!” he continued. “You had nothing to eat or drink. Better go down now as dinner won’t be till seven.” 

            Raja Azman was big, stern-looking, and did not have a ready smile despite his soft voice. His well-trimmed moustache made him look much older, but when he smiled, he transformed himself into your favorite uncle. I followed him like a little puppy. Ramli saw me and joined us. So now the big dog had two frightened little puppies tagging along. In the large dining room were rectangular tables put end to end with long bench seats on each side. At last a much-welcomed hot tea and snacks as I had missed lunch.


            Back at the dorm in the lull of the late afternoon, Raja Azman assured me not to worry as he too was like me the year earlier. The whole episode would soon end and we would be accepted. He did not clarify when the “soon” would be. That made it even more ominous. Raja Azman was from Kelantan but I would never have guessed it as he had no trace of that distinctive accent. I was also surprised that he came in only the previous year. I would have expected him, being a Raja, a member of the royal family, to be admitted much earlier. He was in the “Arts” stream.

            Soon a student across the room joined us. He too was a Raja, Raja Affendi, and he would be my classmate in the science class. I knew from the harassments he had received earlier that he was also a newbie. He assured me that what I had gone through was nothing to what had been and would be done to him. He was from the archrival Clifford School, literally across the street. Worse, he was the school captain there. Clifford did not have a Sixth Form. 

            Right away I felt sorry for him, not for the extra grilling he would get, rather his gait. He was stooped and scrawny, very unlike the erect and regal Raja Azman. Affendi, unlike Nazuddin, was also not smooth or polished. He was shy and unsure of himself. Most of all I felt sorry for his severe acne. I thought mine was bad but after seeing his, I felt better. 

            Affendi was the stereotypical nerd, accentuated by his thick rimless glasses, and always a book in his hand. He would later quit the science stream despite intense pressure from our teachers. He had no aptitude for it, and was smart and confident enough of his own ability to realize that. He had chosen science because that was what smart kids were supposed to do. He later read economics at university and excelled. 

Excerpt # 75:  First School Day At MCKK

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Releasing Prisoners To Honor Ramadan

 Releasing Prisoners To Honor Ramadan

M. Bakri Musa

April 12, 2023


During Ramadan the gates of Heaven are opened and that of Hell closed, with the devils chained for added measure, goes an ahadith. That reflects Allah’s generosity. It is also a soothing balm for believers who have lost their loved ones during this holy month. To me however, that prophetic wisdom encapsulates the essence of Ramadan – a season for charity, forgiveness, and generosity.


            It is not a surprise that many Muslim countries grant clemency to their prisoners during Ramadan. Iran, as in past years, pardoned thousands, a magnanimity worthy of an Islamic state. The late Shah Pahlavi imprisoned and tortured many, especially his opponents during Ramadan, mocking its sanctity. The Saudis, already with the highest per capita execution rates, also have a similar forgiveness program during Ramadan. That aside, they created an uproar recently when in an unprecedented action executed a prisoner during this holy month.


            Self-professed Islamic Malaysia has yet to demonstrate such magnanimity. The best that she could muster was in 2009 when the Agung deferred the caning of one Kartika Shukarno till after Ramadan. Her ‘crime?’ Drinking beer in public! 


            Canning is cruel, inhuman, and degrading, an affront to human dignity. Kartika was sentenced not in a secular criminal court rather the Syariah. Thus very Islamic, as Malaysia defines it. The outcry (locally and abroad) was not that she was to be caned (thousands of Malaysians have endured that) rather that she was a young mother, and it was to be done publicly during Ramadan.


            Anwar Ibrahim has a splendid opportunity to imprint an Islamic face to Malaysia this Ramadan, his first as Prime Minister. Institutionalize this spirit of generosity and forgiveness by initiating a formal clemency tradition. Commute the sentences of at least 99 prisoners, thus opening their gates to heaven (restoring their cherished freedom) and closing their hellish past. That number has special significance for Muslims, as with the 99 names of Allah. I cannot think of any other gesture worthy of Islam Madani, and what a legacy that would be for Anwar!


            Abdullah Badawi went through five Ramadans as Prime Minister, yet this Imam of Islam Hadhari did not see fit to grant a single pardon, not on Hari Raya or Merdeka Day. Prime Minister Mahathir, dismissed with undisguised contempt by the Islamists, released a few political prisoners during Ramadan, most notably Kassim Ahmad and Syed Hussin Ali. Never mind that Mahathir had jailed them without trial in the first place, a very “un-Islamic” practice.


            A Ramadan pardon would have a tremendous positive impact on the prisoners, prison system, and society. It gives them hope, a sparse and precious commodity in a prison. Even the slimmest hope would motivate them to behave, thus easing the warden’s job. At another level, those prisoners would now have another reason to look forward to Ramadan.


            Canada, a secular society, goes further. Apart from the Governor-General’s pardon powers, those convicted could, after they have served their sentence, apply to have their criminal record expunged after a specified period of being law abiding, thus giving them a fresh slate. That is a powerful incentive for them to remain “on the straight path,” as our Qur’an puts it. Indeed the recidivism rates of those pardoned is only 4 percent, compared to the historical 20. An important proviso with Canada’s program is that victims of those criminals would have a major voice at the pardon hearing. For those who committed victimless crimes, their approval would be statutorily routine.


            Former Prime Minister Najib Razak was jailed for corruption – pilfering public funds. That is not a victimless crime. Millions, especially the poor, suffer as a consequence. As such his pardon should not be decided by the Agung alone. Najib’s victims should and must have a major say.


            I am reminded of the story of Caliph Omar on one of his famous late night anonymous “walkabout management.” He spotted an amorous unmarried couple and barged in, pronouncing them guilty of adultery, punishable by stoning to death, at least for the lady. Unperturbed, her male companion wagged his finger at the Caliph. “Yes Sir, I have sinned against Allah, but you have wronged us by breaching our privacy. A Merciful Allah may forgive you, but we will not!” At which point the Caliph, the great leader that he was, apologized and withdrew. Caliph Omar implicitly acknowledged that certain inherent and inalienable rights of citizens (in this case to privacy) trumped over their sins against Allah, or the Caliph’s presumed knowledge of His dictates.


            Canada’s pardon program reflects generosity and forgiveness, as well as the trust leaders have in their followers, even those who have initially stumbled. Those are also the values cherished in our Qur’an.



Sunday, April 09, 2023

Cast From The Herd Excerpy # 73: Entering Babut Darjat

 Cast From The Herd:  Memories of Matriarchal Malaysia

M. Bakri Musa

Excerpt # 73:  Entering Babut Darjat! (Heaven-bound!)

Ramli and I took the train to Kuala Kangsar. My parents and I picked him up at his house in Terachi on the way to the station at Seremban. We did not just pick him up. As was the Malay tradition, his parents first had to treat us to lunch. My father fidgeted on whether we would ever leave in time to catch the train. We did, finally, in my parents’ old four-cylinder Austin Minor that already had too many miles under its belt. With Ramli’s suitcases and mine, all filled with books, that was quite a load. We crawled up the steep Bukit Putus in low gear. At times Ramli and I felt that we should get out and push. 

            At the station the ticket master insisted on our travel vouchers seeing that we were Malay College-bound. What voucher? We never received any. As we had to pay our way, we asked for third class, the cheapest. No third class, he bellowed, only second class for Malay College students. Only much later did we find out that Sixth Formers had to pay their own transport. 

            In the train I could spot the other students. They had their college’s crest on their suitcases. They were also so much younger. We did not strike up a conversation with any of them. The second-class coaches were luxurious even though they were not air conditioned, and not crowded. That was my first train trip. We arrived at the cavernous Moorish-style main station at Kuala Lumpur late in the afternoon with plenty of time before we were to board the north-bound train to Kuala Kangsar that evening. 

            The other students stacked their luggage on the platform and then left to see the city. Ramli and I did the same. We saw the iconic Merdeka Stadium and strolled along Jalan Mountbatten, the main shopping row. We passed by the exclusive Robinson Store but were too intimidated to enter. I peered through the windows and saw more than a few locals among the mostly colonial customers. Those natives seemed happy even though they could get the same goods at far lower prices elsewhere. Then, as now, there are profits to be made catering to your customers’ vanity – up to a point. Robinson is long gone today, and customers local and foreign, rich and poor, flock to the cheaper Yoahan superstore instead. 

            On returning to the station we saw many more young faces, including some dazed and frightened looks, like deer that had strayed into a suburban backyard. New kids, I presumed. I tried hard not to look like them and pretended that I knew my way around while watching those I presumed were old hands. One poor soul had brought his mattress and pillows, wrapped in the traditional tukar (mat) made of knitted dried palm leaves. He looked so, ah, plebeian and out of place in that elegant building. Ramli and I snickered. Thank God we were not that primitive! In my heart I thanked Nazuddin for his earlier advice. 

            We boarded the train around nine but by the time we left the station it was way past ten. I went to sleep with no difficulty only to be awakened by the cessation of the rollicking movement of the coach and lack of engine noise, together with bright lights shining through the window. We were at another large station, Ipoh. It was early morning. We stepped off to have breakfast in the station. 

            Soon the train lumbered out. It was now daylight and I could see the steep limestone cliffs and tin mines with their characteristic large muddy pools. I knew we were approaching Kuala Kangsar by the frenzied activities in the coach. The students began putting their suitcases near the exit. Ramli and I too did the same. I checked my pockets to make sure that I had everything and found that my train ticket was still un-punched. I met many conductors on the way but they assumed that being a Malay College student, I had traveled on vouchers and thus they did not check my ticket. Later I was emboldened to take many free trips by behaving as the typical Malay College student. 

            Soon the train stopped. On the platform was a huge sign, “Kuala Kangsar.” We disembarked and I followed the crowd to the blue Malay College bus parked nearby. As I was about to board behaving as best as I could like the others, someone tapped my shoulder, “You are new, aren’t you?” 

            “Umm, er, er, yes,” I replied, my voice trembling and with noticeable hesitancy while forcing a grin to gain his sympathy. 

            “Are you a Sixth Former?” When I nodded, he directed me to a group already standing in the sun. Ramli was already there with about a dozen other miserable and bewildered-looking souls standing under the blasting near-noon sun. 

            A tall lanky lad with black thick-rimmed glasses barked at us. “So mu think mu speshe to come to kolet?” (So you think you are special to come to college?) he mocked us in half-Malay and half-English, heavy in his Kelantanese sing-song accent. I had heard the Kelantan dialect before, but that was the first time I heard English spoken that way. I tried hard to suppress my laughter. Good thing I was successful; one student could not. He burst out laughing, which enraged our tin-pot commander. He yelled to the poor boy to do “ear squat” twenty times while we all watched him. That removed the smirk off his face. Poor soul; he must be from Johore and felt superior because he spoke the refined aristocratic Malay. 

            From then on things quickly deteriorated. This was the beginning of our hazing. I knew something about this dreaded ritual from Raja Nazuddin. He dismissed it as a harmless prank. It did not appear to me this was going to be the case. 

Excerpt # 74:  A Not-So-Pleasant Welcome