Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Uzbekistan 'revisted' after 25 years...

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

Reflection

The Declining Day (Al-'Asr)
1. By the declining day,
2. Lo! Man is in a state of loss,
3. Save those who believe and do good works, and exhort 
one another to truth and exhort one another to endurance.

ABOUT 25 years ago (in 1992), the writer (LanH) was in Uzbekistan, a newly independence nation after the collapse of Soviet Union. 

In this Central Asian country of some 30 million people, 90 percent of them Muslims, the writer found out the eagerness of the people to be practicing Muslims - well during the communist era for about 70 years they were denied in displaying their religious obligations such as 'solat' (prayers)...even 'masjids' were turned into museums and storehouses.

Recently the writer's son had the opportunity to visit Uzbekistan; it is interesting to know the latest development in that country especially regarding our Uzbek Muslim brothers there. Here's LanH Jr's account of his experience in this Central Asian country in which lies the world's famous Silk Road...

************

IT was almost 4:00 in the morning on December 1st, and the chilling early morning breeze and spots of snow welcomed our entourage to Tashkent International Airport as there were no aerobridge facility provided! 

We were transferred to the airport main terminal using a shuttle bus. After the hustle and bustle dealing with immigration and customs officers, we were transferred to the domestic airport where we would take a flight to Bukhara as the first place to be visited.

In the bus at Bukhara, we were welcome by our local tour guide and without hesitation, we were offered the black market rate of exchanging our US currency to the local Som. Mind you, the rate offered by the bank on that day was 1USD to 3,200 Som and he offered us at 5,000 Som instead. Later I found out in the market, 1USD = 7,000  Som. The rate was mind boggling and I kept telling myself, when in Rome, do as the Romans do and all the deals was done in the bus, never outside.
In Uzbekistan, during the last few weeks, it had been most difficult for the public as a national election would be carried out to give the people opportunity to vote for a new President as Islam Karimov, the first President of independence Uzbekistan had passed away in September. However, the public strongly believed the current Prime Minister, Shavkat Mirziyoyev also disciple of the late president will be chosen without challenges.

Thus, level of security has been levelled up and also, Uzbekistan will welcome hundreds of election observers from all over the world to ensure the election will be fully ‘democratic’. 

For a country that claims 90 percent of its population are Muslims, the people's way of daily lives contrast to situation in Malaysia. Muslim women (Muslimah) with hijab could be finger counted, most of them were elderly. Many 'jamek' (large) 'masjids' in Uzbekistan were only used for Jumaah or Eid prayers; for the five times 'jemaah' (congregational) they performed them in small 'masjids' normally by the side of the big 'masjids' and the sad part of it many people claimed that they only pray once a week that was the Jumaah prayers. 

'Adzan; (call for prayers) is not allowed through speakers and 'zakat' (tithe) is the matter of own personal initiative. No specific organisation will collect and distribute 'zakat' properly to the needed. Your 'salam' will be answered with the repeatation of ‘assalammualaikum’ as though it was like ‘hello’ to them.

Old Uzbekistan is noted for being an Islamic centre for scholarly study as its cities of Samarkand, Tashkent and Bukhara were part of the Great Silk Road. In the 14th century  Samarkand was the capital of the empire of Timur (Tamerlane) and since then, hundreds of 'madrasahs' (religious schools) had been built and provided education for boys and girls separately. 

Perhaps the most notable 'madrasahs' in Samarkand were housed in the Registan. In it was placed three 'madrasahs' side by side forming a public square. Nowadays, the 'madrasahs' have past their glory and are now being visited for its historical and architectural values and there is also a shopping centre.

Bukhara, the ancient city along the Silk Road is an arid land. It was the birth place of Imam Bukhari; there also lies what was believed to be Prophet Ayyub's grave and well, the Citadel Ark, bazaar and numerous museum and 'masjids'. 

The present Museum of Carpet here once was a prayer spot for Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Muslims and Jews in different era but now sadly known for what it stands today. It is also here situated the 40 Pillars Masjid in front of the Citadel Ark but claimed to be used only for Jumaah prayer. 

In Chelak district, Samarkand, we visited the mausoleum of Imam Al-Bukhari. We arrived at the mausoleum complex said to be the idea of the first President of Indonesia, Soekarno, while Jumaah prayer was being perform. It was a very interesting scene to witness. While we were walking towards the complex, there were still groups of men outside chatting, ignoring the ongoing in the 'masjid'. 

In Samarkand also stand the enormous Bibi Khanoum Masjid, with a giant 'rehal' (stand) of the Qur'an in front of it. After restoration work, it only served as a mausoleum and have several souvenir shops. 

In Tashkent, we visited the main 'masjid' in the city centre. The Khazrati Imam Complex holds the Khazrat Imam Masjid, used only for Eid prayers, a smaller masjid used for the five times daily dan Jumaah prayers.

Baraqan Madrasah is now used as a woodwork souvenir shop. There is also an Al-Qur'an museum which kept the original manuscript of Al-Qur'an written in Khufi during the rule of Al-Rashidin Caliphate Uthman Affan and was retrieved from Moscow. At the middle of the huge Qur'an, there was a blood stain believed to be from Sayidina Uthman when he was murdered while reading the holy book.

The claws of Soviet rule buried deep inside the heart of the Uzbek people made it hard for outside influences; the people stay 'preserved' from what’s left after independence. 

To make things more difficult, the government is not allowing any visitors to freely roamed this country. Every visitor must be registered and the public is not allowed to receive any visitors overnight at their homes without permission. That’s maybe the main reason preachers from outside find it hard to set foot in this Central Asian nation.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

U Masjid (6): Hidup bagaikan putaran roda...

DENGAN nama Allah Yang Maha Pemurah Lagi Maha Penyayang; selawat dan salam ke atas junjungan besar Nabi Muhammad s.a.w.

Renungan

Daripada Aisyah r.a., berkata: "Saya mendengar Rasulullah s.a.w. bersabda: 'Semua manusia dikumpulkan tanpa memakai alas kaki, telanjang dan belum dikhatan.' Aisyah bertanya; 'Apakah antara lelaki dan perempuan akan saling melihat antara satu dengan yang lain?' Rasulullah s.a.w. bersabda: 'Urusan pada hari itu lebih dahsyat daripada mementingkan hal-hal seperti itu.'" (HR. Bukhari dan Muslim)

UNTUK menyiapkan tulisan 'Universiti Masjid' bahagian keenam ini saya mengembara bersendirian dengan motosikal saya dari teratak kediaman di Melaka, singgah di beberapa masjid seperti Masjid Sultan Ismail di Muar, Masjid Sultan Ismail di Batu Pahat dan Masjid Dato' Noh Gadut di Kampung Serkat (kampung Pak Shukur Harun, kolumnis di Harakah tidak lama dulu).

Pengembaraan sehingga ke Tanjung Piai iaitu kawasan paling selatan tanah besar Asia ini, menemukan saya dengan pelbagai orang dan kejadian yang tak disangka-sangka. Salah seorang watak menarik saya temui adalah seorang lelaki dalam usia 40-an yang seakan-akan menjadikan Masjid Sultan Ismail, Batu Pahat sebagai tempat untuk mengubat kesepian hatinya.

Perkenalan dengan lelaki ini (saya namakannya Ali bagi memudahkan penceritaan) bermula selepas saya menghadiahkannya sebungkus makanan pada suatu petang selepas solat Asar. Ketika itu Ali sedang berehat-rehat di sebuah pangkin konkrit bahagian sisi masjid yang menempatkan sebuah klinik wakaf, sebuah pusat dialisis dan tandas.

Ali cepat mesra...dia menceritakan perihal dirinya dan hampir tidak langsung bertanya akan diri saya. Pada saya keadaan ini bagus kerana kalaulah Ali tahu saya ini seorang penulis, dia akan 'kontrol' (kawal) apa yang dicakap. Jadi, luahannya mungkin 'kurang asli'.

Ali bercerita dalam beberapa hari lagi, dia akan menjalani 'interview' kerja di sebuah kilang milik orang Jepun di Johor Bahru. Jadi sambil baring-baring dia mengikuti 'adegan perbualan' termasuk temuduga kerja dalam bahasa Inggeris melalui 'handset'nya. 

Ali bukan 'baru' hendak bekerja...dulu dia mempunyai jawatan tinggi malah sudah berumah tangga. Namun katanya, beberapa tahun lalu dia terbabit dalam satu kemalangan jalan raya. Ada anggota tubuh badannya menjadi kurang upaya menyebabkan 'kehidupan aman bahagianya' yang jika diibaratkan sebuah roda kehidupan kini terperesok di bahagian bawah.

Mula-mula dia dibuang kerja, kemudian rumah tangganya berkecai...maka bermulalah tahun-tahun berdukacita yang menyaksikan dia meluangkan banyak masa di masjid. Katanya, dia suka suasana tenteram terutama di bahagian sisi masjid yang menempatkan klinik kerana kawasan itu menjadi sepi selepas waktu kerja; jadi dapatlah bermunajat kepada Allah SWT sepuas-puas hatinya.

Ali bertanya sama ada saya mahu bermalam di masjid itu. Apabila saya berkata ya, dia memberitahu siapa yang perlu saya maklumkan perkara itu, "Awak jumpa dia, tak ada masalah. Semua beres..."

Selepas solat isyak, Ali dan saya bertemu semula di pangkin tepi klinik. Kami berborak panjang. Macam sudah lama kenal satu sama lain. Ketika berbual, terjenguk dua ekor anak kucing sungguh comel, memandang kami. Ali tabur makanan kucingnya. Ternyata Ali dan anak kucing begitu 'ngam'!

Malam kian sepi. Kata Ali, dia sokong PAS. "Kita perlu pemimpin yang betul untuk memimpin kita. Kita orang awam ini tak boleh pandai-pandai sendiri. Walaupun banyak perkara sudah diperkatakan mengenai PAS, saya tetap bersama PAS."

Saya biarkan Ali meluahkan perasaannya. Baguslah dia tak tahu saya pun ahli PAS dan menulis untuk akhbar PAS pula. Panjang cerita Ali mengenai 'kewajipan' istiqamah dalam perjuangan Islam melalui PAS.

'Kesetiaan' Ali kepada PAS 'mengujakan'. Itu soal perjuangan, tetapi bagaimana halnya si Ali yang tiada kerja sudah bertahun-tahun lamanya. Dia memberitahu dengan kantung yang kerap kosong, dia pasrah. 

Kadang-kadang di masjid ada makanan...kawan-kawan dan penderma pun banyak membantu..."setakat ini taklah saya kebulur tetapi sampai bila? Saya sungguh-sugguh berharap dapat kerja di syarikat Jepun di JB itu. Doakan saya ya..."

Malam kian larut. Nyamuk kian banyak. Namun syukurlah malam itu saya tidur 'bertemankan' nyalaan selingkar ubat nyamuk sumbangan Ali...ohh alangkah baik budinya 'si mamat' ini yang roda kehidupannya kini berada di bahagian bawah! Sama-samalah kita berdoa dia akan kembali ke atas sekali lagi!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Now everybody can 'waqaf'

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

Reflection

The Declining Day (Al-'Asr)
1. By the declining day,
2. Lo! Man is in a state of loss,
3. Save those who believe and do good works, and exhort 
one another to truth and exhort one another to endurance.

FOR his every Sunday 'kuliah subuh' (early morning lesson) at a 'masjid' near my house, the  ustaz was discussing on the subject of waqaf' (the Malay spelling is 'wakaf'). 

'Waqaf' means an endowment made by a Muslim to a religious, educational (one great example is the Al-Azhar University), or charitable cause. The Oxford-Fajar Dictionary defines waqaf as something given (as a donation) for common use.

The 'ustaz' said there are many 'hikmah' (benefits) of 'waqaf'; among others it could bring one closer to Allah SWT, fulfills one wishes, give maximum opportunity to a Muslim to gain as much as possible rewards in the Hereafter and the 'pahala' (rewards) would 'flow forever', enable Muslims to embark projects beneficial for mankind and fulfills the needs of the poor.
To many Malays, the word ‘waqaf’ points to ‘tanah' or 'harta wakaf’ which means lands and buildings donated for religious use. For lands, they could be benefited such as for burial grounds and building of ‘masjids’ while buildings could be used as business identities of which monies derived from rents could be used to finance masjid's actitivities. 

Giving up ones land for 'waqaf' needs 'a lot of sacrifice' for the love of the religion. This practice was common during our forefathers but nowadays when 'land is like gold-mine' (too expensive) it is hard to have 'tanah wakaf' or the public giving up their lands. 

Well, giving away lands for religious purposes will be a good idea if the land can be utilized for the benefit of the society.

This is as according to the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him, s.a.w.), narrated by Abu-Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him): ‘Allah’s Messenger s.a.w. said: “When  the  son  of  Adam dies no further reward is recorded for his actions, with three exceptions: charity whose benefit is continuous, knowledge from which benefit continues to be reaped, or the supplication of a righteous son (for him).” - Hadith Muslim

Well, 'waqaf' is one of the alternatives to which we could choose to donate our properties. There are several types of 'waqaf' with different management styles. Many Muslims want to do 'waqaf' but have no high valued properties such as land and building, but do not be despaired because we could do it in a very small scale.

Recently a representative of 'Rumah Bakti Al-Kausar, Bangi' (home for orphans) came over to my house, pleading me to book their 'waqaf' (land) which could be bought at RM30 per square foot. Yes with a few ringgits in hand, we could do the 'wakaf'.

Recently my mother handed to me RM400 in cash and asked if there were Islamic bodies nearby that could accept the money as 'waqaf'. I was not sure but anyway I took the money to the office of the 'majlis agama Islam negeri' (state Islamic religious council).

Yes, the  state  Islamic  religious  council was  given the  authority to  collect cash  'waqaf'.  Not only officials there accepted the RM400 cash for 'waqaf' but they told me the public can make small contributions for example RM10, RM50 or RM100 for 'waqaf'. This means that nowadays everybody can wakaf!

If we could not 'waqaf' valuable properties such as land and buildings, why not do it in a small scale even if they do not fall under the category of 'waqaf'. Readers of my column would notice that from time to time I had written suggestions that 'insha-Allah' (if Allah Wills) hopefully could open up our minds to do simple things that we hope to please Allah SWT and as our 'little and small contributions' to others.

In one article entitled 'Freeing ourselves from the burden of carrying coins', I encouraged readers to calculate a habit of putting away all our loose coins into donation boxes every time we do our shopping. The money is for 'simpanan selepas anda mati' (savings for your life in the Hereafter, or in crude language - savings for your life in your grave).

For example if you 'dump' a total of RM2 in the form of shillings in a day, in a month it would be RM60, in a year in would be RM720 and in 10 years it would be RM7,200 and in 20 years (before you die) it would be RM14,400 -- perhaps enough for you to buy a simple home just like the PPRT (Projek Rumah Rakyat Termiskin) house.

'Insha-Allah' your 'rumah PPRT' would be converted into a grand palace 'or to a larger scale' in Paradise (which is eternal) for Allah SWT says: "Whatever you spend in the cause of Allah shall be paid to you in full and you shall not be treated unjustly." (Qur'an 8:60)

Another 'project' readers could think to embark is by acting as though we have one more school going son or daughter whom we have to give he/she pocket money - but for this purpose you put that 'pocket money' say RM3 every 'subuh' (early morning) to the 'Tabung Masjid' (masjid donation box) each time we go the masjid for our 'subuh' prayers.

It is great to begin your day with a 'sadaqah' (giving donation) as there is a hadith on it: Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased on him) reported: The Prophet s.a.w. said: “Two angels descend every morning, and one says: ‘O Allah, give him who spends something, in place of what he spends.’ The other one says: ‘O Allah, give destruction to him who withholds”. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

If you do that 'istiqamah' (consistently), in a month your 'acting son or daughter' ('tabung akhirat' - hereafter fund) would have RM90; in a year it would be RM1,080, in ten years it would be RM10,800 and in 20 years it would be RM21,600. Well, that amount in the eyes of some rich people may be small but if you are sincere it is big in the Eyes of Allah SWT if you do it sincerely.

Dear brothers and sisters, if you choose to donate nothing every morning (not even 10 sen); then I am afraid when you update your 'bank account of Tabung Akhirat' it would be nil (0) or 'had a negative figures' (for example you have borrowed money from someone but not repaid it), you would be 'panicked' as you have 'no money' to spend for 'your life in the Hereafter'!  

In this world you would feel bad when you have no RM, American dollars, pound sterling and whatsoever then what would be like when 'you have nothing' in the Hereafter.

In this world you could borrowed money from relatives and friends or worst still beg in the streets but it the Hereafter, there is no help; if you want help from Allah SWT, do it in this world because the Hereafter is a place to reap harvest of our good deeds sowed on earth and not a place to say our repent to Allah SWT or obey His orders.

Remember that once we were 'thrown' inside our graves, there is no way we could return back - it was a one way ticket journey - we would face all consequences ourselves - so dear readers be equipped with all requirements before embarking on that 'no returning journey'. 

If for a journey say to the United States for a month stay we readied the requirement such as passports and clothes months before, than whats are preparation for our 'never ending journey' of the Hereafter?

Well, why not prepared ourselves for 'that day' and one way to do it is by giving up our small amount of money, say RM10, RM30 or RM100 for 'waqaf' (for example in buying a square foot of land)...yes nowadays everybody can 'waqaf'.

But if you still do not have 'that money' (nothing to give) or 'too tight' (to hold on) to your money, think of other ways to please Allah SWT and his creatures such as smiling to our brothers, saying 'Assalamualaikum' for it is also a 'sadaqah'! And with 'your body' you still could 'sadaqah' for example you could give your hands in helping others!