In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.
1. By the declining day, 2. Lo! Man is in the state of loss, 3. Save those who believe and do good works, and exhort one another to truth and exhort one another to endurance. (Al-'Asr - The Declining Day)
SURPRISINGLY the majority of comments I received on my writings in this column of Harakah's English Section, were from women. Some of them were pensioners, perhaps their ages were about the same as my mother who is 66. To protect their interests, I would not mention their names and reveal their identities.
One ‘makcik’ (auntie) wrote: “Makcik yang bernama di atas selalu membaca kolum LanH.” (Auntie, as the name mentioned above frequently read LanH’s column). She hoped the writer would hold a writing course and “please do reserve a seat for me.”
One retired woman professor wrote: "Assalamualaikum Saudara (Brother) LanH. I have enjoyed your highly readable and non didactic articles in Harakah. In your article ‘Live a simple, happy and rewarding life’ you wrote about the need to love Allah’s creations including animals and plants. Please accept this little gift as a token of appreciation. I have not been able to purchase your book on your journey during hajj. Where can I get a copy? “
Another woman wrote: "Assalamualaikum tuan (sir). “I read with interest your article (My foot, you want to get 5A’s?); it brought back memories, an incident that happened to me when I was the same age as you, I'm 51 now. I was reprimanded and humiliated by an ‘ustazah’ (woman religious teacher) for not knowing how to ‘solat’ (pray) and perform ‘wuduk’ (ablution) etc. I only knew how to read the Quran (thank my mother for that).
“Instead of teaching me, I was put to shame for my ignorance, so what I did was to get a’ telekung’ (woman’s prayer outfit) via a ‘makcik’ (aunt), get a book to guide me how to ‘solat’, I cut each page and paste on a large paper and performed the ‘solat’ as best I could. But I was determined that my children (five kids) will not go through what happened to me.
“So they all went to ‘agama’ (religious) schools, took SMA exams then SPM; two of them went to Cairo to do medicine, (even though they could go to UK), all are proficient in Arabic, can read Arabic text. Alhamdulillah, they know their ‘fardu ain’ and religious knowledge.
“Even I am now learning Arabic and I am blessed with a husband who has taught me so much. I am humbled by Allah's grace. I am now close with this ‘ustazah’ too, I must admit, I am thankful to her because it was through her that Allah's ‘hidayah’ (guidance) came.... your articles are my favourite, they are very inspiring, syukron jazeelan (thanks), Alhamdullilah, wasalam."
In this column I would like to pay tribute to all women especially that special woman who had moulded me into what I am today; she’s none other than my mother. Nowadays I am responsible for her well being; almost every Wednesday I took the day off to take her to the Melaka Hospital for a weekly consultation and appointment.
My mother is a full time housewife; very busy in upbringing her children – eight of them, I am the second oldest. Almost all my siblings including I went to residential schools; I must admit during those schooling years I was not too close to my mother because time spent at home was limited only to school holidays.
But during one of those school holidays brought new life to my mother – that was what she told me a few years back when I forced myself to spend more time with her. One day during our light hearted conversation, she told me during a school holiday in 1976 if I am not mistaken, I brought home my school textbook on Religious Study (‘Pengajian Agama Islam Tingkatan Dua) and while doing house-chores she found the book lying on the floor.
She picked up the book, open it pages and came across a lesson on Surah Al-‘Asr (The Declining Day). A Malay translation of the surah read: “Dengan nama Allah Yang Maha Pemurah Lagi Maha Penyayang. 1. Demi masa. 2. Sesungguhnya manusia itu di dalam kerugian. 3. Kecuali orang beriman, beramal salih dan berpesan-pesan dengan kebenaran dan kesabaran.” (In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. 1. By the declining day, 2. Lo! Man is in the state of loss, 3. Save those who believe and do good works, and exhort one another to truth and exhort one another to endurance). - Explanatory translation by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall.
My mother told me she trembled while reading those words. It was the first time she came across a translation of a ‘surah’ from the Qur’an. Even though she had ‘khatam’ (completed reading) the Qur’an several times but she did not know the meaning of each ‘surah’. At that time my mother was still young; she married at the age of 14, perhaps she was not even 30 years of age at that time.
During those days, it was rare to find a translation copy of the Qur’an what’s more in a private home. Even in masjids, I could not find one.
Lo! Man is in the state of loss…this word knocked hard on my mother’s heart. She was afraid if all the things she had done had no meaning and had not benefitted her; they were all wasting time, energy and resources including money.
Pickthall noted Surah Al-‘Asr (103) takes its name from a word in verse 1; it was a very early Meccan Surah. This surah was one of the earliest revelations which the angel Gabriel delivered to the Prophet Muhammad. In Sûrah al-Fâtiha, Allâh has taught us to seek the straight path, as-sirât al-mustaqîm, and in Sûrah Al-'Asr the essence of that straight path is revealed to mankind.
Why my mother admit she was in the state of loss? As a young woman (but already with many children) her knowledge on the Islamic faith was limited; for example she did not cover her head in public and the biggest ignorance of all she had no idea that Islam is an ‘adden’ (a way of life); that it covers all aspects of life.
My mother had no idea that everything she did was actually an ‘ibadah’ (act of goodwill that will be rewarded in the Hereafter). For example everyday habitual deeds such as cooking, eating and sleeping are all ‘ibadah’ if ones ‘niat’ (intention) is in line with what Allah, The Almighty (SWT) told us to do. If ones ‘niat’ is correct, he or she would be rewarded accordingly in the Hereafter even though his/her deeds is not worth mentioning by human beings such making love to ones wife or husband.
As many other ‘green’ lady at that time, my mother thought the term ‘ibadat’ is only restricted on articles mentioned in ‘Rukun Islam’ (five pillars or principles of Islam) that are declaration of faith (syahadah), perfom the five daily obligatory prayers, fasting in Ramadan, paying ‘zakat’ (tithe) and performing hajj.
Realizing her shortcomings, my mother frequent lessons at a nearby ‘surah’ (small masjid), started wearing the ‘tudung’ (headscarf) and taught Islamic values to her children; the youngest boy had the opportunity to go an Islamic kindergarten where else his two elders sisters went to Tadika Kemas while the rest of us had no pre-school experiences.
The boy who went to the Islamic kindergarten started reciting ‘du’a’ (supplication) before eating, going to the toilet and entering the house and this made my mother felt very sad and guilty for not being able to teach her older children on these fine values of Islam.
Yes, Surah Al-‘Asr had changed my mother, she was given the 'hidayah'; the changes not only involving and giving fruits to herself ; but to all members of the family; to Allah The Almighty we prayed that my mother and all mothers of the Muslim ‘ummah’ would be shown the truth path and be rewarded in this world and in the Hereafter. Ameen.