Monday, May 28, 2012

A better way to repel Lady Gaga and co

We are living in bizarre times for sure. It becomes so difficult to distinguish truth from falsehood and good from evil, among other things. With all the attacks that we face, little by little we lose our humanity and the natural state we should have been in. These are times where Prophetic guidance has become more important than ever. Because it distinguishes clearly between truth and falsehood, good and evil, and in turn gives us back the humanity that we have lost.

Lately, there has been a buzz on the banning of Lady Gaga from holding a concert in Indonesia. Spearheaded by a group who call themselves “the Islamic Protector Front” (FPI) who threatened the concert if it was to be held, the organizers succumbed and canceled the SOLD OUT concert. The New York Post said that in total there were 52000 tickets, and all of them were SOLD OUT. So obviously there were a lot of people who wanted to go to the concert, and they have the right to do so. I’m not saying that it’s right… But if you want to have your opinions respected, you have to respect the opinions of others too. If you want to have a debate, have a good and healthy one too.

It breaks my heart to see something like this happen at a country in which Muslims are a majority. It shows the lack of quality that the Muslims have (me included) in understanding the religion properly. And with this, I mean from both sides (the supporters and the opposite).

If only we were decent Muslims that have a teensy weensy bit of knowledge on the religion, this whole Lady Gaga incident would never have happened. First of all, (even non Muslims see this) the singer is clearly not in the best state of mind. She does things that boggle the normal mind constantly (in a negative way unfortunately). And secondly, it is so obvious that many of her lyrics (which I have only heard a little by the way) insinuate towards adultery, and we are strictly told to stay away from such acts. And as a result, the tickets wouldn’t be SOLD OUT like it was.

On the other hand, if only we were decent Muslims, we would be able to react towards these situations in a better way. Not once was it reported that The Prophet (PBUH) shouted towards other people, not even in war! Yet we shout and condemn people to go to hell while we don’t even know what God’s decree is. It’s frustrating to see these so called “protectors of Islam” raising such banners. Many of the Prophets best companions were once opposing the Prophet, fought him (PBUH) in war, yet the Prophet had the patience to invite them to Islam and educate them. If only he (PBUH) was harsh and uncompassionate, they would have turned away from him. But out of God’s mercy, he (PBUH) was patient towards them.

Summing it up, with this whole “Lady gaga” banning saga, we can see that we are a sick nation (ummah). We’re sick enough to empty our purses to go to a music concert rather than feed the millions of poor people in our country, and we’re sick enough to let our akhlaq (good character) be compromised to reach a certain goal (which in this case is to ban a mere singer to perform).

There is no victory in this banning.

What’s the point in banning Lady gaga when we have a TV at home that plays the same kind of music and performances all day long? How are we going to tell our children to not go to such concerts when we ourselves are disconnected with them and don’t have a meaningful relationship with them? How do we expect to know what is good or bad for us if we have no (and are not interested in learning about) prophetic knowledge on the TRUTH of things?

So for Muslims, all of us need to rethink what we believe, get better education on our religion, and make a deeper take on the things that we face. In the ideal condition, even if Lady Gaga and co came to do a concert, nobody would even bother coming because of the obvious lack of benefit that they will get. People would have much better and more beneficial things to do instead.

May God make us people of essence and be able to see beyond the mere spectacles that are offered to us each and every day

Friday, May 18, 2012

The weapon of the believer

As I went home yesterday, I suddenly had a strange urge of wanting to eat mangoes. To be even thinking about getting mangoes at my local grocery store at this time of season is somewhat ridiculous (to tell you the truth, I have never seen any mangoes sold there). But feeling a bit mischievous at the time, I wanted to try a method that is said to be powerful to get our wishes: ask God to give it to us.

So with all the sincerity and seriousness that I could gather, I asked Him, “God, if it’s good for me, may I be given mangoes to eat today? O owner of the heavens and earth...” And so I headed to my local grocery store and went straight to the fruits section. And behold... No mangoes...

Well, I expected to not see any mangoes. And I began to contemplate on one of the guidelines of prayers, such as not asking for what is impossible or somewhat impossible (for example: asking to be able to fly like superman). So I thought that perhaps what I asked for was too farfetched. But I did see a type of fruit that I have never in my life saw in that grocery store: papayas! I was pleasantly surprised, but it wasn’t the fruit that I was looking for, so I passed on it.

So I circled the grocery store for my other needs. And just as I passed the canned fruit section, there it was... the one that I have been craving for... mangoes (albeit already canned)!!! And then at another glance, it was another sighting... mango ice pops! I only got the canned mangoes though, as that was what I asked God for. A small thing for others, but it has given me a much needed boost in my faith towards Him.

The Prophet (PBUH)* said that the prayer is the weapon of the believer. All elements of worship are present in the act. There is hope, love, and fear in it. And I proved to myself that it is indeed a powerful weapon. So powerful that one needs to take extra caution when using it, as it may sometimes backfire towards the one who utilizes it.

We as human beings only know that much about what is truly good for us, and there is a chance that we ask for something that is bad for us. The money that we ask for may lead us in spending in extravagance; the car that we ask for might be our ticket towards an accident, etc. May we all be given the wisdom to ask (and work) for what is truly good for us, and be people who have their prayers answered be the Almighty.

*PBUH: peace be upon him

Monday, May 07, 2012

Living an honorable life with Islam

A lecture from Ustadh Chandra Yuliansjah Tobing (May God protect him and preserve him) on the 3rd of May 2012, Ishida Hall Rokujizou, Kyoto, Japan

God tells us to enter Islam in its completeness. Islam is a way of life. In which every aspect of life is governed with. Islam gives a clear goal, which is to become good human beings, with gaining the pleasure of God as the final objective. After all, all of us will eventually meet death and have to face God. And the best death of all is to die while in love, and having full submission to Him.

Being Muslim is the greatest gift that any human being could ever have. Unfortunately, few Muslims realize and acknowledge this. We even often forget about the lesser blessings that we have, such as the blessing of being healthy and the blessing of having free time. We waste our health and time for doing things that are useless and give us no gain whatsoever.

Thus, we should be grateful when we are given the will to want to come to places where God is remembered. Including the places where knowledge of the religion is taught and shared. We should be thankful to God if we are still given the commitment towards Islam by attending these sorts of gatherings.

One of the past scholars, Hasan Al Basr said that he loved gathering with Muslims to learn knowledge of the religion more compared to gathering with his own family. This is because when gathering to learn religious knowledge, he is reminded about God, death, and other important things. While when gathering with his family, he is reminded about life of this world (house, business, family, etc).

Therefore, we should always give time to attend gatherings to gain knowledge of the religion. In fact, many contemporary scholars say that it is an obligation to attend gatherings of knowledge, at least once a week. Muslims need to have good understanding on their religion to be able to stand strong, adapt, and not be carried away by the waves of the civilization.

By attending gatherings of religious knowledge, we are empowering our soul. And just as the body, our soul needs food to stay healthy. In fact, if the soul is sick, the body may also become sick.

There are immense benefits for those who attend gatherings in which knowledge of the religion is learned. Among them is that God will bless with tranquility, His mercy, the angels will gather amongst them, and God will mention the names of the attendees to His other angels that are in His presence.

Thus, we should always be willing to spend a fraction of our time to attend or make these kinds of gatherings.

Main Content
Islam was sent down to give goodness for Muslims and humanity in general. In the Qur’an, Allah SWT says explicitly that the Prophet PBUH was only sent down (to teach Islam) as a mercy for the universe. One of the famous scholars of Islam, Ibn kathir, mentioned that this means that if we accept Islam and follow the Prophet PBUH, life will be good (in this world and the next), and if we reject it, life will be bad (maybe not in this world, but most certainly in the next).
The question is why are we Muslims, all over the world, living in a bad and deprived state? This might be due to us not following or understanding Islam properly. In order to gain the goodness that Islam has to offer, there are several steps that we must take.
  1. The first step is to have a sound knowledge on Islam. We need to know 1) the foundation of the religion, which consists of the creed of the religion (aqidah) and how to worship God properly, according to what the Prophet PBUH taught. Then we need to know 2) the building blocks of Islam, which include all of the aspects of sacred law that is governed by the religion. And the last element to gain sound knowledge of Islam is 3) to commit ourselves to jihad (struggling for the sake of God), enjoining good and forbidding evil, and upholding the law.
  2. The second step is to build sincerity to commit to Islam only for the sake of God and to gain His pleasure.
  3. From the first two steps, righteous deeds will be born
Obviously, many Muslims do not know these three steps, and thus do not have the quality of true good Muslims.

Other major reasons of the downfall of the Muslims are that the Muslims have left the Qur’an and the guidance of the sunnah (acts of the Prophet PBUH). One example is the night prayer. We can ask ourselves; do we spend any time to wake up at night and pray to God and ask His forgiveness? Even the cock wakes up at night and praises God in his own way.

Regarding the leaving the Qur’an, it may not seem obvious, but not many Muslims are able to read the Qur’an properly, lest understand and ponder upon its meanings. In Indonesia, according to data from the ministry of religious affairs gathered in 2006, only 5% of the total population of Muslims in Indonesia can read the Qur’an properly, and only 1% memorizes it.

God tells us that the Qur’an is As shifaa, or “cure” in English. In Arabic, As shifaa has a more specific meaning, which is a cure that will definitely cure. If it is understood correctly, the Qur’an can do unimaginable things, such as changing the course of civilization, like what the Prophet PBUH and the pious people of the past did. Thus, we need to better our interaction with the Qur’an. We need to be able to read the Qur’an correctly, start memorizing it bit by bit, and ponder/reflect on it.

The key for gaining an honorable life through Islam is to understand the religion and better our interaction with the Qur’an, and we should all do our best to achieve it no matter the cost.

Closing remarks
There are several practices that can be done to be able to taste the sweetness of Islam, and be entered into paradise. Among them is mentioned by God in Qur’an in Surah Ad dhariyaat (verse 15-19). These practices are:
  1. Always do good deeds (the key to be consistent in this is to always remember God and    death, and forget our own good deeds and other peoples bad deeds).
  2. Sleep less at night and dedicate time to do night prayer and remembrance of God.
  3. Ask for forgiveness at the end of the night.
  4. Commit ourselves to always give to those in need (infaq)
May Allah SWT bless us with an honorable life in this world and the next.