Friday, March 27, 2009

Vote Earth!

1,189 cities and towns across 80 countries are currently committed to the event this year, which began two years ago in Sydney (Azleen, you blogged about it, didn't you?). Whether it really does physically contribute to the global warming cause significantly, or is simply a symbolic gesture, there certainly is no harm in switching off your lights for an hour tomorrow night, is there? ;) The critical part, for me, is to cultivate awareness amongst the people about the utmost importance of taking care of the environment. It sounds mundane, but you would be amazed at the number of people out there who couldn't care less about safeguarding the world for future generations, global warming or not. A lot of people can't even turn the tap off properly- the sound of drops of water being wasted doesn't bother them the slightest. I wonder why. I can give ten other examples, but I'll save you the misery; you can watch this video instead.

If you decide to go dark, I've got some candles. ;)

earth hour 2009: 28th March, 8.30-9.30pm

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Going a-choo-choo

The Moscow Metro, according to Wiki-sama, is the world's second most heavily used rapid-transit system after the Tokyo Subway, with an average of 7 million passengers per day (that about equals the population of Switzerland by the way). It is the most convenient mode of transport in Moscow, in my opinion, due to its efficiency and extensive coverage throughout the city. Its greatest appeal though, is the intricate design of many of its stations, making it a tourist attraction in its own right. I didn’t get to snap many pictures as we were playing catch up with time, so do visit Moscow and dig into the experience yourself. ;)

The map of the Metro. The brown ring line interlinks with all other lines radially running through the city. The stop for the Red Square and Kremlin is situated at the centre of the ring.

Taking the very steep and long escalator at Kievskaya station. I actually timed the duration but now it's slipped my mind ;( Many other stations also have such deeply-built underground tunnels.

Most of the classically designed stations have dim lightings, lending the dreamy atmosphere.

Waiting for the next train; a bit worn out after getting a little lost searching for the right line- it really was mind-boggling compared to other big metros I've been to, like the London Underground or the Hong Kong MTR.

A train wooshing by on the other side of the rail.

A train clocking in at Arbatskaya.

The blue train is one of the older models; other newer ones have been introduced, though still very few.

Paintings at... Kievskaya station, I think.

Friday, March 20, 2009


March is Bulan Amali Muslim in Volgograd. Last Sunday, we had a course on managing a deceased Muslim, from bathing, clothing, praying, to burying the body. It seemed that I had forgotten some stuff from Pendidikan Islam classes in school, so I’m glad I decided to attend. More importantly, as always, I urge everyone including myself to constantly remember death, and not just as something that saps away all things pleasant from us. Death is a passage to another world- a world that, although itself transitory, accommodates us for an even longer time than that we spend on earth. Thus, as we pray for salvation on the Day of Judgement, don’t forget to seek relief from punishment in the grave too, for we know that there are a whole lot of people who would enter Jannah but could not escape punishment in the grave.

On a lighter note, I’m finally putting up some pictures. I wrote a post accompanying them approximately two weeks ago but due to reasons unbeknownst to even myself, I didn’t post it. The truth is, I sort of dislike my own writing. I know I’ll never be literary-hall-of-fame material like some of my favourite authors, but it’s dawned on me that I can’t even write decent, well-structured prose without dwindling it with haphazard details and loads of parentheses (like now. Ha-ha). Sometimes, after reading things over, I wonder, can people actually understand what I’m saying? That doesn’t include the fact that I rarely can write everything that I mean to- it’s as if there is a giant filter in my brain working on autopilot. Hence the result goes… something like this paragraph. Right.

Despite that, life’s good. It may seem lame to say that time and again, but well, I mean it. Of course, you have to brush off ugly little details, like the harassment you get from certain Liverpool fans throughout the past seven days, or the dreadful falls (note the plural) on ice on the way to class last week after two years of clean sheet. Paediatrics cycle started on Monday, and after we finished taking a guided tour of the department with the teacher that day, I knew I was going to enjoy the next two weeks.

Taking the patient’s history can be a bit tricky, though. Apart from having to use terms easier for them to understand, there’s this business of switching your conversation ‘format’ from the polite form which we’re so used to with adult patients, to the common form used for friends or younger people. In short, our grammar was all over the place, and we ended up being a laughingstock for the 12-year-old girl and her two ward buddies. Be wary of girls this age- other girls my age will mostly agree with my assessment that this is their critical period of possibly developing into the ‘gedik’ stage; most guys will typically think they’re cute. Oh and be very wary when they tell you that the scar on their abdomen was caused by a monkey bite. Err yeah.

Anyhow, I had a lot of fun and am looking forward to the rest of next week. And below, is my post from a fortnight ago.


At the behest of my father and brother, and uncle (with scoffing taunts to boot), I’m obliged to post an entry of pictures, a whole lot of which had caused me mild headache having to pick and edit them here and there. By editing I naturally mean resizing, and a bit of tweaking at the contrasts and stuff; I am no Photoshop expert.

I can’t even think of appropriate words to express remorse for my lack of writing and posting pictures anymore, notably with respect to my travels. What can I say- I have tried, and even vowed to write in a daily journal during my trip this time, but last time I took a peek into that battered notebook, it stopped at day 3 (which so happened to be the case with my Turkey trip too). And my brother has long stopped pestering me for an entry “promoting Bristol”, as he put it. My uncles would prefer pictures- even that I failed to give.

The reason I didn’t put up pictures on my Flickr was that I wanted my story to be the heart of my work, accompanied by pictures- not the other way round. I’m always a writer first (konon.), a photographer second (if ever I am one). But as I had explained sometime ago, once I started to earnestly write about something, I couldn’t seem to spare any details- everything felt important and indispensable, right to every minute and whiff of the air if possible. My Day 2, for example, took about five pages’ worth of a standard small-line notebook (I have relatively small handwriting, too). And I know my weakness - finishing what I had started, especially when the process is laborious and I can’t appear to make time for it but, out of sheer stubbornness, refuse to trim it down to a “short & sweet” version either. I can do with an editor.

Except that I’m not a published author, as I have finally made my senses to come to realise, and so for the time being I’ve decided to make do with pictures whilst trying my best to get a shorter version of a story out, whenever that may be. Winter is about to end (technically it’s already spring, but for some ironic effect, heavy snowfalls occurred on the 1st of March, spanning a good few days), gracelessly incarnated by mud stain greasing the edges of your pants and fine drizzling drops which at times may trick your eyes into perceiving them as snow (probably because you want ‘em to be). According to my personal weather forecast, tomorrow will be “cloudy with snow tapering off”. I hope they’re wrong.

I’ve been preoccupied thus far, though largely owed to my abominable lack of time management. Also in a bit of a funk, owing to someone trying to get smart-alecky with me. Please, do exercise some manners and respect towards others, even if you disagree with them. It’s difficult enough to keep my patience in check without this kind of people poking round my bubble of sanity.

That being said, life has been kind to me of late (The Optimist speaking again). The startling part of the picture is receiving bountiful amount of kind treatment from the locals. I’ve been so accustomed to the cold stares and cavalier attitudes of many Russians that when people whom I met abroad and back home (upon learning about my place of study) ask about the locals and whether they really are as standoffish as reputed, I would generally agree with the notion, forgetting about many other kind souls who have brought smiles to my face during my drawn-out stay here. Like the old patient yesterday morning who bellowed, “Good morning, doctors!” when we passed by, or another old patient who kissed each of us on the cheek (after blowing a kiss to each of us) and called us her granddaughters, or the many gentlemen who gave me their rights to a seat in the marshrutka, or another gentleman who defended me when I couldn’t find my tram ticket and had to pay again before suddenly finding it right after (how classic.) and the conductor refused to return my money (with words like, “she’s only a student!”, “are you trying to take advantage over foreign students?”; even threatening to complain to the authority. Haha). And I haven’t even mentioned my teachers- most of them are awfully kind and helpful, though we still have our fair share of likes and dislikes, which is normal, of course. I’ll have to remember all these people the next time someone asks me about Russia.

Enough yapping let the pictures do the talking.


Fatin and Kak Nadiyah

Fahida and I

It turns out I can't just let the pictures do the talking. ;p Anyways, this was my first time taking a train ride in Russia. It was better than what I had expected it to be- in that jagged, traveller-roughing-it way, of course. There was only one drawback that i could think of- it was extremely warm inside- too warm for comfort- although we found out way later that we could actually open the window. But alhamdulillah, my biggest fear was unfounded- the toilet was relatively clean and thus I didn't have to test the superpower potential of my bladder for the stretched 18-hour journey.

A boy in a forlorn mood throughout the entire pre-departure time.

A lot of fellow students of my university were also on board, all heading to various destinations in Europe for the two-week-long holiday. Luckily, four of us girls got to bunk together and the remaining two in our compartment were also women. The upper bunk was decidedly small, bordering on claustrophobic; nonetheless, I slept a full seven hours soundly, uninterrupted.

The narrow aisle, not unlike an aeroplane's. Note the purple-haired old lady playing crosswords- favourite pastime of many Russian elderlies. Purple is also a favourite colour for hair dye amongst the elderly, apparently.

The view outside was either that of trees, village houses, dachas (summer houses), factories, and, occasionally, frozen river. The train made a number of stops along the way, each one ranging from 5 to 20 minutes, and you could go out to buy drinks and snacks at the many kiosks by the side of the track.

It was best, though, to bring your own supply of food and eat together with your friends, as we did. The amusing part was that the food were supposed to last us for the whole journey, but as it happened, a couple of hours (or less?) was all that was needed to polish off the sushi, tandoori chicken, fried squids, jemput-jemput, and corn pudding. I think they should just provide us a kitchen next time.

Kak Nadiyah, Fatin, Fahida and Shafwan in front of the renowned St. Basil's Cathedral.

We managed to make a little day tour around the heart of Moscow- the Red Square and Kremlin, Arbat street, and Europa mall for halal kebabs at Kebab House. Snow had melted, and the Red Square was a picture of puddles of water. The weather was gloomy and foggy too, and later in Arbat it rained.

Shafwan with the Kremlin at the background.

It was only the second time that I had really been in Moscow, after a 3-day stopover last summer. The city emits an appealing aura- its strange blend of opulence and decay fascinates me. The wobbly, wooden-benched but fast metro, the olden architecture of Kievskiy train station next to the steely-looking Europa mall... it would be comforting to think that the contrast provides some kind of balance to the setting of this great capital, except that I know better. It seems to be a recurrent theme in many cities in this country- beautiful, elegant shops for the rich are everywhere, yet you see poor people, beggars in every direction. Moscow is the reputed capital of billionaires, yet many of its public facilities leave much to be desired. Where does all the wealth go to- making the rich richer?

Gum, a luxurious shopping mall at Red Square, housing all the pricey labels. We went in to use the bathroom. ;p

gorgeous baby and father inside Gum

I think packing all these into one entry is starting to look wearisome. I'll follow up with the Moscow Metro... soon. ;D

Monday, March 09, 2009

the person whom i love most

The person whom I love most is someone I have never met in my life, but hold dear hope of meeting one day. I was taught to love him ever since I was small, even more than the love I should reserve for my father and mother. It was difficult- I’d read about his life and attributes and I loved and held him in high esteem, but to sincerely love him more than my whole family whom I’ve known for life? Truth be told, I didn’t put in too much effort then to inculcate the feeling in its entirety- I thought it was normal because of the huge chronological gap between us, plus the vague details I knew about his appearance.

But love really does transcend all that. As I grew, I kept reading stories about him I’ve read tens of times before, and each time felt like I was reading something new- their meanings stretched further and further into the nooks and cranny of my heart. I eventually came to understand when, upon finishing a chapter about him, my heart would ache from a sense of longing, and a session wouldn’t pass without a tear being shed. At risk of sounding melodramatic, I had finally found the love I was searching for.

I feel fortunate to be born a Muslim, but at times I do envy Muslim reverts who have willfully sought out the truth and have pure notions about what defines Islam and the true way of living it. And thus, their newfound love is both strong and pure. Contrary to what many would believe, Muslims like me don’t have it all laid out for us. Again, I’m fortunate to be blessed with God-fearing parents, but in a society intertwined with miscellaneous strings of opposing nature i.e. tradition and modernisation, life’s tricky for all. True faith is not a given; you can be a Muslim by name for all your lives, yet your heart is empty.

But I digress. The person that I love most- the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. was a man like no other. He is lauded the world over for his steady success in all aspects of leadership- religious-wise, military-wise, government-wise, yet what strikes most about him is his excellent morals and manners- attributes that have won him many admirers and turned enemies into believers.

“Indeed you stand on an exalted standard of character.” (Al-Qalam 68:4)

Ali ibn abi Talib r.a. has described prophet Muhammad S.A.W. in length:

"He was not vulgar nor did he condone vulgarity, and he was not one to shout in the market place. He did not reward evil with evil, rather, he would forgive and overlook. He never in his life struck anything with his hand except when he was fighting in the name of Allah. He never struck a servant nor a woman, and I never saw him taking revenge for an injustice dealt him, except if the prohibitions of Allah were transgressed. For if the prohibitions of Allah were transgressed he was among the strongest of them in anger. He was never given a choice between two matters but he chose the simpler of the two. If he entered into his home he was a man like any other; cleaning his own garment, milking his own goat, and serving himself.

He would guard his tongue from that which did not concern him. He would attract them (the people) and not repel them. He would ennoble the noble of the people and charge them with their affairs. He was wary of the people and guarded himself against them but without depriving them a warm smile or fitting conduct. He would inquire after his companions and would ask the people about their affairs. He would encourage that which was good and strengthen it, and he would discourage that which was evil and undermine it.

He was balanced and consistent. He would never be neglectful that they would not learn neglect and grow indifferent. He had a provision for every occasion and he never fell short of justice nor exceeded it. The closest people to him were the best among them, and the best among them in his eyes were the most comprehensive in advice. The highest of them in stature with him was the best among them in looking after the people and assisting them.

He would not rise nor sit down without praise [to God]. If he visited a gathering he would sit wherever the group ended (and not at their head) and he encouraged the same. He would give all those sitting with him their just due [to the extent that] they would each feel that none was more important to him than them. If someone were to sit with him or come in search of a favor he would be patient with them until they (the guest) would be the one to leave. Whoever came to him with a request was never turned away except with that which they had asked for or with a kind word.

His cheerfulness and good manners encompassed them all such that he became a father to them and they all became equal in rights. His gatherings were those of knowledge, humbleness, patience, and integrity. In them there would be no raising of voices nor transgressions of prohibitions. They would not expose one-another's errors, but would be equal, encouraging each-other in the fear of God. In them, they would respect their elders, be merciful to their children, give preference to those in need, and protect the stranger."

He continues: "He was continually smiling, gentle in manners, soft in nature. He was not severe, harsh-hearted, loud, abusive, or miserly. He would disregard that which he disliked, and no one ever despaired of him. He never responded to disparagement or evil words.

He forbade upon himself three things: Argument, arrogance, and that which did not concern him. And he relieved the people of three: He would not degrade any among them or abuse them, he would not search after their honor or private matters, and he would not speak except in matters which he hoped to be rewarded for. When he spoke his attendees would lower their heads as if birds had alighted upon them. Once he finished they would speak. They would not vie with one-another in his presence to speak, but when one would talk in his presence the rest would listen until he finished. Speech in his presence was that of the first among them. He would laugh with them, and wonder with them. He had patience with the strangers when they were gruff in speech and requests, to a degree that his companions would fetch them to him. He would say: 'If you see someone in need, fetch him to me.'

He would not accept praise except from those who were balanced and not excessive. He would not interject into someone's speech unless they transgressed, in which case he would either rebuke them or else leave. He was the most generous of heart, truthful of tongue, softest in disposition, and noble in relationship. He who first set eyes upon him feared him, but he who associated with him loved him. Those who described him would say: 'I have never seen before or after him anyone similar to him, peace be upon him'.

All accounts of his life testify to the peerless superiority of his character. How it hurts me then, to read about contortions of truth by some people based on semi-learned facts about the Prophet which they patch together to form a twisted puzzle of an image. Whilst they appear to be pathetic and bedeviled by prejudices, there are seemingly a lot of ignorant people out there who fall prey to those lies. By all means, try to read all objective works on him and you will find that, amongst others, his admirable character is indisputable. The prophet, whilst clearly displaying the most exemplary virtues of a human being, however disliked being praised and put upon a pedestal. Anas ibn Malik said:

"No one was more beloved to us than the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), [however], if we saw him we would not stand up for him for we knew how much he disliked [for us to do so].”

And on one occasion someone called to him saying: "O best of mankind ..." He replied: "That is Ibrahim, peace be upon him".(Muslim)

By nature he was gentle and kind-hearted, always inclined to be gracious and to overlook the faults of others. Politeness and courtesy, compassion and tenderness, simplicity and humility, sympathy and sincerity were some of the keynotes of his character. One day, he was leading the prayer and intended to make it long, when he heard the cry of a baby. He then shortened the prayer because he didn’t want the mother to be worried and distracted.

Once, a pagan (in another account, a Jew) by the name of Zaid ibn Sa'ana came to the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) in order to collect a debt. When he drew near Muhammad (S.A.W.) he wrenched him by his clothes violently, exposing his shoulder, and spoke rudely at him. Finally, he said: "You sons of Abdul Muttalib are all a procrastinating lot." Immediately, Umar ibn Al-Khattab leapt at him chastising and rebuking him harshly, all the while the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) looked on smiling. Then the Prophet (S.A.W.) said to Umar: "He and I were in need of other than this O Umar; You should have commanded me to excel in my repayment, and have commanded him to excel in his request for repayment." He (Muhammad, S.A.W.) said: "There [still] remains in his term three [days]" However, He (Muhammad, S.A.W.) then immediately commanded Umar to see to his recompensation and to increase him twenty 'saa' (weights) as compensation for the ‘terrorisation’ he had endured (from Umar). This man later became a Muslim. (Al-Bayhaqi, ibn Habban, and Al-Tabarani)

One of the Prophet’s most famous attributes is his matchless generosity. In an authentic hadith narrated by Bukhari, it was said that he was never asked for something and then said ‘no’. Abu Dharr narrated that Allah's Messenger (S.A.W.) said,

"If I had gold equal to the mountain of Uhud, it would not please me that any of it should remain with me after three nights (i.e. I would spend all of it in Allah's cause) except what I would keep for repaying debts." (Bukhari)

Once the Prophet went home in a hurry after the prayer and then immediately came out again. The people were surprised, but he told them that he had remembered during the prayer that there was some gold in his house. He thought that he might forget and the gold might remain there all night. He then went back home to ask that it might immediately be given in charity.

His love for the poor was so deep that he used to pray: "O Allah, keep me poor in my life and at my death and raise me at resurrection among those who are poor." (Nasai)

To his wife he said, "O A'ishah, love the poor and let them come to you and Allah will draw you near to Himself." (Bukhari)

His sense of justice was also unassailable and in a narration by Abu Dawud, the Jews, in spite of their hostility to the Prophet S.A.W., were so impressed by his impartiality and sense of justice that they used to bring their cases to him, and he decided them according to Jewish law.

Once, while he was distributing the spoils of war, people flocked around him and one man almost fell upon him. He pushed the men with a stick causing a slight abrasion. He was so sorry about this that he told the man that he could have his revenge, but the man said, "O messenger of Allah, I forgive you." (Abu Dawud)

The miracle to result from the examples of the Prophet was the staggering transformation in the morals and manners of the people itself, who, not so many years before, were a bunch of brash, discourteous tribesmen, readily spilling blood with one another over wealth, women and status. Iqbal mentions these gifts of Prophet Muhammad in some of his inimitable verses:

He slept on a mat of rushes,
But the crown of Chosroes lay beneath the feet of his followers;
He chose the nightly solitude of Mount Hira,
And founded a nation, law and government;
He passed his nights with sleepless eyes,
That his Millet might sleep on Chosroes throne
In the hour of battle, iron was melted by the flash of his sword.
At prayer time, tears fell like drops of rain from his eyes.
In his prayer for Divine help, his Amen' was a sword,
Which extirpated the lineage of kings.
He inaugurated a new Order in the world,
He brought the empires old to an end:
In his sight the high and the low were one,
He sat with the slave at table one;
He burnt clear the distinctions of birth and clan.
His fire consumed all this trash and bran.

Do we truly appreciate what the Prophet S.A.W. has done for us? Do all of us even realise just how much he loved us and constantly worried about our fate right till the end of his life? Do we truly feel his sorrows in Taif and Uhud? Verse 178 from Surah At-Taubah tugged at my heart whenever I read it:

“Now hath come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourselves: it grieves him that ye should perish: ardently anxious is he over you: to the Believers is he most kind and merciful.”

Let’s all take a moment to reflect on our love for the Prophet and how we can best demonstrate it. Return to the core teachings of Al-Quran and As-sunnah. I realise it’s not enough to offer such general words of advice, yet to list down everything we all know but may have slipped our mind won’t fit into this one article. One of the Prophet’s last words was to uphold solaah, and whilst it is something that I’m sure we all do, let’s all try to improve on the quality of our prayers.

“Establish regular prayers - at the sun's decline till the darkness of the night, and the morning prayer and reading: for the prayer and reading in the morning carry their testimony.

And pray in the small watches of the morning (tahajjud): (it would be) an additional prayer (or spiritual profit) for thee: soon will thy Lord raise thee to a Station of Praise and Glory!”


Allahumma salli ala saiyidina Muhammad waala alihi wasahbihi ajmaiin.

Ps: Materials were extracted from As-Sirah An-Nabawiyyah by Sh. Abul Hasan Ali An-Nadwy.
Pps: To those who managed to read this without skipping so much as a sentence (I know it's long), I hope you have gained some benefits from it. ;)