Thursday, January 11, 2018

Monday, January 8, 2018

Fallen Trees, New Opportunities


A day before New Year saw heavy downpour with strong wind. A melinjo tree in my front yard fell down due to the wind, then a sour-sop tree in my backyard also fell down. The melinjo tree was actually a gift from nature. We never planted it, it just came out the earth, possibly dropped there by nocturnal animals.

The melinjo tree broke the lamp, and at first we thought it severed the telephone cable as well, but it didn't. We waited until the rain stopped and started to cut the small branches to ease us in pulling the bough to the front yard.

It's a good thing that we had a collection of sharp things. They really did a good job. My good neighbors came scurrying to help me, either they felt sorry to see a girl doing the hard work or chivalry is not dead. They did not have any tools, though. And when I asked them which tool they would like to use, they did a double take.

From this, I can deduce that one thing for sure, every girl should have a good collection of sharp things. And it should include brain.

Back to the fallen tree, I lent them machete and saw. Within 30 minutes, we managed to clean my the front yard. A neighbor asked if she could take some melinjo leaves, then she told us that the flowers could also be used. In a city where people are usually busy with their business, having a quick chat over melinjo bough is quite entertaining.


The next day, I found that the sour-sop tree in the back yard also fell. I remembered a friend had mentioned that she needed sour-sop leaves to cure her husband's leukemia. So I picked the leaves and asked her if she still needed some. She said yes, and I gave the leaves when we met a few days later for our annual lunch ritual.

I also asked the organic vegetable agents if they needed any. One agent responded and came to my house a few days later to pick up the leaves. She told me to take care of the sour-sop tree because many people needed the leaves, and I could sell the leaves through the agents.

I have always thought that a fallen tree meant the end of a life. It's funny how two fallen trees have opened spaces for conversations. But I guess life works in a funny way. I should learn to listen more to any opportunities in any situations.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Ayyamul Bidh Schedule In 2018



M introduced me to Ayyamul Bidh, a sunnah fasting conducted in the middle of Hijriyah months or on the 13-14-15 of each month. At first, it felt weird to fast outside of the normally Monday and Thursday sunnah fasting. But then a colleague followed, saying that she used to do ayyamul bidh when she was younger (she's 50-something now) and another one who is in his early 20s even asked me to wake him up via phonecall for sahur (pre-dawn meal) on those days (I really feel like I'm everyone's auntie now).

Sometimes the days fall between Monday and Thursday, so I usually combine the two types of fasting. There is a je-ne-sais-quoi peaceful state of mind when doing fasting, either Ramadhan or other sunnah fasting. 

Since the world uses Gregorian calendar system and Muslims use our own lunar calendar system, there is an 11-day difference. Here is this year's calendar for ayyamul bidh. Feel free to use it, but again, ayyamul bidh is sunnah. There is no expulsion :)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Is The Year Of Changing Speed


It's the last day of the year, which means it's time for that yearender post.

Hello lovelies!

2017 kicked off quite slowly. I even managed to watch my first international ballet gala in February, but then the months rolled onto the fast lane as I had to finish all my work before the end of my work contract, which ended in June.

I've been wanting to experience a project closing, and this year, I finally got what I wished. In June 2017, I was released from the project I've been working with since April 2015. At first, I was scheduled for release at the end of May. But a week before May, the HR asked me if I would be available for one-month contract extension. 

I was actually looking forward to spending Ramadhan in peace. But the HR really asked a favor, and I thought I had yet to have a new job in the pipeline anyway, so I said okay. Despite having to work during Ramadhan, I still had some peace and even did i'tikaf

I only had 10 days of freedom after the end of contract as I got another job and the first day of work at the new office was July 10.  The new office is in Tebet, South Jakarta. It's in a residential area, but it is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and parks. It takes only 15 minutes to walk from Tebet station to the office. I spent much of free time exploring the eateries.

Have you also noticed that I have posted in this space quite a lot after I was released from previous workplace? That previous job really took a lot of my time and mind. I have been able to allocate more time to write and plan for posts since July this year. Having free time is a real privilege.

But the best thing about current job is it has sent me to Sumba Island. I've been to Flores Island and Timor Island, but those trips didn't really prepare me for Sumba, which is one of Indonesia's outer islands. There are several small islands in the southern part of Sumba, and people says that if we look towards the southern sky on a cloudless morning, we can see Australia's northern territory skyline!

The project in Sumba island will conclude in March 2018, so I need to find new workplace after New Year. However, there is a wonderful update in the work department: I got a freelance job from a former colleague. Good things come if you treat other people kindly, this is so true. The freelance job will last until end of 2018. It's my safety parachute should I had no permanent job after March 2018.

This year, I tried my hands at organic produce trade, and am still learning. It's definitely not easy, especially if you're living in a low-middle class area and the goods you're selling is organic produce. Some neighbors don't even care about eating healthy as long as they eat. One good thing from this experience was I knew how to cook vegetable. Just stir fry them with oyster sauce!

I threw vegetable stalks on my backyard, and they all grew! Since I put the stalks randomly, they kind of grew in a disconcerted pattern. M told me to place them in a dedicated pot. So I turned a former water pipe into a plant pot and moved most of the vegetable sprouts there. Let's hope they survive in the new habitat.

Also this year, I watched my first horror movie, Joko Anwar's Pengabdi Setan, in a cinema. It's a milestone for a scaredy cat like me. I watched quite a lot of movies this year but only a handful that made it into this blogs, including Marlina The Murderer in Four Acts and Arrival.

I thought I would not have any holiday trip this year. Then a friend called and asked me to accompany her to Bali because she had a hotel voucher that would expire in October. It was a very random request, but I decided to join her. We didn't do much during our three day and four nights there, it was a very relaxed holiday, no itinerary, no rush.

2017 has been a year with low achievement. No vacation abroad, no big plans, so unlike me in previous years. It's a year of changing speed, from slow to fast to slow again. Nevertheless, I still found that it has been a beautiful year too.

How was your 2017? Wishing you a wonderful New Year's Eve and an amazing year ahead, dearest.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Alchemist of Happiness


2004 | Director: Ovidio Salazar | 80 minutes

A friend introduced me to this movie, which is available on this link (I hope it will still be available in the long run). I also hope I can do this movie and this Muslim figure a bit of justice through this review.

The movie tells the life of Imam Al Ghazali through three methods: (1) actors portraying Imam Al Ghazali and people in his life, (2) the narrator who travels to Imam Al Ghazali's notable sites, and (3) the scholars who had conducted extensive studies on Imam Al Ghazali and his works.

Born in 1058 in Tus, Khorasan - present day Iran - Al Ghazali started to learn about sufism after the passing of his father that made him and his little brother to be in the care of a Sufi. He was thirsty of knowledge and would go to other cities to learn about theology from teachers, scholars, lecturers and people of knowledge.

But some of his most important lessons came from unexpected source. Once, his travel group was ambushed by a gang of mobs. He pleaded to one of the mobs to not destroy his textbooks and other writings he had copied from his teachers. The mob looked him in the eye and said,"So all I have to do is take them from you to strip you of your knowledge."

He began memorizing his lessons because he realized that "you only possess what you don't lose when the ship wrecks." He didn't write anything on the theology until he had memorized at least 12,000 pages written by great theologians on Islam.

He joined the court of Nizam al Mulk, a powerful vizier of the Seljuq sultan, and soon came to prominence in Nizamiyyah college in Baghdad. However, he experienced a spiritual crisis in 1095, during which he decided to go on a pilgrimage and live in seclusion.

Al Ghazali lived during the period of upheavals and uncertainties. People looked up to the clerics and took sides. As time went by, many people only had concerns on who-said-what without paying attention or questioning that what the clerics said could possibly be wrong. It's pretty much like today.

Al Ghazali realized that human's nature and one of its basic conditions is the emptiness and ignorance to the unseen world of God. He observed that the external factors shape different forms of revelation and religious experience.

Syaikh Hamza Yusuf from Zaytuna Institute says that God is the Ultimate Concern, and if we replace God from our lives, we should find a substitute. "This is human nature, to fill that hollow space, because humans are hollow beings," he says. 

Syaikh Hamza Yusuf adds that Imam Al Ghazali gets the idea of what will ultimately come and perishing, and what goes on forever. Therefore, Al Ghazali spends his lifetime to learn what one needs for the infinite journey.

But what does one need? What is the human nature, or fitrah as Muslim calls it?

D. Mahmoud Bina, Professor of Mathematics and Philosophy at Isphahan University of Technology, says that fitrah means nature of man as created by God. It is love of God and worship of God, because that is what humans created for. "The highest worship is to know (ma'rifat) God. If serving God means knowing God, then it signifies that God has given men the tools that one can know Him," he says.

Al Ghazali takes the knowledge in the cosmology based on the Islamic concept of Tauhid (oneness) and how the unity of God manifests through the diversity in the world. One of the many veils that keeps people from seeing God is religious fanaticism. For Al Ghazali, "an ignorant Muslim is more dangerous than non-believer because the ignorant only accepts what is right by who said it, rather than what has been said."

TJ Winter, Lecturer of Islamic Studies at Cambridge University, said that Al Ghazali showed that in the heart of every belief, every practice of Islam, there is a spiritual purpose, process of repentance and transformation (hijrah). That is why Al Ghazali is called Proof of Islam.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Wednesday's Wraps - #RabuRok

I have been a tomboy in my pre-hijab days. I have been wearing hijab for more than 12 years, but  sometime I still dress up in androgyny style: boots, straight leg/boyfriend jeans, cargo pants. Some things are hard to let go. 

On any work days, you would see me in shirt-pants combo. To achieve self-improvement, I do try to set some rules and boundaries on dressing up (or down), though. For example, (1) I buy wide-leg pants, (2) pair straight-leg pants with knee-length or at least thigh-length shirts, and (3) wear skirts once a week (I pick Wednesday, because it's the least busy day in a week). Other rules include: (4) only wear cargo pants and other utilitarian pants when I travel/go to the field/do some nature sightseeing, (5) wear my boots with skirts, which is the least I can do to reduce its masculine vibe.

M dislikes the boots and has been trying to change this tomboy girl into a ladylike woman, quoting a hadith that forbids women to dress like men, and vice versa. We have been arguing on this issue. In my defense, I do not wear boots to resemble men, but rather to anticipate the rain.

I have checked Islamic clothing requirements, and so far found several rules as the following:
  • Clothing should cover body parts that should be covered. For women, the standard of modesty calls for clothing that cover body, except face and hands, with headscarf should cover chest area. As for men, the minimum coverage area is between navel and knees. However, bare-chested men in public space (unless it's public swimming pool area, I suppose) would be frowned upon.
  • Clothing should be loose, not skin tight or body-hugging
  • Clothing should be thick enough, of opaque color and fabric, not transparent
  • Overall appearance should be dignify and modest, not flashy/shiny/attract public attention
  • Clothing should not imitate people of other faiths
  • Clothing is just one aspect, but beyond clothing there lies more important purpose: what you wear should reflect what is in your heart.  
Apart from the boots issue, I do try to improve each day. But I also want to do it in small steps, making the efforts ingrained in my daily habit, instead of a forced habit. 

A friend once asked my opinion on whether she should wear hijab after she performed umrah (short time pilgrimage). "Girl, you'd be damned for not wearing hijab, and you would still be damned if you're wearing it. Also, if you ever decided to wear and then you took it off, you'd be even more damned than ever," I told her. I didn't say that to discourage her, but rather to show her how the society, including the Muslim communities, always judge other people. Reading this interview with Australian young ballerina Stephanie Kurlow on wearing hijab and being a ballerina has been quite humbling. 

Here are some of my Wednesday's wraps or #RabuRok in Bahasa.



If you are like me, a woman struggling to wear skirts, I would love to hear your story :).