Saturday, August 27, 2011

dirgahayu tanah airku : can Malaysia reform

Can M'sia reform and still discriminate?

by Bill Tarrant •

Dr Mahathir Mohamad sits at a vast desk cluttered with work, hands clasped before him and looking at his visitors with a slight smile.

Dr M, as he is popularly known, was prime minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, the first commoner to ever hold the post in a land with nine sultans. His demeanor suggests the country physician he once was, ready with a frank diagnosis - and in his first interview with the foreign media in five years, he doles out prescriptions for what ails his nation.

The man who made Malaysia part of the ‘East Asia Miracle’ with a massive inflow of foreign direct investment doesn't think much of it today. The former miracle economy, now a muddle, needs a new policy direction, he says in his office in Putrajaya, the administrative capital he built on old plantation land in the 1990s.

"We should not be too dependent on FDI anymore," says Mahathir. "We've come to the stage when locals can invest. They have now the capital. They have the technology. They know the market. And I think they can manage big industries."

His thinking is at odds with government policy. But it gets to the heart of a debate over the future of Malaysia, a former emerging market star now in danger of becoming an also-ran,
stuck in the dreaded "middle income trap."

Foreign investment has been dwindling since the onset of the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis. Capital outflows have even exceeded inflows in four of the past five years. This has been accompanied by an alarming ‘brain drain’ of emigres voting with their feet against Malaysia's prospects.

Malaysia is counting on foreign investment to provide a quarter of the investments needed to fund projects under its ‘Economic Transformation Programme’, which aims to turn the country of 28 million into a fully developed nation by 2020.

That comes to an average of more than US$11 billion a year, compared with an average of US$3.1 billion since 1997 - by any measure an ambitious target.

The challenge is vastly more complicated by the exodus of talent that hits directly at Malaysia's aspiration to become a high-income nation focused on knowledge-based industries.

"For Malaysia to stand success in its journey to high income, it will need to develop, attract and retain talent," the World Bank said in a March report. "Brain drain does not appear to square with this objective: Malaysia needs talent, but talent seems to be leaving."

The rise of China and India in the region has overshadowed the export-dependent ‘Tiger Cub’ economies of Southeast Asia, all struggling with their own reforms. Thailand has been at a
dangerous political impasse for six years. Indonesia is consistently ranked as among the world's most corrupt countries. The Philippines is battling long-running insurgencies.

Yet Malaysia does not compare well with its peers in the eyes of investors. A March report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch ranked Malaysia the second least popular market after Colombia among global emerging market fund managers and tied with India for least favourite among Asia-Pacific managers.

A chief difficulty is the nation's balky affirmative action programme.

Ethnic Chinese account for most of the brain drain. The reason 60 percent of them gave for why they moved out of the motherland was ‘social injustice’, a World Bank survey says.

They are referring to the bumiputera policy that discriminates against Chinese and Indians, who account for a third of the population, in favour of majority Malays for all kinds of things - places in universities, jobs, shares in companies, home mortgages, government contracts.

The government acknowledges the policy has been widely abused, with Malay front men offering their names to Chinese businesses to obtain government contracts, an arrangement known as ‘Ali Baba’, after the character in Arabian Nights who gains entrance to the treasure cave of the 40 thieves with the magic words ‘Open Sesame’.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has launched a new edition of the policy called the New Economic Model that is meant to correct the inequities, mainly by making preferences need-based and not race-based. But as the World Bank report noted, "limited headway has been made on this front."

It is certainly not popular with the rank and file Malays in Najib's Umno party.

Making significant reforms to the system is crucial to Malaysia's aspirations, but any rollback of privileges for the majority is a big political risk for any government that tries

It is the Malaysian dilemma.

The impossible game

Idris Jala, the minister in charge of greatly boosting investment and wooing back emigres under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), calls it the impossible game.

He is an unlikely character in the Malaysian cabinet, a Christian from the Kelabit tribe in Sarawak who spent most of his career running companies, including the Malaysian unit of Royal Dutch Shell and Malaysia Airlines.

"I am a true believer that real transformation goes hand in hand with the game of the impossible," Idris says in an e-mail interview. He sets impossible targets, is "very directive" and pushes his team constantly "to do the right things, but differently" until they are finally "one step ahead of you".

“When you do transformation, you cannot achieve big results by democracy," he notes.

The ETP aims to attract RM1.4 trillion (US$466 billion) by 2020 in a dozen broad industries. Only 8 percent of that will come from the government, which has long dominated the economy, either directly or through government-linked firms. Idris disclosed to Reuters that foreign investment will account for 27 percent of the total.

He wants to climb the value ladder in the targeted industries.

Take birds' nests, for example. Nests made with the saliva of swifts have been collected for centuries from huge limestone caves in Idris' home state of Sarawak to make the most expensive soup on earth. Processing them would give Malaysia a bigger chunk of a global market worth US$3.3 billion, he said.

Foreign investment will also provide many of the 3.3 million jobs that will be created under the ETP, whose over-arching goal is to raise per capita income to US$15,000 from US$6,700 in 2009.

A challenge will be to upgrade skills in a labour force long geared to basic manufacturing and plantations, attract foreign talent, and try to reverse some of the ‘brain drain’. About 700,000 Malaysians work abroad.

A new agency called ‘Talent Corporation’ has been given this task, offering tax breaks for Malaysians to return home and easing visa restrictions for foreigners.

But the shift from low-cost manufacturing and plantations to more knowledge intensive work needs to take place in an environment where creativity and freedom of inquiry can flourish to draw talent and investment. The Malaysian model of ethnic preferences has not been conducive to that.


Mahathir remains a towering figure. In public forums and in his blog, he is a scourge to the government of the day, influential, for instance, in forcing the early retirement of his anointed successor, Abdullah Badawi. But while he's a critic of his successors, he is a strong defender of the Malaysian system he built.

Mahathir came to office as the foremost champion of Malay privileges. Under his administration, the ‘bumiputera rules’ led to a mingling of politics and business that largely benefited a coterie of Malay and Chinese businessmen.

Huge government building projects kept the contracts flowing and the political machine running. Mahathir says as much in the interview, citing the slowdown in big projects as the reason for the steady attrition of Chinese support for his successors in office.

"What is happening is the Chinese feel that in the economic area, the business area, they are not receiving the kind of benefits they got during previous times," he said. "The moment I stepped down, all the projects were stopped ... When you stop big government projects, a lot of people - well, their businesses will go down."

In March, Mahathir published an 809-page autobiography, ‘A Doctor in the House’. His main motivation in writing it was "to make corrections of the opinions and the accusations that were leveled at me" - especially that he systematically undermined the judiciary.

It is the biggest stain on his record. He authorised the arrest of his deputy and heir apparent, Anwar Ibrahim, on sodomy and corruption charges after the two men fell out over how to handle the Asian financial crisis. The trial was denounced in and out of Malaysia as a farce that called into question the rule of law.

The financial crisis and Anwar's conviction marked a watershed. Foreign investors became wary about Malaysia, and a country once a haven for foreign investment was shunned.

"Ten-twenty years ago, Malaysia was it," said a regional president of a European-based distribution company. "But then came 1997 and the rule of law was exposed for what it was. We once looked at Malaysia for a regional headquarters but rule of law and the bumi policy made us choose Singapore instead."

Mahathir retired in 2003, but Malaysia has yet to inspire confidence again. Economic growth has fallen along with investment, averaging 4.6 percent in the decade that ended in 2010 from an average 7.2 percent in the 1990s.

Field of cyber dreams

Putrajaya is a monument to Muslim Malay culture. Graceful minarets and gleaming blue domes dominate the skyline and a bridge across an artificial lake was inspired by the famous one in Isfahan, Iran. More than 90 percent of the residents are bumiputeras.

Across Putrajaya lake from Mahathir's office is a curious community of knowledge workers called Cyberjaya. The town is a place where the contentious "bum rules" do not apply.

Cyberjaya is home to about 500 IT companies and two universities. It has a daytime population of 41,000 but only 14,000 full-time residents sleep there overnight. This town is filled with futuristic-looking buildings but has few residential neighbourhoods and little in the way of amenities, not yet anyway.

Cyberjaya was one of Mahathir's last big projects. It was to be Malaysia's answer to California's Silicon Valley, the key difference being this one would be a ready-made town, built on old plantation land, in hopes technology innovators would come.

Cyberjaya offers foreign investors a waiver of the bumiputera rules that require equity stakes and employment for ethnic Malays. It also guaranteed the Internet would not be censored, in a country that kept the media on a tight leash.

Cyberjaya was part of a grand plan to avoid the emerging market middle income trap Malaysia was falling into because it could no longer compete for manufacturing jobs, especially with China.

Then the financial crisis hit and Mahathir's response spooked potential investors. Blaming Jewish conspirators for the crisis, he imposed capital controls to stop short-selling of the
ringgit. Anwar was arrested the day after that.

Some US$30 billion in portfolio investment fled Malaysia in 1997; most of it has yet to return. Key foreign investors scrapped plans for Cyberjaya and for years Malaysia struggled to woo them back. The effort now appears to be bearing fruit.

Last October, Hewlett Packard launched a multi-purpose client servicing center in Cyberjaya, the single biggest investment by a technology multinational in Malaysia. HP said it would provide 4,000 jobs. It joins Dell, DHL, IBM, Fujitsu, Nokia and DoCoMo among others in the 29-square-kilometre town.

Since 2009, Cyberjaya has attracted RM7.12 billion (US$2.37 billion) in investment, compared with a total of RM4.62 billion in the previous 11 years.

Success has given Hafidz Hashim, managing director of Cyberview Sdn Bhd, the town's developer, a new problem.

“Entertainment," Hafiz said when asked what his "citizens" want the most. He is known as "the mayor of Cyberjaya because his company acts as both builder and city manager.

More than half the projected investment over the next three years will be for residential property, Hafidz said in an interview. Cyberview has already built a community center and clubhouse and plans to build a huge entertainment complex, along with more shops and restaurants.

It is far from Malaysia's answer to Silicon Valley, though. Cyberjaya is home to server farms, data storage facilities and client service centers, the low end of the Internet economy. There is little in the way of R&D underway.

Arvin Singh, 22, has just quit his job at the HP plant because he was "constantly doing the same thing over and over again" and not growing on the job. Most of his co-workers were content to remain in this "comfort zone," he said.

"But one must constantly work to expand one's knowledge," Singh says, adding he plans to study overseas to get further qualified.

Hafidz said one of his biggest challenges is meeting the skills companies in Cyberjaya need, and which Malaysia's education system is not providing. He has set up a ‘Knowledge Workers Development Institute’ where companies can send workers for training, and on-the-job training programmes. Cyberjaya's success after a sputtering start has inspired similar projects in the country.

The most ambitious is one emerging just north of Singapore called Iskandar Malaysia. It will eventually be a metropolis three times the size of Singapore with theme parks, international schools and colleges, hotels and hospitals, a movie studio, a financial centre and luxury homes. It has attracted US$23 billion in promised investments, nearly half from overseas.

Iskandar is one of five "economic growth corridors" Malaysia is developing with incentives to foreign investors. They are, in effect, investment zones ring-fenced from the mainstream economy where business and politics have long entwined.

Fear for future

Months after Mahathir took power in 1981, a Malaysian Chinese banker packed up his family in the southern city of Johor Bahru and moved to Singapore. He had grown uneasy about the future as Mahathir took an increasingly interventionist approach to the economy and ramped up the affirmative action policy.

Those uncertainties have only increased for a Chinese community that abandoned the ruling BN coalition in the 2008 general election and are now deserting the country in ever mounting numbers. The World Bank said the Malaysian diaspora has quadrupled over the past three decades.

"People are unhappy about the way the (policy) has been exploited, the way it has degenerated into some kind of apartheid policy," said the banker, who requested only his
surname, Lee, be used.

"They say come back, we'll give you tax breaks. But when you move back, you're not talking just about your career, but your children's future. And it's this perception of uncertainty that holds them back. They feel the society they have moved to is more assuring that the one they came from."

Lee's son, a medical doctor, said the overseas Chinese Malaysian community has now become anxious about the growing force of political Islam. Last year, 10 churches and two mosques were desecrated after a high court ruled Christians could use the word Allah for God in their literature.

"A lot of people are now worried about a hyper-religious government taking power, and then all that they worked so hard for goes up in smoke."

Kalimullah Hassan, former group editor of pro-government New Straits Times publications, understands their anxiety.

A bumiputera himself, Kalimullah worries about the emergence of right-wing politicians trying to win back Malays, nearly half of whom voted for a multi-ethnic opposition coalition headed by Anwar Ibrahim in 2008.

"To unite the Malays, they raise the bogeyman - other races, specifically the Chinese and foreigners who are supposedly out to displace the Malays in their own homeland - and in doing so, they've upped the ante in race relations," Kalimullah says.

The politics of patronage is no longer working because there isn't enough largesse to spread around in a country whose population has nearly tripled since 1970 and with capital inflows and growth slowing, Kalimullah says.

What Malaysia needs now more than ever is the meritocracy Prime Minister Najib has proposed in his New Economic Model. Otherwise its human capital will be stunted, he says.

"In the mid-to-long term, Malaysia is going to be left further behind by a world which has already realised that human capital is its greatest asset."

- Reuters

a paste blog from baldimerah

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kaabah :pengalaman Ustaz Haron Din

Pengalaman Ustaz Haron Din Masuk Dalam Kaabah

Oleh: Tuan Guru Dato’ Dr. Haron Din

Saya pernah tawaf di Baitullah seorang diri. Pelik tetapi benar. Waktu itu iaitu empat tahun sudah (2001) saya datang ke Mekah, Allah taala lah yang mengaturkannya, saya dapat peluang untuk masuk ke dalam Kaabah. Sebab saya datang atas tetamu tokey yang membuat dan membersihkan Masjidil Haram.

Pagi itu saya datang awal. Pengawal keselamatan baru memagar keliling Kaabah dan saya dapat masuk ke dalam pagar itu sebab saya ada Pass VIP. Ketika itu tetamu-tetamu lain tak sampai lagi. Ketika itu lah saya tawaf seorang diri di hadapan Kaabah. Lepas saya habis tawaf baru tetamu-tetamu lain sampai. Ketika itulah saya nampak Hajarul Aswad seterang-seterangnya, ia tidak lagi hitam tetapi sudah kemerah-kemerahan.

Bila pintu Kaabah di buka saya orang yang ke tiga masuk ke dalam. Pertama pembuka pintu Kaabah iaitu daripada Bani Syaibah.

Pembuka pintu itu sudah tua, dia melatih anaknya yang berumur lebih kurang empat tahun untuk membuka pintu Kaabah itu.

Sejarah pintu Kaabah itu, kalau orang yang lain tidak boleh buka. Dia hanya boleh di buka oleh pemegang kunci itu sahaja dari keturunan Bani Syaibah. Bila Nabi meninggalkan Mekah kerana berhijrah ke Madinah, Mekah di kuasai oleh Bani Syaibah. Bani Syaibah ini adalah keturunan yang di amanahkan untuk memegang kunci kaabah sejak turun temurun.

Bila nabi balik semula ke Mekah dalam tahun 7 hijiriah, berlaku peperangan pembukaan Mekah, nabi menang dan orang Islam berkuasa ke atas Mekah. Nabi menghantar Sayidina Ali untuk mengambil kunci pintu Kaabah daripada Bani Syaibah. Sayidina Ali pergi ke Bani Syaibah dan rampas kunci tersebut. Bani Syaibah serahkan kunci kepada Sayidina Ali tetapi bila pintu Kaabah nak di buka tak boleh. Sekejap sahaja datang Jibrail kepada Nabi membawa wahyu dari Allah. Al-Quran (An-Nisaa’:58)

Mahfumnya “Sesungguhnya Allah menyuruh kamu menyampaikan amanat kepada yang berhak menerimanya”

Nabi bagi balik kunci itu kepada Bani Syaibah, walaupun ketika itu Bani Syaibah belum Islam lagi. Rupa-rupanya bila bagi balik, Bani Syaibah kata mesti dia seorang nabi. Kalau dia bukan seorang nabi pasti dia gila kuasa kerana memegang kunci ini adalah satu penghormatan turun temurun. Bila kunci ini dipulangkan balik, ketua Bani Syaibah terbuka hatinya memeluk Islam kemudian semua pengikutnya memeluk Islam sehingga hari ini.

Budak kecil tadi dibawa tangannya untuk pegang kunci oleh bapanya kemudian di buka dan di tolak pintu itu. Saya lihat di depan saya. Berapa besar pintu itu? Berapa tebalnya? Pintu itu dibuat dari Solid Gold beratnya 8 tan. Dia tolak senang sahaja, kemudian kami masuk.

Mula-mula sekali saya pergi sembahyang di satu ruang belakang pintu Kaabah yang menghadap ke arah Hajaral Aswad (dari dalam) iaitu di bahagian Multazam. Selama sejam saya berada di dalam Kaabah itu.

Di dalam Kaabah itu masih ada lampu yang digunakan pada zaman nabi dahulu. Zaman Kerajaan Umaiyyah ditukar lampu lain seterusnya zaman Kerajaan Abasiyah juga tukar lampu. Apabila lampu di tukar, lampu yang lama di simpan di dalam Kaabah. Berpuluh-puluh atau mungkin beratus-ratus lampu lama ada disimpan di dalam itu.

Gambar Dalam Kaabah

Pengalaman kedua, saya membantu salah seorang yang terkaya di Saudi Arabia, multi-billionaire, semua projek di Saudi dia yang buat. Dia ada masalah keluarga mintak tolong saya ikhtiarkan. Allah nak tunjukkan bahawa masalah yang dihadapi itu telah terlalu lama, ada duit yang banyak pun tak boleh selesai.

Dia tunggu saya di airport Jeddah dengan jet peribadi. Saya tak pergi imigresen dia terus ambil saya dari tangga kapal terbang terus masuk ke jet dia. Sungguh kuat pengaruh dia, saya tanya passport saya bagaimana, tak ada masalah dia dah uruskan. Naik jet dia pergi ke Madinah. Saya selesaikan masalah dia dengan izin Allah SWT. Lepas itu biasalah adat orang Arab nak bagi itu nak bagi ini sebagai balasan.

Dalam Kaabah

Saya kata kepada dia, “Kalau kamu nak masalah itu selesai selama-lamanya dan tak berulang semula, jangan bagi pada aku apa-apa, kalau kamu bagi, aku boleh terima tetapi masalah itu akan berulang balik.”

Dia mintak maaf tetapi dia kata “Aku nak buat sesuatu untuk kamu apa yang kamu nak?”. Saya kata “Ok kalau begitu apa yang aku nak tolong bawak aku masuk ke dalam Kaabah.” Dia kata “Itu mudah sangat, esok pun aku boleh arah buka”. Saya kata “Tak apalah kamu arahlah”. Dia kata “Tak apa itu perkara kecil, mintak yang lain.” Saya kata “Tidak, itu paling besar pada saya. Kalau kamu boleh bawa masuk aku ke dalam Kaabah, itu sudah lebih daripada cukup.”

Akhirnya saya dapat masuk. Saya masuk dengan dia ke dalam Kaabah, itulah kenangan yang tak boleh saya lupa sampai hari ini.

a paste blog

Thursday, August 18, 2011


17 August, 2011

Home » , , » [Gambar] Isi Kandungan Kaabah

[Gambar] Isi Kandungan Kaabah
oleh skype crew

Assalamualaikum & Salam Sejahtera,


SELAMA beratus-ratus tahun, soalan apa ada di dalam Kaabah menjadi misteri kepada berjuta-juta umat Islam yang melakukan tawaf mengelilingi ‘Rumah Allah’ itu. Hanya golongan diraja Arab Saudi, pemimpin negara Islam dan orang tertentu dibenarkan memasukinya terutama semasa acara mencuci Kaabah yang dilakukan setahun sekali.

Bagaimanapun, pada tahun 2009 masyarakat dunia dapat menyaksikan rahsia Kaabah menerusi sebuah klip video yang dimuat naik ke dalam YouTube. Rakaman video selama lebih empat minit itu didakwa adalah yang pertama seumpamanya yang boleh ditonton oleh orang ramai. Sebelum ini, keadaan di dalam bangunan batu yang terletak di dalam Masjidil Haram di Mekah itu sekadar digambarkan dan diceritakan dari mulut ke mulut.

Paparan di dalam video itu hampir menyamai cerita seorang wartawan dari Singapura, Ahmad Mohd. Don. Menurut beliau, keadaan di dalam Kaabah itu gelap. Tidak ada sebarang lampu. Satu-satunya cahaya yang menerangi bahagian dalam Kaabah itu datangnya dari pintu Kaabah yang terbuka.

“Asap kemenyan memenuhi ruang dalam Kaabah itu. Lantainya pula dibasahi air mawar yang mengeluarkan bau semerbak,” kata beliau yang mendapat peluang memasuki Kaabah semasa menunaikan haji di Mekah pada 8 September 1983 atas undangan khas kerajaan Arab Saudi.

dalam Kaabah


Tambah Ahmad, hampir di setiap bahagian dinding Kaabah itu, para undangan menunaikan sembahyang sunat dengan khusyuk. Mereka menghadap tiap bahagian dinding Kaabah. Lantai Kaabah dibuat daripada marmar putih. Begitu juga dindingnya. Pada satu bahagian dinding itu, kelihatan ukiran ayat-ayat suci.

“Terdapat beberapa batang tiang di dalam Kaabah. Besar tiang itu kira-kira satu pemeluk. Pada satu bahagian dinding itu disalut dengan kayu yang berukiran. Mungkin ukiran ayat-ayat suci al-Quran. “Terdapat juga para yang di atasnya diletakkan beberapa buah cerek yang kelihatan diperbuat daripada tembaga.

“Tidak saya ketahui apakah yang ada dalam cerek itu. Berkemungkinan besar ia berisi air mawar yang digunakan untuk mencuci bahagian dalam Kaabah,” katanya yang cuma menghabiskan masa selama lapan minit di dalamnya bagi memberi peluang kepada tetamu lain yang menunggu giliran untuk memasuki Kaabah.

Pendakwah bebas, Datuk Mohd. Daud Che Ngah menjelaskan bahawa tiada apa-apa sekatan dari sudut agama untuk membuat rakaman gambar atau video di dalam Kaabah.

Bahkan, jelas beliau, undang-udang baharu oleh pihak berkuasa Arab Saudi turut membenarkan penggunaan kamera di kawasan Masjidil Haram. Sebelum ini undang-undang negara itu melarang penggunaan alat elektronik tersebut di kawasan Kaabah. Tambah Daud, orang awam berpeluang memasukinya semasa lawatan pemimpin Arab Saudi mahupun pemimpin negara Islam lain ke Masjidil Haram.

“Pintu Kaabah akan dibuka semasa lawatan pembesar dan juga ketika hari pertukaran kain Kaabah menjelang Hari Raya Aidiladha,” katanya kepada Jurnal. Daud turut menyangkal dakwaan dan cerita yang menyatakan orang yang mendongak ke bumbung Kaabah selepas memasukinya boleh ditimpa musibah.

Menurut Daud, orang ramai juga boleh melihat replika Kaabah di Muzium Islam Hudaibiyah, Mekah. Ia menyerupai isi kandungan sebenar di dalam Kaabah termasuklah tiga batang tiang dan hiasan ayat-ayat al-Quran.

pintu Kaabah


Hanya terdapat sebuah pintu untuk memasuki Kaabah dan ia dikatakan diperbuat daripada emas tulen seberat lapan tan (8,000 kilogram).

Pintu Kaabah itu pula hanya boleh dibuka oleh pemegang kunci dari Bani Syaibah. Menurut sejarah Islam, apabila Nabi Muhammad SAW meninggalkan Mekah kerana berhijrah ke Madinah, Mekah dikuasai oleh Bani Syaibah.

Pada tahun ketujuh Hijrah, berlaku perang pembukaan kota Mekah yang dimenangi tentera Islam. Berikutan itu, Saidina Ali diarahkan supaya mengambil kunci itu daripada Bani Syaibah, malangnya pintu Kaabah tidak dapat dibuka walaupun menggunakan anak kunci yang sama.

Anak kunci itu kemudian dipulangkan kepada Bani Syaibah atas perintah Allah menerusi ayat 58, surah An-Nisa’ yang mafhumnya, ‘Sesungguhnya Allah menyuruh kamu menyampaikan amanat kepada yang berhak menerimanya’.

Pada masa itu, Bani Syaibah belum memeluk Islam. Tindakan Rasullulah memulangkan semula kunci Kaabah itu telah membuka hati ketua Bani Syaibah untuk memeluk Islam diikuti semua pengikutnya. Keturunan Bani Syaibah telah diamanahkan untuk memegang kunci Kaabah sehingga hari ini.

kredit : info-gallery

a paste blog from skype crew

Friday, August 12, 2011




When is Ramadan?

Find the dates for Ramadan 2011 in the multifaith calendar

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast during daylight hours.

There are several reasons why Ramadan is considered important:

  • The Qur'an was first revealed during this month
  • The gates of Heaven are open
  • The gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained up in Hell.

The Qur'an revealed

The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong)

[al-Baqarah 2:185]

The actual night that the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad is called Lailat ul Qadr, and to stand in prayer on this one night is said to be better than a thousand months of worship.

Ramadan is often called 'month of the Qur'an' because of this, and Muslims attempt to recite as much of the Qur'an as they can during the month. Most mosques will recite one thirtieth of the Qur'an each night during the Taraweeh prayers.

No one knows on which particular night the Qur'an was first revealed, but it is said to be one of the last ten nights of Ramadan.

The gates of Heaven are open and the gates of Hell are closed

It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "When Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are put in chains."

(Agreed upon)

Muslims believe that their good actions bring a greater reward during this month than at any other time of year, because this month has been blessed by Allah.

They also believe that it is easier to do good in this month because the devils have been chained in Hell, and so can't tempt believers. This doesn't mean that Muslims will not behave badly, but that any evil that they do comes from within themselves, without additional encouragement from Satan.

Almost all Muslims try to give up bad habits during Ramadan, and some will try to become better Muslims by praying more or reading the Qur'an.

Muslims believe that this is one way that the chaining up of the devils is manifested, since there is no other reason for them to do so.


Special practices

There are a number of special practices which are only done during Ramadan.

Fasting the whole month long

Although Muslims fast during other times of the year, Ramadan is the only time when fasting, or sawm, is obligatory during the entire month for every able Muslim.

Ramadan is intended to increase self-control in all areas, including food, sleeping, sex and the use of time.

Taraweeh Prayers

These are long night prayers, which are not obligatory, but highly recommended.

Mosques are filled with worshippers who go to attend these prayers, which usually last for one and a half to two hours.

These prayers also give Muslims a chance to meet at the mosque every day, and so they also help to improve relationships in the Muslim community.


I'tikaf refers to going into seclusion during the last ten nights of Ramadan, in order to seek Lailat ul Qadr by praying and reading the Qur'an. Some people live in the mosque during this time for serious reflection and worship. Others spend a few hours at the mosque or home.


The date of Ramadan

Find the dates for Ramadan 2011 in the multifaith calendar


Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and as with all months in the Islamic calendar, its start is based on the sighting of the new moon.

There can be confusion and disagreement over the starting date of this month. Since the month is full of blessings and marks the beginning of fasting, or sawm, accuracy is very important.

Since Muslims live all over the world, but Islam started in what is now known as Saudi Arabia, they may not agree as to which country’s first moon sighting marks the start of the month.

But although Muslims do often start and end Ramadan on slightly different days, there is little real ill will, and it is forgotten once the fasting starts.

Sighting in each country

Some Muslims believe that a new moon sighting from their individual country marks the start of Ramadan.

One argument for accepting this is that Islam is regarded as a way of life for all people. Choosing a local sighting includes those who do not have access to technology or fast communication.

It's argued that unity within a known geographic location is more important than celebrating Ramadan with people who live in another country or continent.

Sighting in Saudi Arabia

Other Muslims believe that the sighting of the new moon from Saudi Arabia marks the beginning of Ramadan.

They believe this unifies all Muslims, as well as carrying on the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad.


Some Muslims believe that technology should be used to mark the true date.

In 2006, the Fiqh Council of North America decided they will no longer use naked eye sightings of the moon, but will use astronomical calculations instead to determine the start of Ramadan. Not all Muslims agree with this approach.


Health advice

Advice on health during Ramadan

In this section, Professor Saghir Akhtar gives his health tips for fasting.

Ramadan is a month where believers learn to exercise self-control. A major facet of this is the abstinence from food and drink that is prescribed to all healthy Muslims during the hours of sunrise to sunset. Although the sick are exempt, many continue to fast and therefore abstain not only from eating and drinking water but also from consuming oral medications and intravenous nutritional fluids. This article provides a personal reflection on what advice might be pertinent for fasting Muslims in good health and those on medication.

Advice on diet

Sacks of grain and beans

During years where Ramadan falls in the winter, and the long hot days of the summer a mere distant memory, most of the health problems are likely to arise from inappropriate diet, over-eating and insufficient sleep. Firstly, there is no need to consume excess food at Iftar(the food eaten immediately after sunset to break the fast), dinner or Sahur (the light meal generally eaten about half an hour to one hour before dawn).

The reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly and most importantly such a lifestyle contradicts the principal aims and spirit of Ramadan. A learned scholar once said that "There is no receptacle more odious to God, than a belly stuffed full of food after a fast" and therefore "of what use is the Fast as a means of conquering God's enemy and abating appetite, if at the time of breaking it one not only makes up for all one has missed during the daytime, but perhaps also indulges in a variety of extra foods?" Indeed, there is a concern that it is becoming customary for some to "stock up" for Ramadan, so that more is consumed during this time than in the course of several other months combined. It is therefore worth reflecting on the true objective of fasting which is to experience hunger and to check desire in an attempt to reinforce the soul in piety.

Secondly, the body has regulatory mechanisms that reduce the metabolic rate and ensure efficient utilization of the body's fat reserves in times of hunger. Add to this the fact that most people assume a more sedentary lifestyle whilst fasting and the implication is that a balanced diet that is even less in quantity that normal will be sufficient to keep a person healthy and active during the month of Ramadan.

To remain healthy during Ramadan, normal quantities of food from the major food groups: bread and cereal, milk and dairy product, fish, meat and poultry, bean, vegetable and fruit should be consumed. (Vegetarians and Vegans should amend this list as appropriate). Intake of fruits after a meal is strongly suggested. In actual fact, our diet in Ramadan should not differ very much from our normal diet and should be as simple as possible. The diet should be such that we maintain our normal weight, neither losing nor gaining. However, if one is over-weight, Ramadan is an ideal time to shed those extra pounds!

Selection of vegetables

In view of the long hours of fasting, we should consume the so-called 'complex carbohydrates' or slow digesting foods at Sahur so that the food lasts longer (about 8 hours) making you less hungry during the day. These complex carbohydrates are found in foods that contain grains and seeds like barley, wheat, oats, millet, semolina, beans, lentils, wholemeal flour, and unpolished rice.

In contrast, refined carbohydrates or fast-digesting foods last for only 3 to 4 hours and may be better taken at Iftar to rapidly restore blood glucose levels. Fast-burning foods include foods that contain sugar and white flour. Dates are an excellent source of sugar, fibre, carbohydrates, potassium and magnesium and have been recommended since the days of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) as a good way of breaking the fast.

Fried foods, very spicy foods and foods containing too much sugar such as sweets, the delight of many Muslims, can cause health problems and should be limited during Ramadan. They cause indigestion, heartburn, and weight problems. Fasting can often increase gastric acidity levels in the stomach causing a burning feeling, a heaviness in the stomach and a sour mouth. This can be overcome by eating foods rich in fibre such as whole wheat bread, vegetables, humus, beans and fruits. These foods trigger muscular action, churning and mixing of food, breaking it into small particles, and thus help reduce the build up of acid in the stomach.

Drinking of sufficient water and juices between Iftar and sleep to avoid dehydration and for detoxification of the digestive system should be encouraged in fasting individuals. However, the intake of large amounts of caffeine-containing beverages should be avoided especially at Sahur. For example, drinking too much tea will make one pass more urine and inevitably cause the loss of valuable mineral salts that your body would otherwise need during the day. Fruits such as bananas are a good source of potassium, magnesium and carbohydrates. However, bananas can cause constipation and their intake has to be balanced with adequate fibre intake.

It is recommended that everyone engage in some kind of light exercise, such as stretching or walking. Exercise, together with a balanced diet, should help everyone watch their weight during Ramadan. Anyone overweight should increase the amount of exercise and reduce the amount of food intake to help reduce weight.

It is also important to follow good time management procedures for Ibada (prayer and other religious activities), sleep, studies, work, and physical activities or exercise. A good balance in the amount of time attributed for each activity will lead to a healthier body and mind in Ramadan.

Advice for the sick who fast during Ramadan

Ramadan fasting is obligatory for the healthy adult but when fasting may significantly affect the health of the fasting individual or when one is genuinely sick, Islam exempts him from fasting. "God intends every facility for you, he does not want to put you into difficulties" (Quran 2:185). However, a significant number of ill patients, for whatever reasons, do decide to observe the fast. And it is these patients who need to seek the opinion of health professionals on an individual basis.

Those suffering from minor ailments really do not have any problems fasting. Those suffering from acute conditions may need advice about altering their dosing regimen i.e. the amount and frequency of their medication. Drugs that are normally required to be taken frequently, such as many antibiotics, can be problematic for the fasting patient. However, the increasing availability of alternative drugs with long half-lives (circulation times in the body) and the increasing formulation of short-acting drugs as sustained release preparations have offered much needed assistance to fasting patients.

For example patients suffering from acute upper respiratory infections such as a severe sore throat may still be able to fast. Normally such a patient may be prescribed antibiotics that have to be taken 3 or 4 times a day and would not be able to fast. However in order to facilitate fasting, the patient could be given a long-acting antibiotic such as Septrin (co-trimaxozole), which only needs to be taken once every 12 hours, or Zithromax (azithromycin), which only needs to be taken once daily. This can only be done when the infecting organisms are treatable with the alternative antibiotics and this needs to be discussed with the patient's own medical practitioner on a case-by-case basis.

Bottle of pillsMedicines cannot be taken according to the rules of fasting, but Muslims should not risk making themselves ill

An example where alternative routes of drug administration may help fasting patients is the use of transdermal (skin) patches. For example some patients suffering from mild forms of angina pectoris, a heart condition, could benefit from taking their medication, glyceryl trinitrate, as a skin patch rather than sub-lingual tablets. Here, the drug would be effective by entering the blood stream through the skin, and not orally (which would break the fast). Again, this may only be possible in specific patients and needs to be discussed with the patient's doctor. Pharmacists are generally willing to advise patients on the availability of alternative dosage forms for medication during Ramadan.

An example of where sustained release formulations may help is that of the fasting patients suffering from mild forms of hypertension (high blood pressure). These patients can be given their drug in formulations that only require once-daily dosing. Here the drug can be administered orally at Sahur and the special formulation then allows the drug to slowly release into the body over a day. In fact, there is a school of thought among medical practitioners that those patients who have mild to moderate high blood pressure and are also overweight should be encouraged to fast as fasting may help to lower their blood pressure. Such patients should see their physician to adjust medication. For example, the dose of diuretics should be reduced to avoid dehydration, and sustained release formulations such as Inderal LA can be given once a day before the pre-dawn meal.

An increasing case where practitioners are likely to advise patients on fasting is in those suffering from Diabetes mellitus. Many Muslims, especially of Asian descent, have an increased risk of suffering from some form of diabetes. The International Journal of Ramadan Fasting Research has suggested the following guidelines for health professionals treating Muslim patients with diabetes: "Diabetic patients who are controlled by diet alone can fast and hopefully, with weight reduction, their diabetes may even be improved. Diabetics who are taking oral hypoglycaemic agents along with the dietary control should exercise extreme caution if they decide to fast. These patients should consult their medical doctor for dose adjustment. If they develop low blood sugar symptoms in the daytime, they should end the fast immediately."

In addition, diabetics taking insulin should consult their doctor to see if their dose can be adjusted for them to fast during Ramadan. In all cases of Muslim diabetics fasting, they should closely monitor their blood sugar levels especially before and after meals.

In summary, Islam offers an exemption to the sick from observing their fast during the holy month of Ramadan. However, some patients may be able to fast if their health is not adversely affected during the period of fasting. In such cases, advice from pharmacists and doctors about changing prescriptions to equally effective drugs that have reduced dosing, such as sustained release formulations, may be beneficial to the fasting Muslim. In all cases of illness, it is recommended that Muslim patients, if they do fast, do so under medical supervisionTop