Saturday, September 26, 2009

Personal View

In Malaysia, one who embraces Islam (of another religion) is called a 'Muallaf'. It means 'a new relative' (translated directly from Bahasa Melayu- saudara baru).
But honestly, I am curious of how the people of Malaysia addresses and classifies the Muallaf.

I often come across many, many people who now calls me a Malay. Gosh, that sometimes pisses me off. Haven't they noticed that Religion and Race are two different issues? Why would people often come to me and asks me questions like, "why do you choose to be a Malay?", "so your family members are still Chinese?", "you are now a Malaylah, is it?"
It was also because of all these questions that often got myself thinking, was it the education or the social life among these people who asks these questions; be the main reason for these people to ask such silly questions?

When I was homeless once, I dug to the bottom of my pockets to collect every single cent I had in order to reach the Zakat office which was about an hour's drive away to ask for a home. The officer there told me that there were no such thing as a house for those Muallafs who were homeless except for a house nearby this Zakat office which stuffed more than 20 over female Muallafs inside it. Generally, an 'affordable government house' in Malaysia often comes with 3 rooms & 2 baths. You'd be really lucky if the house has more rooms than that (as though developers are willing to build bigger houses at a cheaper price for sale). So imagine staying in a house of 3 rooms & 2 baths with 20 other females.
I asked the officer of what if I'm in the midst of looking for a decent job while being homeless & that I do not have the funds to travel here & fourth (because the 'house' is about an hour's drive from town)? He answered me, "That's not our problem. You're given the choice of staying in that house. So it's up to you to take it or leave it."
So I see... because it's all free. It's up to you to take it or leave it. What the hell?!
At the same time, I see ministers announcing and showing off their proud faces over the news daily of new developed 'affordable' flats offered to those who are really poor & homeless (general public). My friend also told me that if one is a government servant, a flat of 2 rooms & 1 bath would cost a monthly rental less than $150. The cheapest 'room for rent' I found in the daily newspapers was at least $250. So what was wrong for the government to provide these flats to Muallafs who are in need of shelter? When these government servants often gets a higher pay (now that they've raised their pay a few times), shouldn't they be given a time period to stay in these flats and be encouraged to own their homes since every government servant gets a bloody discount whenever they purchase one? Some even had the company paying for the house since the rent is so darn cheap. Yet I still see many other senior citizens & villagers staying in wooden houses whose roof might just fly off any minute once there's a storm...
Therefore, I went home empty handed.

Zakat & Fame
Paying zakat is one of the 5 pillars of Islam. The meaning of zakat and why should one Muslim pay for it? It is to collect 'funds' for those who are in need. And why does ministers and officers puts on their best attire with glitters of sequins & fancy beads to appear on TV by giving away only cheap goody-bags or hampers (which won't cost much anyway) for a small percentage of the needy ones when there are still Muallafs asking for a home or even those who are still staying in a wooden house with sounds of creaks of the wood? These 'charity' events often happens in hotels with proper catering which looks much more grand than a wedding banquet. My personal guess? The amount spend for the catering & the booking of the ballroom would easily costs at least 20-30 times the amount of the 'goodies' given away to these people.
Has the zakat been misused or is someone not telling the truth...?

Working Environment
My ex-boss once came up to me being so excited and even got a few other directors of the company to ask me if I could help convince this new employee who was about to embrace Islam. The reason of why he hired her was because she said she is going to embrace Islam (this company only hires Muslim). I've heard of so many things that this boss was willing to do for this new employee because she was going to embrace Islam, but how come I've never heard of anything about myself at all? Mind you, I worked my ass out for a month up till a point where I was admitted to the hospital at 3am in the morning from the office because of appendix. Non of these 'big bosses' came and pay me a visit at the hospital except for my department head.
It wasn't much of complains. But when you sit amongst these people and you see and hear the things they do to others whose life are way better than you would make you think- How come there's nothing for myself? I see how hard these people and selected committee members of the company sets up for its own orphanage foundation but how come they don't pay attention to the people in front of their eyes at all? The company also offers Islamic classes every fortnightly but how come non of the directors attends the class? Is it because they hold a higher rank and there fore their knowledge of Islam is higher than any one of us? How come the boss offers a higher salary to the new employee who dresses up with super mini skirts & shirts which reveals her cleavage yet with the minimum education level but rejects the one who dresses up decently yet has a higher rank of education? And how come those who are already in the company who works their asses out day & night is not offered over-timed pay nor any additional benefits but earns a wage of $4 an hour? Why does the director only wears his songkok whenever he has an appearance in the news papers or the bulletin on TV? I've even had one of the directors who's married with kids; trying to hit on me. And he was the one who often pushes every one to attend the Islamic class. I'm not being fussy or what but I've never seen these directors nor even my own department head attending Friday prayers. And how bizarre could it be when these are the people who often talks about religion and would even lecture me on the religion sometimes.
Honestly, I don't and won't pay attention nor even put in a bit of respect for such people. Nothing bias to put in but I just think, I chose the religion myself and I have my own views of it so don't come and ruin the good name of Islam to me. My department head once even grumbled of why the other male employees took so long to go for Friday prayers when he himself had been sitting in the office the whole day, watching videos on YouTube through out the prayers' time. It was there and then, I lost my respect to him as my department head.

Muallaf's Reserved Funds
I was once told that being a Muallaf, you are able to claim for daily allowances of $15 a day for the first 3 years. I had also heard that for being one, you ought to claim that allowance as long as you're a Muallaf otherwise some "inside people" would claim that fund of yours and use it up for their own good. It was also the reason of why this right of a Muallaf was never announced publicly or advised to a Muallaf. Think about it, of course no one would advise you about it. Try calculating $15 x 365 x 3; would bring you a total of $16, 425.00. Imagine one 'authorized person' hiding the fact of 10 Muallaf's fund... that would give him a total of $164, 250.00. Wow, a jackpot out of no where.
When I asked around recently, speaking to another Muallaf who had been married for 20 years; she said that even if the fund was really reserved for us, once you're married you're no longer eligible to claim that fund for yourself.
Why is that so?
Because you're now under the care of your husband who is supposedly to be way more eligible to provide you almost every need. Does that count as you're no longer a Muallaf once you're married? Does that also means, I'm now a Malay since I'm married to a Malay?
I was preparing for my company's annual dinner a few months back. It was supposed to be a company which runs according the Islamic ways. The committee members were trying to arrange a list of names who were eligible to receive a contribution in forms of cash or hampers under a few categories. There were a list of single moms, orphans and disabled workers. I asked one of the committee members, "how about a contribution for the Muallaf?" (being newly wed at that time), the person-in-charge answered me by saying "do you mean yourself? Oh, you're not eligible for that because you're married. You're no longer a Muallaf anyway 'cause you're married."

I personally think that every Islamic organization should at least inform these Muallafs of their reserved funds. Even if one does not want to claim its own allowances, the organization should automatically turn that fund to either a contribution for the much needy ones (upon black & white agreement), or even better- offer it to the Muallaf itself as a reserved fund for him/her to perform its Hajj in Macca now that flight tickets are so expensive. I would definitely agree if they would make that possible as performing the Hajj is also one of the 5 pillars of Islam. So why not make really good use of it, so that everyone gets a chance to perform their Hajj?

Fund Rallies
When I attended the first meeting at the Islamic organization in Selangor, one of the officers told me that when I get married I would be given a contribution of $1,500. So I did get married, but I did the procedures in Perak. I asked the officer here in Perak of the $1,500 contribution- he said he had not heard of such thing. Now that got me thinking; has all these 'funds' or 'contributions' for Muallafs now become a rally? Do these Islamic organizations of every state now has a quota of the number of Muallafs they sign up every month? Why would it matter of where you did your paperwork when you embraced Islam and the different bounty they offer you? And to talk of the amount of papers you have to submit in order to get married... God! They were a hassle. I almost gave up getting married because of the hassles I had to go through.
It's true... that Islam does not burden anyone at all. But it's the really stupid people who likes to make things difficult for all of us. Just why does these Islamic organization of each state offers different procedures & that they vary in every state? Why is it so hard to standardize its procedures in the whole damn country? Is this a government issue or a racial issue?

Question Marks
Why would people classify Muallafs as 'non-Muallafs' once they're married? How about a person who converted him/herself a month before getting married? So does that means he/she only holds the title of a 'Muallaf' for a month? And if he/she spends the whole month preparing to get married with no time at all to learn of the proper rights set for one Muallaf now loses everything once they get married?

Why should those funds be valid for those who are 'single' and not for those who are already married? Why would the allowance fund be valid for only the first 3 years of a Muallaf and not valid after that? Does that means that a Muallaf only holds the title for only 3 years?
Put it this way. You now earn the title of a C.E.O of a company that you set up on your own. Do you give yourself a time period in holding that title of yours? When will that title end- after the time period has expired or when your company closes down? Putting it in a political way, why does the ministers holds titles of 'Datuk's' & 'Tan Sri's' up till the day they land in their grave and not given a time period of holding that title instead?

Do people really understand the meaning of Muallaf? Do people really understand the true meaning of being rational in making the border line clear that Islam does not burdens anyone?

Personal View
Of all the things that I've said above, personally I would say that once a Muallaf, you're always a Muallaf. And like of the funds and rights reserved for one, the government should do something about it and start making it a point where everybody feels at least a little bit important. For those who claims themselves as 'Muslims' should first seek the true knowledge of being a good Muslim before they go around lecturing others & accidentally ruin the good name of Islam. My family often misunderstood the good name of Islam with the wrong doings done by born Muslims. Come on, it is said that the end of the world is near when Muslims subside. Shouldn't we all preserve the good name of Islam instead of condemning it with your own selfish acts? Shouldn't we all convince more people that Islam is the true way of life instead of ruining it? And for those Islamic Organizations, please don't try and make these funds into rallies in order to hit your 'quota' (should there be any) when your main obligation is to educate & it is also your biggest responsibility to prove that you are the one who could help Muslims & guide them to the better way. Whatever fund or services you offer to Muslims, you should standardize it within the country and not of each state. Think about it. Other people who have thoughts of embracing Islam would think of it as a burden should you turn these rights into rallies. Don't confuse us. You should be guiding us.

A warm welcome

Assalamualaikum, a warm greeting to all Muslims in the world.
This blog of mine which has just been created on this day forth- 27th September 2009 will be of the things that I have experienced through out my years since I've embraced Islam back in 2004. The journey itself was not smooth for sure... as I gradually learn that God himself puts a test for every follower of His. Please, feel free to share your own views especially for those who are newly converted Muslims. I'm sure our experiences vary. There are no special reasons of why I chose to blog out my experiences. It's just that I personally feel that nobody will really understand what each and every one of us went through for each of us faces different tests each day.

A short story of myself

Yours truly embraced Islam back in 2004. The idea of embracing Islam honestly wasn't that clear at that moment. It was just a brief thought of embracing Islam first and then gradually learn the religion from there itself. What opened up my mind and got me interest in Islam was the many different lifestyle of my own friends who are born Muslim. In some cases, I see them being organized and that their life was with answers of 'whats' and 'whys' in which many might ask. I also did some research in the internet of why certain things are being banned or illegal within the religion. The main thing that got me liking Islam was when I saw many pictures of what He did to show of His presence. With pictures of how His name appeared in fruits, vegetables, on fishes, on the earth, on the moon and even on the forehead of some children; I felt His presence.

The very thought of embracing Islam was firm on my mind; but somehow it was the people around me whom I thought were friends who turned it all up side down. Imagine, the very next day after all procedures embracing Islam was official; the people whom I called 'friends' eventually started turning a cold shoulder on me. Being the only girl among a group of mostly Muslim boys, they insisted of me staying home after Maghrib. Honestly, even up to date; not all these 'friends' greeted me the Muslim way. When all that I learned was from what they've been talking about all the time, it turned out that they do not practice it themselves.

Of course, God is great. As He has promised to test each and every one of us, He began giving me one of the hardest test: a week after I embraced Islam was the fasting month. The following tests which came after that includes myself being homeless and penniless where I almost had to beg for food. There were nights when I cried myself to one or two of my friends asking if embracing Islam was the right choice should these be the 'fate' that He has arranged for me. It was also there and then when He who has promised to test you with the darkest and hardest road to walk then puts a golden rose along the road to lighten it for a while. It was also one of the thing that got me remembering of who, what and where I am right now. One guy that I've just met for a few months had always been there whenever I needed a shoulder to cry on. It was his words that kept me going up till today. He said to me, that I should be thankful for He has given me the hardest road to walk on for those who were given the harder roads were often close to Him. He said those whose life are easy is because God does not care about them at all. This friend of mine is the only one who said he's jealous of me because God has chosen me to embrace Islam. In other words, he said God paid more attention to me rather than to others whose life were way much better than mine.
I kept those words of his up until today. I also thank God for making him that 'golden rose' to lighten my road.

Probably like many others, I almost lost my own family for embracing Islam. It was almost 2 years that I could not go back home to see my family at all for partly I was ashamed to meet them and also it was rather hard for them to accept the fact that I'm a Muslim. And like how He has promised to return the favor for you to savor, I'm glad that my family can finally accept the fact that I'm with a different religion and that I am still the same person.

Of course, the journey that He has set for me does not end here. After 5 years, the ups and downs that I've been through was not easy yet, I am thankful for where and what I am now.

Moving on

Please read my blog at your own risk. As my first & introduction blog, I would like to express my apologies should I accidentally hurt one's feelings reading my blog. It's nothing, really. Just that some things are better off left on a journal than said verbally. Also, just a brief information of what I'll be putting up on this blog: personal thoughts of being a Muallaf @ Muslim and perhaps, speaking of rights of being a Muslim.
Therefore, hope to meet up again soon.