26 March 2011

Islam and its Contribution to Knowledge


"Read — for thy Sustainer is the Most Bountiful One who has taught (man) the use of the pen — taught man what he did not know!" Quran - Surah 96:1-5

slam in itself is not just a religion: It is a set of principles that informs a way of life - as quoted by Samantha Joseph on Page 2 of New Straits Times - Post Graduate & Professional Development 15 March 2011. This is certainly a refreshing opinion given that many modern day professionals have forgotten the contribution that the Islamic civilisation has offered. It is also refreshing to know that many tertiary institutions, mostly universities globally have adopted Islam as the all encompassing guide to knowledge.

The image above highlights the various prominent Islamic tertiary education programmes across the globe: From the western University of California to the eastern University of Tokyo; from the northern University of Aberdeen to the southern University of Melbourne; all offering Islamic Studies that includes studies on Middle East, Islamic Finance and Islamic Law (Syariah).

Samantha further explained that Islamic perspective remains relevant to the modern world particularly on the politics and economics of the current world. After all, when the western world was in its dark ages, Islam stood as the most effective society structure that promotes law and order and the blooming of knowledge. Many applied knowledge in the modern technology originated from the Islamic civilisation. Some of the examples are:

1. Ibn Sina (Avicenna) (see picture of his statue) for his awareness of infectious diseases and systematic experimentation

2. Al-Razi (Rhaze) for his comprehensive study of medicine

3. Al-Zahrawi (Albucasis) for the first illustrative literature on physical surgery

4. Al-Khawarizmi for introducing Algebra

5. Al-Kirmani for introducing Trigonometry

6. Al-Hazen for discovery of optic and its relation to light

Samantha also shared in her article that the Muslims were the first to implement mental institutions and the modern practice of giving out doctorates can be traced back to the Arabic "Ijazat attradis wa-'lifttd" (license to teach), which was given out by the oldest university in the world, the University of Al Karaouine in Morocco. The Islamic civilisation was also thought to have been the first to introduce the concept of 'hospitals', 'quarantine' and 'dentistry'.

Many Malaysians (particularly the Muslims) believe that Islamic studies will only end up with a job that is not as interesting as other faculties such as in Jabatan Kemajuan Islam (JAKIM) or Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (YADIM). This is not true. There are many aspects of Islamic studies that go beyond the conventional "Ulamak" type jobs. For example, Islamic Finance can get a graduate a job with the likes of CIMB, Maybank, RHB or even international banks like Standard Chartered or HSBC. It is no surprise especially when the world economy sees Islamic Finance as a more stable and less risky model relative to that applied by conventional banking. Courses like Islamic Law certainly offers a wide range of career that includes judiciary, legal, academia and research.

Islamic approach to knowledge incorporates elements of honesty and fairness. For example, Islamic Finance uses 2 principles: (1) Sharing of profits and (2) Prohibition on collective payment of interests. Such fairness promotes well being of humanity. A truely comprehensive approach in balancing between specific subject matter with its impact to the overall life in general. The Muslims believe that not only such approach brings betterment to lives in this world, it also promises the same in the after-life.

Islam and its holy scripture, the Quran, is inseparable. To assess an Islamic approach would mean that the Quran must also be considered. There have been many studies done on the Quran and some findings (but not limited to) that are specific to 'knowledge' are as follows:

Surah 96:1-5 - The first revelation received by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It says: “Read — for thy Sustainer is the Most Bountiful One who has taught (man) the use of the pen — taught man what he did not know!”

Surah 2:151 - Prophet's famous prayer to God: “Allah (God) grant me knowledge of the ultimate nature of things”

Surah 39:9 - “Can they who know and they who do not know be deemed equal?” and exhorts believers to pray for advancement in knowledge. Further, the Quran exhorts believers not to pursue that of which they have no knowledge since God will hold them accountable for actions which reflect a lack of knowledge.

Surah 9:122 - According to Quranic perspective, knowledge is a prerequisite for the creation of a just world in which authentic peace can prevail. The Quran emphasises the importance of the pursuit of learning even at the time, and in the midst, of war. It says: “With all this, it is not desirable that all of the believers take the field (in time of war). From within every group in their midst, some shall refrain from going to war, and shall devote themselves (instead) to acquiring a deeper knowledge of the Faith, and (thus be able to) teach their home-coming brethren, so that these (too) might guard themselves against evil”

Surah 58:11 - “God will exalt by (many) degrees those of you who have attained to faith”

The above Quranic quotations were published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2010.

Samantha further reported that the Golden Age of Islamic Civilisation was consolidated in the 12th century in Baghdad. This consolidation of knowledge also includes knowledge that originated from non-Muslims (also known as the 'Protected People' commonly known in Arabic as "Dhimmi"). Such sincere compilation of knowledge denotes the fairness of the Islamic civilisation in ensuring knowledge is protected regardless of its origin. This consolidation process involved translation of manuscripts from Greek to Sumerian into Arabic. It was also systematically referenced. It was comprehensive in that anyone who wanted to acquire knowledge in its profound state would need to learn Arabic.

Samantha ended her article by saying "The current feel towards Islamic-based studies signify positivity, with many major universities catering to the hunger for more knowledge not just about the religion, but also the practical application of its principles"

What an inspirational closing by Samantha. Referring to the picture of the globe with highlights on Islamic tertiary courses as appeared in Samantha Joseph's article "An ethical alternative" on Page 2 of New Straits Times - Post Graduate & Professional Development on 15 March 2011, listed below (not in any particular order) are the courses available for all to embrace:

1. University of California, Los Angeles - MA in Islamic Studies
2. New York University - MA in Middle East & Islamic Studies
3. Yale University - PhD in Islamic Studies
4. University of Aberdeen, Scotland - MBA in Islamic Banking & Finance
5. University of London - LLM in Islamic Law
6. University of Exeter - MPhil PhD in Arab & Islamic Studies
7. Leiden University - MA in Islamic Theology
8. University of Vienna - MA in Islamic Studies
9. Cairo University (photo) - PhD in Islamic Phylosophy
10. Osmania University, Hyderabad - MA in Islamic Studies
11. University of Madras - MA in Islamic Studies
12. University of Malaya - Master in Syariah & Law
13. University Malaysia Sabah - Doctorate of Islamic Studies & Law
14. University of Melbourne - MA in Islamic Studies
15. University of Sydney - MA in Arabic & Islamic Studies
16. University of New England - MA in Islamic Studies
17. University of Tokyo - MA in Islamic Studies

Surah 58:11 - “God will exalt by (many) degrees those of you who have attained to faith”

* kopihangtuah

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"Penjodohan Pekerjaan"


The ministry launched a national job portal, JobsMalaysia, to promote "Penjodohan Pekerjaan".

.B. Senator Dato' Maznah Mazlan, the Deputy Minister of Ministry of Human Resources ("Kementerian Sumber Manusia")had recently made a presentation to a private crowd that I was privileged to be part of. It was a very good session that helps promote understanding of what efforts are in place for the good of the nation particularly on economic issues like Unemployment and Safety at Workplace. Many Malaysians are still at lost on what certain government ministry does. This is one of them. Hence, it is only justice that I share my understanding of the ministry (or at least my interpretation and perception of the ministry) in this post to the extent revealed to me by Maznah, a friendly figure (of course she has to be friendly. We are talking about human resource aren't we?).

Maznah shared some statistics that uncover the true strength of our (Malaysian) workforce. We have 28 million population of which, only 11.7 million are working. The rest are either retired, studying, underaged or simply unemployed. This is a shocking 41% of the population. No wonder the Inland Revenue Board goes crazy digging out non-compliances for the sake of realising penalties to enhance tax collection. Working alone does not progress the nation. Skills are required. High skills are required. Maznah refers it to be "Kemahiran Tinggi". Out of the 11.7 million workers, only 28% (i.e. 3.2 million) are considered highly skilled. This is a poor statistic relative to other countries such as Hong Kong (40%), Europe (70%) or Singapore (50%). No doubt these are developed nations, they ought to be our benchmark if Wawasan 2020 are to be achieved.

When analysed further, out of the 11.7 million, only 3.5 million (30%) are women. This may be a reflection of the society whereby quite significant portion of the society still holds strongly to the idea of 'housewives'. Women should be encouraged to work or recommence work for those who retired early to attend to their families. Although statistics were not shared in respect of retirees, Maznah did mention that retirees do have continuous roles to play in developing the nation particularly those with professional background and those with experience in their respective fields. For example, a retired lawyer can be in academic to help train the next generation of lawyers.

Maznah further shared efforts in place to facilitate "Penjodohan Pekerjaan" (Job Matching) to address the nation's current (2010) unemployment rate of 3.2%. Unemployement got worse at 3.8% in 2009 as the result of the economic meltdown in 2008/2009. A 0.6% recovery is merely the impact of the short term economic recovery but what needs to be addressed is the long term sustainability. Although 3.2% requires attention, we (Malaysia) are not in a critical state given that most economists consider anything below 4% to be as good as 'fully' employed.

The ministry launched a national job portal, JobsMalaysia, to promote "Penjodohan Pekerjaan". So far only 30,000 employers have advertised jobs in their respective organisations. There are 19 branches all over Malaysia that allows employers to set up their helpdesks that conduct instant interviews and potentially instant acceptance of applicants as employees. Suggested link: JobsMalaysia

Touching back on the issue of "Kemahiran Tinggi", highly skilled jobs need to be identified and measured by way of standards. This is probably something new in Malaysia. The ministry has identified 6,000 jobs (type) in Malaysia that can be categorised as "Kemahiran Tinggi". However, when benchmarked against standards such as NOS (National Occupational Standards), only 1,000 jobs (type) meet the criteria of the standards. Perhaps we ought to read what NOS is all about. Suggested link: NOS

Many Malaysian do not know what "Kementerian Sumber Manusia" represents. Such ignorance needs remedy. Of course the Senator can have various sessions with different sections of society but advertisement and promotion ('A&P') of their roles and purpose to society is more effective. I personally believe that A&P can do wonders when multiple platforms (TV, radio, billboards, newspaper and internet) are used concurrently to convey impactful messages to the general public. Imagine even Sanusi Junid managed to influence the entire nation to drink "Air Kelapa Muda" (Coconut Water) back in the 80's just by using TV and radio broadcasting - evident in the "Air Kelapa Muda" craze that haunted the primary school students in the 80's.

SOCSO declared that the number of accidents at work has increased from 55,000 incidents in 2009 to 57,000 incidents in 2010; a 3.6% increase.

So what is this ministry about? In my mind (and most people's), I can only think of SOCSO (Social Security Organisation) or commonly known in the Malay term PERKESO ("Pertubuhan Keselamatan Sosial"). "Kementerian Sumber Manusia" consists of many departments that help promote condusive working conditions in Malaysia. Some of the prominent ones are "Jabatan Hal Ehwal Kesatuan Sekerja" that manages unions, "Jabatan Perhubungan Keusahawanan" that liaises with corporate employers and "Jabatan Tenaga Kerja" that handles disputes between empoyers and employees/unions. Listed below is a more exhaustive list (not in any particular order) of the various departments within the ministry that works together to promote condusive working conditions in Malaysia:

1. Jabatan Tenaga Kerja
2. Jabatan Tenaga Manusia
3. Jabatan Perhubungan Perusahaan
4. Jabatan Keselamatan dan Kesihatan Pekerja
5. Jabatan Hal Ehwal Kesatuan Sekerja
6. Jabatan Pembangunan Kemahiran
7. Mahkamah Perusahaan
8. Pertubuhan Keselamatan Social
9. Pembangunan Sumber Manusia Berhad
10. Perbadanan Tabung Pembangunan Kemahiran
11. Institut Keselamatan dan Kesihatan Pekerjaan Negara (NIOSH)
12. Institut Sumber Manusia Kebangsaan

Maznah ended the session on occupational safety and health. SOCSO declared that the number of accidents at work has increased from 55,000 incidents in 2009 to 57,000 incidents in 2010; a 3.6% increase. 38% of these accidents occured when commuting to work. In addition, there are many other factors for which employers should be aware of. These factors can cause occupational medical conditions. The more prominent ones are chemical exposure, noise in excess of 80 decibels, agronomics of office furniture, long hours and stress. Employers are urged to embrace occupational safety and health mindset in 3 critical perspectives: Policies, Commitment & Financially.

This session with Maznah was a very informative one which should be repeated with others. Her ministry does play an important role for the betterment of our lives. Well done! Yang Berhormat Dato' and I hope the ministry will make a difference to Malaysians as you have rightly pointed out when closing your presentation with "We hope to make a difference to all"

* kopihangtuah

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15 March 2011

How Malay is a Malay? 100%? 75%? 50%?


ebatmustdie has written an interesting article again, titled An unfortunate article by someone I respect. Basically, some politician by the name Datuk Sakmongkol made a racist statement on Tun Mahathir's ethnic origin in an attempt to twist a non-political matter into a political propaganda. What has the world come to? All Tun Mahathir said was "I have Indian blood but I am Malay" and this Sakmongkol chap, out of nowhere, capitalised such statement into a political stunt by saying the below:

.... not because the Malay categorisation of such a fellow is a Mamak or an Indian Muslim, but because of the admission of political chameleon-ness of the person. Because of that, we can now reconcile such an admission with one particular categorisation of Dr Mahathir – that of a political liar.....

jebatmustdie has written at length in Tun Mahathir's defense which is, of course, holds water. On the other hand, you might find it entertaining to read what this Sakmongkol guy is trying to do - to become a comedian. Haha! for laughing sake, read his article Der House doctor: blatant or political liar?

As usual, I have my own thoughts to share with the forum - hence, I left the below comments with jebatmustdie :



One point to add, there are no pure Malays left anyway. If the Malays trace their origins, they'd probably uncover that they are one of these decendants whereby "Malay" is referred to as the Malay of peninsula origins:

1. Jawi Peranakan - Mix Malay-Indian Muslim or Malay-Arab
2. Baba Nyonya - Mix Malay-Chinese
3. Mix Malay-Siamese
4. Mix Malay-Indegenious such as Negritos, Jakun, Iban, Kadazan, etc
5. Mix Malay-Bugis
6. Mix Malay-Jawa
7. Mix Malay-Bouyan
8. Mix Malay-European such as Portugese of Melaka
9. Mix Malay-Riau
10. Mix Malay-Sumatran such as the Rawas, Minang, etc

In fact, the Malays are not even the original inhabitants of the peninsular, nor Borneo. The original inhabitants of this land are the Negroids, similar to those called Aborigines in Australia and Negros in Africa. They are Negritos, who also exist in the Philippines.

Malays are in fact, immigrants (or "Pendatangs") themselves thousands of years ago from the North, the land of Yunan somewhere south of Mongolia and middle China. Malays are the Mongoloids who travelled to the peninsula way long after the Negroids have travelled from the land of Africa.

But why are the Malays regarded as the so called "Bumiputra" (Sons of Earth) of peninsula and Borneo? Well, if I am not mistaken, there are a few criteria for which one must agree that they are sensible. They are:

1. Majority ethnic group; and
2. The ethnic that established the first effective government

Tun Mahathir wrote this in more detail in his Malay Dilemma. Majority alone will not suffice. In the case of Malays, they too established the first effective governments - the likes of Srivijaya, Mataram, Majapahit, Langkasuka, Temasek, Melaka and those of the same era that not only covers the peninsula and Borneo, it also covers the entire Malay archipelago from Acheh to Papua New Guinea, from Patani to Jawa; for which, its influence travelled to the South Philippines (Mindanao).

So, to rebut the racist comments made by those against Tun Mahathir's ethnic origin, we should acknowledge that Malay is a very broad category really. It covers a wide range of spectrum that even if your immediate father is purely 100% Chinese or Indian, but your mother is not even 100% Malay, you can still be regarded as Malay. In fact, I, myself, am 1/16 Indian + 1/16 Chinese + 14/16 Malay.

What is important is that you live like a Malay, you eat Malay food, you talk Bahasa Melayu, you dress like a Malay and to certain extent, you believe what Malays believe (although Bumiputras include those beyond Muslim). With all intent and purposes, if your spirit and soul is Malay, then you are Malay just like how Natrah was eventhough she was 100% Dutch.

To twist such racial sentiment into a political context is really an irresponsible deed with no basis. After all, let the old man (Tun) tell his story the way he likes because it is his story.

* kopihangtuah

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01 March 2011

Che Det's Islam or Tok Guru's Islam? Who Cares?


"....one wears bush jacket and the other wears Serban"

have been busy lately and I only managed to get news from conversations with work colleagues, my wife, Twitter, Facebook, short emails and quick scan of headlines in the newspapers (mind you, I have 10 days worth of NST piled up next to my bed waiting for me to read).

Tonight I managed to clear my emails in Yahoo and one interesting email got my attention. It was an update email from the blogger jebatmustdie on the latest debate between 2 oldtimers from UMNO and PAS. How could I have missed this hot debate between Tun Mahathir and Nik Aziz? The blog post basically revolved around how those 2 carry Islam in their political careers.

To my amusement, regardless of whether I am an UMNO supporter, or PAS supporter, or supporter for any political parties for that matter, I will still believe in a version of Islam which is not biased towards any political entities. You can read the blog post at Nik Aziz dan Kesinambungan Kuasa Politiknya

This debate between the 2 giants serve as entertainment value to the general public. Despite its irrelevance to most voters today, it does, somehow, act as a catalyst to the assessment of their (voters) political inclinations.

To make my night complete, I left the below comments with jebatmustdie :



It appears that these politicians have nothing better to do other than playing court jester. Whilst I am an advocate of Tun Mahathir, I believe he should just ignore ignorant politicians such as Nik Aziz. Nik Aziz on the other hand, should just stop playing the fool and think of ways to develop Kelantan while he is still in power. Have you visited Kelantan lately? They did develop KB but poorly I must say. Trees in KB were destroyed to give way to concrete buildings and orphanage is still lacking.

At the end of the day, Tun Mahathir and Nik Aziz still read the same Al-Fatihah when they pray. The only diffference is that, one wears bush jacket and the other wears Serban. The age group that do really give a damn about what those two are saying are probably aged 36 and above. Those aged 35 and below don't give a rats ass. Guess what, those aged 35 and below represents more than 50% of the population and in 10 years time, half of them will be in the workforce and contribute significantly to the economy.

So, really, this whole debacle of who is more Islamic than the other will become irrelevant, or has it already become irrelevant? At least for me, who is 36 years old, I don't give a monkeys about what they say and when I pray, there is no version of Nik Aziz Al-Fatihah or Tun Mahathir's Al-Fatihah. Their debates, are entertaining nonetheless, and should only continue for entertainment value.

What is important going forward is how Najib Razak is going to drive this nation forward cutting through all obstacles, be it political, religious or economic. I have my own views on some of the related matters such as obsolete politicians, Bumiputra voters, Kelantan, Najib Razak's efforts, etc. Do share your views, Links are as below:

The Anwar Dilemma
Najib is not 'Bapa Slogan' after all
Malay to non-Malay Ratio of 1:40
RMK10, RM230B by RM
NEM means?
Kit Siang should say "Malaysia for Mongoloids"
Kelantan, a 'Country' of its Own


* kopihangtuah

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