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classof72] A glimpse of life in Saudi Arabia‏
From: zahid aziz (
Sent: Thursday, August 24, 2006 9:20:09 PM

Salam everyone,

                       Its been almost 2 months since me n family landed in the capital city of Saudi Arabia. Alhamdulillah so far me and family very happy here for very personal reasons I would rather not go into. Weather wise midday can touch 45C but living in a fully aircond world the heat that hits you as you walked to your parked car is actually welcomed! Humidity is very low here so sweat is something that never happens. I jog one early morning and could hardly raise a sweat. Subuh is 3.30 and syuruk at 5! Looking forward to Ramadhan here where breaking of fast is 6 something. Umrah is a weekend trip. Did it with family and 2 friends a few weeks ago. Fly Riyadh to Jeddah Wednesday night(ie weekend night). taxi from Jeddah airport to Makkah. Technically we should return Friday night for work on first day of week, Saturday.But there was no flight so we only returned on Saturday morning. Glorious to rekindle love affair with Kaabah and Masjidil Haram. Last did it 10 years ago. First visit for wife and the 3 toddlers of course. Slumped at Masjidil Haram at 3 am on night of first arrival, having  completed umrah with wife and 3 kids. Actually had a lot of help from Mustafa and Md Noor who carried a toddler each during Tawaf and Sa'i. Tawaf Wida' (farewell Tawaf) was a different affair! Foolishly brave to think we could complete it family only, without help of uncle mus and uncle md noor. As flight to Riyadh was early morning Saturday went to do Tawaf Wida; in wee hours of last night in  Makkah. Round 2 Tawaf, 8 month old Zahir fast asleep in Mama's arms ; round 3 Tawaf carried no.2 daughter, 3 year old Adila fast asleep over my shoulders ; round 4 Tawaf, 3 year old Nur Adlin walking and sleeping at the same time. Wife and me sidelined on the floor, next to Kaabah, watching the world goes by with 3 kids sprawled asleep on the ground. Hmm, a long time to Subuh, uncle mus and uncle md noor fast asleep in hotel and not answering their handphones. After a desperate 20 mins or so, where we resigned to waiting for Subuh and somehow resolve the logistics of carrying 3 sleeping children back to the hotel, God provided in the form of Masjidil Haram wheelchairs meant for the old and the infirmed. Thanked the kind soul profusely, dumped 2 sleeping daughters in the wheelchair, wife carried the toddler and we resumed our Tawaf. Used the wheelchair to transport the sleeping daughters back to nearby hotel and returned alone to return the wheelchair exactly where borrowed. Alhamdulillah problem solved, mission achieved. I am certain it was retribution for some impatience in thought towards some fellow pilgrims during Tawaf. As they say you pay cash in Makkah! It was also reassurance that God shall provide to those who immediately regret their deeds and repent. 

Our next project would be Madinah, insyaAllah. Ilaliqo and salam.


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[classof72] On the wrong side of King Faisal Highway‏
From: zahid aziz (
Sent: Saturday, October 28, 2006 7:22:45 PM

Assalamu 'Alaikum,

                         Eid Mubarak Kullu 'aam wa antum bikhair. Selamat hari raya aidil fitri kepada sahabat-sahabat Kelas 72 dari saya dan keluarga di perantauan. Just got back to Riyadh from an early morning flight from Jeddah having spent 5 days in Madinah pre Eid and 5 days in Makkah Eid and post Eid, with family and father in law. Not many public holidays in Saudi but Eid is an annual 10 day public holiday. enjoyed by all. When Hasbullah, a 4th year student at Madinah Islamic University cum tourist guide for us offered a luxury hotel in Madinah for us to spend the last 5 days of Ramadhan, I politely declined in an attempt to capture the Madinah of old, bustling souqs and all. However nothing prepared me for the transformation that is Madinah today compared to what it was 10 years ago. Literally Masjid Nabawi is completely ambushed by luxury 5 star hotels. Room accomodation ranges from SR400 to SR1000 to SR10,000 per night. Hasbullah found us some decent accomodation in the vicinity of Ijabah Mosque but it is a daily life threatening experience to cross the King Faisal Highway to get to Masjid Nabawi. Submerging the proletariat in me I weakly resolved to stay on the right side of the Highway next time my family and I visit Madinah. Air conditioned souqs somehow lack some romantic notion of an Arab market place but hey I love my kids too much to risk their life and limb in crossing the Highway that separates the haves and the have nots in today's Madinah. I laud the modernisation of Madinah but somehow find it hard to reconcile that with the celebration of the poor that was the hallmark of the Prophet's s.a.w struggle.Quietly I hope somehow things will work out, the poor pilgrims will not be sidelined and the richer ones allowed to pay for accomodation they can afford.

Eid iin Makkah was a non event for us. Spending malam raya in Madinah airport departure hall, our 12.40am flight for Jeddah enroute to Makkah eventually left at 3 am. We missed Eid Prayers in Masjidil Haram as outgoing traffic prevented us from approaching the Mosque. However we have nowhere to go and nothing to chase so all was taken in good stride. At least the difficulty of reaching Haram makes us forget the rendang and the lemang and the ketupat which is inseparable with pagi raya. Distance makes the taste buds grow fonder or something like that.

Maaf zahir and batin from me and familiy.


classof72] The Greatest Gathering of Humanity Ever‏
From: zahid aziz (
Sent: Friday, January 05, 2007 5:47:39 PM


                                  The bus left at 9.46pm on that chilly Riyadh night. It was the Wednesday night at the beginning of the week long Aidil Adha holidays. But for us and the pilgrims on the other bus it was not any holiday; we were answering Allah swt.’s call to fulfill the 5th Rukun of Islam. Filled with excitement and anxiety whether we will be able to complete our mission successfully, we earlier gathered at the appointed meeting point, Mutiara Restaurant, the sole Malaysian restaurant in Riyadh. We were a motley bunch indeed, we were the Jemaah Haji Malaysia Riyadh, traveling under the auspices of the Malaysian Embassy and led by Ustaz Hassan Patani and his two able assistants, Patani students from the local Imam Saud University, Ahmad and Asri. There were about a hundred of us Malaysian expatriates comprising amongst others telco engineers and technicians, university lecturers, Malaysian construction company personnel, a medical doctor, a diplomat, a hypermarket general manager, internal auditors, an Islamic banker and 70 or so nurses and matrons plus a number of spouses and 10 or so children. There were also an Indonesian including a family and couple and 2 Pakistani families invited by members of the delegation.


                                   The 2 buses then headed to the district of Azizia to obtain the permit to leave Riyadh, a routine procedure in Haj season where no one can head for Makkah unless they carry a Haj permit. We set off on the 1000 km desert highway at just past 11pm. Ustaz Hassan have drilled the would be pilgrims pretty well over the last month or so and we more or less know what to do and what to expect. Some of us are seasoned Umrah experts whilst for a number this will be their first trip to the Holy City.  All of us have decided to go on Haji Ifrad i.e. we will do the Haj only, without accompanying it with Umrah. The plan was simple enough, stop at the Miqat, the place we put on the Ihram and make the Niat and then head on to Makkah to do the Tawaf Qudum (opening Tawaf) followed by Sa’i which by special grace of Haj rules we are able to ‘save” for Haj i.e. we do not have to repeat for Haj. Leaving the night before the eve of Wukuf, it was a tall order that we can arrive on time to head for Makkah. Leaving the Miqat at just after 3pm the next day we got the message that the authorities have closed all roads leading to Makkah. This called for a change of plan and we headed straight for Mina instead, the Tent City where all pilgrims will spend the night before heading for Arafah after Subuh prayers. There was much change of plans when the Saudi Government announced the Wukuf will be on Friday when everybody was expecting it to be Saturday. So subsequent changes in plan were not unexpected. The announcement also had special significance as any Wukuf on a Friday is termed Haji Akbar which means extra Pahala as all Ibadah on a Friday carries more Pahala than any other day.


                          It was already dark when we reached Mina. We saw a sea of white official Mina pilgrim tents and also mushrooms of scout and camping tents pitched every which way it can be pitched. First illusion dispelled, not all pilgrims come for Haj Tabung Haji style, and equal number came unorganized on their own. The Muassasah gave us two tents, each housing about 50 or so of us, now divided according to sex. The tents are fairly permanent structures and so, I’m glad to report, are the toilet cum showers. It’s no 5 star accommodation but you are quietly thankful to have a decent place to stay when you know this accommodating Tent City is also trying to house millions of other pilgrims. I chose a corner lot and felt pleased with myself that I purchased a sleeping bag a few days ago; mattresses, a blanket and a pillow each was provided but in the wee hours the cold can be chilling. The reminder by Ustaz echoed in my ears; do not cover your head with the sleeping bag as it will breach Ihram rules. We slept tired but happy knowing we have at least achieved one Sunnah i.e. Mabit or ensconced in Mina the night before Wukuf. Called home to find out how the wife and 3 kids were doing at home in Riyadh. At just over one year old Zahir is too young to take to Haj, so the family decision was Papa will do it alone first, this time. I was not too worried leaving them behind as my Malaysian friends occupied 5 out of 7 apartments in my apartment block in Riyadh. Wife said Zahir does not realize I was gone yet and my two preschool daughters were too busy watching Cinderella DVD’s, hmmm.


                      Haj is Wukuf in Arafah, and there’s no better place to Doa than in Arafah.That were the two clear messages from Ustaz Hassan in the Kuliah Subuh before we headed for Arafah. Haj is divided into Rukun and Wajib Haji. If you a miss a Wajib Haji you have to pay Dam or penalty which will be a cupak of rice or a sheep to be slaughtered and donated to the poor depending on the severity of the breach. On the other hand if you miss a Rukun Haji then there’s no Haj for you, you go back empty handed. The key Rukun in Haj is Wukuf in Arafah i.e you must be present in the field of Arafah before the sun sets on the 9th of Zulhijjah. You will spent the day in zikrullah and making doa as the Prophet saw says there is no doa like doa in Arafah, Allah swt guarantees its deliverance. Arafah also have other significance, it is said this is where Nabi Adam Alaihissalam met his wife Hawa after a long, long separation in this strange place called Earth (Ardh in Arabic). We tasted our first experience of Haj traffic jam; well what else can we expect when millions of like minded pilgrims also left Mina that cool but bright morning to head for Arafah. After an hour or so standstill we left our buses to walk to our tent some kilometers away. Ahmad and Asri carried a Malaysian flag each, one leading the march, the other sweeps the rear. I half in jest kept reminding them to make sure the yellow crescent and star is clearly seen by one and all. I tell you in these times you live dangerously when your country’s national flag is almost a copy Amerikiya’s stars and stripes. We reached our tent eventually which we later shared with a group of Hindustani pilgrims. The day was spent much in worship, zikrullah, doa and solat. Nobody must leave Arafah before sunset or there will be no Haj for him or her. The significance of that is everybody will leave Arafah after sunset. The mission was simple enough, leave Arafah for Mina via Mudzalifah . The problem was 4 million pilgrims had the same intention and idea. Yes, the whispers say it was 4 million, although the official numbers say 3.5 million.


We deferred our departure until 10.30 pm trying to avoid the Ba’da (after) Maghrib crowd. As it turned out it meant we were able to travel by bus a few kilometers further than had we left immediately after Maghrib, but abandon the bus we had to do, a kilometer or so before Mudzalifah. Again the buses and traffic came to a complete standstill. Ustaz and a number of the single traveling men stayed behind  with the female pilgrims and the families in the buses, the rest opt to trek the 3 or so kilometers to Mina. It turned out to be a good decision as the next morning we learnt the buses only arrived around Subuh. Our feet was blistered no doubt but at least we had a good night’s sleep in our tents.


Woke up the morning happy we had completed the major Rukun of Haj i.e  Wukuf in Arafah. The next task and Rukun is to throw seven pebbles at Jamratul Aqabah, the major Jamrat of all 3 Jamrats. The Jamrats are three stone pillars set 50 or meters away from each other in a straight line and to which all pilgrims must throw pebbles at. However on the day after Wukuf the pilgrim must only throw pebbles at one Jamrat i.e. the Jamratul Aqabah, the major Jamarat. In the other Mazhabs this is the last of the Rukuns of Haj, the Tawaf Ifadhah and Sa’i being considered mere Wajib Haji. However for the Shafie Mazhab, this Rukun is last but two, Tawaf Ifadhah and Sa'i also being Rukuns of Haj. Much diversity of interpretation is associated with this throwing of pebbles at the pillars. The popular belief is that it is symbolic of throwing stones at satan.; other Qauls especially the Saudis disagree with this belief.


We did not proceed to the Jamrat until late afternoon. There was no point in taking the buses as they will not be able to move so we decided to march the 3.5 km to the Jamrat. Lining up three in a row, we placed the females who wanted to follow in the middle and started the march. Jamhari, a Malaysian working for Nokia whose site office oversees the Jamrat volunteered to lead the group there. A jovial type full of tips and wisecracks he happily accepted the nickname Ustaz Jamrat. The march to the Jamrat with flags of all colours leading groups and battalions of pilgrims was not unlike the foot soldiers war scenes of old. Like the journey to Arafah, the cries of LabbaikAllah Humma Labaik verberated through the atmosphere. Roughly translated it means, I’m here my Lord, I heed your call, I’m here my Lord, I heed your call, repetitiously, not without tears in some pilgrims’ eyes.  As we approach the objective we saw a sea of humanity covering the Jamrat structure. Thanks to the Ben Laden group the semi complete new Jamrat structure is a 4 tier ocean liner shape structure. You can either chose to throw your pebbles at the Jamrat pillars from the ground level or the first floor level, the 2nd and 3rd levels are not ready yet.. Pilgrims traffic flow have also been made one way all the way a major improvement over the past where pilgrims can go any which way they prefer. Other welcome new rulings are no pitching of tents or resting and squatting on the Jamrat, no gas stoves anywhere in Mina and no luggage to be taken with you to the Jamrat. The Saudi authorities have indeed learnt many lessons from past tragedies. Upon reaching the Jamratul Aqabah we paused to wait for an ease in human traffic before heading for the stone pillar. In a well executed exercise the first Malaysian flag carried by Jamhari headed for the pillar whilst the other flag carried by Ahmad moved away to a point designated for reunion after throwing of the pebbles. In the sea of pilgrims all around you, the sight of Ahmad’s Malaysian flag in the distance is a source of much comfort to our group. The launching of Jamratul Aqabah completed we move away from the Jamrat to do the Tahallul Awal i.e. the ritual snipping of hair marking the point where we may disrobed the Ihram and be released from all Ihram rules other than sleeping with the wife. The complete Tahallul ( or getting into the halal state) will only happen after the Sa'i Haji.


A protracted discussion then took place on whether to moved straight on to Makkah 3.5 km away to do the Tawaf Ifadhah and Sa'i on that day itself. Eventually a group decision to return to Mina was made as a number of us volunteered to locate Pak Awang’s mother, a Tabung Haji pilgrim who was in a  poor state of health somewhere in the tent city of Mina. Pak Awang is an employee of Ahmad Zaki Resources  Bhd which provided easily the largest contingent in our group. Little did we know that Ustaz Hassan and his busful of nurses headed straight for Makkah on that day after their launching of the stones at the Jamratul Aqabah. Women have certain deadlines which Ustaz obligingly understood. As it turned out it was another long night for this group, the snarling traffic allowing them to return to Mina only after Subuh. Our group spent the night shaving each other’s heads. Dr Jaafar Ali the specialist from King Fahd Medical City brought his own head shaver which he happily shared with the others in the tent. Learnt some valuable health tips from this good doctor. Use your own shaver, avoid unhygienic public barbers for fear of catching hepatitis C and Aids through open cuts on your heads. Wear the face mask as much as possible, apart from filtering dust and smoke it also protects you from bacteria in the air. I was quite proud that my closely cropped head was shaved none other than by a medical specialist. Shaari the hypermarket ex Giant expat then completed the finishing touch as he used the instrument often to crop his sons.Thus went an eventful Aidil Adha for this group of pilgrims, remembered  for all things other than our usual events associated with Aidil Adha


Back in Mina the morning after it was like mid way though the final exams, happy the major papers are done but not entitled to celebrate yet until the full exam is completed. We still have the launching of pebbles on the Tasyrik days plus Tawaf Ifadhah and Sa'i to do. The final curtain will be Tawaf Wida' or Farewell Tawaf just before heading home from Makkah. The Tasyrik days are the 11, 12 and 13 of Zulhijjah where the pilgrims must throw 7 stones each at the three Jamrat 3 days in a row. However our priority now is Tawaf Ifadhah and Sa'i, two final Rukuns of the Shafie Mazhab. Promptly after breakfast we boarded the yellow schoolbus specially rented to take us to Makkah for Tawaf Ifadhah and Sa’i. Our Riyadh bus had some gear problems which needed to be fixed. Arriving near Masjidil Haram around 11 am we set to meet at the same place opposite King Khalid Gate at 3pm. With 3 Umrahs completed before this, nothing prepared me for the mass of humanity that surrounded Kaabah, virtually every inch of space was occupied by circumambulating pilgrims. With a quiet Bismillah I joined my brethrens in the command of Allah. There were some harrowing moments especially after Hijr Ismail but Alhamdulillah I knew He was there to protect his Guests. As a note to future pilgrims with families or with the aged ones to take care, choose to Tawaf on the upper floors or if possible choose a later Tasyrik day to do the Tawaf Ifadhah. Heed this advice I sincerely plead. The Tawaf which on Umrah will normally take no more than half an hour took 2 hours to complete the 7 rounds. In the early rounds it was probably easier to choose the slightly inner circles as the outer circles mean you have to meet head on with pilgrims leaving the Tawaf to do the Sa’i especially near the green light.


Sa’i was also a jammed packed affair, probably 3 to 4  times more so than Tawaf because of the relatively smaller and more confined space. Many families decided to defer Sa’i to the later Tasyrik days which in my opinion is not an option but a must. Every turn around Bukit Safa especially at the ground level was a life threatening experience. Pilgrims arriving from Bukit Marwah had to contend with new pilgrims joining the Sa’i and the meeting point is a slope down Bukit Safa. He was definitely there to protect us that day. If one is able to get to the upper levels of  Sa’i that is also much recommended but I was informed getting up the stairs is also easier said than done. Aged pilgrims and families with children must defer their Sa’i to the later Tasyrik days in the pursuit of safety. I am reminded we had  4 million pilgrims this time, probably the highest number ever. We reached Mina tired but happy that first Tasyrik day, 11th of  ZulHijjah.The Rukuns of Haj all completed we only had the launch of stones on Tasyrik days to complete. The second Tasyrik day 12th of Zulhijjah the families who were not able to do Sa’i left by bus early in the morning together with Ustaz and a few other single traveling men to help out. Pak Hassanul, the Indonesian telco expat led the team to conduct Korban dan make Dam payment as necessary. Later in the afternoon as we rest in the tent at Mina news flowed back the Jamrat is temporarily closed until 2 pm as some stampede deaths has occurred on the Jamrat. Day 2 Tasyrik is especially busy on the Jamrat as many pilgrims especially the local ones seek to do Nafar Awal or Nafar Sani to reach home earlier. Nafar Awal or Nafar Sani is a special dispensation of the rules where you may leave for home on the 2nd day of Tasyrik if you are able to launch stones for day 2 and day 3 Tasyrik on day 2  itself and leave Mina before Maghrib. In pursuit of this special dispensation the Jamrat was jammed pack on that day and ignoring the rules set by the authorities some pilgrims brought luggage to the Jamrat to save time going home. As most people know by now, it only takes one luggage to drop, one pilgrim to trip over it, for a stampede to occur. We found out that’s what happened that day but at 15 deaths the number was relatively small compared to previous tragedies. The Saudi military quickly moved in and confiscated all bags that are being taken to the Jamrat.


On the 13th of  Zulhijjah the 3rd day of Tasyrik, Alhamdulillah we have completed all Rukun and Wajib Haji. All that’s left is to do Tawaf Wida' before heading home as a new Haj or Hajjah. This we managed to do Alhamdulillah without much obstruction. At 4 am Wednesday 14th Zulhijjah 1427, 4th January 2007, Jemaah Haji Riyadh Malaysia left for home. I was too happy to make the return journey, my doa to do Haj answered, I felt a happy and complete man. Wife said Zahir was searching every room for Papa and Adlin and Adila have abandoned the DVD player seeking Papa on the live telecast of Haj relayed daily by Saudi TV. Hmm, they missed me after all, and Papa was just too thankful to Allah swt to be a miniscule, but personally deeply meaningful, part of the biggest gathering of humanity ever.


Salam syukur to all.


Haji Muhammad Zahid Abdul Aziz


classof72] Of exchange rates and vacations home‏
From: on behalf of zahid aziz (
Sent: Thursday, March 29, 2007 9:47:36 AM

Assalamu ‘Alaikum,

                                  Exchange rates have never really grabbed my attention. It’s the sort of information the TV throws at you, without making much impact on your concentration. However lately the strength of the Ringgit has been the focus of much banter and chay driven conversations here among Malaysian expats in Riyadh. We sent money home occasionally for savings and for a myriad of reasons. Never have such an innocuous activity troubled our minds so much in terms of harbouring traitorous wishes in our minds. Suddenly we find huge slippage in the funds we send home. Ringgit and Riyal is no longer par to par, Ringgit’s continued strength and Saudi Riyal obstinate peg to the Dollar means much financial pain in home transfer transactions. Hours and hours of Economics lecture at Varsity days does not drive home the intricacies of exchange rate movements as crystal clear as when it starts pinching your pockets. But hey what’s a few thousand Riyals lost here and there compared to the brimming patriotic pride that a strengthening national currency gives you. You don’t buy that huh?  Neither do I. But then that’s the price of working overseas. Without wishing harm on the Malaysian currency, the expats dream of dreams may just come true; Riyal may depeg from dollar and fly. We wish.


That’s just one of the preoccupation of Malaysian expats working here. The other constant on the mind is vacation at home. Malaysia really is a bitter sweet love story to most of us. Don’t mind leaving to chart new waters and seek our fortunes but we need to recharge our batteries with doses of home vacations occasionally, or often for some. After September 11 2001, not referring to my marriage of course, European destinations are no longer pulling. Nothing beats the joy of relatives and friends as you touch home shores, even for the shortest of trips. All scenes in Malaysia are seen in new light. You smile inwards gloriously as the plane touched down at KLIA. The airport itself is a source of much quiet pride. The Aunties that wait to feed you the Malaysian goodies you have been deprived of for so long; the renewed taste of Durian, if its in season, the trip to Giant hypermarket with your family, shopping as if you have never left home; and the mandatory trip back to your wife’s kampong, are precious moments you savour slowly.


Like they say you never missed a place until you’ve left it. Try it. It’s a good feeling. Malaysians are a new breed of expats here in KSA. The Pakistanis and the Indians have done it a long time ago. Malaysian professionals are beginning to chart new waters in droves now. Dubai, Riyadh, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar are beginning to see them in increasing numbers now. If leaving creates a chain of upward movements availing job vacancies for our fresh graduates, that can’t be so bad a reason to leave.


Those are my jottings on a quiet Thursday, weekend morning here in Riyadh. Coming home for a 2 weeks vacation in April insyaAllah. My best of thoughts and doa to friends wherever they might be.




[classof72] Learning Arabic from a non-English speaker‏
From: zahid aziz (
Sent: Friday, May 25, 2007 5:12:50 PM

Assalamu 'Alaikum,

It was Saiful, the Mobily expat who started the initiative. We got wind he was going to register for Arabic evening classes at the local Imam Mohammad Saud University. Awakening the latent desire in most Muslim expats in Saudi Arabia we rushed to join him to register ourselves for the twice a week ba’da maghrib classes at the local Muttawwa University. What’s Mutawwa? Well it’s the local reference to the indisputably enlightened but much maligned amar maaruf nahi mungkar section of the ummah which is probably the subject of a future piece from this scribe. The Classes are every Saturday and Monday evening roughly between 7pm and 9pm and we’re not sacrificing any weekends either, Saturday being the first day of the working week. Not familiar with Jamiah Imam campus we parked what seemed 25 km away on that cool February night. But somehow we radar’d our way to the Ma'ahad Kulliah Loghatul ‘Arabia keen to register and  learn the language of the Prophets, and what any salt of the earth Makkah  taxi driver will tell you, language of Jannah. The registration itself was quite an experience. The normally quiet Faculty corridor at that time of day was bustling with expats from most corners of the world. We obtained a registration form each and were relieved to find it was simple and very important at this point, in English! Then it was rushed to the next room to make payment and collect some Kitab. Everybody made it to class except for Azhar and me. The classes are full Ustaz Ahmed said woefully. Come back next week I’ll fixed it with the Mudir he said. However Azhar and I did not have to loiter long, soon after, the class teacher took pity on us and invited us in, he’ll solve the overcrowding next week. Azhar by the way is one of my Malaysian colleagues at work.


I have never attended a language class before apart from Miss Vimala Devi’s Standard One English class many, many, and many more moons ago. Now somehow I sort of assumed the teacher will help out by explaining things in English. Wrong, the Mudarris not only does not speak English, whatever English he knows he makes a solemn oath not to utter to us. I have never focused so much attention on what the teacher is saying as what I did for my Arabic Class teacher. He probably started by welcoming and laying down some ground rules but it sounded to me like Arabic high poetry. It was not unlike starting Elementary Arithmetic with complex Algebra. I looked around the room and felt much pity for Kim, the sole Korean representative in our class. The two Mat Sallehs, Chris and the other guy displayed their best British upper lip face and took it in the jaw like a man. But sooner or later with body language and all from the teacher and full concentration from yours truly, the coins began to drop. Grace be to Allah I began to understand what he’s saying and what he wants the class to do. I quietly hoped Kim and company will follow suit next class.

 The next week they split the class into two. As the owner of the vehicle we came in Wan  Ghazni was transferred to Class B, in true Musketeer spirit we all walked up and requested the Mudarris to join him. Now this new Mudarris was like a breathe of fresh air compared  to the previous one. His English was probably not much better, but he had no qualms using it whenever he sees any of us drowning. We were fortunate this time to have Fawaz in our class. Of Syrian descent Fawaz is an American teenager whose parents sent him to class to learn, in his words, classical Arabic. The Mudarris leant on him a lot to give the class meanings of words or phrases in English whenever the entire class is stumped. Fawaz was absent one evening and it was a true exhibition of body language by the Mudarris to explain to us the meaning of the Arabic word for mist. In class this time were also four Pinoys who eventually turned out to be the top students in our class. Not only were they already speaking unhesitant Arabic, they were also helping Fawaz to explain the English meaning of words to the poor Malaysians, Pakistanis, Indians and Turks.

 Everybody knows Arabic is complex, many knows it has masculine and feminine words but how many knows each Arabic word have 14 permutations of nahu or grammar. A word can be either muannath (female) or muzakkar (male). Haqibah or bag is muannath, Kursiyyun or chair is muzakkar, I won’t explain why, you wouldn’t understand. If in English you will say this is a bag or this is a chair, in Arabic because they are of different sex you say hazihi haqibah and haza kursiyyun. However that is if the bag or chair is near, if you are unfortunate enough for the bag or chair to be far away, be sure to use huna haqibah and hunaka kurssiyun. In English a friend is a friend male or female ; in Arabic your buddy Ahmed is a Sadiq but your colleague Fatimah is a Sadiqah. And if Ahmed and Hussein arrives they are your Sadiqqin but if they came with Kassim and more they are your Asdiqah. Just to confuse you further, Fatimah and Aisyah would be Sadiqqatin but Fatimah, Aishah and Ruqayah would also be Asdiqah.

 If you think that’s confusing you don’t know the half of it. Want to learn about lam syamsiah and lam kamariah? Or harafal jarr and kalimatul maadzi? Come to Riyadh and learn Arabic cold turkey. Joking aside Arabic is a beautiful, beautiful language, you don’t know beautiful until you begin to learn Arabic. If you are entranced by the Arabic speaker spinning sentences like beautiful laces in embroidered fabric you will be enthralled by the beauty of the Quranic sentence. No wonder God says (mafhum) gather all men and jinns for they can’t craft one sentence like in the Quran.

This  week its Ihtibarr or exam time! One thing I tell you about Arabic exams is that the answers are easy; it’s the questions most students have problems with. In other words understanding what the questions wants you to do. Once you’ve figured that out the answers should be plain sailing, if your vocabulary is up to the mark that is. Masmuka by now should no longer be answered, no thank you I don’t smoke. The correct answer is Ismi Muhammad Zahid Abdulaziz. And majinnsiatuka is no longer a referral to a jeans sale, the correct answer is Ana min Malayzie. And mamihnatuka is no referral to a female Malaysian factory worker, the correct answer is ana mustasyar au thobib au mudarris.

 Actually the exams are not over yet. After Muhaddis and Kitabat last week, tomorrow is Qara’ah. I’m so lucky to have a UIA graduate for a personal tutor; at other times she’s of course my wife.

Ilaliqo. Maassalamah. Biltawfiq MinnAllah




[classof72] Of KG Jitters, Ramadhan and Aqiqah in Riyadh‏
From: zahid aziz (
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2007 7:45:09 AM

Assalamu ‘Alaikum,


Life goes on in the expat city of Riyadh. September is just about the month when things start to cool down in the temperate climates but in Riyadh it is still nice and warm at a midday temperature of 37C. Talk is it’s still hot compared to last year. Mind you there is no real autumn here to ease you into the cold season. Cool season arrives in November and by mid December you start searching for the winter woolies.


Went to an Aqiqah gathering at a mini compound housing Malay expats last night. The house of Azman Syukri the Telco expat, to be exact Compounds are a sort of gated community housing expats mainly westerners here in Riyadh. Many Malaysians who are given housing allowances by their employers prefer to live in apartment blocks especially where they take up the entire or majority of apartments. This means they are able to pocket much of the housing allowance meant for them to live in compounds and use it for frequent trips back home or just add to their savings. This compound housed 7-8 Malay telco expats attached to Saudi Telecom, Nokia and the like. It seems our community is getting bigger and bigger, many arrivals in 2006 and also many this year. It also seems the season for arrival of Malaysian Riyadh babies, 3 or 4 this month alone and many more in the waiting list.Of particular mentioned is baby son to MACOBA junior, Nik Ameer of SABIC.  Perhaps something to do with the meat diet of  lahm baqr(beef kebab) or roast dujaj (chicken) which seems to be to be the staple diet here in the Saudi lunch cuisine. Although Tongkat Ali and certain Malaysian lady equivalent drinks are not unfamiliar on the shelves of some hypermarkets in Riyadh.


Much talk is about sending kids to schools or kindergartens. School terms start in September and mom and dads start comparing notes as to which school to send their kids to. Expats cannot enroll their children in National Schools so they are confined to international schools. Many of these schools are run by other non-Saudi Arabs who also have to send their kids to international schools. Joined the school going crowd this year enrolling daughters Nur Adlin in KG2 and Nur Adila in KG1 at an International School run by Lebanese. KG2 or Kindergarten 2 is for 5 year olds and KG1 is for 4 year olds. So far so good the two daughters are primed and ready to start school this Saturday, only mom and dad are worried and nervous, the two princesses never having parted from Mama and Papa all their lives. Two year old Zahir is also excited, demanding to have every bag, every pencil and every sharpener bought for the two elder sisters. So far the Spiderman pull bag has quieten him down a little, all set to enroll at AlMama International School at home. Just as well as Tuition fees are not cheap here, wife says the KG fees per child here are at least twice her University fees in Malaysia. So happy to hear 2 other Malaysian families are enrolling their kids in the same school, Nur Adila at least will have a Malay friend in KG1 the son of Azmil, another telco expat. If there are any enterprising educationist businessmen in Malaysia interested, time is about right to start a Malaysian International School here in Riyadh. Pak Duta, Dato’ Ismail Ibrahim who was also present at the Aqiqah has promised to help anyone interested.


Ramadhan is also just round the corner, one week to be exact. Things get happily topsy turvy here in Ramadhan, school hours are shorter by half hour each morning and noon whilst dad’s working hours are 10 to 4. Breaking of fast starts at 6 pm in early Ramadhan coming down to 5.30 pm just before Syawal. Fajr starts at 4am extending to 4.30am end of month. Talking about Syawal many families are already excited at the thought of going home for Eid Holidays. As usual Eid is a 10 day public holiday for whole of KSA. Adding a few days leave before and a week after plus weekends n all adds up to quite a substantial time at home for many Malaysian expat families. Those that just arrived this year are looking forward to experience first Eid away from home, spending a few days in Madinah and the rest of Eid holidays in Makkah. Reminds me of last year when we spent Eid holidays in KSA, last 5 days of Ramadhan in Madinah and first 5 days of Syawal in Makkah. Was in Masjid Nabi when they made the Eid Announcement ; when I heard the congregation cheering happily I duly went back to the hotel and reported to the wife that Eid is tomorrow. Later that night we were surprised to hear Saudi TV announce that Eid will be day after tomorrow. Only then I realized I made the typical true blue Malaysian mistake. I assumed the congregation’s cheers were for Eid when it was for another day of Ramadhan in Masjid Nabi! Well what do I know, back home we all cheer when its Raya tomorrow, right? It was then I  resolved to enroll soon for Arabic classes.


So pleased to hear that one family who just arrived this year was also from Bukit Jelutong, Shah Alam, sort of orang sekampong. Taught Rosman about Google planet search if he really misses and wants to see satellite pictures of his home in BJ. Cautioned him of not making the same mistake of assuming the pictures are live. Only after the white car in the middle of the road near my office in Jalan Yap Kwan Seng did not moved for 3 weeks that I realized the satellite pictures are still pictures and not live. Live ones apparently are available with payment. There are so far about 47 of us who have  registered in Melayu Riyadh email group. It is sort of Classof72 email group but for Malay expats in Riyadh. Many good tips about easing the expat life in Riyadh; where to find tauhu and tempe in Batha, the Chow kit of Riyadh, and suchlikes. Many more new arrivals are expected soon so we expect this email group to get bigger and bigger each month.


Selamat menyambut Ramadhan dari Zahid dan famili diperantauan. May each Ramadhan be a better one for us than the last.



Hj Muhammad Zahid



[classof72] Lessons of Haj‏
From: onlinezahid aziz (
Sent: Tuesday, December 25, 2007 7:41:31 AM

Assalamu 'Alaikum,

As usual we overpacked. The Zahid family is going on a trip again. “Are we going for a stroll around Kaabah again Mama?” asked Adlin the 5 year old team leader of the gang of three. 4 year old Adila and 2 year old Zahir also sensed there is something different about this trip to Kaabah, their code word for the many umrahs there have been on with Mama and Papa before this. Mama is packing a big bag with lots of snacks plus colouring books and KG English quizzes to occupy their time. And this time Mama says they are going on a bus! For kids brought up on plane trips everywhere this was real excitement.


The bus started the journey at 9.47 pm on the Sunday night before the week long Aidil Adha holidays. Exactly one minute later than the similar trip by Papa last year. Yes we are going on a Haj trip. The key player this year is Mama, being left alone with the kids in Riyadh last year, this year we decided not to miss the opportunity for her to do Haj. Papa have to go along as muhrim, the kids, well they’re inseparable from Mama, so come what may we are going to experience this together. Actually the original decision was to defer the wife’s Haj till the kids grow up a little more but when Tok Abah, the wife’s dad announced he will be going for Haj again this year with Tok Mi, we quickly changed our minds and registered for Haj. Tok Abah and Tok Mi can look after the kids while we do the Haj rituals. The first lesson of Haj for us, we may decide when we want to go for Haj but when Allah has extended the invitation you go whatever your original plans.


This year again there was two buses that gathered at Mutiara Restaurant Riyadh. Another motley group, the Malaysian Embassy Haj Group this year under the leadership of Ustaz Hassan Patani, comprise telco expats, open university consultants, construction industry personnel, engineers, finance industry consultants and the usual quota of nurses and matrons. I was pleased to see Azwan of Hijaz Kasturi Architects from last year’s group in the pack again. Nabil from last year’s group also came for the send off, thoughtfully leaving several boxes of Skyflakes crackers to be snacked on by the pilgrims on the bus trip. I never knew how popular my writings were until Nabil threatened me with all manner of sanctions if I don’t write again about this year’s trip. Azmil teased that the Greatest Gathering of Humanity article I wrote describing last year’s trip was a best seller; I am just pleased if my narrative helped picture the haj rituals otherwise more aptly described elsewhere in Haj books and kuliah haji.


                     The overnight 1000 km desert highway journey from Riyadh to Taif was uneventful. Our bus were full of nurses, ours being the only family with children, the others were couples and several single traveling men. Ustaz was careful to ensure there were enough men on each bus for obvious security reasons. The other families all traveled on the other bus plus their quota of nurses and single traveling men. There are a lot of expat “bachelors” in Riyadh not because they are not married but because they haven’t got round to bringing the family yet. Two buses on the same journey but as we shall see with different tales to tell at the end of the trip. We reached Taif the Miqat and place of Haj niat early in the day. Being fairly cold I decided to dispense the sunnah of shower before ihram and took care of the kids while wife prepared for her ihram niat. Adlin was feeling a little bit poorly having suffered motion sickness and slight fever most of the journey. The night before I made a special solat hajat that our journey be safe and all be in good health. I wondered, but held steadfast that Allah will see her through. As it turned out later after several days of temperature and tiredness my eldest daughter fully recovered. The second lesson of this haj for me, hold true in your doa to Allah, do not doubt and have full faith that He will deliver.


Unlike last year where we headed straight for Mina because the road to Makkah was closed, this year Ustaz was determined to head for Makkah because there were two pilgrims who made the niat of Qiran whilst the rest made the niat of Ifrad. For those who made the niat of Ifrad, tawaf in Makkah after Miqat was just tawaf sunat qudum or opening tawaf but sa’i was for haj, their niat being the niat of haj without accompanying it with umrah.It does not really matter then if they do not make it to Makkah before Mina and wukuf in Arafah. For those who made the niat of Qiran it was incumbent they do the tawaf and Sa'i for they have made the niat to combine their umrah with haj. If they fail to do umrah before going to Arafah it is not good and they have to pay dam or penalty under the rules of Haj. I wouldn’t have minded if we headed straight for Mina, the kids were tired and so was the wife but as a member of the group we had to honour the niat of the Qiran pilgrims and head on to Makkah. As it turned out it was a welcomed decision after all, Sa’i which can be reserved for haj i.e. not repeated for haj, was a stroll, as most pilgrims in Makkah before haj, have headed for Mina. This compared to Sa’i after wukuf last year which was life threatening at several points. Another lesson of this haj for me, sacrifice your personal preference and go with the decision of the jemaah and things will turn out just swell.


Wife and family and wife’s lady pilgrim friend who could not do tawaf for female reasons were ensconced in the house of Ustaz’s cousin not far from Haram. We were welcomed with traditional Patani warmth and hospitality. Hailing from north Perak and being of Patani stock myself I felt very much at home in the house of this Patani family. There are a lot of Patani people in Makkah or for that matter throughout the world. They are in a sense a displaced people having witnessed their proud Malay Islamic kingdom once known as the Mirror of Makkah being conquered until today by the Siamese. Being deeply religious people they know the Quran commands them to regain their nation; die trying or leave the nation says the Quran. Living in Patani as a conquered people is not a choice Allah gives to true believers. But alas the people of Patani know too well they have little friends in the world today. Many oohs and aahs and the sounds of sympathy in the Muslim world but none that will carry the mantle to help them deliver the command

of Allah. If a conquered people is oppressed and as a result, daif and unable to regain their nation on their own then for other brother Muslims what was originally fardhu kifayah to help, becomes a fardhu ‘ain to help deliver. The Patani people hopes their Muslim brothers are comfortable with their hujjah for we shall surely meet in the Court of Allah. But then as they say that’s another story.


At 11 pm almost 24 hours after we started in Riyadh, the two buses left Haram to mabit (esnconced) in Mina before the start of wukuf day at sunrise. As it turned out we could not reach our tent in Mina as there was a massive traffic jam in Mina with roads closed every which way but Arafah. It was as if Allah was steering us straight to Arafah. Initially disappointed not able to reach the comfort of our tent in Mina we took solace in the fact we reached Arafah just after Fajr bypassing the wukuf morning traffic jam which is usually even bigger than the one we just faced. But we had not reached the Arafah tent yet; we were in the Arafah bus park waiting for the camp guide to arrive to take us to the camp. As it was a long wait all pilgrims went down and placed their sajadah next to the bus to recite the prayers, do the zikr and make the doa required in Arafah. The first rukun of haj is the niat at the miqat. Being present in the field of Arafah at sunset on the 10th of Zulhijjah is the second and most important rukun of Haj. It does not matter we were not in our appointed tent we were already in Arafah. The guides eventually came to take the two buses of pilgrims to our Arafah tent. Then began the tale of two buses with different stories to tell at the end of the day. The first bus driven by Abu Hamzah escapes the roadblock but finds itself outside the border of Arafah. The pilgrims quickly descended the bus and returned to Arafah.  The camp guide carrying the Malaysian flag to head the walk to camp walked too fast and left the families stranded. Even the single traveling men could not keep up with him. Eventually he managed to deliver the Malaysian flag to the camp safe and sound without a single Malaysian pilgrim in tow. A busful of Malaysian pilgrims lost in disparate groups in the sea of 3 million pilgrims in the field of Arafah. Ahmad, Ustaz Hassan’s  assistant admitted at this stage he was almost in tears fearing especially for the families with the infants. Then what can only be described as the miracle of Arafah took place. Slowly the lost pilgrims find each other and under Ahmad’s instruction gathered near the Namira mosque. By late evening Alhamdulillah every single pilgrim was accounted for. There were no hysteria, our traditional Malay upbringing ensured everyone was calm and smiling despite the worries they went through. What lessons to be learned from this experience? To be calm in the face of difficulties ; tawakkal ‘alAllah He is with those who displays sabr’ or patience.


As for our bus we were stuck still in traffic; we could not move left or right, north or south. But we were inside the border of Arafah so a collective decision was made to just stay here until sunset which will not be very long. So out came the sajadah and we sat and zikr until maghrib. We did not reach our tent and have our lunch but everyone knew

 the priority was the rukun of wukuf in Arafah not bodily comforts which we have had for all our lives. I was thrilled to learn we were poised at the head of the queue that will march to Muzalifah at the stroke of maghrib. I recall the popular western saying, be careful what you asked for, you may just get it. In the Muslim context I prayed for a safe and easy haj. So far, behind every difficulty faced there was a rahmat. The trip to Makkah before Mina was not favoured by me but it turned out I had an easy Sa’i. We did not reach our Mina tent before wukuf, but this meant we reached Arafah just after Fajr bypassing the major traffic jam the morning of wukuf. We also missed the Arafah tent but found Allah placed us at the head of the queue to Muzalifah. I vividly recall last year’s haj where the bus with family left Arafah at 10pm and reached Mina only after fajr.In my life I have analysed many a situation when Allah delivers our doa without us realizing it. We were more engrossed with the difficulties Allah placed at hand and forget that camouflaged behind them is the deliverance of our prayers. Have we forgotten Allah’s revelation in the Quran that behind every difficulty there is a blessing? Now I also truly understand the meaning of “baik sangka” or only having good expectation of Allah. Think, as we are often asked in the Quran, and many a time we shall find that Allah has answered our prayer without us realizing it.


At the stroke of Maghrib each of us was thankful that Allah have chosen us to be there in that auspicious moment.Alhamdulillah we have fulfilled the second and major rukun of Haj i.e. present in the field of Arafah at sunset

on the 10th of Zulhijjah. Abu Idris our driver started the bus for our next objective, mabit in Muzalifah till at least midnight before heading for our tent in Mina. The bus parked near the border of Muzalifah and Mina 1 km from our tent in Mina and we embarked to do Maghrib and Isya’ jama’ taqdim in Muzalifah and to collect the 7 stones to fulfill the second rukun of Haj, launching of stones at Jamratul Akabar the next day. This was now Tuesday evening, I did not shower on the Sunday evening we left Riyadh as time did not permit or truth be told it was too cold to do so. So it is now 2 and a half days since I last had a shower. Clad only in the two piece of unsewn ihram clothes I was looking forward to a good shower in Mina followed by a change of clothes after tahallul awal following launching of Jamratul Akabar the next day. Then Ustaz dropped the bomb shell for us, all roads to Mina was closed, pack a few belongings he said and lets trek the one kilometer to camp. Last year I was alone, trekking was easy; this year I have 3 preschool children and one very tired wife, 1 km this year is probably 3 times more difficult than last year. Wife  and I packed whatever we could in two haversacks and several Tamimi hypermarket plastic bags, set up the stroller and got ready to move the logistics to our camp one km away. Allah delivered in the kindness of one nurse who took over the stroller with Adlin in it plus the plastic bags full of pampers and other kids stuff. I passed the wife’s haversack to Suffian Ustaz’s other assistant, wife carried Zahir, I shouldered Adila and we started the trek to camp. Reaching the camp tired and sweat stained I rationalized there was no point taking a shower if I have to slip back into my body odoured ihram. It was now 3 full days since I last had a shower. I fell asleep dreaming of all the nice things we packed but Allah

 denies us from using. But not before the lesson became clear to me; the best laid plans and preparations comes to nothing if Allah says it is not to be. We packed every which thing which can be packed for a comfortable haj for us and the kids but Allah says we are not allowed to use them, being  in Abu Idris’s bus one too long kilometer away.


Abu Idris was another story. If looks could kill he was a dead man that night. Why didn’t he attempt to drive the one kilometer to camp before roads were closed at half past midnight. Many saw that if he had started his engine at 12.05 we would have been home at our Mina camp safe and sound with our belongings. But he did not budge from his mattress and the more discerning among us realized he had no intention of driving us to camp that night. He tried the next day but this time clearly the road was blocked. After launching of stones at Jamratul Akabar the next day which was a 5 km walk from the camp and 5 km back to the camp this was one tired and disheveled  pilgrim. I truly learnt the meaning of “sehelai sepinggang” or without worldly possessions apart from the clothes on our back. That afternoon after we did the tahallul awal or snipping of hair that alleviates us from the rules of ihram other than sleeping  with the wife it was three full days since I put on the ihram and 4 full days without a shower. Only in haj we will experience such a life. After the wife sent me an SOS from her tent that all pampers are out, Adel, Ustaz’s son and I led the march to the bus to retrieve our belongings. Abu Idris was not a popular man at that time. That afternoon everyone had their luggage and I had my overdue shower which was a truly luxurious experience.


The major rukuns of haj completed we only had the tawaf ifadah to do followed by the launching of stones on tasyrik days. The bus stopped one km away from Haram and we trekked in groups to do the tawaf  ifadah. We set to meet Tok Abah and Tok Mi in front of Darul Tawhid Hotel who will take care of the kids while we do the Tawaf and Sa’i. Wife did not do Sa’i on day of arrival so for her it was wajib, for me it was just sunat accompanying her. Compared to last year both tawaf and sa'i were relatively easy, we did tawaf on the ground level and Sa'i on the upper floor. The challenge started when we boarded the bus to head to the Jamrat to launch the stones on the first day of tasyrik. This time like on all tasyrik days all three jamrats have to be launched with stones compared to only Jamrat Akabar on the day after wukuf which incidentally was also Aidil Adha. The bus could not move what was estimated to be 1.5 km away from the Jamrat. All roads to Jamrat are closed said Ustaz and Abu Idris. The only option was to walk which everybody except me and my family, did. To me it was not an option, I had three sleeping kids. There was no way they could manage the 1.5 km walk through intense traffic to the Jamrat followed by another 5km back to camp. I told Ustaz come what may I shall stay on the bus until the roads reopen whenever that might be. Abu Idris said it might be for a

 few hours or it could be after fajr. I gestured to him my sleeping kids and said I had no choice. Abu Idris saw the sleeping kids and the love of a father in my eyes and must have struck a chord in him. He promised to drive as soon as the road opens which it eventually did at 11 pm. Although the baksheesh I offered  had some part in Abu Idris’s change of heart I could see it was not entirely that. We became fast friends after that. He told me he was not exactly Syrian, he is  a Kurd by nationality and that there were millions of Kurds in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. I understood where he was coming from and nodded with much sympathy. He owned the bus he is driving having paid cash for it a year back. He drives his bus as far as Turkey and Egypt and will go wherever his clients tell him. He missed his family in Damsyik and showed me pictures of them on his handphone. Lesson for me was you cannot forever dislike anyone you are at odds  with on Haj, Allah forbades that and you must find a way to forgive. If not Allah will find a way such that forgiveness will happen.


The rest of the Tasyrik days and tawaf wida’ was, Alhamdulillah, uneventful. We finally met up with Tok Abah on our final day in Makkah. He was lost and we did not see him on the day we came for tawaf ifadhah, only Tok Mi was around then. Wife and I tried to do tawaf on the ground floor for wida’ but it was too crowded. We went to the roof top and did what people said was a 7 kilometer tawaf. Tok Mi and Tok Abah then helped carry the kids to the bus which was a couple of kilometers away from our meeting point near Darul Tawhid. We were extremely tired and exhausted when we reached the bus to head for home. Said goodbye to the doting grand parents and we started the journey home at 1am on that Saturday night, almost exactly 6 days from the day we started in Riyadh.


I have learnt many lessons on this trip for haj but the most poignant for me was Allah meant his guests to experience hardship. Why else must Haj be at one place at one point in time? Why must 3 or 4 million pilgrims be present at one place at one point in time? Allah loves His creations more than any human can imagine; why did He not allow haj to be done every month of the year. He meant us to experience hardship to see how we fare and how we react in the face of adversities. It was also like many people suspect, a little taste of, and little practice for, Mahsyar.


I thank all my companions who helped me and my family on this trip. And I thank Allah for answering my prayers and delivering me and my family and all my companions back from a safe and easy haj.


Salam sabar and salam syukur to all.


Haji Muhammad Zahid Abdul Aziz

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Jetlagged in Bukit Jelutong

Jetlagged in Bukit Jelutong

Its 3am on the night before the first lecture and the kids are up and about. I slept more than I was awake the whole day before; the kids slept at Maghrib and woke up at midnight. All of us except the wife were anything but sleepy. But I shut my eyes anyway wanting to be fully rested for the first day of Muamalah’s Two Day Islamic Corporate Financing & Islamic Capital Market Course at Crown Princess KL. I have done it many times before but I still know a good rest before the talk is always essential. Last April it was Cherating first before the talk because of the shorter break and turnaround time; I decided that was not good, I was too occupied with not catching a cold before the Course, my mind did not focus on the holiday. This time it’s Langkawi after, insyaAllah and decidedly that’s a better strategy.

I must admit I have come to enjoy delivering these Courses. Like the traditional medicine seller insyaAllah its almost second nature now, the well rehearsed jokes at the turn of each topic, the controlled silence and pitch to deliver an important point, and the unashamed advocacy of a revolutionary new angle to be reflected on by the audience. How do you change mindsets that have been monopolized by one system for the last 1400 years; how do you extol the virtues of a system that came 1400 years too late? Yes that’s how late Islamic banking and finance came into our lives. Practised by the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Sahabat in 600 AD, it was then completely ignored and only reintroduced to the Ummah in the 1970’s. During the gap, the riba system flourished unchallenged, so much so it has lodged itself in the minds of Mankind, Muslims or Non Muslims as the only way to do banking. Whole economic theories are expounded on riba platforms; university courses and researches extend the grip of the system further.
What is the riba system? It is a system of doing banking without the need to trust anyone. The whole system hinges on the premise that everyone else except you, are crooks and cannot be trusted. Legal agreements and legal framework are crafted to allow you to safely do business with crooks. The injunction of the Quran to give loans as a matter of good deed to help people in need are laughable matters in the context of modern riba banking. To develop a society based on trust and mutual help are for the birds. Where are we heading if we have yet to abandon a system which our Creator and His Prophet have declared war on? Another constant injunction by Allah swt in the Quran is for us to think. But oftentimes we are too lost in our daily lives to spare the time to think.

If a system is developed where you can safely do business with crooks, would not crooks be empowered in such a system? What about a system that emphasise much trust and much tolerance between contracting parties, would crooks have a place in such a system? Think, says Allah swt in the Quran.

Two kids were up and one again sleeping by the time I got home after the second day of the two day Course. I am always happy, when as usual, there were a lot of non Muslims in our Courses. I admire their tenacity to learn. Quietly I am proud of a Religion that regulates the Economy as well as all parts our lives and not just revolved around strict aspects of worship. I look forward now to meet my in laws in Kota Baru and then on to the soothing shores of Langkawi, insyaAllah.






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Muamalah Financial Consulting Sdn Bhd(494989-H)
17-1, First Floor, D'Bayu, Jalan Serambi U8/21,
Bukit Jelutong, 40150, Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia 
Tel:+603 7842 5187, +6012 212 5405 Fax:+603 7842 5201, +603-7847 3214
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