The 21 Century Don Quixote account #5: The most “Islamicity country” and closure passages on Bismillah al Rahman al Rahim.
The Good Nation in the grand scheme of things is the theme of chapter four. This posting of a Islamicity Country study underscores the ranking of The Good Country Index with the conclusion that self-declared Muslim nations pale in governance and economic advancement relative to nations deemed secular.
It is a moonlight dream to stretch along the straits. And in the evening glow, won’t the wind throw a cruel man a spade? Melaka was a Straits Settlement dissolved in 1946.
It has remained a sleepy hollow in comparison with Singapore and the former Prince of Wales Island. The Chinese majority society of the two islands is a macro element but the laid back character of the people living in the backwaters of the quaint city was the telling factor.
The Don high school years in Melaka proved to be good grounding for his idiosyncrasies. Now part of Malaysia what continued to stir his thoughts on missed riches of life in his home country – the self-declared land of glory?
1 September 2017 was a public holiday in Malaysia, the “Hari Raya Haji” being observed by Muslims. Each year, four states, namely Perlis, Kedah, Trengganu and Kelantan had an additional public holiday because they were the Islamic heartlands. The Creed of Abraham nonetheless had no “Feast of Sacrifice”, although the annual pilgrimage to Mecca was ascribed to the prophet Abraham.
Sleepy hollow Melaka was not as backward as the four states. Trengganu no doubt was relatively well off due to its oil and gas resources. Still, Malaysia’s petrochemical industry was far behind Singapore, which produces more than twice the quantum. Within Malaysia, Trengganu with its availability of oil and gas as feed-stock even lack behind the Johore state.
The Don had in his Creed of Abraham module 11 playfully appended a reproach of a community to a prophet’s preaching: “Does your prayer (translated from ‘asalatuka’) enjoin you that we should forsake what our fathers worshiped or that we should not do what we please with regard to our property?”
Could prayer enjoin a person to forsake his or her wayward ways in regard of property? If “submitting to the ordained way of life” was substituted for “prayer” would that make more sense? Rubbing salt to wounds the Don then footnoted the module 11 entry ‘Can anyone out there with religious halo clarify why even the billions of stars in the sky submit to the ordained workings etched with creation and they move in tandem with the ever expanding borders of the universe? Yet they profess to have knowledge that man was created to worship God whereas everything submits to God, not bowing and praying.’
The Don Q novel refrained from directly stating verses of the Quran. In 21 Century Don Quixote there is no such restrain. The above rhetoric footnote could be inferred from Q3:83. Also refer to Q11:84-87.
The word “serve” – in Arabic, ‘na’budu or ya’budun’ is derived from the word ‘abd’ which means servant [note that servants serve]. All humans are servants of God – hence they serve and have to be subservient or submit (‘sujud’) to God alone. Our deeds (‘amal’) are the service (‘ibadah’). The verb ‘na’budu’ means ‘we serve’ and ‘ibadah’ is the noun signifying the service we render when we uphold our commitments by fulfilling the prescribed decrees.
Such submission through practical good deeds equals service to the Lord. God needs nothing of mankind. Very pertinent is that God [vide Q13:11] does not change what any people may have until they change whatever they themselves have.
Since Don Q lived in Malaysia he relished a 2010 publication on ‘Overall Islamicity Index’ which ranked Malaysia as the highest among Muslim countries. The study by Scheherazade S Rehman and Hossein Askari from George Washington University published in the Global Economy Journal Vol 10 examined policies of 208 countries to see if they were founded on Islamic principles using criteria such as economic opportunity, economic freedom, corruption, financial systems and human rights.
The study found that most self-declared Islamic countries did not adhere to Islamic principles concerning economic, financial, political, legal, social and governance issues.
The most “Islamicity country” was non-Muslim – New Zealand. Luxembourg came second. No self-declared Muslim nations were in the top 37 of their ‘Overall Islamicity Index’ where fairness, justice, honesty are the cornerstones of government policies and of its citizens’ daily dealings. Only Malaysia (38) and Kuwait (48) made it into the top 50 from Muslim countries. Malaysia was ranked 33 in Economic Islamicity Index whereas Ireland was ranked highest.
The study has plentiful citations and quotations, thus any inquiry as to the characteristics of Islamicity will have ample even traditional reasoning. (Refer http://hossein-askari.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/islamicity-index.pdf )
A reminder of the teachings in the scriptures (vide Q43:3) was transmitted in Arabic form so that the Arabian communities could use their reason, but the hut schools think that reciting the Quran in Arabic is the benefit.
Q8:21-22 . . . the worse animals are those who do not use their reason.
Q9:108 . . . you are to partake in submission (to the prescribed way), from the onset of revelation stated as righteousness, if you want to cleanse yourself of oppression and whatnot. Those who abuse this submission (vide Q9:107) to cause mischief, disunity and turn people from truth will swear that they have the best intentions.
[Aren’t it strange that coreligionists can imagine anyone abusing a mosque structure for such consequences. Their semantics baffles because they read verses in isolation. You will note that we purposely placed Q9:107 after Q9:108 to make the corollary clear].
The layman needs to understand the scriptures, and upon acquiring knowledge he then establishes his submissions or in Arabic “lamasajidan” (to the best of his capacity); living a life of abundance while recognizing the distinction between the truth and falsehood.
The Islamicity Study questions how man can live the true meaning of Islam. “The true parameters are trust, justice, fairness, freedom. People do not lock their doors when they go out and yet no one trespasses the property. If you return a broken egg to the grocer he replaces it without question. People are honest in their dealings irrespective of the value of the transaction.”
Do not be surprised that the Quran in Q3:75-78 adamantly insists that you must honor your pledges. Some people will not repay even small debts without persistent demands. It’s just that such commands are not fancied by the clerics, hence not popularized.
Excerpts from chapter three:
Circa 1987 Don Q was in between jobs prior to his appointment as a in-house productivity analyst with a leading conglomerate. The first assignment was located outstation and he would need additional money for mobilization for a three month project.
He obtained a five hundred ringgit loan from a Chinese uncle after he had called upon his mother to ask his uncle on his behalf. On receiving his pay cheque at the end of the month, the Don made it a point to telephone his uncle to set up a convenient date to repay in full what he had borrowed. Being happy to quickly settle his debt was second nature to him.
In fact the Don had a personal credo of sorts, that is, “Do not position the lender to be a beggar for what he had loan out and make it seem like you are doing him a favor by returning what you borrowed. Being joyous when you pay promptly what is due to others is a noble value worth imprinting unto one’s soul.”
A year later the Don was in a position to loan his sister-in-law a sum of six hundred ringgit and she uttered, “Insha-Allah (if God wills it) I shall repay you when I receive my pay at the end of the month.” Promptly, on the first day of the next month he sent her a SMS message ‘Your salary cheque should be cleared now. If you repay the six hundred ringgit before Fatima returns, that will be good news to her. Regards, Don.’
His sister-in-law telephoned immediately in response, saying, “Thanks for the message. I will come to the house this evening. Do you want the payment by cheque or cash?” “Cash”, said the Don, with a smile in his heart.
Just settle what is owed as soon as it is convenient, and take pleasure in doing so. If it gives you pleasant sense of fulfillment of moral responsibility and simple joy; then be at peace because that is what you will be questioned in the afterlife.
Why “cash” repayment and smiling inwardly? Firstly, the SMS message was just a reminder from the Don, wanting his sister-in-law to be blessed in conforming to good karma. For the Don cash will be convenient, unless she was willing to bank in a cheque payment directly to his bank account. The more convenient it is for the lender – the greater the blessings for her. So happily Don Q sighed a hefty smile.
It appears funny that a discourse in being a good pay-master becomes a canonical foremost “religious obligation”.
What has the coreligionist expert to say about “Among the people of the Book are some who, if entrusted with a hoard of gold, will readily pay it back; others, who, if entrusted with a single silver coin, will not repay it unless you constantly demand of them . . . Whoever fulfills his pledge and act upright – verily God loves those who are righteous. [Refer Q3:75-76]
Was the Don free from financial predicament the month he repaid the loan from his uncle? He was adamant that he delivered his obligation without any appeals for installment payments, certainty not asking for time extension.
It is not a case when one would want to put the lender in a awkward state with a not so innocent “Do you need the money I borrowed to be repaid this month?” catch 22 question. Better indeed is that we need to tighten our belts for the time being rather than put off repayment because of our own casual needs.
One might religiously pray two times daily without fail or even five times, but what matters is what actions come after prayers.
In the Quran it is stated that towards God do words ascend while God exalts honorable actions. If you pray, be disciplined by it. For example, we can strive to be punctual, sincere in our everyday commitments and practice mutual consultation in the affairs which affect others.
Fair trading and an equitable economic system interlocks with the individual work ethic, honest work and everyone’s skills expertise range.
In the Don Q novel, his colleague Malcolm was a hard worker. But a younger co-consultant mate Zul epitomes this characterization. Don Q had taken Zul under his wings in 1989 doing a consulting job involving analysis of newsprint usage in regard to material variance and eventually engaging in a hands-on change program to reduced wastage in printing newspapers.
Zul, then a fresh university graduate was not handsomely paid. Nonetheless his work ethic of striving the extra mile in anything that was assigned to him greatly contributed to the program success in a very traditional business environment where employees had been in service for no less than a decade or two. Work methods and holding on to set procedures were presumed to be cast in stone and change was a vulgarity of untold proportions in the eyes of near retirement department heads. The lower managers and leading hands were however excited with change and took a liking for Zul’s simple mannerism and very pleasing personality. They did not fail to see that he rolled up his sleeves and functioned as they would as he seek to understanding the intricacies of churning out early daily newspaper editions and second editions.
The project outcome brought immense pride to the supervisors and workers because from a high adverse standard material variance of eight percent they became on par with the then industrial norm of four percent in spite of their near obsolete machinery. Zul’s in-depth sequencing of activities and prevailing practices of newsprint loading and supervision of press run stoppages, as well as ingrained policies of putting aside fixed quantities of collated newspaper copies for the commercial division and other recipients of free copies enabled recommendations by Don Q to be more straight forward and the Managing Director had no qualms in pushing what appeared to be no brainier changes in practices and policies based on common sense and astute observations.
It was a case of why slice off more than a centimeter depth of newsprint paper rolls before loading onto the printing press? Clarifying full focusing on signaling press run ends reduced excess printed copies. Analysis of performance using more expensive quality newsprint rolls against cheaper Indonesian brands showed the true cost effectiveness too.
When Don Q was engaged by a top level consulting outfit in 1996 he brought Zul on board with a remuneration package worthy of his skills sets. His earlier five years consulting exposure with Don Q stood him in good stead. His career progress in the firm was limited though due to a lacking of high profile communication proficiency. Still at his level of competency he excelled. The last time Don Q touched based with him circa 2002, Zul had joined the internal auditing team of Malaysia’s leading shipping multi-national company. That’s the work of universal energies dispensing cause and effect recompense.
Excerpts from chapter four:
Each person’s “skills-range expertise” sets him ablaze to play his role in God’s grand scheme of things. One’s life is uplifted. With concerted discipline and proper organization of tasks even washing dishes can be a meaningful vocation.
In George Town, Penang, Malaysia there is a coffee shop next to the “One Hotel” at Transfer Road. You will notice how the dish washer (circa 2016) engages the cleaning routine very methodologically and takes joy from constantly maintaining his work area neat and “in perfect order”.
The Don would dare say the outcome of cleanliness and having everything – the cups and glasses, saucers; cleaning paraphernalia all in their set places is superior to any done in any household. That’s vocation in the truest sense.
He was especially impressed that the dishwasher appeared to be glowing each time he douses a cup or glass after its first wash into a vessel filled with water saturated with a cleansing agent. He lets the cups and glasses in the vessel rest a while and then removes them for rinsing with fresh running water under a tap.
He is unaware of the sum of the attractive or repulsive forces between water and dirt molecules nor has he heard of Van der Waals but he knows that running water is more effective for cleansing than the stationary water in a bucket.
After he wipes them dry and places them neatly on the shelf space earmarked for them he beams with inner satisfaction of a task well done. Don Q was sure he does not dread each morning needing to spend hours at work. He will be dismayed if he missed out on the elation of dish washing.
Teaching can be a vocation of the highest order but most take it as a mundane job and they are teachers by default, not for the interest or love of it. Oh how uncommon it is to find a teacher whose face is always radiant from dedication to the role of educating youths, winning the crowning adoration of students.
Perhaps all they need are the creative tools of the trade and a focus on innovation at the workplace.
1st Attitude Change for Educators
Emphasis ought not be so much on knowledge memorizing but knowing how and where to source factual information, scanning for the more reliable and updated information, quick discard of irrelevant data and frivolous information but keeping added value case examples and interesting anecdotes that shape illustrating subject themes.
Coach the student to firstly understand the subject topic scope and next mentally conceptualize the big picture of what the assignment output looks like. Jot down the outline points and the sourcing for the right information on the internet becomes easier because of key words and even questions which they need to respond to with answers and/or viewpoints.
2nd Attitude Change for Educators
In the realm of educating youths to eventually synthesize their “skills-range expertise”, imbibe in them to constantly trigger their imagination or for them to associate facts with application, and any ideas to creativity or at least to reality.
Hence the lesson plans should have footnotes options that can appropriately help translate (wherever feasible) the subject concept and substance into some practical aspects of everyday life in order to show what the facts are really telling.
For example when expounding the formula for calculating the circumference of a circle, relate it to how much fencing material (barb wire etc.) is needed for a pasture field. In explaining parallel and series electric circuits illustrating the series circuit functionality in jump starting a car which battery is dead is a fine example of relating the concept to reality.
There is more for the interested reader in Addendum E of the 21 Century Don Quixote manuscript.
Closure on Bismillah al Rahman al Rahim
The opening of the Quran starts with the phrase “In the name of God, the Almighty, the Most Merciful” (Arabic:Bismillah al Rahman al Rahim). There are two iconic ‘ayat’ (verses or statements on lessons and signs found in the Quran) which can underscore the exposition of the core Quran philosophy if properly understood.
As per Q27:30 [denoting Chapter 27 of the Quran, verse 30] . . . the beginning of a letter from Solomon to the Queen of Sheba, “In the name of God, the Almighty, the Most Merciful” you will note that Solomon deflects his status as ‘King of Israel’ and in writing to the queen he considers his action humble and merely in service for God.
It is for and on behalf of God in fulfilling his commitment as per covenant with God to abide with the prescribed submissions (Arabic: masajidal-lah). His stance is not one of a mighty ruler but one whose ‘amanah’ (moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to God and fulfilling them in accordance with one’s station in life and prevailing circumstances, i.e. the trust between God and man) bears upon him to act accordingly – not because of his worldly dominance of wealth and power.
Any person uttering the phrase “In the name of God, the Almighty, the Most Merciful” or in Arabic – Bismillah al Rahman al Rahim as a prelude to a deed, be it an act of eating, doing a workplace task, partaking a leisure activity or trade transaction or giving charity, loan, making of will, lecturing, tilting the soil and such will consciously abide to endeavor to his or her best effort with integrity, honesty and distance himself from injustices.
Solomon’s intent was not to colonize the domain of Queen Sheba.
In Q11:41 Noah said, “Embark therein: in the Name of God will be its course and its anchorage. Surely, my Lord is Ever Forgiving, Most Merciful”. The corollary not to be missed is that Noah’s aforesaid expression reflects his resourceful building of the ship and consummated preparation for his mission. Hence he is self-assured that his eventual voyage destination will be in equilibrium with his righteous deeds and intent of submission to God’s will.
He understood the way of God (“sunatulah”) – and he sat sail knowing his final destiny would serve God’s greater scheme of things. He also had put in his best efforts and preparation under his prevailing circumstances.
Uttering Bismillah al Rahman al Rahim expresses your intent to uphold your commitments (aqimi-Sol-laa-ta) through the ends of the day and parts of the night, knowing that the righteous deeds nullify the bad and you become set in the way of uprightness (deen-al-hunafa) as you devote yourself to serve God in sincerity under your circumstances and present station in life. [Inferred from Q11:110-114]
To reach this state of realization one must firstly “know for sure” that God permeates the whole universe while we merely exist; and that God’s established constant laws apply, thus we sincerely affirm the Law of Cause and Effect when we utter Bismillah al Rahman al Rahim. The universal energies will ensure the rightful recompense due to us. They is no need to supplicate a return on our service or “ibadah”.
The Solomon and Noah narratives (Refer Q27:30 and Q11:41-48 or the clarifications in Chapter 5) underscore In the name of the Almighty utterances as the prelude to abiding with the prescribed submissions (Arabic: masajidal-lah) and to fulfilling one’s “amanah” (conscience embedded moral responsibility) in accordance with one’s station in life and prevailing circumstances
. . . commencing to take a drive What is the state of your moral responsibility should you be a reckless driver? With passengers on board, aren’t you obliged to ensure a comfortable ride as well as making safety a first stance?
. . . before a meal it becomes incumbent upon yourself not to over indulge and you ought to be very mindful of waste.
. . . Workplace illustrations will tilt towards quality precepts of Edwards Deming. The outcome of quality improvement is reduced waste be it in the form of reduced rework, rejects or direct material usage.
. . . matter of car accident insurance claims whereby a reputable workshop submitted to the insurance company an exorbitant bill. A “pious” process engineer interjected with his tale of taking advantage of his accident situation. He had colluded with the workshop to expand the damage to include a need for total new paintwork.
When retired corrupt officials donate to places of worship in the name of the Almighty their misplaced contribution is mere taking the name of God in vain. How wrong they are. Only good deeds can nullify evil deeds. Noble values is the basis of righteousness. Honesty leads to righteousness which in turn leads to paradise or serenity on earth. Bismillah al Rahman al Rahim then fastens righteous acts and any contribution from coffers of honest work.
Who but the hypocrites would use the expression in prelude to a deed of evil intent and of evil consequences or causes injustices. You would not Bismillah al Rahman al Rahim before dispensing handouts which wholly discriminate against certain races; when accepting monies which will be used to sponsor people whose livelihoods are dependent on spreading the word of God or to upkeep places of worship which are not resource centers for the betterment of society; certainly not when accepting corruption payouts or in making payouts.
The diversity of opinions and general thinking relating to God’s message in the Quran becomes the quintessence of utter disconnection with the wholesome nature of the teachings of the Quran.
The seldom quoted Quran verse Q39:37 “Whomsoever He guides none can misguide” is a telling upshot (end result) of an upright person having realized tranquility.
The Don often invoked a very personal anecdote circa 1978 when he accompanied his boss at that time to his rural village in Chenor, Pahang. Don Q was so absorbed by a conversation between his boss since mid-1977 and the latter’s father-in-law, Jaffar. The already retired elderly man, radiant with repose eagerly expressed that his cherished dream to read a translated Bible in his vernacular had materialized. Guess the Bible in Bahasa Indonesia was not readily available in the 1970s.
What’s to fear in reading books of various religions? We seek the common values which resonate well with our God-endowed conscience. Our hearts are touched with truth as we ascertain that certain values underscore the Quran message and the readings as a reminder. Some consider the Quran the seal (meaning the conclusive rendering of divine rules and customs that are truth and what are not) thus God’s words (also found in other scriptures) are further crystallized.
Still, we use our minds to dissect touted values and stipulated rulings and whether they trouble our conscience as to their benefits, as a source for reducing perceived sufferings and promoting happiness for having a peaceful life. Another verse, Q5:105 states: “Your souls are in your own care. No one gone astray can harm you if you are guided.”
The common layman in any society must not just watch the tower grow. Unity of purpose especially in a society of diversity is strength. Do not fall for the insincere call to reject diversity in the community.
That’s really what the masses miss out in not appreciating the significance of the statement “Certainly it is now clear between the guidance from the wrong ones” in Q2:256. Many folks also do not know that discarding of undesired items for charity has little merit. Inferring from Q3:92, you will never attain virtue (Al Birr) until you spend out of something which you are fond of.
Being too dogmatic but missing out on the core values is being bewitched as the tower grow. There ought to be unison in knowing the corollaries of the guidance in the scriptures – that’s the symbol of the tower of babel in this manuscript.