We live in an age of opinions. Everyone seems to have something to say about anything under the sun. These views, comments and arguments flood the digital media in such a rapid rate that one could spend a whole day just reading and engaging with conversations that in most instances lead to nothingness. In such an opinionated environment that we are in today, it is sometimes wise to take a step back and remain silent. I call it the virtue of silence and here’s a few reasons why silence is a virtue:
1. Deep thinking
Silence allows the mind to think deeply about a particular issue without jumping quickly into making conclusions and judgements. As one sits back quietly to reflect upon what one is doing and thinking about as well as what others are up to, one can gain a wider perspective about a particular task or problem hence finding more creative and wiser solutions. Little wonder then that as we lie down and rest at night before going to sleep, we may at times solve certain puzzles of life that were seemingly difficult to resolve.
2. Safe from harm Continue reading “The Virtue of Silence” »
On Saturday, 23rd January 2014, I gave a talk at the National Library on Historical Controversies in Singapore and how we should deal with them. I began by saying that we are living in an age of information explosion where new ways of looking at history could be easily found in the internet and other forms social media. Because of this and the rise of an inquisitive generation of youths, it is pointless for us to sidestep events and episodes of history that were previously deemed as controversial. Rather, we should celebrate historical controversies in order to move society towards full maturity and to develop Singaporeans who are ready to engage in constructive dialogues and debates.
Some examples of historical controversies include questions such as:
1. Who are the “real” Founders of Singapore? Or were there any to begin with?
2. Were the local elites working together with the British and the Japanese to exploit and suppress the local population?
3. Was the colonial state any different from the postcolonial state in terms of its management of the local population and its strategies against perceived enemies of the state and the control of the media?
4. What has been the human cost of Singapore’s road to being a First World Country?
Continue reading “Coming to Terms with Historical Controversies In Singapore” »
I delivered a talk a few days ago at Singapore Institute of Management on the Spread of Islam in the Malay World. This was part of the “Halaqah Series” organized by the Muslim students committee in that campus.
Attended by more than 50 participants, many of whom are students, retirees and working professionals, I shared about the various groups of people that were responsible for the conversion of Malays to Islam. Arabs, Indians, Chinese and even Malay missionaries were active in this part of the world since the 7th Century to explain to the Malays about the beauty of Islam. It took close to 700 years before the Malays finally decided to convert to Islam en masse. When that great transformation happened, Malays became powerful Muslims who built a flourishing civilization admired by peoples from all over the world!
I think the talk went pretty well. I made sure that it was not a one-sided affair; me talking and the attendees listening. The students asked a variety of questions amongst which were:
1. What is the true Malay Identity?
I answered that to be Malay was to be Muslim or at least to accept the Muslim way of life, to speak the Malay language, practice the Malay customs and to be born in a Malay family or accepted by the Malay community. The Malay identity, as I explained, is somewhat unique. It is inclusive, so much so that anyone could be Malay if he/she were to manifest the facets of that identity cited above. And yet, a Malay cannot claim to be Arab, Chinese or Indian because those identities are exclusive unlike the Malay identity which is generally accepting.
Continue reading “How Malays Became Muslims and Lessons for us Today” »
The year 2013 has come to a close. Many people we know celebrated it with much fanfare and jubilation. Some spent much of their time shopping, buying as much stuff to prepare for school and work in the many challenging days ahead of them. There are others who prefer finishing the rest of the much-needed holidays by traveling overseas to explore places and sites previously unfamiliar to them. I, however, decided to take time away from what’s left of the year to contemplate over what has taken place in the last 365 days and think about sources of motivation for us to move forward. Upon much reflection, I realized that there are Five Powerful Things that Muslims have in ourselves that could make us Great People…again. Here are the five things which I hope Muslims (and non-Muslims) could derive inspiration from:
1. The Power of History
We have more than a millennium of achievements that we should be aware of that can help us to chart new paths for ourselves. Great scientists, leaders, activists, thinkers, artists, writers and so forth have emerged from the centuries of Muslim history. These personalities in the likes of the Prophet Muhammad, the four Righteous Caliphs, Harun ar-Rasyid, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Sina, Al-Biruni, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Qayyim, Mehmet Al-Fatih, and closer to our time, Umar Faruq, Iqbal, Hamka and Muhammad Yunus should serve as exemplars for us to emulate. We should put to practice the fine attributes, skills and attitudes that they have perfected for our own benefit. Knowing the power of our history and the powerful people in our own past will help us understand where we are now and give us the confidence to lead breakthroughs in many areas of life in future.
Continue reading “5 Powerful Things Muslims have that can make us Great People….Again!” »
To parents out there who are so overly worried that PSLE or any exams whatsoever will make or break your children’s Life, let me just say that I too was an average student during my primary school years up until I finished A levels.
And I too had seen friends who did so well in their studies early in Life. But so many are now lost in a world of their own, not achieving anything for themselves. Not doing anything to make the lives of people around them better.
To do well in studies is but one Key to Success in Life. It is not the only Factor. In Singapore, many fail to see beyond examination scores hence they become Failures in Everything Else except exams.
Continue reading “Looking beyond Exams” »