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Monday, December 31, 2012

The day the wall came down

Yes, I know. The title may sound a bit dramatic. But I can assure everyone that things are taken very seriously right here in Setiawangsa.

Late Friday evening, around 10 p.m., part of the retaining wall at Bukit Setiawangsa came falling down. I got a call from my uncle asking me about this as his daughter's friend tweeted about this incident. At that point in time, I was at home at Taman Setiawangsa which is further down from where the landslip took place. Upon checking Twitter and Facebook, I found that, yes indeed, the wall had come down. If this happened before the era of the social media, I am sure many would still be in the dark about the incident, and that news would not have spread that fast.

Speaking of being in the dark, I called up a friend living at Puncak Setiawangsa. Apparently the whole area of Puncak Setiawangsa went dark. He told me that the police had asked them to leave their homes and be outside the house. When I told him that there had been a landslip, he was not in the know at that point in time. Some ten minutes later, he called me back, and confirmed that there was a landslip slightly further up from where he lives.

Credit should be given where it is due. The police, fire brigade, local authority and residents all acted promptly and swiftly. No lives were loss, thankfully. But property damage is definitely huge.

As of today, the affected house at the edge of the peak is being demolished. This started earlier today and is still ongoing. Two other houses may be demolished as well. In the meantime, the experts are studying the soil movement in order to rectify the problem.

Those who had to be evacuated are still awaiting news. Those living near the affected area are definitely nervous. News (both factual and sensational) on this matter are everywhere.

In a way, it is good that people take notice of the incident. I am just hoping for several things:

  1. Hopefully, this incident will not result in finger pointing and accusations because this will lead nowehere. Find the cause of the problem and remedy it for the safety of the residents in the area.
  2. For the past two decades, there have been numerous incidents of landslips and landslides around the Hulu Klang area. Some of the incidents involved the loss of lives. Most of the times, people forget about these incidents after a few weeks. I hope that this incident will not be seasonal in nature. We should not talk about it only when it happens, and forget about it after things have quieten down. There are many high risk areas around the Klang Valley. There must be continuous efforts to ensure the safety of these areas.
  3. If there are weaknesses in the system, identify and improve them. I find it rather disturbing that the report made by the affected tenant of the house several days before the actual landslip was not acted upon promptly. Reports such as this should be looked at seriously by the authorities.

As it is now, I am hoping that the situation will improve. Everyone gets the jitters each time it rains here, as this will definitely increase the risk of the soil collapsing further. So far, things seem to stabilise and everyone is praying that it will continue to be so, until the problem is rectified (soon, hopefully).

What a way to end 2012.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sinking ship

This is a fictitious story of an ill-fated ship. 

Before the ship set sail, the captain of the ship succeeded in gathering the best of crew members he could find. They were a skillful and dedicated lot, willing to do more than what is asked of them. The journey was long and perilous, but they all managed to overcome whatever dangers that come their way.

After sailing for three years, they noticed that the ship's supply was beginning to dwindle mysteriously. The first officer who had been with the captain even before the ship began its voyage, was the first to suffer. He had to go without food for days at end, just to ensure that the other crew members had enough to eat. Strangely, the captain did not have that problem. He seemed to have all what he needed, all in the comfort of his lofty cabin.

Some crew members started talking, and the captain did not like it. A few of the crew members were dismissed, and they were left on small remote islands. The rest of the crew members decided not to speak anymore for fear of being marooned on deserted islands.

The suffering of the first officer continued. He was left fending for himself while the captain seemed to be very comfortable. It was around this time that the first officer started to feel suspicious. It was also around this time that he noticed that the ship was sinking.

He alerted the crew members who did what they can to contain the leaks. But the holes became bigger and bigger, while the captain seemed to be comfortable in his cabin, as if oblivious to the problems. Whenever told of the problem, he would always say, "I am busy thinking of the solution." Yet, the solution never came. He went on living in his own world, so to speak, comfortably pampered in his luxurious cabin.

The first officer, who had been left fending for himself without food, decided that enough was enough. He took it upon himself to leave the sinking ship. One night, he took a small boat and sailed away. He was rescued by a huge sailboat.

The first officer did not forget the fate of the crew of the ship that he left. He tried to bring them on board to the new ship whenever there was an opportunity. Other crew members also started to leave one by one. The captain did not seem to care. The only thing that he said was, "Everyone is a grown up. You are old enough to decide what is best." His words were cold as if he did not care what was happening to the ship or the crew.

At the end of the day, no crew members were left on the ship. The only one left was the captain - still feeling comfortable in his luxury cabin.

And when the ship finally sank, the captain was left on his own to sink with ill-fated ship.

And no one missed him.

Not one bit.

This is a fictitious story of an ill-fated ship. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Put your wealth not in your heart

Several years ago, someone I know said to me, rather proudly, "I once had a million ringgit." At that point in time when he said those words, he no longer had such amount of money. On the contrary, he was borrowing money from people just to keep up with his rather lavish lifestyle.

When a mutual friend passed away, he asked me for RM1,000 on the pretext of borrowing it to help out the family of the mutual friend. At that time, I was also in some difficult times, but I helped out because I felt the need to help the deceased friend's family. I just smiled when the friend who asked for the "loan" gave the money to the widow as if the donation came from him personally. Never mind, I said to myself. The person who provided the money to the person who handed the donation would surely be bestowed with even greater rewards from Allah SWT. Even to this day, I hold firmly to this belief.

This debt was never recovered. My conscience is clear. Even if this particular loan was not repaid, I regard it as my own donation to the deceased friend's family. True enough, five years on, the qard al-hasan remained unpaid. Instead, the debt grew. Promises were made, only to be broken. I could list down all the empty promises made, but I won't. Suffice to say that with more promises made, the level of trust eroded slowly but surely.

What saddens me is that he does not even show a sense of guilt. He goes on living lavishly on, what some people may argue, other people's money which is due to them. People talk, and people will continue to talk. And this friend goes on living as if people are oblivious.

He also once told me that people will look up to others because of two things, i.e. the car you drive and the shoes you wear. Both these things, according to his materialistic philosophy, will open up gates and doors to important people and opportunities.

Frankly, I could not care less about what car a person drives or what brand of shoes one is wearing. The car I drive is based on the needs of my family. I don't buy cars because of their brand names. Why drive a Mercedes when I cannot afford it and if it does not serve my purpose? If you can afford luxury cars and shoes, by all means, go ahead. If, on the other hand, you are like me, a pair of Bata shoes costing RM50 will last me for up to two years. If you don't believe me, just take a gander at my shoes the next time you see me.

One of the things I hate in life is owing people something. If I have debts with other people, I will have difficulties sleeping. When the debts are repaid, I find myself at peace. That is why I will do my very best to avoid borrowing money from people. Even when the need arises, I will make it a point to settle it as soon as possible.

I do not want people who help me during my times of need having to ask for what is rightfully theirs. Worse still, I do not want people to feel like beggars when they ask about their repayment. Unfortunately, this is how I feel each time I inquired about the money that is owed to me. The creditor should not be made to feel like a beggar. It is the debtor who should feel guilty for not paying up.

I know this is very much a personal jotting. But please allow me to use this blog as an avenue for me to put this down. It is not my intention to put anyone down. I just feel that there is great injustice in the way some people act.

Even if one has a mountain full of money, the money will certainly run out if one is lavish. If one borrows money just to cover his lavish lifestyle, at the end of the day, one will have debts the size of a mountain instead. No doubt, money is important. But if one puts money as one's priority, one will end up getting addicted to it.

I like what I read somewhere that gives the advice: "Put your wealth in your hands and not in your heart." In other words, you should control your wealth, and not let your wealth control you.

After much thought, I figured that this friend must have put his wealth in his heart, otherwise he would not only still have his million, but also would have doubled or tripled his million. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

New novel "Detik" is out

After a long break from creative publication, my third novel is finally out. Technically, I finished writing this novel late last year. The manuscript was submitted for a science fiction writing competition. When the result was announced last Thursday, my novel clinched third place.

I am most grateful for this interesting experience. I have never written a novel for a competition before, so being able to clinch a place is a bonus. In many ways, this achievement has pumped up my spirit to continue writing creatively.

The novel is now in major bookstores in the country. It is called Detik, a story that I can only describe as debating the ethics of time travelling.

Get a copy, and enjoy the reading journey.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Ever since I was a young boy, I enjoy gardening. This is a favourite hobby of mine until about five years ago. When I started doing my Ph.D. in 2007, gardening no longer became an activity. It was more of a distant memory of years past.

Last week, after nearly half a decade, I decided to start gardening again. It was then that I realised what I have missed all these years. Weeding, pruning, feeling of having soil in between your fingers... I did not realise how much I miss all these until I started doing them again.

Gardening also helps me to relax after a long day. And it is much easier to sleep at nights too.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

One journey ends, another one begins

It took me over a month to recover from all the excitement. It started with receiving the job offer at Universiti Malaya. I made the move to the oldest university in the country on the 3rd. of September. A few days earlier, on the 29th. of August, I got a call very late in the afternoon informing me about the date and time for my viva voce, which was on the 4th. of September. With that over, I had less than three weeks to do the minor corrections so as to enable me to join the convocation on the 1st. of October. Alhamdulillah, I managed to have them done and was one of the 353 Ph.D. graduates from Universiti Malaya for 2012. Amidst all the happenings, my sister also graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons.) from the International Islamic University Malaysia on the 7th. of October.

All these events actually was pretty hectic for me. I rarely get online at nights these days. By the time I get home, I am pretty much tired and opt to rest rather than sit in front of the laptop. Since the thesis is done, I don't have any valid reason to stay up unnecessarily. Most of my work can be done at the university, something that I cherish at this age. I can spend more time with my family, especially my two boys, at home.

Of course, one chapter of my life's journey has ended. Now another chapter begins with my tenure at the university as a full time academic. So far, I am relishing in the joy and challenges of being an academic. Hopefully, whatever tests that may come my way, I will be able to handle them with wisdom, insha-Allah.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Journey's end

There is only one word that I could utter when my viva voce session was over late Tuesday afternoon: Alhamdulillah.

I received a call from the Faculty of Science just after 6 p.m. last Friday informing me that my Ph.D. thesis defence has been set on Tuesday, 4th. September 2012 at 4 p.m. I later found out that there were two other candidates before me, one in the morning and another at 2.30 p.m.

In many ways, I was relieved that the day was finally set. It has been a long time waiting. The thesis was completed way back in May 2011. However, because of some bureaucratic problems (which I do not want to think too much about), I was only able to finally submit the thesis in June 2012. Things went pretty smoothly after that. The examiners were appointed promptly, and all three of them handed in their "verdicts" on time just before Aidilfitri.

Of course, when Tuesday came, I became anxious. I was finally at the end of a long journey. My last hurdle, so to speak, was the viva voce session. The candidate before me went in at about 2.30 p.m. and he only came out of the meeting room at 4.15 p.m., overshooting his scheduled time. Apparently, I was told later, many questions were being asked by the panel members.

I only went in around 4.45 p.m. and was duly asked to do my presentation. My presentation went on for about 15 minutes, followed by a Q&A session which lasted for 10 minutes, which by all accounts was quick. Having said that, the 10 minutes must have been the longest 10 minutes that I have ever felt.

In retrospect, the session went pretty well. It was quick and as some of my friends pointed out, painless. I came out of the meeting room feeling a huge burden on my shoulders finally have been lifted. It was a great relief that is difficult to describe.

I was called back into the meeting room at the Dean's office about five minutes later. I was informed that I passed with minor corrections. Officially I am given three months to complete the corrections, but the Dean wanted me to hand in the completed and corrected thesis within two weeks time. This is due to two reasons. Firstly, there were not that many corrections that need to be done as they were very minor. Secondly, this will enable me to join the convocation ceremony on 1st. October.

Now, my task is to get the corrections done, have them verified by my supervisor, and submit the thesis to the university.

As I wrote earlier, I can only utter the kalimah tahmid as a sign of satisfaction and relief. I am thankful to Allah SWT for the strength that He has given me to go through this five-year academic journey that taught me patience and perseverence, and has even made me more mature along the way. I am also thankful for my family members who have provided the support and understanding throughout my Ph.D. journey. I am also very grateful to my supervisor for her wisdom and guidance.

This has been a very interesting journey. It has now come to an end. But the end of this journey means that a new journey has begun.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The move

I have been hinting about this for quite some time, and the latest was in the blog posting here. In fact, truth be told, this was something that I have been seriously contemplating on since I went to Makkah in 2010.

The time has now come for me to move on. I have decided to leave my cushy job as Executive Director at Yayasan Ilmuwan, and jump full time into the academic world as a full-time academic. Today is officially my last day at the Yayasan.

My supervisor, Professor Datin Dr. Azizan Baharuddin, has been egging me on to make the jump for the past five years, I think. I have been taking my time before finally deciding to do so this year. I have been hesitant, yes, but not because I do not fancy the challenge, but rather I have to make sure that my decision will not have negative impacts on my financial standing to support my family. As the main breadwinner of the family, I have to be very certain that this career jump is beneficial in the long run.

I started working in 1996, beginning with the Malaysian Strategic Research Centre (MSRC), for about one and a half years under Dr. Abdul Razak Abdullah Baginda. It was here that I learnt the basics to conducting research, thinking critically and analysing events. I also learnt a lot for being directlty under Professor Datin Dr. Kobkua Suwannathat-Pian, a renowned historian, at MSRC.

Then in 1998, I moved on to the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) for nearly eight years. I had the benefit of learning from people like Professor Dato' Dr. Ismail Haji Ibrahim, Professor Datuk Dr. Abdul Monir Yaacob, Datuk Dr. Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas, Datuk Nik Mustapha Nik Hassan, Professor Dr. Abu Bakar Abdul Majeed and Encik Mazilan Musa - all of whom I consider my mentors and teachers in research and academic writing. I was also privileged to be able to work under the then-Chairman of IKIM, Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid, under whom I learnt some useful management techniques which I apply to this day. It was also here that I was exposed to the media, both print and electronic, as well as to international and local conferences and seminars.

I then moved on to Yayasan Ilmuwan in December of 2005. In terms of pace, it is basically more relaxing as things were "quieter". My vow was to get the newly-formed organisation up and running. Now that things are running, I guess it is the best time as any for me to make my next move...

...which is to Universiti Malaya.

I guess anyone who knows me well enough should find this hardly surprising. Universiti Malaya has been very close to my heart for many years now. This was where I did my M.Sc. in history and philosophy of science. This is also where I am at the tail-end of my Ph.D. (waiting for my viva voce which should be very soon). This is also the place where I found my love in lecturing.

As such, I will be starting on the 3rd. of September as Consultant Expert at the Programme for Applied Sciences and Islamic Studies at the Academy of Islamic Studies of the university. I look forward to the new challenges ahead. I know things will not be easy. This will be my first time working at a fully public institution. This is also my first time working in a very big organisation. It is thrilling nonetheless, to just think about the challenges at the university.

I would like to sincerely thank a few people who have helped me in making this decision a reality: My supervisor, Professor Datin Dr. Azizan Baharuddin, for listening and advising me on making the move; my mentor, Professor Dato' Dr. Ismail Haji Ibrahim, for the encouragement; equally significant is the role played by the former Director of the Academy of Islamic Studies, Associate Professor Dr. Ruzman Md Noor, who was instrumental in facilitating my move; also, to the current Director, Professor Dato' Dr. Zulkifli Mohd Yusoff, for expediting the move; and finally, the Programme Coordinator, Professor Datin Dr. Noor Naemah Abdul Rahman, for her strong support.

Also, not forgetting my confidants who have provided me with much encouragement and assistance in making the decision.

This is indeed an exciting time for me. I look forward to what the future holds. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Timely lesson of Ramadan

Ramadan may have passed, and we are now in the month of Syawal. I am sure everyone is still very much in the festive mood of Eid.

While we celebrate Eid, let us not forget the many lessons we obtain from the school of Ramadan. One important lesson that I see not many people notice or appreciate comes in the form of time management.

Let us give this a bit more thought.

In the month of Ramadan, many of us make it a point to be punctual for our prayers. Most of us have no problems waking up in early so as not to miss sahur. Since we are already up that early in the morning, we have no problems performing the subuh prayer. Some even go the extra mile to perform the tahajud prayer along with other optional prayers before subuh.

As we are already awake for subuh, most of us would be ready to leave for work and arriving much earlier than usual. Since we do not have to take breakfast, we would already be at our work stations ready for work. While at work, we do not have distractions for tea breaks and lunches, hence we would continue with our work.

Most offices allow its staff members to leave early at the end of the day by halving the lunch break. It is amazing that many people could actually finish the same amount of work within eight hours in Ramadan, compared to other months where people would stay back on the account of finishing up work.

We would rush home, prepare (or buy) food for iftar. At the stroke of maghrib, everyone breaks fast on time. We even have the time to break fast with all our family members, which seems difficult to do outside of Ramadan.

Interestingly, as maghrib is the one of the shortest prayer times, we could still find time for maghrib prayer, rest and then go to the masjid for isyak and the terawih and witir prayers. We even have time for tadarus al-Quran during this time.

I find it amazing that in a month like Ramadan, many of us actually are able to manage our time pretty efficiently. We can do many things that we just cannot seem to do in the other months. In fact, I for one believe that productivity is actually greater in this holy month for Muslims who truly observe the ibadah.

The challenge now is for us to be consistent even after the month of Ramadan. If we can be as efficient in time management as we were in the holy month, I think we can bring out the best in ourselves, insha-Allah.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Eid 1433H

With the coming of Aidilfitri, I would like to wish all visitors to my blog, "Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri" and "maaf zahir dan batin".

May this auspicious day bring us closer to our loved ones in the true spirit of Eid.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Career jump

I have mentioned many times before that I would one day jump into the academic world on a full-time basis. I have even blogged about this briefly in the past, for instance in this post in 2008 and another in 2009.

Frankly, I have had many opportunities to make the jump earlier on. I was wooed by Universiti Sains Malaysia way back in 2002. I have been asked to join Universiti Malaya on many occasions before. I have also been linked to a yet-to-be established university since late last year. 

All this while, I have been somewhat reluctant to make the change in my career, primarily because I have yet to complete my doctorate. This has always been my "excuse" for not making the shift into the academia.

This year, however, I have submitted my thesis. I am now just waiting for my viva voce. Hopefully before the end of the year, I should get my doctorate, insya-Allah.

Since submitting my thesis for examination, I have been doing a lot of soul-searching. I asked myself what is it that I want in life. Research, publication and lecturing have been my life since I started working in 1996. I believe that the time is right for me to be truly involved in the academic world, not just being at its fringes and borders. I have been doing research and academic publication with research institutions. I have also been lecturing on a part-time basis.

I strongly feel that the time is right for me to fully move into the academic sphere.

Such a time for the move is actually getting closer by the day.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Touching TVC from Petronas

Petronas has done it again.

Every year, for as long as I remember, Petronas has been coming up with thought-provoking television commercials (TVCs) during festivities and special days such as Aidilfitri, Chinese New Year, Deepavali and the National Day. The national oil company has set the standard with its TVCs that is beautifully presented with memorable messages that sometimes can bring people to tears.

This year, Petronas has come up with what I think is the best so far. The TVC entitled "Strangers" is touching and carries a deep message that can definitely touch everyone's heart. This is also, I believe, the first TVC that shows Petronas' involvement outside Malaysia.

The message is simple, yet is deeply meaningful and very apt.

As I said, Petronas has done it again! Enjoy the long version of the TVC. Kudos Petronas.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

New books out

This past month, two books which I have been working on have been published.

The first is International Workshop for Islamic Scholars on Agribiotechnology: Shariah Compliance published by the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (MABIC).

The second is Dimensi Islam dalam Wacana Sains published by Yayasan Ilmuwan.

Hopefully these two new additions will be beneficial references for those researching in the area of Islam and science.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

In the pipeline

I have a novel which will soon be published and launched. I have been informed by the publisher that the novel will be launched with four other titles this coming October if everything goes as planned.

Unfortunately, I have been asked not to divulge any details as of this writing. As such, until I get the green light to do so, the only thing that I can share is the following cover sans the title.

Consider yourself teased.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ten observations about Hamburg

This is probably my last post on Hamburg for a while. These are just some interesting observations I have on Hamburg, which may or may not be agreed upon by others:

#10: I have been informed that there are nearly 50 mosques in Hamburg! One taxi driver who drove one of the speakers to the hotel from the airport said that Hamburg is the place to be for Muslims. I managed to visit two mosques in the city centre, and I can say that Islam is thriving here. One mosque complex even houses a barber shop, a book shop and a restaurant. Aside from being a house of worship, it has the original spirit of the masjid during the time of the Prophet where it is also the hub of activities for the Muslim community.

#9: The Alster (picture at the top) is magnificent! Don't miss a cruise on the Alster Lake when you are in Hamburg. 'Nuff said.

#8: One of my major concerns before going to Hamburg was communication. As I can only speak Malay and English, I wondered if I would have problems communicating in a country which uses German as its main language. Fortunately, my concerns are unfounded because English, to my pleasant surprise, is spoken quite widely here. It is definitely much easier to communicate in Hamburg, compared to when I went to countries like Algeria, Egypt and Japan.

#7: As with most countries, the Germans are very passionate about football. When the German team won their quarter-final tie against Greece, you can hear, literally, their ecstatic cries of joy!

#6: It is quite easy to find halal food. Most of the halal shops in Hamburg are owned by Turkish migrants to Germany. However, there is one halal restaurant not far from the University of Hamburg and the hotel that I stayed in which is owned by a Pakistani. It is called "Balutschi" which serves a very nice chicken briyani dish. I would recommend it for anyone who has the opportunity to go to Hamburg. More information on the restaurant can be found at this link.

#5: Most shops close early. So it is quite difficult to buy things after 6 p.m. and even more difficult after 7 p.m. Then again, this is quite typical of most European cities. Only the Asian shops would close slightly later. When you come from a country like Malaysia, you need to adjust yourselves to the business opening hours in Europe. One cannot assume that every country is like Malaysia where it is easy to find shops that are virtually opened 24 hours a day.

#4: Generally, the city of Hamburg is very clean. The only down side to it is there are graffiti almost everywhere.

#3: Cycling seems to be an important way to get around in Hamburg. I just admire the way people in Hamburg, young and old alike, cycle. In fact, there is a service for people to use public bicycles which can come in handy.

#2: For some strange and unexplainable reason, I find Hamburg has a very familiar feeling to it. The city reminds me of Glasgow. The two cities are very different but somehow I find the air to them have some striking similarities, which unfortunately I cannot put a finger on.

#1: I have always had the perception (perhaps wrongly) that Germans are not friendly. However, throughout my experience in Hamburg, from the time I arrived at the airport until I departed from the airport, everyone I encountered were pleasant, friendly and helpful. The immigration officers at the airport were very friendly (unlike the ones I have encountered at Heathrow), the security officers were polite (unlike the stern and unfriendly-looking ones at most airports that I have been at before), and most people I came across on the streets would smile and say "guten tag" (good day). While I cannot generalise for the rest of Germany, I can certainly say that from my short stay in Hamburg, the Hamburgers (people of Hamburg) are very friendly.

There you go. Ten observations on Hamburg, a city I would not mind going to again if there is an opportunity. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hamburg - Day 4

I am already back in Malaysia as I write this overdue posting on the final day in Hamburg. I was unable to post anything on the final day in Hamburg as the schedule was packed. I had to check out first thing in the morning before attending the conference. Check out time is 11 a.m. in Germany, and I would not be able to check out at that time as I would still be at the conference's venue. I was also unable to check out later since the room was already booked by someone else.

In any case, the final day of the conference went smoothly. Another four Malaysian speakers presented their working papers, including myself. In fact, I was the first to talk, and the topic given to me was "The Role of Diverse Stakeholders in the Malaysian Bioethical Discourse". My PhD supervisor, Professor Datin Dr. Azizan Baharuddin went up next, with her paper entitled "The Role of the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) in the Malaysian Bioethical Discourse".This was then followed by Datin Dr. Lela Yasmin Mansor's paper on "The National Transplant Resource Centre (NTRC)". All three of us actually shared the same session with another speaker representing UNESCO who took the stage before me.

In the final session of the conference, my colleague from Yayasan Ilmuwan, Muhammad Zaki Ramli presented the preliminary findings of his master's study on "Exposure to Islamic Bioethics among Biomedical Science Students in Malaysia".

All in all, I would say that the conference was a success. The deliberations and discussions were lively. Kudos to the host, the Asien-Afrika-Institut (AAI) of the University of Hamburg for organising this timely conference. On a personal note, I hope that the networking established during the conference would continue and be strengthened. My sincerest thanks to the organiser and sponsors who made my trip to Hamburg possible.

After the conference, I had a bit of time before my flight later that evening. I accompanied Professor Azizan to the city centre as she wanted to find some souvenirs. After that, I went to one of the organisers' home, Dr. Jenny Schreiber, who was kind enough to invite the Malaysian delegation for barbecue. Unfortunately, because three of us had to rush to the airport to catch our flight, we were not able to stay for the barbecue as it was not ready when it was time for us to leave.

It was around this time that my former boss at IKIM who was also a speaker at the conference, Dato' Dr. Ismail Ibrahim received news of the passing of his mother-in-law in Kelantan. The news took everyone by surprise. Fortunately, Dato' and his wife, Datin Hanifat were able to make arrangements for an earlier flight the next morning. (More on this as written by Dato' Dr. Ismail in his blog).

My sincerest condolences to Datin Hanifat and her family for their loss. May Allah SWT bless the soul of her mother. Al-Fatihah.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hamburg - Day 3

At the time of blogging, Germany is celebrating their quarter-final win over Greece in the UEFA European Football Championship 2012. The Germans are very passionate with football and this is very much evident even before kickoff starts at 8:45 p.m. local time. I was in the city centre this afternoon and the anticipation of the match was very apparent. The sound of celebration can be heard from my hotel room even as I type this very sentence.

It is quite easy to be swayed from the actual reason for this posting. I did not originally intend to start off writing about football but the euphoria outside makes for an interesting observation. In any case, today is the second day of the conference at the University of Hamburg. In total, there were 14 papers presented today with three papers presented by Malaysians.

Ustazah Nor Safina Zainal from JAKIM presented her paper entitled "The Malaysian Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM) in Relation to Bioethical Discourse". Professor Dato' Dr Ismail Ibrahim from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia presented his paper "Development of Fatwas in Malaysia with Special Attention to Bioethical Issues". Dato' Dr Zaki Morad Mohammad Zaher from Ampang Puteri Specialist Hospital spoke on "The Novel Legislation on Transplantation in Malaysia: How It Emerged and What Problems Arose during the Process".

The second day ended with a forum with the theme "The Future of Islamic Bioethics", and one of the five panellists was Professor Datin Dr. Azizan Baharuddin, the Deputy Director-General of the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia.

It was also an interesting day for me on a personal note. I had the opportunity to meet up with my former classmate between 1983 and 1985. After 27 years, we finally met in person and of all places, in Hamburg. Siti and I were classmates in Sekolah Rendah Seri Tebrau (now Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Tebrau) in Johor Bahru. In 1985, I moved to Kulim following my father who got transferred there. Siti and her family meanwhile migrated to Hamburg in 1986. The picture below was our school photo taken in 1985. Siti is seated at the far right at the front row while I am standing at the far right at the back row.

Fortunately, because of Facebook, we were kept in touch again a few years back. But as fate would have it,  I am here in Hamburg to attend a conference, and Siti was around for a mini reunion of sorts. Although we met briefly, it certainly brought a nice feeling since the childhood friendship was able to be renewed and refreshed. The photo below shows our brief meeting in Hamburg earlier this afternoon.

I suppose what I blogged some years back do have a ring of truth. Life is like spaghetti. Imagine each of us is a strand of spaghetti in a bowl or a plate. And that strand of spaghetti is the path that we take in our respective lives. There are times when our paths cross one another at different points. There are times when our paths are separated. And yet, there are times when the strands (paths) are so near but yet are apart. I guess that is the beauty of life. No matter how far we go following our own paths, there will be times when our paths will cross again. And from my experience and observation, true friendship stay strong regardless of the length of time that has come to pass.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hamburg - Day 2

The long days of summer has been a distant memory for me, until I experience it again here in Hamburg. It brings about a familiar feeling when the day is much longer than the night. It can be disconcerting if one is experiencing jet lag, but fortunately for me the jet lag has been mild.

My second day in Hamburg is basically spent at the conference held at the University of Hamburg's Guest House. The conference began with the welcoming addresses by the convenors and sponsors of the conference. What fascinates me is the simplicity of the way the conference is run. Minimal formalities, no elaborate ceremonies, no masters of ceremony. Everything was straight forward, short and simple. Within less than half an hour, all the welcoming addresses were done and over with. This is a far cry from the protocol-laden opening ceremonies in Malaysia. While some may disagree with me, I think we can do away with much of the unnecessary aspects of officiating a conference, especially if the conference is academic in nature. If the conference is academic, let's just keep things academic. At least, that is my two-cent worth.

There were seven papers presented today. The only Malaysian speaker today was Dr Muhammed Anis Abdul Wahab of the National Transplant Resource Centre (NTRC). The other speakers were from the United States of America, Oman, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Germany. There were very lively and interesting discussions during the conference focusing on many bioethical and medicoethical issues revolving around the concept of brain death, organ procurement, end of life care, surrogacy and social insurance systems in healthcare. 

On a personal note, I find the discussions stimulating. The nature of the conference, small and semi-formal, contributed towards the lively discussions. Almost everyone was able to comment and ask questions. The only constraint was perhaps the limited time available.

After the proceedings of the first day ended, all the conference guests were taken for a cruise on Lake Alster, which is an artificial lake within the city of Hamburg. The cruise was about two hours, and the view was spectacular. It was kind of a relaxing end for the first day of the conference. (Picture below shows Dr Anis and I on board the cruise).

Two days to go before the conference ends on Saturday. Looking forward to another two days of intellectual stimulation.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hamburg - Day 1

I am currently in Hamburg, Germany attending a three-day conference which begins tomorrow. The journey here has been quite long. At this age, I don't really fancy long distance trips but sometimes they are just unavoidable.

In any case, the first thing I noticed with a sense of déjà-vu is the cool summer temperature. It is very pleasant to be walking around without feeling too hot or too cold. This is one of the things I miss of temperate countries.

The long journey has been tiring. Fortunately, the only thing in the programme today was the reception and registration which was very much informal. The paper presenters got the chance to meet and mingle over buffet refreshments at the conference venue which is the university's guest house.

The conference will begin tomorrow. I would definitely want to get some rest especially to overcome the jet lag after a 20 hours journey.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Euro euphoria

Not to say that I have been living in a cave somewhere, but I did not really "feel" the heat of the UEFA European Football Championship 2012 since it started. I have never really been a football fan, hence I have not really been following the championship in earnest. I have not even watched a single match on television (live or recorded) thus far, and have no plans to do so as yet. The reason is simple, I have other more important things in mind to bother about the championship.

Having said that, I do take a quick glance at the results in the sports section everyday. So I am aware of which team is winning or losing, and which team has qualified to the next round or which team has been sent packing.

When I was a student in Glasgow, I was around during Euro 1992 and Euro 1996. The euphoria wasn't as great in Scotland as it was in England, but it can still be felt nonetheless. Interestingly it was in 1996 that England got to the semi-finals (which was the second time, the last being in 1968, and they haven't got through to that level since).

Now, I suspect I will be experiencing the Euro euphoria again when I arrive in Germany in two days time. I have seen with my own eyes the level of fanaticism of English, Scottish and Welsh football fans. Now I guess I will get to witness the German fans in action, especially with Germany doing well so far.

I am glad I am not that much of a fan of football. Otherwise I would have probably made arrangements to go to Poland or Ukraine after the conference in Germany.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hamburg conference

As I blogged before, I will be travelling to Hamburg to participate in an international conference with the theme "Health Related Issues and Islamic Normativity" organised by the Asien-Afrika-Institut of the University of Hamburg.

The paper presenters are from many parts of the world. Aside from Malaysia and Germany, there are presenters from the USA, Tunisia, Oman, Sweden, Lebanon and Qatar. From Malaysia, there are eight speakers altogether. I have been made to understand that the Malaysian delegation is the largest from outside Germany.

My former boss at the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM), Professor Dato' Dr. Ismail Ibrahim will be presenting a paper entitled "Development of Fatwas in Malaysia with Special Attention to Bioethical Issues". Professor Dato' Dr. Ismail is currently Holder of the Syeikh Abdullah Fahim Chair at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. He was also Chairman of the National Fatwa Committee and former Ambassador of Malaysia to Saudi Arabia.

Former head of nephrology at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital and currently consultant nephrologist at the Ampang Puteri Specialist Hospital, Dato' Dr. Zaki Morad Mohammad Zaher will speak on "The Novel Legislation of Transplantation in Malaysia: How It Emerged and What Problems Arose in the Process".

My PhD supervisor who is currently Deputy Director-General of IKIM, Professor Datin Dr. Azizan Baharuddin will talk on the topic "The Role of the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia in the Malaysian Bioethical Discourse". She, who is also professor at the Department of Science and Technology Studies, Faculty of Science, University of Malaya, will also participate in a public forum on "The Future of Islamic Bioethics".

The head of the National Transplant Resource Centre (NTRC), Datin Dr. Fadhilah Zowyah Lela Yasmin Mansor will present a paper focusing on "The National Transplant Resource Centre in Malaysia".

Her deputy, Dr. Muhammed Anis Abdul Wahab will speak on "Current Clinical Practice on Organ Transplantation in Malaysia".

Ustazah Nor Safina Zainal from the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) meanwhile will present a paper on "The Role of JAKIM in Relation to Bioethical Discourse".

My colleague at Yayasan Ilmuwan, Muhammad Zaki Ramli, will present his paper partially based on his master's research. The topic that he will touch on at the conference is "Exposure to Islamic Bioethics among Biomedical Students in Malaysia".

Meanwhile, I have been asked by the organiser to present a paper called "The Role of Diverse Stakeholders in the Malaysian Bioethical Discourse".

I hope that everything will go smoothly during the conference. Insya-Allah I will be blogging about the conference in particular and Hamburg in general in future postings.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


My wife was marking the exam papers for Chemistry during the school holidays. She came across one interesting exam script. The student, a below average one, apparently answered the definition of protons in terms of quarks. The student answered, "a proton is composed of two up quarks and one down quark."


I am not one who looks down on a student's ability to excel, but this is really amazing. In the syllabus for SPM's Chemistry, there is no mention on quarks whatsoever. Only when you get into university and you do theoretical chemistry, do you come across the idea of quarks, which by the way was a concept proposed in 1964 and was debated at great length before being accepted by the physicists and theoretical chemists much, much later.

My wife related to me that this student was caught cheating with a smart phone in another paper in the examination. I have a feeling that this student also cheated in Chemistry because the sentence used in most of the correct answers given are identical to what is found in Wikipedia.

Yes, we have to give the student the benefit of the doubt. The student may have read about quarks out of interest. However, I suggested to my wife that she should call the student and test the student's understanding to be sure that the student did not cheat. If indeed the student is very interested in Chemistry and used her initiative to read more, then I am sure she will be able to answer whatever question my wife throws at her.

In actuality, the student barely passed. She was not able to answer most of the essay questions. The questions that she was able to answer have too many similarities to articles in Wikipedia.

If it is true that she cheated using her smart phone, I find this very disturbing. What is the point of answering correctly when you cheat? Cheating will not get you anywhere in the long run. You may get good grades but in actuality, you do not deserve the grade. Learning is about obtaining knowledge, not just about getting good grades. If one gets a C with his/her own effort, that is way better than obtaining an A by cheating. There is no barakah in cheating.

The fact that the student answered using terms only known to university students gave her away. Had she known what to answer based on the syllabus taught, it would have been more difficult to spot that she probably cheated. When you use terms like "quarks", the alarm bells will no doubt ring. I am pretty sure that even university students may not be able to define protons in terms of quarks so convincingly. As such, when a Form Four student answered in such a manner, you tend to be suspicious.

The point I want to make in this posting is this: WYGIWYD.

"What You Get Is What You Deserve".

Nothing more, nothing less.

Cheating is a zero-sum game. You may think you gain something today, but at the end of the day, you get nothing.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Destination Hamburg

Insya-Allah, if everything goes according to plan, I will be leaving for Hamburg, Germany in about 11 days time. This will only be a short working trip but I hope the trip will be meaningful. I will be participating in an international conference entitled "Health Related Issues and Islamic Normativity" organised by the University of Hamburg.

There are eight speakers from Malaysia, most of whom are people I know personally. So I guess I will be surrounded by familiar faces there. Nonetheless, I do look forward to knowing and networking with people from other parts of the world during the conference.

It has been a while since I participated in an international conference outside Malaysia. If memory serves me well, the last was a conference I participated in was the one in Cairo, Egypt in 2006. Since leaving the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia in late 2005, opportunities and invitations to conferences are very few and far in between. In a way, I am glad that I have more or less kept myself in the academic world. Otherwise I would have probably been very much out of touch with the academia.

Frankly, I feel that I should participate in international conferences on a more regular basis. It is one way to make sure that I do not lose that academic touch. Mayhaps I should just jump into the academia on a full time basis?

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Carpe diem

There are a couple of movies that I like to watch from time to time. These movies, to me, are inspiring. "Dead Poets Society" was one. The other being "Good Will Hunting". The obvious common denominator for these two films is Robin Williams who starred in both of them. The other common denominator is that both these films are about the relationship between students (or student in the case of "Good Will Hunting") and their teacher/mentor.

These movies drive the message that teachers can be inspiring. Teaching (or lecturing) need not be boring or by the book. The process of knowledge dissemination can be fun, lively and meaningful, without it being dry, dull and a one-way traffic. I am definitely not John Keating, the English teacher played by Robin Williams in "Dead Poets Society", but I share the message of the film, i.e. carpe diem (seize the day).

I am fortunate to have many great teachers and mentors all throughout the years, from my schooling days in Alor Setar (1981-1982), Johor Bahru (1982-1985) and Kulim (1985-1991), all the way to my UK days in Glasgow (1992-1996), as well as my postgraduate studies at the University of Malaya (2002-2005 and 2007-2012).

I suppose that indirectly I have been influenced by these great teachers I have to jump into the academic world. I have never had a formal training in lecturing but I strive to do what I think is best and correct. So far, after doing part-time lecturing on a regular basis since 2009, I am really enjoying it.

The happiest moment for me is to see my students succeed in what they do. That is reward in itself which money can never buy.

To all my students who are going to sit for their final exams soon, I wish you all the best. More importantly, do not forget to seize the day!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Architects of grandeur

Bryant H. McGill, the American author, editor and poet, has quite a famous quote:
Architects of grandeur are often the master builders of disillusionment.

I could not agree more with this quote. Some people give weight to grandness that they lose sight of what is really important. At the end of the day, people around them will become disillusioned, and worst, they would feel cheated or even suffer. It is like standing in front of a door with a promise of great things on the other side, but once it is opened, it is just the same.

There is nothing wrong with having ambitions for greatness, but the ambitions have to be realistic. The strengths and weaknesses that one has must be assessed carefully, along with the opportunities and threats. For an organisation, this would mean consultations, check and balance, and transparency. Never should decisions that will impact a lot of people be made unilaterally.

In the pursuit of greatness, do not lose sight of the people around us that make us "great" in the first place. Do not disappoint them. Do not leave them in the dark, not knowing what is going on. Do not lose their trust. Trust, once gone, is difficult to regain.

Otherwise, the ambition towards greatness and grandeur will just remain a dream or a fantasy, or even worse, a nightmare. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Decisions, decisions...

When we make a decision and act upon it, there is no CTRL Z button that we can press to undo our action. When we realise that the decision made was a mistake, we cannot change it once it is in motion.

What we can do is to take remedial action to rectify the matter at hand. When we realise that a mistake has been made because of a wrong choice, we can always take stock of the situation and plan our next course of action. Unlike the game "Monopoly" where we can go back to "Go", in life we don't have that luxury of starting over. We just continue on by making sure that our next step is the best for us.

Whether we realise it or not, each step that we take requires us to decide. We have to decide wisely in order to move a step in the right direction.

Many of us, I am sure, have made mistakes when deciding. It is part and parcel of life. We learn from our mistakes and we strive not to repeat them. This is a process of maturity, and this continues until the day we die.

There are times when we have to make hard decisions. Sometimes our decision is difficult to make, but in the long run, the outcome is best for us. There is no point taking the easy way out only to suffer later on.

Ah, this is just one of those midnight ramblings that I am having. As Robert Frost wrote in "The Road Not Taken":
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I ---
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
What matters is that what we decide can make a difference.

On a personal note, I shall be making that decision soon...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Organ donation matters

I will be off to Port Dickson later this afternoon to attend a three-day workshop organised by the National Transplant Resource Centre (NTRC). I was recently appointed as a member of the technical committee to update the National Organ Donation Promotional Kit 2012 by NTRC. This is a huge responsibility for me as well as a national duty in assisting NTRC in their task. May Allah SWT provide us with guidance and ease in tackling this task.

A few months ago, I was part of a team who prepared two booklets and a pamphlet for the Ministry of Health on organ donation. The booklets are Pemindahan Organ dari Perspektif Islam and its English version Organ Transplantation from the Islamic Perspective, while the pamphlet is Soalan-soalan Lazim Mengenai Islam & Pemindahan Organ. It is hoped that these materials will assist NTRC in promoting organ donation in particular among Muslims.

In mid-May, I will be off to Kuching to deliver a talk during the Malaysian Society of Transplantation's Scientific Meeting 2012, again on organ donation. Again the topic is on the FAQs regarding organ donation and Islam.

As I have said many times before, I look at organ donation as a crusade on my part. I will do whatever I can to help in discussing and promoting organ donation.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Talk on al-Idrisi

After Isyak tonight, insha-Allah, I will give a talk on al-Idrisi who drew one of the most elaborate and accurate maps of the Middle Ages. The talk, which is the third in the series of "Jejak Kesarjanaan Ilmuwan Islam" will be at Masjid ar-Rahman.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Equatorial equinox

Those living in temperate regions would notice the importance of equinoxes and solstices. Equinoxes mark the beginning of spring and autumn, while solstices mark the start of summer and winter. In Europe many centuries ago, the equinox events were often celebrated as part of pagan rituals. In some countries today, Japan for example, today is designated as a national holiday, as the first day of spring is the day to visit family graves and hold family reunions. This day is known in Japan as "Shunbun no hi".

Those in the equatorial region would probably not notice the significance of these phenomena. I would not be surprised if most of us are even unaware of the significant difference in the skies during the equinox phenomenon.

In any case, today (20th. March) is the vernal (spring) equinox or typically known today as simply the March equinox (to avoid any hemispherical bias). Though it will not mark the beginning of spring for Malaysia (since Malaysia does not have four seasons), this date is still significant for those who are observant enough to notice that the sky was already bright shortly after Subuh started today (at 6:02 a.m. in Kuala Lumpur), and that the sky will still be bright even after Maghrib today (at 7:26 p.m. in Kuala Lumpur).

Astronomy enthusiasts will be able to explain this better. I will try to explain this in simple terms. Essentially the phenomenon called equinox is when the sun is directly on the equator, resulting in the "earlier" sunrise and "delayed" sunset. This does not mean that the sun rises early and sets later, rather the sun rays are seen and dispersed in the horizon way before the actual sunrise and remains to be visible even after the actual sunset. Therefore, there is no change to the prayer times.

As such, do not panic. This is actually a common occurrence every year, and is simply an astronomical and physical phenomenon that the earth encounters.

For more reading: Fenomena Ekuinoks 20 Mac 2012.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Apparently, that is one of the most popular "words" of the Internet world. "SoLoMo" as in "social, local, mobile".

It makes for an interesting Facebook status, I think. Just imagine: Relationship status - SoLoMo.

What does SoLoMo imply anyway? A sociable person who is local and mobile?

Which could either mean someone who likes to socialise locally but at the same time, be extremely mobile by going to wherever the events may be; or, even more likely, someone who likes to use social networking accessed using a mobile device by staying at home.

For more reading on SoLoMo, read this article: The Truth about SoLoMo.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Talk on Jabir ibn Hayyan

After Isyak today, insha-Allah, I will give a talk on Jabir ibn Hayyan, the Father of Chemistry at Masjid ar-Rahman.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Jejak Ilmuwan Islam

Some time last month, I was approached by Persatuan Mahasiswa Selangor (PERMAS) of University of Malaya to deliver a series of talks on past Muslim scholars and scientists. The series is called "Jejak Ilmuwan Islam". There are four talks in total, held at Masjid ar-Rahman in Kuala Lumpur beginning last Friday evening. The first was on Abu Kamil Shuja' ibn Aslam, an Egyptian mathematician born in the 9th century who was dubbed al-Hasib al-Misri (the Calculator of Egypt).

This coming Friday, I will talk on one of my personal favourites, Jabir ibn Hayyan, globally acknowledged as the Father of Chemistry. The talk will begin after Isyak prayer at Masjid ar-Rahman.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The short break that became too long

Guilty, as charged!

My last blog posting was dated 28th August 2011. That was over six months ago. I find myself, interestingly, detoxed for staying away from blogging.

That, and..., Facebook.

Of course, that was not the only reason that I shied away. I just did not feel like blogging during that period. My time was focused on finishing up my PhD thesis, which is currently awaiting examination.

I managed to also finish my third novel, which I hope will see the light of day some time in April or March (and no, it is NOT the sequel to Transgenesis: Bisikan Rimba). What is it called? Who will publish it? Let's just wait for the proper announcement by the publisher, shall we? As for the sequel, yes, it is in the works. I hope to have it published in the second half of 2012.

I have also been keeping busy with my lecturing at the university. Something - which I never thought I would admit - that I really enjoy despite the commitment that lecturing requires. I find lecturing really satisfying.

And last but not least, my family also comes into the picture. With two school-going boys, much attention has to be given (as it should) to them.

So, at the end of the day, blogging comes towards the end of the priority list, which is the reason why the short break became a long one. I wish I was on a long holiday though...