Sunday, February 27, 2005

of ihram and equality

In Mina, within the cramped fire-proof tents, we felt the meaning of equality of men. There, as in the whole of ‘Tanah Haram’, some small deeds gain immediate retributions. Wrong-doing too. You got paid in cash they say.

In the tents, space was such a premium that the mattresses were laid overlapping one another. One can only sleep if he can stand sleeping close to his snoring neighbor. So close that a complaining pilgrim described it in his Perak slang as ‘bernapeh dalam telinge teman' (breathing in my ear)’ But everyone was tired and everyone was snoring. So what difference does it make?
With more than three hundred pilgrims sharing the same tent, it was impossible to know everyone. So when the wives come calling, checking on the husbands, asking for the spare ‘ihram’ or whatever, they better know not the name or title but their husband’s mattress number.

A lady’s voice was heard from outside the tent. ‘Boleh panggil Haji Nawi?’ (Can you call Haji Nawi?). Instantly and almost in unison came the response, ‘nombor berapa? (what‘s the number?’)
Reduced to numbers certainly made us all equal.

Oh, about the spare ihram?

For the uninitiated, ihram is a garment of two pieces of white cloth without any sewing that every male hajis must wear while in ihram. You don’t get it? Well, the ritual of Haj, requires a male pilgrim, to wear only that two pieces of cloth. Absolutely nothing else! Not even the underwear. That two pieces of cloth is call the ihram. Ihram too is the term describing the state of restrictions that all pilgrims must observe as a condition for Haj. Restricted among others are acts of hunting, killing, fighting, arguing, sex, shaving or putting on perfumes. In ihram, all the pilgrims from kings to paupers are equal. As soon as he donned the garb, made a ‘niat’, and set out to Arafah for ‘wukuf’ he is required to remain in the same garb until he completed his first stoning at Jamaratul Aqabah and cut or shave his hair. Women? Their ihram (before you start imagining ‘bukan-bukan’) is the regular prayer garment not like the men. Because the ihram is normally made of towel, it made a good blanket as well.

As soon as the pilgrims arrived in Mina from Arafah, most went straight to stoning, cut their hair and change from the ihram to normal wear. But, discarding the garb then does not free the pilgrim from another restriction that is abstaining from sex or any conducts leading to it. In short, man and his wife are still restricted from being together. That is until they returned to Mekah and performed the ‘tawaf’ and ‘saie’ when all the restrictions are lifted and you are officially a Haji.

At night, in the tent, Mina was rather cold. Blankets provided by ‘muassasah’ were rather worn out. So the ladies seek for their husbands’ ihram as alternative. So when the first of the ladies peek into the tent asking for her husband’s ihram, some guys were quick to pass a remark. ‘Tak dapat Haji Din, dapat kain ihram Haji Din pun jadilah’ (Can’t get Haji Din, it’s good enough to just have his ihram). Others laughed.

Soon, it gets hilarious as one wife after another came asking for her husband’s ihram and almost no one was exempted. Retributions were certainly swift.

The story was based on real event. The names of the characters were changed to protect the identity and privacy of the real person – Editor.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

naik haji (part one) ‘the leap of faith’

Until I had performed my Haj, I was fearful that thing I write or muse on its ritual may cause me to face some form of retribution when I am there. Even those who had been there were very secretive about their personal experience. Ask too much and they will hush you into silence. ‘Awang kena gi dinung baru Awang buleh rase.’ (‘You must be there to experience it.’) Such was the mystery associated with the fifth and final testimony of Islam. After all the Baitullah is the House of Allah and the mystical stories, some chilling, were abound.

My earliest memory of pilgrimage was about an ‘orang lurus’ (a simpleton) who went to Mekah by jumping down a coconut tree.

Once upon a time, there was a village simpleton. Let us call him Si Betul. He attended a ‘pondok’ (religious school) somewhere in Besut. Because he was so trusting, so straight a character likened to ‘betul bendul’ (straight as a door frame), he was often the subject of ridicule even by the ustazs. One day, the subject was about ‘faith’. The ustaz stressed that those with absolute faith is capable of achieving anything just by a wish; nothing is impossible. Maybe because it was the Haj season, Si Betul became excited. So he asked, ‘Ustaz. Doh kalu kita yaking, kita rase nok gi Mekah, kita sapa Mekahlah?’ (Teacher. So if we have faith and we feel like going to Mekah, we can get there?) He kept repeating the question until the teacher became fed-up. ‘Ho lah! (Yes, of course)’ the ustaz said. ‘Mung naik pokok nyor, kejang mata, baca Bismillah, pah tu terejung. Sapa lah Mekah. (You go up a coconut tree, close your eyes, read Bismillah, then jump. You’ll get to Mekah.’) The next day Si Betul went missing. Days turned to weeks and weeks to months. He was almost forgotten. About four months passed. Now was the time for the ‘kapal haji’ (pilgrim ship) to return with pilgrims from Mekah. As was customary, the ustaz and most of the ‘pondok’ students were at Port Kelang to greet the arriving Hajis. Those ‘kapal haji’ days, a pilgrim was sent and greeted by at least a busload of well wishers. There, on the deck of the ship was Si ‘Haji’ Betul, in ‘jubah’ and ‘serban’ grinning from ear to ear.
Indeed, he had taken the leap of faith.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

of riches and hardship

A friend of mine who happened to be 'filthy' rich, (Din) related this story. He was walking out of a heart specialist clinic when his 'not so friendly' friend (Man) saw him and the following jest took place.

M: Mari m’ane Ding? (Where from Din?)
D: Klenek. Mari wak ce-kak sikek. (Clinic. Just some check-up)
M: Ce-kak? Napok sehak je. Kena ce- kak gok? (Check-up? You look fine.
Still have to check?)
D: Nok wak guane (What to do)
M: [sarcastically] Susoh jadi orang kaye ning! (It’s hard to be rich eh?)
D: Mung kaye ke Mang? (Are you rich Man?)
M: Dok. (No)
D: Aku kaye dok susoh pong. Mung dok kaye mung tahu mane susoh kaye?
(I’m rich but I dont feel any hardship. You’re not rich, how do you know it’s hard to be one?)

Friday, February 18, 2005

back again

The problem with having too much time at hand equal that of having too much to do. At least for me.
Whenever I am in either, I procrastinate. Meaning- I laze. waiting for some 'heavenly' inspiration or for the eleventh hour be pressing. I know at the back of my head that soon, very-very soon I must do something about it or else.....
Its not that I am lazy, (Bukannya malas) but I am reluctant (tapi culas). Just to keep me wary, I repeat in my mind my favourite 'peribahasa' - ' Kerja tertangguh tak menjadi, kerja teragak tak tertahan. Translated to roughly mean ' A work delayed is never done, a work without commitment is never sustained.'
The Haj trip was a solid two months of bliss; of practically total detach from work, business, commitment and even family to a certain extent. It was a time solely devoted to rituals of 'ibadah' and eating and sleeping in between with the latter two much more outstanding. What a 'holiday' it was.
And like after all other holidays, it is hard to get back to work. It is hard to go back to blogging. It is harder to go back to cycling.
And before I can go back on the road, cycling, my bicycle need a thorough cleaning and greasing.
So am I.
I'll do it tomorrow.......