Sunday, 30 October 2011

Thinking Prevention

Even a kapcai-grade car like the one I have been driving the last six years needs preventive maintenance.

And I have not really slacked in that department. Every 5,000 km I would take her in to be lovingly lubricated by the Hyundai service agent nearby.

Sometimes there would be parts that needed to be changed. Sometimes according to schedule like the filters and watchamacallems; sometimes when they just decide to expire on you, for instance the horn.

Yup, my car's horn with it's impertinent-sounding honk. In fact it wasn't the horn per se that was the problem but as the supervisor found out after some testing, it was the "honleelay". And I went "aaah... honleelay...", nodding my head.  Just a small electrical thingamajig, it turned out to be.

Then it dawned on me...

With a snap of my fingers I excited told my daughter who was with me at the time, "Actually it's the HORN RELAY!!".

And she went "aaah... the horn relay...", nodding her head as if to say yes... that figures.

The other thing that can unexpectedly die on you is the battery.

Well maybe that's not quite right. In actual fact you CAN EXPECT it to conk out anytime soon through observing a couple of signs.

For me I would notice a slight but perceptible delay in firing up when I start the engine. That serves as a warning for me to check the terminal connections (sometimes one or both can get loose) and/or to reserve some cash for a new battery if the present one is about 18 months old. I would then usually wait for it to die a natural death wherever it has been destined to do so, and then by hook or by crook get it's replacement installed.

The other sign is when the remote starts to misbehave even though it's own battery is alive and kicking. It would refuse to unlock the door. But when you try to unlock the door manually, it'll make such a racket sounding the alarm. And then it won't shut up by you pressing the remote switch. You'll have to locate the silencer button somewhere in the dashboard or in the bonnet, depending on the car, and fiddle with that with the key in the ignition. Sometimes the battery gets totally drained out at that point, so by hook or by crook you go get a new battery installed if it is about 18 months already. Otherwise you attach jumper cables to someone else's car and start your car that way.

Yes indeed, each car has it's own individual quirks. And it's mistress learns the signs of distress.

The recent ones were the tyres. The front ones seem to lose air pressure quite often and the steering wheel had started to shake when the car's going at about 100kph. The mechanic says they, the front tyres, have to go and the damage will be RM138 per tyre, but "no stock today". 

So off we went, hubby and I, to his favourite place where the boss always pays for his mamak teh tarik that he has next door.

"Ah Moy, all four of your tyres are spoilt - worn unevenly and bits of tear here and there - very dangerous" he said.

"Oii, where got Ah Moy,  Ah Soh lah... " I said, kneeling down and looking at the treads.

"Change to 165, better".

Hubby okayed it. They're narrower than the 175 tyres I've been using so logically there'll be less surface area subjected to wear and tear due to the car's apparently dodgy camber. It's a kapcai grade, can be expected.

As we were having teh tarik, he called hubby over and said "A lot of potholes langgar your Ah Moy's car. Three rims are bengkok. Change to alloy, better".

Hubby okayed again. Yeah, he really liked this boss mechanic.

He fixed on two models and asked me to select one. I chose something suitable for a warga emas.

"Alignment and balancing on the house, but must also change to matching wheel nuts, baru ngam.  I give you cheap".

Hubby okayed again. Me too okay.

While they were doing the alignment, he came and suggested changing the camber screws from the fixed version that came with the car to adjustable ones. "Better" he said "One pair only seventy ringgit".

And that was the final okay.

Rims, nuts, screws, tyres came to a whopping RM1,200 damages to wallet. "How to raya like this?", I jokingly complained.

"Ah Moy, NOW you can raya without worry".

He's probably right. It's a preventative cost, to avoid mishaps insha Allah, and hence for peace of mind.

So if you happen to spot a warga emas driving a kapcai-grade car that has new gold-coloured rims with new tyres, then smile broadly and give a frantic wave, because that warga emas might just be me...

And for all Muslims, here's wishing you a blessed Eidul Adha next week.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Mind Ramblings

Friday October 28th 2011

It was beautiful sunshine and clear blue skies at 5.00 pm and I was thinking maybe I shouldn't have declined that invitation to a Deepavali Open House after all. It had been raining monsoons this past week so I didn't see why today should be any different.

But as I was deep-frying cekodok pisang to have with afternoon tea, it suddenly poured cats and dogs and monkeys. Lightning clapped every so often it was a wonder the yellow electric switch did not trip, however the automatic gate went wonky like it sometimes do in this kind of wet situation, opening one side and then refusing to close at my commands ie. me pressing the switch repeatedly. Today it wasn't that bad though; it has been known to open and close countless times by itself like a malwared PC.

Anyway, I guess it was good that I need not attend that Open House, what with having to drive myself there in a car whose front tires are balding and which the mechanic had said need to be replaced but they did not have stock that day. He too had pumped air into my tyres a few thousand psi's over normal that it feels like I'm driving.. or rather pirouetting on pointy ballerina shoes, whenever I turn a corner.

It was good too I suppose that earlier today I had stopped by at the gym after dropping off my youngest at the LRT station on the first leg of her journey to college. She'll be catching the bus home and I hope she won't get too wet in this weather.

I did nothing fancy at the gym, only walked "briskly" (averaging 4.5mph) on a treadmill at a 5% incline for 30 minutes, while reading... random paragraphs from a book.

That's the thing with me. I rarely read a book from cover to cover (not counting the Quran which I take ages to finish outside of Ramadan). I read snippets, especially non-fiction, which was what I had with me at the gym, a how-to book on mastering the mind, body and character to attain a perfect life.

Whoa... sounds impossible. A perfect life?

Nonetheless it's an OK book to read, in snippets, to help me stay motivated on the treadmill, and to keep zee eyes from vundering to the huffs and the puffs and the grunts coming from the resistance machines.

I read that former chess superstar Bobby Fisher focused most of his training not on studying chess strategies but on becoming physically fit by running long distances and doing laps in the pool, hence increasing his stamina and mental endurance.

Hmmm... I must admit we all can do with a little more of those.

It says the mind is a terrible master but a wonderful servant.

Didn't know what that meant, a master-servant relationship with the body perhaps, or the spirit? Like the treadmill and me? I set the pace, and the incline and how long to walk, hence I'm the master. But for as long as it's moving I'm it's servant? For I HAVE to move at that set pace otherwise I'll fall off. It's a terrible master to let me fall off, isn't it?

Unless of course it is never my master. On the contrary I am always the boss of that machine. Because I have the power to stop it at any time.

So I was thinking that's the kind of relationship to have with our minds. We can let it "rule" us in ways that benefit us, but we need to be always in control of the stop button. Sounds plausible?

OK. I just did some research about this and found a good explanation here, which I have reproduced below:

"It's like this. There are two things here, You and Mind. Either You are in control (of your Mind) or your Mind is in control (of You). Either you are the master or the mind is the master. It has to be one or the other. If You are master (ie, in control of Mind) then Mind is a wonderful servant but if Mind is the master (ie, in control of You) then it is a terrible master.

So the question is who is in control.

If You truly are in control of mind then you can do wonders, indeed miracles. You must have heard of mastery of the mind, mind over matter, mind science, etc. You can have peace of mind, real happiness, you can channel your thoughts, you can stop all thought, you can cure yourself and others, etc., etc. The list is endless.

However, when the Mind is in control, when Mind becomes Master, then you are in trouble. Mind can tear you apart because with mind comes ego, desires, emotions, frustrations, etc. Mind wants to survive too.

Your thoughts will take free reign, going this way and that way. You will succumb to all sorts of temptations. There will be no end to desires. You will never find true happiness. The uncontrolled mind will drive you this way and that way as your thoughts come coming freely, with no one in control, just as wild horses will run this way and that way. Unfortunately in the vast majority of mankind it is the mind that is in control.

And indeed this reminds me of the concept of Nafs in Islam (desires, ego, mind) of which there are basically three dimensions as referred to in the Quran, and explained thus:

Sa'id Hawwa says regarding these Nafs:

"Depending upon its condition, the Nafs exist in multidimensional form. When the Nafs is tranquil because of obeying Allah, and the soul opposes its desires, this soul is known as Nafs al-Mutma`inna. Regarding this, Allah has spoken about it in the Qur'an (89:27-28).

But if the soul does not attain peace with itself, rather being exposed to desires, then such soul is known as the Nafs al-Lawwama because this soul reproaches its owner due to the owner's carelessness in fulfilling out Allah's wishes - Qur'an (75:2).

More so, if the soul submits to lusts and allows itself to be seduced by Shaytan, such a soul is known as Nafs al-Ammara Bissu'. Allah tells the story about the wife of al-Aziz (Zulaikha) in Qur'an (12:53).

(Tarbiyatun nar Ruhiyah, pg. 32, Cairo: Dar al- Salam, 1408)"

Being forgetful humans that we are, I believe we transit between these three nafs as often as we have thoughts.

The tranquil nafs is what we want to achieve ultimately, we just need to put our minds to it every second of everyday, rain or shine.

And not let a little lightning scare us into inconsistency... God willing

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Secrets of The Cave (Surah Al Kahfi)

Attended Dr. Fatma el Zahra's tafseer class yesterday.

She changed the format from the usual recitation and explanation of each individual ayat of a surah, to teaching us it's overall message.

It's a good change for me: before it was easy to overlook the proverbial forest for being too involved in the trees.

Anyway, this entry is an attempt at reproducing the notes that I've managed to scribble in class, Insya Allah.

We study the Quran because 
  1. it is a guidance from Allah
  2. it heals the ills in our hearts
  3. it intercedes for us on the last day

Every surah in Al-Quran has one message.

The "mother" of the book, Surah Al-Fatihah, encompasses the teachings of the entire Quran viz:
  1. History
  2. Worship
  3. The Uniqueness of Allah
  4. The Last Day and Hereafter
  5. Human Character

Surah Al-Baqarah teaches us about the role of mankind as khalifah above all other creatures on earth, and the deviousness of the Jews

*tip - recite this surah when there are signs of syaitan in the home (eg. problems between husband and wife, their children bickering), then syaitan will not enter the house for 3 days, it wards off black magic, prevents betrayal by enemies masquerading as friends.
If time does not permit (because of the length of the surah) just reciting the first 5 ayats (alif-lam-mim), followed by ayatul kursi and the last part beginning with aamanarasul, is deemed adequate.

Surah Ali-Imran dwells on practising consistency and patience in worship

Surah An-Nisaa on  justice in relationships

Surah Maa'idah teaches about  trust  and fulfiling promises

Surah Al-Kahfi which was the subject of yesterday's class tells us about the four temptations (fitnahs):
  1. the temptation of wealth - from the story of the boastful owner of two gardens
  2. the temptation of knowledge - from the story of Nabi Musa and Nabi Khidr
  3. the temptation of religion - from the story of the companions whom Allah put to sleep  in a cave
  4. the temptation of power - from the story of King Zulkarnain
Hadeeth says at the end of time (qiamat) mankind will be tested by these temptations brought to them by the false messiah Dajjal.

The minor signs of qiamat are already upon us: fornication, decorative masjids, raised voices in masjids, inadequate covering of aurat, mothers being slaves to children, fathers raping their children. However there is still time to repent.

 One of the major signs is the appearance of the Dajjal, the form of of which we do not know and when it will come.

From a hadeeth, it is said that whoever memorises and recites the first 10 ayats of Surah Al Kahfi is protected from the fitnahs of Dajjal.

*practical tips to avoid these fitnahs
  1. choose a friend of good morals and principles (as in ayat 28)
  2. remember akhirat (ayat 29)
  3. avoid worshipping of dunia (ayat 45)
  4. remember we will be brought to account for our deeds (ayat 49), for this it's good to recite istighfar at least 100 times a day 
  5. avoid being arrogant (ayat 69)
  6. be sincere in deeds and worship (ayat 98) - not to show people (which is minor syirik) but only for Allah
*More useful tips from Surah Al-Kahfi:
  1. Read the last 3 ayats before sleep to awake fresh for Solat Tahajjud, no matter what time you went to bed
  2. Best doa when in difficulty is doa Ashabul Kahfi (ayat 10)
  3. When you see or hear  something beautiful, say "Masya Allah la quwwata illa billah" (What Allah wills is done! There is no power but with Allah).  (ayat 39)
It is also sunnah to recite this surah on Fridays beginning after maghrib on Thursday night - according to hadeeth "Whoever reads Surah al-Kahf on the day of Jumu'ah, will have a light that will shine from him from one Friday to the next."

Wallahu a'lam....


Monday, 10 October 2011

A Meaningful Nine.Ten.Eleven

Yesterday was Sunday the 9th day of October in the year 2011 AD of the Gregorian calendar.

The date written in its simplest form thus: 9.10.11

...which has a nice ring to it and easy to remember,  if one can count up to eleven.

That it fell on a Sunday gave many people ideas to get married and/or hold their wedding receptions on that day.

And that was why we had received four wedding invitations for just that day - three for the standard 12noon-5pm affair of which we had to forgo one for logistical reasons, and one a dinner do.

Attending weddings is an excellent way to maintain bonds of kinship or silaturrahim. This is accorded prime importance in the daily affairs of a Muslim.

At our recent weekly usrah with Ustaz Shihabuddin Muhaemin, he spelt out 10 benefits for one who maintains and extends silaturrahim:
  1. his heart is cleansed and pure
  2. his soul is tranquil
  3. he thinks positively
  4. he has respite from illnesses
  5. he maintains his youthfulness and enjoys long life
  6. he has barakah (blessings) in his sustenance
  7. his prayers are answered
  8. he leads a productive life
  9. he has close family ties
  10. he is facilitated in the hereafter on his pathway to Jannah
There is an order of precedence to be observed though:
  1. Kin
  2. Close friends
  3. Neighbours
  4. Good / Knowledgeable men and women
  5. The poor
  6. Friends in conflict
And the ways to help resolve the conflict are:
  1.  by meeting face to face
  2. verbally over the phone
  3. by the written word
  4. through a mutual friend
  5. pray for a resolution
  6. failing all the above, then just remain quiet

Incidentally, while both are obligatory duties of a muslim in his community, attending a wedding - which is associated with joy - takes precedence over attending a funeral.

But I think common sense should prevail in such a situation of which to attend first since the deceased also has his rights due on his relatives and the community as well.

Back to 9.10.11...

Our Garmin GPS literally gave us the run-around that day. We were to go to Seremban first and then Putrajaya before heading for Selayang. On it's "Faster Time" setting, I noticed that the route was through the fairly built-up areas of Puchong and Kajang, bypassing the more familiar but longer E6 expressway. We started on the E6 anyway and I thought I could trick it  by setting it for "Less Fuel" thus forcing an expressway route, since it's only logical that fuel consumption is very much lower on expressways.

But then it said to exit left into Putrajaya and hubby was curious to see where it would lead us to.

Apparently, what Garmin concluded by us setting it for "Less Fuel" was that we probably had little means also to pay expressway tolls. So we ended up doing a tour of Putrajaya followed by a long spell of driving on B routes into Kg. Sg. Merab and even on an unmarked very narrow road into Kg. Sg. Buah (where interestingly some people have built quite huge bungalow homes there).

In the time it took for us to arrive in Bangi, we could have reached En. Ahmad Ali's home in Senawang, Seremban. So we made our way to the Plus Expressway instead where from there it was a quick hop to the wedding...

Hubby said there certainly is a hikmah (lesson) somewhere hehehe... but I tell you, maybe it is that we now understand our GPS better....   especially useful for planning trips in the future when we may no longer be able to afford tolls....