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It's October again, one year after my post Violet The Colour which I had written as a Birthday present for my husband, Ahmad Cendana. This year, besides this inexpensive pen (I'd spend a little more for him but I know it'll be at his displeasure so I'd better settle for this one) which I hope he'll like, and use, I thought I'd write yet another post as a gift for his 52nd birthday. After all, it was blogging that got us together. :-)

I write as I feel, and more importantly, I also write with the hope that I could provide someone or two  with some enlightenment, comfort, hope and even strength. I write with love, which, I believe is the most powerful emotion created by God for His beings. 

As a practitioner in Islamic medicine, I am confronted with many women who are depressed, disheartened and/or desperate and of course the reason is almost always because of a loved one, or the loss of one, and often, the fear and/or anger of losing one. Love is empowering, and it has incredible healing powers. But it can also be consuming and destructive. It's simple enough; when love for God is placed above everyone and everything, it is love that is constructive and productive. Anything less and we're doomed for an emotional disaster.

But as mere human beings, there are many, many times when our faith dims and falters. We give our love to this world and allow our emotions to get the better of us; we lose our focus, direction and strength. At this point we become very vulnerable, sometimes irrational even. I'm not exempted from going through these phases; if I am, I'd have to tell my patients "I understand how you feel, I know what you're going through, but only theoretically."

Some may question my reasons for exposing my personal life so publicly and seemingly without shame. For those who opine that personal lives ought to be kept private may even be disdainful of me and this blog. But that doesn't bother me at all; what matters most to me are those women who need reprieve. My experience from my practice tells me that women are immediately comforted and relieved when they realise I know and I feel what they're trying to express.

I would never judge, belittle or scorn them for I have hit the dirt many times myself. I am as much a woman as they are, one who has gone through trials and tribulations, who has many weaknesses and have made bad choices and terrible mistakes. I am real. And I survived.

But I had only merely survived. I had thought I was content as I was and that that was enough to get me by. That was up to May 2010, that is, until I found happiness in the form of a soul mate. Someone that makes me feel more adequate and complete. Someone who shares my views and dreams. Someone I now call my husband. He provides me with the much needed strength whenever I falter or when facing a difficult case; this is crucial because I need to be strong for others almost all of the time.

 It's unexplainable but Ahmad Cendana has made so much difference to my life and my practice in this one year. Besides the intangibles, one very pertinent thing I learnt from him is in dealing with wives of drug addicts, in knowing exactly what to say to them. And they know they can talk to me without fear of prejudice and embarrassment. For many of them, they love their husbands and want to be of help and support to them. But the pressure from their family and friends who only view addicts as troublemakers and worthless people puts them in a dilemma and in a state of confusion and distress.

I could go on and on talking and writing about love and happiness, or L&H, whimsical as it may be to some.  I dare say that these two virtues give us immeasurable power, not only to make things happen, but also to keep negative vibes and energies away. Not a temporary, superficial kind of happiness that one could get from shopping or eating, or from possessing something.  Not the kind you get from patronising H&M or JPO. 

This kind of happiness only serves to cover or hide a sadness, an emptiness, insecurity or pain. And empty pockets. Don't get me wrong, I like pretty things too, but when the desire to possess is so overpowering and shopping or anything else becomes addictive, financially damaging and/or is prioritised in one's life, then it has to be checked with all honesty to oneself.

Happiness has to come from within ourselves; it persists even without any possession, it is there in whatever circumstances we're in, it fills the vacuum in the soul and it heals all pain. It is not dependant nor does it expect from anyone or anything. It's terribly sad to see so many women living in sadness, fear, guilt, anger, regret, unhappiness and emptiness. These emotions are toxic to our minds, bodies and souls and in time will manifest as diseases and illnesses.

One of my favourite writers Yasmin Mogahed beautifully sums up what real love is, and as always,this surfaced just as I finished this post :

"Try not to confuse "attachment" with "love". Attachment is about fear and dependency and has more to do with love of self than love of another. Love without attachment is the purest form of love because it isn't about what others can give you because you're empty. It's about what you can give others because you're already full."

As I always say, love is not about receiving but about giving. But how do we fill our hearts with love? First we must believe we are worthy of L&H. We must work on removing blockages and let go of anything and everything that is dragging us down.  Once L&H flows in our hearts, the energies radiate to those around us, our daily prayers become so very pleasurable, and it can...break spells...ah-hah! Not now...more of this later. 

Usually the experience comes through people because of the things done out of love and with sincerity. In my case, much of it came through a husband, one who not only ardently supports my practice but even gets involved in it. My practice constitutes a large part of my life, and with this practice, I am able to serve God by spreading Islam through healing. Similarly, many found L&H after getting involved in charity work or voluntary services, because they are serving God by serving mankind, and doing it sincerely and wholehearted, expecting absolutely nothing in return, except for blessings from Allah. I know some are actually smiling as they read this...

I must admit, I had once given up on the desire for a soul mate. I had  resorted to the belief that I was meant to be alone and my purpose in life was to directly serve Him. But I was wrong. It is mentioned more than once in the The Holy Quran that man was created to be in pairs, and my husband and I, we are obviously meant to be one pair. For us womenfolk, to be loyal, faithful and subservient to the husband is to serve Allah. Alhamdulillah, a significant part of my happiness lies in serving my husband because I know, I am serving Him.

Happy Birthday Ahmad Cendana, 
I don't have very much to give you, 
except my prayers, love (lots of it), support and loyalty.
 May you find the Ultimate love and happiness, 
may you succeed in all your endeavours , 
those you desire and those Allah desires of you. 
May you be blessed forever and granted with everything you are meant to have, and be what you are meant to be. 
If I am meant to be, I shall be with you to serve you 
as long as Allah wills so.

Orchid : orchid isolated on white background Stock PhotoJust about three weeks ago, I suddenly felt compelled to write a post about my mother, and before  I could even start, just two days later, she left us so quickly and peacefully minus much pain or suffering to be with The One. Distraught that I was, I did, but barely managed a post with more images than words in memory of Mama. Since things happened this way, I then decided  to produce a more comprehensive write-up, but I realised that there is just so much to write about her, and it may take me up to a year just to research on her life story. So I decided to shelve it temporarily, and instead, follow my heart that says write about this other woman instead, someone I have looked up to ever since I was a child, someone I  greatly admire, respect and love...someone who has taken over the role as a mother figure in my eldest sister, Azni. 

Like the orchids she loves, Prof Dr Azni is strong, sturdy and hardy,
yet beautiful and compassionate.  

Here's her academic biography taken from InTech :
"Prof Dr Azni Zain Ahmed is the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic and International) at the University of Technology MARA (UiTM). She was born in Kota Bharu, Kelantan and was educated in Kuala Lumpur until the Sixth Form in Victoria Institution. She continued her studies at Southampton Technical College in the UK before graduating with a degree in Physics and Urban Planning from Aston University, UK. She also graduated with a Masters degree in Solar Energy from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and a PhD degree in Energy in Buildings from the University of Hertfordshire in the UK.  

She has sat on several editorial boards such as The Scientific Journals International and International Journal for Clean Coal Technologies and a Technical Reviewer for the International Journal for Renewable Energy. Besides managing the university's academic activities at the university, she also lectures in Renewable Energy at the Faculty of Applied Sciences. She has produced more than 120 papers in solar energy and daylight modelling, thermal comfort, solar energy technologies and energy efficiency in buildings. She has been involved in many renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes in the country such as the Solar Energy Roadmap, National Solar Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Steering Committee, National Energy Efficiency in Buiildings Workshop and contributed to the Malaysian standards MS1525:2001 and MS1525:2007. She is currently the President of the Malaysian Energy Institute (InTEM), Senior Fellow of the Institute of Science, UiTM, and Head of the Centre for Research and Innovation  in Sustainable Energy (RiSE), UiTM.

She has served almost 30 years in the university as a lecturer and later professor and held management posts such as Pre Science Coordinator, Dean of Faculty of Science before being appointed as the Assistant Vice-Chancellor of Research in 2001 and Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Puncak Alam and Puncak Perdana campuses) in 2009. Among her achievements 
for her university include increasing the number of research 
grants, researches, innovation awards and income generated from consultancy services. 

Her eight years at the helm of research culminated in the awards received by the university, notably the Geneva Award 2007 and 2008, National Intellectual Property Award 2007 and the Malaysian Prime Minister's Research Innovation Award between the public sector and the private sector 2008. Her most recent contribution is in the capacity of Lead Author, Chapter 9 (Buildings) Working Group III (WG III), 5th Assessment Report, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2011-2014)."

As one can see, my sister is no ordinary woman. I don't care if anyone thinks that I'm boastful, because I just cannot help being proud of her. Not only for her academic excellence and professional achievements but my admiration for her in entirety: her splendid personality and capability to successfully undertake so many other roles too, as a daughter, sister, wife, short, a complete woman.

I'm not quite sure why the InTech writer did not mention Azni's earlier secondary education at the Bukit Bintang Girls' Secondary School, formerly a missionary school in the heart of Kuala Lumpur that had a reputation for being very, very strict, but churned out students of outstanding character. Maybe she's from the rival school Convent Bukit Nanas :-p.  My sister's years here were very significant and I believe, they were the foundation towards the shaping and building of her character. She was a prefect here and was very popular among her friends. She was always in the top class, and at home there was hardly any competition from her four siblings, be it in academics and                                                                 intellect, or talent and confidence.

The  new "tiang seri" in the family and the "seri bongsu"  lol!

Orchid : orchid on white Stock PhotoAzni learnt to play the piano and possessed a natural talent in drawing. She had a sketch book where she did her pencil drawings, her favourite being portraits. When she left home to study in the UK, I secretly kept the book like a coveted treasure, and looked at her drawings almost everyday. She could also paint, and entered a competition where she chose to paint a scene of the Mardi Gras by day and by night, and the participating artists had to paint in full front of the public. For one so young and without any formal training, I thought her choice of subject was far above her standard but as it turned out, her painting was a real masterpiece. It was eventually sold off in an auction and she had made quite a tidy sum for the school.

Having a mother who taught Home Science in schools, we were all encouraged, and sometimes forced to learn how to bake and cook while still very young. My sister loved to bake, and as of today, I have never, ever tasted a better Pumpkin Pie than hers. Now, even though she leaves most of the baking to her children, she still cooks the family's favourite dishes whenever she can steal a little time between her packed work schedule. 

This woman works so hard - her husband and children can attest to this, yet I have never, ever heard her complain about her work or about anything else for that matter. Her dedication and commitment towards making the university a world-class tertiary learning institute is truly admirable. Despite being full-handed pursuing academic accomplishments and fulfilling the demands of her job, sometimes both at the same time, my sister managed to raise eight children, all of them successful in their own right. She seems to be working for the university all of her waking hours, and yet she is still able to be on top of things in the domestic sector. Where family matters are concerned, nothing is too trivial for her. And oh yes...I may risk being given a cold-shoulder if I don't mention this: Azni is a very, very happy Opah (grandmother) with four grandchildren to her name and another two in the process. 

A day when I was bursting with pride. Besides watching my only daughter, Marzia
receive her scroll, I also had the opportunity to witness my sister carry out her duty in her capacity as the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Uitm (Academic and International), deliver the opening and closing address during the graduation ceremony.
I had observed that Prof Azni, as she is known to many, was the only one on stage who took
the trouble to look at each name in the very long list of a few hundred graduates at least, and
place the name on the face of each graduate, as she watched them walk on stage to receive their scrolls. She did this from the start right to the last recipient. And this was only one of the many, many sessions she has had to attend year in, year out during the University's convocation ceremonies.

Orchid : Pink Phalaenopsis Orchid Stock Photo
There are many, many more things that can be said about my sister, and even more things that I am not aware of, because she is not one who blows her trumpet. She just goes around doing what needs to be done without expecting any praise, recognition or rewards. I am so proud of her beyond words;  she makes me proud to be a Zain Ahmed, she makes me proud to be a Muslim, and she makes me proud to be a woman. 

...if ever there was such a thing as a beautiful death, then hers would be it...

Hajjah Noorani Hamzah, aged 82, died so peacefully in her sleep soon after her Isya' prayer on a sacred malam Juma'at on 20 September 2012 (5 Zulkaedah 1433). 

One thing I adore about Noorani Hamzah: she was passionate about learning. She was one of the few female students of SAHC (Sultan Abdul Hamid College) Alor Star in the 40s, competing against predominantly male students. Then, off she went to Kirkby in 1952/3 to pursue an educational course. Coming back, she became a teacher and eventually rose as director at Education Ministry. Later, while in service she took a sabbatical for her degree in Home Economics at Ohio State University, leaving behind the family about a year. That's an inspiration and prompted me that learning should never, ever stop. Something I'll hold on to to face another 3 years of my BA. You'll be missed, Mak Ani. 

Abdul Muttalib  Saifuddin, nephew and family historian, had posted this on his 
Facebook page upon learning of his aunt's passing on.

I had had the urge to write about Mama on Tuesday. That night I was going through old family albums in search of appropriate pictures to place in the post and had told my husband, Ahmad Cendana about my intention. Two days later, before I could even think of a suitable title for the tribute to her, she was gone. 

Right now I'm not able to write the post in the manner that I had wanted to as I'm still emotionally drained from the sudden loss, even with the gentle persuasion from my dear cousin Mutalib to do so. But he had written a very concise history of Mama which tells a thousand things about this formidable woman I call Mama, which I feel is more than enough for the moment. Thank you Lib...for now I can only manage a post with images of her.

 Celebrating Mama's 80th birthday - she loved to cook big meals and made an excuse to make just about anything an occasion to gather her children, 
grand-children and great-grand children around her. But for this very special occasion, my sister Yan had initiated and organised the get-together for her, and also another one on Mama's 82nd birthday  this year( picture below).

Mama on her last Eid with us, 19 August 2012

 She was called "Mama" and "Opah" even by non-relatives. Everyone loved her. Even this cat did, very much so. This cat whom Mama fondly called Tam-tam came from nowhere and made himself at home. He'd go straight to Mama's room, jump on her bed and gave her hard, wet kisses on her lips and all over her face

I'll be missing Mama badly, but I know, she's now in a much better place, and with Allah's permission, with her husband where she longed so much to be.  
Al - Fatihah

I reflect upon my life since the dawning of spirituality and I can only marvel at how God Almighty charts our lives like only He can and only He knows how. There were many unexpected and mystical occurrences in my life during the transitions, and they were like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that were arranged piece by piece; sometimes so painstakingly because there was infliction of hurt, pain, sorrow and disappointment. Some, I was not able to comprehend and thus it made me hard to accept the occurrence at that time. Others were simply and effortlessly placed in the intended positions as though guided by an invisible and unknown force. But eventually all the pieces fit and when the picture started to form, it made sense of things, of me, of my life, of my existence.

The jigsaw pieces appeared ever since I was a child  and because I was too young to understand most of them, many incidences made me a confused and introverted child. A particularly frightening occurrence even had my sister Yan thinking that I was suffering from a sudden bout of temporary insanity. I was about ten years old and was lounging around the sitting room after school when I felt I was taken into a different dimension of time. I was conscious of where I was, and even aware of Yan's presence in the room. But the sensation I had was that of being taken into a "twilight zone".
I was going through a timeless tunnel, and there was absolutely no one there with me to help me. I was alone and it felt like it would be like that forever and ever and ever. I would be trapped in this time warp for God knows how long, as it was an infinite dimension of time and space. I started to scream and wail like one being obsessed, except that I was totally conscious of what was happening. It happened for just a couple of minutes, but the memory of the fear of Allah's wrath is enough to remain with me till the day I die. I now know that the sensation was only a simulation of the transition between death and eternity. I shudder to think what the real situation could be like.

The spiritual evolution started sometime in 1997 but at that time I was oblivious to the signs and the subtle transformation that was beginning to take shape. At that time everything seemed to be going my way; I was ascending in my career path. The high profile managerial post in the multinational company I was working for was about to be vacant and I was unquestionably next in line as far as my seniority, experience and performance was concerned. I was living in a family house in Bukit Damansara and was proudly driving an Alfa Romeo 33 Sportswagon, one of only three units brought into Malaysia. I had so foolishly, and perhaps even arrogantly thought that I was at the prime of my life and had centered everything around myself and my family. 
The Alfa Romeo 33 Sportswagon

However just over a year later, in 1998, I started to suffer a series of major setbacks. A business venture fell through and I suffered quite a big loss financially. On top of this, I was involved in a road accident which caused serious damage to my prized car. The following year I left my job, much to the chagrin of my brother, to join my sister Yan and help her in her batik business she had set-up after her recovery from cancer. But the global recession that had eventually hit the country had badly affected our business and it was just not enough to sustain the both of us. The downturn had also left my former husband without a job.

One misfortune led to another, including being ill for six months which almost left me bed-ridden and grossly anaemic. With no job, a failed business venture, and a dried out savings account, I became destitute. For some reason or other, I was not able to get much help from anywhere or anyone. But by God's grace, we managed to pull ourselves through, albeit very slowly and painfully out of hardship. Later in life, I learnt that all the events, good and especially the bad, were to become important lessons that would equip me for a purpose - to assume the role as a spiritual healer, something that I had never ever imagined becoming.

I was first introduced to alternative medicine in 1998. At that time, I scorned at the professor who gave a presentation of his product, an aromatherapy oil that had been "beamed" with infrasonic energy. He reminded me of Einstein with his unkempt hair and a less than conventional explanation on the laws of physics. He spoke of flowers, it's colours and the vibrations they emitted. Being a left-brained thinker by virtue of public school education, I couldn't grasp his ideologies and unorthodox theories. And arrogant that I was, just because I couldn't understand him, I had foolishly scorned and belittled his product.

Two years later, I worked for a publication company which published the first gardening magazine in Malaysia written in English. I was given the task to interview the owner of a company that produced globules which was energised with healing energies derived from flowers. This concept sounded very familiar to me and I tried to recall where I had come across this method of healing. 

My memory didn't fail me and I remembered the professor that I had met two years earlier. Instantly, my heart opened up to him, or rather his natural healing method. It was so strange, the feeling was the total opposite of what I had felt when I first met him two years earlier. But I was unashamed. I just felt I had to meet this professor again. As luck had it, a staff of the publication company knew him personally and had immediately made an appointment for me to meet him. Two weeks later I was attending his class and continued to do so for seven years until I received my degree in Alternative Medicine.

Soon after,  my conscience began to disturb me. "I am a Muslim." I thought to myself. And Islam has it's own faculties in the medical field. As a Muslim, the Quran and hadiths are where I should look first for answers and solutions for health problems. And so my search began. It wasn't easy; I didn't have a guru, and at that time there weren't many books, documents or information on Islamic Medicine and it's application written in English. Honey for example, is known to most Muslims as a cure or remedy for many ailments, but how much does one consume and how would I prescribe it to my patients?  

The only source of knowledge I had at the time was from a book, one of the most significant and important gifts I had ever received in my entire life. The book on Islamic medicine was titled "Medicine of The Prophet"  written by Ibn Qayyim al Jawziyya, a renowned Islamic scholar. It was a gift from a blessed woman and a dearest friend Sharifah Alawiyah, who had supported me and my practice ever since she knew of the change in my career path. And it was like some kind of prophecy that she had given this book to me three years before I delved into Islamic medicine.

A gift received in the blessed month of Ramadhan, year 2004.

I must give due credit to this generous woman for her zealous support and encouragement towards the development and expansion of my personal range of products. Before that I had been using a particular brand of products and she said "This is not you, I want to have something that is you."

The transition from conventional alternative medicine to Islamic medicine was a big step for me; I was doing this alone, with very limited resources, supported, guided and motivated only by a compellation and a precious book. An attempt to get support from someone I highly respected had left me deflated, and in a dilemma instead. He discouraged me, saying that "Islamic medicine is medieval and simply not relevant any longer." I was so hurt by his adverse reaction, not personally but I felt that he had made disparaging remarks against my religion, which was also his, and it had offended me immensely. But.. it had also spurred me to search harder for leads; and find I did, in a precious, momentous article in The New Straits Times written by a Professor Dr. Mohamed Mackeen.

He had written this article in his capacity as the spiritual healthcare consultant to the Malaysia Society for Complementary Medicine. This article was published on 1 April 2007, and incidentally it is the same date I had first known of my husband, Ahmad Cendana three years later. (Read the story here Violet The Colour). These are the crucial statements in his article that made my turnaround decisive:

Revelling in revealed knowledge

The basis of criteria in divinely revealed knowledge

In presenting the notion and spectrum of spiritual healthcare a fact of basic importance is to consider the epistemological and the methodology at work in arriving at the conclusions and the evidences upon which they are based.

The broad spectrum on what is called "spiritualism" or "spiritual knowledge" presents features that are generally common to all spiritual traditions that had emerged at different historical periods in different parts of the perceptible world.  

The main distinguishing features associated with the main sources of knowledge from which the spiritual doctrines are derived are:

  • That they are valid for all times and ages and by their very nature they cross the barriers of time and space, for otherwise, they would be self-limited in their usefulness.
  • The doctrines are based on revealed knowledge are not subject to the margins of error as in the case of man-made conclusions.
  • There are "positive rules" (qawaid al-fiqh) to keep the need for human creative thinking and development under constant assessment and surveillance.

I was elated; it was like God had answered specifically to my questions and uncertainties. I forged on and haven't looked back since. I have been trying to make contact with Professor Mackeen but to no avail. He had been responsible for giving me the assurance and courage to pursue a branch of medicine that was relatively unknown to me. I pray that one day our paths will cross and that I would be able to meet and thank him personally for concreting the faith in myself that would be the foundation of a whole new dimension in healing.

Over the years my passion for and conviction in Islamic or Prophetic Medicine grew. I had streamlined my healing methods into a system comprising four major steps to make the process complete and effective. I had the system named "Sistem An Nisaa" and there are plans to register this as a trademark.

Farmasi Islam Online Associates
Sistem An Nisaa

In fact, there are so many plans now - and I owe it all to my husband who has been so helpful and supportive of my practice since that glorious day of April 1. Many things have improved and materialised mostly due to his good business sense acquired by his voracious reading. His encouragement and confidence in me have lifted my hopes and desires to expand my practice even higher. His involvement in my practice somehow seems to have enabled me to do more things; one of the more important things was being able to learn and apply sunnah cupping on my patients. His presence in my life has become so critical, as I know with him, when Allah permits it, anything, everything is possible. That even a piece of unworthy carbon...can become a priceless solitaire.

Every Thursday night, my thoughts often drift to two women. I'm sitting comfortably in my red, thinking tub-chair in my cosy bedroom, while these two noble living saints are out there working to make the lives of others more comfortable. Two particular courageous, spirited, outstanding women who are totally unpretentious, simple and unassuming in character, for whom I have so much respect that I am dedicating this post to them.

Every Thursday night, these two gutsy women together with a team of volunteers, selflessly sacrifice their time and contribute their energy towards making the lives of more than two hundred people a little, if not a whole lot better. Perhaps much more, as the sacrifices of this duo promises a full stomach, and some desperately needed hope and respite on those nights. Without fail, every Thursday night, they dish out freshly-cooked wholesome meals to the homeless in Kuala Lumpur.

I can safely say, or at least hope, that almost everyone reading this are in a position where you are able to get at least two solid meals in a day, unless you're on a crash diet that is. And there may be many out there who never even imagined that there are actually people "living" in the cosmopolitan city of Kuala Lumpur who don't have homes, money, jobs...and at times even food to eat. Some may gasp in horror on knowing this, but continue with their lives without any further thought for these unfortunate people.

Walk around the streets of KL after midnight, and you are sure to meet conditions like this in many, many places.  Picture courtesy of Naga Timur.
Others may have the opinion that "it is through their own fault" that these people end up on the streets. Or perhaps it was "their own choice" even to live that way... very likely "these are people who don't have morals, discipline and education" and "succumbed to their lusts", "made stupid mistakes", "lost all their money on vices like gambling, alcohol and drugs." Or so it may seem. It's so easy to just make an assumption and judge. I can't blame those who think that way though, because I have to admit, shamefully, that at one time in my life, I had thought in the same way too.

But experience, challenges and mistakes have made me wiser. Forcing one's self to be more humble and open-minded can make one see things and people in a much wider perspective, and with a more sensible and realistic approach. And more importantly, view things from the spiritual and emotional aspect of things. I now realise that not everyone is destined to live comfortably throughout all of his or her life. No matter how high we studied in college or university, no matter how hard we worked at a job or a business, no matter how much money or property we have accumulated at a given moment, no one, no one can ever guarantee his or her own future after that. Each and everyone of us, at any one time, is just a snap of a finger away from sickness, calamity or misfortune. That is, if we believe in the existence of a Higher Power. If ever God Almighty decrees that we are stripped of all our wealth and worldly possessions in a blink of an eye, no one can defy His rule, no one can escape His wrath. It may happen in more ways than one, in ways we could never have imagined. But the frightening truth is, it can happen.

Whatever the circumstances, a majority of the homeless never asked, never wanted to be the way they are. Many are just simply unfortunate and are desperately trying to get out of destitution. But it is never easy; there always seem to be limitations, obstacles and negative influences which only continue to oppress. When there is not even a hint of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel, life gets really cold, depressing and hopeless. Not just for a day or two, not even a week, but for an unknown period of time, and possibly even, till the end of his life. Every new day is simply an extension of the last - there is nothing to rejoice, nothing to look forward to, nothing to hope for.

Enn Faradh- her smile, her laugh and enthusiasm are her trademark.
Her compassion and her devotion to her voluntary work are her pillars
 of her life. Picture by Suhaiza Sue.
But when there is Sury Kassim and Enn Faradh Mokhtar there is light, and there is a chance for them to gain some strength to at least hope that their lives could turn for the better. For close to 250 homeless street people who converge at the Masjid Jamek in Kuala Lumpur every Thursday night, they are angels sent by God. And all because these two humanitarians spare a thought for all the hungry people who roam the streets of KL. That's it..that is all to it. There are no hidden agendas, political targets, ulterior objectives nor desire for glory or fame. They and the volunteers just possess a heart so pure they feel the need to fulfill their obligations in life by ensuring hungry people are provided with a hot meal so as to minimise their suffering. There is absolutely nothing that makes them more contented and fulfilled than to have filled an empty stomach.

"What actions are most excellent? To gladden the heart of human beings, to feed the hungry,

 to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, 

and to remove the sufferings of the injured." 


Sury and Enn started as normal volunteers in the year 2007 with an organisation which ran a soup kitchen.
Later they got together with a few other people and formed Reach Org with the objective of reaching out to the homeless, and eventually taking them off the streets. It was in August 2010 that I had met Enn for the first time. Enn's enthusiasm was so contagious and her passion for what she does showed clearly from the way she spoke. I was so moved by her stories about their street-feeding experiences and for a whole week after that I was consumed by the knowledge that people with this kind of altruism truly existed, and I had met them in the flesh. Somehow I had felt that they were real life heroes. It made a massive impact on me. What they did/do was a really big deal to me and still is. And it made me feel that my life so far had been so insipid.
Don't mess around with this femme fatale! Not everyone has the strength and ability to
initiate and organise a soup kitchen each and every week.
Sury and I had been college mates and I hadn't met her since we graduated. But she hadn't changed much in appearance. It was a surprise meeting with her again after all those years and I was astounded that this slim, attractive woman was involved in philanthropy and was very active in voluntary work. That is the main factor of my admiration for the work she does - despite her high social profile, Sury is always on the ground, literally. She is on the streets with or without other volunteers, during each street-feeding session. It is very rare to see a founder of a voluntary organisation actually doing the work. Most will remain in the office while the other volunteers do the legwork. This is not the case with Sury. She knows each and every street-feeding route in Kuala Lumpur and walks through the backstreets and alleys to get to the homeless. She makes an effort to know them personally. She sits with them and talks to them. She listens to their problems and tries to find a solution for them. She also believes that there is good in everyone, and remains positive that people will always change for the better. This is something encrypted in Sury's belief system, that there is always a solution to every problem, so the stalwart that she is, she faces each and every challenge head-on. Many of us can't even handle our own problems, much less care for others'.
Sury and Enn are aided by very dedicated and capable volunteers.
On the 9th of July, 2011 the country almost faced an emergency situation when the Bersih 2.0 rally was held in the city. Major roads were closed and there were police blockades everywhere. It was a Saturday - the day Reach Out had always made three rounds of street-feeding. It seemed quite impossible to get onto the streets in the heart of KL with reports of massive jams everywhere. There was also the risk of street demonstrations and rioting. Sury was unperturbed by all the news and reports of the unrest and impending troubles. All she knew was that she couldn't allow the homeless to go hungry that night. With her trusted sidekick, Enn and whatever resources she managed to pull together, they braved the storm and the police blockades and managed to get food to their hungry, waiting clients that day.

A lighter side of Sury. She is seen here with donated  clothes to be distributed to an  orang asli community in  Royal Belum. By the way, Sury is a great cook and specialises in authentic Nasi Kerabu.

Besides the homeless, Sury and Enn are also very susceptible to appeals by any other people who are in need. In late November last year, Enn had spotted a post in Facebook about an orang asli community which had been cut-off from food supplies because the road leading to their village was no longer accessible by any vehicle. The Tok Batin of the village called  Kampung Tohai had made a personal appeal and in no time, Sury, Enn and their volunteers gathered clothes and foodstuff and made their way to this remote village in the deep jungles of Kelantan, somewhere in between Lojing and Gua Musang in eleven 4WD's.

Sury with the Tok Batin of Kampung Tohai. She has an exceptionally soft spot for the elderly.

Volunteers packing food and clothes for the orang asli  Kampung Tohai

Sury (in the foreground) posing with the very happy volunteers and orang asli of Kampung Tohai.

A woman from the orang asli community.

One other trait I find admirable in this formidable woman is her tenacity. Being the daughter of a high ranking army officer, her father very probably had a major role in moulding her disciplined character. And Sury too has a mind of her own and a good head on her shoulders. She was largely the mastermind in the previous organisation and made many crucial decisions in critical situations. She had initiated and organised a particularly unforgettable operation, carried out by a hurriedly formed emergency response team. Within two hours of receiving an SOS from Shyam Priah, leader of an NGO called Khatulistiwa, the team moved to Alor Star, Kedah during the floods in late 2010. There were people in the kampungs which were cut off by the floods and only heavy vehicles could get through. Upon arriving, they found themselves amongst a troop of soldiers who were there to give aid to flood victims. Sury didn't hesitate in getting the help of the army officer in charge and managed to get a truck and a driver deployed. They succeeded in getting foodstuff and other basic necessities gathered only just the night before to the villagers before any other volunteers from any other organisations.
This is Zul Paixi Nan. He is a Mat Rempit. He used to rempit aimlessly but since joining as a volunteer, Zul now feels he has a purpose in life as he has been given a big responsibility to carry. He has been elected the Chief Marshall on the midnight rounds.
Picture courtesy of Naga Timur

And this would be Mie Tompok. He is also a Mat Rempit whose life changed after he joined as a volunteer.
I met him at the group's HQ and later saw him eating on the floor at a corner of the room. When I asked him why he wasn't eating with the rest at the table, he told me that the homeless
always had to eat on the floor of the streets. I knew then that he had a big, big heart, and it was with them.
Picture courtesy of Naga Timur

Even without these heroic adventures, my highest respect and admiration go to Sury and Enn for their tireless effort in ensuring the feeding never stops. Week after week they churn out dry food packets and rice packs complete with drinks and fruits. Sury always insists on the food being fresh and hot. If they turn up cold, she nonchalantly rejects them. She isn't in the least worried about how her contributors or donaters would react, her concern is only in giving her clients a hot meal.

Enn gets her strength by giving, she strongly believes that therein lies the
  happiness; it is not in the receiving as many tend to believe.

Enn is a most wonderful character, and it comes with a most beautiful smile. On the surface, Enn seems to be one tough cookie. She can take command of a hundred or more street people on her own, and with a voice with a built-in magnifier, no one dares create any trouble when she is around. But inside of Enn is a most sincere, gentle and caring heart. There was something Enn said which got my highest respect of her. It clearly reflected her character, and it is the reason, the strength that enables her to continue with the voluntary work week after week. When I told Sury and Enn I wanted to write this post, initially they had their reservations. But when I explained that my intention was to inspire others to do the same, they were delighted. It was then Enn had said, "We hope there would be someone who could take over what we are doing, and we hope the person could do it even better than us."

Simply put, these women are totally sincere in what they do, are very God conscious and are not in the least egocentric. They're not in it for the power and glory. They don't expect any recognition from anyone and they don't have the slightest need to be known as the founders and prime movers of the project. Sury especially, is normally found somewhere behind the scene, fused among the homeless and volunteers; a newcomer couldn't possibly guess that she is the one behind the whole project. 

Sury and Enn have since resigned from Reach Out. They have founded a brand new street-feeding volunteer group, called 1Charity, and this time they collaborate with Masjid Jamek Kuala Lumpur and JAWI. Here, Sury and Enn are able to make their own decisions, but are still very open to ideas and suggestions from the volunteers. The group first started by literally feeding on the streets, outside the gates of the Masjid Jamek. However when an imam of the mosque learnt about their activities, he graciously invited the group to conduct the feeding within the mosque grounds.

Thanks to Ustaz Izwan bin Sharif, or Ustaz Wan as he is fondly known, and also the main imam of the Masjid Jamek Ustaz Mohd Faisal bin Tan Mutallib , their kindheartedness not only allows the group to feed the homeless, but they are now also able to serve their clients freshly cooked food prepared from a (barely equipped) soup kitchen in the mosque grounds.

Distributing used clothing collected by the volunteers.
Picture by Naga Timur
They also now have enough resources to do feeding two nights a week, that is, Thursdays and Fridays. Since they are now able to cook on the premises of the mosque, the packed food provided by JAWI is distributed to the homeless in further parts of KL. This is where a group of bikers who volunteer to do the rounds have become an asset to the organisation as they are very mobile and are able to access the smaller lanes. I must also highlight and commend the contributions and tireless efforts of the JAWI officers: Ustaz Baharuddin bin Idris and Ustaz Khairul Anuwar bin Mustaffa. JAWI has been so kind to contribute 200 packs of rice meals every week. Their commitment to the 1Charity project and activities is truly a blessing from Allah.

Hygiene is not compromised even though the food is for the poor and homeless.
Picture by Naga Timur

Dedicated volunteers prepare the food systematically and efficiently. 
Picture by Naga Timur

This dedication to Sury and Enn is in conjunction with the recent formation of 1Charity. To Sury and Enn: may the both of you be guided, protected and given the strength to continue all the good you are doing now, and may the both of you be blessed forever.

"You give but little when you give of your possessions. 

It is when you give of yourself that you 

truly give." 
 Kahlil Gibran

1Charity is open to donations in cash and kind; dry food such as instant noodles, individually wrapped biscuits and clothing. At the moment they are also in dire need of kitchen utensils such as hotplates for grilling, big woks and pots, large ladles and spatulas. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

I greatly admire the unsung heroes in the likes of Mak W (story below). I did some voluntary work with a home for abandoned children with HIV some years back. It didn't last very long. One by one my team members withdrew. It takes tremendous spiritual, emotional, mental and physical energy to carry on doing work like this and only the strong-willed and disciplined are able to persist in this kind of work.

Sister Norhafizah Manaf's note which was originally posted in Facebook has reminded me of that past experience..and rekindled my desire to do something for these children, our children. 

The thing that struck me and affected me most was that almost all the boys in the home carried the name of our Prophet SAW..Muhammad before another name. Immediately, my thoughts went to the last words before he died, "Ummati..ummati..ummati.." (my followers). He probably knew then that this would happen, and as such was in distress thinking about the fate of his followers, more than 1,400 years on. 

Why, how could this happen? Right now maybe the children belong to strangers, nameless people, people whom we may think and feel had absolutely no responsibility towards themselves and those close to them. But the possibility of it happening within our own families is not obscure. These are our children, we cannot claim to be not responsible. We cannot ever guarantee that members of our family, or even we ourselves are immunised or protected from committing sins, misdeeds and making mistakes in our lives. We can only pray that we are constantly Guided, and we can also help others so He will always help us stay in the right path.

This is her story.. 

A Humbling Start to 2012 - Alhamdulillah
by Norhafizah Manaf on Tuesday, January 3, 2012 at 12:41pm

How would you feel, if at 4, you had to follow your mom to seek refuge at a shelter home? How would you feel at such tender age, you had to watch, first your dad, and then your mom die in front of your very eyes, leaving you alone to cope in this world, with a younger sister to take care of? How would you feel, when at 17, you know you are inflicted with HIV, a legacy passed down to you by one of your parents?

I simply cannot imagine the feeling! Yet I was privileged and honoured to meet such an individual. A bespectacled shy young man, fair with wavy hair, softly spoken, yet you can see in his eyes his acceptance to what God has decreed to be his fate. I am humbled.

This young man, who now calls the orphanage his home, shares it with some seven other boys (ages between 11- 14) and two little girls (8 and 9) - mostly abandoned at birth, all inflicted with the same predicament. Looking at them, one would probably not guess they are victims of HIV - they fool around just like any other young children their age, they are curious, they are trusting and they welcome people who come to visit them with the innocence that come with their age.
Yet, according to Mak W, the Mother Theresa for these kids, the lady who is the Mak, the Mama for these abandoned children, these younger boys, who are not yet quite aware of what is happening to them, seem to realise that they are not like other children who have parents and a house to call their own home. Thus, according to Mak W, they seem to play only amongst themselves, are very shy and unsure. Most of them are slow learners, by virtue of their nerves probably afftected by the virus or, as in one case, little S, she was found abandoned at a car park, with ants already covering her body, and according to Mak W, the abadonment had affected her nervous system. She cannot walk.

As the boys grow into teenage years,the symptoms start to show, the extreme fatigue, the secondary infections which are so hard to treat (due to lowered immunity) and Mak W says sooner or later these boys have to be told the truth. She can only pray that they will be able to accept their fate as well as Z, the 17 year old has, and remember that all is not lost, for as long as they have their faith in God.

As for the young man Z, he seems to take things in his stride. He hopes to leave the home at 18, and find a job should he fail to get a place to further his studies. He knows the prognosis of HIV, but that certainly has not stopped him from planning a future. 

His soft spoken voice still rings in my ears, the look of acceptance in his eyes  still clear in my mind and my heart goes out to him. A mother of two teenagers myself, I can see the opportunities and chances in life denied to him - being homeless, unable to live like other teenagers, the uncertainty of the future for him, the relationship barriers he has to overcome if he discloses the truth about himself to others. Yet, he smiled when he spoke to me, and he could look at me in the eye after some time. He has accepted his fate, but he has not given up.

And that is enlightening to me. This young man did not ask to be afflicted with HIV. He has done nothing wrong to deserve this. But such is the Will of God - HE tests whom HE wills. And this young man knows this, I do not detect the slightest vengeance or hatred in him. He accepts his fate. I can see in his eyes, he is alone, lonely, but I also know he is at peace with himself.

And as I left him, left the home, most humbled, I am left to ask of myself - with all the blessings of God bestowed upon me, with firiends and loved ones around me, why do I still lament, why do I still want more? When others were not even given the chance right from the beginning. May God have mercy on me.

And may God bless Mak W and all the children of the home.


By the Glorious Morning Light,
And by the night when it is still.
Your Lord (O Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) has neither forsaken you nor hated you.
And indeed the Hereafter is better for you than the present (life of this world).
And verily, your Lord will give you (all that is good) so that you shall be well-pleased.
Did He not find you (O Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) an orphan and gave you a refuge? 
And He found you unaware (of the Quran, its legal laws, and Prophethood, etc.) and guided you?
And He found you poor, and made you rich (selfsufficient with selfcontentment, etc.)?
Therefore, treat not the orphan with oppression,
And repulse not the beggar;
And proclaim the Grace of your Lord (i.e. the Prophethood and all other Graces).

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