Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tan Sri Ani Arope - a truly "Towering Malaysian" image

(Reproduced from a publication)

Tan Sri Ani Arope embedded a truly "Towering Malaysian" image. The first Malaysian to be awarded the Fulbright Scholarship, he graduated from the University of CanterburyNew Zealand. 

A man of principle, when he was the Executive Chairman of Tenaga Bhd , he objected to the awarding of contracts to the Independent Power Producers (IPP's) --because the contracts were lopsided. The IPP's were guaranteed to make enormous profits and Tenaga  Bhd was the "sugar daddy". He realised Tenaga profits will suffer , ultimately the consumers will get a rotten deal. He refused to sign the contracts when instructed by the Dr Mahathir. He was asked to resigned (almost on the spot.--which he did without hesitation.

He is writing his memoirs and his book will reveal more.
At an interview, he shared some of his thoughts which are reproduced in this article.
Ani Arope - - on Why He Is Now An Endangered Species
Unassuming and broadminded, witty in every sense of the word, at 79, this former Executive Chairman of Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) is still mentally active and comes on regularly to chat on Facebook – offering some of his quotable quotes once in a while.

One of such quotes which caught my attention was his fatherly advice: 'In your careers, you will meet many people from all walks of life from the CEO right down to the cleaner. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say 'hello.'

In fact, Pak Haji Ani, as some would also call him, is in the midst of writing his memoirs in response to his friends’ request – and “for the sake of posterity.”
When a personal friend wrote a synopsis of his soon to be published memoirs, he described the man with precision: “Ani Arope is also highly principled....when Dr. Mahathir allowed independent power producers (IPPs) to set up plants and to sell power to TNB, Ani Arope objected to the skewed terms of pricing that virtually guaranteed profitability of the IPPs and forever rising costs to the average consumers. Of course Dr Mahathir told him to buzz off...and so Ani Arope went back home to his native Penang to join the ranks of the unemployed...”

He is one such a man who would not budge, even if it was an instruction by the prime minister to sign the contracts on behalf of Tenaga Nasional. In his memoirs, he will reveal more.

“Posterity?” he quipped, quoting a line from his memoirs. “That sounds a little ostentatious to me. However, being now a member of the endangered species heading for the departure lounge for the final flight beyond, I would now collate some of my thoughts on life as I see it and leave to the readers to interpret them as they see it.”

Life Back Then

Born to Arope bin Mat and Alus binti Mohamad in 1932, Ani Arope considers himself as a `pendatang’ (foreigner). “My paternal grandfather is Bugis. My grandmother was described as having a dark olive skin with a prominent ‘hooked’ nose,” he described, unashamedly. “She could have been of a Bangladeshi or Burmese parentage, as there was a large community of them in Kampong Bengali in Province Wellesley or Seberang Perai. My father’s family was raised around Sungai Rambai, Bukit Mertajam, Penang.”

On the maternal side, his great grandfather was an Achenese fisherman. Being a newcomer, with his Achenese language, he must have found it hard to marry a local Malay lass; so he married a maiden from the “Kuai” kongsi. The “Kuais” were a group of Muslim Chinese who were unable to integrate into the then Malay society, as were the Arabs and Indians.

Unlike the Indians and Arabs, who sat with legs folded on the floor, the “Kuais” were not accepted as they ate using chopsticks and squatted on benches. The Malays then wanted those who professed Islam to imbibe the Malay culture wholly before being accepted as Muslims – hence, the concept of “Masuk Melayu” which was used for those who had assimilated into the Malay Islam society.

Apparently, everyone in the family referred to their grandmother as “Tok Kuai.” Recalling how “Tok Kuai”, being a “Pendatang” herself, stuck to her language, Ani eventually understood why her mother spoke flawless Hokkien!

Growing up in Penang

Ani, as a boy, grew up in a highly mixed environment of Malays, Javanese, Boyanese, Hokkiens, Tamils, Thais, Burmese, Eurasians, Arabs and Jews.
As young as five years old, he and his friends had turned the uncovered monsoon drain along Cantonment Road as their meeting spot. “During siesta hours, we would sneak out of the house and tease out the hair-like worms found between the concrete slabs lining the drain to feed our fighting fish,” he laughed. “We risked facing the wrath of our parents if we were caught playing there.  

One of his best friends at St Xavier’s Institution was a fellow classmate, George Manasseh, who overcame the same initial problem of acceptance in class. “We became close friends and have remained so until today,” he said. “We reveled in the camaraderie and were protective of each other.

For one, they knew that they were the children of immigrants and it was no big issue, until much later – the way he sees it – it was played up by some politicians with their own agenda. “The word ‘immigrant’ or to use the colloquial term ‘pendatang’ has unfortunately been given a derogatory twist,” he lamented. “Strictly speaking I am a third generation of ‘Pendatang’ as both great grandparents on my paternal and maternal sides were migrants.”

“What is there to hide or be ashamed of our own roots?” he asked. “In fact, I am proud of my lineage. Some of us have our origins from India, and dare we be ashamed of it! Worse is when we try to deny our father’s lineage. If our forefathers came from India, so be it! What is there to hide!”

Being Multilingual

Ani Arope epitomizes what I consider as a truly patriotic Malaysian. He is multilingual. Besides having a strong command of the English language, from the way he speaks and writes, Ani’s ability to speak in fluent Hokkien, Japanese, French and Tamil, is a plus point. At some point, it makes me blush because he speaks better Hokkien than I could manage myself, Hokkien being my mother tongue!

He picked up Japanese during the Japanese Occupation, when everything was taught in Japanese. It was years later that he found useful, when he had to deal with Japanese staff at Malaysian Rubber Research and Development Board, while serving with the Rubber Research Institute.

Having been posted to the rural areas of Kelantan in his early years as a fresh graduate.

Ani’s ability to speak the local Malay accent also proved to be crucial in being accepted as one of them. “The rural Kelantanese is very sensitive to outsiders coming in with an inflated sense of self-importance,” he surmised. “I have fond memories serving in the hinterlands or ‘ulus’ of that state. One had just to speak their brand of Malay to be accepted, failing which one would be referred to as “anjing luar daten cari maken” – literally a foreign dog coming to look for food.”

Kelantanese charm

Commenting on the rural folk in Kelantan, Ani said, they seemed to know their faith at its deepest and richest best and this gave them a robust confidence to know enough of their non-Muslim neighbour’s faith to respect it. “That is why you find the longest sleeping Buddha’s statue in Tumpat, Kelantan,” he added.
Another lesson that he learnt while serving in Kelantan in the mid-50s: “When there was a flood the folks came out in their best clothes to celebrate 'Pesta Ayer'. Here I learnt that 'Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain.'”

 A strong advocate of English, he said that the importance of learning the English language cannot be overemphasized. “This emphasis needs to be reinforced, because English is the bridge for cross-cultural and global communication. We have to maintain or further improve on the quality, innovativeness and communication skills of the English language to ensure that we as a nation are not left behind in our global endeavors.”

A philosophical man himself, Ani said: “Development in the Islamic world took place at a rapid pace because scholars accepted and acknowledged the fact that learning and understanding another language was crucial for the overall advancement of the position of man. Many Islamic scholars learnt Greek, Persian, and Mandarin, Urdu and anything and everything else for the pursuit of knowledge.”


Ani was the country’s first Fulbright Scholar, but he claims to be the first Halfbright to have gone on a Fulbright scholarship. He currently holds a Dip Agric. from Serdang and later an undergraduate degree in agriculture from, Lincoln College University of Canterbury, NZ, a Masters of Agricultural Economics, University of Vermont, USA and seven Honorary Phds/DScs from local and foreign Universities.

For most part of his primary education from as early as five-and-a-half years old, and his secondary years, he attended St Xavier’s Institution in Penang. From young, people of all races were mingling freely. One of his close friends was in fact a son of a Jewish family. “We never had this inkling of choosing our friends based on our races,” he said. “I don’t see why we cannot maintain our good relations as fellow Malaysians.”

During the Japanese Occupation, his education was interrupted. But when the war was finally over in 1945, together with these friends, Ani went back to school to prepare them for the Cambridge School Certificate. By 1949, when Ani himself sat for the papers at the age of 17, most of his friends also did well.

One of the star students was Jasper Mehta, who was the youngest to sit for his School Certificate at the age of 14. However, he did not enter the university until he was 16, and he chose to study medicine. Recalling his friendship, Ani described Jasper as someone who “was always playful and pulling pranks on others. Jasper is now retired from government service and is with a private hospital as one of its top surgeons.”

Another outstanding student was Abu Bakar Merican. He was far ahead when it came to Physics on Heat, Light and Sound – even ahead of the teacher! He would scour around the radio scrap yards to pick up parts with which he would fashion his own receivers and transmitters.

Merican’s Chemistry and Biology were above the standards required even in the Higher School Certificate level. He would have been a leading Physicist but was given a place in University of Malaya to do Biological Science. He graduated with Honours and joined the Fisheries Department but died in a commercial plane crash in Johor. “The last time we met was in Terengganu in 1962,” Ani said.

George Manasseh went on to do his degree in the United Kingdom after his Diploma from the Technical College. After leaving the Malayan Railways, he joined Shell and went up the executive ladder. “He subsequently migrated to Australia and we met up again like long-lost brothers in Perth,” he said.

His other friends were the Mong brothers – Boon Mee, Boon Khan and Mong Kong – who grew up with him. “They all decided to join the police force. Coming from Myanmar and Thai parents, they spoke their “mother” tongue fluently.

Talking about the sacrifice of the non-Malays for this nation, Ani immediately came to the defence of his childhood friends: “Their mother was of Thai origin. For that, they volunteered for undercover work and were posted to the border area. One of them was kidnapped and very nearly executed.

Being young and growing up together as fellow Malaysians long before Independence, Ani spoke of his friendship with Ajit: “This bond between us grew over the years and Ajit still looked up to me for a lot of things. When later I enrolled for the College of Agriculture, Serdang, he too applied and we met up again.”
One thing about Ajit that Ani would never forget: “I remember well the day he decided to cut his hair short. The Tamil barbers refused his request unless he got a letter of consent from his parents. They did this out of respect for his religion and did not want to get embroiled in any controversy. Such was the mutual respect and caring about other’s religion in my growing up days. 

Ani’s education did not just stop at the College of Agriculture in Serdang. He was offered a place at Lincoln College, University of Canterbury in New Zealand. “I enjoyed my stay at Lincoln as I got myself involved with the local community there,” he said.

As the Cub Master of the Lincoln Pack, every Saturday was down at the village with the Cub pack. As he recalls, the children at the village were very expressive for their age. “I had two lady assistants, Akela 1 and Akela 2. One was, let us say, well endowed. When the pack was divided into two, I gave the kids a choice of which pack they preferred to join,” he recalled. 

“One cheeky Cub said without hesitation, `The one with the bigger tits!’ There was an embarrassing silence, but it was hard to pretend not to have heard the remark.”

Becoming a Nation

As the nation turns 54 come August 31, Tan Sri Ani Arope is lamenting that a lot of today’s woes are the result of gutter politics played by politicians who are bounded by arrogance, boastfulness, avarice, hate and jealousy. “There seemed to be no rules governing their behavior, and these are the people who formulate bad laws and bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny,” he said.

On the issue of special rights for the Malays, the outspoken Tan Sri Ani wrote, with the hope to see the loopholes of the New Economic Policy being plugged: “The issue of special rights for Malays and other Bumiputras is and will always be a delicate issue. If these rights will benefit Malays and other Bumis who truly deserve, then Malaysians will view the whole matter in a different light. However, it appears that these rights have been skewered to benefit the privileged Malays. The rural folks and those who really need help are getting the smallest of crumbs, if at all.” 

Having grown up in the same era as the first four prime ministers, where he is critical of one of them, Tan Sri Ani raised the question in the midst of today’s political scenario: “What is the answer? At this challenging period, we do not need party loyalists, but people who are sensible, temperate, sober and well-judging persons to guide us through this tumultuous political time.” For him, common sense must prevail at all times.

“A race-riot or a civil strife should never be our political option. The collateral damage is too great a cost of human sufferings,” he warned.

When speaking at the Fulbright Scholars’ meeting a year ago, Tan Sri, who was the country’s first recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship, said his major concern is “to see a more stark polarization of races in our schools and institutions of higher learning.”

“This polarization opens the door to prejudice and bigotry amongst the various races,” he said. “Harnessing our diversity could be the driving force for development not only in respect of economic growth but also of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life.”

He opined that, whatever the conflicts, they should not be swept under the carpet but met head on and discussed honestly about everyone’s concerns.

“We may disagree but we must understand that healthy disagreements would help build better decisions,” he advised. “We must be prepared to discuss our value systems and our priorities. We should not feel embarrassed to talk of the short-comings amongst us or the marginalized sections of our society who are not able to participate in the mainstream of society.”

Just one final advice from this “endangered species” – something which he posted on his Facebook: “Do you know why a car's WINDSHIELD is so large and the Rearview Mirror is so small? Because our PAST is not as important as our FUTURE. Look ahead and move on!

        By Ani Arope
I have been asked many times why I took up flying at this stage of my life. Wasn’t there a more sedate way to spend one’s retirement than to go in for something that demanded one’s full attention to master a potentially lethal set of circumstances? Well meaning friends point out that if I were adrift in the ocean, the chances of being picked up was a real possibility. Or if I were to go off on a jungle track and got lost a search and rescue team could still go searching for me.
But if something untoward happened in the cockpit whilst I was up in the air no rescue party could drop in to give me a hand. I don’t know about being cast adrift in the ocean or getting lost in the jungle. I have had my share of excitement up in the clouds and always there was a reassuring voice coming from the tower or another flyer who happened to be within radio range to give me help. I tell my well wishing friends that the most dangerous part of flying, and this is being corroborated by statistical figures, is the drive from the house to the airfield!

Flying is a great sport especially for those who want a release from their high pressure jobs. The total immersion it demands helps soak off the cares of the day. From start-up to shut-down, the time is spent on aviating, navigating and communicating. At the end of the flight, there is this sense of personal satisfaction, a useful work well accomplished and time well spent.

Those who fly enjoy the thrill of meeting up with the challenges of managing risks and equipment involved to bring themselves and their craft back to terra firma. More mid-level and top executives in the private and public sectors should consider giving it a go. If dummies like me could take to the skies at this late stage in life, there is no reason why others can’t.

For the youngsters, it is good discipline. It trains leadership and responsibility. When one of my children (a hyperactive kid) was at college, how was I to guide her 8000 miles away? I encouraged her to take up flying as one of her electives, though she was majoring in Microbiology. 
Flying was done on Saturdays at eight in the mornings. When students turned up blurry eyed and looking under the weather, they were sent back to their dorms. So in wanting to fly there couldn’t be late Friday nights or attending boisterous student parties.
And what was more the students that took flying were the more responsible types and were a lot different from the ultra ‘holier than thou’ groups of all denominations that were rampant on the campuses then. In short if you have an ultra super active child, one way to hive off that extra energy is to channel him/her to take up flying. Under their instructor they develop discipline, leadership and responsibility. They get to meet up with flyers of different age groups and professional interests. This is good for them in their formative stage of their development.


When I first received my Private Pilots’ License (PPL) and was able to wander off on my own, I undertook to visit most of the major airports on the East and West Coast of the Peninsular. Every airport has its own peculiarities. Coming in to land in Kota Baru, you would be warned to beware of low flying kites in the vicinity. In Langkawi, as you come in for a touchdown, a gust of wind might throw you off the center line. You would have to crab in and use the opposite rudder with a tad of power to land on one main wheel first before settling on the other.

Flying into Tioman, your circuit level is 800 feet and right hand down wind. Without being able to see the airfield which is supposed to run parallel to your flight on the right you take your cue from the checker board on the hill to make a descending right turn to base. At 600 feet you make your final approach to land. Once cleared, you give it full flaps, slow down the plane to its appropriate speed, trim and aim for the landing point.
As the ground rushes to meet you and the width of the airfield fills your windscreen, you pull up on the yoke and keep the plane flying straight and level and shifting your gaze to the far end of the airfield. As the plane sinks, you pull back on the yoke just enough to keep it flying straight with the nose pointing a little up. As the main wheels touch ground, you cut power and take the flaps off. You slow down by raising the plane’s nose and touching the brakes. 
You get a tremendous satisfaction when you call Tower to say ‘Bravo Delta Bravo, shutting down. Good day and thank you’. Your flying is not over until the engine is shut down, master switch is off and chocks are put in the front wheel.


There is no end to the number of different makes and models of aircraft one might eventually fly. I must admit that I have a fondness for flying different models of single engine planes. I started off with the Cessna 172, a very forgiving plane. then spent some time on the Eagle 150, a stick and rudder plane with power control on the left – pretty nippy and responsive. 
I had an opportunity to fly the MD3, a Malaysian manufactured plane under licensed from the Swiss. When I was visiting Italy, I had the occasion to fly the Piagio 2 Seater Trainer. Now I fly regularly on the Piper Warrior.

Flying sharpens my mental faculties. It gives me added motivation to keep healthy as I have to appear for my medical every six months to keep my license current. So I have to watch my diet, keep myself physically fit with regular exercises. I socialize, meeting with fellow flyers ranging from 18 years to their late fifties. I get to talk to pilots and controllers whom I don’t get a chance to meet and building a sort of camaraderie up in the air.

Finally one cannot imagine the satisfaction of watching the country side roll under your wings. The perspective from on high is both powerful and humbling. The puny efforts of man to alter the landscape fade into insignificance under the leveling press of altitude. In this way, the experience of flying is reward enough.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Prophet Mohammad endured personal insults without retaliating – Grand Mufti of Egypt

(Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa during a Reuters interview in Cairo on March 19, 2007. REUTERS/Tara Todras-Whitehill)
The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Ali Gomaa is the Grand Mufti of Egypt.
By Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa

With the publication of yet another set of insulting cartoons against the Prophet of Islam, it is becoming increasingly obvious that we are living through dangerous times, in which the world has becoming alarmingly polarized and obstinate. The current crisis has been precipitated by a number of factors. There is no one single cause to which we can point, in the hopes that eradicating it will magically solve our problems. Rather, this is a complex matter, involving the inability of each side to misunderstand the worldviews and commitments of the other. The particulars of the events of the past week are known to all, but the underlying causes are deeper and more intractable, and cannot simply be wished away.
To properly understand them necessarily means taking seriously the politics that obtain between Islam and the West at this point in history. It is naive to simply point to individual films, cartoons, or writings which explicitly seek to provoke and insult Muslims as the motivating cause of these conflagrations. Rather, one must keep in mind the many points of conflict between Muslims and Westerners that obtain all over the world today. One need only scratch the surface to uncover grave violations associated with the war on Iraq, regular drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan, the treatment of often innocent Muslims in Guantanamo, the demonization of Muslims by far-right European parties and the banning of their symbols by European legislatures, and the conflict that has persisted for decades in Palestine. To turn a blind eye to these serious and enduring conflicts is to remain wilfully oblivious to the underlying factors which make coexistence and rapprochement between Islam and the West so difficult.
In such a context, to then insist on igniting these simmering tensions by publishing hurtful and insulting material in a foolhardy attempt at bravado – asserting the superiority of Western freedoms over alleged Muslim closed-mindedness – verges on incitement. Of all Muslim symbols, there is perhaps none more sacred than the Prophet Muhammad himself. Muslims can barely utter his name before their conscience obliges them to pray for God to bless him and grant him peace. Hundreds of millions of Muslims revere not only the Prophet, but the very city of Medina which he made his home, and ardently aspire to visit it at their first opportunity. It is no exaggeration to say that Muslims love the Prophet more dearly than their own selves, as the Qur’an characterizes them. To imagine then, crude representations of a man so dear to them is unbearable to the vast majority of Muslims.
None of this is to condone violence of any sort. Indeed, the example of the Prophet and his Companions – the greatest sources of Muslim normativity – bear witness to their enduring the worst insults from the non-believers of his time. Not only was his message routinely rejected, but he was often chased out of town, cursed at, and physically assaulted on numerous occasions. But his example was always to endure all personal insults and attacks without retaliation of any sort. There is no doubt that, since the Prophet is our greatest example in this life, this should also be the reaction of all Muslims. As the Qur’an instrucus, “Be patient, as were the great prophets.”
The call of all Muslim leaders must be to protest these instances of hate speech in only the most peaceful manner. Violence of any sort must be condemned outright. Here it is equally important to point out that some self-appointed religious leaders have failed to act responsibly. In the tense environment that currently prevails in the Muslim world, to display these provocations and to speculate on the supposed conspiracies behind them is to act recklessly. Unfortunately, the proliferation of satellite channels and other media have opened the door to all sorts of people who have only the advancement of their own interests and popularity in mind, and not the wellbeing of the Muslim nation, the Middle East, or the world at large.
Yet, there is room for hope, and our actions should spring from the optimism that the world’s religions –Islam no less than any other – are ultimately interested in achieving harmony between peoples and peace on earth. I have, throughout my tenure as Mufti of Egypt, called for strengthening the bonds between the world’s great faiths, as well as the civilizational cultures which currently divide us as much if not more than religious affiliations. In this context, I have been involved in a number of forums devoted to dialogue across what seem to be chasms of suspicion, building across them bridges of understanding. The great virtue of these forums are that the quickly allow each side to appreciate the other’s positions, and tensions soon evaporate amongst the goodwill on display, even if agreement takes more effort and discussion. This is a model that applies to not only religious leaders, who have been at the forefront of such initiatives. Political leaders, too, must look beyond their short-term benefits and adversarial attitudes, and media outlets must broaden their horizons and take seriously their responsibility to the outside world, not just their accountability to profit margins and the bottom line.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
"O who believe, fasting is decreed for you as it was decreed for those before you; perchance you will guard yourselves. (2:183)


Imam Ghazzali

There are three degrees of fasting:

1. The fast of the ordinary person.
The fast of the ordinary person as described above consists of  the abstinence of appetite, sexual intercourse, noise, arguing etc ...
In addition to the fara'id, obligations of the fast, the seeker may advance in his practice by observation of the traditions (Sunnah) of the Holy Prophet, upon whom be peace.

2. The fast of the select few.
3. The fast of the elite.

The Fast of the Select Few

The fast of the select few is that of keeping the ears, eyes, tongue, hands, feet together with all the other senses free from sin.
These virtuous people free themselves from sin in six ways:
1. Refraining from looking at anything that is blameworthy or disapproved. Jabir, on the authority of Anas related that the Messenger of Allah, praise and peace be upon him, said:
"There are five things that break the fast; telling lies, backbiting, telling tales, perjury, covetousness and lustful eyes."
2. Keeping the tongue free from ranting and raving, lying, backbiting, tale-telling, obscenity, abusive speech, wrangling, and hypocrisy. Rather, one should busy oneself with the remembrance and exaltation of Allah, as well as the recitation of the Holy Koran - this is the fasting of the tongue.
3. Closing the ears to all that is reprehensible. The Messenger of Allah, praise and peace be upon him, said:
"The backbiter and the listeners are partners in sin."
4. Constraint of the rest of the senses from sin. Restraining the hand from evil, curbing the foot for the pursuit of wickedness, avoidance of questionable foods at the break of the fast.
The Messenger of Allah, praise and peace be upon him, said:
"Many receive nothing from the fast except hunger and thirst."
This hadith has been explained as referring to the person who breaks the fast on unlawful food and drink. It has also been explained as referring to people who abstain from halal food and break the fast on the flesh of men through illicit backbiting, also, that it refers to the person who does not keep his senses free from sin.
5. Over indulgence when breaking the fast, even when the food is halal. The spirit as well as the secret of fasting is to weaken the flesh which is satan's tool for turning mankind back to evil.
6. After breaking the fast, the heart should remain in a state of suspense between fear and hope as one does not know whether the fast has been accepted.
"Al Ahnaf, son of Kays was once told: "You are an old man, and fasting will make you weak." He replied: "This fast is my preparation for a long journey. Indeed, to endure the yoke in the service of Allah is easier than to endure the yoke of His wrath.
The fasting person who is not truly fasting is the one, who while in a state of hunger and thirst allows himself every freedom in sin. But the one who truly understands fasting and its secret knows that whosoever abstains from food, drink, sexual intercourse but commits all manner of sins is like the person who, in performing the ablution runs his hand over one of his limbs thrice, thereby outwardly fulfilling the Law as far as the limb is concerned, but neglecting the truly important thing which is the actual washing. Consequently because of his ignorance, his prayer is rejected.
Whereas, the one who breaks the fast through eating but observes it by keeping himself free from sin is like the person who, in performing the ablution, washes each of the limbs of his body once only. His prayers are, by the will of Allah, accepted because he has fulfilled the principal thing in the ablution although he has failed to fulfill its details. But whosoever does both is like the person who, in performing the ablution, washes each limb of his body thrice, thereby fulfilling both the principal purpose of ablution as well as its elaborate details which constitutes perfection.
The Messenger of Allah, praise and peace be upon him said: "Indeed, fasting is a trust; let each, therefore, take good care of his trust." When he recited the verse "Allah orders you all to hand back the trusts to their owners ..." he raised his hands so that they touched his ears and eyes and said:
"The gift of hearing and sight are each a trust from Allah." Similarly, the gift of speech is a trust, for if it were not so the Messenger of Allah, praise and peace be upon him, would not have said: "If anyone disputes with another and swears at him, let the latter say 'I am fasting, I am fasting."
It is clear, then, that every act of worship possesses an outward form and an internal form - an external husk and internal pith.
The husks are of different grades and each grade has different layers. It is for you to choose whether to be content with the husk or join the company of the wise and learned.

The Fast of the Elite

The fast of the elite is the fast of the heart from bad thoughts, worldly worries and anything else that may divert from anything but thoughts of Allah.
The Fast of the Elite means fasting of the heart from unworthy concerns and worldly thoughts, in total disregard of everything but God, Great and Glorious is He. This kind of Fast is broken by thinking of worldly matters, except for those conducive to religious ends, since these constitute provision for the Hereafter and are not of this lower world. Those versed in the spiritual life of the heart have even said that a sin is recorded against one who concerns himself all day with arrangements for breaking his Fast. Such anxiety stems from lack of trust in the bounty of God, Great and Glorious is He, and from lack of certain faith in His promised sustenance.

To this third degree belong the Prophets, the true awliya and the intimates of God. It does not lend itself to detailed examination in words, as its true nature is better revealed in action. It consists in utmost dedication to God, Great and Glorious is He, to the neglect of everything other than God, Exalted is He. It is bound up with the significance of His words: 'Say: "Allah (sent it down)": then leave them to play in their vain discussions.' [al-An'am,6:91]

Inward Requirements

As for Special Fasting, this is the kind practiced by the righteous. It means keeping all one's organs free from sin and six things are required for its accomplishment:


A chaste regard, restrained from viewing anything that is blameworthy or reprehensible, or that distracts the heart and diverts it from the remembrance of God, Great and Glorious is He. Said the Prophet, on him be peace: 'The furtive glance is one of the poisoned arrows of Satan, on him be God's curse. Whoever forsakes it for fear of God will receive from Him, Great and Glorious is He, a faith the sweetness of which he will find within his heart.' Jabir relates from Anas that God's Messenger, on him be peace, said: 'Five things break a man's Fast: lying, backbiting, gossiping, perjury and a lustful gaze.'


Guarding one's tongue from idle chatter, lying, gossiping, obscenity, rudeness, arguing and controversy; making it observe silence and occupying it with remembrance of God, Great and Glorious is He, and with recitation of Quran. This is the fasting of the tongue.
Said Sufyan: 'Backbiting annuls the Fast.' Layth quotes Mujahid as saying: 'Two habits annul Fasting: backbiting and telling lies.' The Prophet, on him be peace, said: 'Fasting is a shield; so when one of you is Fasting he should not use foul or foolish talk. If someone attacks him or insults him, let him say: "I am Fasting, I am Fasting!"'

According to Tradition: 'Two women were Fasting during the time of God's Messenger, on him be peace. They were so fatigued towards the end of the day, from hunger and thirst, that they were on the verge of collapsing. They therefore sent a message to God's Messenger, on him be peace, requesting permission to break their Fast. In response, the Prophet, on him be peace, sent them a bowl and said: "Tell them to vomit into it what they have eaten." One of them vomited and half filled the bowl with fresh blood and tender meat, while the other brought up the same so that they filled it between them. The onlookers were astonished. Then the Prophet, on him be peace, said: "These two women have been Fasting from what God made lawful to them, and have broken their Fast on what God, Exalted is He, made unlawful to them. They sat together and indulged in backbiting, and here is the flesh of the people they maligned!"'


Closing one's ears to everything reprehensible; for everything unlawful to utter is likewise unlawful to listen to. That is why God, Great and Glorious is He, equated the eavesdropper with the profiteer, in His words, Exalted is He: 'Listeners to falsehood, consumers of illicit gain.' [al- Ma'idah, 5:42] God, Great and Glorious is He, also said: 'Why do their rabbis and priests not forbid them to utter sin and consume unlawful profit?' [al-Ma'idah, 5:63] Silence in the face of backbiting is therefore unlawful. God, Exalted is He, said: 'You are then just like them.' [al-Nisa, 4:140] That is why the Prophet, on him be peace, said: 'The backbiter and his listener are copartners in sin.'


Keeping all other limbs and organs away from sin: the hands and feet from reprehensible deeds, and the stomach from questionable food at the time for breaking Fast. It is meaningless to Fast -- to abstain from lawful food - only to break one's Fast on what is unlawful. A man who Fast like this may be compared to one who builds a castle but demolishes a city. Lawful food injurious in quantity not in quality, so Fasting is to reduce the former. A person might well give up excessive use of medicine, from fear of ill effects, but he would be a fool to switch to taking poison. The unlawful is a poison deadly to religion, while the lawful is a medicine, beneficial in small doses but harmful in excess.
The object of Fasting is to induce moderation. Said the Prophet, on him be peace: 'How many of those who Fast get nothing from it but hunger and thirst!' This has been taken to mean those who break their Fast on unlawful food. Some say it refers to those who abstain from lawful food, but break their Fast on human flesh through backbiting, which is unlawful. Others consider it an allusion to those who do not guard their organs from sin.


Not to over-indulge in lawful food at the time of breaking Fast, to the point of stuffing one's belly. There is no receptacle more odious to God, Great and Glorious is He, than a belly stuffed full with lawful food. Of what use is the Fast as a means of conquering God's enemy and abating appetite, if at the time of breaking it one not only makes up for all one has missed during the daytime, but perhaps also indulges in a variety of extra foods? It has even become the custom to stock up for Ramadan with all kinds of foodstuffs, so that more is consumed during that time than in the course of several other months put together.

It is well known that the object of Fasting is to experience hunger and to check desire, in order to reinforce the soul in piety. If the stomach is starved from early morning till evening, so that its appetite is aroused and its craving intensified, and it is then offered delicacies and allowed to eat its fill, its taste for pleasure is increased and its force exaggerated; passions are activated which would have lain dormant under normal conditions.

The spirit and secret nature of Fasting is to weaken the forces which are Satan's means of leading us back to evil. It is therefore essential to cut down one's intake to what one would consume on a normal night, when not Fasting. No benefit is derived from the Fast if one consumes as much as one would usually take during the day and night combined.
Moreover, one of the properties consists in taking little sleep during the daytime, so that one feels the hunger and thirst and becomes conscious of the weakening of one's powers, with the consequent purification of the heart. One should let a certain degree of weakness carry over into the night, making it easier to perform the night Prayers (tahajjud) and to recite the praises (awrad). It may then be that Satan will not hover around one's heart, and that one will behold the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Night of Destiny represents the night on which something of this Kingdom is revealed. This is what is meant by the words of God, Exalted is He: 'We surely revealed it on the Night of Power.' [al-Qadr, 97:1] Anyone who puts a bag of food between his heart and his breast becomes blind to this revelation. Nor is keeping the stomach empty sufficient to remove the veil, unless one also empties the mind of everything but God, Great and Glorious is He. That is the entire matter, and the starting point of it all is cutting down on food.


After the Fast has been broken, the heart should swing like a pendulum between fear and hope. For one does not know if one's Fast will be accepted, so that one will find favor with God, or whether it will be rejected, leaving one among those He abhors. This is how one should be at the end of any act of worship one performs.
It is related of al-Hasan ibn Abil Hasan al-Basri that he once passed by a group of people who were laughing merrily. He said: 'God, Great and Glorious is He, has made the month of Ramadan a racecourse, on which His creatures compete in His worship. Some have come in first and won, while others have lagged behind and lost. It is absolutely amazing to find anybody laughing and playing about on the day when success attends the victors, and failure the wasters. By God, if the veil were lifted off, the doer of good would surely be preoccupied with his good works and the evildoer with his evil deeds.' In too full of joy to indulge in idle sport, while for one who has suffered rejection laughter will be precluded by remorse.
Of al-Ahnaf ibn Qays it is reported that he was once told: 'You are an aged elder; Fasting would enfeeble you.' But he replied: 'By this I am making ready for a long journey, Obedience to God, Glorified is He, is easier to endure than His punishment.' Such are the inwardly significant meanings of Fasting.

Al-Ghazali, Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship, Edited 12/99

Monday, July 08, 2013

San Francisco Plane Crash: The Pilots’ Warning

The man piloting the Asiana Boeing 777 that crash-landed, killing two and injuring scores, triggered a warning from the jet seconds before impact—and was in training, reports aviation expert Clive Irving.  

The mystery deepens: how did the pilots flying Asiana Airlines flight 214 into San Francisco misjudge their final approach so seriously?

Asiana Airlines Crash
An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 lies burned on the runway after it crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6, 2013. (Ezra Shaw/Getty)

The details of the last few seconds of the flight given by National Transportation Safety Board chairman Deborah Hersman imply a serious lapse of airmanship. The most damning detail is that the Boeing 777 delivered its own signal of distress, what is called a “stick shaker” warning.

That is when the airplane itself senses it is on the threshold of an aerodynamic stall, where the wings lose the capacity to keep it in the air. I have no qualifications as a pilot, but I have flown a 777 in a Boeing simulator and provoked a stick shake. Believe me, it’s salutary. The “stick” is the control column, and it really gets your attention with a vigorous shaking motion.

When a pilot has altitude and provokes a stick shake, the procedure is to power up the engines and put the nose down, to regain speed and stability as fast as possible. When the plane is within seconds of reaching a runway and it happens, it’s too late. The engines take at least four seconds to begin providing more power, and the pilot can’t put the nose down because there is nothing between the plane and the ground.

Getting into that situation when the airplane is in a “dirty” condition, with its landing gear down and the wing flaps fully extended for landing, makes it even harder to recover. Indeed, it’s unconscionable.

The information offered by Chairman Hersman and other sources, including a video exclusively obtained by CNN that shows the 777 crashing, leaves no doubt that well before those final fatal moments the 777 was descending too fast and at the same time losing forward speed. A spokeswoman for Asiana said late Sunday that First Officer Lee Kang-kook, who handled the landing, was in training on the 777 and that Saturday was his first attempt to land the plane at San Francisco International Airport. Captain Lee Jeong-min, who assisted in the landing, had 3,220 hours of experience on the 777.

Attention also has been drawn to the temporary absence at San Francisco of an automatic navigation aid that transmits to pilots whether they are accurately following the assigned glide path to the runway, the shallow sloping line of descent the airplane should follow. But as Chairman Hersman pointed out, the pilots have the security of other systems and instruments to follow the glide path, the most valuable of which should be their own visceral situational awareness.

Thousands of other flights have landed safely without the glide-path aid in all kinds of weather and traffic situations. Flight 214 was coming in on a clear day with absolutely no other challenges than flying competently.
It’s customary among all airlines for captains to allow first officers to make takeoffs and landings to allow them to build their experience. It should be routine.
It’s customary among all airlines for captains to allow first officers to make takeoffs and landings to allow them to build their experience, especially when there are no unusual circumstances involved. It should be routine.

But it can go wrong. Earlier this year, a Boeing 737 flown by the Indonesian carrier Lion Air crashed into the sea on final approach to Bali international airport. The investigation revealed that the captain, having disengaged the autopilot, had handed over manual control to a far less experienced first officer, who lost height too fast. In the last seconds, the captain took over, but it was too late. The 737 broke up on impact with the water, but miraculously nobody died.

That was partly because the shallow water cushioned and braked the airplane more gently than if it had hit a runway like the Asiana 777.

Indeed, given how violent the crash-landing of flight 214 was, the passenger survivability of the crash is a testimony to the effort made over the last 20 years to achieve two things: seats that can withstand high impact and protect their occupants, and well-rehearsed evacuation drills. Several potentially deadly forces combined in this accident—an extremely sudden deceleration that pressed passengers forward and, simultaneously, a precipitous downward plunge and impact as the airplane’s tail broke away.

The most serious injuries involve spinal compression, and it’s probable that the worst of these occurred in the rear of the cabin, where the plunging force was at its strongest. Other internal injuries would be caused by the restraining force of the seat belts. The two young Chinese students who were the only fatalities were reportedly seated in the rear, though one of them may have been run over by an emergency vehicle. That 123 of the 291 passengers aboard were able to walk away uninjured is remarkable—though they went through a traumatic experience and may well need counseling in the future.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

The best cycle trails in New Zealand

The National cycle trail consists of 20 or so of the best cycle trails the country has to offer, spread from top to bottom

You get to drive the great bits and cycle the better bits

Here are the trails:


and here's a sample of the action:

Egypt’s new president is secretly Jewish

Muslim Brotherhood site says Egypt’s new president is secretly Jewish

IkhwanOnline, the official Web site of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, posted an article on Thursday asserting that the country’s new interim president, Adly Mansour, is secretly Jewish. The article, since taken offline, suggested that Mansour was part of an American and Israeli conspiracy to install Mohamed ElBaradei, a former U.N. official and  Egyptian opposition figure, as president.

Mansour, the supreme justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, was sworn in as interim president on Thursday after the military announced that President Mohamed Morsi was no longer in charge. Morsi was a close ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has held large demonstrations protesting his ouster. That the Muslim Brotherhood would be suspicious of Mansour, and of the military that toppled Morsi to install him, is not surprising.

Still, the IkhwanOnline article suggests that some elements of the Muslim Brotherhood may be indulging in conspiracy theories that ignore their own role in public outrage about Morsi’s rule and may be promoting the anti-Semitic ideas that engendered so much international skepticism of their rule. There is no indication that there is any truth to the article.

The article cited as its source the purported Facebook page of an al-Jazeera Arabic broadcaster, although it’s not clear whether the Facebook page is real. The article claims that Mansour is “considered to be a Seventh Day Adventist, which is a Jewish sect” (in fact, Seventh Day Adventism is considered part of Protestant Christianity). It further claims that Mansour tried to convert to Christianity but was rebuffed by the Coptic pope, a major Egyptian religious figure, who supposedly refused to baptize him.

The article goes on to connect Mansour’s appointment as president to a global conspiracy involving the United States, Israel and Mohamed ElBaradei. According to a translation by the site MBInEnglish, which is run by Cairo-based journalists and dedicated to translating Brotherhood-penned articles into English, the article claimed that ElBaradei had refused to participate in a conference that denied the Holocaust. This, it says, was “a token gesture offered to the Jews by ElBaradei so that he can become President of the Republic in the fake elections that the military will guard and whose results they will falsify in their interests. All with the approval of America, Israel and the Arabs, of course.”

The article has since been removed, suggesting perhaps that someone in the Brotherhood had acknowledged the potential for criticism. It would be wrong to conclude from just this one article that the Muslim Brotherhood was retreating back into some of its worst habits: conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism, the insistence that no disagreement could be legitimate. But now that the group has been forced from power, this is a very real risk — not just for the group and its chances of regaining power, but for an Egyptian political system that is dangerously divided.


Saturday, July 06, 2013

Four reasons why Israel may miss Morsi after all

Egypt's president is no Zionist, but will Israel truly benefit from his ouster?

As Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi remains effectively powerless after the ultimatum set by Egypt's army expired on Wednesday, it was hard not to sense the levels of satisfaction in Israel. Though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the cabinet to keep quiet about the crisis in Cairo, there is little doubt that the ministers are delighted with the latest twist in the Egyptian saga.
But should they be?

Morsi, of course, is no Zionist. The word "Israel" has never passed his lips in public and his spokesman denies he ever sent President Shimon Peres a letter of thanks after the latter congratulated him on his election last year. However, his year of presidency has not harmed Israeli-Egyptian relations. Quite the contrary.

Here are four reasons why Israel could still end up missing Morsi:

1. Under Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood did the unthinkable when it affirmed the Camp David peace accords with Israel. Its leaders did talk of amending the treaty but they continued to uphold it, just as Hosni Mubarak's regime did before. Muslim Brotherhood members and government ministers may not have not with Israeli officials, but on the most crucial level for Israel - the security channels - cooperation was maintained and even improved, Israeli defense sources said, after a rocky period following Mubarak's fall.

Morsi's tenure was the first in which a large and popular Egyptian party that was elected in a democratic process supported, even if begrudgingly, the peace treaty with Israel, and justified it to the Egyptian people.

2. Israel feared that when in power, the Muslim Brotherhood – the ideological forebear of Hamas - would back the Palestinian Islamist movement and encourage it to launch missiles against Israel, while threatening Israel not to retaliate. Though, for a time, Hamas thought it was immuned, the Morsi administration actually did not try to stop Israel from launching Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza last year, in which Hamas' military leadership and infrastructure was severely damaged. Morsi was also successful in achieving a swift ceasefire that has engendered for the past eight months - an unprecedented period of calm in southern Israel - which is now being adroitly observed and enforced by Hamas. The Muslim Brotherhood has reined in Hamas in a degree that never existed during Mubarak's time.

3. In Mubarak's day, the Egyptian army failed to act decisively against smuggling operations in Sinai, and from there through underground tunnels, into Gaza. For the Egyptians, this was an opportunity to create regional balance between Israel and the Palestinians, while keeping the Bedouin tribes who control the smuggling satisfied.

Since Mubarak's fall, chaos has reigned in Sinai. But over the past year, under Morsi's rule, the army has been sent on more focused and forceful operations against Al-Qaida elements that have taken over parts of the peninsula, and more importantly for Israel, it has demolished large numbers of smuggling tunnels. The closeness between Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas has made Egypt more determined to fight extreme Islamists in Sinai and Gaza, as well as smuggling of arms.

4. Despite fears of a rapprochement between Iran and Egypt following the Muslim Brotherhood's electoral victories, the differences between Sunni Egypt and Shia Iran have widened under Morsi, and any chance of cooperation now seems very remote. Instinctively, the Brotherhood identifies with the Sunni rebels fighting the Bashar Assad regime. Hezbollah's deepening involvement inSyria on Assad's side has made the government in Cairo an implacable foe of the Lebanese militia.

Morsi's Egypt is firmly in the anti-Iran camp. Prolonged political chaos in Cairo will attract the West's attention away from the civil war in Syria and help Iran and its allies to continue propping up the Assad regime.