Monthly Archives: November 2011

A Vacation to Kuala Lumpur

Last week me and my family went to the neighbouring country Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur. I went there with my parents and my older brother, just to have a little vacation from our daily life. We arrived on Friday on the 11th of November (a rush though since we had to go to the airport immediately after the Friday prayers!) and returned last Thursday for a total of 6 days spent in the glitzy metropolis (and a night in a very cramped hotel room) and I’m still dizzy from the flight…   It’s not all fun and shopping for us – or at least me- though. One of the reason I went to KL is that I wanted to visit a museum that is totally dedicated to the Islamic Art and architecture. I really enjoyed that place and somehow I wanted to visit it again when I got the chance. We also visited some places which has a bit of Islamic art put here and there…Kuala Lumpur is populated prominently by mostly Muslim Malays and Indians so it not really surprising.

The Sultan Abdul Samad Building, one of the main landmark Kuala Lumpur. Although we haven’t got a chance to tour the building , we passed it a few times during our trip to the city center. It looks majestic enough in real with its Moorish architecture and copper domes. The Masjid Jamek is also very near and we haven’t got a chance to go there either….hmm.

The KLCC twin tower from our apartment in Pudu (22nd floor, nevertheless!) We only managed to get to the Aquaria and the shopping complex of the KLCC but we got a closeup look at the twin towers. I never seen such tall building before so it is quite an awesome sight looking to the top of the tower from the bottom (and very dizzying). We could’ve get into the tower but RM50 per person for admission? I think I’ll pass. and so the rest of the family. I learned that the architect took inspiration of Islamic geometrical designs and put it into the plan of the tower.

An Indian restaurant somewhere nearby a bazaar on Jalan Masjid India. It is called so because of the mosque nearby. the road is lined with colourful old buidings and shophouses which I believe some maybe dated before the independence of Malaysia. The place is popular particularly with Muslim tourists because of the Muslim garments and accessories sold there. My mum apparently had a blast browsing and shopping there.

The Museum Guide booklet and map, as well as the ticket to the Islamic Arts Museum. I’m very surprised that the place is not really well known despite that the fact it holds many, many artifacts of Muslim history and despite the fact that it sits just next to the National Mosque! I learned so many  there, took plenty of photos as well as picked up an interesting book, so expect to read a whole series of posts regarding the Museum!

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Eid al-Adha Mubarak!

I guess most parts of the (Muslim) world is already on the second day of Eid al-Adha (it lasts for three days from 10th to 13th Zulhijjah, the twelfth month of the Muslim calendar) but here in Brunei, it has just started so I wish you all my readers, Muslims or not, a very happy Eid al-Adha. it is not celebrated as grandly as Eid al-Fitr here but probably the families who have their members going to Haj celebrates the most.

Here is a wikipedia article on the origin of the Feast of the Sacrifice – don’t worry I read it throughout and it should follow the story told by Muslim scholars! –

According to Islamic tradition, approximately four thousand years ago, the valley of Mecca (in what is now Saudi Arabia) was a dry, rocky and uninhabited place. Abraham (‘Ibraheem in Arabic) was instructed to bring his Egyptian wife Hajra (Hāǧar) and Ishmael, his only child at the time (Ismā’īl), to Arabia from the land of Canaan by God’s command.

As Abraham was preparing for his return journey back to Canaan, Hajra asked him, “Did Allah (God) order you to leave us here? or are you leaving us here to die.” Abraham turned around to face his wife. He was so sad that he couldn’t say anything. he pointed to the sky showing that God commanded him to do so. Hagar said, “Then Allah will not waste us; you can go”. Though Abraham had left a large quantity of food and water with Hajra and Ishmael, the supplies quickly ran out, and within a few days the two began to feel the pangs of hunger and dehydration.

Hajra ran up and down between two hills called Al-Safa and Al-Marwah seven times, in her desperate quest for water. Exhausted, she finally collapsed beside her baby Ishmael and prayed to God for deliverance. Miraculously, a spring of water gushed forth from the earth at the feet of baby Ishmael. Other accounts have the angelGabriel (Jibrail) striking the earth and causing the spring to flow in abundance. With this secure water supply, known as the Zamzam Well, they were not only able to provide for their own needs, but were also able to trade water with passing nomads for food and supplies.

Years later, Abraham was instructed by God to return from Canaan to build a place of worship adjacent to Hagar’s well (the Zamzam Well). Abraham and Ishmael constructed a stone and mortar structure —known as the Kaaba— which was to be the gathering place for all who wished to strengthen their faith in God. As the years passed, Ishmael was blessed with Prophethood (Nubuwwah) and gave the nomads of the desert his message of submission to God. After many centuries, Mecca became a thriving desert city and a major center for trade, thanks to its reliable water source, the well of Zamzam.

One of the main trials of Abraham’s life was to face the command of God to devote his dearest possession, his only son. Upon hearing this command, he prepared to submit to God’s will. During this preparation, Satan (Shaitan) tempted Abraham and his family by trying to dissuade them from carrying out God’s commandment, and Ibrahim drove Satan away by throwing pebbles at him. In commemoration of their rejection of Satan, stones are thrown at symbolic pillars signifying Satan during the Hajj rites.

In many Muslim cultures the graves of the deceased are also visited during the day of Eid al-Adha.

When Ishmael was about 13 (Ibrahim being 99), Allah (God) decided to test their faith in public. Abraham had a recurring dream, in which God was commanding him to offer his son as a sacrifice – an unimaginable act – sacrificing his son, which God had granted him after many years of deep prayer. Abraham knew that the dreams of the prophets were divinely inspired, and one of the ways in which God communicated with his prophets. When the intent of the dreams became clear to him, Abraham decided to fulfill God’s command and offer Ishmael for sacrifice.

Although Abraham was ready to sacrifice his dearest for Allah’s sake, he could not just go and drag his son to the place of sacrifice without his consent. Isma’el had to be consulted as to whether he was willing to give up his life as fulfillment to God’s command. This consultation would be a major test of Isma’el’s maturity in faith, love and commitment for Allah, willingness to obey his father and sacrifice his own life for the sake of Allah.

Abraham presented the matter to his son and asked for his opinion about the dreams of slaughtering him. Ishmael did not show any hesitation or reservation even for a moment. He said, “Father, do what you have been commanded. You will find me, Insha’Allah (God willing), to be very patient.” His mature response, his deep insight into the nature of his father’s dreams, his commitment to Allah, and ultimately his willingness to sacrifice his own life for the sake of Allah were all unprecedented.

When both father and son had shown their perfect obedience to Allah and they had practically demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice their most precious possessions for His sake — Abraham by laying down his son for sacrifice and Ishmael by lying patiently under the knife – Allah called out to them stating that his sincere intentions had been accepted, and that he need not carry out the killing of Ishmael. Instead, Abraham was told to replace his son with a ram to sacrifice instead. Allah also told them that they had passed the test imposed upon them by his willingness to carry out God’s command.

This is mentioned in the Qur’an as follows:

“O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)!” So We gave him the good news of a boy, possessing forbearance. And when (his son) was old enough to walk and work with him, (Abraham) said: O my dear son, I see in vision that I offer you in sacrifice: Now see what is your view!” (The son) said: “O my father! Do what you are commanded; if Allah wills, you will find me one practising patience and steadfastness!” So when they both submitted and he threw him down upon his forehead, We called out to him saying: O Ibraheem! You have indeed fulfilled the vision; surely thus do We reward those who do good. Most surely this was a manifest trial. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice. And We perpetuated (praise) to him among the later generations. “Peace and salutation to Abraham!” Thus indeed do We reward those who do right. Surely he was one of Our believing servants

As a reward for this sacrifice, Allah then granted Abraham the good news of the birth of his second son, Is-haaq (Isaac):

And We gave him the good news of Is-haaq, a prophet from among the righteous.

Abraham had shown that his love for God superseded all others: that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dearest to him in submission to God’s command. Muslims commemorate this ultimate act of sacrifice every year during Eid al-Adha.

 

And also i would like to show you a video about Islamic Mercy Slaughtering (No gory details here, I am a sensitive guy too but I have seen through the vid so relax!) about the effects of prayers to animals that are about to be slaughtered. This video was linked by my friend on my personal Facebook profile –

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Study – Islamic Architecture in the Malay Peninsula Part 5 – Modern Vernacular Style

Modern Vernacular refers to buildings constructed mainly with reinforced concrete frame, plastered with brick. The term is considered vernacular in reference to the construction practice and the availability of the said materials.

Credit to Mohamed Yosri Mohamed Yong.

Masjid Al-Azhariah, Shah Alam, Selangor Malaysia

Mosques) in this style usually uses the profile of gabled or pyramid roofing on which sits a small dome or grander ones would have a larger dome over the main prayer area. The mosques in this style usually have only one central prayer area, with a women’s prayer area  in a corner or the rear part of the main prayer hall partitioned with curtains or movable screens – shows that special women’s area is an afterthought for this style of mosques. They also features one or two minarets, sometimes with grand entryway like the Iwan gateway of the Persian architecture. The mosques in this style are usually built in modern housing estates, so the look of the mosque usually reflect as well as compliment the houses.

The compound of the mosques can be grouped into two components – One is that the compound of the mosque is fenced and much of the space used for parking lot, the other would be gardens. The back compound of the mosque usually have kitchen areas where Qurban (sacrifice) were held on Eid-el-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice). These mosques were more communal and focuses on more services for the people who lived in the area of the mosques – they are often equipped with facilities such as a religious school or a Madrasa, community center, libraries, shops and even traveler’s lodgings and student dormitories. The usage of this mosque reflects closely the usage of the mosque in the time of the Prophet Muhammad, where his mosque had been used by the early Muslims as a community center.

Taken by User:Sengkang of English.Wikipedia in Mar 2006

Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka, Singapore

The construction of these mosques uses reinforced concrete frame with plastered brick infill. The roofs are usually asbestos corrugated tecks, clay tiles or metal decks, over a structure of timber or metal trusses. Floors are tiled and windows are made with aluminum frame. This whole system is used in concern for economy. The structure is usually built with a squaren plan, decorated with Islamic features such as domes and arches to distinguish the mosque and makes it identifiable.

 

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Internet Finds – Journal of Ottoman Calligraphy

I featured Illuminated Qur’an manuscript on the last post and took most of the pictures on this website (please click on the picture to get to the blog) –

The Journal of Ottoman Calligraphy mainly focuses on the calligraphy works but it also features an extensive collection  of manuscripts, mostly from the Ottoman Empire. The periods covered span from the 8th Century to the current century with a variety of styles of calligraphy and themes. There are examples of illuminated Qur’an manuscripts as well as collection of poems and other secular texts.

There are also articles on museums and libraries as well as their respective information, very helpful indeed if you plan to make an excursion to the galleries should you visit the cities the articles featured.

There are biographies of the calligraphers if you are interested in learning the masters behind the works because, as you know, calligraphy is a hard but wondrous skill to master. Seeing the works fatured you might want to learn the men whose hands skillfully and masterful creates the calligraphy with strokes of the pen.

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Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #46 – Illuminated Qur’an

Illuminated manuscript in general, whether Islamic, Christian or any other religion or groups that used illumination techniques in their works and manuscripts, is a artistic decorating technique that utilizes gold or silver, usually used for special books like a prayer book, a Bible or in this case, a Qur’an.
Gold or silver is usually painted on special pages of the Qur’an such as the opening chapter of the book, The Surah Fatihah, the first 5 ayat (verses) of the first chapter, the Surah Al Baqarah and the last pages of the Qur’an.
As Qur’an is very special to the Muslims as it is their holy book it is befitting that illumination is a preferred decoration for the sacred text. Other manuscripts such as poem books or miniature books are also sometimes decorated in gold or silver, but Illumination is most grand in Qur’an.

AN ILLUMINATED OTTOMAN QUR'AN, COPIED BY AHMED NAILI OF GALATA (D.1813), TURKEY, DATED A.H. 1193/A.D. 1779 Arabic Manuscript on paper, 303 leaves, 15 lines to the page written in neat naskhi script in black ink, ruled in a thick gold border, verses separated by gold rosettes with coloured dots, sura headings in white against gold ground cartouches with coloured floral decoration, illuminated marginal devices comprising flowerheads issuing sprays in colours and gold, tenth verses marked with a gold 'ashr' in the margin, double page frontispiece decorated with enjoined coloured flowers against blue and gold grounds, the text within cloudbands against a punched gold backgound, within a contemporary gilt-stamped morocco binding with marbled-paper doublures and flap. 20 by 13cm. Photography/ Text © Sotheby´s

 

Mushaf sheets is dated 1211 A. H. (1796 C. E.) Size: 17 x 12.4 cm. The copy was made by Hafiz Mustafa. The book was bought in Damascus in 1896. Location: National Library of the Czech Republic. Photograph © National Library of the Czech Republic.

 

Photograph ©HAT SAN'ATI Tarihçe, Malzeme ve Örnekler, Istanbul. http://ismek.ibb.gov.tr/portal/yayinlarimiz.asp

Dimensions of Written Surface: Recto: 9.5 (w) x 19 (h) cm Script: Ottoman naskh This fragment contains on the top line the last two verses (ayat) of the last chapter (surah) of the Qur'an, entitled Surat al-Nas (Chapter of Mankind). This particular chapter extols seeking refuge in the Lord from Satan, who, like the spirits (al-jinn), whispers evil things in the hearts of people (116:5-6). The verses at the top of the folio are separated by two ayah markers shaped like gold disks with five blue dots on their peripheries. Immediately below the last verse of the Qur'an appears a prayer in five lines praising God, the Prophet Muhammad, and all Prophets (or messengers, al-mursilin) of Islam. The continuation of this terminal du'a (or formulaic prayer) continues in illuminated bands on the folio's verso (see 1-85-154.74 V and James 1992b: 178-9, cat. no. 43). The prayer is beautifully calligraphed in large Ottoman naskh in alternating gold and blue ink. This prayer is said upon completion of the Qur'an (al-du'a ba'd khatim al-Qur'an), in which God is praised as the all-hearing (al-sami') and the all-knowing (al-'alim). It continues the initial, non-illuminated five-line prayer on the folio's recto (1-85-154.74 R) and serves as an appropriate closing to the Holy Book. In some cases, illuminated terminal prayers in rectangular bands such as this one precede a four-page treatise on how to practice divination (fal) using the letters of the Qur'an (see 1-84.154.42 R). Although only one illuminated folio remains, it originally would have created a double-page illuminated du'a. This layout is typical of Safavid Persian Qur'ans from the second half of the 16th century (see James 1992b: 178-9, cat. no. 43), as well as Ottoman Turkish Qur'ans from the same period. For instance, a similar prayer appears immediately at the end of an Ottoman Turkish Qur'an dated 980/1573, now held in the Keir Collection in London, England (VII.49; Robinson 1976, 294). Due to similarities in script (in which three lines of text in gold alternate with a line in white ink), composition, and illumination, the prayer fragment here probably dates from the second half of the 16th century as well.

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A Little Update

Have I abandoned the blog? No, no…I am just a little bit too tangled up with my personal and professional life this day. Last month we were really busy with my brother’s wedding and the preparations as well as main event(s) itself are hard work for the whole family. And early this week it is hectic in the workplace with an important event coming soon so it is pretty busy.
I am also trying to find opportunities to further my studies soon so that takes time as well…I will post about this in an article later because this does link to the blog itself.
I will post a few articles soon, so please keep on reading.

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