This blogspot is a medium to share my thoughts and adventures apart from promoting my books. Below are the books which have been written or authored and published by myself.

"Berpetualang ke Aceh: Mencari Diri dan Erti".

ISBN 983-42031-0-1, Jun 2006

"Berpetualang ke Aceh: Membela Syiar yang Asal"

ISBN 983-42031-1-x, May 2007

"Berpetualang ke Aceh: Sirih Pulang ke Gagang?"

ISBN 978-983-42031-2-2, November 2007

It is interesting to note that while these books were written in Malay it has gained enough attention to merit being part of the collections of the American Library of Congress and National Library of Australia. Look here and here.

While the first three books were published by my own company, the fourth titled "Rumah Azan" was published in April 2009 by a company called Karnadya with the help of the Malaysian national literary body Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. It features beautiful pictures along with stories behind selected mosques which could be related to the history of Islam and the Malays alongside the formation of the Malaysian nation. Look at the article A collaboration of old collegemates - the book "Rumah Azan".

My fifth book "Ahlul Bait (Family) of Rasulullah SAW and Malay Sultanates", an English translation and adaptation of the Malay book "Ahlul Bait (Keluarga) Rasulullah SAW dan Kesultanan Melayu" authored by Hj Muzaffar Mohamad and Tun Suzana Othman was published early 2010. Look here... My 5th book is out! Ahlul Bait (Family) of Rasulullah SAW and the Malay Sultanates... . For more information check out my Malay blogspot CATATAN SI MERAH SILU.

Like my fourth book "Rumah Azan", the sixth book "Kereta Api Menuju Destinasi" is also a coffee-table book which is published by the company Karnadya with the cooperation of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (the main Malay literary body in Malaysia). Coming out January 2011 it features pictures and stories on the adventure travelling by train to all of Peninsular Malaysia along with the interesting places which could be reached this way.

My seventh book "Jejak keluarga Yakin : Satu sketsa sejarah" in turn is a coffee-table book which is written, editted, designed and has pictures taken by me. Coming out of the factory October 2011, this book which combines family history with history of places such as Singapura, Johor, Batu Pahat, Muar and in fact the history of the island of Java and England has been reviewed with me interviewed live in the program Selamat Pagi Malaysia at RTM1. Look at the article Siaran langsung ulasan buku "Jejak keluarga Yakin : Satu sketsa sejarah" dan temu ramah di Selamat Pagi Malaysia. Some selected contents have been featured in Sneak peek "Jejak keluarga Yakin : Satu sketsa sejarah".


The "Berpetualang ke Aceh" series of novels could be obtained in e-book form. Enter http://www.e-sentral.com/, click general novel and go to page 4. You can also type the word "Aceh" at the search box. Or click straight Book 1, Book 2 and Book 3.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Lots of walking in Langkawi

I arrived in Langkawi at night. Earlier during the day at Langgar near Alor Setar, I received a phone call from someone who's read an article I wrote in a Malay tabloid. The article about some Malay history made the caller interested in my book "Berpetualang ke Aceh: Mencari Diri dan Erti" (iterally translated as "The trip to Aceh: In search of self and meaning") or BKA I...
It happens that this person lives in Langkawi! Suffice to say I stayed at his flat for the night and he also bought a copy of the book.

The picture above was taken the next day 23rd January 2007. Somehow, I become adverse at taking the public transportation here which consist mainly of taxis and chartered vans... There were no public buses while most of time passengers have to haggle for a fair fare and I don't like this. So I decided to walk and walk... Just look at the picture and imagine how far I've walked as I started somewhere before the right foot of the main hill seen in the picture!

Ah... Being on the road literally can be very tiring. Still, it is good exercise...

Passed this prawn farm area while heading towards the south-west tip of Langkawi...

There... A nice view of another big island which forms the group of islands making up Langkawi... I can't remember the name of this island but I do know that is where the famous Tasik Dayang Bunting (lake of the pregnant lady) is situated at...

Later, I managed to hitchike a pick-up truck up to the streets of Pantai Chenang...

Had a brief rest at Pantai (beach of) Chenang... Sometime later got a bus to Telaga Tujuh (the seven wells), my next destination.

Eh? Didn't I say before that there is no public bus here? Yes... That still applies. That is why I'm rather surprised when I saw what looked like a public bus just like in Kuala Lumpur heading my way at Pantai Chenang. What is more surprising, it stopped when I signalled! As it turns out, it was actually a bus for taking workers to a resort area in Telaga Tujuh. Thank God, I got a lift as the place is about 10km away while I'm already quite worn out!

A signboard marking the boundaries of the virgin jungle at Telaga Tujuh...

Staircases leading to the "wells"...

There, after sometime, I arrived at the first "well"... Look at the picture and you can guess how high up the hills this "well" is. Remember... There are seven wells making up Telaga Tujuh!

There... Look at the natural stone formations... Certain parts form "wells", seven altogether (although when I count, I fail to see all seven) hence the name Telaga (well) Tujuh (seven)!

The view from a tower nearby. This is where I took a nap...

View of the famous Gunung (mount) Matchincang, near the north-west tip of Langkawi island from the tower... Came the time to head there. There's a cable car leading to the top...

I walked towards the cable car station some 2 km away and saw these horse-riding farm...

There... The gate marking the entry to the tourist area where the cable car station is located...

View of Gunung Matchincang within the said tourist area...

View of Gunung Matchincang from the cable car station. This is what I get for taking quite a long nap at Telaga Tujuh.

As it turns out, I arrived at the station some 15 minutes after the cable car service was closed for the day. Too bad can't wait another day as I want to spend the night on another part of the island before returning to the mainland! Next story...

Alor Setar at last!

Let me continue direct from the last story in Incursion to Tanjung Dawai . And forgive me if this story is very brief as I must simply let go while my current mood and state of health is making it rather hard to write. Oh... Just for note, I'm writing from an Internet Cafe in Kajang, here goes...

Now, as told in the story on Tanjung Dawai, I was supposed to go to Alor Setar, the capital of Kedah right after I'm done with Yan. So I got delayed for a day because of the turn events. In fact I nearly got delayed another day because I had to entertain some people in Tanjung Dawai. Dusk was approaching within the hour and the family which hosted me there asked me to stay another night but I was adamant I must go to Alor Setar that very day even if there's no more public transport left. Even if I have to walk and hitchike until the next day.

So a member of the family decided to take me to Yan by bike nearly 30km away. At least I can get busses to Alor Setar up till 9pm or so. Suffice to say, I arrived at night. The picture above of the riverside near the famous Pekan Rabu (literally translated as the Wednesday market) was taken the next day...

OK... Having let that off my chest. Now I'll be very brief so that I could complete the last few stories of the trip up north in January ya... Above is a monument commerating the 250th year of the opening of Alor Setar.

Another monument commemorating the announcement of Alor Setar (never mind the spelling ya as some prefer to use Alor Star, some Alor Setar) as a city, can't remember when, a year or two ago or so...

This plaque commemorate the particular area where Alor Setar got its name...

The drain used to be an alor (can't find the exact English word off-hand but it is like a drain without water). Next to it grows a setar tree (again, I don't know the actual translation)... So Alor Setar... Get it?

Masjid Zahir, the old main mosque of Alor Setar... I will do a story on it in the bi-lingual blogspot SENI LAMA MELAYU (MALAY OLDEN ART) soon, God willing!

A view of the street in front of the mosque leading to the 100-metre high or so Alor Setar tower...

A view of the Kedah river behind Masjid Zahir...

The Balai Besar or "Big Hall" in front of Masjid Zahir which used to be a venue for royal functions...

The Balai Nobat or the hall where the royal musical instrument is kept, as least that's what the plaque says... There are people who beg to differ saying this building is actually what's left of an old mosque which was destroyed to erase the history of the existence of a different ruling family. Hmm...

That very day, 22nd January 2007, I decided to go to the mythical island of Langkawi. The nearest jetty is at Kuala Kedah 15km west of Alor Setar. Above is a picture of the jetty complex with an odd little building in front. What building is that? Let me veer away from the question for the while...

Oh... Just for the record. Earlier during the day, I made a trip to Langgar some 11 km north-east of Alor Setar. The Kedah royal mausoleum is located there and I've posted the story here more than 3 months ago. Have a look at A visit to the royal mausoleum at Langgar, Kedah?

Before embarking on the ferry to Langkawi, I decided to visit Kampung (village of) Pasai nearby... Why? Because I have a liking for the name Pasai which is the name of an ancient kingdom located in present-day Aceh. And so the village above (too bad, I took pictures of the ugly parts. The whole village seems pretty run-down to me) is named after a group of people who migrated from the Pasai area some time ago...

Now we can get back to the odd building in front of the jetty. For information, it houses the tomb of a certain personality known as Tok Pasai. He is said to be a warrior and religious scholar of saintly status from Pasai who migrated here in the 19th century. That's why the tomb is still here... The story goes that the area in front of the jetty used to be an old graveyard which was relocated to make way for development. But the authorities can't do anything about this particular tomb... It seems the machines went dead when they tried to touch it while the workers involved felt sick. Hmm... OK, on to the next story... :]

Friday, August 03, 2007

Incursion to Tanjung Dawai

OK... Let me continue the story of a previous travel right from where we left off in The surau of Kampung Setul, Yan... Here goes...

21st January 2007. I woke up at the surau of Kampung Setul in Yan with Alor Setar, the Kedah capital in mind. That very morning, a local which I came to know 2 days before took me on his bike to visit a few places in Yan but that is another story. After lunch, it's time to leave the small town with its Aceh connections and head further up north.

At Yan's bus station, I came across an elder man who was also headed for Alor Setar. As the bus was still not in sight, we decided to save time by sharing a taxi to another town located on the main route to the the Kedah capital, if I remember correctly the name of that town is Guar Chempedak. From there it's easier to get a bus to Alor Setar.

So there we were merrily leaving the town and district of Yan. As we were about the approach our destination, in sight came an obstacle... Oo oo!!!

As it turns out, there was a police road-block! Not that we have anything to fear as I'm sure none of us onboard the taxi are criminals in any way. The problem is (and a funny and rather ironic one too), the taxi driver forgot to bring his driving license! What? A taxi driver forgot to bring his driving license to work! Who would have thought!

Anyway, the driver decided to make a u-turn just before the road-block... That means we, the passengers had to walk to the town centre which is alright as it was only a kilometre away or so.

Feeling rather guilty for forcing us to walk because he forgot bring his driving license, the driver offered to waive our fares. We said no... Just take the money... It was not so much anyway... Can't remember how much but the total is definitely under RM10...

"It is your rezeki (your allocated lot by God)", we said as we got out of the taxi. The funny thing is, both me and the other passenger seemed to develop a certain spiritual tie by then...

As we walked towards the town (again I must say, I'm not so sure if the name is Guar Chempedak as I'm writing this off-hand), we started talking about God's decrees and how it lead to men's fate... Starting with why this funny incident (the taxi driver forgetting to bring along his driving licence) happened... We both came to the conclusion, it happened to force us to walk together so that we can exchange stories which could be vital to our spiritual journey! Yes! By then, both of us could definitely feel a certain link and electrical current in the air.

As we talked and talked, there came out the name Sultan Malikus Salih, the ruler and founder of the ancient twin kingdoms of Samudera and Pasai (in present-day Aceh) more than 700 years ago. I can't remember how this name came about but it is sure something dear to me... As far as I know, I've met all sorts of fashion of spiritual travellers, adventurers and such and names of signicant characters said to be of high spiritual leaning like the Wali Songo (the Nine Saints) of Java are always mentioned in such circles but rarely the name of Sultan Malikus Salih, as very few know the real spiritual status of this wise ruler.

That's when I decided to find out where this guy is coming from... He pointed me to a place called Tanjung Dawai... Hence the pictures here you've seen so far!

As it is, Tanjung Dawai is actually located some 20 to 30 km south of Yan which in turn is about another 20km or so away from the town we were at. The conversation which ensued after we both found our common interest in Sultan Malikus Salih made us charter a taxi all the way to Tanjung Dawai passing Yan again on the way. It turns out, there's a family there who claimed to be descendants of the ancient wise ruler who legends say was given the title Malikus Salih (Arabic for "king of the pious ones") by none other than Prophet Muhammad himself! In a dream that is because the Prophet passed away 1,400 years ago, 700 years earlier than the advent of the kingdoms of Samudera and Pasai!

Suffice to say, I spent the night in Tanjung Dawai exchanging stories and spiritual experience. The family was kind enough to let me borrow a bike. That's when I made rounds around Tanjung Dawai which is situated at the Merbok estuary river and took the pictures displayed in this article... Remember the place called Merbok? The river starts from the famous Gunung Jerai... Have a look again at The ancient valley of Bujang in Merbok .

I took this opportunity to visit the old mosque of Pengkalan Kakap, some 10km away or so from Tanjung Dawai. If I remember correctly, this 200 year-old or so mosque is the oldest exisiting mosque in Kedah and is gazetted as a national treasure...

Next to the old mosque is another newer mosque for regular use. The old mosque is reserved for visitors...

A plaque with a brief history of the old mosque of Pengkalan Kakap inscribed. Sorry, I can't make it clearer for you readers. As it is, I need to blurt the story out before I can continue with other stories... Can't help it... That is my style. At least I'm done for the day. Cheers! :]

The whirling dervishes

Last night, after attending a Naqshabandiyah tariqah zikir session at a certain place in Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur, a friend showed a VCD featuring the whirling dervishes... What? Whirling dervishes? What are those? Well, this is what prompts me to make this posting before I can continue any story on travel. Have a look... Something I picked up lock stock and barrel from a site on the Internet... Read and understand... :]

Sufism and Dervishes

The origin and roots of Sufism lie in the life and practices of the Prophet of Islam and the Qur’an. Sufism espouses a well-founded and thoroughgoing interpretation of Islam, which focuses on love, tolerance, worship of God, community development, and personal development through self-discipline and responsibility. A Sufi’s way of life is to love and be of service to people, deserting the ego or false self and all illusion so that one can reach maturity and perfection, and finally reach Allah, the True, the Real.
Through the Whirling Dervishes program we hope to bring to you a hint of one of the remarkable ways of achieving this: the way of Rumi, the great Muslim mystic and poet.
The Order of the Whirling Dervishes is one branch of the vast Sufi tradition of Islam. The universal values of love and service shared by all Sufis are very much relevant to the social and political realities of today, and this ritual, which is only performed by the Order of the Whirling Dervishes, has come to symbolize these values in the hearts and minds of millions throughout the world.

The Fundamental Meaning of Sema

THE SEMA RITUAL began with the inspiration of Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi (1207-1273) and was influenced by Turkish customs and culture.
It is scientifically recognized that the fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve. There is no being or object which does not revolve, because all beings are comprised of revolving electrons, protons, and neutrons in atoms. Everything revolves, and the human being lives by means of the revolution of these particles, by the revolution of the blood in his body, and by the revolution of the stages of his life, by his coming from the earth and his returning to it.

However, all of these revolutions are natural and unconscious. But the human being possesses a mind and an intelligence which distinguishes him from other beings. Thus the whirling dervish or semazen, intentionally and consciously participates in the shared revolution of other beings.
Contrary to popular belief, the semazen's goal is not to lose consciousness or to fall into a state of ecstasy. Instead, by revolving in harmony with all things in nature -- with the smallest cells and with the stars in the firmament -- the semazen testifies to the existence and the majesty of the Creator, thinks of Him, gives thanks to Him, and prays to Him. In so doing, the semazen confirms the words of the Qur'an (64:1): Whatever is in the skies or on earth invokes God.
An important characteristic of this seven-centuries-old ritual is that it unites the three fundamental components of human nature: the mind (as knowledge and thought), the heart (through the expression of feelings, poetry and music) and the body (by activating life, by the turning). These three elements are thoroughly joined both in theory and in practice as perhaps in no other ritual or system of thought.
The Sema ceremony represents the human being's spiritual journey, an ascent by means of intelligence and love to Perfection (Kemal). Turning toward the truth, he grows through love, transcends the ego, meets the truth, and arrives at Perfection. Then he returns from this spiritual journey as one who has reached maturity and completion, able to love and serve the whole of creation and all creatures without discriminating in regard to belief, class, or race.
In the symbolism of the Sema ritual, the semazen's camel's hair hat (sikke) represents the tombstone of the ego; his wide, white skirt represents the ego's shroud. By removing his black cloak, he is spiritually reborn to the truth. At the beginning of the Sema, by holding his arms crosswise, the semazen appears to represent the number one, thus testifying to God's unity. While whirling, his arms are open: his right arm is directed to the sky, ready to receive God's beneficence; his left hand, upon which his eyes are fastened, is turned toward the earth. The semazen conveys God's spiritual gift to those who are witnessing the Sema. Revolving from right to left around the heart, the semazen embraces all humanity with love. The human being has been created with love in order to love. Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi says, "All loves are a bridge to Divine love. Yet, those who have not had a taste of it do not know!"

The Ritual Dance or Sema

The Mevlevi (also spelled as mawlawi) Ritual dance or sema consists of several stages with different meanings:
The first stage, Naat-i Sherif, is a eulogy to the Messenger of Islam and the all Prophets before him, who represent love. To praise them is to acknowledge and praise God Almighty Who created and sent them to humanity as a mercy. This eulogy is followed by a drumbeat (on the kudum) symbolizing the divine command ‘Be’ for the creation of the entire universe.

The Naat-i Sherif is followed by a Taksim, an improvisation on the reed flute or ney. This expresses the divine breath, which gives life to everything.

Then follows the Sultan Veled procession or Devr-i Veled, accompanied by peshrev music; this is a circular, anticlockwise, procession three times around the turning space. The greetings of the semazen, or whirling dervishes, during the procession represent the three stages of knowledge: ilm-al yaqin (received knowledge, gained from others or through study), ayn-al yaqin (knowing by seeing or observing for oneself) and haqq-al yakin (knowledge gained through direct experience, gnosis).

During the Sema itself there are four selams, or musical movements, each with a distinct rhythm. At the beginning, during and close of each selam, the semazen testify to God's existence, unity, majesty and power:

The First Selam represents the human being's birth to truth through feeling and mind. It represents his complete acceptance of his condition as a creature created by God.

The Second Selam expresses the rapture of the human being witnessing the splendor of creation in the face of God's greatness and omnipotence.

The Third Selam is the rapture of dissolving into love and the sacrifice of the mind to love. It is complete submission, unity, and the annihilation of self in the Beloved. This is the state that is known as nirvana in Buddhism and fana fillah in Islam. The next stage in Islamic belief is the state of servanthood represented by the Prophet, who is called God's servant foremost and subsequently His ‘Messenger.’ The aim of Sema is not uncontrolled ecstasy and loss of consciousness, but the realization of submission to God.

In the Fourth Selam, just as the Prophet ascends to the spiritual Throne of Allah and then returns to his task on earth, the whirling dervish, after the ascent of his spiritual journey, returns to his task, to his servanthood. He is a servant of God, of His Books, of His Prophets, of His whole Creation.

This is followed by a recitation from the Qur’an, the Sura (Chapter) Mary on the miracle birth of Jesus and his mission.

At the end, by the salute, the dervish demonstrates again the number ‘1’ in his appearance, arms consciously and humbly crossed, and, by this, the unity of God.

The ceremony ends with a prayer for the peace of the souls of all the Prophets and believers.
After the completion of the Sema, all the dervishes retire silently to their rooms for meditation and further remembrance of God.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Sema is a spiritual act, so please DO NOT applaud while watching. You may kindly do so, if you wish, after the dervishes have left the stage