Rays of Splendour


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What have you done with your time?

Chapter 103: Al-‘Asr
By (the Token of) Time (through the Ages),Verily Man is in loss,
Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy

Lately, I’ve been asking myself whether I’ve been utilizing my time fully. Whenever I think of time, I’ll recall the above chapter from the Quran and start feeling so ashamed of myself. Though I try to fill up my time with useful endeavours, I’m aware that I’ve given in to vices that does not add value to my life nor shape me into a better person at all.

I attended a talk some time ago (it was such a while back and I’ve truly forgotten the name of the speaker!) where the speaker mentioned several salient points pertaining to how we use our time. One of the points he mentioned which struck me was this: Man wants to be productive and master the art of managing their time however we tend to give ourselves lots of excuses so that we can procrastinate.

Take the example of a student who needs to complete his assignments. More often than not, phrases like “I’m too tired”, “There’s always tomorrow”, “This is boring” and many more are often heard. Instead of completing the assignment soon and use the rest of the time in pursuit of valuable knowledge and skills, what do our youths do? They procrastinate!

Student Syndrome

Even if a student is on task, their aim in completing the assignment (what ever happened to treating the assignment as a learning experience as opposed to one that is done just because the teacher required it?) is so that they can continue engaging in unbeneficial pursuits with an ‘ease of mind’. Our youths who are replete with vibrancy and energy are sadly wasting their time by spending hours watching shows online, playing games and many more. The same goes for working adults, parents and others too. Amid our daily responsibilities, we will always be able to ‘successfully’ come up with a ‘sensible excuse’ not to devote even 15 minutes (exercise, anyone?) to something meaningful. It’s no wonder that our youths are wasting time – they are emulating us adults too.

The Prophet s.a.w. once said that “There are two blessings that most people lose: Health and spare time” (Bukhari, 8/421). These are extremely wise words. How many of us takes good care of our health and use our time wisely when we are healthy? Did you spend that 2 hours of free time you had earlier in the day doing something meaningful or did you spend it chatting or laughing in front of the black box?

I was just thinking to myself the other day that I’m currently 29. I’ll be 30 in my next birthday. What exactly have I done with my time which I could be proud of? Have I taken care of my body? Spent time to know more about this world? Acquired a valuable skill? Done righteous deeds? Used time for Allah swt? If I were to pass away today and God asks how I had spent my time on Earth, will I stand shamefully before Him with my head lying low knowing that I’d not appreciated the time He had given me or would it be otherwise?


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Lantau Island, Hong Kong

I’m amazed by the excellent views in Lantau Island. The undulating hills, rivers that cut through the slopes, the sea flanking the island, etc. This is my first visit there (let’s not take the visit to the Chek Lap Kok Airport which is located on Lantau Island into account) and it didn’t disappoint!

Lantau Island covers a huge area. The Hong Kong Disneyland, Citygate Outlets and Ngong Ping 360 amongst others are one of the popular tourist destinations in this part of Hong Kong. Additionally if the Hong Kong dramas which I’ve watched had portrayed the area accurately, there are also fishing villages and towns which form getaway destinations for locals whenever they want to have a reprieve from city life.

My intention when I went to Lantau Island was only one: to ride the crystal cable car to Ngong Ping and back. Thankfully, it wasn’t as scary as some of the Running Man casts made it out to be when they filmed an episode in Hong Kong! Although the winds were strong and caused the cable car to sway as it moved down the line, I still felt that the ride was a generally safe one.

IMAG0045Above: The forest canopy beneath my feet.

The Geographer in me couldn’t keep my excitement down when I see scenes like the following:

IMAG0064Above: A young river cutting deeply into the land

IMAG0096Above: Fine sediments deposited and building up at the point where the river enters a larger water body

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Above: Presence of an overhanging cloud cover atop the highlands – signs of evaporated water from the sea being pushed up the adjacent slopes and eventually forming relief rain?

The cable car ride spans a distance of 5.7km and will take us to Ngong Ping. There’s really nothing much to do here unless you’re a Buddhist. Regardless, I did enjoy the short walk I had through the street (not very long; a few metres only) and thereafter a meal of fish and chips there.

IMAG0069

Above: Ngong Ping

IMAG0074

Above: The gates leading to the ‘Po Lin Monastery’ and the ‘Wisdom Path’

IMAG0079 Above: Hong Kong has increasingly more halal certified outlets endorsed by its Islamic Council like the above


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Decluttering life part 1 – clearing the room from life’s excesses

Lately, the state of my room stifles me. This is ironic seeing that my room is pretty neat and everything’s placed in its proper compartment. However for some reason that I’ve yet to figure out, I’ve been slowly noticing the things inside my room.

10 sets of files containing readings from university (which I’d graduated from in 2006) occupying the top half of the bookshelf. Even more sets of readings bounded together in the second row of the bookshelf. More files from the teacher training days (2007).  Beside the bookshelves are two cupboards . Clothes are spilling out of one cupboard. Too many sets of tops, jeans, dresses and more to be counted. Countless bags (for formal occasions, traveling, etc) being placed in a heap inside a big box in another cupboard. When I opened the drawers located in front of the two cupboards, I found them to be filled with random items like old birthday and teachers’ day cards, unused cosmetics and stationery, membership cards, old bills and many more.

The following thoughts have been running through my mind since last week (not in order):

  1. Why do I own so many things that I don’t use/need?
  2. Why did I buy all these clothes?
  3. I need to throw away these files as I haven’t touched them since the last time I filed things inside them back in 2006.
  4. I need to throw away all these items in the drawers.
  5. If all these things are gone, this room will be less stifling
  6. If all these things are gone, this mind will be less cluttered

I realized one thing as well – I’ve been a victim of commercialization (and hoarding which explains why I still kept all the files) and the items I’ve purchased haven’t brought any benefit to my life. The purchase of countless of clothes is one glaring instance of how I’ve blown off thousands of dollars into an unbeneficial pursuit. Even though the cupboard where I placed all my clothes is practically bursting at its seams, the reality is that I haven’t worn half of the clothes inside it even once since I purchased it. Most of the clothes were bought on a whim – I was convinced that I needed to own it at the time of purchase.

At the end of the day, this whim simply resulted in a wastage of space in this room and played a role in the depletion of the Earth’s resources and worse, its degradation. For example, the demand for clothes here in Singapore have fueled the need for its production in the textile industry in China. Since the textile industry needs to meet the demand, they need resources in the form of workers, cloth, electricity, etc. Workers aside, ensuring the supply of resources like cloth and electricity would definitely impact the Earth. The Guardian and Greenpeace have done extensive reporting on the links between environmental degradation and the textile industry and with every word I read from these two sites (and many others as well), I started feeling bad.

The full enormity of my actions have truly caused me to be ashamed of myself. I’m an advocate when it comes to saving the environment but I’ve overlooked how my spending habits have played a role in harming it. Additionally on a personal level, the accumulation of items in this room is increasingly causing me to be stifled. I feel like I’m entrapped by life’s excesses.

Hence, I’ve set out this goal for myself for this vacation – to declutter this room. At this point in time, I’m glad the Town Council here has installed those recycling bins at the ground floor of each building. They will certainly come in handy as an outlet to dispose all those recyclable items in this room.


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Behind the scenes of a soon-to-be female solo traveller

Solo-traveling has been on my mind for a while now. The reasons why I’ve decided to embark on solo traveling are:

  • At this age, I realize that my friends have their own social life and responsibilities and hence having them as a travel companion is not a guaranteed thing
  • I’m curious to discover how it feels like to travel alone: Can I be independent? Would I be able to sleep alone in the hotel room?
  • The perceived freedom solo-traveling would bring – seriously, the idea that the itinerary will unfold according to you alone? How does that pan out?

However as a soon-to-be solo traveler, I find that I face two issues:

  • The question of an appropriate destination to go to
  • Assuring the parents that I will be allright

Both issues are inextricably linked to each other. At present, if the destination is deemed to be ‘dangerous’ by the parents, it will definitely make it more difficult to assure them that I’ll be allright. The parents’ definition of ‘dangerous’ is pretty diverse and can be applied to multifarious situations.

So over the past few months, the choice of destinations have been fluid. The following is the rough order of how the choice of destinations have evolved since March 2013 starting from the initial idea to to the most recent decision – Osaka, Auckland, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh City and lastly, Kuala Lumpur. Notice how the distance between Singapore and the target destination shrinks with each change of itinerary? This may or may not be the appropriate reaction but I always burst out laughing whenever there is a change in destinations!

Regardless, I know I can’t blame the parents for being too overly protective of me, their only daughter. I’ll always be their little girl no matter how grown up I am. As a teenager, I’d assumed that the freedom to travel anywhere I please with my own money will come with age and once I started earning my own keep but I’ve yet to taste that even though I’m now a fully grown working adult. Right after I started working fresh out of university back in 2007, it certainly didn’t take me long to grasp the understanding that my prior assumptions were wrong – it’s not the issue of age and money that I needed to overcome.

I’d also wondered whether this phenomena where it’s difficult for parents to let their daughters travel alone is only typical to Muslim/Asian households. Hence, I googled ‘female solo traveling’. Imagine my surprise when my search threw up websites like ‘Adventurous Kate‘ and ‘Around the World “L”!‘ that focus on females who travel solo. Adventurous Kate even did a post on parental disapproval when it comes to females who want to embark on solo journeys abroad. The ensuing comments that resulted from her post hinted at other females in the American society which also face parental disapproval over this. This means that the reservations parents have about their daughters traveling solo aren’t specific to a certain society – they are universal to all parents the world over.

Overall, this has been an interesting few months. Who knew there can be so going on just from the decision to travel solo!