Saturday, September 6, 2008

"How do you want me to answer it in my grave?"


I was reading the analysis in the The Sun yesterday about all the land scam that have surfaced recently in this country. Among them were the Istana Abang Zek in Kelang, the various unit transferred to Gerakan, MIC and others in Damansara Utama when land for public amenities including a telephone exchange and surau were hijacked.

And of course the house that was built on the road reserve in Petaling Jaya.

I went to visit my auntie in Kuang recently. The lady in charge of the old folks home there told me about how the land in Kuang were practically owned by a former Menteri Besar of Selangor. And someone from the Pejabat Tanah.

When I read all these, I remember Bapak. He was a settlement officer at various Pejabat Tanah in Perak till mid 80s. I duly remember about the pieces of land that the government distributed to the poor in Taiping.

And I can tell you, if he was the type, I am very sure he could have had a few for himself and I am sure he would have left us with many pieces of land.

But he didn't. The only piece he owned was recently sold by his children.

I thought in line with my current work schedule, I should copy and paste my past entry about halal haram and bapak's story on why he didn't enrich himself while in office.

God bless you Bapak. Alfatihah.

"How do you want me to answer it in my grave?" (posted April 21, 2007)

I was mesmerized when I read an article by Mohd Hazri Humphreys in the The Sunday Star (Fit4Life; Feb 4, 2007 - Ooranya Kalori column) about how we (nonArabic-speaking Muslims) always associate halal with the food we eat and neglect the many other facets of the halal concept. Halal in Islam, according to him, encompasses daily living; how we earn our living, our speech, behaviour and conduct, as well as dietary law. In business and in politics too!

Someone related to me this story. As typical bankers, they worked late into the nite and normally the bank would provide dinner for them. So one time, they opted to get food from one Bistro in PJ. A colleague countered, “Is it halal?” She was a bit annoyed with the question as she had always thought that most food outlets in Malaysia are halal. Now let’s fast forward towards the end of the month, when they had to fill up the claim forms for claiming their overtime. Now, they are only paid overtime if they exceed 2 hours of work beyond the normal office hours. A couple of times that month, they didn’t exceed the two hours, so rightly they could not claim the overtime. This same colleague of hers however thought otherwise. “Just claim it as overtime, the boss would not question it anyway,” she told her.

This halal logo is oh so important to us. But one can easily print this on one's printer (and give it some dubious refence number to make it authentic and post it anywhere. Do we ever question it? Does Jakim really monitors whether the logo posted is for real. In this age and technology, how do we ensure this logo is not abused? May be we should paste this to our foreheads so that we live a halal life.

Now here is where our understanding of the halal concept dubious. We are so concerned – and I am not saying it is wrong, that our food is halal. The chickens have to be slaughtered in a special manner and in God’s name, so do the cows. We don’t eat lard or pork; that’s haram (non-halal). The emulsifier for our cookies should be of vegetable origin; typically animal-originated emulsifiers are non-halal. Tiramisu cakes contain alcohol, so it is haram. I remember coming back at the end of my second year at the university, bapak asked me the process of making sugar, and luckily that adsorption (not absorption) process was a basic practice in chemical engineering, so I was able to explain it to him (it was in the final exam in 1983). I guess that that in the early 80s, there had been some doubts on the halalness of white sugar in Malaysia (so lots of people would use raw sugar then).

And yes, typically animal bones are used in the process of turning raw sugar into white sugar!

It is fine and dandy to be asking about one's food. But what about the source of our income? How about the additional money we got from claims that we are not entitled to? And then using the money to feed our spouse and kids? What about the way we rear and treat the chickens before we slaughter them in God’s name? Is that not part of the halalness of our food too? After all we are not supposed to even sharpen the knives in the vicinity of the animals to be slaughtered!

Under the table money. This is too obvious. Nowadays, many would ask for a hp top-up as it is more discreet on the lower end, and perhaps in Swiss bank account for the upper ends.

To me, it is perhaps more critical that we ensure the source of our income is halal. We feed our families using this money. While halal food is important, if you made a mistake, it affects typically only you and you alone. Mohd Hazri said, “Living halal life is more important than eating halal food, as insisting on halal food while living a non-halal life is hypocrisy at its greatest.”

I think we need to live and breathe this halal concept. You know it is wrong taking that RM30 cash bribe, but an RM100 top up for the hand phone is acceptable – I don’t eat using that money. Duit kopi is a Malaysian culture and acceptable to many. Equally wrong is giving bribe to get a project; in many ways it is worse. Claiming what we are not entitled – hey everyone has done that! We had to do overtime many times, and we were not paid; now surely we are entitled to a couple of bucks here and there, right? (You need more excuses? Read Dilbert on Employees Compensation Program!) Whatever the excuses! Justify it all you want.

I think if we were to feed our family using ill-gotten money, while we may look happy, but our lives will loose the ‘baraqah’. We may be successful, but our children may not. We may be a millionaire but in a generation or two, that wealth may be gone. Or our children could face problematic lives, after we are gone. If it is not our children, it could be our grandchildren.

I remember this story told by a (Chinese) cab driver while he was driving me from KLIA to my home one day. The story was that of a very rich Chinese who used to import Japanese vehicles. But he was already rich before that venture. He used to lend money to the others (with land as collateral) and if you can’t pay him back, he will confiscate your land (I guess he was an Ah Long then). Of course he grew richer and richer and with his motor vehicles business, he was perhaps one of the richest men in Malaysia. But he built his wealth on other people’s suffering. While he didn’t have any off-spring, he adopted a couple of children as his own. After his death, many years later, one after another, those associated with him died, or went insane and to top it all, his adopted son committed suicide. So in the end, within two generations, the wealth he created was wiped out. “The Chinese believe that what goes around comes around,” concluded the cab driver.

I have this story to tell about bapak. He worked as a Settlement Officer (SO) at the Land Office in Taiping. Obviously he dealt with land matters in his district. In the 70s, the government I think wanted to distribute land to the poor, so parcels of land can be had at nominal fees, but only for those who were entitled for them – unlike today! Pieces of land in Assam Kumbang could be his when he was in charge of that zone in the Larut Matang district in the 60s and later on in the 70s. So five years ago, I lamented to mak, “well, dad was in charge of the land distribution in Taiping, surely he could have gotten a piece for himself." So mak told me this story, “I had similar thought then. So one day I ‘sounded’ to your bapak, ‘surely you can get the ADO to approve a lot or two for yourself!’ “You know what your bapak told me?” mak asked me back. “Ton, how do you want me to answer it later in my grave?” he said, “I was supposed to distribute them to the poor!”

I really felt so guilty to be even thinking about it.

Rest in peace, bapak. Moga Allah mencucuri rahmat keatas roh bapak dan dimasukkan kedalam golongan orang-orang yang beramal solleh. Amin.


  1. True. 100% agree with bapak.

    Everything, I mean every detail of our lives will be questiond in the grave.

    Decisions and Actions we did frm the moment we were born, to puberty, even during death, WILL be questioned.

    That's why our "nawaitu" is VERY important. NIAT.

    Being sacred and feeling guilty wont help us later.

    It's walking-the-knowledge-that-has-been-bestowed-upon-us tht's critical.

    Since you know now, it's a test straight from HIM.

    Ask yourself - ARE YOU UP FOR THE CHALLENGE?

  2. Typo.

    "Being scared (not sacred ok.)"

  3. Thank you for your comment. I believe I only half understood you, but others are philosophical questions, so not sure if I should even try to answer you.

  4. "Rest in peace, bapak. Moga Allah mencucuri rahmat keatas roh bapak dan dimasukkan kedalam golongan orang-orang yang beramal solleh."


  5. Amin. Thanks for dropping by and for the doa, Poi.