Smoking: Halal or Haram???

I was reading the Berita Harian on Saturday (22 July 2006) when my eyes were directed to a reader’s grouse in the Forum section, with regards to the concept of “Halalan Toyyiban“. I’m no religious teacher but from my understanding of the topic, it is the Quranic motto to consume only what is “Lawful, Wholesome and Blessed” (Halalan Toyyiban Mubarakan). Wealth should be circulated widely. Monopolies, usury and unfair practices are forbidden. Cooperation among different scriptural religions is encouraged for the benefit of humankind. At the same time wastefulness and excessiveness is deprecated. Pork, intoxicants, tobacco, blood, carrion i.e meats of animals that die of themselves and those offered to dieties are not considered as Halalan Toyyiban. Killing of meat-lawful animals for food must be done in the most expeditious and least painful manner.

The reader had pointed out that the concept should not just be limited to what we consume daily but also in our standard of living. He brought up a point which made my brains whirred in motion about banning tobacco in our lives, giving further examples that renowned Muslim leaders like Dr Yusuf Qardawi, Maulana Abdul Aleem Siddique and Sulaiman Bujarmi Al Misri Al Azhari As-Shafei have already released a Haram Fatwa on it. He then referred the readers to read “Reliance of the Traveller” (Nuh Keller), “Halal wa Haram fil Islam” (Dr Yusuf Qardawi) and “English Translation and Commentary of Sahih Muslim” (A.H. Siddique).

Actually, I’ve long asked myself this question. How do I see this interesting act called “smoking“??? Besides burning my throat, my lungs and eventually my life away, it is an absolute waste of money buying packs of cigarettes when I can channel it into buying myself or the family other stuff for daily use. Not only is it a hazard to my health but also to those around me. No offence to smokers out there but personally I feel you are endangering the people you are supposedly supposed to love by subjecting them to the poisons in the smoke you exhale. Not to mention the bad breath and smell that lingers, no matter how much perfume you spray on yourself or mints you suck.

Back to the Islamic point of view. We are taught that whatever is detrimental to the health and body system is deemed as non-permissible. Alcohol and misuse of drugs consumption are good examples. Whatever is wasteful is also deemed as non-permissible. Examples include the wastage of food, money earned and lost through gambling or through excessive spending. Being inconsiderate to the people around you is also not a good virtue. Come to think of it, it is no wonder that smoking is deemed as Haram in certain quarters. But here’s where the baffling part starts.

In Indonesia and Malaysia alone, the former being the country with the highest Muslim population, an extremely high percentage are smokers amongst the males. Everywhere you go, you’ll never fail to see “dragons” puffing their lives away. In Singapore, the percentage is more or less quite even. Heck, even some religious leaders smoke too. Which makes me sometimes wonder, how do we really classify smoking in the Islamic context??? I know that it is a very subjective matter but it is this subjectiveness that makes us all think, ponder and debate from time to time.

The holy book did not explicitly said that smoking is not a permissible act, even though it said that whatever destroys our body, health and well-being and wastages are all deemed as Haram. So with that I guess the different schools of thought have different interpretations on how it is perceived and are divided over it, or perhaps they might probably be afraid to upset the status quo. Can you just imagine if a Fatwa is released on the banning of smoking??? I tell you, pandemonium and disaster will strike the region with people demonstrating over it, even worse than the Middle-East war.

Personally for me, I chose to remain a non-smoker because I had a bad experience when I tried experimenting with it when I was just 11. My late grandfather was a smoker and lived with my family. I remembered borrowing a cigarette and asking him if I could give it a try. He just let me did what I wanted to do. I lighted up and took a deep puff. A burning sensation filled my throat and I instantly coughed. I thought to myself, how can someone enjoy burning his / her own throat and what kick do people get through it??? I immediately put the stub away and from then on, I vowed never to follow that path. What’s more, it was the reason that took my late grandfather’s life away as he succumbed to pneumonia and lung cancer a few years later. So if there is such a ruling being passed that decreeds that smoking is unlawful and non-permissible, I am all for it. Not that I’m being bitter towards smokers here, well far from it, but because I too care for your lives, even if my ideologies and beliefs do not coincide with yours.

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I would like to reserve my shout outs to an old friend, Sarimah, otherwise known as “Lady E” in the local hip hop scene on the release of her debut EP album. A pity I was not able to attend the launch of the album last Saturday evening at The Arts House @ The Old Parliament building as I had other appointments to attend. Her EP album includes the hit tracks “No To Bounce“, “Keep Da Rock” & “Kembali“. If you are interested in getting her album, they are available at Mizz 29 stores. This hot chick is widely respected in hip hop circles as she is one mean rapper. Off stage, you wouldn’t believe she can be so hyper nor think that she can rap as from my brief friendship with her back in our Akademi Seniman days showed, she is quiet, reserved and demure. But she was one of those I could click very well, maybe because I was into hip hop music and R&B as well. Cheers to a job well done, sis!!!

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Another shout out goes to one of our famous bloggers MamaFai, for making it to Berita Harian a few days ago for her lovely cupcake creations. I guess over the past year or so, her beautiful cupcakes have been promoted through word-of-mouth and endless displays in bloggers’ entries. Besides the birthday cupcakes which she made for Hazami at the “Santai Bersama Hazami” event in February and yours truly’s wedding gift to the bride last December (even though counting myself as a celebrity is definitely out of the equation), she received another feather in the cap on yesterday’s episode of “Suria Segar“, when she made her speciality for Nurul Aini‘s birthday. I hope her business will now pick up and she’ll get more orders than before. Proud to have a Malay entrepreneur doing something extraordinary in our midst.

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Speaking of myself as a “celebrity”, I find it at times amusing, humbled even, that certain bloggers classed yours truly as one in their blog links, or to some extent in the same breath as famous television celebrities like “Nura J“, “Nurul Aini” and “Oniatta“. What have I done to merit myself to such a pedestal??? I’m just a nobody, a voice like anyone else on radio. In the blogging world, I’m also a nobody. Pray tell me what makes me qualified to be held in high regards, cos I cringe and shudder at popularity. Popularity attracts jealousy, it breeds contempt. Especially when I see bloggers clamouring for attention and popularity and dissing one another like nobody’s business and adopting a holier-than-thou approach. Which is why I’d rather much remain anonymous and just be the alternative voice you hear or read.

Of late, my activities on radio have also been limited to just two hours on Hafeez Glamour‘s “Kafe-Teh-RIA” segment. That too if I’m listening and not out lunching with my colleagues. Which stumped me somewhat when I stumbled upon a blog whereby the blogger linked me as “PM the RIA Fanatik” when I’m only listening to the station for just two hours nowadays. Just feel that the departure of Syah Ibrahim has had an effect on my creative juices being stifled. Ok, so I had said that he was coming back before I went for my short hiatus, but 3 months on, there is no sight of him, so I stand corrected if he really is not coming back though I had heard stories before that, that he was just taking a short break.

Listening to RIA is quite a bore these days, not like what it used to be from 2003-2005, which is why I now tune in to Glenn & The Flying Dutchman (Class 95FM) in the mornings. At least you can air your views without getting stick from fellow listeners and the topics are more edgy compared to how we have to be forever tactful on Malay radio. Just love the open concept of English radio compared to the sensitive typical Malay listeners who cannot take comments with pinches of salt. But I’m a proud Malay. Which is why I try to instill my ideologies on Malay radio, whether they like it or not.

Another gripe I have about listening to radio since ages ago (be it local or Malaysian radio stations), is that some presenters are not pronouncing the names of personalities, politicians, sportsmen or entertainers properly. A job as a radio presenter is a heavy responsibility, an utmost honour to be among a selected band. It is similar to a teacher’s job, just that the audience is not a class, but the whole country, probably the whole world. And as “students”, we the listeners hope to learn something new and politically-correct for that matter. It wouldn’t hurt to watch shows that have a lot of names pronouncing, sports for that matter, asking around on how to pronounce properly and having the will to want to find out more. I was dismayed when someone said that they are not sports commentators to be accustomed to name pronouncing. To me, that is not a good reason to get out of a sticky situation. It reflects badly on professionalism and attitude, something that one must have in a job envied by many and only an elite few are chosen.

I practically cringed everytime I hear the sports bulletin during last month’s FIFA World Cup as South American, European, Asian, Scandinavian, hell even English names were mispronounced. The most common mistakes I hear are normally “Grand Prix” is pronounced as “Grand Pricks” instead of “Grawn Pree“, “Ronaldinho” as “Ronal-din-ho” instead of “Ronal-di-nio“, “Trezeguet” as “Tre-zee-goo-et” instead of “Tghe-zee-gay” and “Renault” as “Ray-nolt” instead of “Ray-nal“. Get my drift??? I bet some of you would be surprised by the pronunciations yourself, just like how I was surprised that “Hyundai” is actually pronounced as “Hon-Day“. Sometimes I dunno whether to laugh at or feel sorry for the person reading the news or sports bulletin. Imagine if a foreigner were to tune in and listen to the name of his countryman being pronounced wrongly, he would definitely think the person reading was either out to mock his country or the person did not take the effort to do their homework.

I’m not trying to show off my knowledge on pronunciation here cos I know there are thousands and millions out there who know more than me. But we should share what is good to the masses so that we can all improve and learn as we go along in life. I always believe whatever that is good, especially when it comes to education, should be shared for the betterment of the society. Hand on heart, I really mean no absolute offence to all the radio presenters out there and hope those reading this will take this piece of criticism with an open mind. I apologise if anyone felt hurt with this piece of complaint. Please do not take it as a means to putting anyone down here cos that is not the intention of me voicing out here.

I hope you will still continue to improve and provide us with good information and knowledge in our daily lives listening to you. Where there is room to improve, I’m sure there are avenues for you to do so to seek help and assistance. I’m not complaining because I’m being a sour grape at not being able to make it as a radio presenter myself, far from it. I would just like to see our presenters be more refined as they share the daily scoops, juice, news and views with us. Remember, we look up to you as role models and educators as we seek knowledge through listening to you.

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Here’s a bit of information for those interested to attend this event. Doing a favour for an old friend by promoting it on this blog…

EZS Music Productions Presents
HI – TEA BOLEH BIOL BERSAMA HAFEEZ GLAMOUR
in conjunction with Bulan Bahasa and Read Singapore! Campaign

Date: Sunday 30 July 2006
Time: 3:00 – 5:00pm
Place: Sakura Na Na @ 257 Changi Road
Guest Artistes: Khairil Yusuf & Andresha Andin
Event: Launch of Hafeez Glamour Book Club
Lucky Draw, Karaoke, Poetry Recital
Tickets: $35/- only.
Contact: Ema – 97630085 / Rahimah 96903206
* Seats are limited!!!

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Last but not least, I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who had linked me without my knowledge and I’ve managed to trace you thanks to modern technology. Hey, even a school kid now knows what Technorati is all about. I’m cool with the linking, no worries about that. I hope that it is not a bore reading my grouses, gripes, rants and complaints. Not forgetting my “regular customers” who had painstakingly waited for my return. Thank you for the patience and understanding while yours truly was away for such a long period of time…

The Return…

I’m back!!! Back not with a vengeance, back not to sow seeds of discontent though my rants can sound as though I’m downright bitter, and neither am I returning as a means to compromise my long-delayed hiatus. I’m back because I want to, because I miss talking to all of you, because I felt a sense of duty to “entertain” and share my life with you, because I feel that I’ve relaxed too long and because I know some of you miss reading my thoughts, no matter how prickly they can get when things get a little too hot under my collar.

I know I had promised to return with a new blog layout but as circumstances in life go, we can plan all we want but it is up to HIM to dictate the destiny in the end. The blog layout can wait as of now since I know the kind soul who I had approached to create it, is facing some problems with regards to her laptop, the medium being used to create the aforementioned layout. Take your time sis, no hurry. I don’t mind waiting a bit longer as I know she makes excellent blog skin designs. You can’t substitute quality with quantity and shit does happen in life when you least expect it, so I’m cool and patient about it, so no worries about it…

It’s ironical that I chose to return to blogging on this day. A year ago today, Siti Nurhaliza held her long-awaited concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Looking back, a lot of things have happened over the past 365 days. For one, yours truly has ended his bachelorhood and fatherhood is impending. I know this piece of news is a bit of a surprise to some of you but yes, I’m finally ready to break it to the world as my wife’s first trimester is over. If all goes well, we’ll be celebrating our first wedding anniversary with a new addition to the family, God willing. Life for the past 3 months that I was away has been good. Even though I was bogged down with work and reservist training, I managed to fulfill a lifelong dream to return to two sacred places for my long-delayed honeymoon. Well more on that in future postings.

Speaking of the diva herself, now that the cat has been let out of the bag, there seemed to be a deluge of resentment in many quarters. Internet forums and comments in online blogs I visited to read about the news, mostly were disappointed to the point some people got disillusioned and said they ceased to be fans. Some even went as far as saying they would throw away all her albums from their collection. My initial reactions basically echoed most people’s sentiments, moreso since I watched the press conference on television and felt disgusted by the impending groom’s grin-and-smirk look on his face as though he invited us to give him a good smack on the face at his apparent arrogance. When I thought it over eventually, I can’t blame him since he has emerged victorious in the quest for the heart of arguably the most sought after Malay woman of this decade and many men would have killed, crawled and even given up their body parts just to prove their love to her, including yours truly if he was still single and available. But personally, I couldn’t care less about her choice of life partner, especially after I had signed my own “death contract” on 31st December 2005. But deep down, as a fan and acquaintance, I would be lying if I said I was not disappointed with the choice.

My first reaction to the announcement was “Why???“, seeing that the groom came with a lot of excess baggage, plus all the conspiracy theories surrounding his divorce to his first wife. But as minutes turned to hours, reality sunk in and I had to respect her decision that it was what she wanted and it’s her life that she’s dictating. As a fellow Muslim, the right thing to do is to pray for the best and well-being and accept what God has in store. Loving her unconditionally as a fan and acquaintance means we should accept her flaws no matter what they are. We had after all chose to support her since 1995 through thick and thin and this is the time that she needs our blessings and support the most. Ceasing to be fans and throwing away her albums are immature acts to follow. She might be, in her own words, “the property of the society“, but when it came to being the rightful owner of her heart, only she had the liberty to choose the right person.

I know it is difficult to accept and I’ll be lying if I said I accepted her choice and decision wholeheartedly, knowing her character from my observations, chats and past meetings with her, and also what with all the wild speculations going round ranging from her being the third party in his failed marriage to resentment from her family and close friends. And lately, the spreading of photographs in cyberspace of his second son partying and drinking away at a pub makes one wonder if she had made the right choice or not. Some of these speculations could be true for all we know, but who are we to judge when we do not know the actual situation faced by the people at the centre of the storm??? It is already written and fated. Her parents have also announced their approval (though if one had scrutinised closely, her father had some difficulty saying he approved). Difficult it is for some of us to accept, but we should all move on and pray for the best for the soon-to-be newly-weds.

Something that was announced during the press conference still intrigues me till now. They said that the engagement and wedding solemnisation (“akad nikah“) ceremony will be done simultaneously. I for one do not see the need to have both and I find it kinda amusing to have both engagement and wedding solemnisation together on the same day. I’m not too sure how the Malays over there can hold both functions at the same time cos if you were to look at how we do it over here, normally there is a grace period between the engagement day till the day of solemnisation. They will not be the first to do it. As far as I know, another couple, Norman Hakim and Abby Abadi, did the same thing, the grace period being a few hours apart. So can anyone out there please explain to me the rationale behind doing both events on the same day???

What a way to start off my return to blogging, ranting about the hottest topic of the week. I guess for those who know me well enough know that I am typing as I bite my tongue, holding back a lot of thoughts I have inside and controlling my emotions in case it spirals out of control through a lack of decorum and understanding towards the impending newly-weds. Well, I guess there could be more interesting / juicy news to come from me, especially as I recap some of the interesting things I went through over the period of my hiatus in future entries. Some could be regarded as sensational, controversial even knowing me, but there will also be a bit of educational elements as well, probably when I share my honeymoon experience with all of you. Well that can wait in another entry but I’m just glad to be back again and share my thoughts with you… Till then, I hoped I had not disappoint anyone on my return…