Doa Taubat

Al-I'tiraf, courtesy of Anak Alam, who advises that ' for the first star *, the correct lyrics is: wa dhanbi zaa-idun kaifah timaali; for the second star *, change it to: fa in taghfir fa anta lidhaaka ahlun'
One famous prayer of repentance, or dua taubat, could be roughly transliterated as follow:

Ilahi lestu lil-firdawsi a’la

wa la akhwa ala nar il-jaheemi

Allah fa habli tawbata wa-ghfir dhunubi

fa innaka ghaafiru dhanb il-adzimi

This doa has been put to song, together with a lovely malay translation, by Junied, a nasheed group from Singapore associated with the Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah. Madrasah Aljunied is a famous madrasah, having produced many notable scholars over the course of its nearly one hundred years, including the present Mufti of Sarawak, if I’m not wrong. It is now absorbed into the national education system, so the national curriculum is taught together with the religious sciences. You can learn more about how Singapore has absorbed the madrasah schools into their national model here at MUIS.

You can download the Doa Taubat from their website, along with several other songs. There are video recordings available on YouTube as well. According to their site, they have a new album called “Hijrah” available in stores. Unfortunately, googling around did not readily turn up a merchant site. Anyone who knows where to get a copy of the album can let me know in the comments.

The group’s recording of the Doa Taubat can be found all over, but the website of the group itself I couldn’t find after half an hour of searching. It’s puzzling too, because I found it once before a few months ago. A recording of the Doa Taubat is available to download on the site, but since I can’t locate it, I’m putting my copy here for download. It’s very nice; you should listen. I’ll take it down and link to theirs as soon as I locate their site again or some kind soul sends me the link.

The song is in Arabic and Malay, so I decided to do a rough English translation which you can find below. It’s not an exact translation: I tried to keep to the flow of the original so it could conceivably be sung in the same tune, but that meant I had to play loose with the meaning. Here it is; comments welcome as always.

Ilahi lestu lil-firdawsi a’la

wa la akhwa ala nar il-jaheemi

Allah fa habli tawbata wa-ghfir dhunubi

fa innaka ghaafiru dhanb il-adzimi


tuhanku aku tidak layak / untuk syurga mu

tetapi aku tidak pula sanggup menanggung / siksa neraka mu

dari itu kurnia kan lah / ampunan kepada ku / ampun kan lah dosa ku

sesungguhnya / engkaulah penggampun / dosa dosa besar


Oh my Lord I know I don’t deserve / your heaven

And yet your blazing wrath / I could never defend

So Lord rain down upon / this lowly soul / your forgiveness

Lord you and you alone / forgive and wash away / the most greivous sins


Anak Alam has graciously provided the full dua, which includes two more stanzas, in Arabic and Malay. A translation of the second two stanzas would be something like:

My sins are countless as the sands on the shore /
Accept my repentance, O Lord of Majesty/
For my life grows shorter with each day/
While my sins increase with each passing moment

O my Lord, Your sinful servant approaches You/
Continuously sinning while steadfastly beseeching You/
If You forgive, You are most capable of doing so/
And if You forsake me, then to whom else can I turn…

Haul of Imam Abdullah al-Haddad

Every year, all over the world, muslims in the spiritual lineage of the great saint Imam Abdullah al-Haddad gather together to celebrate his life and remember his great wisdom. He is most fondly remembered in the parts of the world that have benefited from the dawah of the scholars and saints of Hadhramaut: Yemen, the Swahili Coast, the muslim parts of the Indian coast and the Malay Archipelago, the Nusantara. IMG_0667_azriIn the Nusantara, as elsewhere, the hadhrami da’is did not only preach, but stayed, intermarried and naturalized. All the major population centers of the archipelago have people who can trace their lineage back to Hadhramaut. Some have retained family titles like al-Haddad and al-Sagoff, while elsewhere, like in Kuching, the descendants carry an honorific as part of their given name, such as Wan.

Pak AliAnd where their descendants have not reached, their knowledge and piety has. Blessed practices such as recitation of Mawlid Barzanji were propagated and encouraged by such people until it has saturated the religious experience of the region. Cikgu AzriAn undeniable testimony to their influence is that the entirety of the Malay people follow shafi’i fiqh even though hanafi madhab was also represented in the region through Indian and maybe even Chinese sources during the Islamization of the region. [I have a pet theory that shafii fiqh had a major advantage spreading here due to shafii lenience on shellfish, an indispensable part of the local diet. But that is another story.]

october07 041This evening we gathered in the home of Tuan Haji Saleh at maghrib time. His living room had been cleared out and spread with carpets to accommodate us all, and a smoldering incense censer wafted perfumed smoke through the room. october07 040Following maghrib prayers, we recited Ya Sin, gifting its reward to the soul of Imam al-Haddad. The Ratib al-Haddad followed, a litany of supplications culled by the late Imam from the Quran and Hadith that is read daily by people across the region. After Isha’ prayers, Cikgu Asry read a Malay translation of a sermon given by the late Imam. Our ustaz then began to sing “Ya Tawwab”, a beautiful poem I had heard many times before. Little did I know it was originally composed by Imam Abdullah al-Haddad. Habib Sayyid Mustafa al-HaddadOur guest of honor, Habib Sayyid Mustafa al-Haddad, a direct descendant of the Imam, then recited the Arabic couplets again and translated and explained them to our congregation in Malay. Finally, we concluded the evening by reciting from the Mawlid Barzanji and reciting salawat on Our Master the Seal of Messengers Muhammad, peace be upon him.

IMG_0667No gathering would be complete without a meal, particularly in Malaysia. We had worked up a good appetite by then and handily disposed of the lamb that had been slaughtered and cooked up that afternoon by a few of the brothers.

[I’ve sprinkled photos in here from previous gatherings this year – 12 Rabiul Awwal and 1 Shawwal. View all these photos and more of the Ba’alawi congregation in Kuching.]

I took a few short clips of the event:

Ya Tawwab, Tub Alayna

[A full audio version of the poem is available courtesy of ]

Sallallahu ala Muhammad

Selamat Hari Raya 2007

Selamat Hari Raya, Eid Mubarak to all! May Allah accept our worship over the Holy Month of Ramadan and bless us to make it to the next one. Maaf Zahir dan Batin. If Bin Gregory Productions or its author has done you wrong over the past year, knowingly or unknowingly, I humbly request your forgiveness.

Hari Raya 2007

Big Bang: Science or Myth

Wa ash-Shamsi

The American Scientist has an interesting article titled Modern Cosmology: Science or Folktale that got me up to speed with current theories for the cosmos as we see it. The books I remember reading about the universe as a kid, which talked about black holes and dwarf stars and so on, didn’t have all this stuff about “dark matter” and “dark energy”, and I never went back to read up on it.

Imagine my surprise when the author concludes by saying

Alas, [the Big Bang model] has since run into serious difficulties, which have been cured only by sticking on some ugly bandages: inflation to cover horizon and flatness problems; overwhelming amounts of dark matter to provide internal structure; and dark energy, whatever that might be, to explain the seemingly recent acceleration. A skeptic is entitled to feel that a negative significance, after so much time, effort and trimming, is nothing more than one would expect of a folktale constantly re-edited to fit inconvenient new observations.

It bears remembering, as a religious person, that scientific theories are just that: theories, that change, grow and are even replaced over time. That’s the nature of the enterprise, and I don’t mean by that to disparage the role of science in the least. I think it is important for muslims to keep that in mind in order to avoid two really common mistakes in dawah.

The first is refutation of science that is deemed to be “unislamic”. The poster boy of this one is Harun Yahya with his books preaching against evolution that are flooding the marketplace. O muslims! His books are full of nonsense. Anyone with a little background in natural science [and that’s all I got, a little background] can see that evolutionary theory is pretty solid science. That doesn’t mean that we need to take any moral or spiritual guidance from it – that’s not what science is for – nor does it mean that it is perfect and immune to change, growth or even replacement as scientific knowledge increases. But it does mean that railing against it from an “islamic” polemical position will just make you look foolish. [background – HY in the NYT]

The second is pointing to scientific theories to validate the Holy Quran or the religion in general. How many excruciating khutbas or lectures have I sat through where bad science is used, or good science is misused, to try to prop up people’s faith! Come on, I can’t be the only one. Actually my motivation for writing this short piece was a particularly bad one that I sat through about two weeks back, on the occassion of the Isra’ wal-Miraj, the miraculous Night Journey of the Holy Prophet from Mecca to Jerusalem and from there to the Heavens. Our speaker for the evening hit just about every stale talking point in the “science is on our side” playbook, from “scientific evidence from the West” that the ritual prostrations are excellent exercise for blood flow, to the final straw, that the Big Bang is explained in the Quran and the coming “Big Crunch” in a few billion years’ time is synonymous with the Final Day when the Trumpet blows. Good Lord! The Companions, Allah bless them, were anticipating the Last Day at any moment and living accordingly, but our lecturer has safely located it a few billion years into the future. All the more reason to spend our energies building an Islamic Empire on Earth, I’m sure. What is worse though, is the implications in light of the article above. When or if scientific knowledge invalidates the Big Bang, what then of the Holy Quran? What then of the muslim who has tied his faith to a passing scientific theory? What then of the authority or the credibility of our speaker, already shaky in my book, an Al-Azhar University graduate supposedly representing the fruit of religious knowledge?

We need to be clear about what we turn to science for and what we turn to religion for. As Hamza Yusuf explained in a lecture called “Islam and the Unseen”, science tells us the How of the world, while Religion, or metaphysics, the Why. Yes, the Holy Quran holds within it all knowledge. But no, examining the Holy Quran is not a method by which to devise a better washing machine or computer chip, although it is within Allah’s power to bestow that knowledge by that means, should He Almighty so wish. To me, the Islamic science that champions of Islamization of Knowledge say existed and are now seeking to reestablish was not some discrete entity distinct from kaffir science but simply the fruit of scientific inquiry by pious people. O Allah, make us from amongst the pious people and direct our earthly endeavors to the best in the here and the Hereafter, Amin.

Original article found via Arts & Letters Daily.

[Update: Mere Islam has an intense dialog about evolution that relates back to some issues raised here. Key excerpts:

From the abrasive Belgian Beer, this excellent observation: intelligent design is not only bad science, but even worse theology. The idea that evolution from one species to another must be false because it is statistically improbable — an atrocious piece of pseudo-scholarly fiction that lies at the heart of the intelligent design argument — has a remarkable consequence: it means that what their god can and can’t do is limited by their paltry imagination. It amounts to saying, “If I can’t see how it could happen, God did’t do it [sic].”

Quite right. There is nothing that takes place on earth for which God is not the creator. Just because the ways and means are subtle and apparently random does not remove it from God’s power. The winds blow by His command and in the way in which He intended.

From Mere Islam’s Abdurrahman Squires: one could argue that the creation process took place in stages…and the Qur’an actually hints at this (with the exception of the first man). However, the various forms of homo erectus (or is it homo erecti?) that were evolving were not, from the religous point of view, actually human beings since they did not have a soul. However, once this God-guided evolutionary creation process took place, God created “with His own Hands” (i.e. not by an evolutionary process) a creature that was just like the other homo erecti that had evolved…and He breathed into him His spirit. Thus, from the religious point-of-view, this was the first human being (i.e. homo sapien body with a soul).

That is the formulation that I have arrived at, too. Allah is infinite in His Attributes. As the Creator, He is eternally creating. I have heard it said by holy men that the entirety of this universe that we perceive is annihilated and recreated in every instant by the power of God the Destroyer and God the Creator. The point here being that we have no conception of the ways and means of God’s creative, sustaining and destroying power.]

[Update 2: Abdussamad Clarke puts the science vs religion tempest back in its Western Christian teacup. Key excerpt:

Given the parochialism of Western thought, that a christian proof has fallen is regarded as the death of God, rather than a localised cultural event of European and Western christian history. Of course, this confusion is compounded by the work of many Muslim authors who import christian arguments wholesale into their books without realising that they are already widely discredited and disproved in Europe and were never the basis of Muslim proof in this arena in the first place.

The second half of the essay wanders into Gold-dinar axe-grinding that is less relevant to the issue at hand. Still worth a read though.]

Islamic Universities in Indonesia

A window into the intellectual evolution of Islamic higher education in Indonesia: an interview with the rector of UIN Sunan Kalijaga Prof. Amin Abdullah by Prof. Farish Noor of The Other Malaysia.

…what is happening in places like UIN SUKA: You have pious Muslim students who are practicing Muslims who nonetheless can actually read the Quran and Hadith using the methodology of discourse analysis; who can write papers about inter-textual interpretations of the Quran; who can write deconstructive accounts of Islamic history, politics and ethics. How is this possible? From a Western point of view one might even call UINSUKA a secular modern university, but would you accept such a typology?

AA: ‘No, we dont and we will not. We are not a secular or modern university in the Western sense of the word. UINSUKA is, after all a UIN, an Islamic university.

The misunderstanding arises, in my opinion, in the somewhat narrow definition of ‘secularism’ and ‘modernity’ in the West. It is true that secularism and modernity arose from a specific historical context in the West, but the evolution of Indonesia’s world of ideas is likewise specific to Indonesia: it cannot even be compared or transposed to Malaysia next door.

Read the whole thing.

Mawlid Barzanji

Mawlid Barzanji

12 Rabi’ul Awwal has come and gone again. In the past, I’ve written about a famous book of poetry about the birth of Prophet Muhammad (s) called Mawlid Daiba’i. Actually the Mawlid poetry more widely read in Malaysia is Mawlid Barzanji, named after its composer, Imam Zayn al-`Abidin Ja`far ibn Hasan al-Barzanji (d. 1177) (r). Imam Barzanji was an Iraqi Kurd, a people with a rather surprising connection to Islam in the Nusantara. It is worth remembering that the author was no mere poet or singer, but rather the Mufti of Medinah al-Munawwarah, a position that could not possibly be held by other than an accomplished scholar and pure soul. Malaysians can read a biography of the Imam in Bahasa Malaysia at Bahru Shofa.

It is unfortunate that in our present day and age, our knowledge of and respect for our own ulama is so little that a contemporary young mufti of a much more modest part of the world can cast aspersions on such a luminary. Regardless, Mawlid Barzanji is widespread throughout the country, with copies to be found in just about every masjid or surau. It is so ubiquitous that it is common to hear people say they will do zikr, when they mean they will recite from Mawlid Barzanji. It is read not just on 12 Rabi’ul Awwal but on other occassions as well, most commonly after the aqiqah for a new child, after a boy’s circumcision or at wedding receptions. Members of our neighborhood gather at the surau to read excerpts between maghrib and isha prayers once a week.

I’ve recently been informed that an English translation of the Mawlid Barzanji exists. It is attributed only as a work of the Zawiyyah Qadariyyah, 1426 AH, but presumably they are connected to the hosting website, AbunaShaykh, an order connected to the African Shaykh Muhammad Ahmed al-Mahi. I’m not qualified to pass comment on the translation, but it reads very well in English and the production quality is quite nice. May God bless them abundantly for their work. If anyone is unable to download it from their site, contact me and I will email it to you. They also have the Mawlid of Imam Uthman al-Mirghani available for download, which I had not previously heard of.

UPDATE: The AbunaShaykh website is gone from the internet.  As the translation appeared to be a public work for the sake of Allah, I’m hosting it here.  Click here to get the English translation of the Mawlid Barzanji by the AbunaShaykh order of Shaykh Muhammad Ahmed al-Mahi.

Also, a lovely Islamic magazine was just released in the UK: Illumination Magazine. The topic of the first issue is Mawlid celebrations around the world. I am beside myself with pride that an article of mine was included alongside the many distinguished writers such as Sidi Aftab Malik and the charming and mysterious Tuan Awang Goneng. A few copies are still available – see the website for details.

Finally, rounding out a rather belated Mawlid posting is my first offering on YouTube, a brief clip of Nashid recitation from a mawlid gathering here in Kuching last month. I’ve just started fooling around with video recording so apologies for the quality.

Turban tip to Yursil for helping get YouTube working.