Sunday, 23 September 2012

An Arab Peranakan Schooling Memories

Assalaamu'alaikum wa rahmatullah

Alhamdulillah all praises due only to Allah. I just had my supper with some drinks. Just had a walk outside for fresh night air and drink some tea that I bought from Indian department store. I just had some splash of memories when sitting alone under the tree at the soccer field behind the department store. So, I am just writing it again as it also has connection to previous posts about our education system.

When I was a little child, I was put in the mosque supervised by the federal territory religious authority maybe when I was around five to six years old. Before that, I was also educated back at home and in our villages at times when we spend holiday by the elders during religious occasion which is also treated as family meeting. Basically we are familiar with the way of salat performance according to Shafi'ie school of jurisprudence and we were also taught with few orthodox practices in salat which could actually be omitted or practiced if we know the evidence according to sunnah chains or hadiths. We were taught with the life of prophet Muhammad s.a.w through occasions known as qaseedah. I don't know if qaseedah is haram according to people of other movements but they are not mentioned by elders as mandatory but being presented to people around as a way to teach everyone about the life of the noble prophet s.a.w. There are many ways to teach religion to people without being so puritan and stiff but still in accordance to the Quran and Sunnah such as nasheed, lectures, poetry, kitab recitations with everyone, explanations of tafseer and others.  

Pre-School Education

I had problem then with Islamic nursery teachers because of difference in cultural traits. I am a peranakan Jawi and we're not purely thinking or behaving like Malays especially we're of northern Malaysian states and around early 1990s the situation is quite different as nowadays when media in our country widely exposing people around with northern Malayan cultural traits in movies and dramas. By the way Jawi here in northern Malayan Peninsula refers to people of Arabia especially Yemen and Northern Indian with Arab origin of the past from Gujarat which also includes those from Persian empire but speaking in fluent classical Malay language with lots of Arabic and Persian words. Now this term is also extended to include Indian Muslim from Southern India because they began to marry our women after independence from British. So, I refuse to identify myself as Jawi Peranakan anymore but using Peranakan Arab as a precise ethnicity identification. Jawi also refers to Arabic script used to write religious books in Malay language in South East Asia. It is almost the same thing as Hui is used to refer to Chinese speaking Muslims in China because they paternally were of Persian, Turkish or Arab origin of the past. I skipped the pre-school education for a year and I enjoyed watching TV at home, haha. 

Primary School

I was enrolled in national primary school when I was seven I guess around 1993. I didn't know how to read and write roman script but I can write and read Arabic script since my mother and grandma taught me at home using the script. My grandma till her deathbed could never read roman script. I began to be influenced by Chinese culture when I was around this age and it continues because the area I lived at that time was the area populated with Chinese community. The school that I went was known as Sekolah Kebangsaan Batu 3 1/2, Cheras in Kuala Lumpur. I can't even remember when I began to speak in Chinese language though I was not educated in Chinese national type primary school like three of my elder sisters, haha. I mingled with non-Muslim Chinese at the neighborhood and my mother also has Chinese relatives in Perlis. In the evening, we were sent to state religious authority supervised primary religious school. 

So basically we learned Islamic education twice a day. In secular school we learned Islamic Education and simple Fardh 'Ain lessons while in religious evening school we learned subjects such as: 

1. Tawheed which refers to Islamic monotheism
2. Akhlaq or noble morality and ihsan 
3. Fiqh which deals with Islamic jurisprudence for daily life disciplines from the school of Imam Shafi'ie
4. Tajweed and Qira'at for Quranic recitation in Arabic
5. Arabic language 

I had problem with lessons as the way they taught in the evening religious school is so different to what we're taught at home. We recognized the dots at the as nuqta and the baris atas, baris mati, depan bawah were confusing for me. I was taught by elders at the village and home with fatha, kasra and damma. The way they pronounce Arabic words seem so complicated while we don't have to pronounce them with difficulties because we integrate Arabic words in spoken Malay and we only alter the pronunciations when talking with Malays to make them feel comfortable. To tell brothers and sisters, I hate both religious school and secular schools equally. I had no problem in literacy as I am quite fast in term of recognizing letters and symbols. I studied in Kuala Lumpur for two and half years before shifting to Kedah Darul Aman. My parents always thinking to return to Kedah state as that is the only home for them and our grandparents live there our ancestors tomb and graves are there. We as children also viewed the state as our only home. My father was offered a position in Wisma Darul Aman to serve the state under the chief minister, Mr. Usman 'Arof.

In Kedah, I was registered in the school known as Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Ahmad Tajuddin in Jitra, the Kubang Pasu district town around the end of 1995. My first ancestors' mausoleum is in this town. I didn't have time to spend with friends or making good friends with school mates and in Kedah state I didn't have evening religious school like in Kuala Lumpur. We lived like refugees. I only made one good friend known as Saiful when I was in standard four. My father also tried to open up a business which is a photo shop in Jitra town just in front of Taman Indera. But we end up having problem to roll the capital. Our relatives who worked there had stolen the money for their own usage without being recorded in the account, the tax imposed on us by state tax office came in no time and we had no modern machine to print out pictures. We were the only "Muslim" photo shop at that time in the midst of non-Muslim photo shop dominated by Chinese community. In school I was viewed by my classmates as outsider though I spoke in fluent Kedah Malay. It was not easy back then to fit our selves. 

In the mid of 1996, my father packed up his things when the chief minister position was held by Mr. Sanusi Junaid and not Mr. Usman anymore. I am not sure there was election or not at that time or just the end of term and why my father was so honest for not offering his self to the new chief minister. So, my father has to return to his old company in Jalan Riong as he was jobless being a reporter. We lived in Hulu Langat and I was schooled in Sekolah Kebangsaan Batu. 9. I was also forced by especially my mother to be registered in evening religious school and at that time I was in standard five. Again I had to face problem to fit in and schools were so tormenting for a half and one year. Early at that time, I hardly could mingle with other pupils around. Even in the evening religious school, I was insinuated by few Javanese kids (they're children of newly arrived immigrants from Indonesia in Selangor state) and I was like confused with the syllabus related to Arabic and Quranic recitation. Some of my classmates during standard six that I could still remember were Naim, Aladin, Felix, Shanmukam and Mastura. Perhaps they're married with children now, lol. In the evening religious school I could still remember Azli because this boy was quite nice to talk with and he sits beside me. There were also three boys in my class who were like a cocky trio and I hate them. Perhaps they thought that they were popular or girls were attracted to them as they were achievers in school, rich and looked nice. I was not good in school because I was interrupted with the shifting periods and I didn't know how to fit myself as a traveler beside no one guide me. I learned basically through experience and environment.   

Lower Secondary School

My mother was worried because once I finished the national primary school, my name was sent together with other students in the school to secondary school known as Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Perimbon near Kajang. I didn't even get the chance to be a student there as my mother quickly urged my father to ask his elders where they could put me as she afraid I would also be a punk. She heard that the students in the school were notorious with bad students and there were teachers who told her about this. 

So, my father was advised by his elders to put me in the al-Alawiya madrasah in Arau, Perlis state. The school located close to Perlis Royal Palace, the Perlis Royal Family Tomb Complex, the Arau Masjid, the Arau Police station and behind was the rail way. Then off I was sent to further north of Malaysia. I began to hate my own family because we understood that those who were sent to madrasah were usually bad kids. I didn't understand what exactly was my fault? 

In Perlis also I began to be exposed to Buddhism of Theravada teachings when I did not return to my grandparents house but I went to the Thai Buddhist monasteries. I met a monk one day in a bus to Sungai Petani and he invited me to visit the monastery in Yan after I told him I didn't know where to go. I tried to go down to Sungai Petani because I didn't like to hear other maternal relatives who came by and cynically talking shits to me while they weren't even close to me or know how I feel to live like a refugee. From that incident I began to be exposed to Buddhism and its monastic teachings. When I told some Tabligh kids about this experience they asked me whether I was hypnotized by black magic? I just laugh to them. I was aware about environment around and I did not being a Buddhist in a blink of eyes. It happened stage by stage and I made notes for Buddhism studies. I had disposed those mantras and kathas before I went to pilgrimage in holy Mecca in 2005. 

In the madrasah, I made friend with a Chinese-Thai guy too in the madrasah known as Sufian. His mother was a Thai citizen but lived in Ipoh. Then he began to be cocky so I left him and changing dorm. I was there only for about a year and totally a loner in the school. I didn't join group of students. The madrasah was part of Insaniah corporation and was operated with students monthly fees. At that time, the madrasah was all-boys school. The religious subject teachers were educated from Umm al-Qura in Mecca, al-Azhar in Egypt and Jordan. The level when I was there is known as the I'dadi level. Religious science subjects were taught in Arabic and the level there was actually higher than the level of the second year in other states' religious schools. Before me, senior students studied even secular academic subjects in Arabic. At my time they just imposed Arabic as an obligatory language during certain selected days and only during school time. They frequently organizing night prayers known as Qiyaam al-Layl and I always skip them by hiding under the roof in the toilet, haha. 

Then my mother began to feel something wrong happened to me and came by to the madrasah after she heard that I was not at school waiting for my older cousin brother who worked in the canteen in the Arau UITM. She immediately shifted me to Selangor state religious secondary school known as Sekolah Menengah Agama Hulu Langat in Batu 10 and it was a painful application because I was from a private madrasah. I painfully trying to coup up with academic and religious science studies until 2000 and being divided with other students into streams. I had no close friends in school and I also had many kind of classmates in the school such as transvestite she-male students, demon worshiper students who were just a group of attention-seekers or wannabes acting like die-hard fans of black metal music band, pornographic videos seller students, politicians like students and others.

In 2001, I was divided into Shari'a stream. At that time I knew that I was not good in secular academics but more inclined to religious sciences. It has no place in society and my class was the last class placed on the top of the roof and located beside stinky not well-managed toilet. Around 1960's or 1970's perhaps religious studies are not a big deal. They existed separately but in parallel with secular studies in Malayan Peninsula. The schools for religious studies were separate from secular schools where those who went to religious school were dropped from "national monitoring authority". They were operated under sufi order frameworks and initiated by religious teachers skilled in Islamic sciences. But in 1990s up to 2000, where the Vision 2020 being a hit topic popularized by our leader who was talking about the quest in order to build up a developed country and look East policy which emphasized on the Japanese technology and their culture. It means that we had to deny our inclinations and capacity to suit the pattern of society. Secular studies and science being greatly highlighted until it overshadow us in our own place.

Now those in Europe please give attention to this and you can see what happened to us. We are talking about our history track just like those in the European Middle Ages going through Renaissance age. Around this time I began to be greatly influenced by Buddhism teachings and I even contacted Chinese Buddhist monks of Mahayana traditions while being a Muslim teenage. I tied Buddhist strings at my wrist again around 2000. Those in Europe perhaps had little contact with civilizations but here we are in contact with various oriental civilizations, philosophies and religions.

Higher Secondary School

I was humiliated by other school mates along with our unfortunate classmates and I fought discipline teacher when I was in form four around the early of 2001 because he said harsh things to us. Shari'a stream class ranked the last ranking in all streams hierarchy. There were four classes for form four students at the school in that time. The first ranking is the science stream, the second is economy, the third was geography and the last was the shari'a stream. When we walked passed the first ranking class, the teacher inside the class would insinuate us and looking to us like bunch of dogs in the "religious" school. I studied Shari'a, Usuluddin, National Language, English, Higher Classical Arabic, Arabic for communicative purpose, History, Maths and Account in our class. There was the lack of teachers because nobody care about us while we had to face Fourth Thanawi exam and the next year O-Level (SPM). So, I made up my mind and applying to technical school in Kajang because my mother said that she did not want to see me in normal secular school. I actually suffered more in the technical school but I can't return to the old school. I just went on until 2003 and I got the result equal to third grade in the previous generation's O-Level (SPM). 

The exam means a lot for young students at that time because we think that the only way to survive in the future. To survive was only by confining our selves to the leader's notion of vision 2020 and studying something which has to be related to the vision. And I was also a stupid kid who still play honest in the midst of bad students because they also cheated in the O-Level exam while there were also monitors around. I thought of many ways to die after taking the result at school and I just kept my silence without talking to anyone at home or around. I almost killed myself by starving it for days in deep Buddhist-Hindu meditation just to clear up my mind. I thought and believed that if I died in meditation I would be incarnated in brahmalogam (higher soul world) and would never endure sufferings anymore. I made a note and wrote to my family for my empty body to be cremated if I died. If they are ashamed then they could just send it away to any monastery without witnessing anything. But while meditating my mother had broken the room door with an axe. She forced me to eat and put beside me a Muslim prayer book. After that I just lay idle without any emotion or feeling anymore. 

In the middle of 2004, there was a call for national service program. So I was sent to Terengganu and being viewed by people around as a problematic teenager because people understood kids being sent to places through the program were bad kids. In this time period I began to read again religious sciences book. I just read and practiced again from the very beginning, step by step. I also went to High School. Perhaps I had talked about my experience there.               

Close the Treatise

So, this was the story of a Muslim Arab Peranakan youngster in Malayan Peninsula. Facing identity crisis and problem in order to fit well in society around. I did not have any close friends around to tell my problem or feelings when I was young not even to my parents or sisters because men and women function differently though still the same human-being. Until now it is still the same and I am used to it by time. Nobody is sympathetic to us but Allah is the only One who gives His full attention to us. Just the environment and the world hinder us to "see" how caring He is to us. 

About how I feel when being sent to madrasah or pondok melele, I am sure many who experienced this in 1990s would feel the same and understood what I am talking here, hehe. One thing that made me feel weird was when I saw kids of bombastic courses in university for example petro-chemical, geophysics, and etc who joined Tabligh Jama'at or Wahhabi-Salafi movements regardless what is their political inclinations whether to the coalition or to the opposition sides in our country. Even if they were from "religious school" but their streams were totally different to the unpopular "Shari'a stream" where I was kicked into with other "academically" incapable students in "religious secondary schooling time". Shari'a students were seen as retards by teachers, political leaders because they could just play around with religious authority for their influence on public and those of the "higher caste" streams students also looked down on us because we only learned about "the hereafter" thus making us imbalanced in everything in this world. So, when they face sad or bad incidents in their life or growing older, they would return to religion or Islam? Then talking like they're with the authority to issue "rulings" while the Shari'a was not their line since their early time and being looked down upon. People actually spit on the face of Shari'a students even in countries where Muslims are predominantly living and the notion about balanced life of dunia and akhirat is not truly displayed by people because we were only functioning for influential people to get reference to implant their influence or maybe useful in certain occasions related to wedding or death. We feel that we had no self-esteem and shy when talking to people. So, we keep our silence when there are people boasting about but that does not mean that we don't know anything. This is how we feel and I am telling it to the world. Our elders feel the same too when they saw the same thing happening in 1960s and 1970s which developed to today's situation. 

When reflecting about what happened in the past, in the society, in the global world, I just think that this world is nothing but just a test. Those notions of a "developed" country or being recognized by other "modern" countries are just stupid things being repeated throughout the history of man-kind. The world is closer to resurrection day by day for people who believe in Allah's promises.

What is the use to chase all of those things? To chase gold and money? For pride? To boast around to other human? To be rich? To be comfortable? How long are we going to live in this Earth? When the Earth dissolves as the the Day of Religion come, they are all of no use. Truly what ancient sages had taught man-kind about simple life and being moderate in everything. Allahu A'alam and Allah knows everything better than us who are just His servants.  

Sealed with prayers for mercy, peace and love, amin!   

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