Wishing You a Free and Happy New Year

Today is the beginning of Year 1429 in Islamic Calendar.

Free and Happy New Year, to all my Muslim friends as well as to all my other friends here. I have carried the new year messages from BERSIH and WAMI here but have not written anything personal.

When you are free, you may pursue and defend your happiness. Even if your choices may land you in troubles and misfortunes, you have at least the opportunity to make that choice and to strike again for better outcomes. On the other hand, happiness without freedom is the happiness of slaves and pets, not free men and women. Therefore, I wish you freedom before happiness.

Many of us in Malaysia are aware of only two new years – that of Gregogian (Solar) Calendar and that of Chinese (Lunisolar) Calendar. Putting others in their own shoes, many Chinese tend to call festivals in other cultures as their new year days such that Hari Raya Aidil Fitri (Eid) becomes “Malay (Muslim) New Year” while Deepavali (Divali) becomes “Indian (Hindu) New Year” when those new year days are respectively Awal Muharram and April 14 (for Southern Indians as well as Thais, Burmese, Cambodians, and Laotians as I understand it).

On this auspicious day of Awal Muharram, may us not just enjoy the holiday brought by multiculturalism, but truly appreciate it. Awal Muharram has great meaning because the Prophet’s Hijrah (Migration) was commemorated here.

I googled and found this wonderful piece from M. Bakri Musa in 2006 when Awal Muharram and Chinese New Year were celebrated about the same time to share with you. (part of which is reproduced below) The good doctor advised us to stay away from the evils of corruption, dependency, drug abuse, dysfunctional families, and breaches of faith among officials.

That was written before the cause of electoral reform takes root.

My Awal Muharram wish is that Malaysia will soon “migrate” from the state of electoral authoritarianism to at least that of electoral democracy and ultimately to that of liberal democracy. Will you join me in this?

Hijjrah of the Heart and Mind (M. Bakri Musa)

The Prophet’s Hijrah (migration) from Mecca to Medinah on 622 CE was such a pivotal moment in Islamic history that Caliph Omar decided that the Muslim calendar, and hence Awal Muharram, should begin on that day. Historically, the migration actually took place during the third month.

Awal Muharram is not so much celebrated as observed. On this day, Muslims pause and reflect on that signal event in our history, and ponder its meaning and significance.

Hijrah means to move away from oppression, a bad place or situation. The symbolism of the new moon is particularly apt, the emergence from total darkness to ever increasing brightness under the soft luminescence of the moonlight.

Allah commands us not to accept the evil around or perpetrated upon us. In Surah Al Nisaa (4:97 – Women) (approximate translation), “When the Angels take the souls of those who die in sin, they [Angels] say, ‘In what plight were ye?’ They [sinners] replied, ‘Weak and oppressed we were on earth.’ They [Angels] say, ‘Was not the earth of Allah spacious enough for you to move yourself away from evil?’ Such persons will find their abode in Hell – What an evil refuge!”

The Prophet’s physical Hijrah is well known. Less well appreciated is his non-physical hijrah, when he moved his people away from the Age of Jahilliyah (Ignorance) with his divine messages. His physical Hijrah was a matter of days; his other hijrah consumed his total life after he received that first revelation.

The prophet’s physical Hijrah saw the Anzars (the Medinah natives) warmly welcoming and adopting the Muhajirins (the migrants following the prophet from Mecca). Through their unity and shared identity in that first Muslim community, the faith spread beyond. There is a particular lesson in this for Malaysia.

The early Muslims’ other hijrah saw servants paired with masters, and the rich with the poor. It emancipated the Arabs from a culture where female infanticide was the norm to one where women like Khatijah and Fatimah (the prophet’s wife and daughter respectively – May Allah bless them) have a special place in Islam.

I too have undertaken my own physical hijrah by coming to America. As wrenching an emotional decision as that was, it was the easy part. Now I must continue with the hijrah of my heart and mind.

Living in the heart of capitalism, it is easy to be caught up with the unbridled consumerism. I must constantly remind myself that in giving I am indeed receiving, and that zakat (charity) means purification. It is a continuous hijrah for me to live up to those ideals.

As a society, we too must undertake our own collective hijrah. Through the blessings of Allah, Malaysians are spared the horrors of having to undertake any mass migration, as the Afghans now have to in avoiding anarchy and tyranny of their homeland. However, the evils of corruption, dependency, drug abuse, dysfunctional families, and breaches of faith among officials are still with us. We have to undertake a hijrah of our collective hearts and minds to rid and keep us away from all such ills.

Thus, my third wish upon myself and others, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, is to undertake this mental and social hijrah to move ourselves away from these evils.

2 responses to “Wishing You a Free and Happy New Year

  1. So Islamic some 600 years younger than the rest!
    Having more to start than the rest?

    Bersih demanded clean & undated Electoral Roll, equal platform, no Postal votes to cut manipulation of disciplinary Forces, 21days period, Administrative Neutral and Reformed Electoral Financing Acts!
    Has EC answered why only 1million from 5 million potential new voters done and not the rest?
    If others not done, should we go to elect?
    What can be done, Bersih needs to direct!!

    WAMI emphasized “Freedom”!
    should it be more precise to use “Rights” instead?
    Rights for People to voice
    and Journal Rights to report
    within the “domain” of Rights so “freedom” will not get wild!
    Whether Journal feel their obligations or dare to report need many hearts and souls!
    A lot of bullies but journal dares not talk.
    where should freedom starts, WAMI?

    For all wishes to happen, Human Rights are to start.
    Equalities and fairness to be spelled among parties in every part
    Elections – on the EC for the Parties and People
    Country – on the Constitution, for the Government and the People
    Acts – to bind the Administration and the affected parties
    Racial, Religious, Culture – no discriminations among each of every one.

    Raise simple Principle for direction
    Get the Law and System strict
    for Accountability, Transparency and Human Rights in place.
    Open to suggestion, monitoring and answering
    a good start to Democracy to come in 2008 and beyond!
    My wishes!!

    Thanks for bringing the readers attention to nuanced differences in the meaning of “freedom” and “rights”. WAMI prefers to use “freedom” as it points to what the state cannot touch in individuals’ lives while “rights” as entitlements under a certain legal order can exist even in totalitarian regimes. While “freedom” may empower the citizens to pursue for more “rights”, “rights” without freedom can be taken back by the state. Look around authoritarian countries like Singapore, China, Vietnam, Iran or even Saudi Arabia, you will find the governments may use the word “rights” too. But they may not use the word “freedom” because they hint to their “subjects” that governments is a necessary evil.

  2. Thanks the light!

    Freedom without limitation only in the mind but not in daily life.
    Total “Freedom” exists only when one by oneself without other to object.
    Freedom could go without obligations but not Rights, especially when parties are to be involved.

    Civilized society depending on the understanding, respect of Human Rights which involved at least two parties on a matter to go.
    Otherwise, no need to demand as no one there to object!

    Writers have social responsibility to clear the heads of readers
    that Laws are basis to go!

    What should be there and not there should work out the Law.
    Therefore, legislation is not totally on those Law-makers!
    The problem is if Constitution clearly stated and executable or being neglected!
    If authoritarian should remain,then no Freedom or Rights to be requested.
    To start it wise and wide, Rights should be the word to be attached!

    Rights without specification to provide “Freedom” will give Rights with a wild guess, so it can be subject to give or not!!

    Do we have Rights to demand “Freedom” or have Freedom to demand Rights?
    Or Rights to get more Rights?

    Freedom is certainly not absolute as many have created as a false premise for them to oppose it. For one, freedom ceases to apply when it violates someone else’s. We stress about freedom because we believe that the state should not control us. We surrender part of our freedoms to the government because we need that “necessary evil”. The appreciation of freedom allows and reminds us to examine the justifiability of laws. Without such appreciation, taking laws as the basis may result in oppressions and injustice through bad laws. With freedom – based on the appreciation that governments may do evil, we may right the wrongs and demand for more rights.

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