Category Archives: Islam

Proximity Can Be A Veil

I just found out that in terms of genealogical proximity regarding the ‘Alawiyun of the Hadhramaut, the Al-Haddads are superior to that of Al-Attas’ to the Prophet’s bloodline. This was related to me by my uncle, who is an Irshadi of the Hadhramaut (my paternal side, hence so am I). I’m currently reading ‘The Hadrami Awakening‘ by Natalie Mobini-Kesheh, which I find quite fascinating.

Famous Hadhramis in the Nusantara include Syed Mashhur bin Muhammad Al-Shahab more famously known as Syarif Masahor (a past warrior who commanded the loyalty of the Kanowit people in the resistance against the Brookes) and the contemporaries Tan Sri Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas (a profoundly influential philosopher with a large global following) and Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary (a wealthy merchant with diverse businesses in and around the Malay archipelago).

I would really like to get my hands on the book ‘Graves of Tarim‘ by Engseng Ho.

“Proximity can be a veil. How many Meccans have not performed Hajj because it’s just there?” – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

The Earliest Qur’an Manuscript


The earliest surviving Qur’an manuscript known to man (written circa 650-670 CE) is now downloadable to your laptop or smartphone in just under 40MB. I’m not sure how this makes me feel. From what we know of our tradition, this monumental piece of scripture must have been put together painstakingly by the companions of The Prophet (SAW) soon after his death. It’s also possible that this is one of the standard canonical Qur’ans assembled by the codex committee headed by Sayyidina Zayd ibn Thabit (RA) and commissioned under the orders of the Caliph Sayyidina Uthman ibn Affan (RA). MasyaAllah!

To view and/or download, click here.

A Qur’an written over the Qur’an – why making the effort?

The manuscript of the Qur’an presented here is a very special case. It is a palimpsest, a page whose script has been completely washed off and has again been written upon. After some time the first layer reappeared and can be discerned, somewhat faded, beneath the second layer. It was probably produced not more than a few decades after the death of the prophet Muhammad in 632 and is considered one of the earliest textual witnesses of the Qur’an. At first glance the fact that both layers contain parts of the Qur’an, that is, parts of one and the same text, is highly astonishing. The question is: for what reason did someone wash off a text, only to overwrite it with the same text, using more or less the same style of script?


A palimpsest Qur’an

The palimpsest, of which roughly three dozen fragments have survived, was discovered in 1972 during restoration works on the western wall of the Great Mosque of Sanaa. The chamber in which it had been deposited together with 40,000 other manuscript fragments of the Qur’an seems to have functioned as a kind of storeroom, because one did not dare to throw away religious texts – a practice which can also be found in Judaism.

Among the other fragments of the trove, which are of great importance for Qur’anic studies, the palimpsest takes an exceptional position. That both layers contain parts of the same text is remarkable, and equally interesting is the fact that they are written in the same type of script. This last point indicates that both layers must have originated within a relatively short time interval. This phenomenon can be explained by taking into account the historical context. The rapid expansion of the Islamic Empire after the death of the Prophet Muhammad led to disputes about the exact wording of the Qur’an, because the experts who were scattered over vast areas remembered things differently. Faced with this situation of growing divergences, Caliph Uthman (r. 644-656) – as much is reported by Islamic sources – eventually selected a group of men who where entrusted with the task of reconstructing the authentic wording of the revelation, using all oral and written testimonies that had survived as a basis for this work. The result was an official standard text, the so-called canonical version, and all other prevalent deviating versions were ordered to be destroyed – an order that was not in every place complied with immediately or without resistance.


Original version and graphical reconstruction of the lower layer (detail of fol. 23r). The strong curvature of the lines of the washed-off script that can be particularly observed in the lower part of the page could be a result of the remanufacturing process of the parchment in preparation for the new writing.

But how is the “Qur’an written over the Qur’an” concerned by this? A closer look at the lower layer reveals significant deviations from the uthmanic standard version (which, however, do not change much of the meaning of the text). Hence it is very likely that we have here a precanonical version of the Qur’an that in consequence of the event of the uthmanic redaction had become undesirable and was therefore extinguished. Producing such a manuscript containing a non-official version after the standardization under Uthman is highly improbable. The more so, as already the material value shows that it must have been an expensive specimen. To produce a complete copy of the Qur’an of this size, the skin of more than 200 animals, presumably sheep or goats, would have been needed! This also seems to be one reason why the “old” manuscript had not simply been thrown away: by preparing the pages and rewriting them in the now official version the expensive parchment could be preserved. This makes the palimpsest Qur’an from Sanaa a witness of a significant event in the history of Islam: the final redaction of the Qur’an text.

But not only as such the palimpsest is of great importance. Given the early origin of both layers and given the fact, that the physical conditions reveal their relative chronological order beyond doubt, this manuscript allows valuable insights into the development of the Arabic script and orthography, the dating of manuscripts by comparing the features of different scripts and the production and ornamentation of Qur’an manuscripts in the 7th century.

The rarity and significance of this manuscript are also reflected by its monetary value. Four pages somehow made their way to western auction houses and the last of them – sold in 2008 at Christie’s – broke the world auction record for any Islamic manuscript by fetching the amazing sum of £2,484,500! This even earned it a mention in the British magazine Country Life, that is dedicated to the auctioning and sale of English country houses and, this is noteworthy, some of them are cheaper to buy than the palimpsest page.

Text by Hadiya Gurtmann
© for all pictures: DATI / Ch. Robin & H. Gurtmann / BBAW Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften
Source: Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC)

Huruf dan Abjad

Sebelum kemunculan pengangkaan Arab (Arabic numerals) pada sekitar kurun kelapan, sistem pernomboran abjad (alphabetic numbering) merupakan sistem yang biasa digunakan untuk tujuan pernomboran. Sistem ini wujud bagi kebanyakan bahasa pada ketika itu, terutamanya untuk bahasa-bahasa samawi (semitic), termasuklah bahasa Arab. Sistem dibawah ini boleh diibaratkan sebagai Roman numerals versi Arab dimana I, V, X dan L melambangkan 1, 5, 10 dan 50 dan seterusnya. Sama seperti itu, alif, ha, ya dan nun masing-masing melambangkan 1, 5, 10 dan 50 dan seterusnya.

ا – 1
ب – 2
ج – 3
د – 4
ه – 5
و – 6
ز – 7
ح – 8
ط – 9
ي – 10
ك – 20
ل – 30
م – 40
ن – 50
س – 60
ع – 70
ف – 80
ص – 90
ق – 100
ر – 200
ش – 300
ت – 400
ث – 500
خ – 600
ذ – 700
ض – 800
ظ – 900
غ – 1000

Penghafalan sistem yang sukar ini dimudahkan dengan mengelompokkan nombor-nombor yang berturutan bagi membentuk perkataan yang boleh dilagukan.

ابجد – abjad: 1–2–3–4
هوز – hawwaz: 5–6–7
حطي – hutthi: 8–9–10
كلمن – kalaman: 20–30–40–50
سعفص – sa’fash: 60–70–80–90
قرشت – qarasyat: 100–200–300–400
ثخذ – thakhidz: 500–600–700
ضظغ – dhazhagh: 800–900–1000

Perkembangan ilmu matematika pada kurun kedua dan ketiga hijrah amat pesat hinggakan tertubuhnya pelbagai pusat ilmuwan di serata dunia Islam. Ternyata, sistem pernomboran abjad tidak mampu menampung perkembangan ilmu bagi tujuan perhitungan yang kompleks, kerana penulisannya menjadi terlalu rumit. Penggunaan sistem ini menyorot dengan mendadak setelah sistem pengangkaan Hindu-Arab diperkenalkan. Sistem ini digunapakai secara meluas, hingga ke hari ini.

٠ 0 sifr صفر
١ 1 wahid واحد
٢ 2 ithnan إثنان
٣ 3 thalatha ثلاثة
٤ 4 arba’a أربعة
٥ 5 khamsa خمسة
٦ 6 sitta ستة
٧ 7 sab’a سبعة
٨ 8 thamaniya ثمانية
٩ 9 tis’a تسعة

Perkataan ‘abjad’ dalam bahasa Melayu mengambil nama dari empat nombor yang pertama dalam sistem Arabic alphabetic numbering, dan perkataan ‘huruf’ juga diambil dari perkataan Arab ‘haraf’ yang bermaksud single letter word.

Khutbah Jumaat

Alhamdulillah, saya kira khatib hari ini cakna dengan isu semasa. Hujah-hujah yang dibentangkan rajih dan amat menepati waktu. Masalah buli tidak boleh dipandang enteng. Malangnya, kehadiran para alim yang waspada dengan isu semasa adalah far and few in between. Seringkali tertimbul persoalan di benak fikiran, kenapakah ramai ulamak hari ini seolah-olah terputus dengan waqi’? Sekadar memuntahkan kembali teks ucapan di hadapan makmum. Nasihat buat diri.


Sometimes, I have to remind myself that I am not of this world. That I come from a distant place, not bound by time and space. That I am here on earth for only a moment or two, a pitstop on the journey home. That when I gaze up at the night sky, home is there, somewhere. I have to remind myself that I came from Adam, and Adam was not from this world. He was born in heaven, gardens beneath which rivers flow. That no matter how intricately beautiful this world may seem, it is no match for my real home. It’s no wonder that my heart can never be satisfied here, because I was never meant to stay. I have to constantly remind myself because, it’s easy to forget home when you’ve been away for so long.

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “By the One in Whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, any one of them (believers) will be more familiar with his dwelling in Paradise than he was with his house in this world.” [Bukhaari]


Stargazing with friends at Anzac Park back in 2012. Photo by Nadly Aizat.

Mengembara di Bumi Konstantiniyyah

It took my brother and I close to 2 whole days to locate this site. With alot of asking, hiking, more asking, more hiking and broken Turkish/English in between, alhamdulillah we found it. Thank you ofcourse to Ammar’s mother for guiding us there. We have the GPS coordinates saved now, for whoever would like to pay him a visit, the coordinates are below.


Pusara Ahmad Ammar di perkarangan Eyüp Sultan Camii.

Ammar merupakan satu-satunya anak Malaysia yang diberi keistimewaan ditanamkan di tanah perkuburan Masjid Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari.

Part of my conversation with Pn Nur Azlina, Ammar’s wonderful mother. The coordinates can be copied from above.

Dagger to the Heart

Today while doing my engineering design work in the library, I read the above ayah from the Quran from Surah Al-Fath. I read the verse without looking at the translation, deciphering each word with my own limited Quranic Arabic knowledge. It took me about five whole minutes to capture each kalimah and grasp the message of this one verse. And all of a sudden, I was overwhelmed by the message and started crying uncontrollably. I was sobbing so much I had to stop work. I think the people around me in the library began to notice, I felt embarrassed. Habis basah lengan baju sweater mengelap air mata. Ya Allah, make us amongst those you mentioned in this ayah. Ameen!

Sujud Merdeka

Allah telah mengutuskan kami untuk mengeluarkan siapa saja yang Dia kehendaki dari perhambaan terhadap sesama manusia kepada perhambaan kepada Allah, dari kesempitan dunia kepada keluasannya, dari kezaliman agama-agama kepada keadilan Islam. – Rib’ie ibn Amir kepada Rustam, Pemimpin Parsi.

Benarlah, hanya jiwa yang merdeka mampu memerdekakan jiwa-jiwa lain. – Muhammad Ahmad Ar-Rasyid, Sajdatul Hurriyah, Al-Muntalaq.

Setiap sujud pengabdian kamu kepada Allah, adalah sujud kebebasan kamu daripada manusia. Inilah sujud yang merdeka.

Al-Qaleel (Golongan Sedikit)

Manusia sedia mengetahui perasaan-perasaan mereka terhadap jantina yang berlainan. Segala saraf dan emosi mereka menggerakkan hubungan antara kedua mereka, mengatur langkah-langkah mereka, dan menggugah tingkahlaku mereka, yang akhirnya membentuk penampilan dan orientasi sesama mereka, lelaki dan perempuan.

Akan tetapi hanya sedikit daripada mereka yang ingat akan tangan Allah yang telah menciptakan bagi diri mereka pasangan, dan mengamanahkan kepada jiwa-jiwa ini perasaan kasih dan sayang, dan menjadikan pula hubungan tersebut satu ketenangan bagi jiwa dan urat saraf mereka, kerehatan bagi badan dan hati mereka, kestabilan bagi kehidupan mereka, hiburan bagi ruh dan jatidiri mereka, dan keyakinan bagi kedua-dua mereka, lelaki dan perempuan.

Ekspresi Al-Quran yang lembut dan halus menggambarkan hubungan ini dengan gambaran yang sungguh memberi inspirasi, seolah-olah ia mengutip apa yang terbenam di lubuk hati yang terdalam, “supaya kamu bersenang hati dan hidup mesra dengannya dan dijadikanNya di antara kamu (suami isteri) perasaan kasih sayang dan belas kasihan.” (Ar-Ruum: 21)

Sayyid Qutb, Fi Zilal Al-Quran.

Allahummaj’alna min al-qaleel! Ya Allah jadikanlah kami dari golongan yang sedikit itu!