Sunday, 22 April 2012

A Guide to Tasawwuf and Sufism

There is a branch of knowledge called tasawwuf which is a part of wisdom. Many of the early Malay doctors were students of tasawwuf or sufism. They were wise, their lives were disciplined, and they took a positive approach to life and as practising doctors.

The two Singaporean early Malay doctors were people of tasawwuf and were very involved with such activities. Until today, their descendants are also students of a tariqat.

There are many tariqats but the active ones I have heard about are the Nashqbandi and Tijaniyah. I can't tell which is which.

Here is a video I just found on Tawakal. It is quite clear.

Shaykh Umar Vadillo - The Journey of Tawakal:

This one is a story about being pious and repentance. The text is simple.

Selawat Faatih / Selawat Fatih / Selawat Al-Faatih
Here is Selawat Fatih from a book that belongs to my husband who's from the pondok in Batu Uban, Pasir Mas, Kelantan. I don't know if the publisher is still around today or where to locate it. I would like to get a brand new copy if possible. I browsed the old copy and found many other very good doa in the book. I'm reproducing it here because I can't find a good image of Selawat Fatih elsewhere. The language is Indonesian.

This is a good introduction to Islam for people who don't know Islam and people who need a refresher. It is well-written and is a simple text. Read the entire document and not half way. It will make you think about your life and where you're heading. It makes more sense about the life we have today and will have after today. It is written for thinkers or people who like to reflect on life. Most people, not counting race or creed, will come around and start asking questions about their lives - where they came from , who are their parents & grandparents, what happened in the past, who's who, where do we go from here, what can we hope for, are we alone, etc. It is best read when you are alone at night or in the wee hours of the morning when everyone is sleeping, a quiet time, where you can practically hear your own heartbeat. That's when to reflect and read this passage. Don't read it when you're hurrying. It will make no sense to you when your life is just hurry, hurry, hurry! Read it again every 5 years and you will stand to gain the deeper message in the passage. Remember, Islam was never made for a useless purpose. It is for to enrich the human experience. The concepts are very important. People criticise Islam because they don't understand the full breath and depth of the concepts mentioned in the passage. So it is best to just ignore the critics and get to the core of Islamic knowledge. Give them the link below so they can learn something about Islam. Read the article below too so you become a thinker, and a thinker in Islam is a Sufi - a source of knowledge, not just simple knowledge but knowledge of knowledge (which is wisdom, truth from truth, haqqi bil haqq). The word philosophy comes from the Arabic word falsafah, whose root word is sufi or safah, and similar. Arabic does not have a letter 'p' so falsafah becomes philosophy in another language; Persian has a lot of 'p' words; Sanskrit has a lot of 'b' and 'w' words. Arabic has a lot of 'th' and 'gh' words. So, that's how to tell the words and source languages apart. Anyway, read the passage below.

Islam - Its concepts and meanings:

Seat 61

I have always loved trains and prefer to travel by train. Here are some info for train travel.

A beginner’s guide to train travel in Singapore and Malaysia
This is a very good website that provides very detailed information for train travel in Malaysia and Singapore. Good for beginners. Covers Tanjong Pagar (closed 30 June 2011) and Woodlands in detail. A lot of travel tips. Lots of lovely photos.
His Facebook is too busy with FAQ and >5,000 friends.

These are other informative train sites with lovely photos:
KTMB website:
Tumpat train station:

Chinese Temples in Penang

Chinese places of worship are the Chinese temples. Chinese temples are usually big and with big statues of the Chinese gods. I remember the word Tok kong from my schooldays in Alor Star, Kedah. There were a lot of Chinese temples in Alor Star.

I remember in Penang, going round with my Chinese step-grandmother to a Chinese shop where they baked pink buns with a dot, for offering to the Chinese gods. My grandmother bought some for me to eat that morning. Did I eat the pink buns? Yes, I did - I was hungry. It didn't matter to me. They had a bean paste inside.

I was walking with my Chinese-Malay husband and we passed a row of shops in Penang where they made giant joss sticks for the Chinese temples. I was curios so we walked slowly and I could pause longer and take a closer look at the giant joss sticks - they were made of sandalwood sawdust and were so colourful.

I have never been close to a Chinese temple nor gone inside one to see what is inside or what goes on inside. I only watched them from outside. Our medical students are posted to Chinese tok kongs in Kota Bharu, Kelantan and they also have to clean the tok kong for the Chinese community they visit for the Community and Family Case Study (CFCS) programme. There is Kampung Cina just before Pantai Cahaya Bulan in Kota Bharu.

Here are pictures of Syed Sheikh's old residence at the corner of Jalan Solok and Jalan Jelutong in Penang, next to Esso petrol station. They were taken on 22 October 2011. The house is now a Chinese tok kong. Syed Sheikh was the grandfather of Dr Syed Mohamed bin Alwi Alhady (Dr SMA Alhady), an early Malay doctor.

From the book Syed Syeikh al-Hadi by Sohaimi Abdul Aziz (2003), page 79.
Photo from Arkib Negara Malaysia
Same as above. Page 46.

Here are some pictures of a Chinese shop and 2 Chinese temples which I captured in my balik kampung trip to Penang, on 13-16 April 2012. These are near Masjid Kapitan Keling area. My old camera was slow and I missed a lot of good scenes. I had saved the new camera for my visit to the Penang Museum.

Red lanterns, green roof, dragons
Chinese shophouse with unique features
A Chinese temple (we got lost and went round in circles and passed this place three times!)
KOMTAR in the background
Almost missed it
Very big front yard. The giant joss sticks can be seen smoking/fuming ... the pigeons in the foreground didn't mind the smoke

Te Zhi Bai Feng Wan

Have I taken Te Zhi Bai Feng Wan? Yes. Who coerced me to take Te Zhi Bai Feng Wan? My Chinese father-in-law. His name is Wong Seong Keong @ Hussien - the youngest male from the 'millionnaire' Wong family in Kota Bharu, Kelantan (I think they are also millionnaires in Penang and Singapore too). Anyway, why did he want me to take Te Zhi Bai Feng Wan? My Chinese father-in-law is health conscious. He says even the Chinese Empress took it. What is the history of Te Zhi Bai Feng Wan? Read below.

History of Te Zhi Bai Feng Wan:
This is the story from my Chinese father-in-law. The story is from northern China, maybe Beijing. He says the remedy is a 'cold concoction', ie, used in the cold region. Here's the story from him ... The Empress of China was weak and the healers went in search of a cure for her. They concocted Te Zhi Bai Feng Wan for her ailment. She took it and recovered. The concoction was kept a secret and only given to the empress. Anyway, time passed and she also passed on. The secret for making Te Zhi Bai Feng Wan became public domain.

Chinese song:
Ai Mei
Ai mei rang ren shou jin wei qu
Zhao bu dao xiang ai de zheng ji
He shi gai qian jin he shi gai fang qi
Lian yong bao dou mei you yong qi

What is Te Zhi Bai Feng Wan?
A traditional Chinese medicine used for overcoming menstrual problems and fatigue.

Where do they sell this?
Read here: Hai-O eStore

Halal certificate:
Read here: Herba Maharani

Contents and indications:
Read here: Te Zhi Bai Feng Wan
I have edited and reproduced the text below. I have corrected the names of the ingredients and linked the ingredients where possible.

Beijing Tong Ren Tang Te Zhi Bai Feng Wan
(Malay name: Herba Maharani)

It is made from Gallus Gallus Domesticus (Wuji), which is from cultured farm owned by Tong Ren Rang, Ginseng, Radix Angelicae Sinensis, etc.

Traditionally used to relieve menstrual pain, body weakness, improve blood circulation and regulate menstruation.

Enhances health, regulates blood circulation and menstruation.

1. Enhances body health and recovers fatigue
2. Relieves discomfort during menstruation

1 pill each time, twice daily; to be taken with warm water.

1 box RM 65
5g x 6 wax golf balls (inside with 50 small pills)

These are my pictures of the Te Zhi Bai Feng Wan box which I purchased and consumed from June 2005 onward (I was 47 and in the last phase before full menopause). I still keep the box and contents for teaching. These are my teaching slides for my class 'History of Medicine'.

6 embroided red boxes
Nice packing, and with instructions.

1 wax golf ball inside each red box.
A wax golf ball ... need to find where to pry open
Each wax golf ball has another plastic ball inside
Contents of plastic ball ... black beads ... 50 of them 
Collectors' items
Patients will be happy just receiving an empty pill box this lovely!