Narrated Mujahid: 'Abdullah bin 'Umar said, "Allah's Apostle took hold of my shoulder and said, 'Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveler." The sub-narrator added: Ibn 'Umar used to say, "If you survive till the evening, do not expect to be alive in the morning, and if you survive till the morning, do not expect to be alive in the evening, and take from your health for your sickness, and (take) from your life for your death."

The fifth pillar of Islam, the Hajj, is basically asking us to travel, in whatever means possible to get there, with the exception to those living in Mecca itself.

The connotation of traveling in the modern era is different from ancient times. Flights, trains and buses are available everywhere in the world. To get to places like Amsterdam, Paris, Rio involves a few mouse clicks here and there and walla, you're well on your way there. Now, you could get to Mecca by flights. Life made easy. It's the age of the instant noodles.

From the notes of those who traveled to Mecca in the past, for example Ibn Batutta, he had to endure 16 months on the road to get to Mecca from Morocco. Got married along the way, and at one junction of his journey, faced with 3 options, he took the road less traveled and had to trackback as there was a riot in one of the towns along the journey.

Far from being a spiritual journey to worship God in Mecca, it was a pilgrimage of physical and emotional function. He had to leave his parents, friends and home without any guarantee of coming back. And of course, his journey was never air conditioned, only the stream of merciless heat accompanying him.

Allah made an allegory of life as a journey in a few verses of the Qur'an.

10:23-24 He it is Who enables you to travel through land and sea, till when you are in the ships, and they sail with them with a favourable wind, and they are glad therein, then comes a stormy wind and the waves come to them from all sides, and they think that they are encircled therein. Then they invoke Allah, making their Faith pure for Him Alone, (saying): "If You (Allah) deliver us from this, we shall truly be of the grateful. But when He delivers them, behold! they rebel (disobey Allah) in the earth wrongfully. O mankind! Your rebellion (disobedience to Allah) is only against your ownselves, - a brief enjoyment of this worldly life, then (in the end) unto Us is your return, and We shall inform you of that which you used to do.

There's a lot to learn from the life of a traveler, their strategies and planning and all that.

No, i am not asking you to cycle to Mecca later on in your life. Or live a life full of sufferings and troubles.

You could apply their conscious in your everyday life. How a traveler listens to the advice of those who have been there, dos and donts. How a traveler thinks of their stay as being temporary (how life itself, is temporary) and to maximize time and not waste it. So on and so forth. You could look at it from any angle you like.

But there are times along the journey that you will bump into problems. In the case of Ibn Battuta, a riot in his journey. But he never hesitated to return and try another route to get to Mecca. We ourselves might have taken the wrong road or decisions in our everyday life, but fret not, it's just how things go.

Hajj itself, is for me, not merely about the rituals performed there, but the sacrifices and troubles along the way also matters. Maybe our journey to Mecca is made easy these days, but the idea that those who had traveled centuries ago to quench their spiritual thirsts should be emulated in our daily lives. Imam Al-Ghazali stated that this is the journey towards Allah, in his book Ihya Ulum al-Din.

'The heart needs these helpers (physical and spiritual insights) because of its need for a vehicle, and for provision for that journey for which it was created, the journey to Allah, and for passing through its stages until He is met face to face.'

No wonder we always ask for a straight path everytime we recite al-Fatihah. For there are times, we might stray of the correct path. And so therefore, i hope you got the idea of what being a traveler is all about.

PS : Selamat Hari Raya Haji to all. Have been under the weather for these past 2 weeks. Hope everything will get better.
My roommate's blood pressure skyrocketed to 150+/90+ last Friday. Came back, complained of headache but was later invited for a small Raya treat downstairs. I tagged along, although i was not formally invited and he had to withstand watching me eat all the food served since his condition didn't quite permit him to eat those delicacies.

Sorry for that. The food was exquisite.

We usually eat fried stuffs, fried chicken, fried squids, fried this, fried that. Maybe we should be learning how to cook roasted, steamed or boiled chicken for a change.

So we're kind of ehem..having a diet week this week. The 3 of us roommates (the other is my Indian friend Vik), will be cooking separately this week. He is planning to eat cornflakes and bread the whole week. Vik had curry mutton today.

I had friend eggs and anchovies with sambal today, what i would refer to as the 'classic rice' in my life dictionary. The laziest form of cooking known to mankind, perhaps. Cooking alone means i am able to cook the hottest of sambals for myself.

After years of learning to cook, i haven't progressed much. I think it's not worth cooking all those extravagant meals because my tongue is not able to appreciate food that much. Plus, i leave all those meals for my future wife to cook or for those chefs in the restaurants to prepare. I don't mind the fussiness of cooking, but it's not time worth spending since my brains still haven't developed the taste centres.

Oh well. At least my semi functional tongue is compensated with a decent looking face.
Felt rather sick these past few days. A slight fever going on. And euphoric at times.

There was a moment of emotional instability. I hesitated traveling after my mom told me she would peek at places where my cat would usually lay down only to find Teh not being there.

And so i asked, 'would it be better for me to go back to Malaysia this winter?'

She replied, 'I'm fine. I like you traveling more than doing nothing at home.'

Because she knows me well enough. I'll sleep my butt off at home most of the time. I remember her asking me last summer..

'Bilanya nak pi Jakarta. Beli la Air Asia.' (When are you going to Jakarta. Just buy Air Asia.)

I told her i wanted to visit a friend at Jakarta but ended up spending my summer holidays doing, well, nothing much actually.

I need my mom more than she needs me. A holiday in Malaysia in winter would be much more meaningful for me than her. But i do hope both they are coping with the loss of Teh.
This is not a plea.

But if you find my entry 'This is stadium Merdeka' to be entertaining, i hope you can vote for it on the blog4t website.

The purpose is to create a positive buzz about the Federal Territories. I don't know whether i've done that. Actually there are a few ideas about KL i wanted to write; about Central Market, Lorong Haji Taib, Petaling Street and a few more, but they tend to be negative. So i settled down writing about Stadium Merdeka.

I heard that they are offering a MacBook as one of the prizes for the competition. And also some cars. But i would prefer a MacBook since my laptop is getting old and slow.

Dream on, Afiq.

I don't know what are the odds for me to win, but hey, i need to try my luck and hope for the best.

So thank you in advance!

My name is Merdeka.

Physically, i am a stadium but i feel like a white elephant lost in between the more sophisticated skyscrapers and modern architecture of Kuala Lumpur. I was christened 'Merdeka' for the most eventful occasion in our history.

I reminisce the declaration of Independence in 1957. The rich and poor, the young and old, of all racial background, gathered in my body and the partisan crowd shouted in unison, 'Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!'. I almost cried that day. The forefathers of Malaysia had finally freed our land from British colonisation. Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Sambanthan, Tun Tan Cheng Lok; names that will forever be etched in our struggle for Independence.

From then onwards, i witnessed the rapid growth of Kuala Lumpur. New friends in the form of concrete buildings started to appear around me. As far as i could remember, Victoria Institution has been there by my side long before i existed and has been my best buddy.

He whispered to me long, long time ago, 'Watch out for this phenomenal football talent. He is a nightmare for defenders. His name, Mokhtar Dahari.'

Malaysian football prospered for a period of time. The superheroes of Malaysian football promulgated the nation as a powerhouse in the '70s and the '80s. 'Supermokh' Mokhtar Dahari. 'Spiderman' R. Arumugam. 'Towkay' Soh Chin Aun. 'The King' Santokh Singh. I was proud to be the home ground for the national team, with shouts of 'Supermokh' frequently buzzing on matchdays, the crowd united to watch mesmerizing football from the Tigers of Asia. Arsenal lost against us, the England B team scrapped with a one all draw. We even qualified for Olympics twice.

Those were the days of Malaysian football.

In '75, the guy who floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee came over to our shores and i was made into a makeshift boxing arena. However, the match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Bugner has to go down as one of the worst in boxing history. Joe Bugner really tested my patience with his defensive minded strategy.

But times have changed. I am no longer in my youthful state. The cracks, appearing on my concrete skin testify to the ageing process i am going through.

There's the Bukit Jalil Stadium, who is much more superior compared to what I am. And the next choice for sporting events would obviously be Shah Alam Stadium. I understand. I am merely an old, dysfunctional concrete block here in Kuala Lumpur.

There were plans to demolish me, but luckily, i was saved and made a national heritage. And now, i am undergoing a reconstructive surgery, a renovation of sorts.

I might suffer the same fate as my distant cousin, the Highbury in London sometime in the future. Razed down to the ground.

Maybe one day my legacy will disappear, and Malaysians would not even remember the existence of such stadium. But i am neither asking for remembrance nor reconstruction.

I just hope that Malaysians will never forget that day in 1957, the struggles and meaning of Independence.

'What happens to all these stray cats in wintertime?", i asked my friend on the way to the hospital.

'They'll eventually die.'

Wayne Coyne, the front man of the rock band, Flaming Lips, once mentioned that the feeling of losing someone of close proximity to you ie a neighbour or a close friend is different compared to losing someone of your own flesh and blood, ie your family members.

It's still autumn in Russia and just now my mama sms-ed me. It read, 'Apit. Teh had just left us. Around 1.45 am.'

I won't claim that he's my flesh and blood for 2 reasons. One, he's a cat. Second, he is, in fact, a cat.

And i won't even state that i was close to him in any way. He was just too scared of alpha males like me. Once, he smacked the sliding door trying to escape my presence when i just arrived back from Langkawi. He would recognize me as a female when my legs are enveloped in my sarong and not run away from me. However, we created a bond last summer, partly due to the fact that he was sick and tired of avoiding me, albeit the bond was rather temporary. Once the left lens of my old black thick rimmed spectacles accidentally fell into the toilet bowl and was flushed into eternity, i had to wear my newly made spectacles.

Instantly, he didn't remember the face and was scared of me like he used to. Maybe it was his way of telling me, 'Hey, you don't look cool in those spectacles, therefore i am running away from you' in body language.

There were actually a few cats in the house, one by one passed away. Teh was the last one remaining, until tonight.

Sometimes, i think those cats were Godsent. Not in a divine way, that is; they didn't just drop from the sky. They started roaming around the house at a crossroad of my family life. I was studying in Langkawi, my sisters were in Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam respectively. And that left my mom home alone most of the time after my grandma left the house to stay at her kampung.

And so the cats were there to accompany my mom most of the time.

Abu passed away at the vet, Teh kecik was killed in accident in front of the house, Tam was found dead lying in the bushes in the field opposite our house. And luckily, God gave us the chance to take care of Teh Besar til he passed away, and i would imagine that he passed away cuddled in between my mother, who has been sleeping downstairs since he was sick and my sister, Aiza, who has been coming back to Alor Setar from Kuala Lumpur for the past few weeks.

Teh battled with tick bites, cheesy abscesses, jaundice, dehydration, renal failure, and had attacks of seizures. For a cat the family considered as unmanly (he would come back home with scars, presumably attacks from other cats), it was a courageous effort on his part.

I was hoping the cat would be safe til i arrive back home next summer, so that my mama has a friend at home. But maybe i was asking too much. That's just how a cat lives. Eats, sleeps, inseminates, and dies.

And for my mum and my sister, for being wonderful bearers of those cats, i admire you both. Especially to my sister, who once drove back from KL few weeks ago because flight tickets back to Alor Setar ran out and she wanted so badly to come back to see Teh. May your compassion be rewarded by the powers that be.

Cats, as they say, may have 9 lives. And in their tenth life, they live in our memories forever.

Those cats might have not been our flesh and blood, but we feel as though we have lost a part of the family.

May you all find peace in cat heaven. Thank you for your clumsiness.
The rancid stench of corpses hung stagnant in the air filling my nostrils with an atypical mixture of biochemical reactions gone mad, of fermentations gone wrong.

Forget about your 250USD perfume. This is the perfume of death, the fragrance that accompanies you to the next life, if you believe there's any.

For the record, i only use Dashing 'talcum untuk jejaka' and sometimes, an aerosol spray of cheap deodorant every morning. And i smell 3 times better than you with your perfumes on.

Nothing brings you closer to death, than death itself lying motionless in front of you in forensics classes. Basically, in simpler words, a part of forensics is the study of 1001 ways to die. But beyond the homicidal and suicidal cases, deeper than the lacerations and punctured lungs, there are questions unanswered. Some remain there unanswered.

There's this feeling of emptiness , that nothingness of seeing a malfunctioned body. How he got that purplish red bruise on his forehead? More importantly, why? Was it a random hit and run or was there foul play, a history of bad blood with an old nemesis?

Once a body bag arrives, the language of forensics come to play.

"Hello there Mr. Ivan Ivanovich. I will be dissecting your body today." Except there was no reply. A complete hush. The pathologist started to describe every detail that would aid investigations. Sometimes they would tape record these descriptions for court usage. Age. Approximate age. Ethnicity. Height and weight. Appearance from the head to toe. Any wound noted for its form, shape, length, width, colour, consistency and possible origin. Chopped. Cut. Axed. Contused. Hammered. Punched. Knifed. Stabbed. Spooned, as in spooned eyeballs.

I wish i could have Sherlock Holme's analytical acumen to conjure up a theory just by observation. Sometimes i do wonder what pushes a man that far to incite such a murderous response. But evil itself does exist, as early as the annals of human history. A more appropriate answer would be 'why does it exist?'

From the Qur'an, in Surah Al-Ma'idah , verses 27 til 31 explained what could probably be the first documented murder in the history of the world. Cain, who presented God with an offering of plants, was jealous of God's acceptance of Abel's sacrifice which was, according to Ibn Kathir's 'Stories from the Qur'an' a fat she goat, while his got rejected. It angered him and he went on to murder his brother, Abel who offered little resistance even after knowing Cain's intention. "Be sure i will slay you." in verse 27, while the 28th verse contained Abel's response. "If you do stretch your hand against me, to slay me, it is not for me to stretch my hand against you to slay you."

The same story is mentioned in Judaism's Torah and Christianity's Holy Bible.

From a narration of a hadith presented in the book, they fought over a the rights to marry one of their sisters (and yes, they were allowed to in the early periods of creation), of which the Prophet Adam suggested them to offer their sacrifices to Allah. The chain of transmission might be disputable and that the Qur'an itself offers little information regarding the details of events that took place. Cain regretted his action and finally he learned how to dispose the body by burying it.

How many of you could take criticisms right in your face, let alone being rejected by God himself? No matter how truthful they are, criticisms, be it constructive or deconstructive are hard to take and it is the nature of human beings. It's probably the case of a big ego in Cain's case.

There is of course an element of jealousy, that someone else is better than you in certain things. Don't confuse jealousy with competitiveness, because one leads you to good things and the other, to nowhere land. The antidote of jealousy is contentment and a reflection of how lucky we are, and to differentiate between our wants and our needs.

In this case, Cain channeled his anger and murdered Abel. There's always patience, but he chose to follow his hatred. But how many of us are able to think rationally in times of pure emotional outbursts?

The extremes of good and evil are exposed in this story of Cain and Abel. There's a lot to learn from the stories of the Qur'an, and amazingly, you'll find a different perspective as you grow older and wiser.

But i gave up on the reason why evil does exist on earth. We could postulate that it's just God's lesson to human beings, that beyond these manifestations of weakness and frailties of His creation, lie a much deeper reason unknown to human beings. That human thinking is limited.

In the end, after all the forensics classes, i came to the conclusion that i've forgotten almost all of my anatomy knowledge!

PS : According to a friend, a Yale professor explained that the story could be seen as a sign of development of human into a more stratified society, with a social structure based on professions. In this case, Cain was a farmer of sorts, while Abel was a shepherd.
Some people live by the definition of others. They want to project a certain image of themselves on others.

As one of my favourite blogs opined that once you leave your life to be judged by others, then you will be left unhappy for the rest of your life.

Some want to be looked up as being the utmost superior being on earth, giving orders at their will. Others want to project the image of coolness in the view of others. Some just don't care.

By my appearance, i sometimes (always,actually) appear to have a bad hair day, because i just don't care how i look like. Even now, i don't really mind going bald but my mum wants to prolong the hairy version of her son and so therefore, i have to heed the command of the Queen. Not that i am much of a good son either.

And there were times when i didn't want to quote from the Qur'an in my blog because i thought that would project this pious image of myself on others, that i am a good man of sorts. The thing is, i am not and that would be misleading to others. But in one way, it was suppressing a part of me. In a larger context, i was doing something because of how others would see me.

Which is wrong, for me at least. Because once you leave your life to be primarily defined by others, you are fulfilling their thoughts, their determinants, their views and not yours. 'What would others think of me?' 'What if i do this? What if that?'.

Although yes, there are times when we should be shy of doing some things, some other times rather than being true to themselves, someone may make a move or take an action in order to be viewed good (or honestly bad) by others.

No, i am not saying i can tell what all the hearts conceal. It's a mystery of life. Of intentions. If you ever think of changing for the betterment of yourselves but you're too scared of what some might view of you, then think again.

If you think you're doing something just for the sake of recognition, then it's never too late to change yourselves.

You might fail in your goal for recognition of others about you which would make you either sad or unhappy. In other words, you define your own happiness and not let others do it for you.

I once answered to one of my teachers that my goal of being a doctor is to make people happy by making them healthy. Because the state of happiness would make people more charged up to do good things.

In the end, sins and virtues are best judged by God, and God alone.

'.....But who, for a people whose faith is assured, can give better judgement than God?'-5:48

Funny how i used to mention of being a simple guy.

Now i think i am much more complicated than what i used to be. In a good way that is.

So ask yourselves, what do you really want (and not what others would think of you or want you to be) and if you want it badly enough, as Paul Coelho mentioned, the world will conspire you towards it.
1. Scientists named the pathogen Brucella after the name of David Bruce, the pathologist who discovered the microbe. If one day, yes, one day, i were to discover one new disease or pathogen, would they name it Fikriosis? That sounds cool. But in the end, i would prefer to name it after the town where i am from. Yes, the Alor Setar Syndrome sounds super uber cool. Or Alorosis Setaritis.

2. Now i can see why people love twitter. It's because people don't have time to write lengthy articles or blog that often. They could just twit their status, how short it may be and people would reply to it. Life is moving on the fast lane. It's the age of instant noodles.

3. I am planning to enter blog4ft's competition. It's simple. You have to create a positive buzz about Federal territories through blogging. I am going to refine my post about Stadium Merdeka and if you find it good enough, you can vote for my entry. I have an idea looming in my head about Lorong Haji Taib and the notorious aura surrounding the area. But that would not create a positive buzz, would it?

4. In some unrelated stub, my former bandmate who once claimed that he planned to be single all his life got engaged last month. A grunge that he was, he looked the most unlikely to get married since he was ultra shy. But yeah, it brings a whole lot of personal meaning to the oft repeated phrase, 'Kita merancang, Allah yang menentukan.'