This Ramadan, I was taught kindness and forgiveness by a Catholic.

Ramadan is coming to a close. I was thinking of this holy month. Of what it means to me. If I had learnt anything more of myself from it this year. I even typed ‘spirit of Ramadan‘ online, hoping to read posts of what that means to other Muslims. The more I thought about it, the more I decided that without a doubt, the most impact an individual has personally had on me this Ramadan is Mr. Sim Siak Heong, who is a Malaysian Chinese and a Catholic. Through his actual actions. Not just words, or prayer, or advice but through actual deed.

67-year-old Mr. Sim was the victim of a terrible road bully incident earlier this month, where he had accidentally hit the new Peugeot car of 30-year-old Siti Fairrah in a car park in Kuantan, Malaysia. She not only got out the car and heaped abuse on him like some crazy thug, and demanded cash on the spot, but hit his car repeatedly with a steering lock.

Thankfully it was recorded on video. It was very painful for me to watch the video as I can’t help but feel really bad as a Malay and a Muslim. I also felt angry that a senior citizen was abused so badly. I actually had to pause the video several times and considered closing the page, but I forced myself to watch it till the end. I am glad for the existence of the video recording. I look at it as a valuable lesson and reminder of what can happen if I experience rage at someone but fail to control it and rein it in.

Each time I watch the video, I am reminded yet again of how lacking my character is compared to Mr. Sim’s. Because he forgave her, but as for me I don’t know if I could, if it had happened to me, or worse, a loved one especially an elder relative of Mr. Sim’s age. And amazingly, not only did he forgive her, he expressed sadness when she was subsequently charged and punished by the courts, saying that she did not deserve the punishment. I read in this article that he said:

“I feel sorry for her. She doesn’t deserve it at all.”

“I have forgiven her and I urge the public to do the same. There is no need to condemn her anymore.”

I hope the person who took the video pats him or herself on the back for doing such an important public service. It’s because of the video, which understandably outraged a lot of people, that the police pursued the case. Siti Fairrah was fined RM5,000 and ordered to do 240 hours of community work after she pleaded guilty to intentionally causing damage to Mr. Sim’s car.

Kudos to the Malaysian police as well for still going ahead and taking action against her despite the saintly Mr. Sim declining to lodge a report, even when the police advised him to do so. And to the general Malaysian public online regardless of race and religion who condemned the road rage incident. And yes, to Siti Fairrah as well, for admitting what she did was wrong and for apologising to Mr. Sim publicly.

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I’d like to put here an excerpt from a beautiful post I came across on a site called Islamway.net, as I was surfing around online finding and reading what ‘spirit of Ramadan‘ means to other people.

Ramadan is a celebration of God’s guidance to humanity, through the Quran, which is a guide for doing good and a warning against evil. In order to bring the soul into harmony with the Quranic ideals of belief and virtue, fasting is prescribed as a way for individuals to come closer to God and to lift their souls to new heights of piety. In doing so, the entire human body is able to transform itself into an agent of positive moral and social change that seeks to replace miserliness with generosity, anger with patience, revenge with love, and war with peace—in effect, replacing good with evil in the world.

Of course, kindness and forgiveness are for all times, not just Ramadan, but I feel that’s when we Muslims, as we fast, are more reminded to think and do more for the lesser off and to reflect on our character.

When I say ‘spirit of Ramadan‘, I am also referring to virtues like patience and calm that Mr. Sim had displayed when confronted with such an ugly face of road rage, and the provocation it challenged him with.

I think it’s such a beautiful thing when we are taught these virtues from people of other religious faiths or even people with no religious faith as well. It reminds us that there must be mutual respect. Because at the end of the day, life comes down to treating everyone else the same way we ourselves wish to be treated. That sounds so easy and logical, it sounds so easy to remember, yet strangely and unfortunately it’s apparently so easy for some of us to forget.

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I can’t seem to find a decent photo of Mr. Sim. This one is taken from a still of a video. From forum.lowyat.net, via Google Image. Click to go there.

The following video is the Astro Awani interview of Mr. Sim from where the image above was from. It’s in Malay.

I just sighed in sadness when I watched it. Damn, what a terrible thing to have happened to such a kind soul.

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“I am a Catholic. In our religion, and in all religions, it teaches us to love the ones who wrong us.”

 – Sim Siak Heong

Thank you, Mr. Sim.

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Ramadan Mubarak

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Image from couplewords.tumblr.com. Click to go there.

That’s ‘Have a blessed Ramadan’, and I wish that to all Muslims who read this.

I’m so happy it’s finally here again. Great timing too. Been going through some personal and work challenges. Demons rearing their head again. Feelings of hopelessness sometimes. Prayer helps, but it’s great Ramadan is here too to help me stay more focused and grounded. To remind me more to just think quietly and reflect on the many things I still have to be grateful for. What I need to do to feel better, be better. What I can do for others.

As for the little things, I’ve decided this year I won’t be buying a single thing more. Not a single decoration item for the house, not baking nor buying any cookies or cakes for Hari Raya, no new Baju Melayu, nothing, zilch. I don’t want to do any of these ‘festive’ stuff because it takes away the focus of what’s important about the month. I won’t visit the bazaars set up for the season, I won’t indulge in any of the kuehs or delicacies, because I don’t normally anyway. Basically, when it comes to shopping and food consumption, it’s just like any other time of the year.

This year I’d like to focus on a more intimate and spiritual Ramadan. And the way I see it, it’s also the perfect time for me to try go fully vegetarian again, instead of just when I eat alone. As my personal expression of compassion for God’s creatures. That sounds pompous actually haha. But it stays.

I also would love very much to pick up Arabic, to be closer to the holy Qur’an. I have a book+CD guide I bought at a bookstore, and I can’t wait to dive into that. Now that is going to be a long and challenging journey. Hopefully in some years I’ll achieve being able to speak/read/write well enough to understand the holy book in its language, insya’Allah.

Related post: Ramadan 101

Ramadan to me

An example of a greeting card in Malay, sent to relatives and friends during the month of Ramadan. Copyright reserved by printer.

Dusk tomorrow will make the first full week of fasting for Ramadan. My first Sunday of this fasting month. I know I’ll be sleeping in late.

It’s going to feel like cheating, since the fast is supposed to be from dawn to dusk (about 5.45am till about 7.15pm). After the pre-dawn meal and Subuh prayer, I’ll hit the sack and stay there till noon maybe, instead of getting up again at 8 o’clock. So that’s only 7 hours of fasting tomorrow. But I really need the rest!

Every year it’s the same. Tough the first 2 or 3 days of fasting, and then it’s like the body settles down to the new rhythm, where I don’t crave water and food as much. After that point however, for me at least, there is still a lingering tiredness. I think it’s because it’s just one month of the whole year. So it’s always a bit of a shock to the body every year every time Ramadan comes around. Well, it’s suppose to be a challenge.

I guess some people ask: what’s the point of having a month to fast to empathize with the less fortunate? A month of self-restraint and discipline by abstaining from sex, using foul language, naughty thoughts, and acts of anger? A month of more charity and good deeds? What, do all these just during Ramadan and then forget all about it once the month is over?

Well I think of Ramadan as a reminder to be a better person, among other things. We’re only human, so good acts may lessen over time. Good thoughts and intentions and all the other goody-goody stuff may erode and fade over the next eleven months haha, then comes Ramadan again to remind and motivate me again to try be a better person. Among other things, to once again remember the poor and hungry, the disabled and the other less fortunate, and to therefore be grateful for what I have (and to whine less!) and to give more or what I can afford to charity.