Category Archives: book


185840_10150977689717379_360543478_n-1I have been supporting Nila Tanzil Petersen in her amazing initiative to set up community libraries in the remote areas in eastern Indonesia, named, Rainbow Reading Garden (Taman Bacaan Pelangi) since its inception.

But it wasn’t until two years ago, when I went with her and another friend, Metta, to Flores to visit the libraries, that I realised what she was doing. The one in this picture is the library about an hour from Labuan Bajo town, which is an hour by smaller plane from Bali.
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On Discipline: What good is beating yourself up when you want love?

Some papers just come at exactly the right moment. Perhaps they always do—as with all things in life, but we just don’t realise it.

So there I was, mulling over the word “discipline” – discipline at work, discipline on physical exercise, discipline on diet, discipline on rest, etc. Then suddenly this paper was just delivered straight to my lap.
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The forty rules of the religion of love

[Bahasa Indonesia]

Taken from a beautiful novel by Elif Shafak titled The forty rules of love.

There are so many gems in the book, the only way to learn them is to read the book. I am merely writing the most obvious ones.

So here they are, the forty rules of the religion of love, as stated by Shams of Tabriz in the book.

Happy new year, love.
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How certain are we of God’s Love?

[Bahasa Indonesia]
One regular activity that I am so looking forward for during the week is the Fusus Al Hikam class at Paramadina, Pondok Indah, Jakarta on Wednesday nights.

I feel like I always receive something every single time I attend the class. It serves as a weekly reminder for me. A special invitation to go inside myself and to reflect on what is going on within me at that particular moment.

I have been meaning to share with you the stories. But so far I cannot think of a way to share it, in a way that you may see what I see; in a way that I can help you feel and understand what I feel.

Then I thought, why not. Let’s just do it. Share.

Last night we conversed about Moses—the third last chapter of Fusus. It was actually the sixteenth week we conversed about Moses.

This morning a friend asked: so what do you take from last night? (Thank you by the way, for reminding me to write this post).

My response: never ever give up on God’s Love, because He does not give up on you. He never gives up in giving His Love to you. His Compassion is without limit.

It is through such abundance of love that He gives. He gives us what we need most at any particular situation, every single time.

Moses is one of His Chosen Ones. God has brought Moses close to Him. When Moses was walking at night in the desert, he was cold. Moses’ body needed warmth. Moses’ soul was looking for the essence of warmth.

God revealed Himself as what Moses needed most at that time: fire. To warm Moses’ body and allow his soul to feel the warmth that he was yearning for. He becomes what he desire and the essence of desire.

God gives us what we need. In Moses case, what he needed was what also what he wanted, as he is always aligned with God’s Will. For us, what we need may not necessarily what want, and vice verca.

Yet God still gives. He does not give up on us. We just don’t realize it. We just don’t know. That’s when faith comes in.

We pray with certitude that God is listening (the question is do we listen?). We pray with certitude that He is the Best Arranger. We pray with certitude of God’s compassion.

I am talking about the kind of prayer that is more than just what we utter with our lips. Every single cell can utter the prayer. Every thought, every feeling, every action is a prayer, a request. Hence, prayer is a way of being: let’s live with certitude of His Compassion.

If and when we truly believe this with all our heart, when the longing in our soul for Him is so strong, our soul, our desire (towards Him) will move us. We shall seek and, God willing, He will guide us.

I remember another conversation on Christmas Day 2008 at Chisholme, Beshara. A friend asked: what do you want for Christmas? He then rephrased it: What do you want for Christmas, knowing for certain you are going to get it?

That left us—at that time—with some questions: How certain are we of God’s generosity? When we ask, how certain are we that He listens and responds? Are we really listening to the response?

I shall end this note with the quote from Sayyid Husayn Nasr: “At every moment of the day, we have the choice of either forgetting God and remembering Him.”

We have this option, every single second of our life.

On writing and being a writer

[Bahasa Indonesia]
I was amazed, puzzled, and somewhat flattered when some friends asked whether I have ever considered writing books.

“Um, no,” was my initial immediate answer. Short though perhaps not that sweet.

Then my second answer came about as I pondered upon the topic a bit longer, “On what?” I had no idea the kind of book I can write that will entice people enough to read through or even buy.

You see, I have never really seen myself as a writer, much less a good writer. I don’t think I have the passion for writing. Not the way some of my friends have. Those people see writing per se as their passion. Writing has been put on the spotlight as the main subject itself. I don’t.

I see writing as a way to express what I think, what I feel. To express my passions, yes, but not as a stand alone passion.

Nevertheless, as a huge fan for ponder, I gave the comment some more pieces of my mind. I consulted another friend about this—a fellow zinister whose blog is one of my favorites. I am sure she too does not think of herself as a writer.

She said, “Why (write a book)? I would prefer your current modes of writing, through blogs and email circulation. They do not cost me a dime. Books, I need to buy.” Good point.

Don’t get me wrong. I have the utmost respect for writers—gifted writers of published and unpublished books. Books have been among my best friends and I would not have them—nor would I have acquired this much insights and knowledge—had it not for their writers.

Last night another friend argued, “Well, with books all your thoughts and ideas will be compiled in much more compact and organized form. Plus they can reach much wider audience.” True, maybe. But what am I writing about? Who am I reaching out to?

During a discussion a couple of weeks ago, a fellow participant asked me why I did not say a word in the last session. I said I had nothing necessary to add. He said, “But you should. I want to learn from you, too.” True as well. Very interesting, in fact. I have never considered my silence as a show of hesitation to share.

Still, for the time being, I will agree with my friend’s suggestion to stick with blogs and email circulation. For now.

[Pic 1 – personal; 2 – Hany’s]

The Witch of Portobello

[Bahasa Indonesia]
I wasn’t that interested in Paulo Coelho’s novels anymore. With all due respect to the gifted writer. It was just not my cup of tea.

So when the Witch of Portobello came out, I was not exactly running to the bookstore to get it.

That was, before a trusted friend recommended the book to me.

I was curious. I knew and trusted her preference in books.

On the same day she sms-ed me to recommend the book, I went to the bookstore, bought myself a cup of coffee, and sat at the coffee shop for hours reading that book.

I went home and continued reading it. I finished the book in one day. I could not put it down.

Then I told another friend about this book. Her response was unexpected. She said, “So what’s the result?” An sharp and odd response to a story about reading a book. It was a good question though. What was the result?

The result was it got me thinking about something I had not thought about for quite some time. Threw me back into an introspective and retrospective mode.

So if there will be a significant change in my life in the near future, you can blame it on Coelho. Or thank him.

Book: Syech Siti Jenar – By Achmad Chodjim

Note: the book is in Indonesian language. Klik ini untuk Bahasa Indonesia.

I finally have finished reading Syech Siti Jenar by Achmad Chodjim. Thanks to the easter long weekend holiday. This posting is mostly taken from the last chapter of the book.

Syech Siti Jenar’s view is a blend of middle eastern sufi and Javanese mystics. The emphasis is not physical, rather it is based on Love, in the form of manunggaling kawula kawan Gusti, tauhid al wujud, the oneness of the Creator and the creation.

He argued that religion will be beautiful if it is in line with God’s law of nature, which is the existence of various forms and beings, as opposed to uniform existence.

Let religion grows in harmony with wherever it grows, in harmony with the local ecosystem. In his case, it was the land of Java. His teaching is an assimilation of the Arab-based Islam and the Javanese culture.

Alquran, he said, should be understood by its substance. Not an easy thing. Thus, the choice of teacher (guru) is crucial. The teacher should be a concrete manifestation of Alquran, able to provide guidance. Someone who understands the law, smart and with quality ibadah (not sure how to translate this).

Understanding the law means understanding the social rules of life in that particular environment or state. Understanding the life ethics. And the local social values.

Quality ibadah does not mean somebody who do all the rituals. Rather, it means his unconditional dedication to life without wanting anything in return. His sincerity in life which is reflected in his everyday life.

The teacher should be somebody who are able to hold himself together against all the temptations in life. Someone who has smart analitical thought and is proven to be able to face the challenges in life.

Siti Jenar also emphasized on the revival of self. A life with true rights, independence and destiny. An existence that does not dominate nor dominated by other being.

I myself think I need more time to contemplate upon the book, much more to implement it in my life. But I hope this is useful, for you and for me.