Saturday, June 21, 2014

Vocabulary Game

A simple vocabulary game which can be done to suit any level.

1. Divide students into small groups.
2. Provide each group with dictionary. I suggest 2 dictionaries for a group of 4.
3. Give students the first word. For example I gave the word 'fame'
4. Each student will take turn to write a new meaningful word based from the word given. The student can only change one letter of the word at a time.
5. They can refer to the dictionary to find words. 
6. The group with the most number of meaningful words win the game.

Extra note:
1. I ask my students to write the meaning of the words they write and ask them to explain the meaning to their friends when we go through the wordlist they have created.
2. My students are in form 3, I did the game for only 15 minutes. Throughout this game, they found and used many words they have never come across before!

So, good luck trying this in your class. ;)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Whisper Game!

My Form Ones,

Since you will have PT3 listening and speaking tests in three years time, let's play the Whisper Game!

1. 10 people in a group.
2. Line up in a straight line.
3. Teacher whispers the sentence to the 10th student.
4. The student then takes turn to whisper until it reaches the 1st student.
5. The 1st student writes on a piece of paper.
6. Repeat the steps with other students and give more sentences.
7. The group with the most accurate sentences win!

- A great activity to reinforce certain sentence elements by giving similar sentence structures.
- in a cooperative class, teacher can discuss student's answers in front of the class to highlight their mistakes and provide corrections.

School-based assessment, why the rush?

School-Based Assessment (SBA) started in 2012 among the Form Ones. Yet, after various chorus of disapproval among the public especially from teachers and parents highlighting different issues, it was postponed in February until April 2014. Then, on the 15th of June, after only a few months of ‘re-examining’ SBA, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that all secondary schools have to conduct their SBA namely Pentaksiran Tingkatan 3 (PT3) between July and October 2014.
The question is, why the rush?

Allow me to start with a statement, I believe the people in charge of researching and planning the SBA have yet to realise the realities of our education. Please bear in mind; by reality, I do not only talk about slow-servers to key-in marks.

If we observe the current world trend, many countries had or are moving towards decentralisation of education. One of it is by submitting to SBA approach. Countries like United States of America, New Zealand, Australia, and Finland; often regarded as advanced countries, have already used SBA for many years, some since the 1970s. Yes, they took SBA only after years and years of research and adapting it to suit their context!

In a newspaper report, Wan Saiful Wan Jan and Dr. Arran Hamilton from CfBT Education Malaysia suggested, “The Ministry of Education did the right thing in implementing School-Based Assessment.”

Simplistically speaking, I tend to agree with their general statement. However, before jumping on the bandwagon hastily, we need to first examine and identify our current context. Then, we will find out the reason why, despite being the favoured education approach by most education powerhouse, SBA cannot be fully-utilised in Malaysia before we address our realities. In this write-up, I will focus on three main realities we have to first deal with.

Reality Number One: Writing focused examination-based v/s the new whole-rounded English PT3 and our perception

Being an English teacher, I prefer to touch on the English subject. As I have written extensively in an open reply to a letter before, the target and the focus of our education have always been examination. By examination, it is the reading and writing but mostly writing, and yeah, grammar accuracy at the top of it.

Here comes PT3, introducing the idea of 3 different tests in English. Written test almost similar to the previous PMR type papers and another two tests involving speaking and listening.

I have no further question for the written exam but speaking and listening? Without much explanation to teachers and students of the format since SBA first started in 2012, now, there are listening and speaking tests?

Ideally, I agree to the listening and speaking tests. As an English teacher, it is my highest hope to have students who are able to read, write, listen and speak using English confidently, accurately and fluently.  Yet, the question arises, why the rush? Why can’t we stop and prepare the teachers for this new approach first? Why can’t we take time to develop the assessment method to be shared among teachers?

How are we even going to run the listening test? Are we supplying the schools with enough headphones and computers or are we only going to play the audio on that cheap, used school’s speakers? It is a fact that many schools lack the facility to conduct a decent listening examination.

Or maybe we ask the teachers to read the text loudly to students? I believe we need to address all these matters because they bring about the issue of validity and reliability to the assessment.

Most importantly, are the schools and the public ready? And how are we going to grade the students to be clustered into SBP, MRSM, Premier and Science schools? Many parents will want to know this and how will PT3 affect their children’s chances to enter prestigious boarding schools.

In fact, the fact that there are many teachers clueless about PT3, including me and many others you can find in teacher’s Facebook groups, already indicates that we are not ready to carry it out. If we are not fully ready, then why are we forcing it on our current Form Three students? Don’t they deserve to go through an education which is already tried and tested through numerous pilot projects?

Therefore, again, I agree PT3 is a right step forward. Nonetheless, if we are hasty in carrying it out the results may not turn out as expected. It is a proven case with rushed policy such as PPSMI, the kind of decision which has cost us not only the millions, but also the bright future of our youths.

Reality Number Two: The right man for the right job

I took the liberty to read a paper by Salmiah Jaba (2013). She mentioned something of great education importance, even greater than the debate of whether PT3 or SBA should be continued. 

The never-ending issue of non-option teachers which is long overdue, but still remain unsolved. My dear fellow Malaysians who care for our education, ultimately, this is among the key concerns we need to address. The biggest hindrance, a major obstacle which needs to be challenged before we can start thinking about implementing new education policy. 

It is to be noted that Salmiah’s notion was based from various other reports, journals and academic papers written by Mohamad Azhar (2006), Rohayah (2007), Abdul Zubir (2007) and Tan (2010) to name a few. There are many more out there, even formal education reports sent to the Education Ministry which touched on this grave matter.

Siva Subramaniam (1995) in his paper ‘Upholding the Dignity of the Teaching Profession’ also mentioned there are cases of teachers being transferred without referring to option quota. This in turn results to lack of teachers in certain options. 

In addition, Malaysia’s biggest teaching union, NUTP laid a claim in 2012 that there were more than 25,000 non-option teachers teaching English. And you wonder why our standard of English is declining?

Basically, it is useless to blame the teacher when he was trained in another major but then forced to teach English at school simply because ‘there is no English teacher’. Obviously, the solution to this matter must come from the top level through good management of human resources.

Why do we need teachers to teach their major subject? Simply because we want them to teach what they know, what they are good at. We cannot afford to have someone with English major teaching the students Kemahiran Hidup Bersepadu. It will be a disaster. Sadly, in Malaysia, this kind of disaster is common, rampant and considered normal. You know, the tidak apa attitude. It is eating us alive.

Think about it, no good policy, not even the internationally-used SBA, can be implemented effectively when you do not have the right person doing the right job. Maybe that is why we have yet to fully develop the potential of our ideally constructed education policies and ideas, because of poor human resources management.

Reality Number Three: Heavy Non-Teaching Related Workloads

In her paper, Salmiah Jaba also suggested that teachers, the main education workforce who are supposed to support the idea of holistic, continuous and formative assessments in schools – have yet to fully accept SBA. 

One of the reasons for it is the adverse emotions caused by heavy workloads, especially as teachers are also required to perform too much of the non-teaching related clerical tasks.
Honestly, when I entered the teaching workforce, I taught my main role is to teach. Yet, after I met the reality of teaching in Malaysia, I have to admit there are times when teaching are not the top priority of a teacher. Times like when you have to chase datelines of keying in the same type of marks repeatedly because some people just cannot develop a one-stop-database, which is functional and not slow of course! Some of us simply prefer teachers to do things (which are non-teaching related) repeatedly rather than efficiently.

Or such time like when you know you have to finish those non-teaching related files because a superior is going to come and rate you based on them, like is it colourful or not? Or is your file divider attractive enough? It does not really matter if the contents of the file do not help you improve your teaching.

Oh, talking about files. Try guessing the number of files being wasted in our recent attempt of SBA before it was postponed? You know, when teachers were asked to keep one file of evidences for each student they have for each subject before being told recently (after teachers doing it obediently for 2 years) that they do not need to keep those evidences anymore. What are to happen to the already kept files and evidences? What about the time spent by these teachers to make sure the files were kept nicely? Apparently, a teacher’s time is not something we value as a society.

Hence, in order to fully-utilise good education policy like the SBA approach, we should first consider having Management Officer or Clerical Helper to assist with school administration so that teachers can concentrate on teaching. Teaching which is more than just a teacher entering the classroom to chalk-and-talk. Teaching which involves pre-lesson planning, while-lesson facilitation, post-lesson reflection, suitable assessment instruments and materials building, emotional and psychological bonding with students, understanding of social reality, lesson differentiation and many more than what we understood of it.

No, I am not merely saying this. Try to imagine a hospital where the doctors, other than treating patients, need to take care of the files, hospital management system, inventory-keeping, drugs-labelling and other clerical tasks. The precious skills of the doctor will then be wasted doing work that can be done by a semi-skilled worker.

Until we learn to look at teaching as a professional career, no education policy is going to be good enough, not until then. Now, if we are to ask ourselves should we continue with SBA?

The ultimate question rings again, why the rush?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

An open reply to Miss Nadilla Jamil, from a secondary school English teacher.

First and foremost, I would like to express my utmost gratitude to Miss Nadilla Jamil for having the passion and taking much interest on the issue of English education in Malaysia. It is kind of rare nowadays to find people writing or reading about English and education. Well, at least not as many as those who prefer to watch Korean Drama, Maharaja Lawak or read love novels and not care about what is going on in our education.

Let me start by saying I passionately believe a person like Miss Nadilla Jamil will make a good parent. The kind we need to have more in our society nowadays. Furthermore, I believe a parent like Miss Nadilla will take much interest about her child’s education to come and discuss with the teacher to provide more guidance for her child at home. Yes, home, where learning begins, definitely not school. Most of the time, as a society, I find out that we have always misinterpreted the function of schools or teachers. No, education does not start in school and it must not only start with teachers. It is such a shame and a huge waste if a child’s education only starts in school.
Now, being a secondary school teacher I am entitled to reply to her open letter. Let me provide you with some background of my teaching career. I am currently teaching in a secondary school, a Sekolah Agama Bantuan Kerajaan (SABK) which falls under state and federal administration but I am hired by the Ministry of Education. Having a B. Ed. TESL degree, my first option is English and I am teaching a form one, two form three and two form five classes in my school. Being students of SABK, they have fewer English periods where the form one and form three only get three periods per week while the form five as much as only four periods.

To discuss on a few matters which need to be straighten out

Thanks to the open letter by Miss Nadilla Jamil, at least there are a few perspectives being conveyed. As I do not know what is the background of Miss Nadilla, I tend to see the open letter as coming from a concerned person in the society but observing the linguistic items being used in the letter, she must have had some background in English education or linguistic or she must be an avid reader in the field. Although I am thankful for her honest open letter, there are a few things I need to point out which I tend to disagree with (with reasons of course). I will organise my points and ideas to be discussed based on the inputs from Miss Nadilla’s open letter in five different points. And yes, I save the best for the last so hold on tight until the end of it okay?

Point Number 1: You cannot teach English by using other language.

Frankly speaking, I thought so too. It is definitely not naive to think in such a way because English is a language and a tool to be used, to be mastered. Yet, is there any better language which we can use to learn English? Yes, the native language or the mother-tongue.

When I started teaching in my current school I felt like a Mr. Peter Brown, an Englishman, using full English in my lesson, from A to Z, from giving instructions to them as a group to explaining to individual students. Then I asked them, do you understand? All of them nodded and answered a long satisfying yeeeessssss! Throughout and at the end of the lesson I always give more practice questions. As expected, some failed to answer correctly but to my astonishment, most of them submitted the same answers (They copied one another). They were not bothered to try. Why? Simply because they do not understand the questions, not even the instructions. In an ideal classroom situation, students who do not understand will raise their hand and ask questions. Well dear, the reality is no student is going to put their reputation at risk by raising hand and asking questions. They prefer to keep quiet and say yes every time you ask them if they understood. This is the common situation in the classroom, a situation which we have to deal with.

Miss Nadilla Jamil, you said by all means take all the time I need to adjust my lexical choices, paraphrase, slow down my speech and use paralinguistic elements in my classroom to accommodate my student’s linguistic level. Theoretically speaking, you are right, I would love it if I can take as much time I need for the sake of my students. Yet realistically, I just do not have the time. With only four or five periods per week and a lot of things to cover from vocabulary, grammar drills, essay formats, literature contents and others; added up with the instable condition of our timetables when at times the teacher may not be able to enter the classroom because of external courses and programmes, at the other times there are school events during your period, minus the examination weeks, school holidays and so on. Now, in an ideal classroom situation all the students will be motivated, willing and eager to learn. You as the teacher only need to provide them the content and facilitate them. Well dear, in reality before you can even begin teaching you need to take some time to arrange your students, discipline, motivate and grab their attention. From having a 35 or 40 minutes per period, it is considered lucky if you only need at most five minutes for classroom management! So, as I said earlier, time my dear, is something we teachers do not have in the classroom.

To add an informative perspective to my argument that we can actually teach English using the student’s mother tongue, in the field of linguistic there is the theory of Universal Grammar which is said to be proposed by Noam Chomsky, a well-known philosopher and linguist of our modern era. It is about us, humans having a commonly built linguistic context with similar language properties being shared by all human languages. If we observe carefully, the structure of sentences for different languages are almost the same. There are nouns, verbs, adjectives, subjects, predicates and other linguistic items. Most language has these functions only to be used in different arrangements and obviously with different vocabulary and pronunciation to separate the languages. So, by explaining and comparing English sentence structures to the mother tongue (in my case, Malay language), it somehow helped students to understand better.

In addition, a personal experiment which I carried out after getting tired from the tireless tries to explain ‘how to write and arrange the structure of an article essay in the Directed Writing Section in Paper 2 SPM’; I tried using Malay to explain. The next thing I know, most of my students managed to write an article essay. Even those who do not understand the question, they were able to at least arrange the structure of the essay and the points given according to what I taught them; using paragraphs, sequence connectors and the main points. If you read their essay (the weak ones), it is incomprehensible but at least they submitted an essay! Before this they used to submit empty papers so this is kind of a huge achievement for them (and for me, yeay!) considering that they are going to face the big SPM this year. Only after getting them to submit not an empty paper, then only I can go with my next agenda, for them to write an intelligible essay.

Moreover, today on the market, there is also this book ‘English itu Mudah’ initiated by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) teachers. I strongly encourage those who are comfortable learning in Malay language and who want to understand grammar items better to buy this book as it provides explanations and examples in Malay. If you go through the book obediently, you will be able to understand grammatical properties, relate them to the structures in Malay language and thus help you to write better English sentence. We all know that writing is ‘the thing’ being tested in our education system, so yeah. Speaking can come after your writing because it is the way of our education and as for me; there is no harm in taking a step at a time, as long as it keeps the students ‘in’ with what you are teaching. After all, it is as said by Stephen Krashen in his famous ‘i + 1’ input hypothesis. Give students something which is slightly above their level, to keep their confidence and motivation up to help them progress through the learning.

Point Number 2: In Malaysia, English is about SPM, the big examination

Yeah, I did say SPM and described it as ‘the big examination’ because that is actually the summary of our education. After a long 11 years of studying, SPM is the answer. Well, personally I do not believe it is right to summarise education as SPM. Yet hey! Let us admit our current reality. Everyone wants to know about SPM. The universities look at SPM and even scholarships are given out based on SPM results. Why? It is because contrary to your passionate believe that education does not go on in the committee rooms of our legislative buildings, our education actually starts there, in the meeting room. We teachers, we are merely the officers who carried out orders to achieve the targets set by people who met in the meeting room. They believe SPM is the target and by SPM, it is always about reading, writing and grammar!

You honestly said, when our (read: the teacher’s) discretion is removed, our education will stop working. By saying this, you allow me an opportunity to honestly agree to what you said. However, I will not say it has stop working. It is still working but the question is, is it still working correctly the way we want it to? The recent internationally-recognised PISA and TIMSS results, the decline in our student’s discipline, the lack of interest among students when we talk about school and classroom and also the lack of interest from parents to participate in school activities thus empowering the function of school in their children’s belief system are among a few examples which have honestly provided answers to that honest question. Parents, admit it, more of your kind come to school to receive that RM100 Bantuan Persekolahan 1Malaysia than the number of those who are there during school PIBG meetings. To those who came, who donated, who voiced out opinions and ideas and supported school’s activities; we teachers would like to convey our deepest and sincerest appreciation to you. You are the nation-builder, by taking care of your child’s education and not make us, teachers, feel like everything is burdened on our shoulders when they are actually your sons and daughters. Again, thank you.

Dear Miss Nadilla Jamil. Yes, like you I believe education is much more than written examination. Yet, being realistic, I must say I tend to focus on their performance in written exam. This is due to the fact that it is the written exam that matters in our system. Well, at least I passionately believe this is one of the biggest issues for teachers. Especially for teachers whose students are sitting for big examination like me. Trust me, you do not want your students to slack out in the written examination because if they do, you are the one who will be on the hot seat of test and trial. The education officers are going to come to your school that ‘did not make the grade like every other school’ to ‘find out what’s wrong’; and the principal and administrative school officers are going to come looking for you to get answers. No, they do not want explanation or listen to you rambling about ‘the right way’ to teach, they just want answers.

And then all the smirks and the head shakes you will get from fellow teachers for putting your school and them in that position to be scrutinised and examined like dissected frogs in a biology laboratory. Open to the eye of the public, to be mentioned in every district and state meetings as ‘the bad example to be followed’ in front of fellow teachers from other schools. You will not want that to happen when you receive calls or visits from concern parents (at least IF you are lucky to have parents who are concerned enough to discuss about their child with you) who will ask questions as to why is this (bad result) happening to my child? Your name, your reputation and your future are at stake. Yet do not get me wrong, it is not about me, the teacher. It is about the students themselves. It is because at the end of the day, you will be jeopardising the future of your very own students when they fail to make the grade like their every other friends. As a teacher, that will be the last thing you would want in your entire career.

Point Number 3: English is fun and grammar is just a part of English

So we have arrived to the next point. You said English is fun. Yeah, everyone thinks so but is it fun? Well, it should be fun! I should bring my games, movies, do act out and role plays for students to enjoy. Yet again, at the end of the day, everything is about the ability of students to answer the examination papers and by that let me emphasis on it again, the ability to write an essay in the examination. Therefore, no! you (read: Miss Fadilla) are not right when you said as a teacher I am not supposed to be grammar Nazis. Yes, I do not want to be a Nazi but I just have to. I need to be grammar Nazi because in the exam, there will be 20 out of 35 marks for language in the Directed Writing section. Or the fact that the marking scheme for Continuous Writing ask you to identify if the essay has multiple errors, less clarity or count the number of error free paragraphs?

Can you see? By language they mean, how many errors? So, yeah grammar Nazi, that is me. *Smirk* Grammar is not only there to make sense of semantics. In our education system, grammar is everything! I tried my best not to correct my students’ grammar when we do exercises or at least I used the approach where I corrected particular grammar mistakes which were committed repeatedly for them to realise the mistakes and not do it again. However, now, I can proudly say this, that if it is not because of my teachers who drilled my grammar and punished my mistakes (while allowing rooms for fun English of course!), I can never acquire the language in the way I have acquired it now. It is far from perfect, yes, but at least for Malaysians, if we are good in grammar, we ARE good in grammar (Say the ‘are’ Harith Iskander’s style). Sometimes, even better than those using the language as their native tongue, you know? So, thank you Grammar Nazis!

Point Number 4: The power of home and parents

Well, well, well, this is one of the points you mentioned which I cannot disagree with. In order to learn English, we need to provide a linguistic environment for our students. A very good point indeed, Miss Nadilla. Therefore, we need to always speak in English and encourage the students to do the same in order to provide the learning environment for them. Then, you asked a question, “If not you, as English teachers play the part, then who?” Now, to answer this blunt and direct question, allow me to share with you the story about SK Ulu Lubai in Limbang, Sarawak.

Once upon a time, there was a small normal primary school inhabited by normal teachers and normal students who I believe would like to care more about playing happily rather than studying for examination. Yet, this particular school has achieved international awards and national recognition for being successful in producing successful students. A fellow teacher of mine who used to teach in Sarawak once told me, “We went to a sport tournament. I was shocked to find out that the students from that school use English among them during practice session.” Well, I was shocked too. It is no wonder the school received Commonwealth award, was enlisted to receive a UNESCO award and received cooperation with international education organisations from the United Kingdom and Singapore.

The question is how they managed to do it? Put aside the fact that it is a small school where it is easier to manage and obviously with less administrative burdens for teachers as compared to other bigger schools. (Administrative burdens and teaching? *Sigh*) When I read about them, I found out that the key factor was the cooperation between the local community (read: the parents) and the school. The teachers ask the students to use English all the time, even at home. When the students do not use English at home, the parents will tell the teachers and they will work out something for the students. This kind of cooperation is magical! It is what we really need. Like what I mentioned earlier, ‘Yes, home, where learning begins, definitely not school.’

I do not mean to generalise parents but let us all ask these question to ourselves, how many of us (read: parents) care to check if their child has done the homework given, or how is their child behaving at school, or what extra input does their child needs to improve academically? This is the crux of this issue, a fact we have to accept, that learning starts at home. Most of us teachers, we are more than willing to help, assist and facilitate parents, provide feedbacks and extra guidance needed at school but education has and must start from home. If only I can make a fatwa about this! At least, that is what I passionately believe in. Ever wondered why many children of teachers tend to be successful academically? Maybe, just maybe because as teachers, we tend to care more about academic achievement and we make sure our children care too. I repeat, I do not mean to generalise parents, I am simply asking us to rethink about the need to cooperate between parents and teachers for the sake of their children. To stop pointing fingers and obviously it has to start with the parents. Is it easier for a parent to step aside one day to come to school and meet the teachers or for a teacher to go to every student’s house to meet with the parents? I myself am teaching a total amount of 140 students more or less in three different subjects! So, parents, please consider to ask yourselves that question too.

Point Number 5: One education solution for all in our 1Malaysia? 

We have come to the last point, finally. Miss Nadilla gave a simplistic comparison in her letter. I would like to point out that IF and IF ONLY teaching English to unmotivated learners can be equalled to giving vaccine shots to small babies; it would be a lot easier for all of us then! The thing about teaching English is there is one-for-all remedy or vaccine which we can use to provide the solution for every learner. I believe this is also the case for any other subjects in education. Learners are different to one another, different in different situations, in different settings or environment with different motivations and targets. Hence my point is learners are always different. They bring different problems, ideas, motivations and targets to school with them and therefore all of us should stop trying to find a one-size-fits-all solution. It does not work that way, not at all. By all of us I am pointing at myself, at the education officers, at those in the ministry, at parents and at passionate believers like Miss Nadilla Jamil. We are all concern but there is no way we can provide one vaccine shot for everyone. Decidedly, we can force our vaccine shot on them but forcing brings different meaning than providing.

Since the World Cup is ‘the thing’ nowadays. I would like to imagine us, education stakeholders, the teachers, parents, administrators, ministry and the community as a football team. Everyone in the team needs to do what is expected of them. The goalkeeper needs to work on his reflective, positioning and handling skills; the midfielder needs to focus on improving long shots, passes, volleys and on the field vision while the striker needs to be able to dribble creatively and shoot for goals. If everyone in the team plays their part accordingly then our football team may have achieved what was promised to us earlier, World Cup qualification by 2014. *Smirk again*
The thing about our education team is, what is the vision? What are we trying to achieve? What kind of students we want to produce? Let’s take English. Do we want our students to be able to speak or to write fluently? Are we following the British style or the American style or maybe the Indian style of English? Or should we focus on building our Malaysian style of English? If that is so, what is this Malaysian style of English we are talking about? Is it about writing grammatically flawless essays or about being able to convey ideas fluently in English or is it about creating generations of Malaysian who are at least able to read and understand English materials?
All of these questions are necessary to be answered before we start to point fingers at each other. And please do not ONLY look at us teachers when it comes to education issues. We do what we have to do. We do what is expected of us and that is to teach the students to be able to answer examinations. It may not be the right thing but that is what everybody wants. We are only strikers in football team and our job is to score goals. It is also to be noted that in order for us to score goals, we need successful through balls from our midfielders. The defenders need to tackle and feed the balls to midfielders while the goalkeeper needs to keep the goal save from opponent scoring. Yet, most importantly, all of us wait for decisions from the manager who needs to have a vision first before being able to decide on the tactics effectively. Last but not least, it is already confirmed that without a suitable manager, even a highly reputable team with years of success like Manchester United has failed to perform.

Thank you again, Miss Nasilla Jamil and fellow citizens alike!

Before I end, I would like to once again thank Miss Nadilla Jamil for her kind intention and passionate believe. Please continue to do what you are doing. I would rather speak, discuss and argue about education than talk about which celebrity has the biggest wedding ring or compare to see if our car is bigger than the neighbour’s. For, the fate of our nation’s future, solely lies in our attitude towards education, if we care enough to see.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Bilakah Mi'raj kita akan bermula?

Bilakah Mi'raj kita akan bermula?

Pada 3 Jun 2014, Dr. Syeikh Ahmad Dabbagh telah hadir di Baitul Qurro' di Melaka untuk menyampaikan sebuah kuliah berkaitan persoalan 'Bilakah Mi'raj kita akan bermula?'. Dr. Syeikh Ahmad Dabbagh adalah seorang daie' Allah berketurunan Imam Hasan Al-Basri, seorang ulama' besar tabiin (selepas generasi para sahabat). Menurut sejarah, imam Hasan Al-Basri lahir diwaktu zaman khalifah Umar al-Khattab dan pernah disusukan oleh isteri Rasulullah saw, Ummu Salamah.

Keluarganya berasal daripada Basrah tetapi Dr. Syeikh Ahmad Dabbagh sekarang menetap di Manchester, United Kingdom. Merupakan seorang Hafiz Al-Quran dan pakar 6 kitab Hadith, ilmu Tasawwuf dan pelbagai cabang ilmu lagi. Beliau kini giat bergerak diseluruh dunia bagi menyarankan Tazkiyatun Nafs iaitu pembersihan diri oleh manusia untuk kembali kepada Allah SWT. Ternyata begitu jauh kehidupan kita daripada hakikat Islam sebenar dan seharusnya kita bersyukur apabila didatangi oleh murabbi, alim, ulama' dan daie' yang mengajak kita pulang ke pangkuan fitrah kita sebagai manusia, pengabdian diri kepada Allah swt.

Golongan yang diharamkan daripada menerima syafaat Rasulullah saw

Sesungguhnya kita manusia tidak mampu untuk beroleh syurga jika disandarkan kepada ibadat kita semata-mata. Walaupun banyak solat, puasa, zakat, haji, umrah, sedekah dan lain-lain amalan baik, tiket kita ke syurga hanyalah berdasarkan 2 perkara iaitu Rahmat Allah swt dan Syafaat Rasulullah saw.

Namun terdapat golongan manusia yang diharamkan untuk mereka daripada menerima syafaat, antara mereka adalah:
  1. Mereka yang menentang, mempersenda, mempermainkan, memperlekeh dan mengambil mudah sunnah Rasulullah saw. Bagaimana mungkin seseorang yang membenci atau mempermainkan sunnah (cara hidup) Rasulullah saw beroleh syafaat daripada baginda?
  2. Mereka yang menzalimi dan menindas makhluk lain ketika di dunia ini. Sesungguhnya Allah tidak akan menerima amalan orang-orang yang menindas makhluk Allah ketika hidup di dunia ini kerana segala amalan mereka walau banyak mana sekalipun akan diagih-agihkan kepada makhluk yang mereka tindasi. Mereka inilah yang digelar oleh Rasulullah saw sebagai golongan yang benar-benar muflis.
Semoga kita dijauhkan daripada tergolong dalam golongan diatas walaupun dalam keadaan lalai kerana tiada apa lagi yang mampu kita harapkan selain daripada rahmat Allah swt dan syafaat Rasulullah saw.

Masa kehidupan yang sebenarnya amat singkat

Apabila ditanyakan kepada manusia setelah dibangkitkan, berapa lama sudah kamu hidup. Mereka akan menjawab kami telah hidup selama sehari ataupun beberapa jam. Walaupun secara ukuran masa kita, hayat mungkin selama 60 – 70 tahun. Namun, berapa jam sebenarnya diperuntukkan untuk melakukan tujuan kehidupan kita?

Sekiranya diperhati, dikira dan diagih-agihkan, masa kita boleh dibahagi-bahagikan. Sebagai contoh, purata seorang yang hidup selama 60 tahun, mungkin menghabiskan masa selama lebih 20 tahun untuk tidur, selama 15 tahun untuk bermain di zaman kanak-kanak, 3 tahun untuk masa mandi dan ke tandas dan masa-masa lain lagi. Yang apabila dikira dan dimuhasabah, sebenarnya banyak masa kita yang dihabiskan untuk perkara-perkara yang haram, lagha' dan tidak berbalik kepada persoalan pokok tujuan kehidupan kita iaitu sebagai abdi kepada Allah swt.

Imam Hasan Al-Basri mengibaratkan keadaan manusia di dunia seperti 3 perkara iaitu pisau yang sedang diasah, ketuhar yang sedang dipanaskan dengan api dan seekor kambing biri-biri. Tatkala masa melalui tanpa kita sedari, itulah ibaratnya pisau yang sedang diasah-asah menanti untuk menghiris dan memotong kita. Begitu juga, ketuhar ibarat neraka yang dipanaskan. Kedua-dua pisau dan ketuhar ini sedang dipersiapsediakan tetapi kita manusia hidup seperti seekor kambing yang hanya tahu makan, tidur dan menunaikan keinginan hawa nafsu tanpa kita sedari hakikat yang menanti kita di akhirat kelak.

Mengapa dan bagaimana harus kita jalani hidup?

Apabila diciptakan, roh manusia telah mengadakan perjanjian dengan Allah. Sebuah perjanjian yang tidak berani diterima oleh mana-mana makhluk lain kecuali manusia. Iaitu perjanjian untuk hidup dan beribadah didunia kepada Allah dengan ganjaran syurga. Perjanjian ini diambil sebagai amanah yang harus kita pikul sepanjang kita menjalani kehidupan di dunia ini. Jika dilaksanakan dengan baik, sebesar rahmat Allah iaitu ganjaran syurga menanti manusia namun azab api neraka bakal membaham mereka yang gagal memikul amanah yang diberikan.

Namun begitu, besarnya rahmat Allah swt, apabila diberikan amanah, Allah juga telah menunjukkan cara bagaimana untuk menunaikan amanah tersebut. Iaitu melalui turunnya panduan kitab Al-Quran dan seorang rasul, Muhammad ibni Abdillah saw. Sesiapa yang mencari Allah melalui panduan kitab Al-Quran dan ajaran Rasulullah saw, nescaya tertunailah amanah perjanjian dia dengan Allah swt.

Dalam masa yang sama, untuk mengelakkan manusia daripada tersesat, Allah dengan penuh rahmat dan kasih sayang telah memberikan amaran tentang Iblis dan Syaitan yang turunnya mereka akan menyesatkan manusia. Begitulah perbandingan dunia ini iaitu antara corak pemikiran Rasulullah saw yang selalu mencari jalan bagaimana menarik semua manusia masuk ke syurga berlawanan dengan corak pemikiran Iblis dan Syaitan bagaimana menarik semua manusia masuk ke neraka? Justeru, sebagai manusia haruslah kita sentiasa muhasabah diri setiap waktu, corak pemikiran dan bala tentera siapakah yang akan kita ikuti, Rasulullah saw Rahmatan lil Alamin ataupun mengikut petunjuk Iblis dan Syaitan?

Dunia sebagai padang ujian, Alam Barzakh sebagai taman syurga dan Syurga sebagai pengakhiran yang kekal

Dinyatakan bahawa dunia adalah neraka untuk orang-orang beriman tetapi syurga untuk mereka yang kufur. Jelaslah betapa benarnya kenyataan ini dimana dengan segala dugaan-dugaan kemanisan dunia, manusia dengan mudah boleh terjerumus mengikut hawa nafsu dan bisikan syaitan. Sememangnya kemanisan dunia amat mudah dirasai oleh setiap hati-hati yang tidak melakukan mujahadah bagi mengawal nafsu dan mendidik diri.

Namun ingatlah, betapa manisnya pun dunia, tidak akan semanis janji Allah iaitu taman syurga di alam barzakh dan syurga yang kekal abadi. Betapa manisnya pun dunia, ia diibaratkan seperti seorang tua bongkok yang datang mendekati kamu, dan inilah yang kamu gila-gilakan. Maka, mereka yang tidak melatih diri untuk melihat menggunakan mata hati, akan mudah untuk melihat dunia dan kemanisan godaannya dengan mata kasar tetapi sukar untuk melihat hakikat kejadian dunia dan alam seterusnya yang hanya mampu ditakluki dengan kekuatan rohani.

Dan untuk mencapai kekuatan rohani ini, maka kita manusia perlu memahami akan hakikat kejadian kita yang terdiri daripada 4 elemen iaitu akal, jasad, nafsu dan roh. Keempat-empat elemen ini perlu dijaga dan diurustadbir dengan baik bagi menjanjikan pulangan lumayan bukan sahaja di dunia, juga di akhirat. Ramai daripada kita yang mampu menjaga akal dan jasad dengan baik tetapi lebih ramai lagi yang gagal mengurustadbir nafsu sehingga menguasai diri juga roh yang akhirnya akan diazab kerana telah memungkiri perjanjian dengan Allah swt.

Capai tujuh syurga melalui penjagaan tujuh perkara

Di badan kita terdapat 7 alat yang jika dapat kita jaga dengan baik, insyAllah akan memudahkan kita untuk mencapai redha Allah swt. Itulah Lidah, Telinga, Mata, Tangan, Kemaluan, Perut dan Kaki. Ketujuh-tujuh anggota ini sekiranya dijaga dan dibersihkan selalu insyAllah akan memudahkan hati kita menjadi bersih dan selalu memikirkan tentang Allah swt.

Dalam menjaga ketujuh-tujuh anggota ini, haruslah kita sentiasa istiqamah dan menyedari bahawa manusia memang tidak maksum daripada kesilapan kecuali para Nabi. Justeru, sebaik sahaja kita terlanggar atau melakukan sesuatu yang tidak baik menggunakan anggota-anggota kita, cepat-cepatlah kita beristighfar dan kembali berusaha untuk menjaga anggota-anggota ini. Ini adalah satu proses jihad paling tinggi dan berterusan iaitu kita pasti akan melakukan kesilapan, maka cepatlah kita bertaubat dan berusaha bersungguh-sungguh untuk tidak mengulangi semula. Sesungguhnya pintu taubat Allah terbentang luas dan tiada had dalam taubat.

Melalui jihad menjaga tujuh anggota ini, insyAllah akan dipermudahkan oleh Allah swt. Ini adalah kerana sebagai manusia, kita tiada daya melainkan ikhtiar. Daya sebenarnya adalah daripada Allah swt dan Allah adalah sebaik-baik penolong dengan kebesaran rahmat dan redhaNya. Yang pasti, rahmat Allah melebihi kemurkaanNya dan yang menzalimi kita hanyalah diri kita sendiri apabila tidak mengikuti jalan panduan yang disediakan Allah melalui Al-Quran dan Sunnah Rasulullah saw.

Sesungguhnya kematian itu sangat dekat. Jadi, bilakah Mi'raj kita akan bermula? Sudah pasti mulai saat ini!

*Semoga bersama kita mendapat manfaat daripada tulisan ini yang ditulis berdasarkan daripada pemahaman cetek saya akan kuliah yang disampaikan oleh Dr. Syeikh Ahmad Dabbagh. Tulisan ini hanyalah beberapa intipati daripada kuliah panjang yang disampaikan. Sekiranya terdapat sebarang kesilapan minta diberikan tunjuk ajar. Terima kasih.