Monday, November 30, 2015


Wide open spaces, congenial weather, creative and innovative activities plus great camaraderie between everyone, these are the ingredients for the makings of a great family day.

70 adults and children, well actually all children, spent half a day at Uluhati for their family day in late November 2015. Despite incessant rain the days before, their event was blessed because the rain held off until everything was over at about 5.00 pm when everyone has gone back.

This particular group was highly creative in the planning and design of their activities which makes for some interesting shots as seen below. As usual pictures are worth a thousand words.









Thank you Insan Kamil. We enjoyed having you

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Its raining again. There goes my plan to do some outdoor chores. Its Deepavali again and my mind drifted to certain encounters with some strangers and some not over the years.

I remember my trip to Bali in the early 1990's. Back then I was stationed in Surabaya, East Java and my portfolio also covers Bali, an assignment which I took great pleasure in executing. It was then still rather "original" for the lack of a better word. On one of those trips I had my parents along who happened to pay me a visit. I cannot say that my mother enjoyed the trip very much.

She was totally disoriented by the fact that the Balinese looked exactly like Malays (well ethnically they are Malays) and they wear traditional Malay attires, kebaya, samping tanjak and all,speak Malay or Bahasa Indonesia, but were blissfully paying homage to various idols and piously carrying roasted piglets on their heads to their temples. Welcome to the world mum. I guess she prescribed to the standard Malaysian definition of Malay, i.e. people who speak Malay, follow Malay customs and are Muslim.

Anyway, that's beside the point. I had chance conversation with our tour guide who is a Balinese Hindu of course, and I asked him about Hinduism and its various pantheon of Gods and Goddesses. His reply was not something that I had expected. Contrary to what I had always believed Hindus, according to him believe in only one God. Now that was something.

What then of Lord Vishnu, Ganesh, etc. Who are they? Well, according to my guide, these are nothing more than personification of the various attributes of God. So if someone wants a particular attribute he would focus his attention to that particular personification, etc, etc. If that is the case I told him, some people, like me for example, might think that these personification are multiple Gods not just attributes of the one God. Malangnya bagitu Pak (unfortunately, that is so), he replied.

I then told him that Muslims have 99 names for God, each name describing a particular attribute or essence, but none of these attributes have been personified and as a result we have never confused these 99 names with the one single God. He nodded and acknowledged the similarity in the beginning and the divergence in practice between Hinduism and Islam. Very enlightening and enjoyable discussion.

The next incident was when I went to the wedding of my daughter's teacher. God, that was years ago when she was just a little girl with pony tails, and now just last week she nervously broached the subject of her boyfriend whom she wanted me to meet. Must be serious. I don't like him already.

Anyway, at the wedding, a typical Hindu wedding, I noticed a couple of things. First was the circumbulating of the sacred fire. Both Bride and Groom each holding one end of the "thali" went around the fire. I stared at them for a long time. This circumbulating action looked very familiar, similar to the movements Muslims make around the Kaaba during the Haj. Later I asked one of the learned Muslim teachers about this circumbulating movement. He explained to me that the action of going around something is one of the earliest physical form of worship. Hmmm, interesting.

The next thing I noticed was the attire of the Hindu Priest. He was wearing nothing more than two stitches of cloth, one wrapped around the body and the other around his waist. Except for the Gold trimming the cloth was of pure white. Then it hit me. It looked just like the Ihram, the attire male Muslims wear when they do the Haj.

The third thing which suddenly lighted up in my head was the name of the Priestly Caste. They are called Brahmins. My mind went on overdrive. Could Brahmin be the shortened and adjusted version of Ibrahim or Abraham. Now this is where pure speculation takes over. Could it be that thousands of years ago some students from India traveled to the Middle East and understudied Ibrahim or Abraham and later returned to India and are known as the students or disciples of Ibrahim, and gave birth of the Priestly Order called Brahmins.

No, no, I am not trying to be smart or cute, just musing on this very wet day. Still it is something which has been pricking at the back of my mind all these years. Maybe someday someone will be able to connect the dots, if any. After all, Hinduism is so old that it predates Islam, Christianity and even Judaism. And it will not be the first time that something grew out of something. Buddhism for example grew out of Hinduism.

And NO, for the diehards, I am not making the case that Hindusim and Islam are the same. It is just that through the thousand of years of human social intercourse ideas and practices gets passed on from one region and one group to another. Afterall the Quran did say: "And we made you men and women and from you we raised various tribes and nations, so that you may learn from one another"

I think the point to remember is not so much to seek out the differences but to find common grounds. When we seek out differences we will find conflicts, when we seek out commonalities we find friends.

How we choose to see God is our own individual choice(Surah Al Bakarah 256), for if God had wanted so He could have made all Man Muslims (submitting to Him), so He said in the Quran. But if He had done so, i.e made all Man submit to Him willingly or unwillingly, then the essence of Man disappears. Because then he is no longer able to exercise his capacity to think, reason and decide, i.e. the exercise of God's special gift, given to no other creation but Man. The gift of intellect. It is by using this special gift that Man would be able to reach the stars and be in the company of angels or descent to the lowest abyss of decay and have maggots for friends, thereby proving to himself his individual worth, and be held accountable for his deeds. Cause and effect, maaa!, basic science.

The rain still has not stopped, but I will stop here with something to ponder:

"The blind and the seeing are not alike
Nor are the depths of Darkness and the Light

Nor are the shade and the heat of the sun

Nor are alike those
That are living and those
That are dead. God can make any that He wills
To hear; but thou
Cannot make those
to hear who are in graves"

Surah Fatir, verses 19-22

Salam and Happy Deepavali to my Hindu brothers and sisters

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Faced with the current turmoils in the petroleum market, 37 staff from Petron decided to put off everything, at least for a day, and head off to the hills, literally.

Arriving at the promised time of 7.30 a.m. the started the day with a hearty good old fashion kampong breakfast, i.e. nasi lemak with teh tarik, fortifying themselves for the tasks ahead for the day. By 8.30 am everyone was loaded onto the cattle truck (oops!) for the first destination, jungle trekking. It never fails. The lorry ride is something which gets everyone squealing and shouting. I mean, if they are kids, I would expect that. But these are serious young executives who arrived in their fancy cars in the morning. But when they saw the Langat Express, our two lorries, the seriousness disappeared and they asked, "are we getting on that?". "Yep, I said, over here we do it our way". Immediately the serious executives become young boys and girls again. Ok, there were a couple of grey haired young boys too. And they were shouting all they way to the jungle. If it was a month ago, people would have mistaken them for human sacrifices of the Ide Festival.



Anyway they conquered the trek with minimal problem and found the waterfall at the end of it. On the way they crossed 3 crystal clear streams. The trip up took 40 minutes. They way down also too took 40 minutes, which surprised me for while, because I thought going downhill should be easier and faster. Then I figured that it might be easier but not faster because you have to be careful as you descend. On they way down, Mat Brone, our local James Bond, should them a thing or two about how to survive in the jungle and to trap animals, to the "ooohhs" and "aahhs" of the captive audience.

Legend has it that the trail was once used by Communist Terrorists during the Malayan Emergency of the 1950's and 60's. Beginning from the foot of the Main Range there many routes which takes you into Pahang, Perak and Negri Sembilan. However never ever go in without a guide


From the jungle it was back to their fun ride, lorries again and off to the rafting point. The look on their faces was something to behold. I don't think they have seen so much bamboo in one place and some were seen trying to condition their minds very hard that they are getting into the crafts. After much shouting and confusing instructions, between the Peron staff, me, the Orang Asli, Orang Asli and the Headman and the lorry drivers (why were they involved?) everyone was nicely sorted out to their respective rafts and their attendant Orang Asli steerman.



So off they went. The Petron Armada was made up of 18 forty footer rafts. For some moments they looked like a bunch of Bugis pirates slipping up not so quietly up the Klang River with orange life jackets. Serious, minus the life jacket and with a bit of imagination you are transported back 300 years ago.

An hour later you see the rafts slowly appearing around the bend at the end of the journey with passengers either grinning from ear to ear or with drooping eyes as the rising sun and the easy motion of the rafts slowing lulled them into drowziness. And quite a few too were asking, "when is lunch, ahh?"

They got back at 12.30 pm with a kampong lunch laid out for them. No invitation required. Judging from the minimal leftovers the food must have met their expectations or they were just so hungry. But comments later confirmed the former.

It was a packed morning, but I think they had a good time. The schedule went almost like clockwork. Some commented that the jungle was wilder and less "manicured" than FRIM's (sorry FRIM), and of course for many it was a first time on the lorry, because many years ago when they asked their mother permission to ride, the standard answer was, "you mad ahh!, that one for carrying vegetables only, you know!". And of course the bamboo rafting was new to almost everyone and the traditional kampong lunch was the grand topping for the day.

We are glad to have been able to take their minds off the bothersome oil market for the day. Thank you guys. Come back again.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Nine families of Libyan nationals staying in Malaysia decided to make Uluhati their village or kampong to celebrate Idil Adha, the festival of sacrifice. On the eve of the festivals 11 sheep arrived in the middle of the night for the next day celebration. Tied to the pillars of the Longhouse they settled down quite nicely for the night oblivious to the honor bestowed on them the following day.

 Its quite interesting to see how different cultures practice a common ritual. The Malays, Muslims that is, would proclaim "Allahuakbar" as they slaughter the animals. The Libyans treat it more matter of factly, non of the drama that we see usually. Also when it comes to skinning the animal, they would drive in a thin long rod at the inner hind leg. The rod is then taken out and in the hole is shoved in a rubber hose. Air is then blown into the rubber hose and you would actually see the sheep expanding like a balloon. I suppose this is to loosen the skin from the flesh for easier and cleaner skinning. Whilst we Malays would begin by skinning from the legs, they would start from the testicles. By the way sacrificial animal are normally male. They seemed to have a good time with lots of Libyan delicacies floating around and children running and squealing after the animals. As usual the chickens, goats and deer became nervous wrecks by the end of the day.

The Christians would have it that it was Issac the son Abraham (Peace be Upon them) who was commanded to be sacrificed. The Quran however says that it was Ismail (Ishmael), peace be upon him, who was supposed to be sacrificed. Issac was Abraham's son with his wife Sarah, whilst Ismail was the son from his Egyptian wife, Hagar or Siti Hajar.

From the lineage of Issac rose the Jewish prophets all the way to Jesus, may peace be upon him. From the Ismail lineage rose Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him.

This and many similarities in the narration of the Bible and the Quran is quite surprising to some people leading to charges of plagiarism of the Bible by the "author" of the Quran. The answer is quite simple. Of course, there will be similarities in the stories and the message of the Bible and the Quran, because if there is only one God, He would not have given different instructions, policies to different peoples at different times. The principles would be largely the same. Any amendments or changes that come from time to time does not alter the main theme, but provide additional guidance as man progresses in his development, not to mention to correct purposeful alterations done by man to suit certain agendas. This happens even today. That is why as an article of faith Muslims are supposed to believe in the revelations given to Moses (Musa), the Torah, David (Daud), the Zabur (Psalms), Jesus (Isa), the Bible and of course, Mohammad (Quran), May the blessings of Allah be upon them all.

It is interesting to note the inter-play between the Jewish peoples and the Egyptians. Confrontation or interplay between them occurred since the time Moses, Joseph (Yusuf) until present times, if we note that Prophet Muhammad pbuh is partly Egyptian in heritage.

Anyway the word sacrifice often times evoke in our minds some tribal ritual with either a virgin tied to a stake or a lost missionary simmering in a big cauldron being offered to some blood thirsty deity to ensure that next year's harvest remain as bountiful or the gazelles are just as numerous.

The Quran is quite clear on this. "It is not the blood nor the flesh of the sacrifice which reaches God, but the piety of the person". The word sacrifice in itself means giving up something dear to oneself. Giving up something worthless is no sacrifice at all.

So what does one get by giving away this precious thing? It is the undermining or subjugation of one's self or ego or selfishness. So it is actually a ritual of self purification. The Muslims belief that everyone is apportioned four qualities. Two of which pulls him to the ground and the other two elevates him to the stratosphere. The ones that pulls him to the ground are the bestial and satanic or devilish qualities or tendencies. The ones that uplift him to the higher plane is the angelic and Godly qualities.

So the challenge for everyone is to suppress and channel the two earthly qualities to the right channels and to promote the other two higher qualities. The final objective is nearness to God or Godliness or Enlightenment as the Hindus and Buddhist would describe it. It is an exercise of the extraction of the finest human qualities to qualify oneself as a human being.

Again we note similarities with Hinduism, which is not surprising at all. When God send down Adam and Eve to earth He gave them the assurance that from time to time He will send down guidance to Adam and his progeny, who in time will multiply into various races and tribes. In fact Muslims believe that altogether over 140,000 messengers were despatched. How that number was determined is beyond me, but perhaps the numbers alone are not important. What is important is that numerous delegations of reminders and warners of the key themes were sent. And the key themes will always be the same. God being all merciful would not leave His creatures unattended and He creates nothing in vain.

So sacrifice is one of the many ways of refining one's person. In a another verse, the Quran mentions that "one does not reach the stage of righteousness until one learns to give up what is dearest to him".

However sometimes we observe people competing to sacrifice as many heads of cattle as possible for the sake of recognition. Imam Bukhari has this to say: "True worship comes not from the act but from from the heart. The act is just an escort whilst the true worshiper is the heart". So Islam is dual faceted, the exsoteric and the esoteric, the external and the internal. The external (rituals) without the internal (the worship of the heart) is worthless whilst the internal without the external, mere profession of faith without actual deeds is delusional. Just as the declaration of love without the attendant care, concern, respect and fulfillment of responsibilities, is meaningless.

So there you are. The Haj sacrifice is not about pleasing some blood thirsty deity. It is about self purification. Same as any other act of worship, it is not for God but for oneself. God being Great does not need anyone to tell Him how great He is. "If all of mankind from the time of Adam till the end of time were to worship God, He is not made any greater and if all of mankind from the time of Adam till the end of times is to deny God, He is not made any lesser".

Salam Id Adha

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Thirteen staff from UiTM Shah Alam took time out to chill out in Hulu Langat by taking a trip down the Langat River on bamboo rafts with the Suku Temuan Orang Asli tribe.

After the rafting trip they did some workshop for a couple of hours before adjourning for lunch. Being a half day event, they left after lunch.

Thank you UiTM

Tuesday, September 15, 2015



For 3 days and 2 nights ULUHATI was a hive of activities with a full fledged film crew, actors and actresses plus extras shooting a movie for a Hongkong production house.

Just to see them work was in itself tiring. Sets and equipment were moved from one end of the farm to another on continuous basis enough to make your head spin. After a while the stress of watching them was too much for me, so I took my siesta. This is the first time I saw a full film crew in action and I was truly impressed. Despite the hectic schedule no one seemed flustered and everyone seemed to know exactly what to do, at least from my novice perspective. Almost military in precision. The weather was great, except for the haze and one shower in late evening, but this did not dampen their spirit. In fact, the shooting finished a few hours ahead of schedule. 

This movie is meant for the Chinese New Year season 2016. For confidentiality reason I would say anything of its title and story-line.

And the best part of all, the left the place almost spotless when they were done. They said they were happy and satisfied. So am I. Thank you. Do come again