Thursday, April 14, 2016

Reminders for the Du'at from Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali

Sometimes a person who wanted to uphold Islam lose the perspective of the bigger picture of the da'wah, and concentrate instead on the small, symbolic issues. The lesson from Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali really puts such matters into perspective, on how to treat more important things first over the lesser matters.


Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali, may Allah be pleased with him, wrote about a young lady who came to his office to seek guidance:

"I did not like the way she was dressed when she entered my office. However, the look in her eyes revealed sadness and bewilderment that called for compassion and patience. She sat down and started sharing her concerns hoping to find answers with me.

I listened to her long enough. I learned that she was an Arab girl who received her education in France where she was raised. It was also clear that she barely knew Islam. I started explaining basic facts, dispelling suspicions, answering questions and refuting orientalists’ lies about Islam. I also did not forget to allude to today’s civilization and how it considers women as cheap flesh. At the end of my talk, the girl asked for a future appointment and excused herself.

Soon after, a young man – on whom qualities of Outward Islamism were apparent – came storming into my office and said violently: “How come such wicked person was admitted here?”

“The job of a physician is to accept. He doesn’t typically see healthy people, does he?” I replied.

“Of course, you advised her to wear Hijab!” he added.

I said to him “The issue is much bigger than that. There is the foundation that has to be laid. There is the Belief in Allah and the Hereafter. There is the hearing and the obeying of what was revealed in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, in addition to the pillars of worship and manners; the pillars that Islam cannot exist without…”. He interrupted me saying, “All of this does not mean we don’t order her to wear Hijab”.

“I wouldn’t like it if she came in a nun’s clothes while her heart is void of Allah. I taught her the basis that will help her to choose, on her own free will, to wear more decent clothes,” I calmly replied.

He tried to interrupt me again so I said firmly “I can’t drag Islam by its tail as you do. I lay the foundation and then start building and I usually achieve what I want with wisdom”.

Two weeks later, the girl came back. She was wearing much more decent clothes with a scarf over her head. She resumed her questions and I resumed my teaching. Then I asked “Why don’t you go to the nearest mosque to your home?” I said that but immediately I felt remorse. I remembered that mosques are closed in the face of Muslim women. The girl answered that she hated the People of Religion and that she did not like to listen to them.

“Why?” I asked.

“They are hard-hearted, and they treat us with contempt and scorn”, came her swift reply.


I don’t know why I remembered Hind (Abu-Sufyan’s wife). She was the one who chewed Hamza’s liver and fought Islam vigorously until the 8th year of Hijrah. She did not really know the Prophet. However, when she knew him and saw his lenient manners, she told him “I never wished someone on the face of this earth to be abased more than you and your family. Now, I do not wish to see someone on the face of this earth more honored than you and your family.” The Prophet’s kindness and sympathy changed the hearts of the people around him.

Now, would the Du`ah today learn from their Prophet? Would they learn to draw together instead of driving away, and to bring good tidings rather than to say things that repels people away from them and from Islam?" 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Berbahasa Melayu Dengan Beradab


Berbanding dengan Bahasa Inggeris, walaupun dari segi istilah dan nahunya Bahasa Melayu jauh lebih mudah, namun di sana terdapat konteks penggunaan istilah yang mungkin sukar untuk difahami oleh orang bukan Melayu yang belum biasa dengan selok-beloknya atau golongan muda yang sudah terlalu banyak berbicara menggunakan bahasa singkat media sembang elektronik.
Di sini kita perlu membedakan makna bahasa (language) dengan bahasa, seperti dalam "orang berbudi, kita berbahasa" yang lebih menekankan kepada adab sopan dan nilai pekerti seseorang.
Perkataan-perkataan yang bermakna semudah "I" dan "you" dalam Bahasa Inggeris, memang boleh sahaja diterjemahkan sebagai "aku" atau "saya", dan "kamu", "engkau" atau "awak" dari segi istilahnya. Namun, ia tidak semudah itu. Selain daripada terjemahan secara istilah, seseorang penterjemah harus juga mengambilkira konteks penggunaan perkataan tersebut, agar sesuai dengan budaya dan nilai kesopanan yang sewajarnya.
Di dalam kebanyakan kelompok masyarakat Melayu, termasuk dalam keluarga saya sendiri, baik daripada pihak leluhur ke atas di kampung dahulu, ataupun keluarga kecil saya dan anak-anak saya, penggunaan gantinama "aku", "kamu", "engkau", dan "awak" sesekali tidak boleh diterima apabila bertutur sesama sendiri atau dengan golongan golongan yang lebih tua atau dihormati. Jadi penggunaan ayat seperti "Kamu hendak ke mana?" yang ditujukan kepada ayah atau guru adalah dianggap sebagai sungguh "kurang ajar", dan kalau di zaman saya masih kecil, boleh mengundang lempangan yang kuat di pipi.
Perkara ini selalu saya peringatkan kepada pelajar-pelajar saya yang bukan Melayu yang mungkin tidak tahu atau tidak memahaminya sebelum itu, apabila ada yang berkata kepada saya, contohnya, "Boleh saya berjumpa kamu selepas kuliah?". Tidak, saya tidak salahkan mereka, tetapi menjadi kewajipan saya untuk meluruskan kefahaman mereka untuk mendidik mereka dengan baik supaya tidak mengulanginya dengan orang lain, kerana saya guru mereka.
Begitu juga, kita tidak menggunakan nama khas seseorang sebegitu sahaja apabila kita bertutur dengan seseorang yang lebih tua. Agak tidak beradab kiranya seorang cucu memanggil datuknya yang bernama Ahmad, "Ahmad, kamu di mana?". Bukan caranya begitu pertuturan orang beradab (cultured).
Lantaran itu, apakah yang sesuai digunakan? Sebenarnya di dalam sesebuah keluarga Melayu, telah ada panggilan-panggilan khusus bagi setiap orang, baik yang berpangkat emak atau ayah saudara, ataupun adik-beradik, dari yang sulung hinggalah ke yang terbongsu. Bagi yang lain seperti guru, maka gantinama yang digunakan membayangkan peranan atau kedudukannya, seperti tuan, puan, cikgu atau seumpamanya. Itulah ruh penggunaan bahasa, yang membayangkan kehalusan adab dan keseniannya.
Sebagai imbalannya, biasanya yang ditujukan itu juga membalas dengan berbahasa juga, dengan menggunakan istilah yang lebih sopan seperti "saya" untuk membahasakan dirinya, ataupun terus menggunakan kedudukan seperti "abah", "abang", "cikgu" atau seumpamanya, bukannya "aku" yang dianggap sebagai kasar. Itu juga sebenarnya menjadikan pertuturan itu lebih ramah, dan membayangkan suasana kasih-sayang daripada seorang yang lebih tua kepada yang lebih muda.
Sebenarnya perbedaan nuansa ini bukan sahaja terdapat dalam Bahasa Melayu. Satu ketika dahulu golongan yang cenderung kepada Islam lebih selesa menggunakan perkataan "ana" dan "anta/anti" dalam perbualan (ini juga mungkin sebagai reaksi kepada golongan berpendidikan Inggeris yang suka ber"I-you"), sehinggakan dengan seorang yang agak tua dan dihormatipun di"anta-anti"kan. Seorang guru yang saya hormati pernah menyebut bahawa, dalam bahasa halus Arab juga, "anta-anti" ini dianggap kasar, dan mengatakan kalau kita menyapa seseorang yang dihormati, gunalah "sayyidi" atau "sayyidati" atau seumpamanya.
Dalam konteks masyarakat Barat pula, ada hal yang setara yang harus diperhatikan. Contohnya, penggunaan nama pertama (first name) hanyalah dengan mereka yang telah rapat sahaja. Seseorang asing (stranger) yang tiba-tiba datang menyapa seseorang dalam majlis rasmi dengan memanggil nama pertama sahaja akan dipandang dengan pelik. Semasa saya belajar di Sydney dahulu saya pernah menghantar satu deraf laporan kepada penyelia tesis saya dan menuliskan nama penuhnya di depan. Dia membetulkannya dengan meletakkan cuma huruf singkatan namanya, dan nama keluarganya (surname) sahaja, Dr. D.W. Kelly, seolah-olah membayangkan nama penuh tidak sesuai untuk format laporan rasmi.
Apakah mempertahankan tatasusila pertuturan sebegini penting? Mungkin ada yang mengatakan ia hanya menyusahkan; apatah lagi apabila kena membeda-bedakan tahap seseorang. Ini mungkin lagi susah kalau mahu menghantar mesej teks elektronik yang ringkas pula. Terpulanglah, kalau kita tiada masalah apabila cucu kita berbicara dengan kita, "Lotfi, kamu ke mana tadi? Lama aku tunggu, tahu!" Atau kita tiada masalah menerima surat permohonan kerja daripada seorang yang menggunakan "aku-engkau" dalam penulisannya, maka tepuk dada tanya selera.
Apapun, Bahasa Melayu ini ada jiwanya. Ia bukan hanya istilah-istilah yang disebut, tetapi juga merangkumi kehalusan penggunaan yang akan menjadikan penggunanya lebih bersusila dalam berkomunikasi, mengikut konteks dan keadaannya.

Aerolab
Petang Khamis 7 April 2016

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ibrah Kisah Sayyidina 'Umar r.a.



Khalifah ‘Umar bin al-Khattab suatu hari pernah membahagi-bahagikan kepada rakyatnya pakaian, kemudian beliau naik ke atas mimbar lalu berkata: “Wahai manusia, dengarlah!”
Tiba-tiba bangun Salman al-Farisi berkata: “Kami tidak mahu dengar.”
Lantas ‘Umar bertanya: “Kenapa, wahai Salman?”
Salman menjawab: “Engkau berikan kami semua seorang sehelai, sedangkan engkau memakai dua helai.” Yakni, kerana tubuh ‘Umar yang besar, tidak dapat ditutupi oleh sehelai kain sahaja.
‘Umar membalas: “Jangan tergesa-gesa wahai Salman.” Lalu ‘Umar memanggil anaknya ‘Abdullah, seraya berkata: “Aku menyerumu dengan nama Allah, bukankah pakaian yang aku pakai ini adalah peruntukanmu yang engkau berikan padaku?”
‘Abdullah menjawab: “Ya!”
Maka kata Salman: “Sekarang kami akan dengar.”
----
1. Salman al-Farisi r.a. tetap menyoal Sayyidina 'Umar r.a. mengenai sesuatu yang ia ada keraguan, serta tidak menyimpannya atau "berbaik sangka" terhadap Khalifah, kerana ia melibatkan hak negara.
2. Sahabat-sahabat lain tidak menyanggah Salman daripada menyoal, atau cuba mempertahankan Sayyidina 'Umar serta-merta sebelum keadaan dijelaskan.
3. Para Sahabat tidak menganggap Salman telah kurang ajar kerana menyoal seorang sahabat rapat RasuluLlah dan seorang yang telah dijanjikan syurga, dan jauh sekali daripada menyerangnya atau memaki-hamunnya atau menyifatkannya dengan label-label yang buruk.
4. Sayyidina 'Umar r.a. tidak menggertak atau menangkap atau memecat Salman r.a. kerana menanya satu soalan, malah menangani soalan itu dengan baik, dengan menjelaskan kekeliruan yang berlaku.
5. Lantaran daripada penjelasan yang diberikan, oleh kerana Sayyidina 'Umar telus dan jelas tidak mengkhianati amanah semuanya telah diterima baik oleh para Sahabat, dan tiada krisis berlaku.
6. Sayyidina 'Umar tidak merasa tercalar daripada insiden ini, dan tidak berdendam kepada Salman kerana mempersoalkannya.
7. Sayyidina 'Umar dapat bertindak sedemikian dengan tenang dan tanpa kerisauan kerana beliau seorang yang memang dikenali sebagai penuh amanah, bertanggungjawab dan amat cemburu terhadap sekecil-kecil penyelewengan sekalipun. Sekiranya beliau tiada kualiti sedemikian, tentunya ia akan teragak-agak untuk menjawab dengan baik, malah mungkin akan bertindak dengan keras terhadap Salman, atau ia mungkin terpaksa memberikan jawapan yang berbelit-belit yang tentunya sukar untuk meyakinkan para Sahabat lain dan seluruh rakyat negara Islam ketika itu. Ini akan pastinya menimbulkan suatu krisis keyakinan terhadap Khalifah.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Membela Islam dan Berlaku Adil



Antara kekuatan Islam yang terampuh ialah keadilannya. Allah memerintahkan di dalam al-Qur'an agar kita sentiasa berlaku adil, walau ke atas diri kita sendiri atau kaum keluarga kita.

"Wahai orang-orang yang beriman, jadilah kamu orang yang benar-benar penegak keadilan, menjadi saksi karena Allah biarpun terhadap dirimu sendiri atau ibu bapa dan kaum kerabatmu. Jika ia kaya ataupun miskin, maka Allah lebih tahu kemaslahatannya. Maka janganlah kamu mengikuti hawa nafsu karena ingin menyimpang dari kebenaran. Dan jika kamu memutar balikkan (kata-kata) atau enggan menjadi saksi, maka sesungguhnya Allah adalah Maha Mengetahui segala apa yang kamu kerjakan."
[an-Nisa 4:135]

Berlaku adil adalah satu amal yang hakiki yang dituntut.

"Sesungguhnya Allah menyuruh (kamu) berlaku adil dan berbuat kebajikan, memberi kepada kaum kerabat, dan Allah melarang dari perbuatan keji, kemungkaran dan permusuhan. Dia memberi pengajaran kepadamu agar kamu dapat mengambil pelajaran."
[an-Nahl 16:90]

Keadilan adalah tunggak Risalah Islam, seperti yang disebutkan oleh Ruba'i bin 'Amir apabila berdepan dengan Rustam Panglima Parsi sebelum Perang Qadisiah:

"Allah mengutuskan kami untuk membebaskan dunia daripada perhambaan sesama hamba kepada perhambaan diri kepada Allah, dariada kesempitan dunia kepada kelapangannya, daripada kezaliman agama-agama kepada keadilan Islam. Dia utuskan kami agamanya untuk kami mengajak manusia kepadanya..."

Sejarah telah membuktikan bahawa apabila umat Islam berlaku adil, maka Islam akan terbela dengan sendirinya. Manusia akan tertarik dengan Islam, dan pintu dakwah akan terbuka luas lantaran.

Sebaliknya apabila umat Islam tidak berlaku adil, Islam juga akan terpalit. Kita tidak boleh mendabik dada kononnya membela Islam, kiranya kita melampaui batas syara' dalam melakukannya. Kita tidak daat mempertahankan Islam, sekiranya kita dirundung emosi semata-mata. Allah juga perintahkan supaya kita tetap berlaku adil dan jangan sesekali mengelabui kebenaran dan keadilan itu lantaran kebencian kita terhadap sesuatu kumpulan manusia.

“Wahai orang-orang yang beriman hendaklah kamu jadi orang-orang yang sentiasa menegakkan (kebenaran) kerana Allah, menjadi saksi dengan adil, dan janganlah sekali-kali kebencianmu terhadap sesuatu kaum, mendorong kamu untuk berlaku tidak adil. berlaku adillah, kerana adil itu lebih dekat kepada taqwa. dan bertaqwalah kepada Allah, Sesungguhnya Allah Maha mengetahui apa yang kamu kerjakan.”
[al-Ma`idah 5:8]

Kita tidak akan dapat membela Islam apabila kita mengenepikan keadilan dan pertimbangan yang objektif dalam menghukum manusia. Lebih teruk lagi, apabila itu berlaku, kita sebenarnya telah menzalimi Islam, apabila manusia membenci Islam lantaran tindakan melampau kita. Pembelaan terhadap Islam mustahil dapat berlaku melalui tindakan munkar yang bercanggah dengan syara' itu sendiri.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Berlaku Adil dan Prioriti Tumpuan



Kini terlalu banyak sangat berita negatif dan sensasi yang beredaran dalam internet, termasuk Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram dan yang seumpamanya. Sikap kita kena betul dalam menangani perkara sebegini.

Kita ditarbiahkan untuk sentiasa tabayyun (sahkan), menyandarkan hanya kepada hujah, bukti dan saksi, bukannya kepada khabar angin (hearsay) yang diterbangkan. Kita ditarbiahkan supaya berlaku adil, hatta kepada diri kita sendiri (kalau tidak menguntungkan kita) atau pihak "lawan".

Kita tidak sepatutnya terlalu cepat menyebarkan berita-berita yang belum sah, terutamanya apabila berbentuk sensasi atau ada unsur-unsur fitnah. Tahanlah mulut kita (atau jari kita) walaupun nampak "seronok" atau "mengena kepada pihak yang tidak kita sukai". Terlebih penting, kita janganlah terlalu segera menghukum, sedangkan dalil dan maklumat belum sampai kepada kita sepenuhnya daripada kesemua pihak yang terjejas. Itulah ciri keperibadian (character) yang sepatutnya sudah sebati dalam jiwa du'at dan mereka yang menjunjung panji-panji Islam.

Kita telah melihat sendiri betapa banyakkah cerita-ceriti yang kita sangka benar, yang kita sangka berasal daripada sumber yang dikatakan sahih, yang akhirnya terbukti salah dan palsu. Dalam era teknologi canggih ini banyak perkara sebenarnya tidak seperti apa yang dipersepsikan. Gunakanlah standard yang sama yang kita tuntut daripada orang lain buat diri kita (kiranya kita di pihak yang "kena") ke atas orang lain apabila kita yang berada di pihak yang melontar tuduhan ataupun sangkaan.

Juga, kita perlu sentiasa ingat perbedaan di antara circle of influence dan circle of concern. Apapun urusan dalam dunia ini yang mungkin menjadi keprihatinan kita dan menyentuh hati kita, hanya sebahagian sahaja yang berada dalam kekuasaan dan keupayaan kita untuk pengaruhi natijahnya. Kita tidak sepatutnya terlalu sibuk dan menyibuk dengan perkara yang kita tidak boleh pengaruhi atau lakukan sesuatu ke atasnya, sehinggakan kita pula abaikan perkara yang sememangnya di bawah pengaruh dan dalam tanggungjawab kita.

Luruskanlah keutamaan (priority) tumpuan dan amal kita, dan berikanlah sumbangan kita di mana kita boleh membuat sesuatu yang paling bermakna, serta tinggalkanlah daripada tersedut ke dalam pusaran perkara-perkara yang tidak berfaedah.

WaLlahu a'lam. 

Ainullotfi al-Fikri
Skudai
29 Disember 2014.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Importance of Creating a Caring Society to Solve the Issue of Homelessness

 

The Importance of Creating a Caring Society
to Solve the Issue of Homelessness
 Assoc Prof Ainullotfi bin Abdul Latif
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Skudai, Johor, and
Head of i-Bantu, Community Services Committee,
Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia.


Introduction

The issue of homelessness was thrusted into the headlines earlier this year when directives were given to ban the feeding of homeless people in tourist-popular areas of the City of Kuala Lumpur. It was understood that the ban was to protect the image of the city from such an ugly scourge of the society. This provoked outrage from many sections of the society, especially those directly related to the problem, including volunteers and social activists and other concerned members of the society. A good outcome of it has been that the issue is now more widely discussed by the society and more deliberations and researches to understand the issue were conducted. This paper is an attempt to see the issue from the perspective of an activist, more than that of an academic.

Background

How do we define homelessness? Many uninformed people, both on the streets and in gilded chambers, would see homeless people as associated with drunkenness, vagrancy, laziness and basically a social ill that should not be tolerated, and even a form of crime to be distanced from. However this does not reflect the hidden reality of the pertinent issues behind such problems. Amongst others, homelessness is generally understood as the state of not having shelter, or a regular private space for sleeping, washing, and otherwise conducting one’s day-to-day life  [Food Not Bombs, 2014].

Official statistics showed that in 2010 there were 1,646 homeless people in the whole country, with the bulk majority, 1,387, in the capital [Boo Su-Lynn, 2014; Rayna Rusenko, 2014]. Unofficially, the real number might be double or triple that. Contrary to popular believe most homeless people in the city, in the order of 90%, actually have jobs [Tan Su Lin, 2014], though these jobs may not provide them enough income to sustain their life in the city properly [Sharifah Mariam Alhabshi, 2002] and are locals, not foreigners. Surprisingly, in general they are literate, with some form of basic education.

Issues Behind Homelessness

There are many reasons that lead to homelessness, and understanding the basics real issues causing the problem is important in order come up with meaningful actions to address the problem. Equally important would be to suspend one’s judgements on the homeless, or to look at the issue in just some superficial perspectives.

Some of the related issues that needed to be comprehended as possible causes leading to homelessness include [Food Not Bombs, 2014]:
  • Low income – where the income does not par up with the financial requirements of living in a city, given the high costs of housing and food;
  • Unemployment/underemployment – the lack of enough employment opportunities, and the lack of financial backing in the event of retrenchment;
  • Lack of affordable housing – within range of employment, given the high property and rental costs;
  • Lack of affordable transportation – high costs of transportation to and from work should one prefer to live away from the city centre.
  • Domestic violence – the lack of shelters for victims of domestic violence forced women and children onto the streets for safety;
  • Labour exploitation – unregulated employment where employees are not given proper rights, such as no health benefits and injury compensation, late or unpaid wages, SOCSO protection etc.
  • Debt – affects a lot of homeless people, where income are mainly used to pay off debts, or debts causing them to be bankrupt;
  • Addiction of alcohol, drugs or even gambling – saps off whatever regular income they have;
  • Regional disparities/rural to urban migration – relocation cuts off the natural protection of family home and communal support, while having to face higher costs of living in the city.

Aside from these causal issues, other related issues need also to be considered [Food Not Bombs, 2014]:
  • Chronic long-term illness that cannot be cured such as asthma, arthritis and diabetes;
  • Mental health issues such as depression;
  • Physical, amental and developmental disabilities;
  • Ageing, with 20% above the age of 60 years, and the lack of social support for these people.

A Caring Society

In the nation’s strive to achieve Vision 2020 and create a society that is democratic, liberal and tolerant, caring, economically just and equitable, progressive and prosperous, and in full possession of an economy that is competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient, the fourth, seventh and eighth listed challenges are, respectively [Mahathir Mohamad, 1991]:
  • The fourth is the challenge of establishing a fully moral and ethical society, whose citizens are strong in religious and spiritual values and imbued with the highest of ethical standards;
  • The seventh challenge is the challenge of establishing a fully caring society and a caring culture, a social system in which society will come before self, in which the welfare of the people will revolve not around the state or the individual but around a strong and resilient family system;
  • The eighth is the challenge of ensuring an economically just society. This is a society in which there is a fair and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation, in which there is full partnership in economic progress. Such a society cannot be in place so long as there is the identification of race with economic function, and the identification of economic backwardness with race.

These framework could provide some of the necessary thinking in developing some of the solutions to address the issue of homelessness. It should be noted that addressing these matters could not be done by one sector of the society alone, but should cover the three major sectors involved in the community, namely (Figure 1):
  • The government sector;
  • The business sector;
  • The volunteer sector, consisting of community activists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
 
Figure 1 Sectors involved in addressing community issues

Furthermore, the philosophy of a caring society must go beyond the microscopic perspective of actual individual actions towards another member of the society, but must permeate into the very purpose of existence of the community as a whole. This leads us to look into the creation of a society which is contented and at peace with itself, providing a level of satisfaction and happiness for its members, which could only be attained if the various components of life are fulfilled and addressed, i.e the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects (Figure 2). Any neglect of any of these aspects would certainly undermine the creation of a happy society.

Figure 2 Components of life

A caring society seeks to ensure that, together, the needs of an individual member of the society in all of these aspects are sufficiently fulfilled, and none are undermined or neglected in the pursuit of the others. A measure of the success or otherwise of a society must take into consideration how much of the needs of each of these aspects are fulfilled in a balanced manner.

A Holistic Approach

Most of what we see on the ground are actually mere symptoms of bigger causal issues normally hidden from view, and to just alleviate these problems as is would only provide a superficial treatment of the malaise. It is akin to providing pain-killer to a person suffering from a critical heart attack; it is useful to reduce the pain suffering, but more serious effort must be done to address the root of the problem. Homelessness in itself is only a reflection of bigger and broader issues in the society that need to be identified and addressed.

Noting from the causal issues of homelessness from earlier, one can categorise them into three levels (Figure 3):

(1)    Long-term, more global policy and planning issues;
(2)    Implementation and enforcement issues;
(3)    Responsive-type actions in dealing with the aftermath of the problems.

What is generally seen and felt are the last of these categories, but these are in fact mere consequences of discrepancies in the earlier two, and especially the first.

  
Figure 3 Levels of Issues

A caring philosophy must be imbued not only at the tail-end of the problem, but also must prevalent in the early stages.

A More Caring Policy and Planning

Some of the major causes of homelessness involves the availability of housing and the costs of transportation and food. These very much depend on the policies laid down by the authorities, especially in drawing out the long-term planning of cities and suburban areas. The expansion of cities purely based on the consideration of profits and economic gains, including uncontrolled real estate prices, certainly does not put the four human life needs mentioned above of the general population as a priority. Property prices would continually rise way beyond the reach of the ordinary people, and can only be afforded by a minute proportion of the population, the super-rich. A more caring philosophy in the planning should put the needs of the majority and the disadvantaged before the consideration of profit and pure economic gains.

Similar considerations need to be to overcome the problems relating to transportation. A city planning based on the requirements of private modes of transportation way above the development of a good, reliable and efficient public transportation system which is available and affordable to most would certainly contribute a lot to the issue of quality city dwelling, and homelessness. Again, the emphasis here is to start to pen everything with the human in mind, in a caring attitude, not just doing it for the physical and material benefits, or treating the people as mere tools for economic productivity.

Another requirement that can be considered in planning is the stemming of unbalanced flow of economic immigrants from rural and less-developed areas to the megacities. As long as the needy find it imperative for them to move from their original districts to bigger cities in search of better living conditions for their families, then the issue of providing for their needs in the cities would continue unabated. There is no reason why every economic development must be centralised in the cities, especially with better communication and transportation systems nowadays. Greater push must be done to enable the creation of more viable centres of economic activities outside the bigger cities, which would also necessitate the creation of better planned new townships (instead of the old, haphazardly growing cities) that would address all the four needs of human lives in a more balanced manner.

Of the three sectors, such massive undertaking can only be taken by the government sector, probably with the support of the business sector. However, the leaders and planners must be very clear as to what should drive the planning, is it pure profit, or is it vanity or should more emphasis be put into the balanced human life. Relevant laws and regulations should be enacted to ensure such are achieved.

A More Caring Implementation and Enforcement

As earlier ementioned, one very important myth to be bustered with regards to homelessness is that they are lazy, linked to crimes and put it upon themselves to be homeless. Once we are clear that the negative perceptions tied to the homeless are just not true, then our treatment of the issue and the people related to it should not be judgemental but seen in a more compassionate way. This change in perception should particularly be relevant to those executing programs and matters directly affecting the homeless. For those in the bureaucracy, these are individuals that they are dealing with, not just statistics and faceless names. They are also not small issues to be glossed over or swept under the carpet, especially in the face of the onslaught of “economic advancement” or “progress”, and especially not so that we would protect our “squeeky clean” image to the tourists.

The welfare agencies need to be better equipped to handle the variety of issues relating to homelessness, particularly in helping those affected by chronic illness, mental and psychological problems, ageing and also domestic violence. Our society must have a ready safety net to take care of such matters, so that they would not have to face such issues on their own in a helpless situation. A society which does not protect its weakest is a society heading towards certain doom.

Also, in matters involving work exploitation such as the deprivation of employment benefits, and late and unpaid wages, these disadvantaged people must be able to obtain ready legal assistance to fight for their rights, and their cases should not be bogged down in red-tape. Enforcement of the long arm of the law against the perpetrators of such exploitation must be firm and swift, and not be put back due to their status.

For Muslims, one of the ordained channels that should be available to assist the homeless is through the distribution of zakat and fitrah (tithe), which is rightfully theirs. Red-tapes and unrealistic conditions tied to the handing out of zakat monies must be done over, and zakat should be let to serve the role it was meant to do in Islam, not to be kept in the banks years after years. Compassionate considerations should prevail over legalistic and bureaucratic hurdles. Only then the true purpose of zakat would be attained.

Education is also an important means to impart the caring and compassionate attitude in facing the homelessness issue. Schools could be an effective medium to create better awareness of the issue, including educating school children of good practices to avoid being trapped into such conditions – in matters such as income management, debt avoidance, good social behaviour, as well as imbuing the feeling of empathy towards the disadvantaged. 

In this area of implementation, both the government and the business sectors have a lot of role to play, with the volunteer sector give a supportive role.

Caring Response to the Problem

When prevention fails and the problem still persists, as no amount of planning and tip-top implementation of programs would ensure an air-tight solution to the problem, then the necessary steps must be taken to alleviate the matter. The roles played by the respective organisations (NGOs) in helping the homeless, whether directly in providing food to them or in assisting them to obtain their legal, medical and social dues, are commendable. These organisations are staffed by concerned volunteers, and financed by the support of concerned community members.

Figure 4 Students trolling the night to distribute food for the homeless

Direct participation in such programs by members of the society, especially the youths, aside from alleviating the suffering of the homeless, have a secondary effect of creating a better awareness of the problems, and thus a more compassionate attitude towards the down-trodden and disadvantaged, instead of merely sneering at them negatively and blaming them squarely for their misfortune. This have an overall positive effect on the society’s well-being, creating individuals who would be better positioned to later serve in positions of policy-making and planning. More such programs should be encouraged at universities and schools and carried out with better planning, so that they would not be just one-off activities or just serve as window dressings. They could be included as part of extra-curricular activities of institutions of higher learning and even for trainees in the National Service programs.

More active involvements of the business sector should also be solicited, if not demanded, as par of their CSR activities. At present a number of corporations do provide funding to the NGOs involved in tackling the homeless issues, but they should also consider sending their staff to get directly involved on the ground. Furthermore, the business sector should ensure that they themselves are not involved in creating the problem by bad practices such a exploitation of their employees, non-compassionate treatment of human issues etc.

In providing for some of the basic needs of the homeless, the NGOs and volunteers should not be hinded or treated with disdain by those in authority, but should be assisted and facilitated wherever necessary. Any issues arising should be handled in a mutually agreeable manner and not dealt in a confrontationist mode, for these NGOs and volunteers are what gives the society its soul.

Conclusion

The issue of homelessness should be handled with more compassion in a caring society that we are to build, and any solution to the matter need to involve a more holistic approach right from the policy and planning, implementation and support. 

References

Boo Su-Lyn (2014). Homeless in the city - Falling through the cracks, Malay Mail Online, July 4 2014, http://english.astroawani.com/news/show/90-per-cent-of-the-homeless-are-malaysians-with-jobs-39082 

Edmund Yap (2014). Homelessness is a Choice, Is It?,  Social Enterprise Malaysia, http://www.socialenterprise.org.my/homelessness-choice/

Foods Not Bombs (2014). Homelessness in Malaysia - Policy Sheet, http://www.masw.org.my/images/homeless.pdf

Mahathir Mohamad (1991). “The Way Forward”, Prime Minister’s Office. http://www.wawasan2020.com/vision/p2.html 

Rayna Rusenko (2014). Homelessness in Malaysia – popularly misunderstood , The Malaysian Insider, http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/features/article/homelessness-in-malaysia-popularly-misunderstood 

Sharifah Mariam Alhabshi and Alifatul Kamilah Binti Abdul Manan (2002), Homelessness in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: A Case of Agenda Denial, International Journal of Social Science Tomorrow Vol. 1 No. 2.

Tan Su Lin (2014), 90 per cent of the homeless are Malaysians with jobs, Astro Awani, http://english.astroawani.com/news/show/90-per-cent-of-the-homeless-are-malaysians-with-jobs-39082

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The above paper was presented as an invited paper at "A Seminar on Homelessness: Nature, Causes, Implications and Solutions", University of Malaya Faculty of Business and Accountancy, 20 October 2014.


Bagi yang membawa tarbiah, ingatlah bahawa kita tidak mentarbiahkan manusia hanya untuk menjadi pengikut kita yang taat dan menurut sahaja, tetapi kita seharusnya mentarbiahkan mereka agar kelak menjadi pemimpin kita. Untuk itu, mereka haruslah ditarbiahkan supaya mempunyai pemikiran yang sentiasa bergerak, analitikal dan kritikal, bukannya statik dan jumud.

Mereka taat bukan kerana menurut secara buta-tuli individu-individu tertentu, tetapi dengan kefahaman yang mendalam berdasarkan kepada ilmu dan hujjah yang jelas, serta menjiwai sepenuhnya tuntutan fikrah ini. Pada masa yang sama, walaupun cara berfikir mereka kritikal, mereka tetap mendokong adab dan tatasusila, serta tetap mengutamakan tsiqah dan berlapangdada terhadap sesama sefikrah.


Para murabbi janganlah hanya menekankan supaya mereka menjadi burung kakak tua yang hanya mengulang-ulangkan kembali setiap apa yang disogokkan kepada mereka tanpa berfikir mendalam, tetapi seharusnya mendidik mereka supaya dapat mencernakan fikrah Islam itu sebaiknya lalu menghasilkan rekayasa yang asli dalam gubahan yang tersendiri, sarat dengan intipati yang penuh visi untuk meneroka jalan dakwah ke hadapan.

Ainullotfi
21 Disember 2014