In the Footsteps of the Prophet

>> Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A short excerpt from a book by Tariq Ramadan, In the Footsteps of the Prophet.

"He (the Prophet Muhammad) loved, he forgave. Every day he begged God to forgive his own failings and oversights, and when a woman or a man came to him burdened with a mistake, however serious, he received that soul and showed her or him the way to forgiveness, solace, dialog with God, and the Most Gentle's protection. He covered other people's mistakes from the sight of others, while teaching everyone the need for personal rigor and discipline. When laziness moved anyone to ask him for minimal practice, he always answered positively and invited them to the use their intelligence and their qualities to understand, improve, and free themselves from their own contradictions while accepting their own fragility. He taught responsibility without guilt and adherence to ethics as the conditions for freedom."

I love this book! It's not just another biography of the Prophet Muhammad, but it's packed with stories we can relate to, with the lessons we can take away being elaborated beautifully.


The Little Things

>> Monday, June 4, 2012

Last month, a friend introduced me to Naz Abas Ng, who had just published a poetry collection, complemented with her own black & white photographs. The following book description is taken from her blog here. You can also find The Little Things in FB here.

The Little Things is Naz Abas Ng’s second book, a haunting collection of reflective poetry and black and white photographs. ISBN: 978-967-11075-0-8, Publication Date: 7th May 2012, Self Published, No. of Pages: 40, Price: RM 45. Printed on acid free paper with 20% post consumer recycled content and manufactured with Green-e certified wind power.
 The Little Things, Naz Abas Ng brings to life her poems by coupling them with her carefully selected black and white photographs. Her poems are reflective in nature, touching on themes of letting go, brokenness, courage, and faith. There is an underlying story subtly weaved in the arrangement of the poems, of the triumph of courage and faith over despair. The absence of colourful distractions in the photographs is helpful here, enabling the mood and scene captured in the photographs to have a meaningful resonance with the poems.
I had a couple of photos to upload but somehow I wasn't successful. Anyway, I think Naz's poems are nice. They're pleasant to read, they evoke emotions and thoughts and they are accessible to beginners like me. I haven’t been reading much poetry. The only poetry book I have in my collection is Al-Amin by SN A Samad Said (ok, now I have two). But Naz, as well as my friend Bas, had recommended that I try read Rumi’s (translated) poems, which I'll look for.

I’ve had the opportunity to ask her a few questions and would like to share my short interview with her here.

You’re an engineer. How did you come up with a poetry book?
Actually, I’ve started writing since I was seven. I started with stories, and when I was thirteen I began writing series. I became more serious about poetry when I was fifteen, but really dabbled in it when I was in the university. It was also in the university when I picked up photography. An art teacher whom I babysat for allowed me to use the dark room and materials freely. So I’ve been writing all my life – I just happened to choose engineering for the scholarship and to earn a living.
Why poems though?
I write because I have always had a natural love of words and how in its proper placing, it can move and inspire a person in a way not otherwise achieved. If you try to read Maulana Rumi, or Hafiz's poems, some of my favourite poets, this is truly evident. It is also helpful, I find, to express in a way that is otherwise contrived, and truths not acceptable to be spoken of in prose form, making it more palatable because it is expressed with as much delicacy, clarity and beauty the poet is able to. It is like how, in comedy, you can speak the truth about life sometimes. Poetry uses the aesthetics of words and language, comedy uses humour. But they are both often alternative expressions of truth. I like to choose words that are simple and accessible to everyone, but not to reveal my meaning. And they have to rhyme for the aesthetic quality.
Why did you self-publish? Is it difficult?
Because I want to do it fast, and I’ve found that going through established publisher takes a long time. Having these books in physical form like this makes it easy for me to send it to other publishers and bookstores who might be interested.
Publishing a book is like managing a project. It’s more than just the writing. You have to think about the production, the process, the marketing and promotion. And my experience in my workplace helped me to manage this as a personal project. A tip: it’s better if you could go in person to the National Library to apply for the ISBN number.
This is not my first book, actually. The first time, I went through a self-publishing website based in the US, In The Absence of Magic is a collection of 5 stories and 13 poems.
It was a different experience. I learnt a lot publishing The Little Things.
Is ‘The little Things’ going to be available as ebook?
No, I don't plan to make it available as an ebook, primarily because it is a combination of photos and writing, and it’s meant to be a cheaper, paperback, and more accessible version of a coffee table book. it is meant to be appreciated on an internal as well as external aesthetics. If it was just writing, yes I would do an ebook.

Coincidently, I had just finished reading Orhan Pamuk’s novel ‘Snow’ recently. Ka, the protagonist, is a poet who seems to be ‘receiving’ poems. He would describe feeling a poem ‘coming’, then sat down for a few minutes to transcribe the 36 lines or so in his notebook. We call it moments of ‘ilham’ or inspiration I guess. But I’m sure poets work a lot harder (and longer) to pen down their words. Ka, in ‘Snow’, didn’t claim the poems to be ‘his’ but instead he was just the ‘medium’.



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