M’sian cartoonist gets ideas after Subuh (dawn) prayer

LatNur Firdaus Abdul Rahim

CARTOONIST Mohd Nor Khalid, or popularly known as Lat, regards Ramadhan not only as the most blessed month, but also the time of the year when he is able to get ideas and inspiration for his work.

Born on March 5, 1951, in Kota Bharu, Perak, Lat, who is known for his cartoon series the ‘Kampung Boy’, said the best time for him to focus on his cartoon work is after the subuh (morning) prayer.

“I can be said to have retired, as my work no longer appeared in the newspapers, but I do still draw just to pass the time and is working to produce a comic book soon.

“So, the best time for me to get ideas for my work is in the morning, when my mind is still fresh.

“During the fasting month, after the ‘sahur’ (pre-dawn meal) and Subuh prayer as well as doing other religious rituals, I’ll spend time until noon on my cartoon work. That’s the time when I can focus,” he told Bernama.

He was met during an event “Jelajah Potret Penerima Anugerah Merdeka” by Petronas Gallery at the State Museum here recently. Lat is one of the recipients of the award. He received it in 2014.

On how he got himself into becoming a cartoonist, Lat said he had the skill since young and his father was the first person to discover his talent. He said most of his work was influenced by local cartoonists at that time like Raja Hamzah, Alias Kulub, Raja Sulaiman and Saidin Yahya.

“My father was the one who actually encouraged me. I remember during my childhood days, he would take us to the circus and when we got home, asked me to draw the animals which performed at the circus.

“That was how my interest in drawing started and it then progressed into drawing cartoons,” he added. The winner of the 2002 Fukuoka Asian Culture Award has so far published more than 20 cartoon series.

The first when he was 13 years of age. Most of his work depicts the life of the multi-racial society in Malaysia. Referring to “Kampung Boy”, he said it was based on his personal observation, life and experience.

“I don’t know how to create political stories because it is not an element that can last in the cartoon world.

“I prefer elements that are more remembered by the people, like friendship, neighbours and living in a society,” he added. He said the role of a cartoonist was not merely to produce work for people to view.

“At the same time, a cartoonist should be an agent to unite the people, especially in a country with various races, only then there is harmony,” he added.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

lat kb


– See more at: http://www.bt.com.bn/features/2016/07/10/m%E2%80%99sian-cartoonist-gets-ideas-after-dawn#sthash.BTSk9Hih.dpuf


Royal revolution as Indonesian sultan taps female heir

yk sultan
Olivia Rondonuwu

COURIERS in elaborate outfits danced to the gentle tinkling of Javanese music as the Sultan of Yogyakarta looked on, a scene that has played out in much the same way for centuries in the tiny Indonesian kingdom.

But the recent ceremony to mark the 70th birthday of Hamengku Buwono X, Indonesia’s last sultan with real political power, had one key difference from previous celebrations — many of his relatives refused to attend.

A bitter feud has erupted at the heart of the kingdom on Java island, after the Muslim ruler signalled he wants his eldest daughter to become the sultanate’s first female monarch after he leaves the throne.

Indonesia is home to numerous small kingdoms. But while other provinces now elect political rulers and their sultans are largely ceremonial figures, Yogyakarta’s sultan serves as both royal leader and governor of the city and its surrounding areas.

Jakarta allowed the Yogyakarta royal family to keep power as the central government was grateful for the sultanate’s support for independence in 1945 after a long period of Dutch colonial rule.

The sultan still maintains many of the trappings of Javanese royal rule in the kingdom, which has a history stretching back to the 16th century.

His main residence is a traditional Javanese palace complex, known as a Kraton, and important events are celebrated with much pomp and circumstance.

But the sultan’s push to make the eldest of his five daughters — he has no sons — the first female monarch of Yogyakarta has transformed him into an unlikely champion for gender equality, and threatens to overturn hundreds of years of tradition in the Muslim, conservative sultanate.

It has sparked a furious row with his family, who say he is breaking rules laid down to govern the sultanate, amid speculation that his brothers were jockeying to fill his position.

“A female sultan is an impossibility,” the sultan’s cousin, Kanjeng Raden Tumenggung Jatiningrat, told AFP.

“One symbol in this palace is a rooster — so if we have a queen should we change it to a hen?”

The rooster is a symbol of bravery.

He added that a female ruler could not oversee rituals in the mosque or other ceremonies that have traditionally been led by men.

Hamengku Buwono, who has been on the throne 27 years, last year set in motion the process for his daughter to become monarch by giving her the title “Gusti Kanjeng Ratu Mangkubumi.”

While he has not confirmed publicly that she is the crown princess, in Javanese culture — where much is conveyed through symbolism rather than anything said out loud — the signs are clear.

The title Mangkubumi, which translates from Indonesian as “the one who holds the Earth”, was the same one given to the sultan when he was made crown prince several decades ago.

She was also entrusted with the task of “attempting to bring safety, happiness and prosperity to the world”, another indication she would succeed her father.

And the sultan made small changes to his own lengthy royal title — removing a word normally only used by men and tweaking another — to make it gender-neutral, opening the door for a woman to take over.

The sultan has defended the move, saying there is nothing stopping him from making changes in his kingdom and he has to adapt as Indonesia modernises.

“The Yogyakarta palace doesn’t have a hereditary tradition that can’t be changed, and all ruling sultans can introduce changes,” he told local media.

Still, many disagree with him, from his relatives to local Muslim groups.

“The king should maintain the tradition as it was originally, because this is an Islamic kingdom,” said Abdurrahman, from local hardline group Islamic Jihad Front, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

But it is not the first time there has been a female monarch in diverse Indonesia – nowadays Muslim-majority, but which has had Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms over the centuries and is home to about 300 different ethnic groups.

Queens at times ruled over the ancient Majapahit empire, which covered large parts of what is now Indonesia from the late 13th to the early 16th centuries, as they did in Aceh, on western Sumatra island, when it was an independent sultanate.

And the sultan’s approximately four million subjects in Yogyakarta and the surrounding area, who view him as a demi-God, have had only a muted a reaction, with most preferring to keep out of royal affairs.

Nevertheless the row looks unlikely to be resolved any time soon, and it cast a long shadow over the recent celebration, which marked the anniversary of the sultan’s coronation as well as his birthday.

The solemn melodies from the “gamelans” — a traditional Indonesian instrumental ensemble, made up of bronze percussion instruments — were a million miles from the seething tensions swirling around the royal succession.

“About 90 per cent of the family don’t respect him anymore,” raged Gusti Bendoro Pangeran Haryo Prabukusumo, a step-brother of the ruler who snubbed the event.

Wed, 29 June 2016



On the Succession and Development Project in Yogyakarta Sultanate

HBX fam

Sultan of Yogyakarta, Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono (HB) X with his spouse, daughters and sons-in-law.

Cally Colbron


THE current Sultan of Yogyakarta, Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono (HB) X is the father of five daughters and no sons. The Sultanate has customarily been inherited through the male line. Following that tradition, it was widely assumed that at the end of the current Sultan’s reign the Sultanate would pass to his half-brother. Since the position of Sultan is automatically granted the office of Governor of Yogyakarta Province, this would also mean the Sultan’s half-brother would assume this position.

The privilege of government office without elections is unique to Yogyakarta. It is also a relatively new phenomenon. The current Sultan’s father, Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono (HB) IX, held the position of Governor of Yogyakarta from the period of Indonesian independence until the time of his death in 1988. However, he had not been entitled to the position by law. The linking of the Yogyakarta governorship to the position of Sultan as an inherited position became national law in 2012.

Gender equality?

On 30 April this year, Sultan HB X issued a royal proclamation indicating that the position of Sultan could be held by a female. The proclamation also altered the official titles of the Sultan. It removed the Islamic designation ‘Khalifatullah’ (Caliph), a title that can only be held by a male, and replaced the Javanese male designation ‘Buwono’ (loosely translated as ‘universe’) to the gender neutral ‘Bawono’. On 5 May the Sultan issued another decree to change the name of his eldest daughter Gusti Kanjeng Ratu Pembayun (GKR), giving her a new title designating her as the crown princess.

Media coverage and commentary from outside Yogyakarta has widely described both the decree and the proclamation as wins for gender equality. Some have suggested that the dispensing of ‘Khalifatullah’ from the official title is a step that not only paves the way for a female Sultan, but also strengthens values of religious diversity within Yogyakarta, since it weakens the identification of the Sultanate with Islam.

Media commentary within Yogyakarta has centred on expert opinions that the changes are illegal under the terms of the 2012 Yogyakarta Special Region Law (Law No. 13/2012). The 2012 law, by linking the governorship to the Sultan, made the position of governor no longer subject to elections. The 2012 law mentions the position of wife of the Sultan, leading some to argue that this indicates unequivocally that the position of Sultan must be held by a male. After 2012, Sultan HB X lobbied the provincial parliament unsuccessfully to remove the paragraph containing mention of the wife of the Sultan but the stipulation remains. The 2012 law also granted the vice governorship to the Pakualam, head of a small duchy called Kadipaten Pakualaman within Yogyakarta Province. Kadipaten Pakualaman was originally created by British colonial powers with land taken from the Sultanate of Yogyakarta as part of colonial Britain’s divide and conquer approach to maintaining control over the local populace.

Among the Yogyakarta public, the proposed changes were met with suspicion. Banners popped up throughout Yogyakarta urging a return to the ‘rules’ of the Kraton. Suspicions were aired on social media and other casual commentary as to the motivations behind the changes. Anti-development sentiment has also grown, due to the Sultan’s role in politics and control of land in the region.

Reclaiming land

Yogyakarta has enjoyed a degree of autonomy and ‘special’ status since the colonial era. After independence, that ‘special status’ was entrenched in national law in recognition of the extraordinary role that both the then Sultan (HB IX) and then Pakualam (VII) played in supporting the independence movement. The Sultan and Pakualam retained ownership of land belonging to the Sultanate and Pakualaman, rather than it being taken over by the new state. Traditional ‘royal’ land remained in use by local communities and a great deal was used for public works projects in the manner of public land. These projects were perceived as benefiting the community at large, and ranged from using land for the establishment of a public university to engineering projects.

In 1984, Sri Sultan HB IX adopted the 1960 Basic Agrarian Law (BAL) in Yogyakarta, a move that saw the ownership of all remaining crown land or royal land (owned by the Sultan or Pakualam) being transferred to the Republic of Indonesia. Prior to this, Sri Sultan HB IX had embarked on a range of public works on crown land and the BAL had little effect on this practice. The adoption of the 1960 BAL came after Sri Sultan HB IX’s withdrawal from national politics in 1978, a move precipitated by then President Suharto’s withdrawal of support. From that time until his death in 1988, Sri Sultan HB IX remained Governor of Yogyakarta. Tensions between HB IX and Suharto then transferred to the current Sultan, who was denied appointment as the governor of Yogyakarta until Suharto fell and the position was won by election in 1998.

The 2012 Yogyakarta Special Region Law, which linked the governorship to the Sultanate, was perceived as recognising Yogyakarta’s unique status as the cultural epicenter of Java. It received broad support from a vast majority of Yogyakartans. This law came in the wake of mass protest against a proposition from then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that would see regular democratic elections for the position of governor and vice governor of Yogyakarta. Rhetoric surrounding the debate took on a Jakarta versus Yogyakarta aspect.

A component of the law that received limited attention until now is the clause that cancelled the BAL and returned to the colonial era Sultan Grond (SG) and Pakualaman Grond (PAG)..This meant that large tracts of land within Yogyakarta were reclassified as crown land, owned by the Sultan or Pakualam. In the wake of the 2012 law an unprecedented mapping project was initiated, aimed at recording all land ‘belonging’ to the Sultan and Pakualam under SG and PAG. Locals who have had their land ownership paperwork amended as part of the mapping exercise began posting photographs of amendments on social media in the wake of the royal proclamation, linking the mapping initiative and the changes to succession.

In a pattern that began before 2012, various sites throughout Yogyakarta have been claimed by the Sultan and Pakualam under the legitimacy of SG and PAG and earmarked for large-scale commercial projects. Local communities who use these sites have been resisting eviction from land and controversy has plagued each project. The legal legitimacy of SG and PAG rests in the 2012 law, since prior to this the 1960 BAL (recognised in Yogyakarta in 1984) had voided the SG and PAG and meant the Sultan and Pakualam had no ownership rights.

The anti-development movement

Resistance to land claims based on SG and PAG and the struggles against dispossession have been going on for several years in various parts of Yogyakarta. One such dispute in Kulon Progo district has seen farmers clash with authorities over an attempted dispossession to make way for an iron sand mining project in collaboration with an Australian mining company. The resistance has been fierce and spanned a number of years, becoming known as the ‘bertani atau mati’ (farm or die) movement – a play on the independence era slogan of ‘merdeka atau mati’ (independence or die). While these farmers have gained positive attention outside Indonesia, within Yogyakarta media portrayals have depicted them as an opportunistic fringe group, until recently. In fact, many within Yogyakarta accepted the official narrative that such organised resistance was the work of preman (organised criminals) or thugs aiming to milk compensation money from the government. That opinion has changed over time, particularly after the recent royal decree and proclamation.

Yogyakarta has also seen a growing anti-development movement, focused on resistance to urban development. The Jogja Ora Didol movement (Javanese for ‘Jogja is not for sale’) has protested with street art resisting what is seen as unfettered and inequitable development. At the same time, spontaneous expressions of protest and resistance to the rampant building of hotels, apartment blocks and shopping malls has been on the increase in local neighbourhoods.

Throughout Yogyakarta, banners expressing opposition to commercial development projects can be seen in virtually every area. Nonetheless, until now only a minority of activists have drawn attention to the nexus between rampant development and the Sultan and Pakualam’s roles as political office holders, landowners and developers. The royal decree appears to have been a trigger which has brought this previously taboo topic out into the open for discussion by the broader Yogyakarta public.

Suing the Sultan

In an unprecedented move, residents of Kulon Progo facing eviction to make way for another development project, the grand scale international airport, launched legal action against the Sultan for his approval of this project. In this case, there is also uncertainty about land rights. The BAL meant that use of the land by local people was protected, whereas reversion to PAG and SG means land rights within these areas are now uncertain. If the Kulon Progo project proceeds, the implication is that PAG and SG takes precedence.

The residents resisting the Kulon Progo airport project are being represented by a local legal aid organisation famed for advocating social justice. Public opinion on the airport project has shifted, and protesters who were viewed with suspicion just months ago are fast becoming a symbol for all Yogyakartans fed up with rampant development, an attitude sharpened since the royal decree and proclamation. The Kulon Progo court case against the Sultan was successful, and a temporary stay on work has been granted. The court decision in favour of residents coincided with the removal of many banners advocating a return to the ‘rules’ of the Kraton. The Sultan has declared his intention to appeal the case and locals still live in uncertainty.

Although the Sultan’s half-brothers have protested the changes to succession, protest from within the royal family has mostly been muted, and it is difficult to imagine protest from those quarters uniting with communities resisting land possessions, given that many members of the Sultan’s extended family have benefited from property development in Yogyakarta. In the view of many locals, succession staying within the immediate family, rather than going to one of the Sultan’s half-brothers as has traditionally been the case, has undermined one of the checks and balances on the power of the Sultanate. The Sultan has defended the changes to succession by saying that the impetus came in messages from God.

Cally Colbron (callycolbron@msn.com) has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from Monash University and has been living in Yogyakarta with her family.






Muslims love Jesus, too: 6 things you didn’t know about Jesus in Islam


Jennifer Williams

CHRISTMAS, as everyone knows, commemorates the birth of Jesus and is a major religious celebration for Christians around the world.

But what many people don’t know is that Jesus is an important figure in Islam, too, even though most Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas (though some of us, especially American Muslims, do).

In honor of the holiday, here are six things you may not know about the role of Jesus — and his mother, Mary — in Islam:

  1. Jesus, Mary, and the angel Gabriel are all in the Quran (as are Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and a bunch of other Bible characters).
  2. Muslims believe that Jesus (called “Isa” in Arabic) was a prophet of God, was born to a virgin (Mary), and will return to Earth before the Day of Judgment to restore justice and to defeat al-Masih ad-Dajjal (“the false messiah”), also known as the Antichrist. All of which may sound pretty familiar to many Christians.
  3. Mary (called “Maryam” in Arabic) has an entire chapter in the Quran named for her — the only chapter in the Quran named for a female figure. In fact, Mary is the only woman to be mentioned by name in the entire Quran: As noted in the new Study Quran, “other female figures are identified only by their relation to others, such as the wife of Adam and the mother of Moses, or by their title, such as the Queen of Sheba.” Mary is mentioned more times in the Quran than in the entire New Testament.
  4. Just as with all the other prophets, including Mohammed, Muslims recite, “Peace be upon him” every time we refer to Jesus.
  5. Muslims believe that Jesus performed miracles: The Quran discusses several of Jesus’s miracles, including giving sight to the blind, healing lepers, raising the dead, and breathing life into clay birds.
  1. The story of Jesus’s birth as told in the Quran is also the story of his first miracle, when he spoke as an infant in the cradle and declared himself to be a prophet of God. Here’s the story:

And remember Mary in the Book, when she withdrew from her family to an eastern place. And she veiled herself from them. Then We [God] sent unto her Our Spirit [the angel Gabriel], and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. She said, “I seek refuge from thee in the Compassionate [i.e., God], if you are reverent!” He said, “I am but a messenger of thy Lord, to bestow upon thee a pure boy.”

She said, “How shall I have a boy when no man has touched me, nor have I been unchaste?” He said, “Thus shall it be. Thy Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me.’” And [it is thus] that We might make him a sign unto mankind, and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter decreed.

So she conceived him and withdrew with him to a place far off. And the pangs of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a date palm. She said, “Would that I had died before this and was a thing forgotten, utterly forgotten!” So he called out to her from below her, “Grieve not! Thy Lord has placed a rivulet beneath thee. And shake toward thyself the trunk of the date palm; fresh, ripe dates shall fall upon thee. So eat and drink and cool thine eye. And if thou seest any human being, say, ‘Verily I have vowed a fast unto the Compassionate, so I shall not speak this day to any man.’”

Then she came with him [the infant Jesus] unto her people, carrying him. They said, “O Mary! Thou hast brought an amazing thing! O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not an evil man, nor was thy mother unchaste.” Then she pointed to him [Jesus]. They said, “How shall we speak to one who is yet a child in the cradle?”

He [Jesus] said, “Truly I am a servant of God. He has given me the Book and made me a prophet. He has made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and has enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving so long as I live, and [has made me] dutiful toward my mother. And He has not made me domineering, wretched. Peace be upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am raised alive!”

That is Jesus son of Mary— a statement of the truth, which they doubt.

(Al-Quran Surah Mary/19:16-34)

VOX The Latest

Tue, 22 Dece,ber 2015

Isa_Jesus seal Arabic_image

The name “Jesus, son of Mary” written in Arabic calligraphy, followed by “peace be upon him.”




‘Quranic Agroforestry ‘

buku kebun al-quran

Vera Salim

WHEN one tries to follow through what has been contemporarily written about scientific proofs in the Quran, one can’t help but being reminded of the 109th ayah in Surah Al-Kahfi:

“If the sea were ink for (writing) the words (*) of my Lord, the sea would be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, even if We brought the like of it as a supplement.” [* The Saheeh International edition of the translation of the Quran explains the “words” (al-kalimaat) of Allah as the words of Allah’s unlimited knowledge or words describing His attributes and His grandeur or praise of Him Subhanahu wa Ta’ala.]

Scientific Proofs?
Indeed, there’s no aspect whatsoever of our existence that is not encompassed by the Quran in one way or another. Attempts at explaining the ayaat of Al-Quran from just one perspective – say, a scientific approach – that people have already carried out are but a speck of dust in the unlimited oceans of Allah’s knowledge.

We hold in awe some experts’ attempts at explaining, say, the proofs of embryology or oceanology in the Quran. For instance, there have been many discussions about the verses of “two seas.” In Surah Ar-Rahman (55): 19-20, Allah says: “He released the two seas meeting (side by side); Between them is a barrier [so] neither of them transgresses.” Also, Surah Al-Furqan (25): 53 where Allah says: “And it is He who has released (simultaneously) the two seas (i.e., bodies of water), one fresh and sweet and one salty and bitter, and He placed between them a barrier and prohibiting partition.”

Early Muslim scholars such as Ibn Kathir of 7th century Hijrah Syria, or even the much later scholars such as Muhammad al-Tahir ibn Ashur of Tunis in the 20th CE century, have explained what the “two seas” mean.

Thanks to the Internet, we can read their scholarly explanations any time. Their works will continue to benefit themselves and us, InsyaAllah, in understanding Allah’s Words. However, we understand also that the painstaking endeavors of the scholars do not scratch even the surface of Allah’s knowledge. The commandment that we ponder the Quran remains on our shoulders.

Even in Farming
It is through this perspective we should view current attempts at obtaining the huda (guidance) and mau’izhah (instruction) from the Quran for any life aspects, from politics to social building and even farming. The farmers and agriculture experts of today should, for instance, read Kitab Al-Filahah by Abu Zakariyyah Yahya ibn Muhammad or Ibn al-‘Awwam.

Ibn al-‘Awwam hailed from Ishbilia (Seville) in Muslim Spain in the 6th century Hijrah. The book Kitab al-Filahah became a more comprehensive and encyclopedic work on agriculture and agronomy because Ibn al-’Awwam cited quotations from the earlier sources wherever he could. He followed in the footsteps and benefited from the work of agricultural scholars of fifth century Muslim Spain such as Muhammad al-Tighnari or Ibn Wafid of Toledo and Abu ‘Umar Ahmad.

About 100 years after these pioneers, Ibn al-’Awwam collected information supplied by them and from other sources in his Kitab al-Filahah which is more comprehensive and up-to-date. It gained wider publicity and was considered so important that Ibn Khaldun also referred to it in the Muqaddimah. Don’t forget, Muslim Spain was one of the most glorious periods of the Muslim world. These past scholars’ treatises made Al-Quran their main source of instruction at all levels of their studies.

The Garden of Al-Quran
There is today the beginning of a wave to return to Al-Quran as our main instruction in agriculture; one of the proponents of this wave is Muhaimin Iqbal of Jakarta, Indonesia, whose sustainable farming scheme iGrow won a prize in the recent StartupIstanbul competition in Turkey and was written about in Forbes by Federico Guerrini.

Iqbal coined the term “Quranic Agroforestry” and culled from the knowledge he has gained from years of farming as well as studying the Quran both theories and practices that he wrote about in his book, Kebun Al-Quran (The Garden of the Quran).

In the book, he explains various aspects of farming from the Quranic perspective, from how to revive the dead or barren land to how the fruit date prevents starvation as mentioned in the hadith of Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to how Islamic farming actually is multicultural farming!

Here’s a small excerpt from the book:

“We see green everywhere, but why is it not enough? This is because the green (the trees) are planted simply for the sake of making things green or for the sake of logging, or fruit harvesting.

(When it comes to the question of food insecurity), our search for answers often results in some vested interests’ gains. This quest has not given maximal returns to the whole community.

What if we now seek the guidance of Allah about what to plant? Does Allah give detailed guidance? We must believe that Allah provides detailed answers about every question, including food security, such as in the following ayah:

‘And within the land are neighbouring plots and gardens of grapevines and crops and palm trees, (growing) several from a root or otherwise, watered with one water; but We make some of them exceed others in (quality of) fruit. Indeed in that are signs for a people who reason.’ [Ar-Ra’d (13): 4]

So there are plots, plants or gardens that thrive next to each other. Some exceed others in producing foods for humans. All we need to do is identify what plants should be placed next to one another and which will give optimal yields for humans.

Agricultural experts know that multicultural farming – as opposed to monocultural – provides the best yields but also is better able to withstand diseases.”

Underlying the idea of multicultural farming is the knowledge that each plant variety obtains the maximal photosynthesis with only 1/10 of the sunshine it receives. Iqbal then refers to the food forestry in Morocco that has existed for thousands of years in which different varieties of plants grow together. This is similar to today’s sustainable plants composition that is known as permaculture, whose description can be found in the illustration 1 from http://www.spiralseed. co.uk.

“Compare (these farming schemes) with what Al-Quran specifically says about certain plants,” Iqbal writes. “The first plant as the canopy is date palm plants. The low tree can either be olives (zaituun), pomegranate (rummaan) or figs (tiin). The number 3 plants are various fruit plants or sweet flowers that are known as raihaan in Surah ArRahman (55) ayah 12.

The plant number 4 is various herbal growths, the number 5 plant can be ginger as found in Surah Al-Insan (76) verse 17. The plant number 6 in the illustration depicts various shrubs as found in Surah ‘Abasa (80) verse 31. The last plant in the illustration is grapes and other vines as indicated in Surah AlAn’am (6) verse 141,” Iqbal writes.

Ultimately, the answer to food insecurities affecting the world today, Iqbal argues, lies in a people’s Iman (faith) and Taqwa (consciousness or fear of Allah). Iqbal cites:

“And if only the people of the cities had believed and feared Allah, We would have opened (i.e., bestowed) upon them blessings from the heaven and the earth; but they denied (the messengers), so We seized them for what they were earning.” [Surah Al-A’raf (7): 96]

Allah knows best.

Islamia/The Brunei Times

Friday, 4 December 2015



Indonesia Needs To Create A More Sustainable Agriculture: This Startup Might Show How

igrow start

Federico Guerrini

ONE of the most interesting companies to emerge from the recent StartupIstanbul competition in Turkey, was, in my view, iGrow, an Indonesian startup that helps ordinary citizens fund local farmers, and get a return on their investment, without having to know anything about doing plantation or growing trees. A kind of “Farmville for real life“, as it has been described.

Backers can simply register on the platform, decide how much to invest, the amount of seeds to be planted (the choice is between durian, peanuts and longan), and wait for their money to bear fruit – in every sense.

An independent supervisor will verify the work of the professionals that maintain the farm, and sponsors will also be able to access a dashboard that shows real-time information about the trees latest condition, where they are located, and how much CO2 they have absorbed.

As the last parameter shows, the iGrow project is not exactly your usual short-term focused, profit-driven, project.


Partly because, due to its own nature, investment in land does not always translate in fast, or even regular, returns – a durian tree bears fruit after five years – partly because the mission of the company is not only to make money but also to have a social impact.

“The idea came from our day to day problem, which is (how to provide) massive food supplies for Indonesia’s 250 million population. We have enough fertile land but we import so much food supplies, because a lot of our land is idle or under utilized,” co-founder and CEO Muhaimin Iqbal tells me, “therefore we want to maximize the land utilization and to improve the environment as well.”

The philanthropic side of the enterprise is also apparent in the fact that, when the plants start to produce crops, iGrow users can decide whether to turn those yields into cash, or donate the results to schools, hospitals, non-profit institutions.

That doesn’t mean that supporters are unable to use the platform for commercial purposes, if they so wish: Iqbal, who is both a businessman and an expert in agriculture, says the average result for planting durian is estimated at 18% per year, and for planting logan, at 19%.

Of this, 40% will go to the plantation managers, 40% to the sponsors and the rest to the supervisors and iGrow administrators. So far, the startup’s team is composed by some 30 people, including co-founder Andreas Senjaya, a young developer and entrepreneur who also does mentorship and training about business model generation and scalability topics in many events in Indonesia.

igrow Muhaimin-Iqbal

According to Iqbal, there are now 1,000 farmers involved in the project. One possible issue, is that the number of sponsors so far exceeds the numbers of farmers willing to work with the startup. “The reason is simple, for sponsor it is easier to follow our idea – while we still need more time to educate the farmers,” he says.

An interesting aspect of iGrow’s model, is that it is potentially applicable not only in Indonesia, but also elsewhere, to support micro-farming as opposed to intensive land exploitation.

“Soon we want to expand to other countries as well, we believe the system is a good one to maximize land utilization and world food supplies. We are looking for strategic partners now, to make iGrow go global,” the founder tells me.

To fuel further growth and possible overseas expansion, funding will be needed, and iGrow is currently looking for investors.

Update: Right now, we’re in the middle of an unprecedented climate crisis in Indonesia, an environmental and humanitarian nightmare that make seem this article (which I drafted before the current events, and published before knowing the scale of the disaster), perhaps untimely.

Still, since one of the main causes of deforestation is to make room for palm oil plantations, and given that iGrow’s mission goes in the very opposite direction, to support and grow forests, chances are this piece is actually timely enough.

About the Author:

igrow federico guerrini

I’m a freelance journalist covering technology for several outlets, both in English (Zdnet, techPresident) and Italian (La Stampa, l’Espresso, Corriere della Sera and others). I was a Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism fellow in 2013. You can find my research on journalism and content curation here. I like to write about the impact of technology on society. I’m amazed and fascinated by how our relationships, our jobs, our daily lives are now shaped by it. But technology, for me, it’s just a means to an end, not an end in itself. To be clear: I don’t care about the latest smartphone, unless it provides real value and improves the quality of my life. You can follow me on Twitter at @fede_guerrini and learn more about me visiting my LinkedIn. For story pitches reach me here: stories (at) onthebrink.it


Friday, 30 October 2015




‘Invisible’ Indonesia could show path to Islamic democracy in the Middle East

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Long regarded as peripheral to the mainstream Islamic world, Indonesia could have much to teach the Middle East about Muslim democracy.

By Jean Gelman Taylor

Dr Jean Gelman Taylor

Dr Jean Gelman Taylor

SCHOLARS and journalists often raise the conundrum: why doesn’t Indonesia have greater importance within the world    community of Muslims

Indonesia, with a population of 240 million, is the world’s largest Muslim country. Compare this figure with Saudi Arabia’s 29 million or Egypt’s 81 million. The late Malay studies scholar Amin Sweeney reminded us that Indonesian–Malay is the third language of Islamic scholarship after Arabic and Persian. Indonesia would seem to be qualified to speak for Muslims in world affairs, to be influential in theological debate and the harbinger of political reformation for the Muslim Middle East.

Consider a recent world history by the Afghan–American Tamir Ansary. Ansary structured it from a consciously Islamic perspective. He challenged conventional texts that begin in Mesopotamia, that channel the world’s history through Greece, Rome and Europe, only inserting the Islamic world at points in the grand narrative. Ansary’s world history is organised under the headings: Ancient times; Mesopotamia and Persia; Birth of Islam; the Khalifate; Quest for universal unity; Fragmentation: Age of the sultanates; Catastrophe: Crusaders and Mongols; Rebirth: the Three-empire era; Permeation of East by West; the reform movements; Triumph of the secular modernists; and the Islamic reaction. Yet Ansary’s corrective Destiny disrupted: history of the world through Islamic eyes gives Indonesia just two mentions in 410 pages.

Indonesian Muslims performing Tarawih Prayer during the Ramadhan month in Istiqlal Grand Mosque, 29 Juni 2014. Photo: ANTARA/Rosa Panggabean

Indonesian Muslims performing Tarawih Prayer during the Ramadhan month in Istiqlal Grand Mosque, 29 Juni 2014. Photo: ANTARA/Rosa Panggabean

Is the ‘invisibility’ of Indonesia to be explained in spatial and historiographical terms? Historians have made much of Indonesia’s geographic location on the periphery of the Islamic world, remote from its spiritual heartland before the late 19th century’s ‘connectives’ of steamship, telegraph and post. In the 1960s, sociologists and anthropologists were struck by the folkways of Islam in the archipelago’s villages. Indonesian Islam seemed a ‘thin flaking glaze’, a ‘veneer’, laid over a Hindu–Buddhist bedrock. It was localised, tolerant, not ‘real’ Islam when compared with Arab societies.

Western scholars date the origins of the first indigenous Islamic communities in the Indonesian archipelago to the 12th century. Indonesians were inducted into an Islam that had evolved over the six centuries since the first Muslim community was governed by Muhammad in Medina. Lacking direct transmission from Arabia, Indonesians had embraced an Islam of Sufi sects, veneration of saints’ graves, talismans and miracles.

Idul Fitri prayer at Baiturrahim Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh.

Idul Fitri prayer at Baiturrahim Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh.

An influential book, The religion of Java, by the late anthropologist Clifford Geertz, posited that ‘scriptural Islam’ came late to Indonesia. Recent research by scholars in Indonesia and the West has modified views that Indonesian Islam long developed in isolation from the wellsprings of Islamic theology. Textual studies have led to the conclusion that Malay-language commentaries on the Quran date from at least the 16th century. Biographies of archipelago scholars who spent 20 and more years in Mecca and Medina provide evidence of continuous connection with Islamic scholarship in Arabia since the 17th century and of those scholars insistence on observance of sharia and a Sufism regulated within the Sunni tradition.

This research does, however, suggest that Indonesia’s Muslims were connected with world Islam in a parochial way. Indonesian teachers who made long stays in Arabia attracted primarily students from their own home communities in the archipelago. In Arabia they wrote their commentaries and learned opinions in Malay. Their scholarly output was, therefore, not read beyond the Malay-speaking world, but communicated to audiences at home. Archipelago Muslims, feeding off Indonesian scholarship produced in Arabia in Malay, were a distinct community, irrelevant to the learned elites in the Islamic heartland who wrote and taught in Arabic or Persian.

Direct links with the Islamic heartland became a reality with colonial technology. Dutch steamships took Indonesians to Mecca and Cairo as well as to The Hague and Amsterdam. Steam-powered transport and the telegraph ended the ‘tyranny of distance’. Printing in Arabic letters, finally sanctioned by the Ottoman sultanate, multiplied the pamphlets and books in circulation; lending library stalls brought reading within a wider reach. Students who travelled at the beginning of the 20th century from Indonesia to Cairo became caught up in the latest currents of religio-political thought in the Middle East.

Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979 obliged Indonesians to question their distinctive religious practices and observance. Local movements multiplied to induce greater inner devotion to Islam and greater outer conformity to communal religious observances such as mosque attendance and Islamic presentation of the self in dress and manners. More Indonesians enrolled in Arabic language classes. There were more scholarships for study in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, modifications to domestic mosque architecture, and discarding of customs deemed un-Islamic. There was more drawing of boundaries between Muslims and Christians, and between Muslims and those labelled ‘deviant’ Muslims.

These changes occurred in the later period of President Suharto’s presidency when the government was making concessions to ‘political’ Islam. Suharto, for instance, sanctioned an Islamic think-tank to bring Islamic solutions to Indonesia’s social and economic problems. He allowed an Islamic press and television shows, and the introduction of Islamic banking. The Association of Indonesian Islamic Intellectuals brought Muslims into the centre of public policy making and made Islamic credentials a plus in career paths. There was an equalising in status between civil and religious courts of law. Mosque youth groups and branches of international Muslim associations on Indonesian university campuses mushroomed. There was a growth of public attendance at Islamic festivals and an upsurge in Islamic arts and popular entertainment.


Young Indonesians, who have never lived under colonial rule, have come of age in a world of the internet, university degrees, foreign travel and pilgrimage packages to Mecca. They associate being Muslim with being modern, prosperous, successful; they strive for ‘Islamic chic’ in dress, manners and cultural pursuits. They want greater personal freedoms and more political clout. They emerged from their own political and social tumult following the downfall of President Suharto in May 1998.

There were four years of fighting in Indonesia between religious and ethnic communities and regional movements demanding autonomy or even secession from the republic. In 2002, with three million internal refugees, observers were speculating whether Indonesia itself would continue to exist. But in those same years, Indonesians removed a strong military from public life. Through constitutional changes, tenure of presidential office was restricted to a maximum of two four-year terms, to be achieved through the ballot box.

Javanese Muslim family holding 'selametan', a thanksgiving function. Photo: Collection of Tropen Museum.

Javanese Muslim family holding ‘selametan’, a thanksgiving function. Photo: Collection of Tropen Museum.

The post-Suharto era is characterised by political parties with a broad mix of religious and social agendas. The media has been freed. Elections at national, regional and municipal levels have won broad acceptance of their results. There is a confidence that local cells of international Islamic groups, such as Hizbut Tahrir, are not a real force in Indonesian society. Reformists downplay the power of the Islamic Defenders Front to physically intimidate those they declare to be enemies of ‘true Islam’. Despite rulings by the Department of Religion against Ahmadis and determination that liberalism, secularism and pluralism contradict Islamic teachings, reform activists believe Indonesia offers a working model for Muslim democracy, or rather for a democracy of Muslims.

Indonesia’s Institute for Peace and Democracy has initiated dialogue with counterparts in Egypt and Tunisia on issues such as the state and politics, Islam and the state, the place of armed forces in democracy, and participation of women in public life.

Here Indonesia may assume a leadership role in international Islamic affairs. At the same time, Indonesians seem to be creating a novel variant of being Muslim that confirms their difference on the periphery.

Dr Jean Gelman Taylor is honorary associate professor of History, University of New South Wales. This article is a summary of a talk she gave at Hebrew University of Jerusalem last December.

Muslims performing Aidil Fitri prayer at the Jakarta port of Sunda Kelapa.

Muslims performing Aidil Fitri prayer at the Jakarta port of Sunda Kelapa.