Saturday, March 31, 2007

Mauludin Rasul in Brunei Darussalam


I was watching television last night when there was someone from the Religious Affairs Ministry talking about the history of Maulud Nabi or as we now call it Maulidin Rasul - the ceremony to commemorate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad SAW. I was quite intrigued as he was talking about how grand the first celebration was which was surprisingly a few hundred years after the death of the Prophet.

It seemed that the first tribe to hold the ceremony was Bani Ubaid Al-Qoddakh who call themselves 'Fatimiyyah' and this tribe came from the Syiah Rafidhah. They entered the City of Cairo in 977 (362 Hijra) and since then the practice of holding maulid spread. By the 7th century Hijra, King Mudhafir Abu Sa'ad Kaukaburi held a huge celebration which was said to be prepared with 5,000 roasted meat, 10,000 chickens, 100,000 glasses of milk and 30,000 plates of dessert.

If you read widely, among Islamic theologians, there is a debate as to whether holding the maulidin Rasul is an accepted practise. The debate centered around the argument that holding a celebration to celebrate the birthday was not done by the Prophet or among his companions. Though some argued that it was known that the Prophet does celebrate it albeit quietly by fasting during his Birthdays. So based on that, it is an acceptable practise. Wallahualam. Though one more moderate argument I read written by an Ustaz Mohd Ghouse Khan gives a better argument among which is that the debate around this is 'furu' which is that the debate is over small matter and not matter which affects the Islamic principles.

This morning, there was an interesting competition in umbrellas among the various organisations that participated in the Mauludin Rasul in Bandar Seri Begawan. It was a hot day and the various participants needed some shade. What else if not the umbrellas with your own companies' logos.








Friday, March 30, 2007

Brunei - the Proper Borneo

One of my father's old friends asked us when we arrived in Tutong for a Tahlil the other night "hujan di Brunei?" loosely translated "did it rain in Brunei?" When I was much younger, the first time I heard that I was taken aback. We were in Tutong - it's as if Tutong is in a different country.

A wise guy would be tempted to say something along that line. But I refrain from doing so as I discovered that this is pretty common among my relatives and friends who are not staying in the Brunei district. Someone from Belait, Seria or Tutong or for that matter, even from Muara would say "ke Brunei" or "to Brunei" when they are referring going to the capital Bandar Seri Begawan. This stemmed from the olden times when Brunei Town was the name of the city centre. Going to Brunei just means going to Brunei Town.

Imagine in the older days, if mariners say they are going to Borneo means that they are going to Brunei. In fact if you look at older maps, Brunei used to be called Borneo Proper. Borneo refers to the whole island of Borneo but Brunei would be called Borneo Proper. Thus strengthening the fact that Borneo is Brunei.

One old map which I found is dated approximately 1540 which appeared in Portugaliae Monumenta Cartographica Vol. 1 based on materials from mariners in the mid 1530s travelling from Malacca to Brunei. One can note the Island of Borneo is not yet complete but if you look closely at the clarification of place names in the second map, it will show Brunei as 'porto borneo' - Port of Borneo. Other later maps will explicitly show the whole island as Borneo and the Brunei part as Borneo Proper.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

'Smoking' in Brunei by Awang Sihat

Do you know that RIPAS hospital is now officially a “No Smoking Zone”. There are billboards placed at every major entrance to RIPAS Hospital to remind people of this fact. This is one of many initiatives of the Ministry of Health in promoting a healthier lifestyle in our country, one of which is staying tobacco free.


Unfortunately there are still many people smoking in the hospital especially outside the wards and waiting areas. Either smoking causes selective blindness to these signs or these smokers just choose to ignore the signs. Picture shows a man outside the labour room with kids behind him.


This is a common characteristic of Bruneian smokers. There are lots of places where they can smoke but still they decide to light up in areas prohibited by law to smoke. It is common knowledge that it is against the law to smoke in government buildings. They get annoyed when told that they should not light up in certain places. Some vandalise these signs to allow them to smoke. Some even get violent according to those who have tried. Why are they so sensitive? Do they feel like a child being told “no, you cannot do that”? Is it guilt? Shame?


A smoker may argue that is their right to smoke, after all, they bought the cigarettes including taxes. It is up to them to decide what is good or bad for them. I respect these rights, there is a big BUT though. You have to respect the rights of non-smokers as well. It is well documented that passive smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke is a growing problem. Those exposed to passive smoking are at risk of getting the same diseases as smokers, such as cancers, lung diseases to name a few. So please respect the rights of non-smokers to clean air!! They also have a right to clean air in public places such as in restaurants, including children and pregnant ladies. Kids and babies are really helpless in this matter so it is up to us to protect them.

If smokers were to use their own common sense, it is also logical to refrain from smoking in hospitals and other clinics as these are supposed to be a place where people try to become healthy, not get sick especially from inhaling smoke. Maybe smokers still do not realise the dangers of smoking. Maybe we need to increase awareness of the dangers of smoking through better warning labels on cigarette packs.

Dear smokers, the next time somebody tells you to refrain from smoking or to smoke somewhere else, please be rational and kindly do so to protect your own people.
Note: It has been a while since the last guest blog. Today's guest blog on the topic of cigarettes smoking in Brunei is written by someone who prefers to be known as Awang Sihat.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Brunei's New Definitive Stamps

On the Friday (23rd February) just before the 23rd National Day celebrations this year, the Postal Services Department released the new Brunei definitive stamps. Not many people seemed to have realised it but then in the era of the internet and skype, not that many Bruneians used the traditional communication methods anymore such as letter writing. As for me, other than for sending out Hari Raya cards, Christmas cards or Chinese New Year cards, I don't remember any other times I actually buy postage stamps.

It was 10 years ago when the last design was released. For the postage stamps knowledge challenged, definitive stamps are the stamps which are always available at the post offices as compared to commemorative stamps which are issued occassionally which the post offices will stop selling once their stocks run out. Definitive stamps are by design changed only if the designs have become too old or in Brunei's case, there are changes to the photographs of His Majesty.

The design of the new definitive stamps from February 2007 are as follows:



The stamps are designed by Pg Hj Mohd Yamin bin PSJ Pg Hj Abd Momin and they are printed by JOH Enschede of the Netherlands using Tullis Russell TR8 paper. The actual size of the 'sen' value stamp is 24 mm x 33 mm and the 'dollar' value stamp is 27 mm x 40.6 mm.

For those who remembered, the 1996 series had different potraits of His Majesty for the 'sen' value and the 'dollar' value. The 1986 series was interesting, it was released on four separate occassions - 10 sen, 15 sen, 20 sen and 25 sen was released in December 1985, 35 sen, 40 sen, 50 sen adn 75 sen released in January 1986, $1, $2 and $5 released in February 1986 and $10 was released in March 1986. The previous one prior to that was the 1974 series. There were other series too but that will be the subject of future articles.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Brunei's Tasek Dam

I read on the internet about the recent World Water Day and the ceremony that was held at Brunei's oldest dam - the Tasek Dam. The Tasek Dam located in the heart of the capital, completed in 1964 marked a major milestone in the history of water supply in Brunei. Until then, there was no major water supply but with the Tasek Dam, it was the first main source of water supply to Pekan Brunei. The Tasek Dam was officiated by Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Saadul Khairi Waddien III on 13th February 1965.


For the World Water Day, I was told that the Tasek Dam would be open to the public until the 25th. So on Sunday, I took my wife and son to see the Tasek Dam. I have been to the Tasek Recreation Park many times in the past but I did not realise that there is this huge body of water on top of the Park. Honestly, all this while I was under the assumption that the lake where the waterfall is - is the Tasek. Tasek means Lake and any body of water, I thought this beautiful waterfall and lake is what Tasek is all about.


Obviously I was wrong when I read that the Minister also releases a school of Patin fish as well as took a ride across the water. So I decided to go and have a look and search for this lake. The Tasek Dam is up a hill about a couple of minutes off the entrance. You have to walk about 20 to 30 minutes to reach the dam. The walk up is very tiring even if you are an accomplished walker. There are also a couple of jungle treks along the way if the monotony of just walking up is too boring.


However we did reach the top and the view is beautiful and definitely worth all that sweat. I was told that this lake is about 4 km and about 50 feet deep. It holds about one million cubic meter of water.



The authorities have made a simple spout of water going up into the sky and made a number of other water pipes all for the fun of visitors. There were also a few boats but unfortunately no one was around to bring us across the lake. That would have been been fun.



In most other countries, this would have been turned into a recreation park. Perhaps the authorities can also look into that.

The Tasek Dam is one of 3 in the country. The other two are Mengkabau and Benutan dams. There are two others under construction - one is the Tutong Dam and the other is the Kargu Dam in Kuala Belait both expected to be operational in 2009 and will be more than sufficient for the need of the country until about 2025.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Begawan Sultans of Brunei

Most people by now would have known our capital, Pekan Brunei was renamed Bandar Seri Begawan in honour of Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saiffuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien the Third, the 28th Sultan. If not, then you can read it at this post here. The name Seri Begawan Sultan was used by His Majesty when he abdicated or stepped down from the throne in 1967 thus installing His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzaddin Wadaullah as the 29th Sultan.

Begawan is the title used to denote someone who has 'retired' for Bruneians though it has a slightly different meaning in standard Malay. Thus if you are titled Pehin Khatib and you have reached retirement age your title changed to Begawan Pehin Khatib. Thus in Sultan Haji Omar Ali's case, he becomes Begawan Sultan.

In the 600 years of Brunei's Sultanate, the title Begawan Sultan has been used six times. Other than Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien III, the other five Sultans who voluntarily abdicated are:

Sultan Sulaiman, the 4th Sultan reigned from 1432 to 1485 and step down to allow his son, Sultan Bolkiah to become the fifth Sultan. Sultan Sulaiman passed away in 1511;

Sultan Abdul Kahar, the 6th Sultan reigned from 1524 to 1533 and step down to allow his son, Sultan Saiful Rijal to become the seventh Sultan. Sultan Abdul Kahar passed away in 1538;

Sultan Shah Brunei, the 8th Sultan reigned from 1581 to 1582 and step down to allow his younger brother, Sultan Mohammad Hassan to become the ninth Sultan. Sultan Shah Brunei was very old when he became the Sultan;

Sultan Husin Kamaluddin, the 16th Sultan is the only Sultan to have step down twice and became Begawan Sultan twice. He first reigned in 1710 when Sultan Nasruddin passed away and he step down in 1730 to allow his nephew, Sultan Muhammad Alauddin to become the 17th Sultan. But Sultan Muhammad Alauddin passed away in 1737 and his son was too young to become the Sultan. Sultan Husin Kamaluddin became the Sultan again until 1740 when he step down for the second time to allow the young prince, now grown up to become Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien the First, the 18th Sultan;

Sultan Muhammad Tajuddin, the 19th Sultan reigned from 1795 to 1804. He step down to allow Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam to become the 20th Sultan. Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam died within 8 months of becoming Sultan and Sultan Muhammad Tajuddin took over as the Acting Sultan while waiting for the rightful Prince to grow up. Unfortunately it took a while for the rightful Prince to grow up and by then the throne was usurped by Sultan Muhammad Alam who ruled until he died before the throne was rightfully given back to Sultan Omar Ali Saiffudien II.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Indian Roads Experience

You know, a lot of people are still finding the Kiulap Roundabout to be difficult to go through. After spending four days on the Indian road, we discovered that they have a fool proof method when going through roundabout.

If you are entering into a roundabout, you have the right of way, so you can ignore all the cars going around the roundabout - they have to stop for you coming in! The first time I saw it, I had a big shock when I saw cars not stopping at all but just zooming through entering the roundabouts. Even though the Indian authorities tried to get 'our' style by putting up roadsigns for the entering cars to give way to traffic from the right, so far that does not seem to have any effect whatsover.

YPI would have an interesting time taking photographs in India. So I leave you with some of the interesting traffic photographs on Indian roads.


How many people can you fit into your bus or taxis?




But it's not just taxis that are overloaded.



You know, I often wonder who has the world's record for the closest distance when overtaking?


But Indian roads also have its own fun. These are interesting clothes worn trying to attract customers to stop at your stalls.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Taj Mahal - More Photoshoots

Just arrived in Brunei yesterday afternoon. I haven't had the time to do a proper post yet, so I am uploading some of the photoshoots I took of the Taj Mahal and its surrounding areas. Note that the Taj Mahal itself is made out of white marble which was shipped in from about 300 km away but the rest of the buildings in the complex are made out of red stones available around the area. Hope you enjoy the photographs.










Thursday, March 22, 2007

No FRIDAY Posting

Just in case there is anyone out there searching for the Friday, 23rd March 2007 posting - there will be none. I have not figured out a way of how to post when I am 40,000 feet up in the sky just yet.

The Taj Mahal - A Wonder of the World

Yesterday we had some spare time, while waiting for our counterpart to prepare the text and go through the final process of cleaning up the languages, grammar etc for our signing later today, we thought why not go somewhere. And we did.

We went to Agra to visit one of the World's seventh wonders - the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal was built about 400 years ago and took 22 years and 20,000 people to build it. It was built because a King loved his wife so much that he built one of the finest masoleum for her out of white marble. There was a myth that he actually wanted to build another one for himself out of black marble just across the river. If that was true, he was unable to carry it out as he was deposed by his son and imprisoned. He is buried to the left of her in the Taj Mahal.


The whole area was huge and breathtakingly beautiful. Around the Taj Mahal itself are several beautiful buildings including a mosque. The four entrance gates are also like mini palaces. There were about 16 gardens throughout the area. However be prepared to walk. Cars are not allowed within two kilometers of the area. So one has a choice of electrically powered vehicles such as vans or karts or animal powered karts from the carpark to about 1/2 a kilometer before the main gate. Walk that 1/2 kilometer to the main gate and walk through a long path about another 1/4 kilometer before the Taj Mahal itself can be seen. So do use the right gear and make sure that you are well equipped with enough batteries and memory cards. Here are photographs of the Taj Mahal only. (I will upload all the photographs in my multiply website when I get back.)










Inspirational Quotes

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