Diajarkan Allah swt

As life goes on, we encounter many new things in life. In workplace or career setting, this could be in the form on being assigned to a new task, being promoted for a managerial position, or other things which we haven’t previously experienced. In university setting, we same things happen; we could be mandated a leading position in an organization, attempting to join a competition, or as simple as working on class assignment. The question that we usually ask then, Allah, how should I address this? How should I handle this?

I personally have been in many such situations, and I believe I will continue to encounter it. Alhamdulillah, I think I found the answer of how to deal with it in the Qur’an. It’s a short sentence inside the longest verse in Qur’an, QS 2:282. That short sentence is this: “…So be afraid of Allah; and Allah teaches you. And Allah is the All-Knower of each and everything”. Yes, I think that’s the key; be afraid of Allah, and then Allah will teach you. As far as I understand it, this verse is in the context of writing a debt contract. Through this verse, Allah teaches us that a debt contract is an important element in our social interaction. In the verse, Allah teaches the rule regarding this, such as what if the debtor is of poor understanding; how many witnesses are needed; what if we can’t find male witnesses; what if the contract is between trusted parties, etc. As a bit meticulous as it seems, Allah swt, at the end of the verse said, “…So be afraid of Allah; and Allah teaches you. And Allah is the All-Knower of each and everything”. Simply, I understand it as: if you don’t know or unsure about something, then fear Allah; that He will teaches you.

In a larger context, I always internalize this short yet powerful sentence, as a solution for any challenges that I face daily. When I don’t know what to do, when the burden looks very heavy, things aren’t as smooth as I previously anticipated, etc., then we should turn to Allah. Always be afraid of Him. Be afraid that He always sees us, knows what’s inside our heart, and, literally, knows everything that is happening. Umar r.a. once said, fearing Allah swt is as if walking in a slippery surface, i.e. being extremely careful in every step.

Few years back, in the early period of my undergraduate study, I was assigned a leading role in a student organization. As someone who has never experienced a leading role previously, in addition to the fact that I was just someone who just arrived in the Metropolitan city of Jakarta, having previously lived in a small countryside, the task was very daunting for me. But then, Allah fulfilled His promised. He guided me step-by-step along the way. The organization went well; it’s probably among its peak in history; I learned how to deal with university’s top management, I made life-lasting friendship, and many other milestone. In short, my message is only that we should always try to fear Allah, asking His guidance, and, of course, work hard. Insyaallah, as Allah has never betrayed any promises, Allah swt will teaches us, Insyaallah.


Given there are so many non-Muslims, sometimes I ask myself, will Allah swt really punish them all later on? How about the reason why they do not embrace Islam is because they don’t know about Islam.

Then I came across an ayah (verse) from Qur’an depicting the scene when the disbelievers were tortured in the hell fire. They were asked by the angel who guards the hell why they were disbelieve in Allah swt. Take a note to what the disbeliever had to say.

“And for those who disbelieve in their Lord (Allah) is the torment of Hell, and worst indeed is that destination. When they are cast therein, they will hear the (terrible) drawing in of its breath as it blazes forth. It almost bursts up with fury. Every time a group is cast therein, its keeper will ask: “Did no warner come to you?” They will say: “Yes indeed; a warner did come to us, but we belied him and said: ‘Allah never sent down anything (of revelation), you are only in great error.’ “And they will say: “Had we but listened or used our intelligence, we would not have been among the dwellers of the blazing Fire!” Then they will confess their sin. So, away with the dwellers of the blazing Fire.” (QS Al-Mulk 6-11).

In the verses above, the disbeliever will regret that had they listened to the message or used their intelligence. I think this verse answers my doubt, that there are many people disbelieve in Allah just because of ignorance; they just don’t even want to think or consider the religion. In Qur’an there are many verses which point out to nature, which is an ayat (sign) from Allah. Honestly, any reasonable human being, whenever they see the trees, the mountain, the sky, and all creations, they should’ve pondered upon it, and say, all of these things are impossible to exist without a creator. Yet, many of the disbelievers just ignore it; as some of they say, I don’t want think about it at the moment. They keep doing that, until it’s too late that they realize it only when their soul begins to leave their body.

Whenever we look at the creations, we should’ve thought that all of these are impossible to exist without a supreme power who created them. When we’re willing to admit this, obviously we will try to look up for religion as it is where Allah gives guidance to human being. Once we start searching, if we sincere enough, we will easily notice how is Islam is the guidance from our Lord.

There are some verses from Qur’an which stimulate human beings to reflect on the creations.

“Do they not look at the camels, how they are created? And at the heaven, how it is raised? And at the mountains, how they are rooted and fixed firm? And at the earth, how it is spread out? So remind them (O Muhammad (Peace be upon him)), you are only a one who reminds. You are not a dictator over them. Save the one who turns away and disbelieves. Then Allah will punish him with the greatest punishment. Verily, to Us will be their return; Then verily, for Us will be their reckoning.” (QS Al-Ghosiyah: 17-26)

Tell Me! The seed that you sow in the ground. Were it Our Will, We could crumble it to dry pieces, and you would be regretful (or left in wonderment). (Saying): “We are indeed Mughramun (i.e. ruined or lost the money without any profit, or punished by the loss of all that we spend for cultivation, etc.)! [See Tafsir Al-Qurtubi, Vol. 17, Page 219]. “Nay, but we are deprived!” Tell Me! The water that you drink. Is it you who cause it from the rainclouds to come down, or are We the Causer of it to come down? If We willed, We verily could make it salt (and undrinkable), why then do you not give thanks (to Allah)? Tell Me! The fire which you kindle, Is it you who made the tree thereof to grow, or are We the Grower? We have made it a Reminder (for the Hell-fire, in the Hereafter); and an article of use for the travellers (and all the others, in this world). So exalt the name of your Lord, the Most Great.” (QS Al-Waqi’ah 63-74).

May we’re not among the ignorants; and may our belief in Allah increases whenever we see Allah’s creation.


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Note: the images are taken from http://earthsky.org/ and https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AsthadiSetyawan/posts.

On Institutional hypothesis of economic growth

There are various hypotheses or theories on the driver of economic growth. The informal one includes geography, culture, and institution. The most well-known among them is institutional hypothesis; proposed mainly by Daron Acemoglu, a professor in MIT Economics Department. In this writing, I want to a little bit discuss on what he said.

Acemoglu said, the quality of institution, such as the property rights protection, rule of law, etc., is the main driver of economic growth. Countries of which institutions are established will have a bigger chance of high economic growth and development. I completely agree with this notion; indeed, it is very easy to spot how weak the institutions in most of developing countries are. Here it comes the more interesting part.

Acemoglu tried to explain why the institutions in various countries are as it is today, i.e. why some countries have better institutions and why some don’t. He concluded, the quality of institutions is largely influenced by the colonials. In countries where the colonials settled, probably due to suitable climate, lower intensity of diseases, etc., the colonials established an institution which sustain good governance; while in countries of which the spread of diseases are quite high or the temperature are not suitable for the (European) colonials, they will tend to establish an extractive institution, i.e. the institution which focus on getting the resources as much as and as quickly as possible from the colonies. I have a little bit issue with this notion.

Implicitly, this notion implies two things. First, the quality of institutions that we are in right now in many developing countries are just as it is; and that we’re just unlucky that the colonial who colonized us were not quite interested to settle in our country. Second, the notion implies the (European) colonial is the main source of good institution, i.e. they know how to manage things well (good governance); while the others don’t. I think, both implications could lead to pessimism and the feeling of inability to change our fate in many developing countries.

Rather than joining the rank of the pessimist, I would rather believe that change is possible. I think it’s not that the (European) colonials were superior that they know to govern well; no. I believe it’s just that because at that moment, until today, they have the knowledge. So yes, the issue here I believe is about knowledge. In the middle ages, around 600 to 1500 A.D., the (European) colonials were in a very dark state; slums, diseases, etc., were everywhere; just like many developing countries today. But then the knowledge were passed on to them from the Muslims. Similarly, the Muslims early on were passed some knowledge from Greek civilization as well. In short, all of these show that what had happened in the past, let it be; we can’t change it; but we have the opportunity to be better, and that opportunity could be (or will only be) unleashed by education. Insyaallah, let’s get those knowledge as much as possible. The mountain of knowledge might be so high that we’re terrified to climb it; but if, we persistently make the effort to climb, insyaallah, we’ll get to the top.

Finally, I would like to conclude with the source of good governance. I could spend pages and pages arguing that Islamic teaching has the most superior set of good governance values. If there are many problems in Muslim majority countries today, it’s because we are the one who do not practice it. The Islamic teaching will just shine as it is. In short, let’s read and understand the Qur’an; let’s read the hadits, as well as the shiroh (Islamic history). We’re at the cover page of the best source of success. Not only in this world, but also in the hereafter, insyaallah. Wallahua’lam.

“See you not how Allah sets forth a parable? – A goodly word as a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the sky (i.e. very high). Giving its fruit at all times, by the Leave of its Lord and Allah sets forth parables for mankind in order that they may remember.” (QS Ibrahim: 24-25)

“Muhammad (SAW) is the Messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are severe against disbelievers, and merciful among themselves. You see them bowing and falling down prostrate (in prayer), seeking Bounty from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure. The mark of them (i.e. of their Faith) is on their faces (foreheads) from the traces of (their) prostration (during prayers). This is their description in the Taurat (Torah). But their description in the Injeel (Gospel) is like a (sown) seed which sends forth its shoot, then makes it strong, it then becomes thick, and it stands straight on its stem, delighting the sowers that He may enrage the disbelievers with them. Allah has promised those among them who believe (i.e. all those who follow Islamic Monotheism, the religion of Prophet Muhammad SAW till the Day of Resurrection) and do righteous good deeds, forgiveness and a mighty reward (i.e. Paradise).” (QS AL-Fath:29)




Awareness of a mission is something that makes everything we do is worthwhile. People who wasted their life did so because they forgot to set or to recall what their life missions are. However, as we human being tends to forget and busy with daily routine, awareness of a mission itself is not enough. We need something to strengthen or to remind us of that mission; that thing is inspiration. In another words, we should surround ourselves with inspiration to stay on the track of our life mission.

Speaking about inspiration, one remarkable person who inspire me quite well is Pak Dino Djalal; Indonesian ambassador to the US who just resigned to join Democrat Party Convention. I am not only inspired by his bold decision of resigning from his job; but more importantly, I see him as someone who has a lot of positive energy. Indeed, he repeatedly stresses the importance of positive energy, optimism, and strongly against cynicism. As he put it, orang yang sinis tidak akan pernah sukses.

Let’s fill our life with positive energy; with optimism. Believing that we can do something, achieving something is already half way towards the victory. Indeed, there’s no success for the cynical person.

When I am back to Indonesia, especially Jakarta, I can feel the aura or the feeling of pessimism. Pasrah pada nasib, if we can call it. When I went back to my home town, a city 200 km from Padang, the aura is even more. People live with the feeling that there’s nothing that they can do with their life. This is obviously entirely incorrect. Allah almighty has endowed us with many assets. He gave us mind as well to think. Probably, most of us lost our optimism somewhere during our childhood.

Let’s dare to dream big and work hard to achieve it. Allah grant the wish of non-believer who work hard; and I believe He will even be more generous to those whose life mission is to uphold this religion and help this ummah. So restate again your life mission in accordance to what Allah order us to do and then work hard-really hard- to achieve it.

Lastly, I would like to close with Pak Dino’s tips for success in his Mata Najwa interview: take risk, keep innovate, and serve the people. I wish the best of luck for Pak Dino’s candidacy. Semoga selalu dalam hidayah Allah.

Ikhlas, Ihsan, and Istiqamah

We only live once and our life is very short thus it’s imperative for us to have a meaningful and impactful life. Let’s sail away from doing an insignificant thing and move towards doing something significant for the society.

Also, remember to keep doing and being the best. We’ve endowed with the best from Allah swt; thus everything we do should also at the best quality.

Insyaallah, when we become a Muslim who is productive and competitive, as we should be, we’ll realize that Islam is indeed a blessing for the world; and more importantly, Allah will grant us with this forgiveness and paradise, insyaallah.

Let’s purify our intention to serve Allah only (Ikhlas), being professional in everything we do (Ihsan), and commit in doing good deeds (Istiqamah). Insyaallah.


First week at UCL

Alhamdulillah, segala puji bagi Allah yang senantiasa memberikan ni’mat dan petunjuk. This is my first week at UCL; and I can tell you that studying at world great institution is something that we should aim for. Dahulu, para khalifah di zaman bani Umayyah, Abbasiyah, Turki Usmani, most of them, get the very best education thus able to be someone ‘well-roundedly’ excellent.

I strongly encourage my fellow Indonesian to aim for this. Insyaallah in later time I’ll post writings on getting into great universities. Barokallahu ‘alaina.


UCL Campus in summer, London

Komite Inovasi Nasional-few notes

#Doesn’t mean to be an arrogant person by commenting government institution; rather, just wanted to evaluate our institution’s work based on what I’ve learnt.

Indonesia is one of the emerging countries which is said to be the missing additional “I” in the BRICS grouping. Even though it was severely hit by the Asian Financial Crisis 1997, of which the effect lasted until 2003, the new leadership in 2004 has helped Indonesia to gradually recover which then was even praised for weathering the 2008 crisis really well. This writing simply look on how Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) policy in Indonesia is (especially by looking at Komite Inovasi Nasional’s work) and whether this is sufficient to move the country form lower middle-income status.

In general, many developing country, including Indonesia, has adopted system of innovation approach to design its STI policy, nonetheless the practice usually follows old paradigm and rarely address the core problem (Intarakumnerd & Chaminade, 2011). The policy usually only focuses on increasing resources available for R&D, human resource development, and infrastructure development (i.e. linear model of innovation), while abandoning the importance of cooperation among various actors in the economy. I think this is mainly caused by the government’s assumption that researches from universities and public research institutions will easily be transferred to the private sector. Furthermore, there is usually dichotomy between STI policy and economic policy which means the STI policy was not design as part of industrial policy.

Realising the importance of national innovation system, Indonesian President established National Innovation Committee (Komite Inovasi Nasional) in 2010. This committee was tasked to help president in formulating a planned, integrated, and coordinated national innovation policy under national system of innovation framework.

In 2012, the committee launched 1-747 innovation initiative programmes which consist of several programmes (KIN, 2012):

  • 1% of GDP should be used as R&D spending.
  • 7 steps to improve innovation ecosystem, these are (1) incentive system and regulation to support innovation; (2) improving quality and flexibility of human resource movement; (3) development of innovation centre to support small-medium scale industry; (4) development of regional innovation cluster; (5) improving researcher innovation system; (6) revitalization of R&D infrastructure; and (7) establishment of system and management of research financing which support innovation.
  • 4 industries to accelerate economic growth, these are (1) basic necessity industry; (2) creative industry; (3) local-based industry; and (4) strategic industry, such as defence, transportation, and information and communication technology (ICT).
  • 7 vision of Indonesia in 2025, these are (1) increasing the IPR related to economic growth; (2) improving ST infrastructure; (3) achieving food, medicine, energy, and fresh water self-sufficient; (4) doubling creative industry export; (5) increasing  core products and value-added in industry; (6) self-sufficient in defence, transportation, and ICT products; and (7) achieving sustainable economic growth.

Based on system-theoretic approach concept, there are several ways to improve the programmes above. First is improving the paradigm. As pointed out by Intarakumnerd & Chaminade (2011), newly established national innovation system in developing countries usually follow old paradigm and rarely address the core problem. Most, if not all, programmes above focus on resource allocation matters, such as remuneration system, R&D infrastructure, research funding, and so on. The programmes should have been focused more on improving the learning process, that is addressing the question how the input (researcher, funding, etc.) could lead to innovative product. Second is by inserting diffusion of technology paradigm. The programmes above does not touch upon diffusion of technology and improving interaction across various actors. Certainly cooperation among firms, universities, and public research institutions is missing in Indonesia. Third, the program should include institutional or governance improvement strategy. Innovation would never be flourished when institutional or governance factors, such corruption, intellectual property right enforcement, custom procedures, overall investment climate, etc. are not fixed.

To conclude, even though Komite Inovasi Nasional is not a policy making body, rather it is (just) an advisory council which advice the president on national innovation policy; it has the strategic position in directing the development of Indonesia’s national innovation system. Thus I hope, it can move from old paradigm and embrace the ‘successful’ example of national innovation system in various developed countries. One thing is quite clear here, the committee members should read the latest research on innovation policy more =).


Intarakumnerd, P. & Chaminade, C., 2011. Innovation policies in Thailand: towards a system of innovation approach. Asia Pacific Business Review, 17(2), pp. 241-256.

The case of Indonesian fuel subsidy

The untargeted fuel subsidy in Indonesia is a very wrong policy; thus should be adjusted to be a targeted one. However, strangely, still, some political parties are opposing this policy change, reflecting the irrational or lack of intellectual-based politics in Indonesia.

Indonesia became net importer of crude oil since 2004, at the first year of the current President’s administration. Since then, the difference between oil production and consumption has widen, reaching 300,000 barrel or around 36 million liters per day in 2012 (US EIA, 2013).

The cause is easy to guess, that is surge in the number of motor vehicle due to increasing economic activity. Indonesian passenger cars has grown around 12% annually since 2004 reaching 10 million cars in 2011; while the motorcycle has grown even higher, at 17% per year, reaching 70 million units in 2011.

The amount of subsidy in Indonesia is enormous. It was around 14 billion US$ (Rp 137 trillion) in 2012 or around 10% of total government revenue. As of 2010, there are 46% of Indonesian or around 111 million people live below US$ 2 (PPP) per day. If we use all of these subsidy money in 2012 alone, then 59 million people will be out of poverty instantly, almost half of the current level*. To put it in another context, this Rp137 trillion is almost twice of ministry of education budget; seven times of agriculture ministry’s budget; or almost 20 times of fisheries ministry budget. The amount is unbelievably huge (every year).

In short, we need a game change here. (The current scheme of) Subsidy is bad for our economic development, bad for our environment, and bad for our mentality (dependent on subsidy). The subsidy should be a targeted one. By using government’s data that around 12% of Indonesian live under national poverty line, that is around 30 million people or 7.5 million household. By giving every household Rp100,000 every month (a very huge amount compared to previous cash transfer) as the compensation of subsidy removal, than it equals to only nine trillion Rupiah, or merely 6% of subsidy budget in 2012.

The time has come to Indonesia’s politics to be  more rational. The current political party should feel ashamed to our founding fathers and to all of heroes who sacrificed their life, family, wealth, and everything they had so that this country can gain independence and become a prosperous one. The Indonesian voters should also be more rational in choosing party which is taking ‘a make sense’ policy. I guess this is the job of us, the educated Indonesian to teach our people to be a rational voter. Wallahu’alam bisshawab.


Note: *) By using a very conservative assumption, that is all of these people will receive $2*365 or $730 (PPP) per year.

65 years after Palestinian exodus

A very sad reality; yet hope should be kept alive. “Despite the long period of time that has elapsed, I am still certain that Israel will not be there forever. But this requires a change of circumstances in the Arab world. And the mobilization of the Arab people to fight. No one can suppress the nations.” (Musallam Bseiso-AP Correspondent in 1948).

Please watch the following documentary for the complete picture of Palestinian exodus.


Towards a developed country

Government determines the economic policy. As a matter of fact, the decision is very much influenced by the political process, such as the budget provision, budget execution, law formulation, and many others. As the consequences, improvement in the decision making process (at the micro level) and quality of institution (at a macro level) is undoubtedly important.

I second Pak Jusuf Kalla’s notion, that the size of a country, the type of its political system, its geography doesn’t matter to the development of a country. A big country like US can be a developed country, so is a tiny country like Singapore. A democratic country like US, UK, Germany can be a developed so is an authoritarian country like China, or semi-authoritarian countries like Malaysia and Singapore. A country that is far away from equatorial line can be a developed country, such as Scandinavian countries, so are countries in equatorial line. In the end, what matter most is the top leadership. A good leader would be able to set-up a good governmental institution and create mutual understanding with other stakeholders to achieve common prosperity. I’m aware that it’s easy to say but might be very difficult to be implemented.

May our leader always be guided by Allah SWT. Let us also, as a good citizen to do our part, i.e. continue to excel in our field and able to give significant value added to the society. Wish you the very best.

Mismanaged country

Living in foreign country can help to get an outsider view about our country. Something that I think quite important, moreover from experts in their field.

One of my Prof, when he talked about Indonesian economy, without aware that I am Indonesian, said that Indonesia is a mismanaged country. In another class, a professor, when he needs to make an example, about a bad infrastructure-country, he will easily take Indonesia, especially Jakarta as an example. In another class, about foreign aid, my prof said that Japan is very interested to give development aid to Indonesia because Indonesia has oil (previously) and gas, which is very important for Japan so that Japan needs to ‘good’ with Indonesia.

Listening to many of this occasions make me really believe how bad the situation in Indonesia is. Previously, not that I am not aware of this problem, but I thought in the last eight years, we’ve done a very good job; but not really. Decentralization, high-cost direct election, weak internal control system have paralyzed Indonesia’s development.

Obviously change in one person won’t be enough; but when we commit to be better and act better at individual level, I believe we as a country can move forward faster. Islam since the beginning has always emphasize the important of good individual, later in the judgement day, we will be held responsible as an Individual. Nonetheless, united efforts, such as uniting vision, conducting systematical change in government organizations, are equally important. What do you think?

Part of jama’ah

Very often I receive a question, “…Rully, how can we maintain our consistency in campus life, in terms of balancing study, organization, competition, family, and others?”. Beside an answer about time management, the importance of intention (niat) and idealism, quite often I also mention, be part of a jama’ah (movement group).

Since my first year in senior high school, around August 2004 (eight and half years ago), I have joined a weekly Islamic mentoring group. The group consists around eight to ten students, where there will be an ustadz as the facilitator. It is a routine activity where we meet to learn Islamic teaching, plan common community service program, and other beneficial activities, weekly. I find this program as very beneficial; and I feel that I am a part of a larger movement group who wants work for a betterment of Indonesia and the world. Without exaggerating, I think that my involvement in this program, has contributed significantly to who I am today; and, for example, why I can won the most outstanding student awards at University of Indonesia, last year, 2011.

I still can remember the first time I was introduced to this activity. I don’t know why, at that time I felt very very happy. I can still remember the long, deep, and calm sujud syukur (gratitude prostration) that I did after the first meeting ended. Furthermore, the best thing about this activity is that we can continue it almost where ever we go, whether to Singapore or to Tokyo, as I experienced it; again, because we’re a part of a larger movement group.

One month ago, when I was in Makkah, for Hajj, I am about to send an email. I want to submit a paper for a student conference in Singapore. Unfortunately, at that time, there was no WiFi in my hotel. I tried very hard to get internet connection, including by purchasing local SIM card, but still, I can have internet connection. At that time, I felt very disappointed. I was wondering in my heart, Allah, what’s your plan? Why do you mean? Why can’t I submit this paper? I believe that this activity is a beneficial one, why can’t I, Allah?. That was the feeling inside my heart. The reason why I think like that is because I firmly believe that there must always be a reason why Allah arrange something the way it is.

One month later, or exactly yesterday, I realized the answer. Yesterday was my first time to join the weekly mentoring again, something that I regard as one of the best things that ever happened to me in Tokyo. If I were submitted my paper that time, I would have been in Singapore since yesterday, which will make me miss the first mentoring and have to wait for  two weeks more to join it, if things go well.

The moral of the story is two. First, maybe at some point in time, we don’t understand what Allah meant for arranging something; just believe that it must always be a good reason behind that. Second, I really suggest you, go to the Islamic student organization in your university (such as FSI in FE UI), then ask to join the mentoring. Trust me, insyaallah, we’ll get the benefit here in dunya, and in akhirah, as well. May Allah always strengthens us and guides us. Salam,

Morning thought

  • As a makhluq, Allah gave us guidance, Qur’an; but how often do we refer to it? Let the ‘reference’ alone, we even rarely interact with it. I believe, there are many opportunity to read it or memorize it. Insyallah, as long as we have the will, we’ll be able to do it, how busy we are.
  • Very often we are very ambitious in achieving our targets in this world, but do we have the same ambition in achieving the highest paradise? Or have we ever thought whether we eligible to  get into it? May Allah always guides in this world. Let’s always try to reminds people around us also, at least by giving a living example.
  • Lastly, again, I do really think that a quality education is very important. So sad that the quality in Indonesia and many other countries are still low. For now, let’s just maximize we currently have in Indonesia, in your university for example. Change is definitely needed. Salam.

One morning in Tokyo, 6.33am

One week after Hajj

One week has passed since I left Saudi Arabia. There are too many sweet and unforgettable moments that happened. Time by time I spent, or place by place that I moved to in doing the Hajj, was just so amazing. Spending time in Masjidil Haram, Mina, Arafat, Masjid Nabawi, and others are just un-describable. Alhamdulillah, I am glad that I made decision to go, and alhamdulillah, all thanks to Allah who allowed me to go.

Now, day by day that has passed, make me really miss Masjidil Haram and Masjid Nabawi. For me, it was like, when you already felt that you are in the perfect condition to fulfill your ultimate goal in life, i.e. to worship Allah, then what else that you want? Being able to do sholah, tawaf, reciting qur’an, and other ‘ibadah in Masjidil Haram is just the best thing that I can feel and dream of. It was just the happiest moment in my life.

Nonetheless, I think I shouldn’t stay in this euphoria  at least I should try to. I just keep reminding my self that there are a lot more urgent problems in muslim world and around the world, which if I contribute to solve, will not only benefiting myself but also a lot more people. In fact, indeed Allah mentioned in Qur’an, that it is not same in Allah’s side the rewards for those who did ‘umrah and hajj with those who did Jihad. Jihad is certainly valued more. Insyaallah, I will always try to improve myself and contribute to others as soon as and as much as I can.

The Dream Journey

I am now just a few hours away from taking a dream journey, a journey that more than one billion people in this earth is dreaming also, the hajj. I don’t really now how I can be at this point. It’s all Allah’s arrangement, a beautiful arrangement. He is the only one who can make this happen.

Even though this journey, hajj, is the symbol that I completed the five pillars of Islam, It does not necessarily means an end. Rather, it’s a beginning, a beginning towards a newborn, and a better, me.

Allah,  here I come, leaving anything that I have, to meet You, to do what You’ve ordered us to do. Labbaikallahumma labbaik, labbaika laa syarika laka labbaik,, Bismillah,,


Cut Nyak Dhien

Even though this film was produced in 1988, this is my first time to watch it. It is definitely the best Indonesian film that I’ve ever watched. I promised myself to really strive and struggle in continuing their struggle. So sad that after getting independence in 1945 with millions of people syahid, our current Indonesian are wasting this independence. Many are working with the sucker foreigner. Just as Cut Nyak Dhien said in the film, pengkhianat (betrayer) is the biggest enemy.

May Allah give jannah for all of syuhada in Indonesia, make us can gather with them later in akhirat, and so that we can continue their jihad.

Finally, it’s time to leave

I feel so ashamed to Allah, the Lord of the World, the one who always protects and guides me. I feel however I try to be grateful, Allah’s ni’mah or gifts are just way much more than that. One of these gifts is one year at LKYSPP, Singapore.

It was just a blessing from Allah. Allah has given me opportunity to go straight from the undergrad to this great program. I still can remember last year, June 2011, how I really try hard to finish my undergrad thesis by the end of June (in the middle of big organization responsibility, competitions, etc.) and defend it in front of lectures, and then go for MTQ competition in Makassar for a week and then leave directly for Singapore. July 19th is the day where I sat in the plane with my parents to this university. It was a bit rush, but then Allah makes everything possible and very enjoyable. Even the fact one month after I receive admission letter saying that I am accepted as self-funded student but then suddenly change to full scholarship status was just a miracle. Too many gifts from Allah.

My life in LKYSPP has been just as what I expected before applying. The Professors are good, there are many public lectures every week, great library system and collections, endless academic enrichment opportunity, great friends, opportunity to work part time and earn my own money, and many other things.

Studying in this school, in this country, has really sharpened my life. I can see how a theory of public policy is being implemented in the real life; I can see how good bureaucrat could be, and many more. Studying in this school has also fulfilled my thirst on writing papers and joining international conference. Through the school I have been able to set my foot in London, Hsinchu, Manila, DC-NYC-Boston, Saudi Arabia, and many other world cities. The part time work has given me opportunity to visit provinces in Indonesia that I’ve never been before: Maluku, North Maluku, South Sulawesi, West Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, East Nusa Tenggara, Bali, etc. Nothing can I say. What a tremendous gifts from Allah.

Realizing this, I believe that my responsibility to my countries is becoming bigger and bigger. Allah has given this opportunity to me. I really think that should be able to give back to my community, to be someone that can bring light and happiness to the 50% of Indonesians who are still living under $2 per day.

After all, now I am ready to embrace a new chapter in life (thanks to LKYSPP for this): one year study program in Tokyo University, a university of my dream, in a country that I, and many Indonesians, admire of. Insyaallah, I’ll utilize the opportunities better and contribute more to others. Semoga selalu dinilai ibadah dan berkah. Itu selalu dibisik hati kecil saya.

As the closing, I am fully convinced that as long as we’re fighting for or struggling in Allah’s way, insyaallah, He will always help us, always. Semoga bisa selalu istiqomah. Salam.

Be the best

When I was sitting on the plane from Jeddah to Singapore, an Indonesian mother who sat beside me said a simple yet deep: “I always told my children that they have to be someone knowledgeable. A knowledgeable person are respected by other people”.

When I watched Al-Jazeera investigation on what killed yasser arafat, I just reflected why Muslims are very messy nowadays. In that documentary it seems clear that Yasser Arafat was poisoned. Besides, it was so strange how can Palestinian authority didn’t ask for autopsy. Moreover, we can see that President Bush priority/message at that time was to get new leader for Palestine. I can’t imagine how can a foreigner suggested a  country to elect new leader because their current leader is sick. Why should they get involved in other countries’ affair?

The bottom line is what Prophet Muhammad said hundred years ago: there will be a time when Muslim will be like a piece of meat snatched by dogs. The sahabah/companions asked why is that so? Is that because of the few number of Muslim? The Prophet replied, no, your number is huge at that time but it like foam on the ocean. It is because you love dunya/world and afraid of death.

It seems to be a very long way to go when we can see Muslim around the world are united, have one single voice. What we’re seeing now are just Messy Syiria, poverty in many Muslim countries, occupied Palestine, etc. There are many reasons to be pessimistic, but I believe we shouldn’t be so.

Linking to my first paragraph, I think the most possible thing that we can do individually now is to build or develop our own country. I am definitely believe when Muslim countries are prosperous individually, they will be more respected. Just like a knowledgeable people who are more respected in their community. One single example is Singapore. Singapore is just a small-tiny country, yet it can have a voice in international forum. Why? Partly is because it is a success story, people are respecting it.

As the conclusion, keep doing da’wah and acquire more knowledge so that we can be a prosperous good-muslim country is the solution that I can think of at the moment.

Another inspiring Desi Anwar’s program

Desi Anwar’s program has always been so inspiring, including this edition: Chanee, pakar siamang. Chanee is young french man who came to Indonesia in 1998, when he was 19 years old. His passion on Siamang brought him to Indonesia even then married with locals and have two kids.

I was so touched to see his dedication, his humbleness, effort, commitment, dedication, and many other positive things. Saving Siamang (Gibbon) has always been his passion and dream. At least I learnt two things from him: first, we have to have something that we are very committed to achieve; something that we are striving for. Second, he makes me realize (again) how bad deforestation in Indonesia has been. 

I will always try to work more in my passion, and strive for it; and secondly, I do really have to have big influence or authority, so that I can help people like Chanee and many other Indonesian heroes. That time insyallah will come; many works need to be done. I hope you feel the same.

Inspiration from Mata Najwa episode

This episode of Mata Najwa really inspires me. It was attended by two inspiring public figures. Some inspirations or reminders that I got from the talk are:

  • Bangsa kita membutuhkan pemimpin yang siap, yaitu orang yang berpikir tentang apa yang akan dilakukannya, target-target yang akan dicapainya, bukan orang yang hanya sekedar ingin untuk meraih jabatan atau posisi tertentu.
  • Para pendiri bangsa kita adalah para intelektual yang daya pikir dan gagasannya jauh melampai orang-orang yang berada di masanya. Kita harus bisa menjadi intelektual yang sama atau lebih baik dari pada itu.
  • Kita butuh orang-orang yang optimis, memiliki ide-ide baru, dan semangat baru. Orang-orang yang berani untuk melakukan dobrakan dan me-remove obstacles yang menjadi bottlenecks pada pembangunan bangsa ini.
  • Anak muda harus menjadi seseorang yang sudah selesai dengan dirinya sendiri, dengan ambisi duniawinya. mereka haruslah menjadi seseorang yang memiliki idealisme dan kapabilitas untuk memimpin.
  • Lastly, kita harus berusahan untuk menekuni ide, gagasan, atau cita-cita tertentu. In this regards, again, I just wanted to reaffirm/commit myself again that my passion, idea, and dream is all about Indonesia’s public financial management. I really wanna see our public finance (keuangan negara) dikelola secara benar sehingga memang benar-benar bermanfaat bagi seluruh masyarakat. This field entails issues such as corruption, budgeting, audit of public finance, economics side of public finance, etc. I am so keen to be world expert and give impact-full contributions in this field.

Of course, the end or goal of all of this is to make all of us can live in a country that is described by Allah as baldatun thoyyibatun wa rabbun ghofur. Negara yang makmur yang penduduknya mendapat ampunan dari Allah SWT.

For me and for others

Allah sudah menekankan bahwa Allah hanya melihat ketaqwaan seseorang; Allah sama sekali tidak melihat pada rupa, warna kulit, dll. Rupa, warna kulit, dan hal lahiriyah lainnya merupakan sesuatu yang given dari Allah. Ia merupakan ujian, apakah kita bisa bersyukur dan bersabar atas hal tersebut. Semoga kita dikuatkan untuk bisa lulus dari ujian tersebut.

Allah juga menyebutkan bahwa kehidupan dunia ini hanyalah permainan dan senda gurau semata. Kehidupan dunia, misalkan pekerjaan dan uang, tidak boleh menjadikan kita semakin jauh dari Allah. Dari hal yang saya amati di kota New York, kota yang penuh dengan kemergelapan, banyak orang-orang yang tidak bahagia, stress, hingga mendapat gangguan mental yang serius karena terlalu mementingkan pekerjaan dan uang. Semoga kita selalu ingat, bahwa satu-satunya tujuan Allah menciptakan kita adalah untuk beribadah kepada Nya.

Uang tentu saja diperlukan. Dengan uang kita bisa menjadi lebih mudah beribadah pada Allah. Misalnya, jika ingin berhaji, kita perlu antri lima sampai tujuh tahun untuk berangkat; jika kita punya uang lebih, kita bisa ikut haji plus, yang langsung berangkat tahun itu juga dan dengan hotel yang sangat dekat dengan masjidil haram. Dengan uang kita juga bisa membantu manusia lainnya, sehingga peluang kita untuk beribadahpun bertambah. In short, sebagaimana yang sering kita dengar, money is a tool, not the goal.

Beruntunglah kita yang sudah Allah beri hidayah menjadi seorang muslim. Allah sudah memberi kita bekal yang cukup untuk menjalankan ujian kehidupan dunia ini. Allah memberi kita Al-Qur’an, hadits, dan petunjuk dari para ulama. Ayo kita selalu berusaha untuk sering-sering me-refer pada guidance tersebut. Just for an illustration, New York City memiliki system subway atau kereta yang sangat rumit, mungkin salah satu yang paling rumit di dunia. Line-nya ada banyak sekali. Agar tidak tersesat (yang kalau kelewatan satu stasiun saja, untuk pindah ke jalur yang berlawanan, susahnya ‘setengah mati’), kita harus sering-sering melihat pada subway map nya. Begitu juga halnya dengan kehidupan dunia ini, kita harus selalu me-refer pada pegangan yang disebutkan di atas.

I definitely aspire for a developed Indonesia; however, I have no nerve at all to see cities in Indonesia become a city like New York, London, etc. I want my country to be developed, but still maintain the rules of Allah. No need to be prosperous but then get Allah’s anger.

To conclude, my fellow Indonesians, let’s hold on to Allah’s guidance. It is the only thing that can save us.

That’s it, selamat berkarya. Selamat belajar dan bekerja. May Allah forgives us and loves us forever.

-John F Kennedy Airport, NYC-

Number one for me

“And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination” (QS. Luqman:14)

Allah’s verse above stress that we have to be someone who obey, take care of, and beneficial to our parents.

Let’s always try to be a good Muslim and a good child to them. Let’s always try to be the one who will make them happy. In qur’an words, it’s called qurrata ‘ayun, someone that can make their parents’ eyes cool.

We’ve grown up now; hopefully we still and will always able to make them happy. Hopefully the song below can remind us again about their love, especially our mother.

May we can gather in Allah’s paradise later with our parents.

AISC Taiwan 2012

Alhamdulillah, I am so grateful to be able to join an enjoyable and informative event this week. It’s called Annual Indonesian Scholar Conference (AISC) in Hsinchu, Taiwan. There are quite a lot of reflections, observations, and lessons that I got from this events. I would like to share some.

First, I found the Indonesia’s muslim society in Taiwan is really great because they can organized such international scale academic conference. I think other Indonesia’s muslim societies overseas should also conduct this kind of event.

Secondly, when Indonesian in Taiwan perform some of Indonesian dances, I was more convinced that art or culture can be a medium to promote understanding between different culture. I saw the Taiwanese, who watch the performance, were quite impressed. I think it can also be a medium of da’wah. No wonder why some Wali Songo use this cultural approach.

Thirdly, I am more convinced that a great university is really important for a nation development. I saw quite a lot of good universities in Taiwan which then support Taiwan’s economic development. Somehow, it comes to my mind, that later, in ministry of finance or BPK, I will try to be the ‘guardian’ for the education budget provision and its use.

Fourthly, one of the speaker highlighted Japanese policy after they lose in the war, that is “to revive science and technology excellence” policy. As always, I really agree with this statement. A more educated society is highly needed. However, as the Prof reminded, just education is not enough, we also need training and practice.

And lastly, I am so grateful to Allah who always help and strengthen me. I do really hope that the time that I spent there was regarded as an ibadah. So grateful also for the best presentation award. Thank you Allah,,

(to be continued)

Strengthening the Commitment

The problem is real. Every nations concern about their public finance. Because unavoidablely, public finance, the fiscal, or simply the budget, hold the people life in our country. It has strategic impacts on the future. It affect the human development, such as education, health care, defense, business, etc.

That is why, a clear minded policy maker in public finance management world is needed. They’re gonna set tax rate, the deficit level, the expenditure allocation, the distribution function, etc. They really have strategic role.

So again, to strengthen my self, I’ll be public finance expert in the future. My studies in public policy, with concentration in public finance management and good governance is very important. Being expert and then contribute in this area is highly important. I’ll always try to be expert in this area. (Rully)