PAKET UMROH BULAN FEBRUARI MARET APRIL MEI 2018




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MENJELAJAHI MASJID AGUNG BRUSSEL DI BELGIA

Masjid Agung Brussel – Belgia yang terletak di kawasan elit dalam taman Cinquantenaire Park kota Brussel dan tak jauh dari markas  besar Uni Eropa itu pada awalnya tidak diperuntukkan sebagai masjid melainkan sebagai paviliun pameran kebudayaan negeri negeri timur, selesai dibangun tahun 1879 dan setahun kemudian di digunakan sebagai gedung eksebisi nasional Belgia. Di tahun tersebut komunitas muslim Belgia belum lagi dikenal.
Organisasi Islam pertama di Belgia, Islamic and Cultural Centre Belgium, baru berdiri di tahun 1963 atau 84 tahun setelah gedung pameran tersebut selesai dibangun.  Pada awal pendiriannya Islamic and Cultural Center Belgium berkantor di gedung sewaan di kawasan sederhana kota Brussels, berkat bantuan dari kedutaan negara negara Islam di Brussels waktu itu.

Bangunan aslinya dibangun oleh arsitek Ernest Van Humbeek dalam gaya bahasa Arab, untuk membentuk Pavilion Oriental dari National Exhibition di Brussels pada tahun 1880. Pada saat itu paviliun ditempati lukisan monumental pada kanvas : “Panorama Kairo”, oleh  pelukis Belgia Emile Wauters , yang telah sukses besar. Namun, kurangnya pemeliharaan pada abad kedua puluh menyebabkan bangunan memburuk secara bertahap.

Pada tahun 1967, King Baudouin membuat hadiah bangunan untuk Raja Faisal bin Abdul Aziz dari Arab Saudi , dalam kunjungan resmi ke Belgia, bangunan tersebut mungkin berubah menjadi tempat ibadah untuk penggunaan komunitas Muslim Belgia yang telah berkembang cukup pada saat itu. Masjid, setelah rekonstruksi panjang dilakukan dengan mengorbankan Arab Saudi oleh Tunisia arsitek Boubaker, diresmikan pada tahun 1978 di hadapan Khalid ibn Abd al-Aziz dan Baudouin. Masjid ini peran lembaga keagamaan terkemuka dalam Belgia Islam peran yang dimaksudkan sebagai jembatan diplomatik antara Saudi dan Belgia masyarakat serta monarki-telah menjadi titik perdebatan sejak kembali berdiri.

Saat ini juga menjadi tuan rumah sebuah sekolah dan pusat penelitian Islam yang tujuannya adalah untuk menyebarkan agama Islam. Pusat ini juga menyediakan kursus bahasa Arab untuk orang dewasa dan anak-anak, serta kursus pengantar dalam Islam .

Sumber : http://khalistatour.com

Baca Artikel Lainnya : MAKNA IBADAH HAJI DAN UMRAH

> MENJELAJAHI MASJID AGUNG BRUSSEL DI BELGIA

19 GUNUNG BERAPI STATUS WASPADA

saco-indonesia.com, Peningkatan aktivitas vulkanik Gunung Kelud telah membuat statusnya dinaikkan menjadi waspada (level II) pada Minggu (2/2) kemarin . Masyarakat telah diimbau untuk tidak panik dan cemas dengan hal ini.

Kepala Pusat Data Informasi dan Humas BNPB Sutopo Purwo Nugroho juga mengatakan, pemberitaan media yang intensif dan berlebihan mengenai peningkatan aktivitas gunung berapi seringkali justru telah menyebabkan dampak negatif di masyarakat. Akibatnya, obyek-obyek wisata, hotel, pertanian dan aktivitas ekonomi yang berada di luar daerah berbahaya menjadi sepi.

"Hal ini telah terjadi di Gunung Bromo, Ijen, Dieng, Tangkubanparahu, Papandayan, dan lainnya. Bahkan aktivitas wisata dan hotel-hotel di Kabanjahe saat ini pun telah sepi dari pengunjung karena masyarakat jadi takut berkunjung padahal lokasinya jauh dan aman dari Gunung Sinabung," ujarnya, Senin (3/2).

Sutopo juga telah menjelaskan, Gunung berapi bersifat slow in set. Artinya tidak akan tiba-tiba meletus. Ada tanda-tandanya sehingga status gunung punya tahapan yaitu dari normal kemudian menjadi waspada, siaga, dan awas sesuai ancamannya.

Saat ini dari 127 gunung berapi aktif di Indonesia, ada 1 gunung yang berstatus Awas (level IV) yaitu Gunung Sinabung sejak 24 november 2013. "Ada 3 gunung yang status Siaga (level III) yaitu Karangetang, Lokon dan Rokatenda. Ada 19 gunung status Waspada (level II) yaitu Kelud, Raung, Ibu, Lewotobi Perempuan, Ijen, Gamkonora, Soputan, Sangeangapi, Papandayan, Dieng, Seulewah Agam, Gamalama, Bromo, Semeru, Talang, Anak Krakatau, Marapi, Dukono, dan Kerinci. Lainnya berstatus normal," jelas Sutopo.

Dia juga menambahkan, makna dari status waspada adalah ada kenaikan aktivitas di atas level normal, apapun jenis gejala diperhitungkan. Tidak kritis. "Yang diperlukan adalah sosialisasi, kajian bahaya, pengecekan sarana, dan piket terbatas," tukasnya.

Sedangkan makna status siaga, lanjut Sutopo, adalah semua data telah menunjukkan bahwa aktivitas dapat segera berlanjut ke letusan atau menuju pada keadaan yang dapat menimbulkan bencana. "Kondisinya kritis sehingga perlu sosialisasi di wilayah terancam, penyiapan sarana darurat, koordinasi harian, dan piket penuh," pungkasnya.


Editor : Dian Sukmawati

> 19 GUNUNG BERAPI STATUS WASPADA

ALASAN TIDAK MELAKUKAN UMRAH BERULANG KALI SAAT BERADA DI MEKKAH

Ada satu fenomena yang umum disaksikan pada kalangan jamaah haji Indonesia dan juga negara lainnya. Saat berada di kota suci Mekkah, banyak yang berbondong-bondong menuju tanah yang halal, yaitu al hillu, Masjid ‘Aisyah di Tan’im atau Ji’ranah. Tujuannya untuk melaksanakan umrah lagi. Umrah yang mereka kerjakan bisa lebih dari sekali dalam satu hari. Dalih mereka, mumpung sedang berada di Mekkah, sepantasnya memperbanyak ibadah umrah, yang belum tentu bisa dikerjakan lagi sesudah sampai di tanah air. Atau dengan kata lain, untuk memperbanyak pahala. Saking berlebihannya, Syaikh Muhammad bin Shalih al 'Utsaimin penuh keheranan pernah menyaksikan seorang laki-laki yang sedang mengerjakan sa'i dengan rambut tersisa separo saja (sisi yang lain gundul). Syaikh 'Utsaimin pun bertanya kepadanya, dan laki-laki tersebut menjawab : “Bagian yang tak berambut ini telah dipotong untuk umrah kemarin. Sedangkan rambut yang tersisa untuk umrah hari ini”. [1]

SELAIN IKHLAS, IBADAH MEMBUTUHKAN MUTABA’AH
Suatu ibadah agar diterima oleh Allah, harus terpenuhi oleh dua syarat. Yaitu ikhlas dan juga harus dibarengi dengan mutaba’ah. Sehingga tidak cukup hanya mengandalkan ikhlas semata, tetapi juga harus mengikuti petunjuk Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam. Disamping itu juga dengan mengetahui praktek dan pemahaman generasi Salaf dalam menjalakan ibadah haji yang pernah dikerjakan oleh Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam. Sebab, generasi Salaf merupakan generasi terbaik, yang paling semangat dalam meraih kebaikan.

Umrah termasuk dalam kategori ini. Sebagai ibadah yang disyariatkan, maka harus bersesuaian dengan rambu-rambu syari'at dan nash-nashnya, petunjuk Nabi dan para sahabat, serta para pengikut mereka yang ihsan sampai hari Kiamat. Dan ittiba’ ini merupakan salah satu tonggak diterimanya amalan di sisi Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala.

Sebagai ibadah yang sudah jelas tuntunannya, pelaksanan umrah tidak lagi memerlukan ijtihad padanya. Tidak boleh mendekatkan diri kepada Allah melalui ibadah umrah dengan ketentuan yang tidak pernah digariskan. Kalau tidak mengikuti petunjuk syariat, berarti ibadah yang dilakukan menunjukkan sikap i’tida` (melampaui batas) terhadap hak Allah, dalam aspek penetapan hukum syariat, serta merupakan penentangan terhadap ketentuan Allah dalam hukumNya. Allah berfirman : "Apakah mereka mempunyai sembahan-sembahan selain Allah yang mensyariatkan untuk mereka agama yang tidak diizinkan Allah? Sekiranya tak ada ketetapan yang menentukan (dari Allah) tentulah mereka telah dibinasakan. Dan sesungguhnya orang-orang yang zhalim itu akan memperoleh azab yang amat pedih" [Asy Syura /42: 21][2]

JUMLAH UMRAH RASULULLAH SHALLALLAHU 'ALAIHI WA SALLAM
Sepanjang hidupnya, Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam melakukan umrah sebanyak 4 kali.

عَنْ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ قَالَ اعْتَمَرَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَرْبَعَ عُمَرٍ عُمْرَةَ الْحُدَيْبِيَةِ وَعُمْرَةَ الْقَضَاءِ مِنْ قَابِلٍ وَالثَّالِثَةَ مِنْ الْجِعْرَانَةِ وَالرَّابِعَةَ الَّتِي مَعَ حَجَّتِهِ

Dari Ibnu 'Abbas, ia berkata : "Rasulullah mengerjakan umrah sebanyak empat kali. (Yaitu) umrah Hudaibiyah, umrah Qadha`, umrah ketiga dari Ji'ranah, dan keempat (umrah) yang bersamaan dengan pelaksanaan haji beliau".[3]

Menurut Ibnul Qayyim, dalam masalah ini tidak ada perbedaan pendapat [4]. Setiap umrah tersebut, beliau kerjakan dalam sebuah perjalanan tersendiri. Tiga umrah secara tersendiri, tanpa disertai haji. Dan sekali bersamaan dengan haji.
Pertama, umrah Hudhaibiyah tahun 6 H. Beliau dan para sahabat yang berbaiat di bawah syajarah (pohon), mengambil miqat dari Dzul Hulaifah Madinah. Pada perjalanan umrah ini, kaum Musyrikin menghalangi kaum Muslimin untuk memasuki kota Mekkah. Akhirnya, terjadilah pernjanjian Hudhaibiyah. Salah satu pointnya, kaum Muslimin harus kembali ke Madinah, tanpa bisa melaksanakan umrah yang sudah direncanakan.

Kemudian, kaum Muslimin mengerjakan umrah lagi pada tahun berikutnya. Dikenal dengan umrah Qadhiyyah atau Qadha`[5] tahun 7 H. Selama tiga hari beliau n berada di Mekkah. Dan ketiga, umrah Ji’ranah pada tahun 8 H. Yang terakhir, saat beliau Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam mengerjakan haji Wada’. Semua umrah yang beliau kerjakan terjadi pada bulan Dzul Qa`dah.[6]

SEBELAS ALASAN TIDAK MELAKUKAN UMRAH BERULANG KALI
Para ulama memandang, melakukan umrah berulang kali sebagai perbuatan yang makruh. Masalah ini telah dijelaskan oleh Syaikhul Islam Ibnu Taimiyyah dalam Fatawanya. Keterangan beliau tersebut dikutip oleh Syaikh Muhammad bin Shalih al Utsaimin dalam Syarhul Mumti’. [7]

Berikut ini beberapa aspek yang menjelaskan bahwa umrah berulang-ulang seperti yang dikerjakan oleh sebagian jamaah haji –sebagaimana fenomena di atas- tidak disyariatkan.

Pertama : Pelaksanaan empat umrah yang dikerjakan Rasulullah, masing-masing dikerjakan dengan perjalanan (safar) tersendiri. Bukan satu perjalanan untuk sekian banyak umrah, seperti yang dilakukan oleh jamaah haji sekarang ini. Syaikh Muhammad bin Shalih al 'Utsaimin menyimpulkan, setiap umrah mempunyai waktu safar tersendiri. Artinya, satu perjalanan hanya untuk satu umrah saja [8]. Sedangkan perjalanan menuju Tan’im belum bisa dianggap safar. Sebab masih berada dalam lingkup kota Mekkah.

Kedua : Para sahabat yang menyertai Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam dalam haji Wada’, tidak ada riwayat yang menerangkan salah seorang dari mereka yang beranjak keluar menuju tanah yang halal untuk tujuan umrah, baik sebelum atau setelah pelaksanaan haji. Juga tidak pergi ke Tan’im, Hudhaibiyah atau Ji’ranah untuk tujuan umrah. Begitu pula, orang-orang yang tinggal di Mekkah, tidak ada yang keluar menuju tanah halal untuk tujuan umrah. Ini sebuah perkara yang disepakati dan dimaklumi oleh semua ulama yang mengerti sunnah dan syariat Nabi Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam.[9]

Ketiga : Umrah beliau Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam yang dimulai dari Ji’ranah tidak bisa dijadikan dalil untuk membolehkan umrah berulang-ulang. Sebab, pada awalnya beliau Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam memasuki kota Mekkah untuk menaklukannya dalam keadaan halal (bukan muhrim) pada tahun 8 H. Selama tujuhbelas hari beliau berada di sana. Kemudian sampai kepada beliau berita, kalau suku Hawazin bermaksud memerangi beliau. Akhirnya beliau mendatangi dan memerangi mereka. Ghanimah dibagi di daerah Ji’ranah. Setelah itu, beliau ingin mengerjakan umrah dari Ji’ranah. Beliau tidak keluar dari Mekkah ke Ji’ranah secara khusus. Namun, ada perkara lain yang membuat beliau keluar dari Mekkah. Jadi, semata-mata bukan untuk mengerjakan umrah.[10]

Keempat : Nabi Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam, juga para sahabat -kecuali ‘Aisyah- tidak pernah mengerjakan satu umrah pun dari Mekkah, meski setelah Mekkah ditaklukkan. Begitu pula, tidak ada seorang pun yang keluar dari tanah Haram menuju tanah yang halal untuk mengerjakan umrah dari sana sebelum Mekkah ditaklukkan dan menjadi Darul Islam. Karena thawaf di Ka’bah tetap masyru’ sejak Nabi Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam diutus. Bahkan sejak Nabi Ibrahim Alaihissalam. Mengerjakan thawaf tanpa umrah terlebih dahulu, sudah mengantarkan kepada sebuah ketetapan yang pasti, bahwa perkara yang disyariatkan bagi penduduk Mekkah (orang yang berada di Mekkah) adalah thawaf. Itulah yang lebih utama bagi mereka dari pada keluar dari tanah Haram untuk mengerjakan umrah. Sebab, tidak mungkin Rasulullah dan para sahabat lebih mengutamakan amalan mafdhul/ (yang nilainya kurang) -dalam hal ini thawaf- dibandingkan amalan yang lebih afdhal (umrah menurut asumsi sebagian jamaah haji). Padahal Nabi n tidak memerintahkan umat untuk melakukan umrah berulang-ulang. Ucapan ini tidak mungkin dikatakan oleh seorang muslim.[11]

Ibnul Qayyim berkata,"Tidak ada umrah beliau dalam keadaan beliau keluar dari Mekkah sebagaimana dilakukan oleh kebanyakan orang sekarang ini. Seluruh umrah beliau, dilangsungkan dari luar kota Mekkah menuju Mekkah (tidak keluar dahulu baru masuk kota Mekkah). Nabi pernah tinggal di Mekkah selama 13 tahun. Namun tidak ada riwayat yang menjelaskan beliau Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam keluar kota Mekkah untuk mengerjakan umrah.

Jadi umrah yang beliau kerjakan dan yang disyariatkan adalah, umrah orang yang memasuki kota Mekkah (berasal dari luar Mekkah), bukan umrah orang yang berada di dalamnya (Mekkah), dengan menuju daerah yang halal (di luar batas tanah haram) untuk mengerjakan umrah dari sana. Tidak ada yang melakukannya di masa beliau, kecuali 'Aisyah semata…[12]

Kelima : Tentang umrah yang dilakukan oleh ‘Aisyah pada haji Wada’ bukanlah berdasarkan perintah Nabi. Beliau mengizinkannya setelah 'Aisyah memohon dengan sangat.[13]

Kisahnya, pada waktu menunaikan ibadah haji bersama Nabi Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam, 'Aisyah mendapatkan haidh, maka Rasulullah memerintahkan saudara ‘Aisyah yang bernama ‘Abdurrahman bin Abu Bakar mengantar ‘Aisyah ke daerah Tan’im, agar ia memulai ihram untuk umrah disana. Karena 'Aisyah menyangka, bahwa umrah yang dilakukan bersamaan dengan haji, akan batal, sehingga ia menangis. Kemudian untuk menenangkannya, maka Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam mengijinkan 'Aisyah melakukan umrah lagi.

Umrah yang dilakukan ‘Aisyah ini sebagai pengkhususan baginya. Sebab, belum didapati satu pun dalil dari seorang sahabat laki-laki ataupun perempuan yang menerangkan bahwa ia pernah melakukan umrah usai melaksanakan ibadah haji, dengan memulai ihram dari kawasan Tan’im, sebagaiamana yang telah dilakukan 'Aisyah Radhiyallahu 'anha. Andaikata para sahabat mengetahui perbuatan ‘Aisyah tersebut disyariatkan juga buat mereka pasca menunaikan ibadah haji, niscaya banyak riwayat dari mereka yang menjelaskan hal itu.

Ibnul Qayyim mengatakan, (Umrah ‘Aisyah) menjadi dasar tentang umrah dari Mekkah. Tidak ada dalil bagi orang yang menilainya (umrah berulang-ulang) selainnya. Sesungguhnya Nabi dan sahabat yang bersama beliau dalam haji (Wada’) tidak ada yang keluar dari Mekkah, kecuali ‘Aisyah saja. Kemudian orang-orang yang mendukung umrah dari Mekkah, menjadikan riwayat tersebut sebagai dasar pendapat mereka. Tetapi, kandungan riwayat tersebut tidak ada yang menunjukkan dukungan terhadap pendapat mereka.[14]

Imam asy Syaukani rahimahullah berkata,"Nabi Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam tidak pernah berumrah dengan cara keluar dari daerah Mekkah ke tanah halal, kemudian masuk Mekkah lagi dengan niat umrah, sebagaimana layaknya yang dilakukan kebanyakan orang sekarang. Padahal, tak satupun yang sah yang menerangkan ada seorang sahabat melakukan yang demikian itu”.[15]

Keenam : Kaum Muslimin bersilang pendapat tentang hukum umrah, apakah wajib ataukah tidak. Para ulama yang memandang umrah itu wajib seperti layaknya haji, mereka tidak mewajibkannya atas penduduk Mekkah. Imam Ahmad pernah menukil perkataan Ibnu 'Abbas: “Wahai penduduk Mekkah, tidak ada kewajiban umrah atas kalian. Umrah kalian adalah thawaf di Ka’bah”.

‘Atha bin Abi Rabah [16] –ulama yang paling menguasai manasik haji dan panutan penduduk Mekkah– berkata : “Tidak ada manusia ciptaan Allah kecuali wajib atas dirinya haji dan umrah. Dua kewajiban yang harus dilaksanakan bagi orang yang mampu, kecuali penghuni Mekkah. Mereka wajib mengerjakan haji, tetapi tidak wajib umrah, karena mereka sudah mengerjakan thawaf. Dan itu sudah mencukupi”.

Thawus [17] berkata: “Tidak ada kewajiban umrah bagi orang yang berada di Mekkah”. (Riwayat Ibnu Abi Syaibah).

Berdasarkan beberapa keterangan para ulama Salaf tersebut, menunjukkan bahwa bagi penduduk Mekkah, mereka tidak menilai sunnah, apalagi sampai mewajibkannya. Seandainya wajib, maka sudah pasti Nabi n memerintahkannya atas diri mereka dan mereka akan mematuhinya. Tetapi, tidak ada riwayat yang menjelaskan tentang orang yang berumrah dari Mekkah di masa Nabi masih hidup, kecuali ‘Aisyah saja. Kisah ini sudah dijelaskan persoalannya di atas.

Karenanya, para ulama hadits, bila ingin menulis tentang umrah dari Mekkah, mereka hanya menyinggung tentang kejadian ‘Aisyah saja. Tidak ada yang lain. Seandainya ada, pasti sudah sampai kepada kita.[18]

Ketujuh : Intisari umrah adalah thawaf. Adapun sa’i antara Shafa dan Marwah bersifat menyertai saja. Bukti yang menunjukkannya sebagai penyerta adalah, sa'i tidak dikerjakan kecuali setelah thawaf. Dan ibadah thawaf ini bisa dikerjakan oleh penduduk Mekkah, tanpa harus keluar dari batas tanah suci Mekkah terlebih dahulu. Barangsiapa yang sudah mampu mengerjakan perkara yang inti, ia tidak diperintahkan untuk menempuh wasilah (perantara yang mengantarkan kepada tujuan). [19]

Kedelapan : Berkeliling di Ka’bah adalah ibadah yang dituntut. Adapun menempuh perjalanan menuju tempat halal untuk berniat umrah dari sana merupakan sarana menjalankan ibadah yang diminta. Orang yang menyibukkan diri dengan sarana (menuju tempat yang halal untuk berumrah dari sana) sehingga meninggalkan tujuan inti (thawaf), orang ini telah salah jalan, tidak paham tentang agama. Lebih buruk dari orang yang berdiam di dekat masjid pada hari Jum’at, sehingga memungkinkannya bersegera menuju masjid untuk shalat, tetapi ia justru menuju tempat yang jauh untuk mengawali perjalanan menuju masjid itu. Akibatnya, ia meninggalkan perkara yang menjadi tuntutan, yaitu shalat di dalam masjid tersebut.

Kesembilan : Mereka mengetahui dengan yakin, bahwa thawaf di sekeliling Baitullah jauh lebih utama daripada sa’i. Maka daripada mereka menyibukkan diri dengan pergi keluar ke daerah Tan’im dan sibuk dengan amalan-amalan umrah yang baru sebagai tambahan bagi umrah sebelumnya, lebih baik mereka melakukan thawaf di sekeliling Ka’bah. Dan sudah dimaklumi, bahwa waktu yang tersita untuk pergi ke Tan’im karena ingin memulai ihram untuk umrah yang baru, dapat dimanfaatkan untuk mengerjakan thawaf ratusan kali keliling Ka’bah.

Bahkan Syaikhul Islam Ibnu Taimiyah menilainya sebagai bid’ah, (sebuah perkara yang) belum pernah dikerjakan oleh generasi Salaf, tidak diperintahkan oleh al Kitab dan as Sunnah. Juga tidak ada dalil syar’i yang menunjukkan status sunnahnya. Apabila demikian adanya, berarti termasuk bid’ah yang dibenci berdasarkan kesepakatan para ulama[20]. Oleh karenanya, para generasi Salaf dan para imam melarangnya.

Sa’id bin Manshur meriwayatkan dalam Sunan-nya dari Thawus, salah seorang murid Ibnu ‘Abbas mengatakan :

مَا أَدْرِيْ أَيُؤْجَرُوْنَ عَلَيْهَا أَمْ يُعَذَّبُوْنَ. قِيْلَ : فَلِمَ يُعَذَّبُوْنَ؟ قَالَ : لِأَنَّهُ يَدَعُ الطَّوَافَ بِالْبَيْتِ . وَيَخْرُجُ إِلَى أَرْبَعَةِ أَمْيَالِ وَيَجِيْئُ وَإِلَى أَنْ يَجِيْئَ مِنْ أَرَبَعَةِ أَمْيَالٍ قَدْ طَافَ مِائَتَيْ طَوَافٍ. وَكُلَّمَا طَافَ بِالْبَيْتِ كَانَ أَفْضَلَ مِنْ أَنْ يَمْشِيَ فِيْ غَيْرِ شَيْئٍ

"Aku tidak tahu, orang-orang yang mengerjakan umrah dari kawasan Tan’im, apakah mereka diberi pahala atau justru disiksa". Ada yang bertanya : “Mengapa mereka disiksa?” Beliau menjawab : “Karena meninggalkan thawaf di Ka’bah. Untuk keluar menempuh jarak empat mil dan pulang (pun demikian). Sampai ia pulang menempuh jarak empat mil, ia bisa berkeliling Ka’bah sebanyak dua ratus kali. Setiap kali ia berthawaf di Ka’bah, itulah yang utama daripada menempuh perjalanan tanpa tujuan apapun”.[21]

‘Atha` pernah berkata : “Thawaf di Ka’bah lebih aku sukai daripada keluar (dari Mekkah) untuk umrah”. [22]

Kesepuluh : Setelah memaparkan kejadian orang yang berumrah berulang-ulang, misalnya melakukannya dua kali dalam sehari, Syaikhul Islam semakin memantapkan pendapatnya, bahwa umrah yang demikian tersebut makruh, berdasarkan kesepakatan para imam. Selanjutnya beliau menambahkan, meskipun ada sejumlah ulama dari kalangan Syafi’iyyah dan ulama Hanabilah yang menilai umrah berulang kali sebagai amalan yang sunnah, namun pada dasarnya mereka tidak mempunyai hujjah khusus, kecuali hanya qiyas umum. Yakni, untuk memperbanyak ibadah atau berpegangan dengan dalil-dalil yang umum.[23]

Di antara dalil yang umum, hadits Nabi:

الْعُمْرَةُ إِلَى الْعُمْرَةِ كَفَّارَةٌ لِمَا بَيْنَهُمَا

"Antara umrah menuju umrah berikutnya menjadi penghapus )dosa( di antara keduanya" [24].

Tentang hadits ini, Syaikh al 'Utsaimin mendudukkan bahwa hadits ini, mutlak harus dikaitkan dengan apa yang diperbuat oleh generasi Salaf ridhwanullah ‘alaihim [25]. Penjelasannya sudah disampaikan pada point-point sebelumnya. Ringkasnya, tidak ada contoh dari kalangan generasi Salaf dalam melaksanakan umrah yang berulang-ulang.

Kesebelas : Pada penaklukan kota Mekkah, Nabi Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam berada di Mekkah selama sembilan belas hari. Tetapi, tidak ada riwayat bahwa beliau keluar ke daerah halal untuk melangsungkan umrah dari sana. Apakah Nabi tidak tahu bahwa itu masyru’ (disyariatkan)? Tentu saja tidak mungkin![26]

LEBIH BAIK MEMPERBANYAK THAWAF
Berdasarkan alasan-alasan di atas, menjadi jelas bahwa thawaf lebih utama. Adapun berumrah dari Mekkah dan meninggalkan thawaf tidak mustahab. Dan yang disunnahkan adalah thawaf, bukan umrah.

Syaikhul Islam Ibnu Taimiyah menambahkan : “Thawaf mengelilingi Ka’bah lebih utama daripada umrah bagi orang yang berada di Mekkah, merupakan perkara yang tidak diragukan lagi oleh orang-orang yang memahami Sunnah Rasulullah dan Sunnah Khalifah pengganti beliau dan para sahabat, serta generasi Salaf dan tokoh-tokohnya”.

Alasannya, kata beliau rahimahullah, karena thawaf di Baitullah merupakan ibadah dan qurbah (cara untuk mendekatkan diri kepada Allah) yang paling afdhal yang telah Allah tetapkan di dalam KitabNya, berdasarkan keterangan NabiNya. Thawaf termasuk ibadah paling utama bagi penduduk Mekkah. Maksudnya, yaitu orang-orang yang berada di Mekkah, baik penduduk asli maupun pendatang. Thawaf juga termasuk ibadah istimewa yang tidak bisa dilakukan oleh orang-orang yang berada di kota lainnnya.

Orang-orang yang berada di Mekkah sejak masa Rasulullah dan masa para khulafa senantiasa menjalankan thawaf setiap saat. Dan lagi, Nabi Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam memerintahkan kepada pihak yang bertanggung jawab atas Baitullah, agar tidak menghalangi siapapun yang ingin mengerjakan thawaf pada setiap waktu. Beliau bersabda:

يَا بَنِي عَبْدِ مَنَافٍ لَا تَمْنَعُوا أَحَدًا طَافَ بِهَذَا الْبَيْتِ وَصَلَّى فِيْ أَيِّ سَاعَةٍ شَاءَ مِنْ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ

"Wahai Bani Abdi Manaf, janganlah kalian menghalangi seorang pun untuk melakukan thawaf di Ka'bah dan mengerjakan shalat pada saat kapan pun, baik malam maupun siang" [27]

Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala memerintahkan Nabi Ibrahim dan Nabi Ismail dengan berfirman :

"Dan bersihkanlah rumahKu untuk orang-orang yang thawaf, yang i'tikaf, yang ruku', dan yang sujud" [al Baqarah/2:125]

Dalam ayat yang lain:

"Dan sucikanlah rumahKu ini bagi orang-orang yang thawaf, dan orang-orang yang beribadah dan orang-orang yang ruku' dan sujud" [al Hajj/22:26]

Pada dua ayat di atas, Allah menyebutkan tiga ibadah di Baitullah, yaitu : thawaf, i’tikaf dan ruku’ bersama sujud, dengan mengedepankan yang paling istimewa terlebih dahulu, yaitu thawaf. Karena sesungguhnya, thawaf tidak disyariatkan kecuali di Baitil ‘Atiq (rumah tua, Ka’bah) berdasarkan kesepakatan para ulama. Begitu juga para ulama bersepakat, thawaf tidak boleh dilakukan di tempat selain Ka'bah. Adapun i’tikaf, bisa dilaksanakan di masjid-masjid lain. Begitu pula ruku' dan sujud, dapat dikerjakan di mana saja. Nabi bersabda:

وَجُعِلَتْ لِيَ الْأَرْضُ مَسْجِدًا وَ طَهُورًا

"Dijadikan tanah sebagai masjid dan tempat pensuci bagi diriku" [HR. al-Bukhari - Muslim]

Maksudnya, Allah Subhanhu wa Ta'ala mengutamakan perkara yang paling khusus dengan tempat tersebut. Sehingga mendahulukan penyebutan thawaf. Karena ibadah thawaf hanya berlaku khusus di Masjidil Haram. Baru kemudian disebutkan i’tikaf. Sebab bisa dikerjakan di Masjidil Haram dan masjid-masjid lainnya yang dipakai kaum Muslimin untuk mengerjakan shalat lima waktu. Selanjutnya, disebutkan ibadah shalat. Karena tempat pelaksanaannya lebih umum.

Selain itu, thawaf merupakan rangkaian manasik yang lebih sering terulang. Disyariatkan thawaf Qudum bagi orang yang baru sampai di kota Mekkah. Dan disyariatkan thawaf Wada’ bagi orang yang akan meninggalkan kota Mekkah usai pelaksanaan manasik haji. Disamping keberadaan thawaf ifadhah yang menjadi salah satu rukun haji.[28]

Secara khusus, tentang keutamaan thawaf di Baitullah, Nabi Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam bersabda :

مَنْ طَافَ بِهَذَا الْبَيْتِ سَبْعًا كَعِدْلِ رَقَبَةٍ

"Barangsiapa mengelilingi rumah ini (Ka’bah) tujuh kali, seperti membebaskan satu budak belian" [29].

Kesimpulannya : Memperbanyak thawaf merupakan ibadah sunnah, lagi diperintahkan. Terutama bagi orang yang datang ke Mekkah. Jumhur ulama berpendapat, thawaf di Ka’bah lebih utama dibandingkan shalat di Masjidil Haram, meskipun shalat di sana sangat besar keutamaannya.[30]

Pendapat yang mengatakan tidak disyari’atkan melakukan thawaf berulangkali, inilah yang ditunjukkan oleh Sunnah Nabawiyah yang bersifat ‘amaliyah, dan didukung oleh fi’il (perbuatan) para sahabat Radhiyallahu 'anhum. Dan Nabi Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam telah memerintahkan kita agar mengikuti Sunnah beliau Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam dan sunnah para khalifahnya sepeninggal beliau Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam. Yaitu beliau bersabda : Hendaklah kalian berpegang teguh dengan Sunnahku dan sunnah para khalifah yang mendapat petunjuk dan terbimbing sepeninggalku. Hendaklah kalian menggigitnya dengan gigi gerahammu. [Sunan Abu Dawud, II/398, no. 4607; Ibnu Majah, I/16, no. 42 dan 43; Tirmidzi, V/43, no. 2673; Ahmad, IV/26.] [31]

Oleh karena itu, ketika berada di Mekkah sebelum atau sesudah pelaksanaan haji, yang paling baik bagi kita ialah memperbanyak thawaf, daripada melakukan perbuatan yang tidak ada contohnya. Wallahu a'lam bish-shawab.

Maraji :
- Al Wajiz fi Fiqhis Sunnah wal Kitabil ‘Aziz, Dr Abdul 'Azhim Badawi Dar Ibni Rajab, Cet. III, Th. 1421 H – 2001 M.
- Fatawa li Ahlil Haram, susunan Dakhil bin Bukhait al Mutharrifi.
- Syarhul Mumti’ ‘ala Zadil Mustaqni’, Syaikh Muhammad bin Shalih al ‘Utsaimin, Muassasah A-sam, Cet. I, Th. 1416 H – 1996 M.
- Majmu al Fatawa, Syaikhul Islam Ibnu Taimiyah, Cet. I, Th. 1423 H. Tanpa penerbit.
- Zadul Ma’ad fi Hadyi Khairil ‘Ibad, Muhammad bin Abi Bakr Ibnul Qayyim. Tahqiq Syu’aib al Arnauth dan ‘Abdul Qadir al Arnauth, Muassasah ar Risalah, Cet. III, Th. 1421 H – 2001 M.
- Shahih Sunan an Nasaa-i, Muhammad Nashiruddin al Albani, Maktabah Ma'arif, Cet. I, Th. 1419H –1998M.
- Shahih Sunan at Tirmidzi, Muhammad Nashiruddin al Albani, Maktabah Ma'arif Cet. I, Th. 1419H – 1998M.
- Shahih Sunan Ibni Majah, Muhammad Nashiruddin al Albani, Maktabah Ma'arif, Cet. I, Th. 1419H – 1998M.

[Disalin dari majalah As-Sunnah Edisi 09/Tahun X/1427H/2006. Diterbitkan Yayasan Lajnah Istiqomah Surakarta, Jl. Solo – Purwodadi Km.8 Selokaton Gondangrejo Solo 57183 Telp. 0271-761016]
_________
Footnotes
[1]. Fatawa al 'Utsaimin, 2/668.
[2]. Lihat penjelasan Dr. Muhammad bin Abdir Rahman al Khumayyis dalam adz Dzikril Jama’i Bainal Ittiba’ wal Ibtida’, halaman 7-8.
[3]. Shahih. Lihat Shahih Sunan at Tirmidzi, no. 816; Shahih Sunan Ibni Majah, no. 2450.
[4]. Zadul Ma’ad, 2/89.
[5]. Umrah ini dikenal dengan nama umrah Qadha` atau Qadhiyah, karena kaum muslimin telah mengikat perjanjian dengan kaum Quraisy. Bukan untuk mengqadha (menggantikan) umrah tahun sebelumnya yang dihalangi oleh
kaum Quraisy. Karena umrah tersebut tidak rusak sehingga tidak perlu diganti. Buktinya, Nabi tidak memerintahkan para sahabat yang ikut serta dalam umrah pertama untuk mengulanginya kembali pada umrah ini. Oleh sebab itu, para ulama menghitung jumlah umrah Nabi sebanyak empat kali. Demikian penjelasan as Suhaili. Pendapat inilah yang dirajihkan oleh Ibnul Qayyim dalam Zadul Ma’ad, 2/86.
[6]. Majmu al Fatawa, 26/253-254; Zadul Ma’ad, 2/86.
[7]. Majmu ‘ al Fatawa, jilid 26. Pembahasan tentang umrah bagi orang-orang yang berada di Mekkah terdapat di halaman 248-290; asy Syarhul Mumti’, 7/407.
[8]. Fatawa al 'Utsaimin, 2/668, dikutip dari Fatawa li Ahlil Haram.
[9]. Majmu' al Fatawa, 26/252.
[10]. Majmu’ al Fatawa, 26/254.
[11]. Lihat Majmu’ al Fatawa, 26/256. 273.
[12]. Zaadul Ma’ad, 2/89.
[13]. Majmu' al Fatawa, 26/252.
[14]. Zaadul Ma’ad, 2/163.
[15]. Dikutip dari al Wajiz, halaman 268.
[16]. Atha bin Abi Rabah Aslam al-Qurasyi al Fihri, dari kalangan generasi Tabi'in. Berguru kepada sejumlah sahabat Nabi. Diantara mereka, Jabir bin Abdillah, Ibnu Abbas, Abu Hurairah, Abu Sa'id al Khudri, Abdullah bin Amr bin al Ash, Abdullah bin Zubair. Seorang Mufri Mekkah di zamannya dan dikenal sebagai orang yang paling tahu tentang manasik haji. Wafat tahun 114H
[17]. Thawus bin Kaisan al Yamani, berdarah Persia, dari kalangan generasi Tabi'in, berguru kepada sejumlah sahabat, mislnya, Ibnu Abbas, Jabir bin Abdillah, Zaid bin Tsabit, Abdullah bin Zubair, Muad bin Jabal. Aisyah seorang ahli fiqih di zamannya. Wafat tahun 106H
[18]. Majmu' al Fatawa, 26/256-258.
[19]. Ibid, 26/262.
[20]. Ibid, 2/264.
[21]. Ibid, 26/264.
[22]. Ibid, 26/266.
[23]. Ibid, 26/270.
[24]. HR al Bukhari, no. 1773 dan Muslim, no. 1349.
[25]. Asy Syarhul Mumti’, 7/408.
[26]. Fatawa al 'Utsaimin, 2/668, dikutip dari Fatawa li Ahlil Haram.
[27]. Shahih, hadits riwayat at Tirmidzi, 869; an Nasaa-i, 1/284; Ibnu Majah, 1254
[28]. Majmu’ al Fatawa, 26/250-252 secara ringkas.
[29]. Shahih. Lihat Shahih Sunan an Nasaa-i, no. 2919.
[30]. Majmu' al Fatawa, 26/290.
[31]. Al Wajiz, halaman 268.

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From T Magazine: Street Lit’s Power Couple

THE WRITERS ASHLEY AND JAQUAVIS COLEMAN know the value of a good curtain-raiser. The couple have co-authored dozens of novels, and they like to start them with a bang: a headlong action sequence, a blast of violence or sex that rocks readers back on their heels. But the Colemans concede they would be hard-pressed to dream up anything more gripping than their own real-life opening scene.

In the summer of 2001, JaQuavis Coleman was a 16-year-old foster child in Flint, Mich., the former auto-manufacturing mecca that had devolved, in the wake of General Motors’ plant closures, into one of the country’s most dangerous cities, with a decimated economy and a violent crime rate more than three times the national average. When JaQuavis was 8, social services had removed him from his mother’s home. He spent years bouncing between foster families. At 16, JaQuavis was also a businessman: a crack dealer with a network of street-corner peddlers in his employ.

One day that summer, JaQuavis met a fellow dealer in a parking lot on Flint’s west side. He was there to make a bulk sale of a quarter-brick, or “nine-piece” — a nine-ounce parcel of cocaine, with a street value of about $11,000. In the middle of the transaction, JaQuavis heard the telltale chirp of a walkie-talkie. His customer, he now realized, was an undercover policeman. JaQuavis jumped into his car and spun out onto the road, with two unmarked police cars in pursuit. He didn’t want to get into a high-speed chase, so he whipped his car into a church parking lot and made a run for it, darting into an alleyway behind a row of small houses, where he tossed the quarter-brick into some bushes. When JaQuavis reached the small residential street on the other side of the houses, he was greeted by the police, who handcuffed him and went to search behind the houses where, they told him, they were certain he had ditched the drugs. JaQuavis had been dealing since he was 12, had amassed more than $100,000 and had never been arrested. Now, he thought: It’s over.

But when the police looked in the bushes, they couldn’t find any cocaine. They interrogated JaQuavis, who denied having ever possessed or sold drugs. They combed the backyard alley some more. After an hour of fruitless efforts, the police were forced to unlock the handcuffs and release their suspect.

JaQuavis was baffled by the turn of events until the next day, when he received a phone call. The previous afternoon, a 15-year-old girl had been sitting in her home on the west side of Flint when she heard sirens. She looked out of the window of her bedroom, and watched a young man throw a package in the bushes behind her house. She recognized him. He was a high school classmate — a handsome, charismatic boy whom she had admired from afar. The girl crept outside and grabbed the bundle, which she hid in her basement. “I have something that belongs to you,” Ashley Snell told JaQuavis Coleman when she reached him by phone. “You wanna come over here and pick it up?”

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Three of the nearly 50 works of urban fiction published by the Colemans over the last decade, often featuring drug deals, violence, sex and a brash kind of feminism.Credit Marko Metzinger

In the Colemans’ first novel, “Dirty Money” (2005), they told a version of this story. The outline was the same: the drug deal gone bad, the dope chucked in the bushes, the fateful phone call. To the extent that the authors took poetic license, it was to tone down the meet-cute improbability of the true-life events. In “Dirty Money,” the girl, Anari, and the crack dealer, Maurice, circle each other warily for a year or so before coupling up. But the facts of Ashley and JaQuavis’s romance outstripped pulp fiction. They fell in love more or less at first sight, moved into their own apartment while still in high school and were married in 2008. “We were together from the day we met,” Ashley says. “I don’t think we’ve spent more than a week apart in total over the past 14 years.”

That partnership turned out to be creative and entrepreneurial as well as romantic. Over the past decade, the Colemans have published nearly 50 books, sometimes as solo writers, sometimes under pseudonyms, but usually as collaborators with a byline that has become a trusted brand: “Ashley & JaQuavis.” They are marquee stars of urban fiction, or street lit, a genre whose inner-city settings and lurid mix of crime, sex and sensationalism have earned it comparisons to gangsta rap. The emergence of street lit is one of the big stories in recent American publishing, a juggernaut that has generated huge sales by catering to a readership — young, black and, for the most part, female — that historically has been ill-served by the book business. But the genre is also widely maligned. Street lit is subject to a kind of triple snobbery: scorned by literati who look down on genre fiction generally, ignored by a white publishing establishment that remains largely indifferent to black books and disparaged by African-American intellectuals for poor writing, coarse values and trafficking in racial stereotypes.

But if a certain kind of cultural prestige is shut off to the Colemans, they have reaped other rewards. They’ve built a large and loyal fan base, which gobbles up the new Ashley & JaQuavis titles that arrive every few months. Many of those books are sold at street-corner stands and other off-the-grid venues in African-American neighborhoods, a literary gray market that doesn’t register a blip on best-seller tallies. Yet the Colemans’ most popular series now regularly crack the trade fiction best-seller lists of The New York Times and Publishers Weekly. For years, the pair had no literary agent; they sold hundreds of thousands of books without banking a penny in royalties. Still, they have earned millions of dollars, almost exclusively from cash-for-manuscript deals negotiated directly with independent publishing houses. In short, though little known outside of the world of urban fiction, the Colemans are one of America’s most successful literary couples, a distinction they’ve achieved, they insist, because of their work’s gritty authenticity and their devotion to a primal literary virtue: the power of the ripping yarn.

“When you read our books, you’re gonna realize: ‘Ashley & JaQuavis are storytellers,’ ” says Ashley. “Our tales will get your heart pounding.”

THE COLEMANS’ HOME BASE — the cottage from which they operate their cottage industry — is a spacious four-bedroom house in a genteel suburb about 35 miles north of downtown Detroit. The house is plush, but when I visited this past winter, it was sparsely appointed. The couple had just recently moved in, and had only had time to fully furnish the bedroom of their 4-year-old son, Quaye.

In conversation, Ashley and JaQuavis exude both modesty and bravado: gratitude for their good fortune and bootstrappers’ pride in having made their own luck. They talk a lot about their time in the trenches, the years they spent as a drug dealer and “ride-or-die girl” tandem. In Flint they learned to “grind hard.” Writing, they say, is merely a more elevated kind of grind.

“Instead of hitting the block like we used to, we hit the laptops,” says Ashley. “I know what every word is worth. So while I’m writing, I’m like: ‘Okay, there’s a hundred dollars. There’s a thousand dollars. There’s five thousand dollars.’ ”

They maintain a rigorous regimen. They each try to write 5,000 words per day, five days a week. The writers stagger their shifts: JaQuavis goes to bed at 7 p.m. and wakes up early, around 3 or 4 in the morning, to work while his wife and child sleep. Ashley writes during the day, often in libraries or at Starbucks.

They divide the labor in other ways. Chapters are divvied up more or less equally, with tasks assigned according to individual strengths. (JaQuavis typically handles character development. Ashley loves writing murder scenes.) The results are stitched together, with no editorial interference from one author in the other’s text. The real work, they contend, is the brainstorming. The Colemans spend weeks mapping out their plot-driven books — long conversations that turn into elaborate diagrams on dry-erase boards. “JaQuavis and I are so close, it makes the process real easy,” says Ashley. “Sometimes when I’m thinking of something, a plot point, he’ll say it out loud, and I’m like: ‘Wait — did I say that?’ ”

Their collaboration developed by accident, and on the fly. Both were bookish teenagers. Ashley read lots of Judy Blume and John Grisham; JaQuavis liked Shakespeare, Richard Wright and “Atlas Shrugged.” (Their first official date was at a Borders bookstore, where Ashley bought “The Coldest Winter Ever,” the Sister Souljah novel often credited with kick-starting the contemporary street-lit movement.) In 2003, Ashley, then 17, was forced to terminate an ectopic pregnancy. She was bedridden for three weeks, and to provide distraction and boost her spirits, JaQuavis challenged his girlfriend to a writing contest. “She just wasn’t talking. She was laying in bed. I said, ‘You know what? I bet you I could write a better book than you.’ My wife is real competitive. So I said, ‘Yo, all right, $500 bet.’ And I saw her eyes spark, like, ‘What?! You can’t write no better book than me!’ So I wrote about three chapters. She wrote about three chapters. Two days later, we switched.”

The result, hammered out in a few days, would become “Dirty Money.” Two years later, when Ashley and JaQuavis were students at Ferris State University in Western Michigan, they sold the manuscript to Urban Books, a street-lit imprint founded by the best-selling author Carl Weber. At the time, JaQuavis was still making his living selling drugs. When Ashley got the phone call informing her that their book had been bought, she assumed they’d hit it big, and flushed more than $10,000 worth of cocaine down the toilet. Their advance was a mere $4,000.

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The roots of street lit, found in the midcentury detective novels of Chester Himes and the ‘60s and ‘70s “ghetto fiction” of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines.Credit Marko Metzinger

Those advances would soon increase, eventually reaching five and six figures. The Colemans built their career, JaQuavis says, in a manner that made sense to him as a veteran dope peddler: by flooding the street with product. From the start, they were prolific, churning out books at a rate of four or five a year. Their novels made their way into stores; the now-defunct chain Waldenbooks, which had stores in urban areas typically bypassed by booksellers, was a major engine of the street-lit market. But Ashley and JaQuavis took advantage of distribution channels established by pioneering urban fiction authors such as Teri Woods and Vickie Stringer, and a network of street-corner tables, magazine stands, corner shops and bodegas. Like rappers who establish their bona fides with gray-market mixtapes, street-lit authors use this system to circumnavigate industry gatekeepers, bringing their work straight to the genre’s core readership. But urban fiction has other aficionados, in less likely places. “Our books are so popular in the prison system,” JaQuavis says. “We’re banned in certain penitentiaries. Inmates fight over the books — there are incidents, you know? I have loved ones in jail, and they’re like: ‘Yo, your books can’t come in here. It’s against the rules.’ ”

The appeal of the Colemans’ work is not hard to fathom. The books are formulaic and taut; they deliver the expected goods efficiently and exuberantly. The titles telegraph the contents: “Diary of a Street Diva,” “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” “Murderville.” The novels serve up a stream of explicit sex and violence in a slangy, tangy, profane voice. In Ashley & JaQuavis’s books people don’t get killed: they get “popped,” “laid out,” get their “cap twisted back.” The smut is constant, with emphasis on the earthy, sticky, olfactory particulars. Romance novel clichés — shuddering orgasms, heroic carnal feats, superlative sexual skill sets — are rendered in the Colemans’ punchy patois.

Subtlety, in other words, isn’t Ashley & JaQuavis’s forte. But their books do have a grainy specificity. In “The Cartel” (2008), the first novel in the Colemans’ best-selling saga of a Miami drug syndicate, they catch the sights and smells of a crack workshop in a housing project: the nostril-stinging scent of cocaine and baking soda bubbling on stovetops; the teams of women, stripped naked except for hospital masks so they can’t pilfer the merchandise, “cutting up the cooked coke on the round wood table.” The subject matter is dark, but the Colemans’ tone is not quite noir. Even in the grimmest scenes, the mood is high-spirited, with the writers palpably relishing the lewd and gory details: the bodies writhing in boudoirs and crumpling under volleys of bullets, the geysers of blood and other bodily fluids.

The luridness of street lit has made it a flashpoint, inciting controversy reminiscent of the hip-hop culture wars of the 1980s and ’90s. But the street-lit debate touches deeper historical roots, reviving decades-old arguments in black literary circles about the mandate to uplift the race and present wholesome images of African-Americans. In 1928, W. E. B. Du Bois slammed the “licentiousness” of “Home to Harlem,” Claude McKay’s rollicking novel of Harlem nightlife. McKay’s book, Du Bois wrote, “for the most part nauseates me, and after the dirtier parts of its filth I feel distinctly like taking a bath.” Similar sentiments have greeted 21st-century street lit. In a 2006 New York Times Op-Ed essay, the journalist and author Nick Chiles decried “the sexualization and degradation of black fiction.” African-American bookstores, Chiles complained, are “overrun with novels that . . . appeal exclusively to our most prurient natures — as if these nasty books were pairing off back in the stockrooms like little paperback rabbits and churning out even more graphic offspring that make Ralph Ellison books cringe into a dusty corner.”

Copulating paperbacks aside, it’s clear that the street-lit debate is about more than literature, touching on questions of paternalism versus populism, and on middle-class anxieties about the black underclass. “It’s part and parcel of black elites’ efforts to define not only a literary tradition, but a racial politics,” said Kinohi Nishikawa, an assistant professor of English and African-American Studies at Princeton University. “There has always been a sense that because African-Americans’ opportunities to represent themselves are so limited in the first place, any hint of criminality or salaciousness would necessarily be a knock on the entire racial politics. One of the pressing debates about African-American literature today is: If we can’t include writers like Ashley & JaQuavis, to what extent is the foundation of our thinking about black literature faulty? Is it just a literature for elites? Or can it be inclusive, bringing urban fiction under the purview of our umbrella term ‘African-American literature’?”

Defenders of street lit note that the genre has a pedigree: a tradition of black pulp fiction that stretches from Chester Himes, the midcentury author of hardboiled Harlem detective stories, to the 1960s and ’70s “ghetto fiction” of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines, to the current wave of urban fiction authors. Others argue for street lit as a social good, noting that it attracts a large audience that might otherwise never read at all. Scholars like Nishikawa link street lit to recent studies showing increased reading among African-Americans. A 2014 Pew Research Center report found that a greater percentage of black Americans are book readers than whites or Latinos.

For their part, the Colemans place their work in the broader black literary tradition. “You have Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, James Baldwin — all of these traditional black writers, who wrote about the struggles of racism, injustice, inequality,” says Ashley. “We’re writing about the struggle as it happens now. It’s just a different struggle. I’m telling my story. I’m telling the struggle of a black girl from Flint, Michigan, who grew up on welfare.”

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The Colemans in their new four-bedroom house in the northern suburbs of Detroit.Credit Courtesy of Ashley and JaQuavis Coleman

Perhaps there is a high-minded case to be made for street lit. But the virtues of Ashley & JaQuavis’s work are more basic. Their novels do lack literary polish. The writing is not graceful; there are passages of clunky exposition and sex scenes that induce guffaws and eye rolls. But the pleasure quotient is high. The books flaunt a garish brand of feminism, with women characters cast not just as vixens, but also as gangsters — cold-blooded killers, “murder mamas.” The stories are exceptionally well-plotted. “The Cartel” opens by introducing its hero, the crime boss Carter Diamond; on page 9, a gunshot spatters Diamond’s brain across the interior of a police cruiser. The book then flashes back seven years and begins to hurtle forward again — a bullet train, whizzing readers through shifting alliances, romantic entanglements and betrayals, kidnappings, shootouts with Haitian and Dominican gangsters, and a cliffhanger closing scene that leaves the novel’s heroine tied to a chair in a basement, gruesomely tortured to the edge of death. Ashley & JaQuavis’s books are not Ralph Ellison, certainly, but they build up quite a head of steam. They move.

The Colemans are moving themselves these days. They recently signed a deal with St. Martin’s Press, which will bring out the next installment in the “Cartel” series as well as new solo series by both writers. The St. Martin’s deal is both lucrative and legitimizing — a validation of Ashley and JaQuavis’s work by one of publishing’s most venerable houses. The Colemans’ ambitions have grown, as well. A recent trilogy, “Murderville,” tackles human trafficking and the blood-diamond industry in West Africa, with storylines that sweep from Sierra Leone to Mexico to Los Angeles. Increasingly, Ashley & JaQuavis are leaning on research — traveling to far-flung settings and hitting the books in the libraries — and spending less time mining their own rough-and-tumble past.

But Flint remains a source of inspiration. One evening not long ago, JaQuavis led me on a tour of his hometown: a popular roadside bar; the parking lot where he met the undercover cop for the ill-fated drug deal; Ashley’s old house, the site of his almost-arrest. He took me to a ramshackle vehicle repair shop on Flint’s west side, where he worked as a kid, washing cars. He showed me a bathroom at the rear of the garage, where, at age 12, he sneaked away to inspect the first “boulder” of crack that he ever sold. A spray-painted sign on the garage wall, which JaQuavis remembered from his time at the car wash, offered words of warning:

WHAT EVERY YOUNG MAN SHOULD KNOW
ABOUT USING A GUN:
MURDER . . . 30 Years
ARMED ROBBERY . . . 15 Years
ASSAULT . . . 15 Years
RAPE . . . 20 Years
POSSESSION . . . 5 Years
JACKING . . . 20 YEARS

“We still love Flint, Michigan,” JaQuavis says. “It’s so seedy, so treacherous. But there’s some heart in this city. This is where it all started, selling books out the box. In the days when we would get those little $40,000 advances, they’d send us a couple boxes of books for free. We would hit the streets to sell our books, right out of the car trunk. It was a hustle. It still is.”

One old neighborhood asset that the Colemans have not shaken off is swagger. “My wife is the best female writer in the game,” JaQuavis told me. “I believe I’m the best male writer in the game. I’m sleeping next to the best writer in the world. And she’s doing the same.”

 
From T Magazine: Street Lit’s Power Couple | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016

Dan Walker, 92, Dies; Illinois Governor and Later a U.S. Prisoner

As governor, Mr. Walker alienated Republicans and his fellow Democrats, particularly the Democratic powerhouse Richard J. Daley, the mayor of Chicago.

Dan Walker, 92, Dies; Illinois Governor and Later a U.S. Prisoner | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016

Bruce Alger, 96, Dies; Led ‘Mink Coat’ Protest Against Lyndon Johnson

Mr. Alger, who served five terms from Texas, led Republican women in a confrontation with Lyndon B. Johnson that may have cost Richard M. Nixon the 1960 presidential election.

Bruce Alger, 96, Dies; Led ‘Mink Coat’ Protest Against Lyndon Johnson | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016

Ex-C.I.A. Official Rebuts Republican Claims on Benghazi Attack in ‘The Great War of Our Time’

WASHINGTON — The former deputy director of the C.I.A. asserts in a forthcoming book that Republicans, in their eagerness to politicize the killing of the American ambassador to Libya, repeatedly distorted the agency’s analysis of events. But he also argues that the C.I.A. should get out of the business of providing “talking points” for administration officials in national security events that quickly become partisan, as happened after the Benghazi attack in 2012.

The official, Michael J. Morell, dismisses the allegation that the United States military and C.I.A. officers “were ordered to stand down and not come to the rescue of their comrades,” and he says there is “no evidence” to support the charge that “there was a conspiracy between C.I.A. and the White House to spin the Benghazi story in a way that would protect the political interests of the president and Secretary Clinton,” referring to the secretary of state at the time, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But he also concludes that the White House itself embellished some of the talking points provided by the Central Intelligence Agency and had blocked him from sending an internal study of agency conclusions to Congress.

Photo
 
Michael J. Morell Credit Mark Wilson/Getty Images

“I finally did so without asking,” just before leaving government, he writes, and after the White House released internal emails to a committee investigating the State Department’s handling of the issue.

A lengthy congressional investigation remains underway, one that many Republicans hope to use against Mrs. Clinton in the 2016 election cycle.

In parts of the book, “The Great War of Our Time” (Twelve), Mr. Morell praises his C.I.A. colleagues for many successes in stopping terrorist attacks, but he is surprisingly critical of other C.I.A. failings — and those of the National Security Agency.

Soon after Mr. Morell retired in 2013 after 33 years in the agency, President Obama appointed him to a commission reviewing the actions of the National Security Agency after the disclosures of Edward J. Snowden, a former intelligence contractor who released classified documents about the government’s eavesdropping abilities. Mr. Morell writes that he was surprised by what he found.

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“You would have thought that of all the government entities on the planet, the one least vulnerable to such grand theft would have been the N.S.A.,” he writes. “But it turned out that the N.S.A. had left itself vulnerable.”

He concludes that most Wall Street firms had better cybersecurity than the N.S.A. had when Mr. Snowden swept information from its systems in 2013. While he said he found himself “chagrined by how well the N.S.A. was doing” compared with the C.I.A. in stepping up its collection of data on intelligence targets, he also sensed that the N.S.A., which specializes in electronic spying, was operating without considering the implications of its methods.

“The N.S.A. had largely been collecting information because it could, not necessarily in all cases because it should,” he says.

The book is to be released next week.

Mr. Morell was a career analyst who rose through the ranks of the agency, and he ended up in the No. 2 post. He served as President George W. Bush’s personal intelligence briefer in the first months of his presidency — in those days, he could often be spotted at the Starbucks in Waco, Tex., catching up on his reading — and was with him in the schoolhouse in Florida on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when the Bush presidency changed in an instant.

Mr. Morell twice took over as acting C.I.A. director, first when Leon E. Panetta was appointed secretary of defense and then when retired Gen. David H. Petraeus resigned over an extramarital affair with his biographer, a relationship that included his handing her classified notes of his time as America’s best-known military commander.

Mr. Morell says he first learned of the affair from Mr. Petraeus only the night before he resigned, and just as the Benghazi events were turning into a political firestorm. While praising Mr. Petraeus, who had told his deputy “I am very lucky” to run the C.I.A., Mr. Morell writes that “the organization did not feel the same way about him.” The former general “created the impression through the tone of his voice and his body language that he did not want people to disagree with him (which was not true in my own interaction with him),” he says.

But it is his account of the Benghazi attacks — and how the C.I.A. was drawn into the debate over whether the Obama White House deliberately distorted its account of the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens — that is bound to attract attention, at least partly because of its relevance to the coming presidential election. The initial assessments that the C.I.A. gave to the White House said demonstrations had preceded the attack. By the time analysts reversed their opinion, Susan E. Rice, now the national security adviser, had made a series of statements on Sunday talk shows describing the initial assessment. The controversy and other comments Ms. Rice made derailed Mr. Obama’s plan to appoint her as secretary of state.

The experience prompted Mr. Morell to write that the C.I.A. should stay out of the business of preparing talking points — especially on issues that are being seized upon for “political purposes.” He is critical of the State Department for not beefing up security in Libya for its diplomats, as the C.I.A., he said, did for its employees.

But he concludes that the assault in which the ambassador was killed took place “with little or no advance planning” and “was not well organized.” He says the attackers “did not appear to be looking for Americans to harm. They appeared intent on looting and conducting some vandalism,” setting fires that killed Mr. Stevens and a security official, Sean Smith.

Mr. Morell paints a picture of an agency that was struggling, largely unsuccessfully, to understand dynamics in the Middle East and North Africa when the Arab Spring broke out in late 2011 in Tunisia. The agency’s analysts failed to see the forces of revolution coming — and then failed again, he writes, when they told Mr. Obama that the uprisings would undercut Al Qaeda by showing there was a democratic pathway to change.

“There is no good explanation for our not being able to see the pressures growing to dangerous levels across the region,” he writes. The agency had again relied too heavily “on a handful of strong leaders in the countries of concern to help us understand what was going on in the Arab street,” he says, and those leaders themselves were clueless.

Moreover, an agency that has always overvalued secretly gathered intelligence and undervalued “open source” material “was not doing enough to mine the wealth of information available through social media,” he writes. “We thought and told policy makers that this outburst of popular revolt would damage Al Qaeda by undermining the group’s narrative,” he writes.

Instead, weak governments in Egypt, and the absence of governance from Libya to Yemen, were “a boon to Islamic extremists across both the Middle East and North Africa.”

Mr. Morell is gentle about most of the politicians he dealt with — he expresses admiration for both Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama, though he accuses former Vice President Dick Cheney of deliberately implying a connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq that the C.I.A. had concluded probably did not exist. But when it comes to the events leading up to the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq, he is critical of his own agency.

Mr. Morell concludes that the Bush White House did not have to twist intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s alleged effort to rekindle the country’s work on weapons of mass destruction.

“The view that hard-liners in the Bush administration forced the intelligence community into its position on W.M.D. is just flat wrong,” he writes. “No one pushed. The analysts were already there and they had been there for years, long before Bush came to office.”

Ex-C.I.A. Official Rebuts Republican Claims on Benghazi Attack in ‘The Great War of Our Time’ | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016

The Uphill Battle to Better Regulate Formaldehyde

WASHINGTON — A decade after emergency trailers meant to shelter Hurricane Katrina victims instead caused burning eyes, sore throats and other more serious ailments, the Environmental Protection Agency is on the verge of regulating the culprit: formaldehyde, a chemical that can be found in commonplace things like clothes and furniture.

But an unusual assortment of players, including furniture makers, the Chinese government, Republicans from states with a large base of furniture manufacturing and even some Democrats who championed early regulatory efforts, have questioned the E.P.A. proposal. The sustained opposition has held sway, as the agency is now preparing to ease key testing requirements before it releases the landmark federal health standard.

The E.P.A.’s five-year effort to adopt this rule offers another example of how industry opposition can delay and hamper attempts by the federal government to issue regulations, even to control substances known to be harmful to human health.

Continue reading the main story
 

Document: The Formaldehyde Fight

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that can also cause respiratory ailments like asthma, but the potential of long-term exposure to cause cancers like myeloid leukemia is less well understood.

The E.P.A.’s decision would be the first time that the federal government has regulated formaldehyde inside most American homes.

“The stakes are high for public health,” said Tom Neltner, senior adviser for regulatory affairs at the National Center for Healthy Housing, who has closely monitored the debate over the rules. “What we can’t have here is an outcome that fails to confront the health threat we all know exists.”

The proposal would not ban formaldehyde — commonly used as an ingredient in wood glue in furniture and flooring — but it would impose rules that prevent dangerous levels of the chemical’s vapors from those products, and would set testing standards to ensure that products sold in the United States comply with those limits. The debate has sharpened in the face of growing concern about the safety of formaldehyde-treated flooring imported from Asia, especially China.

What is certain is that a lot of money is at stake: American companies sell billions of dollars’ worth of wood products each year that contain formaldehyde, and some argue that the proposed regulation would impose unfair costs and restrictions.

Determined to block the agency’s rule as proposed, these industry players have turned to the White House, members of Congress and top E.P.A. officials, pressing them to roll back the testing requirements in particular, calling them redundant and too expensive.

“There are potentially over a million manufacturing jobs that will be impacted if the proposed rule is finalized without changes,” wrote Bill Perdue, the chief lobbyist at the American Home Furnishings Alliance, a leading critic of the testing requirements in the proposed regulation, in one letter to the E.P.A.

Industry opposition helped create an odd alignment of forces working to thwart the rule. The White House moved to strike out key aspects of the proposal. Subsequent appeals for more changes were voiced by players as varied as Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, and Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, as well as furniture industry lobbyists.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 helped ignite the public debate over formaldehyde, after the deadly storm destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of homes along the Gulf of Mexico, forcing families into temporary trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The displaced storm victims quickly began reporting respiratory problems, burning eyes and other issues, and tests then confirmed high levels of formaldehyde fumes leaking into the air inside the trailers, which in many cases had been hastily constructed.

Public health advocates petitioned the E.P.A. to issue limits on formaldehyde in building materials and furniture used in homes, given that limits already existed for exposure in workplaces. But three years after the storm, only California had issued such limits.

Industry groups like the American Chemistry Council have repeatedly challenged the science linking formaldehyde to cancer, a position championed by David Vitter, the Republican senator from Louisiana, who is a major recipient of chemical industry campaign contributions, and whom environmental groups have mockingly nicknamed “Senator Formaldehyde.”

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Formaldehyde in Laminate Flooring

In laminate flooring, formaldehyde is used as a bonding agent in the fiberboard (or other composite wood) core layer and may also be used in glues that bind layers together. Concerns were raised in March when certain laminate flooring imported from China was reported to contain levels of formaldehyde far exceeding the limit permitted by California.

Typical

laminate

flooring

CLEAR FINISH LAYER

Often made of melamine resin

PATTERN LAYER

Paper printed to resemble wood,

or a thin wood veneer

GLUE

Layers may be bound using

formaldehyde-based glues

CORE LAYER

Fiberboard or other

composite, formed using

formaldehyde-based adhesives

BASE LAYER

Moisture-resistant vapor barrier

What is formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a common chemical used in many industrial and household products as an adhesive, bonding agent or preservative. It is classified as a volatile organic compound. The term volatile means that, at room temperature, formaldehyde will vaporize, or become a gas. Products made with formaldehyde tend to release this gas into the air. If breathed in large quantities, it may cause health problems.

WHERE IT IS COMMONLY FOUND

POTENTIAL HEALTH RISKS

Pressed-wood and composite wood products

Wallpaper and paints

Spray foam insulation used in construction

Commercial wood floor finishes

Crease-resistant fabrics

In cigarette smoke, or in the fumes from combustion of other materials, including wood, oil and gasoline.

Exposure to formaldehyde in sufficient amounts may cause eye, throat or skin irritation, allergic reactions, and respiratory problems like coughing, wheezing or asthma.

Long-term exposure to high levels has been associated with cancer in humans and laboratory animals.

Exposure to formaldehyde may affect some people more severely than others.

By 2010, public health advocates and some industry groups secured bipartisan support in Congress for legislation that ordered the E.P.A. to issue federal rules that largely mirrored California’s restrictions. At the time, concerns were rising over the growing number of lower-priced furniture imports from Asia that might include contaminated products, while also hurting sales of American-made products.

Maneuvering began almost immediately after the E.P.A. prepared draft rules to formally enact the new standards.

White House records show at least five meetings in mid-2012 with industry executives — kitchen cabinet makers, chemical manufacturers, furniture trade associations and their lobbyists, like Brock R. Landry, of the Venable law firm. These parties, along with Senator Vitter’s office, appealed to top administration officials, asking them to intervene to roll back the E.P.A. proposal.

The White House Office of Management and Budget, which reviews major federal regulations before they are adopted, apparently agreed. After the White House review, the E.P.A. “redlined” many of the estimates of the monetary benefits that would be gained by reductions in related health ailments, like asthma and fertility issues, documents reviewed by The New York Times show.

As a result, the estimated benefit of the proposed rule dropped to $48 million a year, from as much as $278 million a year. The much-reduced amount deeply weakened the agency’s justification for the sometimes costly new testing that would be required under the new rules, a federal official involved in the effort said.

“It’s a redlining blood bath,” said Lisa Heinzerling, a Georgetown University Law School professor and a former E.P.A. official, using the Washington phrase to describe when language is stricken from a proposed rule. “Almost the entire discussion of these potential benefits was excised.”

Senator Vitter’s staff was pleased.

“That’s a huge difference,” said Luke Bolar, a spokesman for Mr. Vitter, of the reduced estimated financial benefits, saying the change was “clearly highlighting more mismanagement” at the E.P.A.

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The review’s outcome galvanized opponents in the furniture industry. They then targeted a provision that mandated new testing of laminated wood, a cheaper alternative to hardwood. (The California standard on which the law was based did not require such testing.)

But E.P.A. scientists had concluded that these laminate products — millions of which are sold annually in the United States — posed a particular risk. They said that when thin layers of wood, also known as laminate or veneer, are added to furniture or flooring in the final stages of manufacturing, the resulting product can generate dangerous levels of fumes from often-used formaldehyde-based glues.

Industry executives, outraged by what they considered an unnecessary and financially burdensome level of testing, turned every lever within reach to get the requirement removed. It would be particularly onerous, they argued, for small manufacturers that would have to repeatedly interrupt their work to do expensive new testing. The E.P.A. estimated that the expanded requirements for laminate products would cost the furniture industry tens of millions of dollars annually, while the industry said that the proposed rule over all would cost its 7,000 American manufacturing facilities over $200 million each year.

“A lot of people don’t seem to appreciate what a lot of these requirements do to a small operation,” said Dick Titus, executive vice president of the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association, whose members are predominantly small businesses. “A 10-person shop, for example, just really isn’t equipped to handle that type of thing.”

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Becky Gillette wants strong regulation of formaldehyde. Credit Beth Hall for The New York Times

Big industry players also weighed in. Executives from companies including La-Z-Boy, Hooker Furniture and Ashley Furniture all flew to Washington for a series of meetings with the offices of lawmakers including House Speaker John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, and about a dozen other lawmakers, asking several of them to sign a letter prepared by the industry to press the E.P.A. to back down, according to an industry report describing the lobbying visit.

Within a matter of weeks, two letters — using nearly identical language — were sent by House and Senate lawmakers to the E.P.A. — with the industry group forwarding copies of the letters to the agency as well, and then posting them on its website.

The industry lobbyists also held their own meeting at E.P.A. headquarters, and they urged Jim Jones, who oversaw the rule-making process as the assistant administrator for the agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, to visit a North Carolina furniture manufacturing plant. According to the trade group, Mr. Jones told them that the visit had “helped the agency shift its thinking” about the rules and how laminated products should be treated.

The resistance was particularly intense from lawmakers like Mr. Wicker of Mississippi, whose state is home to major manufacturing plants owned by Ashley Furniture Industries, the world’s largest furniture maker, and who is one of the biggest recipients in Congress of donations from the industry’s trade association. Asked if the political support played a role, a spokesman for Mr. Wicker replied: “Thousands of Mississippians depend on the furniture manufacturing industry for their livelihoods. Senator Wicker is committed to defending all Mississippians from government overreach.”

Individual companies like Ikea also intervened, as did the Chinese government, which claimed that the new rule would create a “great barrier” to the import of Chinese products because of higher costs.

Perhaps the most surprising objection came from Senator Boxer, of California, a longtime environmental advocate, whose office questioned why the E.P.A.’s rule went further than her home state’s in seeking testing on laminated products. “We did not advocate an outcome, other than safety,” her office said in a statement about why the senator raised concerns. “We said ‘Take a look to see if you have it right.’ ”

Safety advocates say that tighter restrictions — like the ones Ms. Boxer and Mr. Wicker, along with Representative Doris Matsui, a California Democrat, have questioned — are necessary, particularly for products coming from China, where items as varied as toys and Christmas lights have been found to violate American safety standards.

While Mr. Neltner, the environmental advocate who has been most involved in the review process, has been open to compromise, he has pressed the E.P.A. not to back down entirely, and to maintain a requirement that laminators verify that their products are safe.

An episode of CBS’s “60 Minutes” in March brought attention to the issue when it accused Lumber Liquidators, the discount flooring retailer, of selling laminate products with dangerous levels of formaldehyde. The company has disputed the show’s findings and test methods, maintaining that its products are safe.

“People think that just because Congress passed the legislation five years ago, the problem has been fixed,” said Becky Gillette, who then lived in coastal Mississippi, in the area hit by Hurricane Katrina, and was among the first to notice a pattern of complaints from people living in the trailers. “Real people’s faces and names come up in front of me when I think of the thousands of people who could get sick if this rule is not done right.”

An aide to Ms. Matsui rejected any suggestion that she was bending to industry pressure.

“From the beginning the public health has been our No. 1 concern,” said Kyle J. Victor, an aide to Ms. Matsui.

But further changes to the rule are likely, agency officials concede, as they say they are searching for a way to reduce the cost of complying with any final rule while maintaining public health goals. The question is just how radically the agency will revamp the testing requirement for laminated products — if it keeps it at all.

“It’s not a secret to anybody that is the most challenging issue,” said Mr. Jones, the E.P.A. official overseeing the process, adding that the health consequences from formaldehyde are real. “We have to reduce those exposures so that people can live healthy lives and not have to worry about being in their homes.”

The Uphill Battle to Better Regulate Formaldehyde | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016

Ruth Rendell, Novelist Who Thrilled and Educated, Dies at 85

Ms. Rendell was a prolific writer of intricately plotted mystery novels that combined psychological insight, social conscience and teeth-chattering terror.

Ruth Rendell, Novelist Who Thrilled and Educated, Dies at 85 | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016

William Pfaff, Critic of American Foreign Policy, Dies at 86

Mr. Pfaff was an international affairs columnist and author who found Washington’s intervention in world affairs often misguided.

William Pfaff, Critic of American Foreign Policy, Dies at 86 | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016

Ghostly Voices From Thomas Edison’s Dolls Can Now Be Heard

Though Robin and Joan Rolfs owned two rare talking dolls manufactured by Thomas Edison’s phonograph company in 1890, they did not dare play the wax cylinder records tucked inside each one.

The Rolfses, longtime collectors of Edison phonographs, knew that if they turned the cranks on the dolls’ backs, the steel phonograph needle might damage or destroy the grooves of the hollow, ring-shaped cylinder. And so for years, the dolls sat side by side inside a display cabinet, bearers of a message from the dawn of sound recording that nobody could hear.

In 1890, Edison’s dolls were a flop; production lasted only six weeks. Children found them difficult to operate and more scary than cuddly. The recordings inside, which featured snippets of nursery rhymes, wore out quickly.

Yet sound historians say the cylinders were the first entertainment records ever made, and the young girls hired to recite the rhymes were the world’s first recording artists.

Year after year, the Rolfses asked experts if there might be a safe way to play the recordings. Then a government laboratory developed a method to play fragile records without touching them.

Audio

The technique relies on a microscope to create images of the grooves in exquisite detail. A computer approximates — with great accuracy — the sounds that would have been created by a needle moving through those grooves.

In 2014, the technology was made available for the first time outside the laboratory.

“The fear all along is that we don’t want to damage these records. We don’t want to put a stylus on them,” said Jerry Fabris, the curator of the Thomas Edison Historical Park in West Orange, N.J. “Now we have the technology to play them safely.”

Last month, the Historical Park posted online three never-before-heard Edison doll recordings, including the two from the Rolfses’ collection. “There are probably more out there, and we’re hoping people will now get them digitized,” Mr. Fabris said.

The technology, which is known as Irene (Image, Reconstruct, Erase Noise, Etc.), was developed by the particle physicist Carl Haber and the engineer Earl Cornell at Lawrence Berkeley. Irene extracts sound from cylinder and disk records. It can also reconstruct audio from recordings so badly damaged they were deemed unplayable.

“We are now hearing sounds from history that I did not expect to hear in my lifetime,” Mr. Fabris said.

The Rolfses said they were not sure what to expect in August when they carefully packed their two Edison doll cylinders, still attached to their motors, and drove from their home in Hortonville, Wis., to the National Document Conservation Center in Andover, Mass. The center had recently acquired Irene technology.

Audio

Cylinders carry sound in a spiral groove cut by a phonograph recording needle that vibrates up and down, creating a surface made of tiny hills and valleys. In the Irene set-up, a microscope perched above the shaft takes thousands of high-resolution images of small sections of the grooves.

Stitched together, the images provide a topographic map of the cylinder’s surface, charting changes in depth as small as one five-hundredth the thickness of a human hair. Pitch, volume and timbre are all encoded in the hills and valleys and the speed at which the record is played.

At the conservation center, the preservation specialist Mason Vander Lugt attached one of the cylinders to the end of a rotating shaft. Huddled around a computer screen, the Rolfses first saw the wiggly waveform generated by Irene. Then came the digital audio. The words were at first indistinct, but as Mr. Lugt filtered out more of the noise, the rhyme became clearer.

“That was the Eureka moment,” Mr. Rolfs said.

In 1890, a girl in Edison’s laboratory had recited:

There was a little girl,

And she had a little curl

Audio

Right in the middle of her forehead.

When she was good,

She was very, very good.

But when she was bad, she was horrid.

Recently, the conservation center turned up another surprise.

In 2010, the Woody Guthrie Foundation received 18 oversize phonograph disks from an anonymous donor. No one knew if any of the dirt-stained recordings featured Guthrie, but Tiffany Colannino, then the foundation’s archivist, had stored them unplayed until she heard about Irene.

Last fall, the center extracted audio from one of the records, labeled “Jam Session 9” and emailed the digital file to Ms. Colannino.

“I was just sitting in my dining room, and the next thing I know, I’m hearing Woody,” she said. In between solo performances of “Ladies Auxiliary,” “Jesus Christ,” and “Dead or Alive,” Guthrie tells jokes, offers some back story, and makes the audience laugh. “It is quintessential Guthrie,” Ms. Colannino said.

The Rolfses’ dolls are back in the display cabinet in Wisconsin. But with audio stored on several computers, they now have a permanent voice.

Ghostly Voices From Thomas Edison’s Dolls Can Now Be Heard | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016

Robert Patterson Jr., Lawyer and Judge Who Fought for the Accused, Dies at 91

Judge Patterson helped to protect the rights of Attica inmates after the prison riot in 1971 and later served on the Federal District Court in Manhattan.

Robert Patterson Jr., Lawyer and Judge Who Fought for the Accused, Dies at 91 | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016

Jayne Meadows, Actress and Steve Allen’s Wife and Co-Star, Dies at 95

Ms. Meadows was the older sister of Audrey Meadows, who played Alice Kramden on “The Honeymooners.”

Jayne Meadows, Actress and Steve Allen’s Wife and Co-Star, Dies at 95 | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016

Nepal’s Young Men, Lost to Migration, Then a Quake

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Many bodies prepared for cremation last week in Kathmandu were of young men from Gongabu, a common stopover for Nepali migrant workers headed overseas. Credit Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

KATHMANDU, Nepal — When the dense pillar of smoke from cremations by the Bagmati River was thinning late last week, the bodies were all coming from Gongabu, a common stopover for Nepali migrant workers headed overseas, and they were all of young men.

Hindu custom dictates that funeral pyres should be lighted by the oldest son of the deceased, but these men were too young to have sons, so they were burned by their brothers or fathers. Sukla Lal, a maize farmer, made a 14-hour journey by bus to retrieve the body of his 19-year-old son, who had been on his way to the Persian Gulf to work as a laborer.

“He wanted to live in the countryside, but he was compelled to leave by poverty,” Mr. Lal said, gazing ahead steadily as his son’s remains smoldered. “He told me, ‘You can live on your land, and I will come up with money, and we will have a happy family.’ ”

Weeks will pass before the authorities can give a complete accounting of who died in the April 25 earthquake, but it is already clear that Nepal cannot afford the losses. The countryside was largely stripped of its healthy young men even before the quake, as they migrated in great waves — 1,500 a day by some estimates — to work as laborers in India, Malaysia or one of the gulf nations, leaving many small communities populated only by elderly parents, women and children. Economists say that at some times of the year, one-quarter of Nepal’s population is working outside the country.

Nepal’s Young Men, Lost to Migration, Then a Quake | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016

Advertisement Politics Obama Finds a Bolder Voice on Race Issues

As he reflected on the festering wounds deepened by race and grievance that have been on painful display in America’s cities lately, President Obama on Monday found himself thinking about a young man he had just met named Malachi.

A few minutes before, in a closed-door round-table discussion at Lehman College in the Bronx, Mr. Obama had asked a group of black and Hispanic students from disadvantaged backgrounds what could be done to help them reach their goals. Several talked about counseling and guidance programs.

“Malachi, he just talked about — we should talk about love,” Mr. Obama told a crowd afterward, drifting away from his prepared remarks. “Because Malachi and I shared the fact that our dad wasn’t around and that sometimes we wondered why he wasn’t around and what had happened. But really, that’s what this comes down to is: Do we love these kids?”

Many presidents have governed during times of racial tension, but Mr. Obama is the first to see in the mirror a face that looks like those on the other side of history’s ledger. While his first term was consumed with the economy, war and health care, his second keeps coming back to the societal divide that was not bridged by his election. A president who eschewed focusing on race now seems to have found his voice again as he thinks about how to use his remaining time in office and beyond.

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Obama Speaks of a ‘Sense of Unfairness’

Obama Speaks of a ‘Sense of Unfairness’

At an event announcing the creation of a nonprofit focusing on young minority men, President Obama talked about the underlying reasons for recent protests in Baltimore and other cities.

By Associated Press on Publish Date May 4, 2015. Photo by Stephen Crowley/The New York Times.

In the aftermath of racially charged unrest in places like Baltimore, Ferguson, Mo., and New York, Mr. Obama came to the Bronx on Monday for the announcement of a new nonprofit organization that is being spun off from his White House initiative called My Brother’s Keeper. Staked by more than $80 million in commitments from corporations and other donors, the new group, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, will in effect provide the nucleus for Mr. Obama’s post-presidency, which will begin in January 2017.

“This will remain a mission for me and for Michelle not just for the rest of my presidency but for the rest of my life,” Mr. Obama said. “And the reason is simple,” he added. Referring to some of the youths he had just met, he said: “We see ourselves in these young men. I grew up without a dad. I grew up lost sometimes and adrift, not having a sense of a clear path. The only difference between me and a lot of other young men in this neighborhood and all across the country is that I grew up in an environment that was a little more forgiving.”

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Organizers said the new alliance already had financial pledges from companies like American Express, Deloitte, Discovery Communications and News Corporation. The money will be used to help companies address obstacles facing young black and Hispanic men, provide grants to programs for disadvantaged youths, and help communities aid their populations.

Joe Echevarria, a former chief executive of Deloitte, the accounting and consulting firm, will lead the alliance, and among those on its leadership team or advisory group are executives at PepsiCo, News Corporation, Sprint, BET and Prudential Group Insurance; former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell; Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey; former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.; the music star John Legend; the retired athletes Alonzo Mourning, Jerome Bettis and Shaquille O’Neal; and the mayors of Indianapolis, Sacramento and Philadelphia.

The alliance, while nominally independent of the White House, may face some of the same questions confronting former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she begins another presidential campaign. Some of those donating to the alliance may have interests in government action, and skeptics may wonder whether they are trying to curry favor with the president by contributing.

“The Obama administration will have no role in deciding how donations are screened and what criteria they’ll set at the alliance for donor policies, because it’s an entirely separate entity,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One en route to New York. But he added, “I’m confident that the members of the board are well aware of the president’s commitment to transparency.”

The alliance was in the works before the disturbances last week after the death of Freddie Gray, the black man who suffered fatal injuries while in police custody in Baltimore, but it reflected the evolution of Mr. Obama’s presidency. For him, in a way, it is coming back to issues that animated him as a young community organizer and politician. It was his own struggle with race and identity, captured in his youthful memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” that stood him apart from other presidential aspirants.

But that was a side of him that he kept largely to himself through the first years of his presidency while he focused on other priorities like turning the economy around, expanding government-subsidized health care and avoiding electoral land mines en route to re-election.

After securing a second term, Mr. Obama appeared more emboldened. Just a month after his 2013 inauguration, he talked passionately about opportunity and race with a group of teenage boys in Chicago, a moment aides point to as perhaps the first time he had spoken about these issues in such a personal, powerful way as president. A few months later, he publicly lamented the death of Trayvon Martin, a black Florida teenager, saying that “could have been me 35 years ago.”

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President Obama on Monday with Darinel Montero, a student at Bronx International High School who introduced him before remarks at Lehman College in the Bronx. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

That case, along with public ruptures of anger over police shootings in Ferguson and elsewhere, have pushed the issue of race and law enforcement onto the public agenda. Aides said they imagined that with his presidency in its final stages, Mr. Obama might be thinking more about what comes next and causes he can advance as a private citizen.

That is not to say that his public discussion of these issues has been universally welcomed. Some conservatives said he had made matters worse by seeming in their view to blame police officers in some of the disputed cases.

“President Obama, when he was elected, could have been a unifying leader,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a Republican candidate for president, said at a forum last week. “He has made decisions that I think have inflamed racial tensions.”

On the other side of the ideological spectrum, some liberal African-American activists have complained that Mr. Obama has not done enough to help downtrodden communities. While he is speaking out more, these critics argue, he has hardly used the power of the presidency to make the sort of radical change they say is necessary.

The line Mr. Obama has tried to straddle has been a serrated one. He condemns police brutality as he defends most officers as honorable. He condemns “criminals and thugs” who looted in Baltimore while expressing empathy with those trapped in a cycle of poverty and hopelessness.

In the Bronx on Monday, Mr. Obama bemoaned the death of Brian Moore, a plainclothes New York police officer who had died earlier in the day after being shot in the head Saturday on a Queens street. Most police officers are “good and honest and fair and care deeply about their communities,” even as they put their lives on the line, Mr. Obama said.

“Which is why in addressing the issues in Baltimore or Ferguson or New York, the point I made was that if we’re just looking at policing, we’re looking at it too narrowly,” he added. “If we ask the police to simply contain and control problems that we ourselves have been unwilling to invest and solve, that’s not fair to the communities, it’s not fair to the police.”

Moreover, if society writes off some people, he said, “that’s not the kind of country I want to live in; that’s not what America is about.”

His message to young men like Malachi Hernandez, who attends Boston Latin Academy in Massachusetts, is not to give up.

“I want you to know you matter,” he said. “You matter to us.”

Advertisement Politics Obama Finds a Bolder Voice on Race Issues | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016

Rhapsody, a Lofty Literary Journal, Perused at 39,000 Feet

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United’s first-class and business fliers get Rhapsody, its high-minded in-flight magazine, seen here at its office in Brooklyn. Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

Last summer at a writers’ workshop in Oregon, the novelists Anthony Doerr, Karen Russell and Elissa Schappell were chatting over cocktails when they realized they had all published work in the same magazine. It wasn’t one of the usual literary outlets, like Tin House, The Paris Review or The New Yorker. It was Rhapsody, an in-flight magazine for United Airlines.

It seemed like a weird coincidence. Then again, considering Rhapsody’s growing roster of A-list fiction writers, maybe not. Since its first issue hit plane cabins a year and a half ago, Rhapsody has published original works by literary stars like Joyce Carol Oates, Rick Moody, Amy Bloom, Emma Straub and Mr. Doerr, who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction two weeks ago.

As airlines try to distinguish their high-end service with luxuries like private sleeping chambers, showers, butler service and meals from five-star chefs, United Airlines is offering a loftier, more cerebral amenity to its first-class and business-class passengers: elegant prose by prominent novelists. There are no airport maps or disheartening lists of in-flight meal and entertainment options in Rhapsody. Instead, the magazine has published ruminative first-person travel accounts, cultural dispatches and probing essays about flight by more than 30 literary fiction writers.

 

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Sean Manning, executive editor of Rhapsody, which publishes works by the likes of Joyce Carol Oates, Amy Bloom and Anthony Doerr, who won a Pulitzer Prize. Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

 

An airline might seem like an odd literary patron. But as publishers and writers look for new ways to reach readers in a shaky retail climate, many have formed corporate alliances with transit companies, including American Airlines, JetBlue and Amtrak, that provide a captive audience.

Mark Krolick, United Airlines’ managing director of marketing and product development, said the quality of the writing in Rhapsody brings a patina of sophistication to its first-class service, along with other opulent touches like mood lighting, soft music and a branded scent.

“The high-end leisure or business-class traveler has higher expectations, even in the entertainment we provide,” he said.

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Some of Rhapsody’s contributing writers say they were lured by the promise of free airfare and luxury accommodations provided by United, as well as exposure to an elite audience of some two million first-class and business-class travelers.

“It’s not your normal Park Slope Community Bookstore types who read Rhapsody,” Mr. Moody, author of the 1994 novel “The Ice Storm,” who wrote an introspective, philosophical piece about traveling to the Aran Islands of Ireland for Rhapsody, said in an email. “I’m not sure I myself am in that Rhapsody demographic, but I would like them to buy my books one day.”

In addition to offering travel perks, the magazine pays well and gives writers freedom, within reason, to choose their subject matter and write with style. Certain genres of flight stories are off limits, naturally: no plane crashes or woeful tales of lost luggage or rude flight attendants, and nothing too risqué.

“We’re not going to have someone write about joining the mile-high club,” said Jordan Heller, the editor in chief of Rhapsody. “Despite those restrictions, we’ve managed to come up with a lot of high-minded literary content.”

Guiding writers toward the right idea occasionally requires some gentle prodding. When Rhapsody’s executive editor asked Ms. Russell to contribute an essay about a memorable flight experience, she first pitched a story about the time she was chaperoning a group of teenagers on a trip to Europe, and their delayed plane sat at the airport in New York for several hours while other passengers got progressively drunker.

“He pointed out that disaster flights are not what people want to read about when they’re in transit, and very diplomatically suggested that maybe people want to read something that casts air travel in a more positive light,” said Ms. Russell, whose novel “Swamplandia!” was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize.

She turned in a nostalgia-tinged essay about her first flight on a trip to Disney World when she was 6. “The Magic Kingdom was an anticlimax,” she wrote. “What ride could compare to that first flight?”

Ms. Oates also wrote about her first flight, in a tiny yellow propeller plane piloted by her father. The novelist Joyce Maynard told of the constant disappointment of never seeing her books in airport bookstores and the thrill of finally spotting a fellow plane passenger reading her novel “Labor Day.” Emily St. John Mandel, who was a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction last year, wrote about agonizing over which books to bring on a long flight.

“There’s nobody that’s looked down their noses at us as an in-flight magazine,” said Sean Manning, the magazine’s executive editor. “As big as these people are in the literary world, there’s still this untapped audience for them of luxury travelers.”

United is one of a handful of companies showcasing work by literary writers as a way to elevate their brands and engage customers. Chipotle has printed original work from writers like Toni Morrison, Jeffrey Eugenides and Barbara Kingsolver on its disposable cups and paper bags. The eyeglass company Warby Parker hosts parties for authors and sells books from 14 independent publishers in its stores.

JetBlue offers around 40 e-books from HarperCollins and Penguin Random House on its free wireless network, allowing passengers to read free samples and buy and download books. JetBlue will start offering 11 digital titles from Simon & Schuster soon. Amtrak recently forged an alliance with Penguin Random House to provide free digital samples from 28 popular titles, which passengers can buy and download over Amtrak’s admittedly spotty wireless service.

Amtrak is becoming an incubator for literary talent in its own right. Last year, it started a residency program, offering writers a free long-distance train trip and complimentary food. More than 16,000 writers applied and 24 made the cut.

Like Amtrak, Rhapsody has found that writers are eager to get onboard. On a rainy spring afternoon, Rhapsody’s editorial staff sat around a conference table discussing the June issue, which will feature an essay by the novelist Hannah Pittard and an unpublished short story by the late Elmore Leonard.

“Do you have that photo of Elmore Leonard? Can I see it?” Mr. Heller, the editor in chief, asked Rhapsody’s design director, Christos Hannides. Mr. Hannides slid it across the table and noted that they also had a photograph of cowboy spurs. “It’s very simple; it won’t take away from the literature,” he said.

Rhapsody’s office, an open space with exposed pipes and a vaulted brick ceiling, sits in Dumbo at the epicenter of literary Brooklyn, in the same converted tea warehouse as the literary journal N+1 and the digital publisher Atavist. Two of the magazine’s seven staff members hold graduate degrees in creative writing. Mr. Manning, the executive editor, has published a memoir and edited five literary anthologies.

Mr. Manning said Rhapsody was conceived from the start as a place for literary novelists to write with voice and style, and nobody had been put off that their work would live in plane cabins and airport lounges.

Still, some contributors say they wish the magazine were more widely circulated.

“I would love it if I could read it,” said Ms. Schappell, a Brooklyn-based novelist who wrote a feature story for Rhapsody’s inaugural issue. “But I never fly first class.”

Rhapsody, a Lofty Literary Journal, Perused at 39,000 Feet | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016

Maya Plisetskaya, Ballerina Who Embodied Bolshoi, Dies at 89

Ms. Plisetskaya, renowned for her fluidity of movement, expressive acting and willful personality, danced on the Bolshoi stage well into her 60s, but her life was shadowed by Stalinism.

Maya Plisetskaya, Ballerina Who Embodied Bolshoi, Dies at 89 | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016

Gene Fullmer, a Brawling Middleweight Champion, Dies at 83

Fullmer, who reigned when fight clubs abounded and Friday night fights were a television staple, was known for his title bouts with Sugar Ray Robinson and Carmen Basilio.

Gene Fullmer, a Brawling Middleweight Champion, Dies at 83 | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016

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