Sorry if this next section pisses anyone off, but it's just me writing some quick thoughts down about religion. Please don't take any offense or don't read it. I think some more sensitive types could consider it rather flippant.
Speaking from a spiritual, nonreligious, pseudo-Taoist standpoint, it's really amazing to me that any religious wars were ever even started. The similarities between Judaism, Islam, and Christianity far outweigh the differences between them as I understand them. They all teach the same bloody principles of get on well with your neighbor and not his wife. LOL For myself, after reading a bit of the Qur'An, it seems to be a bit dogmatic for me in how one has to live their lives in order to be a good Muslim, but the only major difference I find is that Muslims believe that their supreme being is called Allah and there is one more prophet after Isa (Jesus), Muhammad. Hell, they even have the same prophets, but call them by slightly different names: Ibrahim (Abraham), 'Ishaq (Issac), Yaqub (Jacob), Nuh (Noah), Dawud (David), Sulaiman (Solomon), Ayyub (Job), Yusuf (Joseph), Musa (Moses), Harun (Aaron), Zakariyya (Zachariah), Yahya (John the Baptist), Al-Yash'a (Elisha), Yunus (Jonah) and Lut (Lot)... I'm also surprised in at least my translation of the Qur'An how harsh and specifically the "Jews, Christians and Pagans" are singled out as "the fools among people" that have incurred Allah's wrath for not believing in Him. Believers and nonbelievers alike should just be able to get along regardless of spelling and translation errors. I think because of the way my father lives his life, he would be considered a very good Muslim with the only exception that he doesn't believe in Allah nor Jesus, nor Yahweh as he is an atheist, but I think he'd be welcome in any of the major heavens. But I have to admit, the Islamic version of heaven with all the "young full-breasted maidens" and a "full cup of wine" sounds like a pretty kewl place to spend all eternity. I won't even mention that endless supply of virgins. That must really suck for female Muslims tho if all they got were a bunch of virgins. Maybe Islamic Heaven and Hell are inverted for women.
I know that I hate travel days so I decided to book a flight to Southern Thailand and cross the border into Malaysia over land. I had read that the closest border crossing into Malaysia is in Hat Yai, so I figured booking a ticket there would be a good idea. Unfortunately, I wanted to go back to the Perhentian Islands on the East Coast and the border between Malaysia and Thailand runs at a 60 degree angle Northwest to Southeast and Hat Yai is only 20 miles from the Western border and 5 hours by hot sweaty minibus to the Eastern border. So what I thought was gonna be an easy border run like last month's flight to Langkawi turned out to be a 12 hour over land journey that seemed to take forever! I left at 7am and didn't get to my destination until after 7pm. What made it worse was the last mile took me an hour because there was no one at the guest house to pick me up when I got to Kota Baru and I got lost on the way there. There isn't much to see in Kota Baru, but it's a nice place to stop off on the way to the Perhentians if you are too late to catch the last boat to the islands. I spent a couple days wandering around town seeing the "sights" and cultural "shows", but what I enjoyed most was visiting the mosque and talking to Muhammad (of course not THE Muhammad whose birthday is today, March 31st) about Islam. I spent a few hours with him and his friends learning about Islam and going to prayer at the local mosque. He even gave me a copy of the Qur'An to read and took me to dinner between 3rd and 4th prayers. I really can't believe that they are required to face Mecca and pray 5 times every day before sunrise, early afternoon, before sunset, after sunset and some time before bed. Now that's some serious dedication! But at least you know their hands are clean around those times of day because they are required to perform "abolition" before each prayer in which they wash their hands up to their elbows, wash their feet and faces. Before the 3rd prayer, Mohammad took off his watch and set it beside the "sink" to wash his hands. He was busy answering my questions and forgot it. After prayer, we went back to get it and it was gone! I couldn't believe it! I thought by accident he had just tempted a poor soul to be damned to the eternal fires of Hell for stealing in a mosque. I mean that's not as bad as shooting the pope (unless you're just ridding the world of a non-believer that has angered Allah like the Jews and Christians), but I'm still thinking that's a sure fire way to get the express elevator ticket to hell. Fortunately, all faith, watch and hat were restored after the 4th prayer when someone turned in his stuff to the Imam.