Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Spiritual Journey: inspirational words

My brother, Abg Mi, who will be my mahram, and my sister in law, Kak Madiha, held their doa selamat last weekend. As usual, the family gathered, but my brother had invited his neighbours and friends, so there were some unfamiliar faces. as usual, Abg Jenal, our family "tok imam" started the tazkirah, and to Abg Mi (who sat crosslegged facing him) he gave this as an advice "when you go for haj, leave your position behind". yes, how true and how wise that advice is. money and status might help one in the worldly world, but when you're in Holy Land, a prince is just as equal as a pauper. and that is also how Masyhar is going to be.   i'm also reminding myself not to think that i'm so special and so i'm worthy of first class treatment over there, and that i'm going there to perform ibadah and we're there as Allah's humble servants. Abg Jenal then again reiterated all his points in his earlier tazkirahs at Abg Halim's (at the time i'm typing this, Abg Halim and my sis in law Kak Siti are already in Makkah as they're in the early flights batch) and my doa selamat - that we 're not there only to do the rituals of haji, but to actually grasp the fundamentals of the philosophy behind it (or in other word, the actual realisation) and undergo a process of becoming a new changed person, as pure as a newborn baby. 

abg Jenal's tazkirah actually inspired some of my siblings. Kak Dah even said she felt she wants to return to Makkah. and Kak Sham, the wife of Abg Jenal, called me a few days ago to ask for abt Rayhar, because they plan to go for umrah after the haj season. alhamdulillah.

i've stopped revising my haji notes for a few days because now i'm busy marking the final exam papers, but tonight i decided to take it easy and i continued reading Travelog Haji written by Muhd Kamil Ibrahim. like me, he may not be a learned ustaz, but he wrote with sincerity in the hope of inspiring Muslims to become better Muslims, and also in the hope of inspiring more to perform haj and experience the most wonderful experience. i've come to the part where he said he extended help to those in need and in this he has really inspired me. i hope i can be as helpful and generous as he is when i'm there.

i've only experienced  umrah once, so i'm in no position to say how everything is going to be, but i can only hope and pray for the best and insyaallah, rabbi yassir wala tuassir...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Spiritual Journey - to be Mentally Prepared

there are a lot of things that soon-to-be hajis or hajjahs can pack in their suitcases for a 40 day stay in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, but then those are just material things that are immaterial when compared to the life changing experiences one gets.

it is not a holiday.

it's a sign of repentance and a purification of the soul, which one must start much earlier before embarking on the journey. in terms of ibadah, this means to regularly wake up in the middle of the night (in my case, an hour or half an hour before subuh) to do qiammulail of tahjud and taubah prayers, as well as other sunah prayers at other times such as isyraq, awwabin and dhuha. it takes a lot of patience, and discipline, but once you get the hang of it, your soul will feel at peace and that quiet joy called sakinah. you know then that you're close to Allah.

but it's not just ibadah that one must prepare oneself with. this is a transition, a liminal space (ahem, i'm using the theory of cultural hybridity term here) where one must adopt changes, good positive changes, which require a good deal of adapting and casting away the bad habits. for me, it is about not to backstab people and bitch about is hard, since humans love to talk and gossip, but i want to try. i've met  a few people (2 of them are ustazahs) who are always serene and have nothing ill to say about others. i aspire to be like these people and insyaallah...

 There are a lot of things that seem trivial and unimportant now. there are a lot of things to be done, a lot of changes to be done. before i went for umrah and after my return, i started wearing long sleeved t shirts and blouses, but i backslid last year. now, after coming across the aurat issue during my quran translation reading, i've started wearing the long sleeves again - and also to wear tudung when my brothers in law or nephews in law are present. it seemed ridiculous at first, because i grew up without wearing tudung when the family was present, but i figured it out that this is a command from Allah, and that vetoed everything else. like my friend Asmarani (who had trained and worked as a hepatologist and then resigned because she wants to devote her life to religion...subhanallah) says, "do it because you want to please Allah".

i'm writing this not to glorify my changes but to inspire the other Muslims. this is sort of Travelog Haji but written in English, and in a blog.

i will try to keep the readers updated when i reach the Holy Lands. certain pictures will be uploaded here, but the rest of the pictures will be available in my facebook account.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Spiritual Journey: Preparation

last week, a day after the rayhar briefing, i held my first tahlil and doa selamat at my sister's house in kelana jaya. my siblings were so happy that i decided to host the tahlil that they teased me about it. one of my brothers (who's now in Madinah, insyaallah) even joked that we should call Karam Singh Walia to report for TV3 news.

well anyway, Abg Jenal, my brother in-law cum tok imam for our religious gatherings, began the doa selamat by giving tazkirah. his question was pertinent, and very very important for every haj pilgrim.

"why do you want to go for haj?"

a basic question, which can produce a lot of answers. but what is the answer?

we perform haj not only to complete the 5th pillar of Islam, but we perform haj as penitent and humble Muslims, who are willing to sacrifice worldly possessions in order to become pure, as pure as newborn babies.

labaik Allahuma labaik
here i am O Allah, here i am

labbaika la sharika laka baik
here i am, you have no equal, here i am

inna al-hamd wanni'mata laka wal mulk, la sharika lak
verily all praises and blessings are yours, and all the sovereignty, you have no equal. 

and as we go through the rituals of tawaf, sai'e, wuquf in Arafah and stoning the Satan in Mina we must remember that we're reliving the significant scenes of what happened to some of the most significant people in Muslim history. Nabi Adam was the first man to do tawaf, and Nabi Ibrahim was the first man to build the Kaabah. sai'e symbolises Siti Hajar's run from Safa to Marwah in order to find water for Nabi Ismail. the stoning ritual symbolises the actual stoning by Nabi Ibrahim when the Satan tried to dissuade him from sacrificing his beloved son.all these point to the most important thing - to sacrifice what you love in order to be Allah's most devoted worshippers.

for me, going for haj doesn't  mean you have to be pure and contrite only when you're in the Holy Land.  it starts long before.this is a process that takes a lot of determination and patience for a Muslim. it is not easy to be good, and that is why we get extra bonus for being one. there are times when i backslid, but i steered myself right back on course.  

haj, is therefore, a spiritual journey, just like i called it once when i performed umrah in 2008. but back then i didn't have the much deeper understanding like i have now. it is still a spiritual journey for me, but i feel at peace. i long to see Kaabah again, to be able to pray jemaah in Masjidil Haram with all the other 3 million pilgrims from all over the world and to feel the ukhwah. safe. secure.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rayhar's briefing on the journey to Mecca

this is the last briefing of any kind before i report myself at Tabung Haji in Kelana Jaya next month. it's vital that the soon to be hajis and hajjahs be present at this briefing, because this is no longer about what to do and when to do it like we learnt in the past 10 months, but this is about our journey to the holy city, expectations and unexpectations.

ustaz rosli was there as the MC, and it's nice to see a familiar face. as usual, we began the briefing with talbiyah, which of course made me cry. it's so profound, especially when you're saying to Allah "Here i am, o God, i'm answering your call". it teaches us about humility, and that Datuk or no Datuk, Tengku or no Tengku, King or no King, we are all the same in the eyes of Allah.

after the talbiyah, the CEO of Rayhar Travels, Hj Harun, explained to us why there was a delay in informing us the flight schedule and as to why we haven't received the Rayhar signature purple bags. there was some laughter of embarrassment when he requested us not to be angry about the whole thing. as he told us lots of time, "relax, be patient and smile". that should be our mantra. we were informed of what we should do once we reach Tabung Haji Kelana Jaya, later to KLIA and Jeddah Airport. when i saw all the pictures of Makkah, Arafah and Mina, i couldn't wait to be there!