Alhamdulillah, yesterday we had the opportunity to meet and have a ‘chill out’ session with a lecturer from our university who specializes in ‘Aqeedah. It was the first time for me as a guest to the home of a Saudi. I’ve been to houses of others who live here but they are are not Arabs. They’re originally from Fatani or Pattani, now a part of southern Thailand.
One of our friends from Islamic University of Madinah dropped by over the weekend to perform ‘umrah and crashed at our dorm. He was the one who initiated visiting the sheikh as he knew him and had visited him before. Initially he tried to ‘bait’ us to accompany him by talking about food. The last time he was there, the sheikh had prepared a big feast. While it may actually work for others, it caused me to think twice as I don’t really enjoy having a feast; for me, I’d eat just so that I’d have enough energy for the day. I feel that overeating is a waste and unhealthy. And i’ve experienced how much food have been prepared and wasted here. There is a simple hadith which says,
Nahnu qaum la na’kul hatta naju’.. wa iza akalna la nashba’ which translates to something like, We(muslims) are a nation that do not eat unless we are hungry and when we do so, we do not overeat. Just stick to this hadith, insya Allah, you’ll be in a healthier state.
Correct me if I’m wrong but to my knowledge, I think Arabs are one of the most excessive in the world in terms of what is served in a feast! Still, in the end I decided to go anyway as the purpose is not about the food but to visit the sheikh and get to interact and exchange thoughts and ideas. And if there were to be a feast, then at least I could chip in, though not much, to help prevent excessive food wastage.
And so, five of us went. I asked my Madinah friend some questions about the sheikh to learn a little about him. He had met the sheikh in Perlis, Malaysia during a convention a few years back and had remained in contact occasionaly ever since. According to him, the sheikh is someone who likes to travel and enjoy meeting with Asians as they normally portray a pleasant outlook and courtesy. He’s also interested learn more about them, their culture and exchange ideas with other Islamic scholars in Asia. He’s also someone who lived humbly, going to Masjidil Haram and even our University sometimes by bus.
To cut the story short, in the end, there was no feast..just dates and 3 different servings of drink(fruit juice, Saudi coffee, tea).. but we attained valuable knowledge and had made a new acquaintence in the sheikh as well. I also realised later, that he is actually the Head of Deparment for ‘Aqeedah in our university. But there were no airs at all. He was humble, very welcoming, friendly and spoke to us in an engaging, light-hearted manner. At times he cracked jokes. And also gave us advices and often ended conversing with a supplication for us.
The topic of conversation varied from our situation as students at the university to the state of our country and the conditions of the Muslims there to how the Arabs and Asians view coffee and tea differently and even about marraige. All these took place in the guest room, Arab style; a large room with adjoined cushioned seats around all four corners of the walls decorated nicely with matching colours and curtains. There are also small tables available to be used when needed and nothing else. Before we left, he also gave us a copy of a book which he wrote entitled,”Ahwal al-mukholifeen li ahli al-sunnah fi al-imaan” (The state of contradiction for Sunnis in Islamic belief) published by Muslim World League and suggested to us to contact him if we ever needed his help in anything. Alhamdulillah for this opportunity and experience.
One of the things which i'd like to highlight from our meeting is about 'Aqeedah(Islamic belief) which is the main, integral part of a Muslim. My madinah friend had asked the sheikh about how to da’wah to others especially those who are Muslims by name only but are lacking or do not practice Islam as a way of life. He gave a simple answer similar to what i’ve learnt before..Back to basics. It’s all about the 'Aqeedah.
Once the islamic belief of a person is strong and he had understood what is his purpose in this life, insya Allah he will change for the better and the rest will follow. Only then, would he be more aware of the implications of his daily actions in life as a Muslim and seek self-improvement to reach the highest possible state of taqwa, insya Allah. Allah had taught us through Rasulullah (peace be upon him) whereby he imparted 'Aqeedah to the people of Makkah in the simplest manner and for them to understand it and have a belief that Allah is the only God, in charge of all the affairs of the world, seen and unseen and to direct their supplications, prayers and worship only to Him and none other. Only after that, other aspects of Islamic practice was slowly introduced.
Reflecting back during my childhood days, the basis of ‘Aqeedah was not one of the main things that was focused on. It was more on how to solat, to do purification before solat and to fast. And it was the same when I attended a weekend madrasah. There was ‘Aqeedah in the curriculum but I never understood it well, probably too hard to understand. There was no focus on the subject of knowing our purpose here and our relationship with Allah. As a result, I know that we have to do this or that in Islam but I didn’t understand why. I had memorised the verses and supplications to recite during the solat but don’t understand the meaning to it. It was just a blindly followed practice that was performed (because my parents would nag) without any understanding of it. As a result, I had no qualms about neglecting it often during those period whereby I was plainly ignorant.
There was also no focus on understanding the Noble Qur’an. For many years we recite it and sometimes hear beautiful recitals of scholars from around the world but for most of us who are not Arabic linguists, we do not understand the meaning of the verses behind the recitations. And even after learning how to recite it well, or to a standard, many still do not read or even find out the translation and knowledge behind the surahs. How do we learn from the Qur’an that way? Hypothetically speaking, sometimes when a person loves a piece of music, he would learn its lyrics wholeheartedly and to try to connect the link between the music and the lyrics so that it have a deeper impact on the feel of the music. Without the lyrics the music would be souless and with the music, its as if the lyrics came to life. In the end we would be easily bored after listening only to the piece of music or reading the lyrics. It’s similar for the Qur’an. Some people can even go to extremes looking for translations and meanings of a foreign music like korean or japanese music, so why not with Arabic language for the Qur'an?
On another note, I feel it’s useless to answer to a person directly, when he asks why he must perform solat at the specified times or not wear the hijab for example or why Islam have strict rules and regulations. There exists a more important issue before we deal with all these secondary issues. That issue is regarding the purpose of life. Anyway, how would he understand if we tell him this or that is Haram because the Qur’an says so, this is what Islam requires and quote the Qur’an and Hadith. The person may not have even heard of what is a hadith. In the end, what may happen is that we’d be amazed that we are able to quote so many proofs but in the end, the person would still be stumped and clueless. The first thing to do is to tackle the root of the problem. Note his understanding of Islam, then we try to impart to him to how he would understand it and to focus on what’s more important at hand which could be his ‘Aqeedah and to make him realize or remind his purpose of life here. Only then it may help him to understand better, insya Allah.
As what is reflected in a saifulislam.com article, if we want to know what is our purpose of life, we have to ask our creator and Allah has given us the complete set of answers in his book(instruction manual) called the Qur'an. One of the things that is said about our purpose of life is..
"And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone)" (Surah adh-Dhariyaat:56)
And ustaz 'Abu Saif' went on to explain that the concept of worship is not just through performing the daily prayers, give alms to the poor and needy, fast or perform the hajj but it encompasses our whole lives. Whatever that we do in accordance of what Allah requires of us as His humble slaves through the guidance of the Qur'an and actions of our prophet (Sunnah), that is the concept of worship in Islam!
And if we can agree on the reality that we need God in our lives, only then we can go further to explain to the questioner why we need to perform the daily prayers; we need to pray because we need Allah in our lives. And if we can agree to the necessity of prayers, only then we can explain why women have to cover themselves and wear the hijab. If Malaysians have to don a certain dresscode when facing their yang di pertuan agong(sultan) it's even more compulsory when facing Allah during and even after prayers because that is what Allah requires of them! Link to article here.
And Allah SWT knows best.