Sunday, March 01, 2009

Rihlah Al-Madeenah wa Yanbu' wa Umluj

‘O Allah, what blessing I or any of Your creation have risen upon, is from You alone, without partner, so for You is all praise and unto You all thanks.

All the opportunities and the experiences that I’ve had for the past week or so have been good and memorable. Alhamdulillah, I returned to Makkah Al-Mukarramah yesterday at about 12am after 11 days of backpacking to Al-Madeenah Al-Munawwarah and also Yanbu’ and Umluj.

For this term break, only two of five guys stayed behind while two others left for home and one for Egypt. I had initially planned to go to Egypt as well but there were a lot of factors that I had to consider and the cons of going there outweighed the pros, so I had to scrap the plan. Apologies to bro Hidayat who decided to go there alone in the end, but I’m sure he’s coping well, having many friends there from his former madrasah who study at Al-Azhar University.

With that, the two of us decided to go to Al-Madeenah Al-Munawwarah to visit the Prophet’s mosque and also the Singapore students studying at the Islamic University of Madeenah. We brought extra clothes as well as the students had planned a 3 days 2 nights trip to Yanbu’. And what adventures, lessons and experiences we had!

To be honest, I felt that the trip was not well planned. Yes, there was an action plan for the whole trip but there were many factors that were not confirmed before we headed for Yanbu’. Imagine a plan, to camp along the beach for 3 days in a totally alien environment, with no idea whether there would be a toilet and washing area, and to live by on packed canned foods that most were not used to previously and having no idea how the living conditions would be like. I was a little worried for myself and more for others who have been too used to the comfort of a bed, toilet and food. However, I felt that the organizers were planning a survivor/leadership type of camp to build on the spirit of togetherness and confidence among the students.

After an emergency meeting a day before the trip to clear any final doubts, the majority(me being the few minority) voted for the Yanbu’ trip and we made a pact that no matter what happens, we’d be in it together for better or worse to make the trip successful. I guess we can also reflect on this surah,

[..And whoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him..]

'Tawakkal' here doesn't mean just leaving it to Allah. Tawakkal and effort goes hand in hand. Preparations have been made for the trip and if we put our trust in Allah in addition to all the efforts made, are sure that whatever happens is all from Allah whether it will be made easier or vice versa, insya Allah, we will be ok.

And so, 18 of us set off for Yanbu' in 3 rented vehicles, 2 Mitsubishi Lancers and a Toyota Innova. It was my first time too driving for a long road trip and I could now understand the fatigue of drivers and reflected on the sacrifice for the many road trips that my father had driven for us around Malaysia. SubhanAllah.

From the moment we arrived at Yanbu’ the plan veered off course, however, for the better I feel, Alhamdulillaah. We were surprised by the hospitality of Bro Nasir, one of the few Singaporean expats living in Yanbu’.
We had initially planned for a short visit before starting our programme at the beach but in the end, we were welcomed with a deliciously prepared fish curry from his wife served with ‘rotiprata’(roticanai) and just had to stay a while longer. In addition to that, we had a valuable informal ‘tazkirah’(short reminder sharing session) from Bro Nasir about the experiences he had about the sincerity in helping others without expecting any returns and about his life lessons back from when he was struggling as a student and normal worker to make ends meet till now, living a more comfortable lifestyle. After that, we carried on with our programme and bro Nasir lead us to the camping site, together with a few of his compatriots, bro Sabri, a Malaysian and bro Muhammad, an Egyptian who were equally welcoming, helpful and friendly. Upon reaching the site, I was relieved to find a public toilet. Alhamdulillaah. That’s the only thing that mattered for me. I was already imagining having to live 3 days with ‘powder bath’, ‘army style’ like what bro Rizhan had suggested and maybe even hiding in bushes or hidden areas and digging trenches when there’s a need to relief myself, tsk tsk.

After that, the programme went on smoothly; first aid emergency briefing, bbq, tazkirah session and some games, then sleeping time.. until about 1 am in the morning that is, when we were awaken by a group of rowdy Arab youths who were showing off their car drifting skills just beside our camping site. Things got out of hand when they repeatedly drifted near our tents that some of those in it could feel the wind from the drifts. They were also playing Arab music loudly and dancing to it, just wasting time and making a nuisance out of themselves, but to them, it was probably fun and entertainment. None of us could understand their insensible actions. (The interesting thing is that, we noticed some of them waking up for morning prayers after that.) This was still going on at about 2 am and we realized that we were actually in the middle of their entertainment spot and it was better to shift. So together, we shifted our tents to a quieter area, carrying it together. We just couldn’t be bothered if it looked funny or weird, having a group of 4-5 people each carrying 3 large tents as we were just too tired.

The next day, the programme carried on and our lunch was sponsored by bro Sabri, who invited us to his home. Upon reaching his house, while parking, one of our rented cars had met with an accident. The driver misjudged and rammed the side of the car into a strong wooden post. The post stood firm with some scratches but the side of the car was damaged badly by the impact. The rest of us didn’t bother much about it initially, as we thought it was just a slight dent and decided to look into the matter later asking all to go into the house and have lunch first.

After the delicious lunch and thanking bro Sabri, we headed back to our camping site. Upon reaching the site, we pondered upon the damaged car. Not knowing exactly what procedure to follow in such circumstances, even after asking the opinion of some brothers living there, we decided to put the troubles aside and went ahead with the programmes.

Then at night after Isya’, we headed for bro Rohaizat’s home, another Malaysian expat who invited us for dinner. There, we met with two other Malaysians, bro Ghazali and bro Zuraili and also bro Sadimin, another Singaporean. We had a 'ta’arruf' session and they requested for us to provide them assistance in educating their kids or providing programmes based on Islamic knowledge. I feel this is actually a good opportunity for us students. It’s a win-win situation. As what bro Ghazali said, we could use this as a platform for practicing our teaching skills before facing the community back home and at the same time, it will be beneficial as well for the expats and their children. And bro Sadimin also shared with us some valuable assets that we could build on for the benefit of students of Mamlakah.

Then another surprise awaited us. We were invited by bro Rohaizat, Ghazali and Zuraili to tag along with a group of Malaysian expats, who had planned to have a picnic at Umluj, about 2 hours drive north of Yanbu’. They explained that there’s a beautiful spot there with crystal clear seawater and there are even corals and fishes near to the seaside. The idea to go there was great but there were some factors that were a worry such as the extra cost for car rental, in addition to that, the accident cost that’s still pending its valuation and the fact that the trip was not part of our plans. However, the Malaysian bros ensured us that they would assist in any way they can if we needed help. And with that, it gave us more confidence to take the risk if we decided to go.

Before anything, we had to sit down and discuss about the issue. After weighing the pros and cons, most felt that there were more pros to go there and after a vote of confidence, the majority voted for Umluj. Again, we stood together despite some indifference among some of us and kudos to those who differed but still patiently cooperated to make the trip a success.

Unfortunately, we had to cancel a breakfast trip to Bro Nasir’s home the next morning for the Umluj trip. Some of us went to his home in the morning and apologized and explained to Bro Nasir. We hope he’d understand the situation. We also hope for his wife’s understanding and forgiveness if we had unnecessarily caused any trouble or discomfort as she may have planned and prepared for the breakfast meeting the night before. Bro Sadimin had also brought us breakfast that morning, made up of curry chicken and rotiprata.

And so off we went for Umluj and what an experience it was! We formed part of a convoy of 17-18 cars(if I’m not wrong), enjoyed the beautiful beach with crystal clear waters, and we savored the wide variety of locally prepared dishes brought by the Malaysian families. In addition to that, our programme was able to continue in more beautiful setting. Masya Allah!

After Umluj, we thanked and said our goodbyes to the Malaysian contingent for their kindness and hospitality, then headed back to Yanbu’ to try settle the damaged car. We decided to try settling it ourselves and realized later that it was a mistake. We became lost searching for the traffic police office and went in circles for a few hours. In the end we decided to call bro Sabri for help and he directed us to the traffic police. We finally found out later that there was no other choice but to go back to Al-Madeenah to settle the cost and damages at the rental agent. However, it was already late at night and the 3 drivers were tired. So we decided to go back the next morning instead. And off we went back to the camping site again for an additional night.

The next morning, we packed up, concluded the programme and took our final photos for memory’s sake. Through their tired eyes, sun burnt skins but smiley faces and laughter that morning before leaving for Al-Madeenah, I think that this trip was a successful one where all of us had enjoyed, ties and bonds strengthened between the students, new friends are made with the residents of Yanbu’ and one memorable trip that we would never forget.

For me, there are a number of things that I learnt from this..

Firstly, is that we could plan as much as we could but only Allah knows what lies ahead for better or worse. And we have to be thankful always in ease or hardship and face any challenges with patience and perseverance.

[..And Allah is the best of those who plan] (Al 'Imran:54)

'La haula wala quwwata illa bilLaah' (There is no power or strength except by Allah)

Secondly is the importance of cooperation and togetherness in a group, no matter how different our opinions may be, if we stand as one and put our differences aside to concentrate on the bigger picture, we’ll be strong and steadfast and everyone will benefit in the end.

[Verily, Allah loves those who fight in His Cause in rows (ranks) as if they were a solid structure] (As-Saff: 4)

Thirdly is the importance of enjoining ties and fostering friendships with others living around us. And I also feel we could learn much from the sincerity, kindness and hospitality shown by the families in Yanbu’.

[..And whoever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be the successful] (Al-Hashr: 9)

[And they give food, inspite of their love for it (or for the love of Him), to the Miskeen (the needy), the orphan and the captive, (Saying):"We feed you seeking Allah's Countenence only. We wish no reward nor thanks from you.] (Al-Insan: 8-9)

And Allah knows best..

Lastly, an informal token of appreciation by me...

Khalid, Rizhan, Hussien – Thanks for the leadership and initiative shown for this trip. Even though the programme didn’t go exactly as planned, but with versatility, patience and understanding, the three of you managed to adapt to sudden changes and act decisively considering the well being of others as well. I think the idea behind the programme was good and the tazkirah sessions by the different speakers was valuable in building self confidence for themselves in public speaking and also for others who heard it. We should do this tazkirah thingy more often if possible involving everyone.

All the Madeenah students – I was amazed by the maturity, effort and togetherness of the whole bunch. Well done. Thanks for making the programme a success by participating and having the initiative and assisting in any part of the programme be it in planning, food and others.

Ma’som, Muzammil, Asrory – Despite our failed efforts to postpone the Yanbu’ trip (ahaha), the three of you still carried on with the plan and became part of a strong asset to make the trip a successful one and with maturity and understanding, some of you even took the initiative to take control of the situation, assist and calm things down in some of the big setbacks that we faced.

All the residents of Yanbu’ we met – Once again, thanks for all the kindness and hospitality shown and making our trip a more delightful and memorable one. May the ties that have been fostered remain firm and become stronger, insya Allah.

JazaakumulLah khairan katheeran wa BaarakAllahu feek..

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