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on a race

I remember those days, not so long ago, where I could miss obligatory prayers without much guilt. Countless dzuhur and maghrib prayers had been neglected, usually during weekend. Also, I remember at time where I used to shamefully approve my own self to do jama’ shalat ( combined two obligatory prayers in a time) very so often, and yes before you saying it, I know it’s only allowed when one travels. Back then, I usually prayed fajr shalat at last minutes before the sunlight filled the morning sky. And isya’? Mostly just before I went to bed, around 11.30 pm.

Sad, wasn’t it? Sad for the fact I was so careless of keeping a very basic responsibility. Sad that even when I prayed, I delayed it until last minutes. I cared so little whether I did hold all body positions correctly and I had been far from being mindful of what I said/recited, I basically was like a machine, doing it out of obligation. On top of that, it was sad that while having been through all that, I naively thought of myself being a decent human being. Naive, ignorant, or arrogant?

And here we’re only talking about the obligatory ones, I don’t even dare to count how much I had lost the opportunity to do the voluntaries/ sunnah. How much I lost my time to stay awake until midnight for nothing ( read : chatting, scrolling on instagram and path, and spending an hour for applying skincare *ouch*), while I could have just slept early and woke up earlier so that I could’ve done my fajr shalat not in hurry and performing voluntary prayer before it. Oh btw, apparently the meaning of “voluntary deeds” does not literally mean “you can do it and you can leave it”. NO. In fact, sunnah should be read as “you should do it, otherwise you lose much!” . God, we’ve been believing in so many misconceptions indeed. Haven’t we? I am guilty for having been ignorant for so long and for foolishly telling myself “if I didn’t know, then it’s okay”. Pffftttt.

Knowing and not knowing, what separates these two is just our willingness to make ourselves know, our intention to seek knowledge. How often did we let ourselves drown in our ignorance just because we were afraid to have to change? Because we were afraid to come out of comfort zone and we understand that changing and striving to be better is never in line with comfort. In my case, the answer is often.

Now that I’ve been struggling to get rid off my stupid-arrogant-defensive self  and having been more opened for knowledge and advices, I do see a lot. Regretabbly true, though, I had lost much of my time in illusions, in world’s distractions. But with this new knowledge and the fact that Allah is the most generous and the most merciful, I realised that as long as I’m still breathing, my life can be fixed. I just need to be in constant awareness of those opportunities to do anything good. As a matter of fact, all this time, endless opportunities lay before us. But, I just wasted them with A to Z excuses. Typical.

There are small things which we could do in daily basis and much bigger stuff which need to be carefully planned. From small sadaqah/ charity ( e.g. buying those packs of tissue from uncle in wheelchair – i’d been guilty for ignoring him) to something like financially participating in building a mosque or orphanage. From perfecting obligatory prayers, to occasionally going to mosque to get 27x reward from praying in congregation ( jama’at). And from as small as smiling and being kind to strangers ( holding that glass door or giving up seat on train), to planning and saving money to go to Makkah, Madinah, and Palestine. Because the reward from praying in Masjid Al Haram, Masjid Nabawi, and Masjid Aqsa is multiplied by 100.000, 1.000, and 500 ( some say 250) consecutively.

The list could go long endlessly. I’m still in constant searching and I’m still very much striving for practising all of that I know. A baby step at a time, a small deed at a time. I listened a lecture where it’s said “don’t be picky in doing good deeds, anything thrown in front of you, take it and do it!”. In other words, no matter how small the deeds, just do it. Don’t wait bigger opportunity to come and don’t make excuses because you won’t know which deeds will save you in judgement day ( and it could be the kid selling knick knacks on traffic light and used the money we gave to feed his sick mother at home). And from the same lecture, it’s said that “In doing good deeds we need to force ourselves, really force ourselves, even if it is hard at first, even with heavy heart”. Because like anything else in this world, sometime we just need a kick on our butt to start something right. Once we overcome the first and the second, the remaining will be lighter. And believe me, it’s not just an empty lecture 🙂 , I had experienced it myself.

Almost two years ago, in Ramadan 2016 to be precise, I forced myself to pick that slightly dusty Qur’an on bookshelf at home. I took the largest one, with large and bold arabic letters.  And sure, with roman script 🙂 . I started reciting it again … after more than 20 years!! To tell you the truth, I couldn’t remember when the last time I had read it, maybe during my last year in primary school ( !!!) – i went to islamic school. I know it’s too much and I’m not proud of it.

Well, was it hard to read it again after so long? Man! It’s frustrating to say the least. Upset, frustrating, and honestly, I was furious. I needed to glance at the roman script all the time and finished a page in almost half an hour. It was shameful indeed and the idea of giving up and going back to my comfort was so tempting, it was on borderline between my lowly impulse and my dignity. Moreover, during the month I seemingly made zero progress, like I didn’t move an inch from where I had started. But miracle do happen to those who struggle yet still believe. 😀 Now every time I look back to those days, no words to describe how glad I am that I did what I did.

And to each is a goal toward which He turns him, then strive together ( as in a race) Toward all that is good. Wheresoever ye are, Allah will bring you all together, for Allah hath power over all things. – Al Baqarah (2) : 148.

Fastabiqul khairat. Many of us must be familiar with “berlomba-lombalah kalian dalam kebaikan” , Indonesian translation of fastabiqul khairat, which is part of above verse. As a newbie in this knowledge seeking journey, I once questioned myself  if it was correct that when I saw someone doing good deeds, not only did I feel encouraged to do the same, I also felt jealous and somehow wanted to outdo them. Like a feeling of competition was in full force 😀 . I’ll give you an example and this, by all means, is never intended as a show off.

Last Ramadan, every odd night on the last 10 days, mosque in our neighbourhood held qiyamul layl ( tahajjud) prayer in congregation, started around 4.30 am if I remember correctly ( fajr prayer was around 5.45 am). There’s a night which fell in weekend and we thought “hey, let’s do this!”. On the way to masjid, I felt little doubtful there was anyone in second floor ( muslimah floor) and suddenly I got worried if it’s only for men jama’at. But you know what I found out later? To my surprise, the room was almost half full, at least 50 women there, young and old. And you know what I felt at that moment? Disappointed on myself! Where had I been all this time? 🙁  Yes, of course I felt incredibly grateful and relieved beyond measure that at that wee hour, I victoriously conquered a demon inside me, the laziness inside me. But apparently many people had done the same, and most likely it was not their first time. Sigh.

That was like a wake-up call to me. I said to myself, I needed to broaden my view and look beyond my comfortable circle. I needed to stop and think. Stopped being “katak dalam tempurung”, and started to think how to make up the lost time. At the time being, unfortunately, familiar people around me less motivate me to do extra miles. I’m sorry 🙁 but really, at this moment I could only look up to a few people. So, around the same time I started sorting out and cleaning up my social media, I began following some accounts which frequently share quranic quotes, hadiths, or thought provoking piece of writings. I also started to selectively browse islamic lectures by myself, not again relying on my husband 😀 – biasanya cuma ikutan nguping pas dia lagi nonton kajian. Finally, after many months I had been dead bored with my instagram timeline which people endorsed the same stuff and went to the same places, now I cherish it again. Social media and internet, indeed they are a double-edged sword. They tempt us to fall into misdeeds like no other, but on the other hand, they offer a lot of knowledge there. A LOT. You just need to know what you want.

By the way, after a while I had been asking myself whether it was right to feel the need to compete with others, I found out that in fact prophet Muhammad’s sahabahs were used to compete each other, with respect, for the benefit of Hereafter. Like when one gave half of his money to charity, the other would give all of his. And when one knew the other had finished reciting Quran in a day, he would finish Quran twice in a day 🙂 . The most well-known one is perhaps this story about Umar ibn Khatab and Abu Bakr. I’d better put the sahih hadith ( of al Bukhari) here ( taken from this blog ) :

Umar ibn Khatab said :

The Messenger of Allah commanded us to give in charity, and this coincided with my possessing some wealth. So I said (to myself): ‘If there is a day that I can better Abu Bakr then it is this one.’ So I went with half of my wealth and the Messenger of Allah asked me, ‘What have you left for your family?’ I replied, ‘The same amount.’ Then Abu Bakr came with everything that he possessed and the Messenger of Allah asked him, ‘What have you left for your family?’ He replied, ‘I have left Allah and His Messenger for them.’ So I (Umar) said, ‘I will never be able to better you in anything!’

Quoting the owner of the blog, “what ‘Umar did here was competition and the permitted type of jealousy (ghubTa), but the state of as-Siddeeq ( Abu Bakr) was better than his, and thus he would generally be the victor in such competition due to his indifference to the condition of others”.

In the end, now I know that so long as we can guard our good intention ( niyyah), we are in fact being encouraged to compete to each other in all that is good. And from the lesson I learnt in that very morning, I realise we’re not supposed to limit the competition only to those we know. The fact that out there is 1.8 billions muslims we share this world with, that’s already a tough competition, isn’t it?


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