This is a hadith I’ve been loving for a few years now.
On the authority of Abdullah ibn Umar (ra), who said: The Messenger of Allah (saw) took me by the shoulder and said, “Be in this world as though you were a stranger or a wayfarer.” And Ibn Umar (ra) used to say, “In the evening do not expect [to live until] the morning, and in the morning do not expect [to live until] the evening. Take [advantage of] your health before times of sickness, and [take advantage of] your life before your death.” [Bukhari]
There’s a whole chapter on this Hadith for the Pendidikan Islam SPM syllabus. We learn that the true meaning of this hadith is that we have to live as though this Dunya is just like a stop on the highway when you’re travelling. You don’t plan on staying there, so you don’t waste your time doing nonsensical things. You just gather what you need and continue with your journey – your real goal. The Akhirah.
In Malay we’d translate ‘stranger or wayfarer’ as perantau.
I think I’ve been a perantau my whole life. Always moving here and there. I’ve lived in three different countries, and not limited to one house in each country. I’ve never stayed at the same school for more than three years. Actually, I only stayed for one school for three years, a school that was hell on earth for me. Every other school I stayed for two years at the most. Goodbyes are too frequent for me, and that’s why I don’t get too attached to people. It’s not that I don’t love them, but if at any point they were to leave, I would accept it with an open heart and an open mind.
My best friend is my cousin. She was in my life as long as I can remember. We’ve been separated several times, sometimes across numerous oceans. We don’t really bother to keep in touch much when we’re separated. She finally moved back to Malaysia, at the end of 2012, I believe. I was over the moon because I truly believed that I could see her every day. Unfortunately it was not to be because I entered boarding school. We probably called each other less than five times throughout my two years there. But whenever I come home, we talk and talk like there’s no tomorrow. She is the only person outside my family who knows practically all my flaws yet still accepts me for who I am and always has my back.
Still, humans always disappoint, in the end. So don’t expect too much from them.
Sometime in Form 5, my second year of boarding school, I just… gave up. I gave up on trying to hold on to things, things I used to love back home. For the whole of 2014, I didn’t start watching any new TV shows. I didn’t hang out even once with friends outside of school. I stopped excessively admiring and keeping up with celebrities.
So by the time SPM ended I barely felt attached to anything anymore. I mean, I wouldn’t go crazy if I was deprived of worldly items for a few days. Hopefully. Well, of course I’m attached to my camera, my laptop and the internet but I wouldn’t complain too much if you left me alone in a room with food, water and some form of entertainment (books? paint and brushes? someone to talk to?) for a few days. When I left school of course I was nostalgic for about twelve hours but after that I just basked in the awesomeness of freedom. I really don’t miss school. I don’t even care if I don’t see any of my school friends until we take our SPM results on the 3rd of March (Insya Allah). When I was in Makkah and Madinah I didn’t really miss anything back home.
I guess I have become more of a perantau than ever.
In the Malaysian food industry we have something called IMP, Islamic Manufacturing Practice. I thought it was Independence of Malaya Party at first, heh. Ustaz Zaidi, our head warden, explained that IMP makes sure that the quality of the food is preserved by Islamic values. For example, all raw materials are from halal sources, the workers have to cover their aurah or take wudhu’ when working, the food is exposed to Qur’anic recitations or zikr, etc.
I want to be a graphic designer. Well, I dream of opening a retail chain one day, based on graphic design. Think RedBubble and Society6. At the same time I also want to maintain my own sort of IMP. For example, every piece of clothing I sell will have a tag reminding people to cover their aurah perfectly, I won’t accept requests to draw/write boyfriend-girlfriend things, pencilboxes will have only good quotes written on them and not things like ‘BITCH IS MY MIDDLE NAME’, etc.
But when I think about it… maybe, if you really put in the effort, you can just learn graphic design online or something. Take an open business course maybe. Do those things have to be learned in college? Especially if I plan on working in Malaysia where the graphic design industry isn’t thaaat big yet so clients won’t expect too much? Nah, that’s a silly thought. We should do our best in our work and compare ourselves to those above us, not below us.
Anyway, who would we expect to become doctors or architects if everyone pursues Islam in depth after SPM? We should follow the footsteps of Islamic historical figures such as Ibn Sina who managed to achieve wonders in both medicine and religion.
One of the biggest reasons I want to study Islam is that Insya Allah I will be surrounded by people who love Islam with their hearts and souls. And I won’t have people belittling me for being too jahil or too alim.
I just realised, though. If, hypothetically, I were to finish a law or biochemistry assignment, I’ll have to give my full focus to the assignment. Well, I could listen to Quranic verses, but I’m not really into listening to audio while working, unless my study environment is too noisy. But if, hypothetically, I were to finish a graphic design assignment, I can listen to Islamic lectures while playing around with Photoshop or PaintTool SAI and pay attention to at least 90% of it.
I don’t care what people will say. I want to memorise the Qur’an – if not fully, then certain surahs – and study its meanings. I want to be the kind of person who conducts usrah groups with the younger generation eagerly listening, a person who speaks publicly about religion, a person who plays a big part in missions to oppressed countries, a person who founds Islamic companies and builds Islamic schools. And I can have a graphic design-based retail chain at the same time.
I want to go to Jannatul Firdaus.