Friday, May 04, 2012

Of Inspiration and Challenges

So I had this request in my comment box a few posts ago to write about what inspired me to memorise Al-Quran, the advice I had received, risks and challenges for putting work on hold, and the ideal tahfiz school. It's a tough one, and this task has been hovering at the back of my head for the past two weeks or so, never quite managing to find its way out. People can say, just write what you feel- write from the heart- but the truth is actually gobs more complicated than that. I used to write carelessly, but over the years it hit me that you are responsible for what you write, and that thought alone makes my stomach do a double back somersault and a full pirouette.


Right, done with the disclaimer. Many things inspire and have inspired me in life, but for something as momentous as Al-Quran- the divine words, the book of guidance, the light- to carve its mark upon your heart, it has got to start somewhere very early in life, and by that I mean my dear parents- my two beacons of inspiration. :) I thank them for starting to teach me Al-Quran when I was a wee child, and for sending me (and my siblings) to the best Al-Quran teacher I could imagine- Ustaz Yusuf.

I have blogged about him, but I can easily write paragraphs and paragraphs more about this good, blessed soul. He would come to our house every Sunday on his motorbike and sit down with us for about two hours- grinding us with constant hard work, our father's cane faithfully by his side. He was very strict, and we were quite terrified of his furious stare and booming voice whenever one of us got distracted (my favourite side-activity was fiddling with- or destroying, more like- the woven plastic carpet. Sorry Mak). He was also a brilliant and dedicated teacher, and was fastidious in his methods to improve our recitations. We would sometimes spend an entire lesson on just perfecting our pronunciations (makhraj) of certain letters, and I remember being at the brink of giving up many times for not being able to pronounce some letters perfectly, but he kept pushing me, pushing all of us to persevere until we really nailed it. I have never seen another teacher like that, ever- in a typical scenario the teacher would often lower the bar a little after several unsuccessful tries and eventually cave in with a grudging "bolehlah...". Ustaz Yusuf demanded the absolute best from us, and thinking back to those eight years or so, of him on his motorbike, sunshine or rain, I feel so  humbled and little.

That was the first push I had as a child. Granted, I was not always eager to attend class- I had even pretended to be sick (or exaggerated my sickness, rather) several times, hoping to get an 'MC' from my father (needless to say, most of the attempts failed miserably). But my younger life revolved around reading Al-Quran and it made me realise the importance of this book, despite not being able to appreciate the spiritual aspect of it.

Entering primary school was the next step- memorising Al-Quran was part of the syllabus (it wasn't a complete program for the entire book though). Alhamdulillah, Allah has made memorising relatively easy for me. At that time, I simply enjoyed reciting Al-Quran for its beautiful flow of words as they came out of my mouth- the poetry in the language was tangible even to a foreign tongue like mine.

Years passed, and I switched to a government school in standard five. To cut a long story short, my school teacher encouraged me to enter tahfiz competitions, which I did, up until form 5. In the meantime, I was also fortunate to be able to learn the art of tarannum and (a little bit of) barzanji from another dear teacher- Ustaz Hussein, whose gentle personality was a stark contrast to Ustaz Yusuf's. ;) My parents also made sure that we always had a Quran teacher to review our regular recitations, and I continued to have home lessons until right before I went to college. Thus the love, dreams and wishes were always there and I did manage to memorise several selected chapters on my own, but the dream to memorise the whole Quran had but evaporated by the time I entered medical school.

I can't pinpoint exactly when the idea crept its way back into my mind, but I was truly inspired after reading an article a couple of years ago about a grandmother who completed her memorisation of Al-Quran at the age of 82. The 'light bulb moment', however, came when I had a talk with my friend, Kak Ma after we had finished checking each other's memorisation one day. I shared with her about my then-abandoned dream and she immediately sold me on the idea of memorising Al-Quran in six months which were offered as a program in a number of institutions in our country. She sounded so serious and adamant that I eventually started to seriously think about it (which actually took place just a few minutes after, me being the compulsive person I was). I emailed my father that very afternoon to ask for his opinion- he promptly replied in the affirmative, and the rest was history.

The reason for me to do this, as I had said in a previous post, was as a wasilah for me to get closer to Him. My... 'saham akhirat', as they say. On the Day of Judgment, everyone will be seeking for something they can hold onto as a source of comfort and strength, and I hope this to be mine, inshaallah. And I hope to benefit others by sharing my humble experience and knowledge, and teaching Al-Quran to those in need. All these require hard work, and at times I do think I can be overly ambitious, and may Allah forgive me for it, but I believe I have procrastinated too much throughout the course of my life, and now is the moment to make up for all the lost time.

Another source of inspiration for me came from watching, reading, and learning about other people doing amazing things for the better of themselves and the ummah. First and foremost, which goes without saying, was our prophet Rasulullah s.a.w., other prophets, their companions, and leaders and fighters of past and present. Learning their sirah made me utterly proud of my roots and origins and stirred the dormant spirit in me to buck up and be more proactive. Some of us are leaders. Some are helpers/advisers. Some are fighters. Some are scholars. But all of us are a part of an ummah, and if we do our parts to the best of our ability, by the grace of Allah, we will be deserving of the title 'the best ummah' as described in the Quran.

And of course, my friends. :) They were at the core of my strength and inspiration, the ones who taught me what life was all about. And I know I keep gushing about how great my friends are from time to time, but honestly, I'm still at awe of this one tremendous blessing in my life- for Allah to always send good people to me to be my close company. Always. Alhamdulillah.

Putting work on hold was not that hard on my part, but my main concern was to have to fully rely on my parents financially again, as I wouldn't receive my scholarship money anymore. Thankfully my parents were very supportive and that was enough reassurance anyone could have. The other side of the matter was having to push myself harder when I started to work, not being 'fresh' from graduation and all. Moreover, this was Malaysia- notorious for a housemanship environment crazy enough to make you question your own sanity. But I tried to look at things in a bigger picture, and simply remained optimistic. You help in Allah's cause, He will help you. 

Now that I'm about to enter the working world (still waiting for the invitation letter, by the way), I know I'll be treading on thorny paths, and I'll probably cry a lot like many often do, but I'll be comforted by the feeling that it is all worth it. When you have found something that you feel really strongly about- your cause, your vision, your calling- all the blood, sweat and tears will only make you a happier person. :)

And that about concludes my long and winding answers to the questions. ;) As for the tahfiz school, I am not the right person to answer that; it is best to refer to other more experienced teachers or scholars who have gone through a thorough process of religious education and are familiar with the system. But I will say that environment is of utmost importance when you talk about memorising, so choose a place where you feel most comfortable and at ease, surrounded by good people (extremely important) and food.

Let's all do our best in making Al-Quran an integral part of our lives- read it, memorise it, live it. For those who are busy and can't dedicate their full time to it, you may try the famous Jibril method in memorising Al-Quran. As for me, the harder part has shown its colours- I still go to the maahad almost every day now to revise with my teacher, and it already feels much harder than the first time around (to which my teacher said, "that's normal". hehe).

So there... I know this is long, but I believe I've written longer stuff. ;) Well, I hope at least the one who asked me these questions would finish reading this. :) Have a good day.

ps: Quote of the week- my sister, a medical officer and future O&G specialist (inshaallah) called me from work three days ago to say, "I'm on call in labour room on labour day!" haha. May Allah bless you. ;D

pps: A little over an hour after I posted the above piece, and I received my job invitation letter! Alhamdulillah. (a bit sad as well because fun menganggur time's over.)


Pycno Lonegoncyp said...

"Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon."
-E.L. Doctorow-

You write beautifully Sofi - always straight from the heart. Thank you for sharing and GOOD LUCK! Selamat bertugas! ;)

dith said...

And you, Pycno, sure know how to dig for the most succinct quotes...hehe

ifos said...

pycno my old blogger friend! hehe. thank you for dropping by, and thank you for the wish... can I convince you to start blogging again? ;)

ifos said...

mak- thank you for dropping by too.... ;D

Anonymous said...

have you visited Ustaz Yusuf recently? please convey my Salam to him.


ifos said...

Ateh-last visit was several months ago, but planning to visit sometime soon, inshaallah. :)

Anonymous said...

oh, br perasan post ni, and yes, i have finished reading it. thank you.

insyaallah, kalau 'humble', tak bongkak/sombong, Allah akan tunjukkan jalan.

And those who strive for Us - We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good.