Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Teaching the Islamic way of life to Muallafs


On a recent expedition to Maninjau, Padang, Indonesia, I had the upmost pleasure of meeting and exchanging stories with Ustazah Nisma Rasal, M.Pd.I, or more affectionately known as Ibu Nisma. Ibu (mother) has been teaching the Ummah Qu’ran reading since 1974. One of her current involvements is teaching the Islamic way of life to Muallafs (Muslim converts) in Wisma Muallaf, Jakarta. As one of the institution’s pioneers, she certainly had many captivating stories to share, regarding the struggles and successes of Muallafs that walked through the institution’s door since its establishment.

Wisma Maullaf opens it doors to all new Muslims, offering to guide them to the correct Islamic, righteous way of life. At any time there may be up to 30 people, even entire families, staying in the institution. Length of stay varies from a few days to over a year. Construction of the building, funded by Tabung Wakaf Indonesia and Dompet Duafa’ Republica, started in 2006 followed by the opening of its doors in August 2008. However only the first 2 floor are built, with the 3rd still under construction. Daily expenses are paid by individual donations, collection boxes, etc. There are 2 full timers on the payroll –an Ustaz and an officer, while others simply volunteer to teach as part of their ibadah to the Ummah.

When asked why the Muallaf chose to become Muslim brothers and sisters, the common answers would be because they wanted to marry a Muslim and lead an Islamic family life, many were simply attracted to Islam and its teachings, some learnt Islam through their close friends who were Muslims, and often scholars of other religions who had critically analysed and studied Islam had come to a conclusion that Islam is the true religion, Muhammad is our prophet and there is no god but Allah. To convert into Islam, individuals will go to a mosque to proclaim the Syahadah “I bear witness there is no god but Allah and I bar witness that Muhammad is Rasulallah”, and also required to sign a statement acknowledging their decision to convert is of their own will, without any undue force from others. Afterwards, more often than not, the new converts are left to fend for themselves. Many come from poverty, and desperation makes them resort to begging and committing crimes – theft, cons, etc. Subsequently, the institution was established to mitigate these problems, provide them temporary refuge and guide them into becoming good Muslims.

Wisma Muallaf teaches Akhidah, Solat (prayers), Qur’an reading and interpreting, to the new converts. Moreover, they are given money, clothing, medical care, food, and will be assisted in looking for work to kick off their new life. However, cases of fraud do occur where they would pretend to be Muslims only to receive free goods and money before taking off in the middle of the night a few days after.

Each person that walks through the door has a different story to tell; they come from many different religions but were mostly Christians, different levels of education, age, social status, race, origins, etc. Some arrive after being thrown out and disowned by their families because of converting into Islam and some come with only the clothes on their back. These Muallaf are enduring many challenges, testing the strength of their faith and Wisma Muallaf hopes to lessen their burden, help them grow and avoid them from converting out of Islam.

Most of the Muallaf leaves Wisma Muallaf with a good understanding of Islam and become successful. In 2008 a convert, Mohd Shafie Pasaribu, arrived at the institution after being disowned by his family for becoming a Muslim at the age of 17, three months before his final secondary examinations. Although the only child, sole heir of a large family fortune, he was written out of the will and threatened to be murder by his parents. He took refuge in Wisma Muallaf during the night and in the morning he goes to school, in the evening he washes plates to pay for his school fees. Once, his relatives even visited the restaurant he works in under false pretenses and threatened him to convert back to Christianity.

He says that he realizes that maybe in this material world, he is poor but he is still grateful to Allah for being a Muslim. However, despite his busy schedule with hardly any time to revise, three months later he excelled in his examinations which resulted in him receiving a scholarship to study in Ar Ruyah University, Egypt. Ibu Nisma is now his adopted mother and wishes that he returns to Maninjau after graduation to lead Pasentran Buya Hamka, Insyallah.

In Indonesia, the Christian missionaries are influential and strong, deceiving many weak minded Muslims into converting. They are often first on scene after natural disasters to spread Christianity during the victims’ moment of weakness and desperation. They lure victims into churches, offering them goods for converting into Christianity. Often, they succeed. Ibu correctly noted that, many a time, the only weak Muslims will convert into Christianity because they are easily influenced, desperate and not knowledgeable, whereas Muslim converts are educated because they have studied, reasoned, analyzed the Qur’an and Islam and had found it to be flawless and true.

Another captivating story is of Yusuf Ismail and his family. Yusuf grew up in a religious Christian household, where he, his mother and father were Christian missionaries. His father was the leader of 4 churches and was a very influential Christian figure. One day, as his father was taking down pictures of Qur’anic verses from a newly converted Christian’s home, he was intrigued by a particular Arabic verse and asked the owner what it meant. He was told it said, “There is no god but Allah”.

On the way home, he kept hearing the Arabic verse being said into his ear over and over again. This continued for days, even as he is preaching sermons in his churches. Curious as to why this is happening, he started reading translations of the Qur’an three times over. Afterwards, he kept researching and studying Islam and was convinced that indeed, there is no god but Allah. He tried telling his family that he decided to convert into Islam but they took it as a joke until, later in the evening he was picked up by a group of men with beards in robes. Yusuf’s mother sent him to follow his father and they ended up stopping in a mosque for Maghrib prayers. Yusuf then head he announcement on loud speakers that his father will the declaring the Syahadah that very evening. So, Yusuf raced home to inform his mother. Confused and angry, his mother called up Christian leaders to gather in their house.

Upon returning, his father was bombarded left, right and center by angry ex-colleagues. His answer to everyone was, “Lets not fight now, we shall debate in the Hereafter”. His father then started teaching Islam to the family. His two sisters became Muslims one week later and after preaching Islam to Yusuf and his mother, every night and day for three and a half months, Alhamdulillah, they too chose to become Muslims. Yusuf’s mother had always said the happiest time of their lives were when the entire family had decided to become Muslims. Yusuf Ismail is now the opposite of what he once was, travelling Indonesia to teach Islam and converts people to becoming Muslims, instead of leaving it, Alhamdulilah.

There are plenty more interesting personalities with honorable qualities Ibu Nasmi has met during her time as a teacher. She now intends to publish a book on how to be able to read Al-Baqarah from being illiterate in 8 mere hours. Again, many thanks to Ibu for her and her family’s hospitality during my stay here in Kg. Kukuban, Maninjau.


Prepared by,

Sarah Mohammed Shakharulain
Global Peace Mission Malaysia volunteer that involved with XPDC HAMKA.

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