The Ultimate Key of Loving Ourselves

If there is one person we will find it so hard to love, it may be ourselves. We can give best advice to siblings or friends. We can spend hours counselling them. It’s easy to talk nicely when they face tough time. We don’t mind staying behind them and patting their backs. We are around them when they need supporters. Through thick and thin, we may say so.

At least in my own experience, I can’t do those things for myself as easily as I do to my friends or my sister. I always have something to complain about myself. When mornings come, sometimes a mirror that stands across my bed becomes the thing I mostly avoid. The wrinkles on my forehead, the black spots all over my face or acne scars that stain my face. Or increasing grey hairs that clearly show up whenever I look at myself in the mirror.

As you grow older, you can’t deny the fact that all those youthful signs are no longer there. You can’t escape your body is getting weaker and uglier, physically. Some months ago, whenever I came to realize the facts, I turned my attention to pricey creams, makeups or fancy dresses to fake my actual age. My favourite one was an eye cream because I was ashamed with black, dark circles around my eyes. I changed some eye creams, from an eyeroll to eye cream. I applied the factory-made product and natural one alternately. There were moments when I cursed the black circles. I got irritated when some friends directly talked about the black circles once we met. They advised me to get enough sleep and avoid excessive working.

I told them that I sleep well every night and not everyday is about overtime working. I wish I could explain to them that the dark circles prove that I did work super hard when I was a university student and some years that followed. What else could I do other than that? I had to work hard to survive for myself and my family. I was a breadwinner at that time. And working as a junior journalist was very difficult for me. Lack of sleeping and incessant thinking were my best buddies on a daily basis. I passed all the storms but, of course, they came with a hefty price.

I had no time to take care my physical appearance and the most apparent sign appears from my eyes. There were moments when I felt unconfident with my eyes, especially when meeting with some special people. I kept trying to fix the dark circles until I realized it was like chasing after my own tail. Yes, some products reduced the blackness level of the dark circles but that didn’t last long.

I thank Allah swt that He gave me much difficult problems than dealing with the dark circles. As I repeatedly shared in this blog, passing through a devastating heartbreak last year then making peace with the scars gives me priceless lessons I hadn’t expected.

I have come up clean, peaceful and stronger than ever. After four months of intense emotional earthquake, I realized one precious lesson. That indeed there came easiness amidst our difficulties. During those troublesome moments, it was only Him who stood beside me. It was only Allah swt who consoled me, strengthened and motivated me to keep going no matter what. Indeed, if you ask me how did I survive through it all? I would answer that I don’t know how. I went through the days doing what I needed to do. I took care of my body and my heart. Most of the days, those things didn’t come in handy. I had to drag my feet coming to Gelora Bung Karno stadium, for example. I had to fight temptations for reading or working. Whenever I managed doing so, I felt so relieved. I realized that it was His help that guided me through it all. He made things easy although I had to fight utmost for around four months.

And through the heartbreaks, I felt so close to Him. I felt how much He loved me and wanted nothing but good things for me. His love was extremely and incredibly genuine and immeasurable. Bit by bit, I attempted to love Him back although that won’t ever pay Him what He has done for me.

As I started doing so, I became softer to myself. I realized how harsh I had been to myself. I put too much burden upon my shoulders. I didn’t thank myself enough for all hard efforts that we did in every single aspect of our life. I beat myself down too frequently.

This wasn’t the first time I tried to love myself. Somewhere in 2012, I firstly came across to practice this self-love. But I didn’t start it off by thanking let alone loving Him. This turned me into a very selfish human being. I applied the me-myself-and-I motto then the result was agonizing.

After the efforts of loving Him back did I know how harmful can a baseless self-love be. Only by putting His affection above else then I understand a self-love is as wonderful and amazing thing I can do to myself. There are no things as feeling guilty or too-much provided that I can put it in a good balance.

For sure, thanking Allah swt is the door for unstoppable, best love we can give to ourselves. That way brings back our perspective that He is the Source of all genuine love. That He takes care our body and mind and how can we betray His trust?

Fulfilling His trust He bestows upon us is actually His invitation to love ourselves.

Harus Berhenti Menjadi Pengemis “Terima Kasih”

Saat kamu memutuskan menjadi manusia yang lebih baik, godaan akan terasa sangat nyata. Seperti ada mata batin yang terbuka lebar mengerumuni dirimu tatkala kamu ingin memperbaiki ucapanmu, perbuatanmu, hingga pikiranmu.

Aku bersyukur sekali Allah swt menekankan keseimbangan. Bahkan dalam hal beribadah, Rosulullah Muhammad swt menjadi contoh bagaimana setiap perbuatan dan pemikirannya mencerminkan Islam yang teramat sangat menekankan keadilan. Tak mengherankan beliau bisa menjaga keseimbangan antara dakwah, keluarga hingga kesehatannya. Mengapa? Karena beliau sangat memahami arti ibadah yang sesungguhnya, Islam yang menyeluruh seperti apa. Bahwa beribadah bukan hanya saat sholat atau berpuasa.

Aku belajar banyak tentang seimbang berbuat baik, terutama dalam beberapa tahun terakhir. Dari kecil aku memang mempunyai empati yang tinggi. Bahkan terkadang terlampau tinggi sampai aku terlalu banyak memikirkan orang lain. Sebagai contoh, jika melihat ada penjual di jalan, usia berapa pun, aku bisa terpikirkan bagaimana jika jualan mereka nggak laku. Terkadang aku beli, jika ada uang. Tapi lebih sering aku hanya bisa berdoa dalam hati sebab banyak dari barang yang mereka jual aku tidak butuh. Belum lagi aku takut nanti menjadi mubazir.

Berhenti dulu melanjutkan membaca ini. Aku menulis ini bukan untuk sombong atau apa. Aku berbuat baik karena aku (akhirnya) memahami karena Allah swt yang memampukan aku. Berbuat baik adalah fitrah setiap orang. Setiap bayi dilahirkan suci. Setiap manusia menyukai kebaikan. Ada kebahagiaan setiap kali menolong orang lain. Itu menggugurkan dosa, memercikkan air segar di relung hati terdalam. Jadi bahwa aku berbuat baik sebenarnya aku berbuat adil buat diriku sendiri. Berbuat baik itu buatku sendiri bukan buat orang lain. Jika tidak percaya, coba saja!

Aku pernah merasa “terbebani” berbuat baik. Sampai sekarang masih demikian. Dan Masya Allah betapa Allah swt mengajarkanku aku sangat jauh dari sempurna. Bahwa sekali lagi, berbuat baik pun membutuhkan prioritas dan ukuran yang pas, menurut-Nya.

Hampir lima tahun aku bergabung dengan Ketimbang Ngemis Jakarta. Jika teman-teman belum pernah mendengar komunitas ini, silahkan mengunjungi situs kami ini. KNJ ini komunitas yang “aku banget”. Sudah lama aku mendamba aktif di organisasi yang fokus dengan lansia yang menolak mengemis. Mereka berusia lanjut yang tetap gigih mencari nafkah dengan menjual barang atau jasa.

Aku yang dulu paling malas bergaul di organisasi mendadak sangat bersemangat di sini. Aku menemukan keluarga baru dari orang yang awalnya sama sekali asing. Tetapi ada sisi gelap lain yang perlahan menemukan “panggung”, besar dan semakin membesar hingga akhirnya membuatku celaka sendiri.

Sisi gelap itu bernama kesombongan. Di KNJ, teman-teman mempercayakanku sebagai sekretaris lalu penasehat hingga sekarang. Aku yang paling menghindari popularitas pelan-pelan menjadi orang yang berpengaruh. Terlebih karena aku termasuk yang tua dan senior. Menjadilah segala keangkuhan di dalam dada.

Aku mulai marah jika tak ada teman di grup LINE yang merespons informasi yang aku bagikan. Aku berubah jengkel jika di grup tertentu aku mengatakan sesuatu tetapi hanya berakhir dengan status “dibaca” saja. Aku gampang sekali berprasangka buruk dengan teman-temanku. Aku selalu mengira diriku yang paling mulia.

Walau aku jarang mengeluh tetapi Allah swt tahu benar aku sangat terluka oleh ekspektasiku sendiri. Aku sangat kecewa mengapa mereka begini dan begitu padahal kami satu visi dalam komunitas ini. Aku tak sadar setan sangat lihai memoles egoku. Alhamdulillah, akhirnya aku sadar hikmah dari ini semua. Bahwa aku hanya bisa berbuat semampuku. Mengharap balasan dari orang lain itu hanya akan membuat kita stres sendiri. Sungguh menjadi orang ikhlas itu sulit. Ujian pujian dan kekuasaan itu sangat berat. Setelah cukup bisa mengatasi ujian tersebut, muncul ujian berikutnya. Kali ini lebih berat.

Sementara di KNJ aku sering bertemu langsung dengan teman-teman, aku tertolong dengan sikap kami saat bertatap muka langsung. Segala prasangka buruk saat komunikasi online sirna saat kami berbincang langsung yang selalu menyenangkan dan menemukan solusi setiap ada masalah.

Tahun lalu, tepatnya akhir 2019, aku aktif di komunitas lain. Kali ini murni 100% online. Kami belum pernah bertemu secara langsung, setidaknya aku belum pernah bertemu dengan mereka. Aku sudah meniatkan diri ingin berbuat baik dengan membantu menerjemahkan video hingga teks.

Tetap saja setan lihai mengusik niat baikku ini. Padahal aku berbuat baik itu pun semata karena ingin berterima kasih atas bantuan dari Allah swt atas ujian patah hati yang telah aku lalui dengan selamat.

Aku mulai menunggu pengakuan dari anggota komunitas tersebut. Sekadar terima kasih atau apresiasi apa. Memalukan ya? Aku ingin memperoleh pengakuan sama seperti dengan mereka yang berbagi catatan atau rangkuman dakwah. Menerjemahkan itu sulit loh. Beda banget dengan hasil Google Translate.

Picik sekali diriku ini. Otak dan hatiku memang murni pedagang yang hanya memikirkan untung dan rugi. Lagi-lagi Allah swt mengajarkanku sangat sulit menjadi orang yang ikhlas dan mengharap apa-apa hanya dari Dia sebagai yang Maha Adil. Alhamdulillah, Dia selalu mengingatkanku tentang bahaya setan dari depan sebagaimana pernah dibahas oleh ustadz Nouman Ali Khan.

Alasanku menulis ini adalah berbagi pengalaman bahwa sombong dalam berbuat baik bisa membuat kita lupa diri. Mudah menghakimi orang lain lalu menganggap diri kita paling benar. Padahal siapa tahu, mereka mendoakan kita diam-diam tanpa memberitahukan ke kita langsung. Siapa tahu juga mereka sedang sibuk atau sakit hingga cuek dengan chat dari kita dan sebagainya. Pada akhirnya kita juga harus bersimpati dan peka dengan kondisi orang lain.

Akhirnya, aku selalu mengingatkan diri untuk banyak mengenali serangan setan dari arah depan ini. Sambil belajar mengabaikan jika rasa sombong itu mulai menghinggapi. Sekarang baru ingat ada pepatah lama yang bilang agar jangan kita sibuk mengingat kebaikan kita.

Itu bener banget.

A modern Musa wannabe

I avoided being in a spotlight. Standing in front of a group of people has made me nervous. I have spent years working behind the scene. Writing, translating and editing have been my comfort zones. I feel happy when producing high quality articles. Doing so has kept me away from facing direct criticisms from those who have different opinions with me.

I didn’t realize that focusing too much on writing was feeding my ego. On one hand, I was enslaved to it. There were times when all I was thinking mostly was improving my writing skill. As much as that was inevitable as I worked as a journalist, I was reducing my world into writing and reading spheres. Someone who wrote better than I did became sort of my modern idols. I read books and articles from incredible authors, mostly outside Indonesia, to gain inspiration and sharpen jealousy inside.

Long story short, I have learnt one super bitter truth during eight months of becoming a freelance content writer. I live in Indonesia that doesn’t appreciate writer as a noble profession like others. I know how hard to create a decent article both in English Language and Bahasa Indonesia. Sadly to say, payment for freelance content writers is too low to be mentioned here. Some are lucky to have clients that will pay them with handsome amount of money but most are not. And I fell into the latter category.

I was put in two different scenarios at the end of November 2019. I was looking for a permanent job at that time. One person offered me working as a writer in English Language which, honestly, is my cup of tea. What else can satisfy my brain and soul other than writing? The second one offered me working as a copywriter and English trainer. I am happy with the copywriting job but not so sure with the second role. Teaching English Language is not my thing. I am not comfortable standing then teaching people.  As I was facing the situation, I had been working as a private English Language teacher. Despite the low self-confidence, my students were happy with my teaching. At least that’s what I felt. There was one of them who said he was pleasant with the way I was teaching him and the others.

I was about to take the offer as the writer because once again, who doesn’t want to be in a comfortable zone, right? Deep in my heart, I expected the second offer dismissed. But the circumstance painted me with a hard scenario. I couldn’t tell in details why I eventually went for the second option. All I could share here was that for years I had decided something based on my fondness. This time around, I accepted the second offer because of simple and realistic expectations.

The company that becomes the office I am working at is a growing enterprise. I was laid off twice in 2010 and 2017 when I was working for different companies. One of them were closed for good. The other one remains operational but with different business segment. It felt painful to see your companies crumbling because of financial problems.

No big decision comes without a price. On one hand, I am certain that the current firm will grow bigger as I know the firm is under skilled people. The prospect of the firm is promising as technology is today’s darling industry. On another hand, I have to work super hard to be an English teacher.

Let me tell you, friends. As I’m writing this post, I interviewed my would-be students and examined placement test results they did one week ago. Coming to this period gives me a mixed feeling. I am still nervous, to be honest. Insha Allah there will be 52 students that will be under my supervision. Such an honour but frightening at the same time for an inexperienced teacher like myself.

Whenever I am about to get carried into this anxiety, Alhamdulillah that Allah swt always reprimands me on very basic goal on why I am here in the first place. Seeking halal income while at the same time paying “knowledge tax” for my fellow office mates who need it.

This leads me to the story of the prophet Musa who was very afraid of meeting Fir’aun. I am nobody as compared to the messenger but in one smallest portion, I can tell that my current situation resembles to Musa’s mission. As Musa needed strength and comfort from Allah swt to encounter Fir’aun, I, too, require His counsel and guidance to put me at ease. I need His help to calm me down whenever I overthink on what will happen if things go wrong.

قَالَ رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي  وَاحْلُلْ عُقْدَةً مِنْ لِسَانِي  يَفْقَهُوا قَوْلِي

“[Moses] said, “My Lord, expand for me my breast [with assurance]. And ease for me my task. And untie the knot from my tongue. That they may understand my speech”. (QS At Thaha: 25 to 28)

I firstly heard the ayah from my teacher, ustadz Nouman Ali Khan. He mentions the ayah every time he starts a sermon. And how profound the dua is for me and for every one who has problems becoming a teacher, public speaker or the like. The prayer really resonates for me and everyone else who has low confidence.

I attempt to make the prophet as a role as someone who hopes to convey good words from Allah swt to others. Whenever I am about to overthink, I pull myself back to simple goals that land me here. Like the prophet’s mission of trying his best to spread His oneness to Fir’aun, so is my purpose. I want to share things I know for my potential students. I keep myself out from overwhelming myself to make them smart in English Language.

It’s entirely in Allah’s hands that Fir’aun doesn’t listen to Musa’s words finally. I, of course, hope that’s not the case with my would-be students. I sincerely hope that Allah swt makes things easy for me to deliver all lessons. I’am afraid that while in the middle of the lessons, I suddenly get nervous and forget English words that I have to apply. I don’t practice Speaking Skill as frequent as Reading and Writing Skills thereby the fear feels real. And this, again, resembles to the dua by the prophet. I learn that the prophet has problem with speech. It’s surprising that he toppled Fir’aun through his words, not from snake.

And I hope Allah swt helps my would-be students understanding the lessons. Every time I think that the essence of life is moving closer to Allah swt, I can’t think of better ways doing so than becoming an English teacher. Earning a closeness to Him is eventually what I’m searching for. Thinking so makes me at relieved already. It sets me free from unrealistic expectations like making the would-be students knowing all the lessons in short time.

Dear friends, please pray for my new roles as an English teacher. And I pray Allah swt makes things easy for you in whatever affairs you have in your minds at the moment. Thanks so much in advance.

Listening, the neglected skill

I took pride in my reading and writing skills. Years of intensive reading and writing nourished arrogance seeds that existed in the heart unbeknown to myself. As a lifelong student of English Language, I should have known that four skills within the subject can’t live as a self-sufficient entity.

I personally categorize Listening and Speaking Skills are best buddies. Reading and Writing Skills support one another. As I incline to Reading and Writing Skills, I ignored the other two skills, especially Listening Skill. Having no partner for speaking in the language became a lame excuse. Later, I talk to myself in my small, rented room every time I want to. I sometimes talk to myself as I walk down the street after I see no one is around. Such small and weird habits but they help me keeping the passion of speaking in English Language alive.

That’s not the case for Listening Skill, though. I simply didn’t want to “take care” of it. The ignorance grew bigger as I was submerged in smartphone. I thought the skill was getting hard to master. I once missed old times when I was able to listen to lectures while at Gadjah Mada University. My focus was undistracted. I could stand of listening the lectures for hours without interruption from electronic devices. At that time, I didn’t have any cellphones. The technology was such a luxury in the beginning of 2000s.

With just some years of smartphone addiction, I started ignoring the Listening Skill. I am reminded just how beautiful the skill is whenever some friends confide in their stories with me. I feel glad that I can listen to their stories for hours without touching my smartphone. By the time their stories end, I feel heavy and tired. That’s when I realize the skill can take up so much of your energy when you don’t get used to it.

I don’t consider that practice as a “real action” to sharpen Listening Skill. Listening to what your friends say is after all, personal and subjective. What I would like to discuss here is Listening Skill for formal goals. And it comes to my surprise that I am hugely slapped on the skill once I find myself getting used to listening sermons from my teacher, Nouman Ali Khan.

I have to admit that the skill is what transforms my life as it is today. I can’t tell how transformative it is. I want to keep it as a secret between I and Allah swt. What surprises me lies on how Allah swt knows what goes missing in my life, which is Listening Skill. Subtly, Allah swt leads me embracing the skill then tasting how greatly beneficial it is. Because it’s by constant listening to Nouman’s sermons that I turn to Him with all of my heart. It takes years to finally come to this temporary conclusion. And it’s liberating that in certain spiritual journey phases, I take a pause, get down to this blog then share something for you on how fortunate I am to be one of His slaves.

Somehow, it’s strangely incredible that my journey coming back to Him resembles on how Prophet Muhammad saw (peace be upon him) starts his prophethood career. Everything starts from listening, right?

It’s from his ears that the beloved messenger firstly receives the revelation, Surah Al-Alaq ayah 1-5. In the silent and dark Hira cave, the prophet begins his journey. From his ears, Allah swt teaches the prophet to read. How Allah swt, as the Ultimate Source of Knowledge, directly teaches the prophet to read. Masya Allah!

And this story reminds me of a previous knowledge that says Listening Skill is what we firstly acquire once we were born into the earth. It’s the skill that Allah swt blesses each of us with right after we came out from our mothers’ wombs. From Listening to Writing, the latter is the advanced skill that we learn as we grow up.

When I was a student of the university, I thought Writing Skill was the ultimate skill one English Literature student had to master. I came up with the opinion as I had to study it up to the seventh semester while the three other skills ended well before that semester.

As much as Writing Skill is a difficult subject to excel, I shouldn’t ever ignore that a clever Listening Skill is miraculous gateway. Improving your Writing Skill is just one of the abundant benefits I can obtain. Referring back to listening to Nouman’s sermons, the skill opens my heart to Allah’s words.

As the teacher writes in his Facebook post, listening to concise commentaries of tafseer on His words attentively can bring us closer to Him. We can’t taste this closeness even by reading the tafseer, the skill that I put higher than Listening Skill. How hugely incorrect I was!

Which, once again, bringing us back to the beginning of the revelation by the prophet Muhammad saw. Masya Allah! Thank you Allah swt for constantly reprimanding me.

Treasuring Al-‘Alim, Alloh’s Love for Knowledge

بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيْمِ

“In the name of Godthe Most Graciousthe Most Merciful.”

وَلَوْ أَنَّمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ مِنْ شَجَرَةٍ أَقْلَامٌ وَالْبَحْرُ يَمُدُّهُ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ سَبْعَةُ أَبْحُرٍ مَا نَفِدَتْ كَلِمَاتُ اللَّهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ

“And if whatever trees upon the earth were pens and the sea [was ink], replenished thereafter by seven [more] seas, the words of Allah would not be exhausted. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise”. (Surah Al-Luqman ayah 27)

I used the ayat for “colouring” the front part of my graduating paper. I came up with inspiring quotes from movies and authors that I loved for the part. Since I am a Muslim, I needed to complete the sweet words with an ayah from Al’Qur’an. One day, I opened a graduating paper from my friend. Her name is also Eni. Mbak Eni, as I used to call her, introduced me to the ayah.

As I read the ayah containing something about knowledge, I decided to use the ayah for the front part of the paper. In addition, the translation of the ayah read beautiful, which would suit best for my graduating paper that discusses literature.

So, I put the ayah in my paper then I didn’t bother myself to actually dig deeper into it. I read the surah for quite some time but I didn’t realize how the ayah saved me from loneliness and aimlessness in the first few weeks of November 2019.

In some of the previous blog posts, I shared how between October and November, I was half unemployed and lonely. I couldn’t rely on freelancing jobs that had been my income source for six months. I was on my own in spending the days.

I didn’t expect that Alloh swt saved from the bad situations through unthinkable ways. As I also wrote in the blog posts, He gave a job as an English private tutor. The profession that has always stirred mixed feelings for me. I took the job because I needed money. I didn’t realize the job would reopen the thing that I let it dying; knowledge.

Through recalling lessons on English Language, I began reembracing the joy of taking notes. When I was a student, I loved taking notes. I loved letting my mind memorizing what teachers or lecturers shared. Taking notes is a good way to stick lessons longer and deeper into my mind. After the English Language, I applied the same thing for learning copywriting. From one extensive source about copywriting on the internet, I took some important lessons then put them down in a book. What a joy of doing that!

Joining Indonesian Dream Worldwide 2019 with ustadz Nouman Ali Khan widened the love. Whenever I find something challenging and interesting, I imagine myself as a small girl who just finds her favourite toy. Such was I felt every time I found myself buried in the note-taking or struggling to memorize the Arabic words.

Through memorizing some words in the Arabic language, I returned to happy school days when I loved doing so. Despite the current movement on removing cognitive-based education, I love memorization. Some may consider the method doesn’t encourage for critical thinking but at least for me, the concept keeps my brain at work. The practice Insya Alloh keeps me away from dementia later.

Between taking notes and memorization, some parts of me felt alive. Studying with no purpose other than feeding the brain made me realizing how I missed embracing knowledge. Ustadz Nouman said in his Story Night “Whispers” that Alloh swt has the positive attribute “Al-‘Alim” or “the All-Knowing”. He inserts to his slaves the name so that they love studying positive things. And in Islam, Alloh swt elevates the status of those who love studying, especially for the sake of the religion.

Upon hearing the sermon, I truly and completely thank Alloh swt for his blessing that I love studying and observing. The practice “entertains” me as my singlehood period sees no end in sight yet. With internet distraction gets stronger, finding myself reading physical books for hours is very liberating and rewarding.

After I commit myself loving and learning Alqu’ran, my heart feels refreshed. Something always excites my feeling when things start looking boring and dull. Whenever I find myself unmotivated or get scared, remembering that I still have the Qur’an that awaits me on the knowledge-seeking journey erases the negative feeling.

Thanks for the video from ustadz Nouman Ali Khan that I start embarking on the trip of quenching my thirst upon knowledge from the Ultimate Source, who is Alloh swt. After two years of listening to his sermons, how delightful I am to eventually be on the life-long journey that won’t pain me, tire me or demand materialistic things in return. The Book that stands just, firm and loving.

It’s from the Qur’an that I regain my spirit to study for the rest of my life. This time around, I finally stick onto the Book that will always call me back home, to return to Him.

 

Questioning My Self-Worthiness in the Age of Materialism

Being half-unemployed for just a few weeks teaches me a lot about dignity and self-worthiness. In today’s age of materialism, I couldn’t help feeling discouraged when the first three weeks of November saw me with so little money to make within that period. I couldn’t rely on some freelancing jobs that I had been doing for six months anymore.

I felt so powerless with the condition. Worse, I had little money left in the bank. I applied for full-time, part-time and freelance jobs but to no avail. I still remember I woke up feeling so confused without knowing what to do in those days. I waited for afternoons to arrive because those were the times when I left the room that I have been rented. I jogged around Gelora Bung Karno stadium that is located nearby the room.

Weekdays felt as if it were weekends. I felt useless, especially during weekdays when people were working. At least they were doing productive things that earned them money, so I thought.

During the hard time, I prayed a lot to Alloh swt to not letting the unemployment period tainted my self-confidence. His plan was miraculous. He tested me all the time. He opened my provision through doors that I disliked. The door was teaching English private lessons.

I have a mixed feeling with teaching. I always avoided teaching English Language whenever I could. I felt I didn’t have any skills to teach. I can’t speak fluently in the English Language, let alone for sharing knowledge about the language. But I had no choice. Earning money from content writing or translating hit rock bottom. So, I made a profile through Superprof.com, an online platform that brings together private teachers and students.

I still pinned hopes on the writing of translating, though. The two have been the comfort zones that I don’t want to leave. I didn’t share my profile in Superprof because I deeply wanted to work as a content writer or translator. He had another plan for me. Without any self-promotion, He sent me students after students. I didn’t have to work on the marketing side.

With a bit of self-enforcement, I took them as my students. Little by little, I overcame all fears and discomfort in teaching the English Language. Even so, the money that I earned was insufficient. Another question on self-worthiness arose.

Plenty of spare time remained exist. I was caught up in confusion again. In one of the overly spare times, I got a message from a man who later introduced me to his company. The man asked for my help to teach the company staffs on the English Language. I went to the office. I met him and his boss. Little did I know that his boss would offer me a job as a content writer and an English trainer at the company.

I didn’t say “yes” at that time. But I returned home feeling enthusiastic. The next day, I said “yes” to the offer. I had been looking for a full-time job for quite a while. I couldn’t stand of working all alone in the room anymore. I needed fellow officemates whom I could talk to every day.

Upon hearing the boss’s announcement that I would work as a copywriter, I began studying on the subject. I have been working as a writer for a long time but I haven’t tried as a copywriter. Hence, I read a lot on the role. To my own surprise, I was happy in studying the role. I took notes about the job. I was excited.

At the same time, I revisited grammar lessons because I had to teach students. It was like coming back to where the love for English Language started. A bit challenging but exciting at once. One thing for sure that I learnt: how much I missed knowledge.

How much I longed for studying again, just for the sake of studying. Coincidentally, the short Arabic Language program started. Although I struggled to memorize Arabic words, I was super happy every time I finished the course every night. My mind did the utmost exercise that I had let it idle for a long time.

By the time I am writing the post, Alhamdulillahirobbil’alamin I got the job. I have joined the company since the beginning of December 2019. I have amazing officemates who are very kind and amusing. I can’t thank Alloh swt for what he has blessed me with the job.

It’s easy to underestimate our value as a human being when things get tough. We will question whether or not we fail as a human being when no job and money are on our hands. Add to that, our efforts on changing our conditions see no results immediately.

The difficult moment, however, can pave a way for embracing our other self, or our love upon something that enlightens our journey. The thing that is pure and genuine. The thing that deals not only with money. For me, that’s knowledge. If I were not in the unemployment period, I wouldn’t have known I still have so many things to do in this life that benefit me and others. Always, always respect intermezzo and spare time. That’s when Alloh swt prepares you with something awakening that doesn’t necessarily new at all.

How English Literature Shapes My Personal Connection with Alqur’an

Something inside of me always seeks the answer to this question: what is my life goal? I started questioning myself when I was a little girl after I knew almost all of my neighbors were undergoing life patterns that looked similar to one another

Completing education, working for some months or years, getting married then raising children. I didn’t want to live like that, I said to myself at that time. I was a naïve young girl who was searching for something different from others.

The wish of “becoming different than others” came true. I hoped I could study Accounting so that I would be part of the mainstream. But I failed the test then I ended up at the English Literature Department. I have always loved the English Language but I never heard of English Literature. I enrolled in the subject because it is for Bachelor Degree. It took two years before I realized that I was in the right place.

Long story short, my love for the foreign language stays the same. Studying the subject always makes me happy. The feeling doesn’t change from the first time I knew the language when I was 10 years old until today. 25 years go by. The love for the subject stays where it is. I can’t thank Alloh swt enough for the knowledge that he lends me with up to now.

Yet, the question of what is my life goal doesn’t end there. Repeated romance failures made the inquiry resurfacing, stronger than ever. Years of consuming myself with Western songs, books, and movies introduced me to the term “home”. I was in my 20s at that time. My thought about “a home” was a husband and some children like what people say. At least, that was my conclusion from the Western culture that I enjoyed.

As I said earlier, my romance stories always hit rock bottoms. During the gloomy period, I was developing a deep connection with English classics. I admit that my genuine love for English Literature began after I graduated from university. I spent hours reading heavy books that I recently realized most of them deal with psychology. Although the books were written centuries ago, they look relevant today because the authors actually talk about us.

I hid behind the beauty and brilliance of the books. I talked to myself that I would read books by the Victorian authors for the sake of art. Metaphors, universal message and my favorite is always, always about characters that they created. Little did I know, or I probably didn’t want to accept the bitter truth that Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, and John Steinbeck, are human beings, after all. They are full of flaws, imperfect creatures.

Some of you may regard fiction is for pure pleasure. But for me, English classics speak way deeper than sweet words or happily-live-ever-after finales. I take literature seriously. The authors’ opinion affects me deeply.

Until today, I find it hard not to click on articles about them or English Literature. I have to fight against myself when it comes to reading books about English Literature or Islam.

I have been a Muslim for my entire life. But I never loved Alqur’an with all of my heart until two weeks ago. My heart lacked something although I completed reading the Holy Book, memorized some of the ayat and read many articles regarding Islam. I needed to start all over again, but where?

Even when I knew what is my life goal, something requires contemplation and self-searching, yet again. I have found out that my life goal relates to my love for reading and writing. Alloh swt chooses me to spread His ayat through easy-to-digest, popular stories without reducing the essence of it. I thought I would start from the history of Islam because I also love history. Sometimes I thought I simply needed to share what ustadz Nouman Ali Khan said in his sermons. That would be more than enough, I assumed.

But those are insufficient. My root isn’t firm and pure to begin the journey. I kept rejecting the whisper inside my chest that said I needed to study the Arabic language. I once took the Arabic language course but I survived for one meeting only. The experience confirmed my thought that yes, the language was difficult and too complicated.

By then, I had been listening to the sermons by Nouman Ali Khan for two years. But I ignored parts when he quoted Arabic words from the Holy Book. I was interested in his tafsir or lessons learned from the ayat only.

Alloh swt hada plan that was completely beyond my thought. When the ustadz announced he would travel for his Dream Worldwide program, I was excited simply because I would meet him again. I didn’t think of studying the Arabic language seriously despite the program is about teaching classic Arabic for understanding the Qur’an better.

By the time the course was nearby (which was due on 20th November), I needed the course more than ever for the sake of making use of spare time. I was half-unemployed and was gradually recovering from devastating heartbreak. It took huge efforts to complete the seven-day program. Sometimes, I wanted to flee from the auditorium when the ustaz wanted us to memorize some words in the language. He often picked some of us who raised their hands challenging themselves over what he asked for. For example, he wanted us to repeat certain Arabic words then gave us chocolates or candies if our answers were true. Of course, I wasn’t one of the clever students, LOL!

Surviving each session was a huge achievement already. By the time the program ended, I had mixed feeling. I was happy that I kept my own promise that I would attend the program. I skipped one session only because of teaching job, by the way. At the same time, I was gloomy because I missed the class, the enthusiastic fellow muslims, the crowd and of course, Mr. Nouman himself.

Yes, the Arabic language is hard. I can say it’s twice or three times more difficult than the English Language. But the program makes me realize one profound thing. That I don’t see the Arabic language as an impossible subject to study. That the language isn’t that scary and deadly like I used to think.

With hard efforts I refresh my view about the Holy Book from the Arabic language lens. I read again the handout that the ustadz gave. I answered exercises that he talked about in the class again. Not yet finished as I had busy working life. But I enjoyed doing that.

As I strive for studying the language, I start recognizing the treasures of the Holy Book that surprisingly, comes in terms of literature. Every time I think of the Holy Book, my mind races to what makes one of the English classics impressive for me. I used to admire the classic storytelling structure. Foreshadowing, puzzle like method proves that the authors of the classic is genius people. As the book develops, at least I can get the point. Everything makes sense at the end. But the Qur’an isn’t arranged in that organization.

And that what makes the Book so challenging. Other questions will be: What factor that makes the naming of each surah? What’s an ayat, anyway? Why doesn’t He put story about the Prophet Musa AS in one surah only? Why should He need to spread it in some surah?

Alqur’an contains super-rich metaphors that overpower those in the classics as the former shortens them whilst the latter needs to explain them in sentences. It’s without any reasons that Alloh swt chooses the Arabic language that is very scientific and wealthy for the Qur’an. For delivering lengthy messages, He needs to say it with one or two words.

Add to that are timeless values and relevance in the Qur’an that surpasses values in the classics. The classics convey messages that stand against the time but not all of them are just. But the Qur’an is fair. And that’s the tiniest thing that I know at the moment.

I can’t believe that the door to appreciate the Book eventually comes from the subject that I initially felt trivial and useless, which is English Literature. Truly, no knowledge is ever wasted. We’ll just have to keep looking for what it leads us to. And for me, the path brings me to the Qur’an. Please pray for me, my friends, that my journey is always, always sincere and pure. If I lose them, the journey will mean nothing. And I pray that all of us find our way back to Him and His Book with our pristine love, amiiiin.