Putting on New Lens for My Second Literary Journey

I may haven’t shared in this modest blog that I planned to no longer read any fictions, including classics, that have been so special in my heart. Last year’s devastating heartbrokenness caused me to abandon any reading-for-pleasure thingy that I thought would pain me even further.

I mostly read books or articles about my religion, Islam, and started learning a bit of Arabic language. The last fiction that I read was “The Invisible Man” by H.G Wells that I didn’t review because I don’t quite like the book.

I enjoyed reading books about Islam, to be honest. During some months of total focus on the book genre, I realized I took classic books too much. I need help to stay positive and upbeat about life. Alas, most of the classics that I admire are stories about longingness, realistic romance, poverty, women rights, social values, idealism, materialism and other heavy stuff.

After reading that kind of books for around 10 years, eventually, there came the time when I was forced to review how my reading had affected my soul and my mind so far. And again, frankly speaking, I couldn’t help feeling sorrowful, pessimistic and unenthusiastic about my personal life and the world. I know that I shouldn’t act that way. That no matter how “close” the classics are to real live and people, they are still the works of imagination and prone to subjectivity. The books manifest their author’s opinions, past experiences and critics.

I admit that I was too much absorbed in the books that let them taking hold of my views about life in general. The heartbrokenness somehow refreshes my thought to finally coming back to read fictions, and of course, classic books, again. Do you know what?

At first, I felt so afraid of reembracing Victorian Literature for the dry wound would bleed again. And poor me! There were moments when I felt I wanted to really leave reading fictions for good. I wanted to ignore the book type because I said to myself the book genre was no good for my life.

During such time, I read printed books, as well. I even thought about dedicating my whole life for reading non-fiction. I resumed reading “Homo Deus” by Yuval Noah Harari. But I dislike the book. Not because I don’t yet accustom for reading non-fiction but the book isn’t well-organized. Too much information in such an overly crowded structure. I don’t know if I want to finish reading it or not.

And then there comes this COVID-19 outbreak. It has been almost two weeks that I have been working from home. Since the stay-at-home campaign was launched early March 2020, I thought of coming to read fictions. I missed being glued in very decent novels by Thomas Hardy or George Eliot. I missed getting lost in beautiful, artsy writing styles of Victorian writers. And yes, I missed imagining how peaceful and sociable life back then. And ah! the dress, the gown.. How I adore lace, pastel colours and a long skirt that make female characters in the book genre so graceful and ladylike, LOL!

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

So, last Saturday, I affirmed myself to shop briefly. Of course, I went to Kinokuniya bookstore at Plaza Senayan shopping mall, here, in Jakarta. I couldn’t help myself grabbing a classic book to help to go through yet another week of the stay-at-home period.

I wanted to unwind from getting connected to the internet while couldn’t step outside my room that I rent. Sure enough, I can read abundant articles and stories from my smartphone or laptop but doing so can’t release my mind and put me at ease. Reading printed books can only do that.

I thought of buying one of Sherlock Holmes series. Mind you! After the break, I have decided to limit reading books on fiction. I won’t read about romance anymore and all things that look gloomy and depressing. I couldn’t think of laying my choice any better than to read books about mystery, detective thingy and fantasy, much like Gulliver’s Travels.

And the bookstore offers so many versions of Sherlock Holmes. To my delight, it was easy to choose the Sherlock Holmes options, depending on my budget, LOL! But then, I am not really into Sherlock Holmes, by the way.

I couldn’t resist the temptation of glimpsing into other books, which of course, by famous Victorian writers. So, my eyes caught Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens. I haven’t heard the title. I intended to buy the book after I read the cover text which says the book tells about greed.

Greed, hmm.. Why did the theme suddenly pop up in my head during the coronavirus time? No topics can’t fit today’s pandemic better than this one. When I was looking at the title, my eyes moved to the book next to it.

Voila! It was Our Mutual Friend! Oh my God! I was looking for the book for years until I forgot it. I smiled, then grinned then relieved. I couldn’t find any better companion than this title. I didn’t want to grab it right away for I wanted to greet my friend long enough before officially embarking the second literary journey.

“Oh, you! So happy to see you!” I said to myself at that time as if the book could speak!

I brought it to the store’s cashier section and now, I am on page 200 something. The book is also about greed on money which really suits my search. No need to worry about coming to bleakness because I have Alqur’an as my wise reminder.

My daily reading routine runs like this: at the morning, I will read Alqur’an or listen to its interpretation by ustadz Nouman Ali Khan. After that, I read Our Mutual Friend. Sometimes at night, I continue reading the novel or reading a book about the History of Islam.

Such a packed and fully-loaded reading stuff but I’m happy that I keep myself productive and occupied with positive things. I always, always remind myself to keep reading at balance. Make the activity stands equal between Islam and fiction.

For now, I’m glad to tell myself that I don’t have to leave fiction, especially classic reading, again. I come to it with a brand new perspective and genuine love as I always feel.

My Love Letter for Alqur’an

Dear Allah,

This is me, your curious student of this universe. I’m writing for you after postponing doing so for many weeks. I thought the letter would be the hardest thing to do despite the fact You knew what things that were inside my mind.

Much like Your book that invites me visiting it again and again, so will this love letter. I actually dropped some takeout from the Book in the previous posts. But I need to sum it all then add more hearts in this post. And I hope I will write yet another post about Your book in the future as the more I study the Qur’an, the more I realize Your extreme love for me. And I have to share Your love for friends, netizens and anyone who happen to come by to my website.

You know what, ya Rabb? I will proudly and humbly share this love letter on the internet. Despite countless grammar errors and rumblings here, I am not ashamed to tell the whole world how super lucky I am to have come thus far, to have cherished and lived by Your words every single day.

Moreover, I am not afraid to let people know about our intimate conversation because I know my love for Your Book will always, always be reciprocated. Because You are the ultimate source of love itself. It has always been me who rejects or dismisses Your affection.

Some say, hardship is the express route for receiving guidance. In my case, that speaks more. The latest hardship is Your way of preparing me to receive the greatest gift ever in my life; Alqur’an. More precisely, taking the Holy Book seriously with this thankful and low-profile state.

I won’t get tired to mention this name, ustadz Nouman Ali Khan, for helping me to come to this stage. Every time I listen to his tafseer on Albaqarah, my heart is softened, renewed and revived. I talk to myself: “Wohoho, this is it! This is what I want for my whole life. Something that drives my curiosity while at the same time, keeps straight on the right path.”

I particularly love Your book because it marks the ending and the beginning on my new chapter of life. You must know, ya Allah, that I am such an avid reader and writer. Masya Allah, you have blessed me with these incredible hobbies; reading and writing. The two have been my best buddies since I was a little girl.

Running to books and writing have been my solace. I don’t have to worry of losing friends because they will never leave me. I don’t feel old despite the fact that I grow weaker physically as days go by. Absorbing information, embracing knowledge, reflecting, contemplating and sharing have become my habit.

Somehow, I slowly made the pursuit of knowledge as one of the top goals in my life. Of course, the knowledge wasn’t about You or the Qur’an. I worshipped opinions or writings from intelligent authors. During the years of doing so, I read Your book. But that felt nothing. Worse, I didn’t think it was important for connecting myself with Your book with a down-to-earth attitude. I thought cleansing my heart was unnecessary. No wonder I considered Your book as mere knowledge. It didn’t attract me by heart.

Alhamdulillah that the greatest calamity in my life happened last year. At the beginning of 2019, I felt like the calamity couldn’t hit me any sooner or later. What was supposed to happen eventually did. It took me by surprise that as months went by, You taught me a precious lesson I couldn’t think of. The calamity was all my own fault. You permitted the emotional rollercoaster to have occurred to teach me one thing. You wanted me to get closer to You more than ever. Only then my relationship with Your book has got tighter.

It does take multiple, tiring phases to really build a solid and sound foundation with the Qur’an. But the pain and the confusion are so worth it. I am overjoyed every time I read your Book then get what lies behind every ayah. My heart leaps with enthusiasm. Sometimes, I cry every time I recall how loving You are by dragging me closer to the Holy Book.

I was a dark, pessimistic person. I was fighting with nostalgia and overthinking. Alhamdulillah, coming back to Your Book calms my heart. Better future and bright days always lie ahead. And nothing is as bad as I think of.

And You know that as I get closer to Your book, the harder the tests await me. Some of them have turned into realities. And you know what, ya Allah? I start thinking it doesn’t matter what will the results be. All I care is maintaining this sincerity and reliance upon You only. All I want to nourish is this imaan or faith upon Your help and good plan.

This religion, Islam, begins looking so beautiful for me. I have been a moslem for my entire life but I come to that conclusion just now. Well, at least, I proudly say that with this honest heart. The religion indeed teaches me to first and foremost believe in You, act according to Your words and leave all efforts entirely on Your hands.

Easier said than done but I have come closer to You by doing that. And really, it’s the journey that really matter. It’s the process that tastes so sweet and liberating. I finally sip the delicacy of imaan that Masya Allah sets me free bit by bit.

Ya Allah swt, I could spend hours to enlist wonderful things that have flourished inside my heart because of the Holy Book. But as You always teach us to put everything in balance, I thus end it now. Thanking you immensely for all of the blessings. Guide me to always keep my intention pure and grateful.

Your humble servant,

Eny Wulandari

How Islam Addresses Mental Health

I didn’t realize that I had been suffering from mental illness between somewhere in 2013 and in 2019. Overthinking and overly anxious, at least to my understanding, fall under mental illness. Thankfully, I wasn’t that extreme. Alhamdulillah, I slept and ate well. But the negative emotions caused emotional turbulence that saw me experiencing frequent mood swing.

Feeling bittersweetness was commonplace at that time. It was difficult for me to truly at peace in a relatively long period. Usually, it was either I was too happy or was melancholic. Or, there was something to be worried about; small or big causes.

Before you continue reading this, I’d like to say that I wrote this post for those who suffer from overthinking and constant anxiety. I couldn’t talk about mental illness other than these because alhamdulillah I don’t have any serious problems with that.

Ustadz Nouman Ali Khan’s “Whisper” couldn’t come in more proper time than in November last year. How subtle Allah swt helped me at that time. He wanted me to know what was actually happening during my process of getting over a devastating heartbreak. And He did that after I had come clean. It was a priceless reward after the struggle that I had been through.

For details about Whisper, you can read my previous post here.

Mental health has been serious topics among modern people. It’s a common thing to see people who look fine on the outside but we can’t tell what’s inside their hearts or minds until they suddenly commit suicide or do terrible things we can’t think of. You may look at the example from a psychological point of view or medical aspect. But, here, I would like to share from the Quranic perspective based on what I caught from the speaker’s retelling on the story of Adam AS and satan or devil.

You will find the Qur’an addresses the most fundamental emotional issue in such a simple but on-point way. Allah swt always presents roots that if going unnoticed, they can develop into minor to severe problems. The falls of Adam and Hawa AS from heaven tells us so much about many mental problems that most of us will deal with, some have to fight very hard.

We were born responsible creatures

We lived in paradise along with the prophet Adam AS and his wife, Hawa. He was the first among us to be sent down to the earth that had been created before that. Allah swt blessed each of us with aql that allowed us choosing whether or not we were willing to carry His plan in taking care of the earth. Allah swt beforehand described what kind of life would that be. He told us that each of us would face a real enemy called satan. In addition, our ruh at that time testified that there is no God other than Allah. As we firstly tasted how mesmerizing (beyond words actually) it was being in heaven, we agreed to live on the earth.

Thus, living on the earth was by choice. We held responsible for the choice that our ruh had made. Understanding this first and foremost should uphold our dignity as responsible creatures. We take in charge every direction, decision and choice that we make every single second in our lives. Unless for calamities that are entirely out of our control, we shouldn’t blame other parties on things that don’t work in our ways. If our ruh was eager to carry Allah’s mission, why on earth should we complain over small things that don’t necessarily matter in the next hour or next year?

Indeed, Satan is the real enemy for every Muslim

I learnt the second point the hardest way. I read about this many times as I read the Qur’an but the words just slipped by. Yeah, I know that ya Allah, as if my heart wanted to say.

During the painful heartbreak, His warning couldn’t slap my face any harder. When you have a major issue in your life that’s actually when your fighting against satan is at the hardest. And I experienced that for about seven months. Ustadz Nouman said that satan will pull us in four directions; right, left, back and from the front.

The experience told me that satan did attack me from two directions; front and back. From the backside, satan whispered me on happy memories that I shared with this once special man. Satan wanted me to stay in the past for good. He didn’t want me to move on. I came to moments that mattered so much for me simply because he was there. At first, I needed to pour all my energy to fight against the temptation. Alhamdulillah, by Allah’s help, fighting against that started becoming easier to bear.

From the front, satan wanted me to question Allah’s capability to meet me with someone’s new. I often wondered whether or not my heart would love someone as I felt to the one who was getting married at that time. Uncertainty started embracing my mind and heart.

That was my personal story. I’m sure each of you has different satan attacks. Our task is recognizing when that happens then seeks Allah’s refuge from it.

Is it my fault or His plan?

In one of his videos, the ustadz said that understanding a decree can prompt us into two things. Number one refers to Allah’s plan that is beyond our control. For example, you drive carefully and follow all traffic rules but suddenly another car hits you.

There are things that are entirely our decision and blaming Allah on our problems defy our good attribute as responsible creatures. For instance, I eat sugary food and drink for 10 years then suffer diabetes. That’s all my fault who don’t want to take care of my body. Some cases, on the other hand, occur that leave us in the darkness.

For example, I wake up late for Subuh prayer. A few hours after that, I don’t pass a job interview test. Some questions may arise. Is that all because I wake up late for Subuh prayer? Or is it entirely His plan that I won’t get the job?

For the third scenario, I need to have a positive assumption to Allah swt. No leaves fall on the ground except He says so. Getting rejected by the manager of the company is a good thing for me. That’s just how Allah swt tests my faith.

So, how do we keep our mentality healthy after knowing the three basics?

Knowing Allah

Now I know why the Qur’an begins with Asmaul Husna which roughly translates as the good names of Allah swt. I am touched by how Islam starts everything with appreciation and love. Each Muslim must internalize His 99 names into their everyday activities.

Internalizing the names doesn’t stop at memorizing them. But each Muslim must reflect how each of His names has been put inside their hearts. Simply put, practice what Asmaul Husna means in our lives. For example, treasure Allah as the Al-Alim as the One who loves knowledge as you read or write. Thank Him for His blessing that drives you loving knowledge and like to study.

By practising Asmaul Husna from small things, we know Him better. The more we know Him, the more we love Him.

Loving Allah

When we love someone, our heart becomes soft and more inclined to do as that person wishes. Imagine if we can do that with Allah swt. By loving Allah swt, we feed our ruh that was once in direct contact with Him when we were in our mothers’ wombs. Ruh is different from the heart. Ruh is the most pristine part of each of us. When we die, our ruh remains alive until the Day of Resurrection. Our heart and mind can overly fall into certain sides but our ruh remains pure and clean.

Ustadz Nouman said in one of his videos that loving Allah opens the door to self-love. When we love Allah for His good qualities, so will we do with ourselves. We start appreciating our physical and emotional attributes because Allah gives them. We begin taking care of our bodies well because we have to report to Him on the Day of Judgement.

This is the kind of self-love that won’t turn you into a self-centered human being. Everything will come naturally because it derives from gratitude.

Understanding Who You Really Are

Each of us is unique. Even if you are born as identical twins, no two human beings are exactly the same. That proves His intellect as can be read in surat At-Tin. Each of us has a distinctive quality that can either be our best buddy or enemy.

As in the previous article, I wrote that planning and thinking are the tools by which I can enjoy so much in this life. If it weren’t because of the two, I couldn’t survive until today. I accept that Allah swt gives me the two qualities that can either help or destroy me.

And I believe some of you understand your strengths and weaknesses. We shouldn’t deny our strengths because they can lead us to destruction. All we have to do is knowing them then coming to Him for keeping the qualities in balance. In turn, use the strengths for spreading His words.

Taming Your Arrogance

It took years for me to eventually realize that I was arrogant. There were times when I believed that all goodness in my life was because of my own efforts. Allah knew that very well then He took one of them bit by bit. Again, I learnt His priceless lesson in the hardest way.

He needed to clean up my heart until I realized He gave me invaluable and uncountable blesses in my life. The difficult thing on understanding our arrogance is that sometimes arrogance creeps silently. We may not realize this because we don’t always underestimate others. We don’t yell at people or curse them because they are stupid or poor. But we must take notice of our mind and heart, too.

Unless you tame your arrogance, your heart won’t be opened to His words. It will still be very hard for you to practice gratitude. You will always seek satisfaction from other human beings, status or materials. Pay attention to your heart. Act immediately when it can’t feel.

Connecting Your Ruh to Allah

Our job as a human being is understanding our physical appearance, emotional unique quality and finally our ruh. To get to know our ruh, we must constantly communicate with Allah. Ustadz Nouman said that Alqur’an is the rope that connects our ruh to Him.

That makes studying and even reliving the Book plays such a pivotal role. Our ruh always requires words and advice from Allah that is well-captured in Alqur’an. When truly reliving the Book, it’s easier for us to filter and choose. Blurry lines gradually disappear. We become like the Qur’an as al furqon that is able to differentiate good and bad things then stand strict to it.

It’s not always easy to find the ruh inside ourselves. As my journey proves, I must conduct multiple layers to slowly grasp the ruh inside myself. Firstly, I must stand with justice, question many things that widely believed by society. I must thank Allah sincerely, ask for His forgiveness, admit all the mistakes and submit myself humbly.

Only then, I can start enjoying Qur’an and reliving His words. To this point, I still struggle to do all of these. Sometimes, I have to force myself to thank Him. My heart sometimes feels empty and hard. But at least I know when those things occur, satan plays big roles. It polishes my ego and I must seek rescue from Allah.

Reliving the Qur’an doesn’t mean reciting and memorizing all ayahs only. I have been trying to put the ayah into practice by looking at the sky, the sun, the stars, the cloud. My favorite is the plants and myself. The closest examination on Allah’s favor is our body. Try to count His blessings as our body functions every millisecond and find out that you can’t do that. He is extremely loving and caring. Ar Rahman and Ar Rahim.

He’s with Us All the Time

Our iman is everything. The words from the ustadz capture all things that we need in every single mental disturbance that happens in our lives. Our faith in His help will aid us during our battle against pessimism, depression and overly anxiety. Our belief in His assistance will accompany us when we feel afraid.

And my most favorite is He is with me all the time. He knows and feels what I feel when my tongue can’t speak any words about it. My feeling is valid even if no one knows it. Sometimes, believing that He knows everything is more than enough for me. Most importantly, earning His guidance is what this beautiful life is all about. Submitting with unshaken trust for Allah swt.

The Story of An Overthinker

I have been dealing a lot with overthinking. Perfectionism and over planning have been my best friend and enemy since teenage period. To date, I still wrestle with the two negative emotions but alhamdulillah they become much more manageable.

I thought planning was necessary to lead me getting what I wanted in life. Gaining good scores, securing dreamy jobs, earning a lot of salary and buying a house. To some points, that was so true. I was proud of myself as someone who gave 100% heart and mind for things that I believed was my source of happiness and success. I applauded myself for this quality. I wrote this not to show off but appreciated all the hard work that I had done in the past.

I began realizing that overthinking has been my biggest enemy somewhere in 2013. Strangely enough, my life was quite stable at that time. I had a good job and wonderful office mates. I had a 9-to-5 job that secured me with fixed working hours. Working as a journalist confronted me with uncertainty. I didn’t know when would I return home every day. The working load and pressure were much severe than when I was working as a writer staff that spent working hours inside a building.

Somehow, I worried a lot. Even small things triggered my anxiety. I frequently checked whether or not I locked the key of my wardrobe despite the fact I did lock it. From that minor things, I started doubting myself. The snowball ran to every aspect in my life until it influenced my prayer. I often doubted that my ablution or wudhu was proper. As a consequence, I repeated the wudhu that actually wasted clean water. The similar thing happened with my prayer. I unnecessarily repeated the shalat as I chased perfection in it. Performing shalat was so a scary thing to do. I began viewing Allah swt as the angry God.

The anxiety attack took its toll last year when I was in the process of getting over a very painful heartbreak. I remember when the scar was still fresh, I wanted to talk to a psychiatrist. At that time, I actually studied about Islam a lot. I reduced reading books on fiction and listening to songs. I listened to sermons by ustadz Nouman Ali Khan for about two years. But none of them helped me significantly.

My mind was still in turmoil. There was battle in mind and heart that I couldn’t explain. But the experience told me one thing. When you can’t find someone to confide in because the problem is too unbearable, it’s time to just trust Allah swt. And I did. And the result has been tremendous.

In November last year, ustadz Nouman came to Jakarta then presented a Story Night called “Whisper”. At first, I didn’t want to come because I was running out of money. So I skipped the first “Whisper” session.

Surprisingly, many people wanted the organizer of the event to hold another “Whisper” session as the speaker was still in Jakarta. The ticket of the second “Whisper” session was selling so fast. I still didn’t want to come but Allah swt changed my heart. There was a member of Nouman Ali Khan Indonesia community who offered one ticket because her friend couldn’t attend.

I contacted her shortly. I didn’t think about the saving as much as I had done before. And Masya Allah! How the session has changed my life until now. There were many gems that I am so eager to share to all of you at this blog. He shared so many precious things that opened my mind about psychological issues that I once dealt with. I wish I had known them many years ago but regardless, I am still thankful that Allah swt dragged my feet to the event.

Insya Allah I am going to dedicate another post about how Islam perceives mental health in the following post. In the meantime, thank you very much for reading this post.

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.