Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Guinean-Malaysian ‘connection’

In the name of God, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

Ye who believe!
Fasting is presribed to you
And it was prescribed to those before you,
That ye may learn self-restrain. (Al-Baqarah 2: 183)

USUALLY every night I will doze off during my two hours trip back home on the Kuala Lumpur-Melaka express bus. But on the journey last Monday (6th August), a black gentleman moved to a seat near mine after I had given him a photostat copy of a Harakah’s English Section article entitled ‘It all began with ‘Read’ – A Jewish computer programmer accepts Islam.

Thus began a two hour conversation between a Guinean (*Guinea, in West Africa on the Atlantic, is also bordered by Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Mali, the Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone) who is businessman and a Malaysian writer. It was my habit of keeping some good Islamic reading materials in my bag to be given to strangers; on that day I handed over a piece to that youth who was seated alone at the back seat.

The 28 year old Guinean broke the ice by grumbling why the lights inside the bus switched off; he was in the mist of reading the ‘interesting’ article. I replied that it was norm for the driver to switch off the main lights. I then asked him what I could do to help him, perhaps by sharing inputs and ideas on what the article was about.

The article was written by one Richard Leiman who loved to listen to the BBC World Service about the Middle East during his childhood years. He loved the music from that part of the world, and probably was listening to the Qur’an being recited but did not know it at that time.

After years of soul searching that saw him flying over the Atlantic a few times (United States and Europe), he officially accepted Islam in November 1996.

Regarding his new found faith and determination to practice Islam, Leiman notes: “I pray Zhuhr and ‘Asr by myself or with other Muslim brothers in a small masjid in my work place. I proudly carry my prayer rug in the hallways at my work in an attempt to get people to ask me what they are. When they do ask me about it, I tell them that I am Muslim and the mats are what I use to pray on.

“Also my work area, including my computer, is decorated with Islamic artwork. My background on my computer is usually the Ka’bah or our masjid. Now that I am a Muslim, there is no turning back to disbelief.”

I asked the Guinean whether he was a Muslim. He said he was a non believer, but interestingly he admitted that his father is a Muslim but his mother is from the Christian faith. He told me that it is norm for such marriages to take place in Guinea. It was up to the children to choose which religion suited them when they grew up, but a father is honoured to give names to his children.

“My father proudly named me Mohamad Ali,” said the Guinean. When I told him that Muhammad is the name of Muslims' beloved Prophet, Mohamad Ali said he knew about it but his heart was still not open for the Islamic faith.

During our conversation, Mohamad Ali called me ‘papa’, claiming that I look alike his father, and this prompted me to go deeper in our discussion about religion. I then searched inside my bag and to my relief I found what I thought a very suitable material to be given to him. It was a photostat copy of a book published by Islamic Outreach-ABIM entitled ‘The Light of Revelation’. Since it was dark; Mohamad Ali could not read it.

I gave a briefing to Mohamad Ali on that book. It was a glimpse of the meanings of the final divine revelation to mankind that is the Qur’an. In its introduction among others it was written: “What is life? Man’s existence in this world and the creation of this entire universe are not mere accidents or products of a fortuitous nature. This universe, every single soul knows that he is existing and that his existence is dependent on a Creator – he knows for sure that he cannot create himself. Therefore it his duty to know his master Creator – God.”

I said to Mohamad Ali, “Even though you don’t have a religion, I am sure you believe that God exist. God created you with your eyes, nose and so on. With your eyes you could see this beautiful word. Imagine God created you without eyes; then of course you could not see His beautiful creations.”

Mohamad Ali seemed to agree so I continued: “You have to thank the Giver who gave you your eyes. So who is that Giver?” Mohamad Ali admitted, “God.”

“Who is this God?” I asked him back, and then continued, “In Malay, we called Him ‘Tuhan’ but the correct name is Allah as in Arabic, Creator of the Universe. Now, you have admitted that God had provided you with all the best things in the world so how are you going to say, “thank you God or Allah for Your gifts?”

Mohamad Ali only gave a smile (I could see flashing of his teeth in the dark) so I continued: “You just can’t say ‘hi God, thanks’ with a hand raise, but do please believe me brother, Islam teaches us all aspects of life even if you are going to the toilet or to have a ‘date’ with your wife. Could you tell me any other religion that has such detail as Islam?”

Mohamad Ali said ‘no’, so I continued, “Islam is a way of life. Its teaching was from God, it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. In life we need to be guided, we can’t just simply do what we like. God sent hundreds of prophets to mankind – from Adam to Muhammad, the last of the prophet. In between them there were Abraham, Moses, David, Jacob and Jesus (Isa).”

“Do you believe in Jesus?” I asked and when he said ‘yes’ I hurriedly continued: “In Islam, we believe that Jesus was one of the prophets. In the succession line of the 25 main prophets, Jesus was the 24th prophet and Muhammad the 25th.”

My briefing to Muhammad Ali was influenced from my reading of the book ‘The Light of Revelation’ which among others notes: “God, out of His abundant Love and Mercy for mankind, has not left us in darkness to discover the right path by trail and error alone. Coupled with our intellectual capability to reason, God bestowed upon us Divine Guidance that outlines the Criterion for truth and the knowledge and reality of our existence in this word and Hereafter.

“From the beginning of mankind God sent Exemplars or Prophets to convey His Revelation and to invite all mankind to the path of true peace and obedience to one true God. This is Islam. This message was conveyed to all nations and tribes in this world throughout successive generations through more than 124,000 prophets – all inviting mankind to the same path.

“However all the earlier messages or revelations from God were distorted by later generations. As a result pure Revelation from God was polluted with myths, superstition, idol worshipping and irrational philosophical ideologies. The religion of God was lost in the confusion of religions.”

To Mohamad Ali I said: “I am not asking or pleading to you to believe what I had said. You have brains, now you have to think about your future. I am not talking about the pleasures and richness of the world but asking you to think about your future when you are dead and placed in your grave. All of the answers were given by Prophet Muhammad and are in His book, the Qur’an.”

“So insya-Allah, if we were to meet again, God willing, I will present you an English translation of the Qur’an,” I said after we exchanged telephone numbers and e-mails address. (Mohamad Ali would be in the country for three months to seek business opportunities; on that fateful night he was on his way to Melaka, doing his job).

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