Friday, August 15, 2008

The young tap thief

We will be welcoming Ramadan again. Ramadan reminds me of this story. It was 10 am Saturday, the 14th Ramadan or 7th October 2006. As I was busy looking at some workers changing the old pipelines near my home, I heard a loud commotion. A man armed with a 'parang' (machete) was bringing a youth he accused of trying to remove a brass tap at a nearby 'surau'.

As the man had to report the matter to the police and informed the 'surau' officials, he trusted in me to look after the boy. During the more than an hour waiting time, I used the opportunity to 'dakwah' (lecture) the boy after asking his background.

He was just seventeen and was from a village about 15 kilometers away. He will be sitting for the the 'Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia' (SPM) examination at the end of the year but he chose not to go to school since the middle of the year.

He said he could still sit for the examination because his name was registered as a candidate and the school authority had 'no power' to stop him from doing so. The last thing they could do was suspend him from school. Their actions only delighted him, so schooling was history for the good looking, some five feet seven inches boy.

His only concern was how to make full use of his youthful life. He told me many of his friends were having motorcycles and almost everyone had fancy handsets. Many of them were not from well off families, but their style of living looked as though they were sons of rich parents.

He said he was the oldest of three siblings and his parents didn't have any idea about his 'activities'.

The boy, whose father was a general worker at a nearby oil refinery while his mother a housewife, said he wanted to emulate his friends' ways of life. So he borrowed a motorcycle from one of his friends and started to make money the easy way - stealing and removing valuable items from homes, mosques and public buildings.

I searched for his wallet. It contained some calling cards, plastic cards and a RM1 note. "Where's your IC?" I asked and the boy answered he had lost it some time ago. "Where's your driving license?" to which he replied he didn't have any.

Looking at the faded RM1 note, I felt pity for the boy. At that moment I was left alone with him. He was sitting on the children swing and I was standing at his side.

The boy was lucky because his captors didn't tie his hands or legs or beat him up.
I assumed the boy was too green and had not been a totally spoiled brat because in that situation, he could spring off and run away or overpower me easily. But he chose not to do so but listen to my 'lectures'.

I asked him if he was fasting on that day. He said he wasn't and he needed some money to see the day through. That's why he tried to steal the brass tap. I told him that he had made multiple mistakes and it would be tough for him if the police took him to the police station. First he had no identity card, second he had no driving license, third he was caught stealing and fourth he was not fasting on that day.

He said he had only fasted for a few days and when I questioned him whether he said his prayers regularly, he answered: "Sometimes."

To attract the boy's attention, I gave him a RM10 note. I knew that getting money was his agenda for the day. With money he could buy that day's lunch and dinner, buy petrol to fill up the tank of his borrowed bike and top up his handset.

"Now, listen to what 'pakcik' (uncle) has to say," I said to him. "You are lucky because you are caught now when you are only beginning to become a thief. You are just learning to become a crook. That means Allah SWT loves you because He wants you to realize your mistake at the early stage. He wants you to repent now. Imagine if you are not caught, and you became from bad to worse as the days pass by and lastly you become the king of crooks or gangsters."

The boy remained silent and I continued my 'lecture'. "'Pakcik' pities you very much. My eldest son is the same age as you. If I would like my son to be a good and humble boy, your father too hoped that you be a good son. If I would like my son to do well in the coming examination, your parents too hoped that you would do the same.

"Now, tell 'Pakcik' what drove you to do such a thing?" The boy kept silent but from his attire, his trademark helmet and handset, I guessed he must been chasing the easy and materialistic way of life adopted by many among the new generation.

In school, many upper secondary students have motorbikes while a few especially in the Sixth Form drive flashy cars compared to a few teachers who still use the Honda and Yamaha 90 cc old bikes and old cars such as the Saga, Opel Kadett, Toyota Corolla and Mazda 323.

On seeing him reluctant to open his mouth, I continued: "You have a long way in life. You are only 17 and if you live until 60, you have more than 40 years in life, so why spoil it by doing such a stupid thing? 'Pakcik' hopes that you repent now, turn over a new leaf and become a new you!

"Had you heard the story about a robber who had killed 99 people but wanted to repent?" I asked the boy who only shook his head. "The robber then went to a scholar and asked him whether God will forgive his sins to which the man said 'no'. The bad man then killed him, so he had killed 100 people.

"The robber then went to another wise man who said Allah the Almighty will forgive whoever He wishes. There is room for everyone who had acknowledges his/her mistakes and wants to repent. The wise old man then told the robber to go to a specific village where the people there were obedient to Allah SWT.

"On his way to the village, the robber was mobbed and killed. To determine whether his resting place will be in heaven or hell, the angels calculate the distance between his notorious home and the good village. It was found out that the distance to the village was nearer so the man ended up in heaven."

The boy looked up at me and said: "Please, 'pakcik', please let me go this time," to which I replied: "If you were caught stealing in 'pakcik's' compound and by 'pakcik', 'pakcik' will let you off with the assurance that you repent. But in this case, you were caught in a 'surau compound by a stranger and with this brass tap as proof, so 'pakcik' has no right to release you. You are now subject to police treatment.

"'Pak cik' believes that you will face hard times after this, but you must always remember what 'pakcik' had told you. This is a lesson for you, you mustn't think it as an unfortunate incident but think positively; it is fortunate for you being caught at a tender age so that you will be able to turn over a new leaf."

As I was still speaking to the boy, two policemen on a motorcycle arrived. The men rushed to the boy, and one of them after asking; "So you are the tap thief in the 'kampung'?" slapped him on the face. I guessed the policeman was referring to another case when the village's mosque was broken into one night and the thief ran off with 33 brass taps.

The boy didn't answer while the policemen swiftly handcuffed him, dragged him to their motorcycle and they were all gone. That episode was just like the drama shown on TV, and this time, I was one of its characters!

This 'drama' could be a good lesson for all especially parents in bringing up their children. Selamat menyambut Ramadan Al-Mubarak.

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