Sunday, December 14, 2014

Preparing for a journey...

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

"Anyone who obeys the Messenger has obeyed God..." (Nisaa 4:80)


IT is school holidays again. It is a very long season; schools only reopen on 5th January 2015 (schools in Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah, Perlis and Johor on 4th January). The days of December are slowly ticking away (to some of us who are parents or grandparents with 'super active kids' who would do all sorts of 'nonsense and surprises') before children scramble back to school.

Some school children would be having a fun time, lazing at home, practically doing nothing. Others would spend hours laying on the sofa in front of the idiot box, some adventurous ones would go fishing and camping while bookworms would be in the library or simply busy behind their books.

Parents would have a tough time. The disciplined children might help but as the saying goes, boys are boys, the long school holiday is a nightmare to many. Often we hear news that children got drowned while on a fishing trip or when they purposely played in ponds, canals, rivers and on the beach close to the sea.

As a father of five children (only one has entered the working world), I too have a tough time. 'Alhamdulillah' (All praise to Allah SWT) my wife is a school teacher, so she has the time to spend with the children even though she has to attend to other important matters. But as a father I too have to spend quality time with the children during this holiday.

From my experience it is important and it pays to bring our children especially the younger ones to educational settings such as the library, museums, book exhibitions, parks and zoos. In these places, they could develop their minds and explore new things.

At home, I have a 17 year old boy who has finished his SPM examination and his sister is aged 12, having a 'boring' holiday; they are waiting for me to announce a holiday package for the family but again it is about my busy schedule and most important of all lacking that 'extra cash' that hampers their wish.

A simple domestic holiday for a few days for the family for example in Pulau Pinang (leaving from Melaka) could easily cost RM500 - RM1,000 from papa's and mama's pockets. Of course, overseas destinations for the whole family are definitely out of the question; the hard truth is that we cannot afford it.

Perhaps if the journey involved only the two of us (my wife and I) we could manage to some not so far destinations such as Jakarta and Bandung which we visited recently.
A week has passed since the beginning of the school holidays but I have not made any decision regarding our ‘family holidays'. The 'hard truth' which I prefer to hide from my family members is that I do not have the much needed ‘cash'.

At the moment, going for a holiday is not in my list of priorities, my mind is on how to get ready money when school reopens - for example RM1,000 to settle fees, buy books and uniforms when my 12-year old girl goes to Form 1 next month, 'insya-Allah' (God willing) at a residential school.

It looks like my children would have 'a dull holiday' this year, but what a big surprise did we have when my eldest boy while on leave from work recently, announced that he would sponsor the whole family for a holiday this December. 'Alhamdulillah' perhaps his company had given him bonuses at the end of the year, and what a good son he is in choosing to spend his money on the family.

After some discussions, we finally made a decision to fly to Kuching, Sarawak and spend a few days there in the middle of December. So for my son, 'his frantic search' begins. He had to book airline tickets, hotel rooms and make car reservations.

As I looked at how busy my son was 'on his computer' making bookings and reservations, my mind raced back to a 'tazkirah' (lesson) by an 'ustaz' (religious teacher) where he compared the preparation of our 'worldly journey' to that of our preparation in life for our journey to the Hereafter.

The 'ustaz' cited for example that if we are going for a holiday in the United States; we would prepare months ahead before the journey. We would ready our passports, apply for visas, book airline tickets, hotel rooms and perhaps a few days before the journey change our Malaysian Ringgit (RM) to American dollars.

We would also arrange for transportation, inquire about our destination; if it was winter there we would ready our winter clothes. We would also like to know how we could get 'halal' (permissible) food there; and the list would go on and on....

But one important question is that would we have readied ourselves for our journey to the Hereafter which must be faced by each and every one of us? No one can escape this journey, everyone has to face death which could occur now, tomorrow or on a date nobody knows.

If in the journey to the United States, we could go back home if the period of our stay had expired or we became bored staying there, but unfortunately for the journey to the Hereafter it is 'a one way ticket' - no dead person has 'returned' to tell us what they had experienced there.

To cut it short, we must ready ourselves for our Hereafter journey. For example if for the 'worldly journey' to the United States we would change our Malaysian ringgits to American dollars, then in this world we should also change our money (worldly assets) into 'assets' that would be of value in the Hereafter.

The 'ustaz' said that in this world we needed to be on His straight path and perform good deeds as much as possible. It was because, in the Hereafter, we needed a lot of 'pahala' (rewards for good deeds) to 'finance' ourselves during our 'long long journey' before we would rewarded with Paradise or thrown into Hell (nauzubillah - God forbid).

He told us for example that during the journey on 'Siratulmustakim' (a very small bridge between Hell and Heaven), it would take us 3,000 years in an ascending position, 2,000 years descending and 1,000 years in a flat condition.

"Well, do not even think that our lives would be comfortable in the Hereafter if we fail to do things that would please Allah SWT during our lifetime. Terrible things would be awaiting us; so do not live in this world without preparing for our death or worst of all there are people taking their own lives (committing suicide) thinking that death would end their sufferings," said the 'ustaz'.

Yes, we need a lot of 'pahala' in the Hereafter where our worldly possessions are of no use. Other than obeying Allah's Commands and avoiding His prohibitions during our existence in the word, there are three things that would still benefit a Muslim even after his/her death.

The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said: “When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: Sadaqah Jariyah (ceaseless charity); knowledge which is beneficial; or a virtuous descendant who prays for him (the deceased).” (Sahih Muslim)

The 'ustaz' told parents to work hard in raising virtuous sons and daughters who would be one of our greatest assets after our death. To have these beneficial off-springs the father must be in His straight path as Allah SWT says in the Qur'an: "O! You who believe, save yourself and your families from Hell-fire, whose fuel are humans and stones (idols) over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who flinch not (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allah, but do (precisely) what they are commanded." (At-Tahrim 66:6)

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