Bismillah Rahman Ar-Raheem
Travels in Indonesia Continued…
After our lovely home stay concluding the terror ferry ride, we continued our travels through Sumatra to visit the beautiful lake Toba. The lake is in the crater of a super volcano. This place sticks in my mind for two reasons: Here I would have my first encounter with my greatest childhood fear (after watching the black and white movie: African Queen) LEECHES. EeeeEEw and we would also meet a group of young Indonesians who had just finished school.
We were all staying at the same place, and I was the same age as them. I had just finished school and was travelling before starting University. They had also just finished school, and they were on their last school trip together before entering into the real world, or for some of them, continuing to University.
They were all Muslims and what struck me about them was their kindness and sincerity towards me.
When they saw my mother and I, they quickly invited us to join them. We spent the afternoon and evening with them, joining in their activities, getting to know them.
They shared their time with us, and I introduced them to the idea of silly face pulling photos (what a high achiever ; P).
I will not beat about the bush here and I will briefly describe my peers and social group at that time: our main interests were music, partying, alcohol (and if you didn’t throw up it wasn’t a “good” night out) & literature/ Art (if it was reactionary). We were in rebellion and railed against everything. The government, the school, the ways of the world. You know that song “I love to hate you”. Well we loved to hate everything! I was highly proud that my end of year Art exhibition (on Christian priests abusing children) was censored. Everything was upside down. Bad was good.
Don’t get me wrong within the environment I was a good girl, I did my homework, I didn’t talk back to the teachers, but in comparison to them, I was the devil incarnate.
Their innocence was what impressed me, and again like the people who we had stayed with I was impressed by their sincerity when talking to me, their lack of judgement, and I just got this sense of “goodness” from them.
They weren’t preoccupied and talking to me about material things, competing, or being bitchy. My mother and I were not their entertainment, they were simply engaging with us human to human. We talked as if we were friends and had always been. This lack of materialism and attachment to shallow psychological/ social labels (I really hated labels at that time – I don’t mean the clothing kind, although I didn’t and don’t like those either) was wonderful. Innocent. Just like how I was as a child before school and society kicked in.
Anyone living in the West knows how bitchy school can get. All the pressure to fit in, or if you don’t fit in there is the pressure to form your own clique of other equally odd individuals. People got bullied. I hated all that and really fought it by being difficult, opinionated, and contrary.
There was no evidence of any of that with them. At all.
In the evening we all sat around a beautiful fire by the lake and talked.
For comparative purposes so you can understand how I felt about what they did, I would like to share what my school friends and I would have done had we been together by a lake, by the fire. We would have been pathetically drunk, raucous, someone would have fallen in the lake, the fire or both and that would have provided the fuel for our conversations until the next week when we would have done something equally ridiculous.
They had planned to do an activity in the evening. Everyone had a piece of paper, and pen. Then we had to choose someone in the group (without telling anyone who you had chosen or written) and write something nice about that person on the paper. All the papers were folded up, placed in a bag. Then one person would pull out a piece of paper and read out the statement. In the end everything was read out and everyone had heard something positive about themselves; written by someone-else, anonymously.
The experience and activity was really sweet, positive, and kind. Even my Mum and I got a message. I don’t know if she remembers what hers was, but I remember they wrote for me something along the lines of:
Really impressed by your independence and strength travelling around alone. You know who you are and what you want.
Hard to put into words how I felt, but nevertheless what happened was not forgotten, and in the end contributed to my positive feelings about Muslims.
I am a little shy to be so open about what I was like as a young person before I was a Muslim, but I want to tell you about it so you can see that really it is Allah (swt) who plans, and guides people to Islam. We should never, never see a person, then look at them and how they are behaving, or what they are believing in and make the judgement – you will NEVER be a Muslim, and then be rude to them or not share information about Islam with them.
Many people have been so far astray and lost and then Allah (swt) brings them to him. So we should always try to be the best Muslims possible, and know that the world is watching us, and when we are the best, that in the end is what impresses, and influences people to change. Al-hamdulilah.
Lastly Indonesia was where I first heard the Athan.
In Indonesia I had a bit of Culture shock because it was so different to India (where I had been travelling previously). The atmosphere and the people was entirely different.
Early on our first morning I remember being woken by this heavenly sound. I didn’t understand what the words were but I knew it was the call to prayer. I thought wow, what a beautiful sound, one would really want to get up to pray once you heard that. My head didn’t understand but my heart felt the call.
Insha’Allah any Muslims out there making the call to prayer can bear in mind all the people that hear them, and that the caller can potentially have a wonderful effect on the listener without knowing.
Over and out for now… part three coming soon, Insha’Allah.
Subhana Allah (glory to God) the world is a wonderful, fantastical place.