In July 1994, Abuya told Datuk Norian Mai, the then Deputy Inspector General of Police, “If you persist in the effort to destroy this Islamic organization (Arqam), we will not resist, but Mahathir (the Prime Minister) and Anwar (the Deputy Prime Minister) will fall.”
“Alright,“ said Norian Mai, “The government has decided, we will use the ISA against you and if you don’t fight back, our task will be simple.”
Since then, August 1994 until October 2004, Abuya was bound by the ISA while Arqam disappeared.
The day of Abuya’s arrest was also Abuya’s holiday following the end of Abuya’s 7-year overseas sojourn. In the past, Abuya was precluded from returning by the rumours of his possible arrest by the government. After 7 years of striving to build up the congregation in several countries in the world, Abuya seemingly ‘forced’ the government to bring him back to Malaysia.
After 7 years of exile abroad, Abuya’s struggle should have perished, but instead it became st
ronger, compelling the government to extradite Abuya home. There was a global uproar on the day Abuya was arrested. The Cable News Network (CNN) was the only news agency present at the scene of the apprehension in northern Thailand. Abuya was taken away from his congregation to be placed in the same household with Interior Ministry officials, the police and the Special Branch (SB) who were staff of the ISA.
Actually Abuya was happy to be able to return to and live with Malaysia. For the past 7 years, he had been living within the international community. What harm is there in getting to stay with figures important to national security? Without such an avenue, how would it be possible to face directly this exclusive group? Sitting down and discussing with them, something very beneficial might arise. Even whilst living amongst different ethnic, cultural and linguistic communities groups, a lot was gained in furthering the cause of the struggle, what more if he stayed within the same racial and religious citizenry.
Yes, the ISA was in actual fact a session to discuss security affairs. One side fought for security and truth, the other side had been struggling for the same things. Masya Allah, how amazing that the encounter proved very meaningful. Would you believe that, inside the air-conditioned interrogation room, a mutual understanding was arrived at between the capturer and the detainee. When truth had been discovered, the Might of Allah unites opposing sides.
Believe it or not, at the end of the 10-year ISA saga, on the day he was released, Abuya declared, “I will give cooperation to the government of Islam Hadhari,” while the ISA said, “Like an eel returning to its home in the deepest waters, welcome home, and solve the numerous national problems that had arisen throughout your absence.”
The 10 years were a process to unite two causes. The 10 years also processed the downfall of both Mahathir and Anwar to realize Malaysia as an Islam Hadhari state.
When Abuya pioneered the development of the Rufaqa’ township in Bandar Country Homes, on 30th October 1999, during the opening of the Ikhwan supermarket, the police and Special Branch from Rawang asked Abuya, “Why do you open a shop?”
“Sir, my family is large – many children, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. If we don’t have our own grocery store, we may not be able to get food and milk. Moreover I’m a Muslim, God has commanded me to live on my own efforts,” answered Abuya.
“From where do you get money?” queried the SB officer.
“From God,” answered Abuya. This surprised the SB officer. Not long after that, Abuya opened a clinic.
The SB questioned again, “Why do you open a clinic?”
“I have to make sure all my family members live the Islamic way. I am responsible, for my big family, to see that they are not involved in medical treatment which does not conform to Islamic laws, particularly in maternity matters,” replied Abuya.
Such was how Abuya developed one project after another, whilst making both Muslim and non-Muslim SB officers understand its purpose. When the Rufaqa’ township was completed, equipped with a cinema, Abuya told his SB friends that he had accomplished the government’s wish for the Malays to develop their economies. The SB officers agreed. When envious parties demanded the closure of the Rufaqa’ township and Abuya be banished from Rawang to Labuan, the SB remarked, “Don’t close down the Malay economic projects. Let me keep tabs on them and protect them from negative elements.” Among the SB officers were non-Muslims such as Mr. Asyok
Banishment to Labuan in 2002 was Malaysian government’s final plan to end Abuya’s struggle, having been preceded by various other plans and multiple bans. Every time banned, all will think, “Arqam is finished.” But after each moment, Arqam persists and survives.
An SB officer once told me and Abuya, “We have been following your affairs since Arqam was founded. When the crisis between you and Akbar Anang erupted in 1978, we found out that you managed to control the situation. When you were involved in the crisis with Mokhtar Yaakub in 1986, you won again. Very surprising and illogical. Many asked, what was your real strength? You defeated Akbar Anang probably because Akbar Anang only had worldly qualifications without any religious qualification. But Mokhtar, who had both strengths: a degree and religious clout, also lost against you. Amazing indeed.”
The SB officer continued, “This time round, against Mahathir, you’ll be finished.” How convinced the officer was of his thinking.
When Abuya’s case approached no ending after 8 years, an SB officer remarked, “We thought facing Arqam was easy. It was actually most difficult. It exists, yet it does not. It does not exist, yet it does.”
On the day Abuya was freed from the ISA, after 10 years of discussing, exchanging viewpoints, and searching for the truth, and the police had become convinced that Abuya no longer posed a threat to the government, but was indeed an asset, an SB officer said, ““Like an eel returning to its home in the deepest waters, welcome home, and solve the numerous national problems that had arisen throughout your absence.”
I remember the story of a great saint, Yazid Bustami in Baghdad. For the 7 years he was expelled from his country, Iraq suffered from various mishaps. One then gave his view, “Recall Yazid to Baghdad.” True, masya Allah, Iraq was restored to peace once Yazid returned. I had always thought, who would invite Abuya back to Malaysia? Astonishingly, Abuya was invited by the Ministry of Interior Affairs, headed by the Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi.”
So Abuya gained liberation after waiting for 10 years. The police said, “It has not been easy to release Ustaz (Abuya). We had to investigate deeply externally and internally. We have to admit that Ustaz’s enemies are still strong. They believe that Ustaz will revive the banned teachings, and they do not recommend that Ustaz be freed. So Ustaz, if this assumption is true, Ustaz may be re-arrested.”
Actually the comments by Abuya’s enemies are true. Even before his release, Rufaqa’ had emerged as Arqam’s successor. Imagine if Abuya is freed. But observers had wanted to see how Allah and His Messenger, via Abuya, manoeuvres past the obstacles. It is said ‘Allah and His Messenger’ here because many Muslims had become convinced that Abuya’s strength is ‘Allah and His Messenger’.
If not due to Allah’s Might, how could Abuya and his struggle have reached such an extent. A lot of evidence has been provided by Allah to make thinking people say, “Abuya is the truth from Allah. This is a God-ordained repeat of the history of the first Islamic struggle by the Messenger of Allah and his Companions.”
Once we arrived in Labuan, we were given briefings which were deemed capable of transforming Abuya into an ordinary citizen in Malaysia. “You will soon be sent back in a purified condition and be accepted as a good Malaysian citizen,” was the conclusion of the briefing by Mr. Saravanan, Labuan’s Chief Inspector.
True, 2 years later, Abuya was allowed to return. But by then, Rufaqa’ had emerged as an Islamic company with international stature. People came in droves from within and outside Malaysia to Labuan to accept Abuya’s leadership. Economic projects mushroomed in Australia, Indonesia, Jordan and other countries.
Once again the human intellect misjudged Abuya’s fate, for this struggle is planned not by reasoning but rather by the soul. This verifies the words of Syeikh Mohsin Al Labban of Australia. He first came to Abuya when Abuya was under detention in Rawang, after receiving a ‘message’ from the Messenger of Allah. Upon hearing that Abuya was transferred to Labuan, he vowed from Australia, “Wallahi. This is Allah’s final test for you. You will win after this.”
Syeikh Mohsin is Australia’s number one ulama. When Abuya was in Labuan, he came again to pay another visit. His vows were realized, denying all other reasoning that had hitherto been made. In Labuan, the British ended its colonization of Malaya and God also chose Labuan for Abuya to close down his ISA episode. It was for him end the crisis in government after the downfall of Mahathir and Anwar from the reins of power. The SB officer heralded Abuya’s return by clearly proclaiming, “Putrajaya will be Abuya’s.”
Here let me disclose an episode during our detention in Labuan. The SB thought that Abuya would be defeated, but in actual fact Abuya scored a big victory there. According to their reasoning, the plan drawn up would logically destroy Abuya. But how did the plan fail?
It started when a well-known political figure in Labuan arrogantly derided Abuya in front of the state Inspector General of Police during a reception at his office. He sat snobbishly, pointing his backside and shoes towards Abuya. His words would add injury to the insulting behaviour.
From here, the SB began to sympathize with Abuya. Allah the Almighty had transformed the SB’s doubt of Abuya into sympathy. So every Monday when we reported to the police station, the SB officers would amicably welcome us. They chatted with us, asked about our problems and gave guidelines. Abuya took the opportunity to introduce God to them.
Abuya never took revenge on the aforesaid political figure, but instead directed all Rufaqa’ members, especially Abuya’s family, to rent rooms at the hotel owned by the Labuan politician. Having been short of clients for some time, the hotel became merry by arrival of large scale contingents of Abuya’s family, followers and guests throughout Abuya 2-year stay in Labuan.
The SB was astounded by Abuya’s willingness to repay one’s hatred and enmity towards him with kindness. Yet again Abuya’s etiquette managed to soothe the hearts of those who would be instrumental in determining Abuya’s fate in Labuan.
Finally SB officers became Abuya’s friends. Abuya solved their numerous problems. To the SB, Abuya was clearly a good rather than a bad person. Abuya was not an enemy, but a helpful friend. Abuya was not dangerous, but very beneficial.
As a result, the SB was no longer suspicious of Abuya. They wrote good reports about Abuya throughout the 2 years in Labuan. Abuya was allowed to conduct company activities, up to the international level.
Fearing for his eclipse of influence, there were attempts by the political figure above and his henchmen to damage and slander Abuya, but Allah obstructed such attempts by using the hands of SB officers who had understood that Abuya was none other than the victim of politicians’ greed.
When Abuya was slandered as seeking influence, the SB answered, “How can person who could not speak seek influence?”
When Abuya was defamed as spreading deviant teachings, the SB replied, “Abuya is a good person.”
When Abuya was libeled as harbouring political ambitions, the SB retorted, “That is a business motivation do that his people succeed.”
When Abuya was maligned as conspiring a secret agenda, the SB answered, “No. There is no danger and he is not a threat. All the accusations originate from those who envy him.”
Masya Allah, Allah’s Might had transformed the hearts of the SB towards Abuya. Such was Abuya’s strength.
In Abuya’s case, he had to face with the official ulama. The SB witnessed 2 sides opposing each other about religion. But clearly, one side practiced the religion, the other side just talked about it. Although knowledge-wise they did not know who was true and who was false, but their hearts were more convinced in Abuya’s religion.
It would be wise for me here to present part of the dialogue between Abuya and the religious authorities that took place in front of the SB from Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Sabah in the final monthly session prior to Abuya’s release from the ISA. At times, the dialogue became tense; let me present just one example.
The official ulama: We demand that Ashaari take off his turban before being released.
Abuya: I disagree. If I have to take off my turban, it matters not that I am not freed. I wear this turban without any harmful intent. It is not even enjoyable. At a time when even the ulama refuse to put on the turban, I only wish to defend a sign of Allah and a practice of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). If I have to take it off, who else is going to aggrandize the rights of Allah and His Messenger on this earth?
(The official ulama who attended the session did not wear any form of headgear).
Alhamdulillah, the Interior Ministry through its representative still freed Abuya not long after that, without forcing Abuya to take off his turban.
Such was how Allah fought those who engaged in war against Him, thus Allah’s man emerged victorious. Abuya finally triumphed in Labuan. The triumph here means the capacity of advancing Islam to the international level and of convincing the SB that he was innocent.
Henceforth Abuya was released from the ISA with his acquiring many friends from among the police and the SB. All plans prepared to obstruct Abuya proved futile as early on Abuya had ‘conquered’ their hearts. When hearts had been conquered, Acts and legislation were of no consequence. How Wise of Allah, coaxing people to love Him, and with love, people would follow His Commandments without any order or compulsion. People would be more than willing to leave behind their past objects of affection.