The era of Kuala Lumpur began from 1966, when Abuya had reached 26 years of age. This is the venue for the genesis of Islamic resurgence in Malaysia. Two big vocations that Abuya took on as his responsibilities in Kuala Lumpur were that of a religious teacher in a government primary school and a PAS activist who will mobilize Kuala Lumpur.
But from the aspect of family life at that time, Abuya was very poor. Even at Tanjung Karang he was already very poor. During his six years working at Tanjung Karang, playing the role of a religious teacher, a headmaster and an important member of society, Abuya was gifted a house by the village community. The house was situated near to the school and within the vicinity of a cemetery.
The house was of squatter quality. Its doors had no lock and there are three wooden small stairs. They used water from the well water and kerosene lamp. Abuya lived there with his wife and two sons, Fakhrurrazi and Mohd. Nizamuddin, who attended primary school. His eldest child, daughter Nasibah, stayed with her grandmother at Segambut.
Fakhrurrazi tells, once in a while guests visited their humble and worn-out hut. Upon leaving, if not warned earlier, they would accidentally fall to the ground because they thought they were stepping on the stairs. As a matter of fact, the stairs always disappeared, having been removed by Abuya’s enemies – the local UMNO villagers.
Political mudslinging was really terrible at that time. Abuya spent his time and money for PAS’s struggle. His life was devoted entirely to his struggle. He never thought too much about his sustenance and residence. He was willing to be that poor for the sake of the struggle. His wife was then was also employed as a religious teacher. But together they weathered the poverty.
In Kuala Lumpur, life was even harder. For eight years he stays in a squatter house in Dato’ Keramat. Throughout that period, he moved three times. From house A (rented RM15) to squatter house B (rent at RM60 per month), then to squatter house C, rented RM30 per month. Finally he bought a squatter house for RM400. There Abuya had to carry water a quarter mile from the nearest well.
Within such an environment, Abuya was still in high spirits in struggling for his ambitions. His conviction was extraordinary. His material condition was pitiable as a consequence of his all-out struggle for Islam.
Abuya taught at the National Primary School I, Alam Shah as a religious teacher. But by evening and extending till the night, as at Tanjung Karang, Abuya spent his time with PAS. He made house-to-house visits to pick up people who wanted to join PAS. For a year, Abuya utilized this method of visitations to initiate PAS branches, resulting in 17 PAS sub-branches being founded in Kuala Lumpur, Gombak and Setapak. He also established a branch at Kampung Baru. During the 13 May 1969 racial disturbances, PAS was really strong in Kuala Lumpur. Abuya carried out such efforts with a chief clerk by the name of Hamidon.
Imagine, a poor man making amazing efforts, establishing 17 PAS branches within merely a year. What kind of strength does he possess exactly? I dare say that Abuya possesses an internal strength built from the Supreme Zikr he practices. A heart strong with Allah is capable of persuading other human hearts to follow him. Whatever he says, happens. People follow his words with the will of Allah.
At school, with his striving spirit, Abuya launched his third strike. The school headmaster was said to be very unjust towards the teachers. Within one year of Abuya’s arrival, he had organized a strike by refusing to enter the classroom and boycotting the morning assembly. Out of 21 teachers altogether, 17 supported him. The strike continued for a few days. At last the department of education intervened. All the teachers involved were transferred to other schools. Whereas Abuya was suspended for four months. Laid off from duty, he killed his time at the religious department in Dato’ Keramat. His salary was paid, but Abuya was prohibited from doing any activity. So he just sat around observing the system in that department.
After four months, Abuya was transferred to the English Primary School, Jalan Peel, Kuala Lumpur. Its headmaster was Indian. After only a year, Abuya was transferred to Sungai Penchala Religious Primary School. After another year, Abuya was transferred yet again to Kampung Batu Primary School, Kuala Lumpur. These irritating transfers, and the rising amount of Islamic work to boot, made Abuya increasingly unhappy with his official post. Finally, after a year at Kampung Batu, Abuya resigned from his official position as a government religious teacher in 1973. Goodbye to the religious department!
But working with Allah in the Islamic struggle continued. In 1967, at the age of 30, Abuya took the decision to leave PAS. He had borne a dissatisfaction with this political movement which he felt was not focused totally on religion. The dissatisfaction had existed before, such that even when he was in PAS, Abuya divided his time also for other Islamic groups.
For example, in the 1960s, he joined the Jami’ah Da’watul Islamiah, centred at the Jamek Mosque, Jalan Mountbatten, Kuala Lumpur - an old mosque, a 100-year old congregation. But it did not suit Abuya’s heart. He nevertheless held on for two years, participating in courses at the Jamek Mosque together with people from UMNO, PAS and the Indian Muslim community. Feudalistic practices by the UMNO people, studying religion the traditional way and teachers who utilized their intellect per se, characterized the courses. But Abuya still obtained knowledge from the courses and topped the final examinations held at the end.
In Kuala Lumpur also, Abuya encountered the Ikhwan congregation, as a result of informal meetings among those who frequented mosques. Abuya joined it for one year. Abuya disagreed to many things, because making friends with them was like a chicken befriending a peacock. They were rich while Abuya was poor, the gap was evidently felt! They were the elites without any party affiliation. Abuya’s friends from among religious teachers could not tolerate such a style and promptly left. But Abuya, harbouring a strong spirit to strive for Islam, endured. The group’s teacher was a Wahhabi who constantly accused others of polytheism and spoke in bombastic language. He practiced the Ma’thurat chants and resented Sayidina Muawiyah.
According to Abuya, one reason he could not last long in the Ikhwan congregation was his disillusionment with the caste attitude practiced. In Islam, no difference exists between the poor and the rich. The rich visits the poor, vice versa. Abuya would visit their big houses to attend the lecture programme whose venue alternated among members’ houses. One of the big houses that Abuya visited was the Rufaqa’ Guest House in Jalan Duta today. It was then dwelled an Ikhwan member named Ahmad bin Ismail. He was a senior government officer who came from Kedah.
“But this study group refused to conduct programmes at Abuya’s squatter house,” Abuya remarks sadly. They look down on their poor brothers. Abuya regarded the matter as unbecoming in the name of Islam. Abuya was not confident of the future of such a congregation.
In 1967, Abuya spent one year with the Jamaat Tabligh. He traveled to Singapore for missionary activity. But his heart was not receptive to Tabligh. Being strictly based on its 6 principles, the movement was too narrow. Whoever included other elements will be cast aside. Several times Abuya was prevented from continuing his talk when his lecture was deemed to have deviated from the 6 principles. The congregation was controlled by Indian Muslims. Abuya slept with Tabligh members in the mosque, carried cooking pans, preached from house to house saying, “Assalamualaikum uncle and auntie, do come to the mosque.” They chewed betel leaves, dirtying the mosque. In the end the mosque authorities locked the mosque.
When ABIM (Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia) was set up in 1971, Abuya brought 60 of his friends to join ABIM with the intention to integrating their ambitions and finding many friends. Abuya was once close to Anwar Ibrahim. For two weeks, they were together in Langkawi for da’wah work. Abuya gave lectures, and so did Anwar. What a big difference between them! But still ABIM appointed Abuya as Head of Da’wah in Kuala Lumpur. At first Abuya declined the post because Abuya had had Arqam by then, but when the position was left vacant for two months, Abuya accepted. He had differed in opinion and debated with Sanusi Junid during the ABIM General Assembly. ABIM rejected Abuya’s views. How far apart was their Islam from each other. When ABIM understood that Abuya had his own beliefs and ambitions, they retracted all of Abuya’s posts in the inaugural General Assembly. Abuya and his friends then left ABIM.
Such is the life story of one who stove for the cause of Islam around Kuala Lumpur, from the age of 26 until 32. His endeavour was not to be taken for granted. He read into, studied, scrutinized and observed from end to end all Islamic groups around Kuala Lumpur. He wanted to convince himself that God had brought along various brands of Islam to accompany the resurgence, but Abuya then realized that most only had an Islamic coat. Their inner contents could still be disputed. At the time of writing, these groups had eclipsed.
The Islam that Abuya searched for still eluded him. Abuya never aspired to become a leader. He had previously only thought of becoming a follower of a congregation that would herald the beginning of Imam al-Mahdi’s arrival. But ultimately in 1969, after the 13th May incident, at the age of 32, Abuya considered starting his own congregation. In 1967, immediately after leaving PAS, he led a reclusive life for two years in an effort to correct himself. Still in Dato’ Keramat, at a house nicknamed the ‘White House’, Abuya founded the Darul Arqam group or congregation. At the ‘White House’, Abuya experienced an unforgettable dream in which he met Sayidi Syeikh Suhaimi and studied under him.
Kuala Lumpur was witness to the story of a young man - a prince of squatter houses, who had lofty ambitions and a global understanding of Islam. With taqwa as his capital, as a result of practicing the Supreme Zikr and the daily prayers, his search ended with his ultimately courageous establishment of his own group. This group had self-correction as its sole purpose, as had been originally done by the Messenger of Allah in the abode of his Companion by the name of Arqam. In memory of him, ‘Darul Arqam’ was chosen as the name of the group.
THE TRUTH OF DARUL ARQAM
The age of 32 is truly too young for a person to be leader of an Islamic congregation. But Abuya’s maturity overwhelmed his age. One day of his life was tantamount to 10 days in the lives of others. His achievements, the experienced input, problems he had to confront and the solutions he obtained throughout the days that passed, outnumbered what other individuals went through.
For example, he carried the burden of a hard life and struggle since adolescence, in his early twenties. Abuya then worked in Sungai Leman. By night he did da’wah work for PAS. One midnight, as he was returning home from his mission with two motorcycles, he was obstructed in the thick of darkness by a man who was about to hit him with a wooden stick. When Abuya stopped to identify the person with his motorcycle lamps, the person ran helter-skelter without throwing his stick and bottle, which broke into pieces.
At Sungai Leman also, when Abuya returned home from da’wah work at midnight, he saw many policemen surrounding his house, then situated within a graveyard. A complaint arose that Abuya was seen to be busy due to the cooperation he extended to Indonesia in its on-going confrontation with Malaysia. Abuya had nothing to do with the confrontation. The ensuing investigation cleared Abuya of such allegations.
When doing da’wah work in Sungai Nibong, Abuya once paired with Nagiman, a silat teacher. Because Abuya wanted to visit his foster father, Pak Karim, Nagiman went first to the da’wah place alone. But Nagiman hurriedly came back to meet Abuya, panting breathlessly. He said three men had hit him midway. He put up a fight and his bicycle fell into a river.
The first day as a government religious teacher in Klang, Selangor, Abuya once went to a kenduri arwah (religious function to remember the dead) in the evening. While eating, the verandah on which Abuya was sitting suddenly collapsed. Abuya fell below the house, his body soaking in spilled curry. The event was symbolic of Abuya future fall in a system he was temporarily living off.
In Sungai Penchala in 1973, the congregational prayer house was attacked after Maghrib by people armed with machetes. Abuya told his followers not to fight back. Although a machete was stuck at Hashim Karim’s neck, the attackers eventually went off quietly.
Those were examples of some one thousand and one challenges, obstacles and tests that Abuya undertook in his schooling to be a fighter and a leader. Others may have been examined on paper to pass. Abuya was tried in the real life arena, needing concerted efforts from creativity, mental resilience and spiritual strength to get through. Praise be to Allah, Abuya was inspired to surmount all the tests.
One dawn, when it was still dark, while Abuya was bathing with a cloth draped over his body in the mosque bathroom, his face was suddenly lit up by a torchlight beam. He saw a wooden stick raised to hit him. PAS’s strength in Tanjung Karang invited violent repercussions. When Abuya was ready to strike back and tidying up his wet cloth, the would-be assailant had run helter-skelter. Why? Abuya figured out that Allah had possibly helped him by bringing about something which frightened him. Henceforth Abuya overheard people gossiping that Abuya possessed a genie.
When asked whether it was true that Abuya had knowledge of genies, khadam and other supernatural beings, Abuya responded, “To educate humans is already difficult, let alone to subjugate genies. If one could do so, he must be awesome!”
Some speculate that Ustaz Ashaari must have utilized some kind of supernatural knowledge, such that his congregation could advance that far. Abuya replied, Allah ha indeed promised the clothing of taqwa is the best because it will trigger Allah’s help.
The strategy Abuya used to face tests has been very effective, as though he has been guided. Similarly, steps taken by Abuya in his struggle do not characteristically derive from the normal thinking process. Furthermore, Abuya’s ideas in his struggle are immensely different from those of other Islamic leaders. The ideas do not originate from the intellect. For example:
Different from other Islamic bodies led by their respective leaders, Abuya erected his own way of life and system. He established shops, factories, studios, schools, clinics, and other Islamic projects and relate them to God. Others may have wished to do so, but just could not afford. Ultimately feared by some quarters, the system must have been not tiny! The question arises as to where Abuya had learnt all these? From where did he obtain such strength to do all these? If it had come from the intellect, countless other intellects would also have been able to initiate what Abuya had accomplished.
In finding as many friends and learn as many methods as possible, Abuya joined all Islamic bodies. He gave genuine commitment and spent significant time in each organization! Abuya visited all pesantrens in Malaysia and the big ones in Indonesia. He commented that all the Islamic bodies, especially the pondok, should establish their own shops in the correct manner of Islamic mu’amalah, rather than allowing non-Muslim Chinese shopkeepers conducting business right in front of the Islamic pondok. The Islamic pondok needed to develop and not be passive on top of the good morals and etiquette of the students. Abuya bravely criticized the passive system that prevailed at the pondok, by pronouncing that such a system was not from true Islamic teachings, but rather from the colonialists who wanted Islam’s image to be seen as low. Here, once again we see that Abuya’s knowledge did not originate from the intellect. Abuya perceives with his heart. It is difficult for the intellect to disagree with his points.
At the time when the Muslim ummah is presently divided into various doctrinal groups and sects, each talks about one’s own Islam. But Abuya reacts, opining that Islam had become an ideology, no longer a religion for its adherents. All of them have failed to bring God along in their syari’ah. Religion is revelation from God. It must be founded upon the love for and fear of Allah. The syari’ah is obeyed not as a set of commandments and prohibitions from Allah. If so, it is not considered as religion. Instead, it is ideology, from a Godless intellect.
An International Islamic University (IIUM) professor has admitted the failure of the IIUM-planned integrated knowledge programme combining the spirit of tawhid (theology) with fiqh (jurisprudence). The spirit of tawhid and faith had failed to be inculcated in the undergraduates. Fiqh is left as a branch of knowledge which people are incapable of practicing. In fact, even in the pondok, Abuya says, many sinful acts are carried out, but they are hidden. After prayers, with the turban still on his head, the imam unashamedly squats in areas reserved for women. He prays, but he does not fear God.
Many Malay Muslims are of such religious inclination. People do not treat such conduct as wrong, as it has become traditionally accepted. Who taught Abuya to break the tradition and establish a new way of life for the Malays? Such is meant by intuition being a source of knowledge taught directly by God to any of His servants with the purpose of reviving the true religion.
In facing defamation, Abuya chooses not to answer. In fact, Abuya responds by treating his slanderers. This does not make sense. This is religion. But how many people are able to do this? In ISA detention, Abuya cooperated with the police. He did not curse and condemn them. As a result, many policemen have accepted Abuya well. Without sacrificing his religious principles, Abuya has succeeded in establishing himself within a group of people who were initially against him.
The following are the attributes of a person whom Abuya regarded as his good friend in the 1950s. Since his adolescence, Abuya had a distinctive way of assessing people.
His name is Zakaria Ansari, a Banjarese who lived in Sungai Leman, Tali Ayer 8. He was a PAS strongman in the 1950s. As a farmer, he cultivated rice fields and reared chickens. His education only reached standard two of primary schooling. He could not read Roman alphabets and knows no Arabic. He is now eighty years old and has his own school at Batang Berjuntai.
His sacrifice was all-out for the sake of the struggle. His individual worship was steadfast. For da’wah work, he was willing to cycle for umpteen miles. He strictly opposed free mixing between the sexes and usury. He was alert of the lawful and prohibitive injunctions. If people had wanted to hit him, he did not run, but bravely spoke for the truth. He meticulously upheld the syari’ah, exhibited high morals, was strict and uncompromising in legal matters.
Dato’ Asri, PAS’s president then, had praised Ustaz Zakaria in the general assembly as people were impressed with his oratorical skills. He was very smart and sounded as if he was fluent in Arabic. Although he was not a central figure in PAS’s national hierarchy, he was well-known among PAS members in the 1950s, from the north to the south.
His sincerity was evident in his willingness to sleep in the mosque and to restrict food to only biscuits. He had an affection for old religious books and like Abuya, believed in Imam al-Mahdi. Together they took turns reading about events near the end of time, and together they wept in longing for the golden age for Muslims. He declared Abuya to be his foster young brother! Such a personality, says Abuya, was neither found in PAS then nor found now.
To choose a friend with the previously mentioned categories was not easy. A typical juvenile would imitate his peers in making friends and does so simply for fun.
Such were the maturity and strength that existed within one who was given the fortune to lead an Islamic congregation known as Darul Arqam at the age of thirty-two. That age was ripe for Abuya. But a more significant development had had taken effect on Abuya immediately preceding the setting up of Darul Arqam.
Abuya’s heart was overwhelmed by very strong urge to correct himself for Allah. Such feelings came and revolved in Abuya’s thoughts. His 10-year activities Islamic party politics had been vain, since they were not based on taqwa efforts, particularly correction of the self. Those who did not understand speculated on the various reasons which may have prompted Abuya to leave PAS. The truth, according to Abuya, lies in the facts presented above.
For two years, Abuya lived in seclusion. Abuya focused himself completely on efforts to correct himself with taqwa, worship, repentance, remembrance of Allah, prayers and tears in regret of past sins. His heart was being directed. Somehow some of his close friends also grew fond of such reclusive activity. So the programme was done in a group. After two years, in 1969, Abuya emerged with a new style of struggle which strove for da’wah and love and care on the method of correcting oneself with taqwa. Thus the DARUL ARQAM congregation was born.
Goodbye PAS. Goodbye. Goodbye again to the filthy political world. Being in it cultivates the heart or soul to become proud and boastful. Man forgets himself as a servant who will be accounted for his actions and punished by God. God, whose servants should fear, is ignored by political activists, even in the name of Islam.
Prophets had called upon their peoples with great fear lest they were insolent with God, but Islamic politics allowed its activists to insult and employ abusive language against the people they were supposed to call upon. They were proud of their Islamic politics. They should have felt ashamed and afraid of Allah for giving them good fortune, such that they pray lovingly and caringly for those who have yet to be given similar fortune.
Who taught Abuya such profound knowledge? Referring to a story narrated by Embah Mahmud, Syeikh Suhaimi always kept close tabs on Abuya. By the will of Allah, he twisted Abuya’s heart so that Abuya hated politics. So a history was written: Abuya left politics for a struggle which made the house of ‘Arqam bin Abi Arqam’ as an inspirational foundation of his struggle.