I Am Muslim: Hear My Voiceby Muslim Pro
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How do you measure your religious piety? What are the struggles and sins that diminish your effort in maintaining your religious quotient? Have you done enough to step into the hereafter without any regrets? More importantly, have you being a good Muslim in the very present moment?
Are you Muslim enough?
Ironically, there are people who seem to have reached a level of delicate control in leading a balanced life as a faithful. It is often expressed in outward fashion, tangible forms of piety through clothing, such as the hijab, or having installed a prayer app in their phones. Look around. These are people you might very well know.
However, your faith is not yours alone. Your judgments of your fellow Muslims do not matter. You do not own the exclusive purview when it comes to matters of faith. Pockets of Muslim communities around the globe are also rightful adherents of Islam. Our differences do not necessarily weaken our individual, and by extension, collective faith. Instead, it is an opportunity to learn, share, grow and mature.
I Am Muslim, a Qalbox original series presents bite-sized chunks of the varying realities of Muslims. It taps into the potential to open up conversations; however difficult it might be at the start.
Life Is Always A Challenge
Meet three inspiring Muslims who have gone through (and still are!) the ups and downs of life. At times, they seemed to have hit the bottomless pit of sin and despair that threaten to swallow whole their humanity, hope and faith.
Alfie Afandy achieved fame in his early twenties and became a household name following his acting career since his teenage years, in Indonesia. Alas, his life was consumed by daily drug usage, which resulted in three overdose experiences that almost snatched his life away! Fame and money led him to a pathway of self-destruction.
“Di situlah mulai dunia hitam. Di situlah aku mulai merasakan kegelapan malam, kenikmatan dunia malam.” (“That was the start of a dark time. That was when I felt the darkness of night, the pleasures of night.”)
Alfie Afandy, founder of Bikers Dakwah
What was the impetus for the biggest turning point in his life? More importantly, it is odd, at times, how art imitates life and vice versa with every loss or gain is balanced accordingly.
On the other end of the spectrum, Eka Shereen, a Malaysian residing in Kuala Lumpur, her drug addiction was a dangerous coping mechanism, which served to soothe her emotional pains that started with the death of her father when she was just four years old.
“So, in my teenage years I was always looking for something outside of myself to fill that void.”
Eka Shereen, co-founder of Hope Valley
She started smoking at 15 years old, tried marijuana at 16 and was introduced to methamphetamines in her early twenties. It later snowballed and manifested into an existential crisis anchored in faith.
“The minute I put substance into my system, it helped me escape. It helped numb my feelings. I just did not want to feel.”
Eka’s struggles with substance abuse was something that shackled her and kept her away from recovery for more than a decade. Her one frank revelation that many of us would have experienced at one point, or another in life: “God, why me?”
Meanwhile, in Bogor, Indonesia, Hesti Yusuf’s acts of kindness to stray animals, in particular dogs, were and continue to be met with disdain and fierce disapprovals from her immediate family, community and even strangers whom have never met her.
Her choices guided by her faith have been slammed and questioned by others following videos of her handling dogs that went viral and made headlines in 2018 and 2021. Alas, her decision to realise her dream of building a haven, a harmonious setting for stray animals that are considered as a nuisance to the community was met with protests.
Ironically, in her case, which is not uncommon, it was not an individual’s failings and weaknesses instead her community has failed her by not being able to see beyond the superficial. Though a dog’s saliva is considered uncleaned in Islam, it could still be cleansed accordingly. As Hesti tearfully shared, words hurt more. Its emotional wounds and scarring are not that easily forgotten. Have those around her acted fairly? Have they been good Muslims to themselves and to Hesti?
I Am Muslim – A New Dawn Awaits
“Kita gak boleh mensia-siakan mereka yang ada di dunia ini. Sedikit apa pun yang kita miliki, kita punya kewajipan untuk berbagi pada mahluk-mahluknya Allah itu.” (“We cannot take anything or anyone for granted. Whatever little we have, we have a responsibility to all of Allah’s creatures.”)
Hesti Yusuf, owner of Greenhouse, a home for stray animals
Rising from the ashes, these brave Muslims did not give up on themselves and their faith. Hesti’s Greenhouse is presently home to some 100 stray dogs and more than 50 cats. She did not give up on her dream or the stray animals in her care.
“Because my whole life, I was always looking for happiness in all the wrong places either through people, places, things or situations.”
As for Eka, she channelled her past dark experiences by being a co-founder of a substance abuse rehabilitation programme – Hope Valley. Having been sober since 5th September 2017, Eka is determined to share her experiences in helping others’ recovery process. She created a purpose in her life that is meaningful.
Alfie, is the founder of Bikers Dakwah, a Jakarta-based biker gang that aims to build up a spiritually healthy community since 2018. He has managed to grow this network into 48 chapters in Indonesia!
“Hidup tidak selamanya indah.” (“Life is not going to be beautiful forever.”)
Alfie knows that his methods and way of doing things would inevitably be met with criticisms. For one thing, his naysayers have said that he is too young to realise the duty of spreading Islamic teachings and leading young Muslims. And, he is not the cookie cutter religious teachers, especially in appearance, that society is generally used to and expect. Yet, humility has always been his approach and lens through which he views such feedback. His sense of duty is always driven by mutual respect.
Sure, flaws exist. Is there room for improvement just like for these three inspiring individuals and the pockets of Muslim community worldwide? Yes, definitely! That has been one of the main learning points that these three individuals shared.
And similarly, flaws exist like any other human work, thus inviting criticisms to be levelled against the series whether justly or otherwise. For instance, the visuals editing could have been better. The questions put forward could have been more nuanced. Perceived bias towards these three individuals sans other interviewees seems to be an issue, too.
Change is not easy and does not happen overnight. Same goes for changing of hearts and mindsets, especially naysayers and pessimists. Still, it serves as a starting point for further exploration and growth for both Muslim Pro and Qalbox and together with the wider contemporary global Muslims to reflect on their own faith.
Be open to hearing the voices of Muslims.