2 Months in Seclusion
For those of you who follow me on Instagram knows that I just got back from months of seclusion with no general explanation as to what I’ve been doing or why I can’t be contacted, so let me tell you all about it in this blog post about where I’ve been.
For two months, I’ve been staying in Lembang, Bandung, for a religious program held by Kampung Quran Learning Center, which is memorizing the Quran. For Muslim, memorizing the whole 30 chapter of Quran is essentially an honorable thing to do, with promise of huge reward from God. Because of its difficulty, this needs to be done in seclusion far away from social media because it takes a lot of focus and concentration without any distraction. Every participant of this program is required to collect their phone and we only get them back every two weeks for 4 hours.
The best among you is a person who learns the Holy Quran and teaches it.
-Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
In this super controversial era, people always have questions regarding to Islam and our way of life, and a lot of people who don’t know the truth in the book have tried many times to judge us based on what they hear. As a Muslim, it’s our duty to correct these perspective and start conversation with an actual base of knowledge. Which is why in this seclusion, we were all encouraged to not only memorize the Arabic, but also understand the meaning of each verse.
In a way, it’s also a spiritual moment where we truly take time for ourselves as we try to get closer to God and understand His rules, His rewards, His punishments, and His blessings.
Quran is consisted of 30 chapters (we call it Juz).
1 Juz is consisted of 20 pages.
1 page is consisted of 15 lines.
The verse and letters in every chapter varies.
One of the things that was hard getting used to was definitely the intensive hours of nothing but sitting and memorizing Quran. 5 times a day, for every 2-3 hours, we will sit, find our own comfortable space, and memorize. Everyone has different target, and some will memorize one chapter a day, or half chapter a day, or quarter chapter in a day. Understanding Arabic plays a great role of memorizing the Quran, and everyone has different levels of comprehension on Arabic grammars, so it took different pace and speed for each student.
Those who wish to memorize all 30 Juz have joined the program since March to complete the 4 months program (since we finish on June), and those who are in this program are required to first memorize the first 5 chapter extensively. They will be tested on this 5 chapters in one seating before they are allowed to continue memorize the rest of the 25 chapters.
There are two terms that you need to know,
1. Mutqin. This is when you have extensively memorized the Quran and can be tested for what you have memorized (be it one, five, ten, or thirty chapters) in one seating. This means you are fluent in what you have memorized and can easily use it in prayers like many children
(and I) use chapter 30 of the Quran for prayers.
2. Ziyadah. This is when you memorize a whole page, recite the page to the teacher, and then goes on to the next page. Chances are, you’ll forget the page you’ve recited as you go on to the next page, which is why it’s a great responsibility for the student to memorize again once we’re gone back home.
So for those who take the 4 months or 3 months program, they are required to be Mutqin for the first 5 Juz before they can continue with their Ziyadah for the rest of the 25 pages.
Out of 20 girls, only 2 finished the whole 30 Juz, some finished 20, some finished 15, 10, 5, 4, or 3,5 (me).
Other than that, there are also weekly class.
There are around 20 girls in this program and each has different start. Some are in the 4 months program, some for 3, and some for 2 (Or six weeks, in my case, because I couldn’t leave Prom and Graduation).
It’s astonishing how a lot of these girls came from different places. There are girls from Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi (these are the islands in Indonesia). There are girls who just graduated college, girls who are taking time off from their career, girls who decided to resign from their school, it was safe to say that I was one of the youngest girl.
And since Islam is very strict about opposite gender interaction, I have no idea about the gentlemen other than there are around 13 of them, and they too, came from different places with various range of age. I also know that they are very respectful of the girls. I am used to catcalls and compliments, it happens in school, and girls generally like them, so imagine my surprise when every time the girls and boys accidentally had to walk pass one another, they look away without even one urge to glance. Imagine that!
The people here, goodness, I will never find any other group of people who are so dedicated and passionate about their love for God, and it’s so beautiful and refreshing to the soul. Everyone here has different background, mine being the most liberal of them all, and while it’s so damn difficult for me to wear tunic and long headscarf in my environment, the people there were so welcoming that it’s impossible to not still feel beautiful no matter how much you’re covering yourself. It’s impossible to not feel like you belong, like you have the same chance of going to Heaven as they do. It’s so calming to the soul to be in an environment where they are very careful with one another, where they don’t talk about people, where their priorities definitely do not lie here in this world.
It took some time of understanding, and being tolerant is highly important, because not everyone prioritize education the way that I do, but you can never look at them and tell them that they’re wrong with their life choices. It’s amazing how little they care about wealth or power, and even if some of their beliefs contradict with mine, it’s impossible not to respect them.
These girls will always have a special place in my heart.
Those of you who follow my blog or social media must have an idea of my views on marriage, and some of you may think it’s the craziest idea ever, but let me tell you something.
The ladies and gents of the house view love and marriage the same way.
Love and crushes, as a 17 year old teenager, I’m absolutely familiar to it all. I understand the texting, the liking on Instagram, the flirting attempt in class, the surprises on birthdays and anniversary, I’m no stranger to any of it, and I have been the giving end and the receiving end to this ridiculousness in my three years of high school career.
Except that was never what I wanted.
I was very open to the girls about my views, and two out of twenty girls over there were ready to marry once the program was finished, so they understood. So imagine my delight when it’s not about physical beauty and wealth anymore.
You see, prayers in Islam (or Salat) are led by men when men are present, and to avoid contact, a huge cloth (or hijab) will be drawn between us. This is so we can all protect ourselves from unnecessary attraction that might lead to heartbreak if things don’t work out.
Because of this, our contact to the gents are limited to only listening to their voice as they perform Adzan (Islamic call to worship) and lead the prayer, and us girls will try to guess;
“Is this him?”
“No, his is voice is different, this is Mr. X.”
“I’d like to listen to his voice again,”
“Would you marry him?”
“Who wouldn’t, with good sense of moral like that.”
How I wish the rest of the world is just like that. It’s never about the face or style with these girls as it has always been with my friends back home, and their big heart is a force to be reckoned with. It’s nice to know that we all share the same top priority when it come to men, and that is, ‘as long as he is religious,’.
If you meet those girls and ask how many people they’ve dated in the past, I guarantee you that most will answer 0. I can count with one hand of people who’ve dated in the past, and those are the millennials who are around my age.
You see, we view marriage as a way of protecting ourselves. Lust can be a great enemy, and respected men and women won’t have it in themselves to try around from people to people. These people here are very true to their religion, and they will never try to mess around with people’s heart if there is no certainty as the end game. Once the program is finished, I know a few gentlemen who have reached out to the girls with sole purpose of asking their hand in marriage, and it might be old-fashioned, you may not agree to this, but let’s just respect our way of life the way that it is.
If nothing else, you gotta admire their faith in God.
These people, between us and the boys, we know very little about each other and have only seen one another a handful of times. I don’t know who’s talking to who right now, but I know that if anyone is talking, it’s not about favorite food or favorite color. It’s about are you ready for marriage, or would you want to work, or are you willing to leave your island to live with your prospective husband, or the bunch.
Technicality, because that’s what matters. If the mechanics work, then they’ll discuss it with their respective families, ask for guidance to God, and then the male will propose to the female. All these process are done very carefully, sometimes with a mediator to avoid heartache if at the end of the day the mechanics don’t work out.
The world was so ideal and true to Islam that it stung when our time was over, but I suppose all good things, do, must come to an end. I only hope that I will always remember the friendship I formed, and I’ll always wish for the highest level of Jannah for all of them as they deserve.
If any of you are reading right now, thank you for your time and patience with me, and thank you for the life lesson that you taught me well. I’ll remember each and every smile on your faces, just like how I sang it that night.
Here’s to Ahlul Quran,
Here’s to you