During his studies in SMAASZA Batu Burok, Zul remained active in takraw. Most of his time he spent in his rented house to revise, read and attend classes. Zul used the Honda Cub TJ5329 motorcycle gifted by Ustaz Mad to go study time-honoured and venerable books from well-known teachers around Terengganu. Among the teachers are Tuan Guru Haji Abdul Rahman Fatani in Kuala Ibai, Tuan Guru Haji Mahmud at al-Muktafi Billah Shah Mosque, Ladang. Sometimes, he would ask for a ride from his friends to attend talaqqi classes of Tuan Guru Haji Abbas in Tok Jiring.
Zul started to actively participate in usrah handled by Ustaz Zawawi Ali (younger brother of Mustapha Ali), Mr. Zul and Mr. Rosdi. Here, he was introduced to the world of dakwah and tarbiah haraki. On Fridays, Rusila Mosque is a must-visit destination for him, where he attend Tuan Guru Abdul Hadi Awang’s class on the book Akidah Muslimin, Safwat al-Tafāsīr and Fiqh Haraki Dalam Sirah Nabawiyyah.
The 70s and 80s are the eras of the resurgence of Islam in Malaysia. Terengganu as a state which is greatly influenced by PAS was also affected. Concurrent with the rise of Islam, Islam’s ideology is gaining popularity especially among Islamic dakwah and activist groups. New ideological framework starts to form the basis of their belief and lifestyle.
John L. Esposito describes several forms of beliefs of Islamic activist groups at the time, explaining:
- Islam is a comprehensive lifestyle; religion is integrated into the country’s politics, rulings and society.
- Muslim society fail because they deviated from the true understanding of Islam by following the values and materialistic secular Western ideology.
- Innovation requires a social revolution inspired by al-Quran and Muhammad, the first world Muslim leader.
- Reinforcing Allah’s rules; the civil legislation system introduced by the West should be replaced with Islamic rulings which is the blueprint for Muslim society.
- Westernization in society is criticized, while modernization isn’t, science and technology is accepted but falls under Islam to keep it protected from getting influenced by Western values. 
“When we have intima’ in dakwah, it means we understand what is dakwah and tarbiah. Both are inseparable. We understood manhaj dakwah, its characteristics, what is thawabit  and mutaghayyirat . Our lives should reflect intima’ towards dakwah…” Ustaz Zawawi Ali advised Zul and other members of the usrah during his lecture of the book Māzā Ya’nī Intimāʿ li al-Islām by Fathi Yakan.
Zul is exposed to issues of dissention among Islamic groups in Malaysia such as Islamic Representative Council (IRC), Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM), until Pertubuhan Himpunan Lepasan Institusi Pendidikan Malaysia (HALUAN) led by Ustaz Dahlam Mohd Zain is founded. He is also informed by his friends regarding the incident of fighting over usrah members among PAS, IRC and ABIM.
His usrah leader, Ustaz Zawawi Ali once followed an usrah handled by Tuan Guru Haji Abdul Hadi Awang who was a young scholar at the time and a graduate of al-Azhar University with a Master’s degree in Siyasah Syar’iyyah. Tuan Guru returned after completing his Master’s degree to serve for PAS through the kader program for their members. Among his usrah members by the end of the 70s include Ustaz Alias Osman, Ustaz Darus Senawi, Ustaz Zawawi Ali and several others.
During his studies in Islamic University of Medina, Tuan Guru himself would always attend usrah together with Ustaz Harun Taib which was led by Syeikh Said Hawwa’. Besides them, there are also Indonesian students who are also members of Majlis Syuro Muslimin Indonesia (MASYUMI). Their usrah’s syllabus is based on the book Jundullah Thaqāfatan wa Akhlaqan, which Zul has completed reading since he actively started in usrah activities.
Every so often, after the sermon at Rusila Mosque, Zul will follow his teacher, Tuan Guru back home. It’s a frequent occurrence, after the sermon, some of the congregants will continue the discussion back at the Tuan Guru’s house. It’s enjoyable being able to listen to the pearls of knowledge straight from Tuan Guru. Every word of the fiqh discussion is carefully written in his notes.
“Ayoh Chik. I heard that the teaching of Druze belief is deviant. Can you explain to us regarding this matter?” Abang Ali asked keenly. There are around 10-15 people gathering around Tuan Guru waiting for his explanation.
Tuan Guru promptly stood up and walked towards his bookshelf. Reaching for the book al-Shīʿah wa al-Tashayyuʿ written by Shaykh Ihsan Ilahi Zahir, he took it out and brought it back to his living room. After sitting comfortably, Tuan Guru started. “Regarding Druze teaching, it is a deviant faith from Ahli Sunnah. This teaching is founded by Muhammad bin Ismail al-Darazi. Ok, let us all study what is said by Shaykh Ihsan Ilahi Zahir in this book together…”
Time flies, unknowingly, it has been more than an hour Zul has been sitting, listening attentively to his teacher with his pen and notebook. He only realizes that it was late when his feet fell asleep and the numbness and tingling were uncomfortable. After shaking and kissing the hands of his teacher, he quickly gets on his bike and headed back to his rented house.
“Ladies and gentleman, spending my days in jail felt like a honeymoon! Getting released from jail, I felt a sense of pride for I’m now a certified ISA alumnus!” The audience broke into guffaws and laughter. They are all attending a PAS sermon that night located in Markaz Tarbiah PAS Kuala Terengganu. Among the speakers, that night is none other than Mohamad Sabu. Mohamad Sabu or more famously known by his moniker Mat Sabu has just been released from ISA on the charge of getting involved in an extremist movement. Zul together with a sea of people is attentively listening to the speeches given one after the other which are delivered by PAS leaders from Terengganu and Federal. On the stage the figures of Tuan Guru Haji Abdul Hadi, Ustaz Harun Taib, Ustaz Bunyamin, Mustapha Ali, Wan Mutalib Embong, Ustaz Abu Bakar Chik, Ustaz Awang Hj Din, Ustaz Haron Jusoh and Ustaz Kassim Ahmad can be clearly seen.
PAS sermons are the only channel for the people in Terengganu to access current information on politics. PAS Office acts as the one-stop centre for political issues as well as religious classes taught by scholars and well-known figures. Apart from PAS Office, sermons are also held at PAS members’ houses. The generator is switched on and the sermon will begin after Isya’ until around 11 or 12 at night. Once, there was a blackout during a sermon and with only the lights from oil lamps and the beam from the headlights of a lorry the sermon continues. That is how passionate the people of Terengganu are about politics.
Occasionally, out of state speakers would also be invited to attract more people. Zul had the opportunity to attend a sermon by several PAS leaders from outside Terengganu such as Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz, Mahfuz Omar, Dato’ Haji Fadzil Nor and Tuan Guru Hj Yusof Rawa. The Memali issue is among the main topic discussed from various aspects by each panel.
“In this world, God gave capabilities to me and to others. Whoever walks on this face of this earth; God gave them some capabilities. The capability to talk, walk, eat, swallow, stand, sit; everything is God-given… Then He watches over us; the capabilities that I’ve granted, will humans benefit them as I’ve commanded or will they use them as they wish…” Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz’s voice echoed throughout the hall as he gave a lecture on Surah al-Fatihah verse number 4 in his sermon.
Once, the International Ummah Unity Ijtimak was held in Rusila in 1988. Congregational prayer was performed in the longest saf, beginning at the mihrab in the mosque all the way to the beach. There were endless visitors from various races, countries and skin colours. It was as though Rusila has completely transformed into an international city for several days! Multifarious leaders from Islamic movements attended the event invited as PAS’ honoured guests. On the stage, Zul could see Saiful Islam bin Hassan al-Banna, Ma’mun al-Hudaibi (Hasan al-Hudaibi’s) representing Ikhwan al-Muslimin, Mehdi Akif, Rasheed Turabi, and many others from the Archipelago, India, Pakistan and Central Asia. Tuan Guru Haji Abdul Hadi acts as the translator.
That week, everything is sold out in Rusila. Small business owners and hawkers were delighted for their profits were increased manifolds. That was Zul’s first-ever experience attending an international event. He was overwhelmed with emotions of excitement and wonder. While munching on his kepok he fixed his attention to the sermon given by the leaders of the Islamic movement and listened carefully.
That night, while he was perusing through his book Jamʿat al-Muslimīn, Mafhūmuha wa Kayfiyatu Luzūmihā fi Waqīʿinā al-Muʿāṣir written by Shaykh Dr. Ṣolāḥ al-Ṣāwī, Zul’s thoughts were brought back to the event he attended recently. It was a Friday sermon he went to several days ago where Tuan Guru Haji Abdul Hadi was preaching at Rusila Mosque. The Tuan Guru was delivering his sermon passionately, with his face flushed with fervour.
“Allah SWT states in the Quran:
إِنَّ هَٰذَا ٱلۡقُرۡءَانَ يَهۡدِي لِلَّتِي هِيَ أَقۡوَمُ وَيُبَشِّرُ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ ٱلَّذِينَ يَعۡمَلُونَ ٱلصَّٰلِحَٰتِ أَنَّ لَهُمۡ أَجۡرا كَبِيرا
“Indeed, this Qur’an guides to that which is most suitable and gives good tidings to the believers who do righteous deeds that they will have a great reward.”
We are deeply hurt and disappointed for what happened to al-syahid Ustaz Ibrahim Libya. Indeed, we are living in a time where secularism is held high. As stated by Shaykh Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī, this is the time where Islam has to fight against secularism. It is necessary for us to fight secularism through the approaches of aqidah, worship, character and conduct as well as legislation! Shaykh Muḥammad al-Āmīn bin Muḥammad al-Mukhtār al-Shinqiti in his commentary of the verse emphasized that whoever follows the teachings other than the teachings of Rasullullah PBUH, then it is an act closer to apparent deviance!”
Afterwards, his sermon became the headlines of international news. Journalists and the media gathered at Rusila Mosque to try to get a further explanation and opinion of Tuan Guru regarding the statement he made the previous day regarding his contention with what had happened to Ustaz Ibrahim Libya. Several days after, Tuan Guru Haji Yusuf Rawa came to Rusila and defended the statement issued by Tuan Guru Haji Abdul Hadi. Zul didn’t miss the opportunity to attend the event, astounded by the huge gathering of people filling the field where the sermon is being held. Roads were jammed since early morning.
Zul was wide awake even when it was already midnight. He wasn’t sleepy at all listening, trying to comprehend every word delivered in the “hot” sermon. “Tuan Guru’s reasonings are impressive…” Zul whispered to himself.
Zul continue to reminisce back to the speech given by Tuan Guru Haji Abdul Hadi in a sermon given in Kampung Banggol, Peradong, Terengganu in 1981. At the time, Zul was just twelve years old. The issue remains a controversial issue until a special book titled Amanat Haji Hadi (Haji Hadi’s Address) written by Tuan Guru himself was published, this was back when Zul was still studying in SMASZA Ladang, or more accurately on 17th September 1984, where PAS proposed for an open debate to be held between PAS and UMNO to discuss this issue.
Headline: UMNO to Set the Debate’s Title
Ustaz Haji Hassan Shukri as PAS Secretary-General sent a letter to UMNO Secretary-General, Datuk Sanusi Junid in stating that PAS is willing to have a debate with UMNO regarding the protracted issue. It is following the statement given by the Most Honourable Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on 25th August 1984 and 15th September 1984 which convey the willingness of UMNO to have a debate with PAS.
Headline: Actionable Act
“I’m 100% certain that PAS is wrong in this issue!” Pok We blustered slamming his hand on the table of Kedai Kopi Kubang Kekura (coffee stall). From the table beside him, Haji Loh replied “Oh, really…? Then why is UMNO so hesitant and apprehensive about the debate in the first place? They were quite taken aback when they learn that Ayoh Chik, Ustaz Nakhaie and Ustaz Harun will be the ones participating in the debate!” Newspapers were sold out every day. Kedai Kopi Kubang Kekura has become somewhat of a debate place for the villagers. It was as though it is the Dewan Rakyat where Malaysia’s Parliament Members have their debate.
PAS will be represented by Tuan Guru himself, Ustaz Harun Taib and Ustaz Nakhaie Ahmad while UMNO’s representatives are Anwar Ibrahim, Dato’ Seri Wan Mokhtar Wan Ahmad and Ustaz Ibrahim Azmi. Zul still remembers how every night his father will sit in front of the television after Maghrib to follow the development and news on this issue. However, on 8th November 1984, the keeper of the Great Seal of the Kings, Datuk Ahmad Zainal Abidin Yusof declared that the Kings Committee disapproved and repudiated the UMNO-PAS Debate.
Zul was lost in his thoughts falling deeper and deeper in a reverie and finally, he fell asleep with his book on his chest.
________________________ John L. Esposito. Islam in the Politics of the Middle East: Current History, 53.