Chapter 11: The Story of a Kampung Kekura Boy in Front of Syeikhul Azhar

Are you sure about getting a motorcycle? It’s dangerous, you know how many accidents are reported since you watch the news right?” Ustaz Mad asked Zul, uncertain about buying a motorcycle for his son. Who wouldn’t be? He’s worried about his son’s safety, who is still just a teenager.

“Insya-Allah, I’ll drive my motorcycle carefully dad. I’m not going to speed off like a bullet on my bike.” Zul said humorously trying to comfort his father. After several reassurances and convincing, Ustaz Mad finally relented. That is how fathers are. That is the story before the Honda Cub TJ5329 was bought at Kedai Jani Jaya, Bukit Payong.

During his Thanawi studies, Zul was introduced to usrah when he resided at Jalan Kenanga, Batu Burok together with 15 other students in the rented house. As a Year 1 Thanawi student, he would always tag along with his senior Brother Majid and Brother Long to usrah that they arranged and handled.

Zul why don’t you give a tazkirah for our usrah today?” Zainuddin, a senior and a Year 3 Thanawi student instructed. Startled, his world seems as though it suddenly came to a halt, how is he supposed to give a tazkirah out of the blue without having the time to prepare? What a quandary! “Ermm… what am I supposed to say? I really have no idea what to say right now.” Zul tried to find an excuse. “It’s fine, you can do it…” Brother Long interjected. That was Zul’s first experience giving a tazkirah.

When Zul was in Year 1 Thanawi, this is where he met his friends such as Ahmad Syukri, Wan Shohor Bani Leman, Bahzur, Manan, Wan Abdul Malik, Kamaruddin, Zainaphi, Zaini, Saiful Bahri, Megat Abdul Karim, Rosli and others. A new school is akin to entering a whole new world for him which also comes with its own new challenges. All the teachers there are Arabs, who also teach in Arabic, it is quite a challenge and culture shock for students of Year 1 Thanawi.

Zul, what did Ustaz Utuwwah teach just now? I don’t understand…” whispered one of his classmates to him. Every time the class is over, his classmates will come and stand around Zul to ask him what the teacher had just taught them. With chalk in his hand, he would explain everything that has been taught in class on the blackboard on what he did understand from the lesson. As time passes, everyone starts to get better and each become an expert and is referred to in their own favourite subject.

Whenever Zul has any free time, as the class monitor Zul will stand in front of the class and deliver a brief tazkirah. The topic of his tazkirah will alternate on topics such as fiqh, Islamic history, hadith and several others. At the end of his tazkirah, he will never forget to ask for donations to decorate and maintain the class hygiene.

My esteemed classmates. How could we study with the pure intention of doing so for the sake of Allah? First, we must understand the purpose of our learning. This is as stated in al-Quran al-Karim:

فَلَوْلَا نَفَرَ مِن كُلِّ فِرْقَةٍ مِّنْهُمْ طَائِفَةٌ لِّيَتَفَقَّهُوا فِي الدِّينِ وَلِيُنذِرُوا قَوْمَهُمْ إِذَا رَجَعُوا إِلَيْهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَحْذَرُونَ

“And it is not for the believers to go forth [to battle] all at once. For there should separate from every division of them a group [remaining] to obtain understanding in the religion and warn their people when they return to them that they might be cautious.” [1]

The verse explains the purpose of tafaqquh fi al-din [2] which is to remind and warn others. The necessity is impossible to be fulfilled if it is limited to only what we learn in class. When we learn it is not just so we could excel in exams. I would suggest that we renew our intention and study for the sake of Allah. We should not study or learn just so we can win in debates with other scholars. There is no easy way in succeeding in our studies. Abu Nasr Yahya bin Abi Kahtir al-Yamani:

لَا يُسْتَطَاعُ الْعِلْمُ بِرَاحَةِ الْجِسْمِ

A person will never be able to master a certain knowledge just by relaxing and resting.

Just by studying the life of Imam Muslim himself who is forced to travel from Afghanistan to Nishapur then Kuffah, Baghdad, Raqqah, Basrah and Egypt crossing several countries where he would surely have to face various tribulations. [3] For us, we are just in Tranung. So, we have to study exceptionally harder.

And as always, before I end, I would like to ask for a donation of RM1 or 2 for us to decorate our class and maintain its cleanliness. Even if it’s just 50 cents, I’ll accept any amount as a donation…” Zul said closing his speech. On other days, Zainaphi will volunteer and teach Nahu and Saraf in class. Who doesn’t know Zainaphi? Since Year 1 he is famous for being the “Expert” in Arabic Nahu and Saraf. Every student will also have to deliver a tazkirah in turns according to a schedule prepared by Zul.

During the weekends, Zul will go back home. However, he didn’t forget to bring his books back home with him. At home, his revision schedule is pasted on the wall. Khairul who was in Form 3 at the time in SMASZA Ladang was very impressed by his brother. Always with his books.

Zul was motivated by his seniors at SMAASZA such as Zulkifly Muda, Zakaria Mamat (Pok Ya), Anuar Fakhri, Zainuddin, Majid, Fadhil Mustafa, Engku Ahmad Zaki, Kamaruddin and others. In public speaking and speeches, Zul look up to both Abdullah Zaik and Ismail Ali for both he considered as great orators.

There was an incident one night at his rented house where Zainaphi was acting as the imam for the Maghrib prayer and recited Surah al-Ahzab. After the wirid and supplication, Zul called for his friend. “Come here a sec. I’ve never heard you recited the surah just now before. I want to check your memorization and recitation.” Zul said simply, frowning and knitting his brows together. Zainaphi was confused as to why his housemate would suddenly want to check his memorization. Though that is just how Zul is. It would vex him if anyone surpasses him in any matter especially in terms of Quranic memorization, religious knowledge and academics.

This is the attribute of permissible envy (ghibṭah) in Islam. Rasullullah PBUH said:

لاَ حَسَدَ إِلاَّ فِي اثْنَتَيْنِ رَجُلٌ آتَاهُ اللَّهُ مَالاً فَسُلِّطَ عَلَى هَلَكَتِهِ فِي الْحَقِّ، وَرَجُلٌ آتَاهُ اللَّهُ الْحِكْمَةَ، فَهْوَ يَقْضِي بِهَا وَيُعَلِّمُهَا

“There is no (permissible) envy except in two cases: A man whom Allah has given wealth and caused him to dispose of it in a proper manner, and a man to whom Allah has given wisdom, and he acts in accordance with it and teaches it (to others).” [4]

There is also another narration which states:

لاَ حَسَدَ إِلاَّ فِي اثْنَتَيْنِ رَجُلٌ آتَاهُ اللَّهُ الْقُرْآنَ فَهُوَ يَقُومُ بِهِ آنَاءَ اللَّيْلِ وَآنَاءَ النَّهَارِ وَرَجُلٌ آتَاهُ اللَّهُ مَالاً فَهُوَ يُنْفِقُهُ آنَاءَ اللَّيْلِ وَآنَاءَ النَّهَارِ

“Envy is justified only regarding two types: a man who, having been given [knowledge of] the Qur’ān by God, stands reciting it during the night and during the day; and a man who having been given property by God, spends on others from it during the night and during the day.” [5]

According to Imam Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, envy in this hadith actually means ghibtah which is the desire to attain a blessing like what another has received without wanting the blessing from getting rescinded from the person and the word envy is used in its majaz meaning. This desire is also called competitiveness and it is commendable in acts of obedience. [6]

Whereas according to Syeikh Badruddin al-‘Aini, Imam al-Bukhari retracted the word hasad in the hadith from its literal meaning to its majaz meaning and thus, Imam al-Bukhari placed this hadith under the title al-Ightibāṭ fī al-ʿIlm wa al-Ḥikmah (Envy in Attaining the Blessing of Knowledge and Wisdom). [7]


Syeikh Jad al-Haq ‘Ali Jad al-Haq, Syeikhul Azhar (1982-1996)

What’s your opinion on this issue Zulkifli?” Ustaz ‘Utuwwah asked Zul in front of Syeikhul Azhar Shaykh Jad al-Haq ‘Ali Jad al-Haq in his class. Syeikhul Azhar and his entourage of al-Azhar scholars was on a working visit to Terengganu and one of his stop-overs is SMAASZA, Batu Burok. Year 1 Thanawi class was chosen for the official visit after he had delivered his Premiere Lecture in Fikri Hall titled “The Importance of Time for Students.”

Year 1 Thanawi class went silent. There was not a single sound. Ustaz ‘Utuwwah who was in the class was staring straight at Zul hoping Zul could come up with an answer while Zul kept his gaze on the floor. Moreover, it is not just him alone, the whole class is waiting for an answer from Zul. The Syeikhul Azhar just stand in wait, smiling kindly, considering the young man from Kubang Kekura who was overwrought.

Errr…” Zul couldn’t answer. Words escaped him completely. He looked up for while and saw SMAASZA headmaster Ustaz Engku Alwi, Syeikhul Azhar, other SMAASZA teachers such as Ustaz Taha, Ustaz Utuwwah, Wahdan, Ustaz Sulaiman Abdul Hadi, Ustaz Samad, Ustaz Abdullah Ustaz Abdurrahman Mantiq and Ustaz Yusuf. There were 4-5 other men wearing black outerwear jubah and ʿimāmah (turban). Zul was awfully nervous and started to sweat. His face turned pale.

Finally, he shook his head in shame.

He couldn’t answer Ustaz ‘Utuwwah’s question. But that was one of the greatest turning points in his life and pushes him further to strive in learning. He didn’t know what will happen 10-20 years from that moment, however, his failure of answering the question of Ustaz ‘Utuwwah in front of the great Syeikhul Azhar chagrined him.

Now, together with Syeikhul Azhar Syeikh Ahmad al-Tayyib as members of the Muslim Council of Elders


Day by day, Zul’s talent and aptitude in knowledge starts to shine. Other than being good and active in takraw, he is beginning to grow famous after championing the Terengganu State Arabic Speech Competition which was held at Sekolah Menengah Agama Maarif, Besut. As for Zainaphi who is the “SMAASZA Sibawaih”, he won the Arabic Quiz Competition. Whereas Ahmad Syukri represented SMAASZA in the al-Quran Memorization Competition.

Although he is eloquent in Arabic, outstanding in both sports and academics, Zul remains the same quiet and shy student. This made Ustaz Nik Wan, SMAASZA headmaster and respected teacher for his expertise in religious knowledge to made a statement in front of the other teachers, “If there is ever anyone who will surpass me one day, Zulkifli will be the one to do so…

Year 2 Thanawi SMAASZA


[1] Surah al-Taubah: 122

[2] Learning religious knowledge in-depth

[3] I’ve written a summary of the book Maʿālīm Irshādiyyah li Ṣināʿat Ṭālib al-ʿIlm by Shaykh ‘Awwamah with his permission and request titled Tinta Nasihat Untuk Penuntut Ilmu (Advice for Knowledge Seekers).

[4] Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 73

[5] Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 7529 and Sahih Muslim, no. 815

[6] Refer Fath al-Bari 1/167

[7] See ʿUmdat al-Qārī Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 2/56

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