Zul read and reread each line of the fax sent from the Islamic University of Medina that he had just received from Ustaz Haji Ambak Ismail, former SMAASZA’s headmaster and a member of Jemaah Nazir Negeri Terengganu.
“Alhamdulillah, congratulations, Zul, Zaini, Shohor Bani, Rudaini, Hanafi. Five students from Tranung are chosen to enrol into Islamic University of Medina!” Ustaz Haji Ambak declared proudly, showing the copy of the fax to Ustaz Nik Wan.
My beloved teacher, Dato’ Ustaz Haji Ambak. He is of great help to me guiding me through my registration process to the Islamic University of Medina in 1989.
Although at the time neither SMS nor Whatsapp is yet to be invented, the news of the three students from SMAASZA Thanawi as well as 2 students from Maahad Tahfiz Terengganu have passed the interview and was offered to enrol in the Islamic University of Medina.
Ustaz Haji Ambak was the one who helped Zul and his friends tremendously for them to go to Medina. Several technical issues which include what they have to prepare in terms of their documents, visa, registration and everything needed are made easy with the help given by Ustaz Haji Ambak who was clearly more enthusiastic compared to the youths themselves. Day and night he would commute back and forth to settle their matters at the Embassy.
“Ni, Shohor, come here! there’s something I want to talk about,” Zul called his two friends. That was the day when a huge feast was held at Zul’s house as a sign of gratitude and celebration. It was a grand celebration. It was unusual for anyone from Kampung Kubang Kekura to get offered to continue their studies overseas. The last time such celebration was held at Ustaz Mad’s house was when Mi and Yah, Zul’s eldest brother and sister, was departing to Al-Azhar University, Egypt, two years ago. Guests keep pouring his house since this morning. Each guest gave RM1, RM5 and RM10 as gifts supporting and motivating him. Some of Hajah Ramlah’s neighbours also helped out in the preparation of dishes. Such harmonious acts were the very reason and way to strengthen their relationship as neighbours and families in the village.
Zul pulled Shohor aside, straight to the pangkin (gazebo-like building) at the side of the house under a tree. Zaini followed from behind.
“In a couple of days, all of us are going to Medina. Whatever that’s going to happen, we have to stay strong together. If I make a mistake, it’s obligatory for you to rebuke me. The most important matter is we have to have patience since we will be living in another country. We don’t know anything about how the Arabs are. Their different customs and lifestyles. The Prophet PBUH said:
لاَ يَصْبِرُ عَلَى لأْوَاءِ الْمَدِينَةِ وَشِدَّتِهَا أَحَدٌ مِنْ أُمَّتِى إِلاَّ كُنْتُ لَهُ شَفِيعًا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ أَوْ شَهِيدً
“No one from among my people will endure the hardship and rigour of Medina without my being an intercessor on his behalf on the day of resurrection.” 
Second, we have to have the right intention. The Prophet PBUH promised those who went to study, Allah will ease them in their journey to paradise. Third, Medina is the land of scholars. For the next four years we will be in Medina, we have to strive to learn. I still remember the lesson by Ustaz Nik Wan, where he said, Ibn Abbas Abbas advised,
الْعِلْمُ أَكْثَرُ مِنْ أَنْ يُحْصَى فَخُذُوا مِنْ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ أَحْسَنَهُ
“Knowledge is vast and great, it’s limitless. Take from among the best of all knowledge.”
Medina is a blessed land. We have to increase our supplications. Just as we are taught to mind our manners in front of our teachers here, we also have to be mindful of our manners in front of the masyaikh in Medina. We have to learn with as many teachers as we can. Not limiting our studies with one teacher. We have to stay focused on our studies, read and muzakarah. We have to follow the example of Imam Syafie, he said, ‘If I shoot ten times, not once will I miss the target.’ Another thing, we have to deepen our knowledge Fiqh Syafie although we will be learning all the four madhhabs, since Malaysia follows madhhab Syafie. We learn Fiqh Syafie to use it in Malaysia and the four madhhabs so that we can use or celebrate it whenever needed.” Zul reminds Zaini and Shohor Banu of their focus throughout their future stay in Medina.
“Zul… come and help pick up these trays and serve them to the guests! When you’re in medina later, you can talk to your friends all you want!” Hajah Ramlah called her son who she saw still talking with his friends at the lambo.
Ustaz Mad, Hajah Ramlah and their family are already waiting by the car. Pok De, Mok De, Pok Leh, Adi and the surau’s committee as well as most of the villagers in their neighbourhood were all gathered near their house, all waiting for Zul’s departure. As for Zul? Well, he’s still in the house. Walking in, then out of his room, frowning deep in thought. His checklist is in his grasp, as he checks, and double-checks his belongings referring to the list, making sure nothing is left behind. “Zul, hurry up! The aeroplane won’t wait for us!” Ustaz Mad yelled, calling his son from inside the car.
“Allahuakbar, allahuakbar…!” The adhan is called as the car driven by Ustaz Mad went out heading towards Telaga Batin Airport. It was a melancholic and sombre farewell. Hajah Ramlah waved her son goodbye while wiping her tears. Zul tried to smile, however, his chest is heavy and wistful. He didn’t know when he’ll be coming back home, will he be able to meet all his family again?
As he arrived at Telaga Batin Airport, there was a huge crowd of people already at the airport. Family, neighbours and relatives of the five young men from Terengganu filled the whole airport. It was packed with people just like when it was during the return of hajj pilgrims! The one-hour air travel from Telaga Batin Airport to Sepang International Airport is barely felt due to the jitters and excitement Zul is experiencing. A thousand and one thoughts swirls inside his head. How different would Saudi Arabis be? As far as he’s heard, there are just miles and miles of desert and nothing more than that? Will the Arabs he’s going to meet be as nice and kind as his Arab teachers Ustaz Sa’id al-Qasabi, Ustaz Utuwwah, Ustaz Taha and others at SMAASZA? Zul’s thoughts went on and on as he watches the aeroplane wings soared through the clouds.
Five minutes before the plane lands, Zul could see the view of Kuala Lumpur. All his life, Zul has only been able to look at Kuala Lumpur from the television screen. Seeing it in person is a whole new exciting experience for him. Looking out from his window, he could see the aerial view of the greatly developed city of Kuala Lumpur, filled with huge buildings and skyscrapers. As Zul and his family arrives at Subang International Airport, they were greeted by Abang Mi, his cousin who works and stays in Kuala Lumpur. “It’s humongous, is it really the airport?” Zul whispered to himself gazing around and couldn’t help but stare at the mighty Subang International Airport.
A Kubang Kekura native of whom it is his first experience arriving at such a huge city like Subang, surely it was a confounding like when a deer enters a village. “Abang Mi, why are there two decks for the bus? How would the driver drive the bus? Why is the steering wheel placed at the lower deck?” Zul asked his cousin consecutively in amazement, continuing to gape at the double-decker bus arriving at the airport. Certainly, it was a peculiar sight for a village boy who had ever just seen Pokcik Ripin’s and Deraman’s old buses.
“Hahaha…Zul, the steering wheel has to be at the lower deck, if it’s on the upper deck, the column will be too long.” Abang Mi laughs hysterically looking at Zul’s amazement seeing a double-decker bus.
The Saudi Airlines aeroplane is all ready for take-off. Zul shake hands with his father before boarding the plane. “Dad, I’m sorry for anything that I’ve done wrong. Please pray for me…” It was a heart-wrenching conversation between Zul and his father, for all his life, he had never been separated from his family. Before boarding the aeroplane, Zul, Zaini and Shohor Bani looked back and waves goodbye towards their families for the last time.
“Good afternoon passengers. This is the pre-boarding announcement for flight Saudi Airlines to Jeddah from Kuala Lumpur. We are now inviting those passengers with small children, and any passengers requiring special assistance, to begin boarding at this time. Please have your boarding pass and identification ready. Regular boarding will begin in approximately ten minutes time. Thank you.” The voice of a stewardess was broadcasted through the speakers on board.
“Shohor, they are speaking in English. How am I supposed to respond if the stewardess asked me anything?” Zul whispered, worried. Shohor snickered at his friend and said, “It’s fine. It’s Saudi Airlines, right? Surely, they can speak Arabic…”
سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي سَخَّرَ لَنَا هَذَا، وَمَا كُنَّا لَهُ مُقْرِنِينَ، وَإِنَّا إِلَى رَبِّنَا لَمُنْقَلِبُونَ، اللهُمَّ إِنَّا نَسْأَلُكَ فِي سَفَرِنَا هَذَا الْبِرَّ وَالتَّقْوَى، وَمِنَ الْعَمَلِ مَا تَرْضَى، اللهُمَّ هَوِّنْ عَلَيْنَا سَفَرَنَا هَذَا، وَاطْوِ عَنَّا بُعْدَهُ، اللهُمَّ أَنْتَ الصَّاحِبُ فِي السَّفَرِ، وَالْخَلِيفَةُ فِي الْأَهْلِ، اللهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ وَعْثَاءِ السَّفَرِ، وَكَآبَةِ الْمَنْظَرِ، وَسُوءِ الْمُنْقَلَبِ فِي الْمَالِ وَالْأَهْلِ»، وَإِذَا رَجَعَ قَالَهُنَّ وَزَادَ فِيهِنَّ: «آيِبُونَ تَائِبُونَ عَابِدُونَ لِرَبِّنَا حَامِدُونَ
“It’s a good thing that the Captain of Saudi Airlines recites the supplication before taking off…” Zul commented to Shohor Bani sitting beside him.
From the aeroplane’s window, Zul could see the Subang International Airport slowly getting smaller and smaller as the plane rises higher and higher into the air until it was no longer in sight as they leave Terengganu and Malaysia, heading towards a new foreign country to him in his journey to learn and study. He started to feel lonely, already missing his father, mother and siblings back home. He started to tear up but quickly wiped his eyes not wanting Shohor to notice.
There is nothing that they could do while they continue to travel on air except sleeping, praying and eating. When he’s bored, ever so often Zul would open up the books he brought in his backpack and read. This is also the first time Zul and his friends get to practise praying on an aeroplane.
Imam al-Nawawi stated that Syafi’ite scholars emphasized that it is obligatory to perform the fardhu prayers while standing if one is able to do so. If there is a debilitation such as seasickness and others, the fardhu prayers can be performed while one is sitting, for he is considered a person with a debilitation.  A debilitation does not necessarily mean a person is sick, but it can also be understood as when one in a situation where it is impossible or hard for him to stand or air sickness. In this situation, Imam al-Khatib al-Syirbini stated the permissibility of praying in a sitting position.  If a passenger is unable to face the qibla due to debilitation, then it is still obligatory for him to pray in respect of the time of prayer and it is obligatory to be replaced (qadha’). This is the conclusion of Imam al-Nawawi in al-Majmu’.
The 8 hours and 50 minutes journey from Subang to Jeddah is tiring. Zul looked up and saw a huge sign welcoming their arrival.
أهلا وسهلا إلى مطار الملك عبدالعزيز الدولي
“Welcome to King Abdul ‘Aziz International Airport…” Zul translated. He couldn’t blink studying the new surrounding he’s in. When he had thought Subang International Airport was huge, he was in such a greater surprise when arriving at King Abdul ‘Aziz International Airport which is substantially bigger. If he wants to compare it to Telaga Batin Airport, well it’s like night and day.
He glances at the clock hung on the wall in the airport. “3.15 a.m. Since it’s in Jeddah, it’s nearly Subuh,” Zul said to Zaini and Shohor Bani.
“Ruh…ruh!”  the immigration officer yelled towards Zul and his friends who were just standing still. “Zul, hurry! The Arab is asking us to leave…” Shohor Bani called after Zul who was left quite behind. His excitement of studying his new surroundings is making him linger around more than necessary.
______________________ Sahih Muslim (3413)  Sahih Muslim, no. 425  Al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 3/222  Mughni Al-Muhtaj, 1/214  Proceed! Proceed!