“Dear students blessed by Allah,
The Islamic University of Medina always emphasizes the strengthening of relationships between our fellow Muslims as the basis in the construction of an excellent ummah. We uphold the statement of Allah SWT:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” 
This is one of the uniqueness of the Islamic University of Medina. Students are placed in a room of 4 students of different races and citizenships. Zul once stayed with students from Egypt, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand and others. What’s the rationale? We are “forced” to interact with others in Arabic and sharpen our Arabic communication skills. Furthermore, all of them are intellectuals and this will indirectly help cultivate a high-level learning experience.
“Ni, let’s go to Fauzi’s room later. I’ve got the ingredients for Cambodia Beef Soup. The Cambodians are exceptionally good at cooking soup. It’s so delicious!” Zul invited Zaini to attend a feast prepared by their Cambodian friends. Fauzi, Abdul Karim, Ahmad, Syafie are among Zul’s Cambodian friends.
“Welcome… please help yourself. We’ve made the soup while Zul bought all the ingredients,” Fauzi led Zaini who has just arrived, welcoming him. “You know Zul, he’s particular about food, everything must be cooked just perfect. So, we’ve prepared a special feast today. A thank you for his efforts in buying all the ingredients earlier today. Hahaha…” Syafie said slapping Zul’s shoulder teasingly. Zul just smiled at his friend as he ladled the soups into individual bowls for Afandi, Ali and his friends. Their friends from Thailand such as Ghazali and Abdul Ghani also attended the feast. 15 minutes haven’t even passed when Zul other friends from Malaysia arrived, such as Ismail, Hamid, Ashraf and Najib Al-Qari. Upon the arrival of all their friends, Fauzi called out from the kitchen, “Would you look at that. The whole gang’s here. You guys are really good when it comes to eating. When it was the cooking part, I was left alone in the kitchen…Hahaha,” Fauzi taunts but, all of them just laugh it off.
Zul has a really close relationship with his friends from Cambodia and this led to him getting invited to deliver a sermon in kampung Cham in 1992. That was Zul’s first experience travelling to Cambodia. Zul was excited to see the Phnom Penh International Airport was always busy and crowded with people. The environment of its city is similar to Kuala Lumpur but it was much busier during peak hours. Zul was greeted by his Cambodian seniors from Islamic University Medina and among them are Ustaz Yusuf and Ustaz Zulkarnain.
As he arrives in Kampung Cham, Zul looked around the weird and bizarre surroundings. “It’s just like in the P.Ramlee movies!” Zul whispered alone. Looking around, Zul could see all the men wear kain pelikat (sarong) and semutar or lebai (also known as kopiah – a white cap worn by Muslim men, famous in Southeast Asia) and most of them are shirtless. While some of their women were just wearing a sarong in kemban (wearing sarong tied at their bosom as a one-piece sleeveless dress), others wear a t-shirt, with batik sarong and scarves covering their heads. Zul was greeted as a VVIP there! “Zi, I feel like I’ve just returned back home. Everyone’s so kind.” Zul commented to Fauzi. There are various similarities that can be found in both languages Cham and Malay, for instance, the name of places such as Kampong Cham, Kambujadesa, Kampong Chhnang and others. In the history of Malay, it is clearly stated that the Cham community is recorded to have resided in Malacca around the year 1400. In the middle of 1400, when the Cham was defeated by the Vietnamese, approximately 120,000 people were killed and around the year 1600, the Champa King embraced Islam. In around 1700, the last Muslim King of Champa, King Champa Po Chien assembles his people and moved to the South of Cambodia whilst for those who lived along the coastline, some moved to Terengganu and others to Kelantan.
Zul’s sermon which was delivered in a surau in Kampung Cham was translated by Abdul Halim got a great response and was attended by many villagers. After the sermon, an old man from kampung Cham came and whispered something to Abdul Halim while pointing at Zul. He nodded his head and smiled. Zul was bewildered. “Did I say something wrong? Or is there something he’s unsatisfied with?” 1001 questions start to arise as Zul sat there anxiously, Abdul Halim laughed at his nervous friend and calmed him. “Don’t worry. The old man just now is Kasim. He really likes your sermon. He asked me to invite you here again. If you so wished to stay here, you’re most welcomed. He’d even help to find you a wife!” Both of them laughed. Pak Karim who was there also laughed before thanking Zul for his time and willingness to give a sermon.
In the evening, Zul and his Cambodian friends went to Mekong River. The Mekong River, which is 4180km long, starts from Tibet and passes through Yunnan, the provinces of China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Zul was astonished when he saw a teenager catches fish using his bare hands. “Woah, that’s so cool. How did he do that?” Zul asked in awe, tapping on Fauzi’s leg and pointing at the guy. Fauzi just laughs and joked, “Oh, that’s pretty common here, Zul. Everyone can do it, even we can, just that we didn’t show off in Medina. Hahaha… Considering it’s a desert, there’s nothing we can catch, well except dhab…”
They also visited several Arab madrasahs in Phnom Penh. The dakwah efforts here were developing rapidly. Most associations and the wealthy donated and contributed to the development of Islam in Cambodia. When they were visiting a Madrasah owned by Kuwait, Zul managed to exchange ideas with a Somalian teacher, Ustaz Khamis regarding dakwah efforts in Cambodia.
Usually, during the weekends, the campus will be calm and peaceful and not many will come to visit. Most students will be resting in their dorms or went out. Once in a while, the cheers of students from the football field could be heard breaking the otherwise quiet place.
“Ayub, I think I’m very blessed. All my friends here remind me of Allah.” Zul said to Zul as he sniggered. “Why is that?” Khairul asked, confused by the sudden revelation.
“Just look at my friends from Afghanistan. Their names are Qaribullah, Fathullah, Sibghatullah…All their names end with Allah,” Zul said in humour as he sipped his hot tea. “Hahaha…and here I thought for a moment you’re giving some sort of tazkirah,” Khairul chuckles at his brother’s lame joke.
Their Afghan friends were all built with large and rough hands. Their physical appearance differs greatly from Asians. At the time, the Taliban has yet to rule the country which was located on the South and Central Asian route. Afghanistan is famous for its mujahidin leaders; Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi and several others.
Throughout his 4 years of study in Medina, there is nothing sadder for Zul than when he was sending Shohor Bani away for jihad to Bosnia Herzegovina. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the King Abdulaziz International Airport, Zul felt empty. “Are you sure you’re going?” Zul asked grasping his friend’s hand tightly. Zul gazed deep into his friend’s eyes. He was proud of his friend’s brave decision, but he’s concerned and worried too. Zaini just stood by his side, holding back his tears.
“Yes, I’ve decided. Always pray for me.” Shohor Bani replied simply. He smiled, a forced smile to calm his friends. There were several Islamic University of Medina students who went to Bosnia Herzegovina for jihad and passed away as a martyr there. The 1992-1995 Bosnia War resulted in 100,000 lives lost – the majority of them Muslims – and 2 million lost their homes and became refugees. “May you return safely…” Zul whispered in his heart as he looked at the aeroplane that slowly disappear in the clouds.
______________________________ Surah al-Hujurat: 13