Chapter 44: My Travels to the United Kingdom

Welcome to the United Kingdom, Ustaz Zul!” Husni greeted him, holding out his hands to shake hands with him. Together with him are several Malaysian students who were studying in the United Kingdom. The cold weather of around 23 °C can be felt as soon as he arrives at the airport. For Westerners, it is a comfortable temperature. Zul read several pamphlets on the aeroplane on his journey there, the weather forecast in July 1996 in the United Kingdom is warm, dry and sunny.

Heathrow International Airport, London is among the busiest airports in the world. Here, people rarely ever spared you a glance. Each is busy with their affairs. Their steps are swift, rushing with time. Zul’s first travel to the United Kingdom is to fulfil an invitation from MSM to give a sermon in a summer camp training organized by the association.

At first, Zul nearly cancelled his departure for there are issues with the diplomatic relations between Syria and the European countries. “I’m a Malaysian citizen, which is one of the Commonwealth countries,” Zul said, showing his passport and flight ticket to the immigration officer. After trying to convince the immigration officer several times, at last Zul was permitted to continue his journey.


Assalamualaikum Ustaz Zulkifli. I’m Dzulkefly Ahmad, alhamdulillah, I’m a PhD graduate in the field of Toxicology at the Imperial College London, Saint Mary’s Campus in the year 1993. You can just call me Abu Iman. Welcome to STC 1996 organized by Syura Muslimun Association.” Dzulkefly said stretching his hands outwards and Zul took them and shook hands with him amicably even when it was their first time meeting each other.

Here beside me is Ustaz Shaharuzzaman and Ustaz Hazizi, students of University al-Azhar,” Dzulkefly continued to introduce Zul to two other speakers who will be joining the program which is going to be held at the Islamic Centre Nottingham Central Mosque.

 Dzulkefly is a tall guy. Active in Islamic movements and one of the best students there. He is very friendly and will always smile, although he can be serious when discussing religious matters.

Abdul Latif who was standing beside Ustaz Hazizi smiled widely and happily state, “We are so lucky for this year’s Summer Training Camp there are several ustaz invited here from Syria and Egypt. Alhamdulillah!

Zul’s sermon session in the Summer Training Camp is about Overseas Fiqh and he got a great reaction. A student raises her hand and asked, “My friend is fasting in Norway. The day time there is about 19 hours. How should she fast? When should she break her fast?

Zul wrote down the question in his notebook and start answering, “Thank you for asking. Islam is a religion of ease and Allah SWT does not burden His slaves with something he isn’t able to bear. Allah SWT states:

لَا يُكَلِّفُ ٱللَّـهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا ۚ

“Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity.” [1]

Syeikh Ibrahim al-Baijuri when explaining the meaning of fasting that is defined by Allamah Ibn Qasim al-Ghazzi, he said: “What is meant by abstaining from matters that invalidate fasting throughout the day means beginning from when the sun rises until the sun sets.” [2]

Some scholars are of the opinion, one has to fast according to the day and night of the place he is in. The dalil is a statement of Allah SWT:

كُلُوا۟ وَٱشْرَبُوا۟ حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ ٱلْخَيْطُ ٱلْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ ٱلْخَيْطِ ٱلْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ ٱلْفَجْرِ ۖ

“And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread [of night].” [3]

However, there is an opinion presented by Syeikh Muhammad Abduh, Syeikh Jad al-Haq, who is the former Syeikhul Azhar, Sheikh Abdul Latif Hamzah, Sheikh Sayyid Tantawi, Sheikh Ali Jumah and also the opinion of Sheikh Mustafa al-Zarqa’, where they state that the time to break the fast follows the time to break the fast in Mecca or the nearest country with a balanced night and day time. This is following maqasid shariah and provides facilitation for those who have to fast for more than 19 hours. Allah SWT states:

وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِى ٱلدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ ۚ

“And has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty.” [4]

Syeikh Mustafa al-Zarqa’ concluded that the most important is to protect maqasid shariah in determining the prayer time and the time for fasting so that it would not be unbearable or undoable. This showcases the meaning of shariah without decreasing its true value. [5]

After his sermon ends, Husni came closer to him and advised, “Ustaz Zul, you should rest properly. Tomorrow and the day after that, we’ll be going to Liverpool, Dundee, Sheffield, Cardiff, Leicester up to Scotland. It will be a long journey. In Scotland, we will stop by and spend the night at a house of an ustaz from Kelantan who is currently pursuing his PhD at the University of Edinburgh.

The next day, early in the morning, Zul, Husni and several of their friends have departed on their journey from Cricklewood, Husni’s house which is also the place Zul stayed at throughout his two weeks stay in the United Kingdom. Zul was excited to observe and look at the development and fast-paced society in the United Kingdom throughout his journey. Their people are disciplined, prioritize cleanliness and are generally friendly. These are some of the great attributes that one should follow and are a little different in the Arab world.

For your information, there are various races in the UK apart from the common white people. The most dominant here if they are Muslims are the Arabs and Pakistan. There are 4 states here; England, Scotland, Wales and North Ireland.” Husni explained to Zul acting as though he is a tour guide.

If you usually hear about Liverpool FC, then… this is the place. We will stop later to take a picture in front of the University of Liverpool.” Husni continued his explanation. “Ops…sorry ustaz, you may not be interested in football like we do. Hahahha.” He laughed at himself.

Zul who has been silent suddenly said, “I’m a fan of Pele, Socrates, Zico, Roberto Carlos. The Brazilian team. If you remember, the goal Zico scored during the 1982 World Cup was spectacular. As for Liverpool FC, I’m a fan of Ian Rush and Kevin Keegan. Though Liverpool’s performance isn’t really consistent. The FA Premier League will be beginning in August, right? We’ll see how Liverpool play then. I heard, Manchester United isn’t quite bad too…

Husni and his other friends were dumbfounded. The ustaz that’s studying in Syria has great knowledge of football! Husni blinked his eyes in disbelief looking at Zul, an ustaz in a white jubah. Zul just smirked and changed the topic. “Let’s take a picture!

On their journey, they managed to stop by at a strawberry farm. “Here, you can eat as much strawberry as you’d like. If you want to buy them, then you can pick the strawberries and place them in a basket and pay for them at the cashier over there,” Husni describe the interesting way the strawberries were sold here.

This is the first time I’ve tasted strawberries. They are so good. The way they are sold is unique too. I’ve never seen such a system anywhere else. I’m suddenly reminded of a hadith of the Prophet PBUH:

رَحِمَ اللَّهُ رَجُلًا سَمْحًا إِذَا بَاعَ وَإِذَا اشْتَرَى وَإِذَا اقْتَضَى

“God show mercy to a man who is kindly when he sells when he buys, and when he makes a claim!” [6]

Among the places they visited is the Thames River. It is the main river that flows in the south of England. It crosses London and several other cities such as Oxford, Reading and Windsor. Husni also brought Zul through the famous London Bridge and Tower Bridge which can and will be lifted for huge boats and vessels to pass through.

After several days on their journey, Zul, Husni and their friends finally arrived in Scotland. “InsyaAllah ustaz. Tonight, we’ll have our dinner at an East Coast ustaz’s house. He’s a Kelantanese. A son of a pondok teacher. He’s pursuing his PhD in Islamic real estate law.” Husni said to Zul as they search for the house as stated in the address given.

Oh, here it is. Let’s go!” Husni said stopping and getting off the car, walking towards the house. From afar, the house can only be vaguely seen for it is already nighttime. The said ustaz is already waiting for them at his front door. “Alhamdulillah, you are here on time. How are you Husni? Ustaz Zul? You must be hungry. Come in, let’s eat first.” He spoke.

I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Luqman Abdullah, a PhD student in Edinburgh. If Ustaz Zul remembers, I’m one of the committees in your sermon program at the Islamic Centre Nottingham Central Mosque.” Ustaz Luqman introduces himself when they were having dinner. That night, Zul eat heartily. It was a rare opportunity for him to get to taste grilled salmon cooked by Ustaz Luqman’s wife. It was a truly delicious meal!

Thank you so much Ustaz Luqman. I’ll forever remember you and your salmon… Hehe. Insya-Allah, if the opportunity arises, we’ll see each other again in Malaysia.” Zul joked and laughed together with Husni and Ustaz Luqman.

The rooms for them to stay that night has been prepared by Ustaz Luqman and his wife earlier. That night, right after dinner, Zul went to sleep immediately because he was so tired.


The second time Zul went to the UK was after he was married. He travelled from Damascus to the United Kingdom, accompanied by his friends on road. From Damascus, they board a bus to İzmit, Turkey, entering straight from England. The atmosphere and environment in Turkey especially in Istanbul are more Western than the Western countries. The effects of secularism left by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk are very apparent in their citizens.

The Turkish Lira currency has severely fallen. I’ve just checked, 100 USD is equivalent to more than 12 – 15 million Lira.” Azman informed Zul.

In the United Kingdom, Zul was invited to deliver sermons at several places including the Malaysia Hall, London. The familial spirit is evident amongst Malaysians in the United Kingdom. Other than the food prepared by the organizers at the Malaysia Hall, almost all families brought their own meals to be shared. “Years ago, in the 60s there was a London Malay Club in Cricketfield Road. Now, it is no more. So, here is the place we will all gather ustaz. Although we are all living in a foreign country, when we get to eat Malaysian food and meals like this, it can somehow help us miss Malaysia less.” Haiza said to Zul. He is among the best students here and also the committee for the program Zul is attending.

While Zul is getting his rice, he felt his shoulder is tapped by someone. A voice whispered in his ears, “Zul, do you still remember me?” Zul was speechless. Which Terengganu guy is lost in the big city of London?

He turned and was surprised to see the person behind him. “Eh… Syamsuddin? O Allah, you haven’t changed at all!” Zul exclaimed cheerfully. His old friend was hugged tightly. Zul called towards Husni who was standing nearby. “Husni, I want to introduce to you, Syamsuddin. He’s an old friend of mine at SMAASZA Ladang. I can’t believe I’m meeting him here. Subhanallah…”

Husni smiled and replied, “Ooo…I see. He’s Ustaz Zul’s friend. That’s why Syamsuddin has been bragging that his friend is coming to London. Hahaha.

Zul also received invites to give a sermon in London before he made his way to Ireland to meet his wife. In Ireland, Zul was greeted by Azlisham, a genius student who accompanied him throughout this stay in Ireland. Zul took the opportunity to visit the famous education institution, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI Dublin) which is also the place where his wife is studying at. For the whole week, he was in Ireland, Azlisham helped him a lot and arranged all the sermons Zul delivered together with other Malaysians in Ireland.

His one week stay passes by quickly. It was time for Zul to return to Syria and continue his final year studies before finally returning to Malaysia.

Every fight is tiring. But ukhuwwah builds rapport and understanding. Fighting can separate and differentiate us. But our ukhuwwah on the same syahadah will always bring us back and close together. Thank you, all my friends!


[1] Surah al-Baqarah: 286

[2] Hasyiah al-Bajuri ‘ala Syarh al-Allamah Ibn Qasim al-Ghazzi(1/427)

[3] Surah al-Baqarah: 187

[4] Surah al-Haj: 78

[5] Al-‘Aql wa al-Fiqh Fi Fahm al-Hadith al-Nabawi, 124 – 125.

[6] Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 2076.

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