Chapter 55: My Travels to Syria, Egypt and Indonesia

“I’m very happy with your visit to Malaysia. Malaysians are close to my heart although I’ve never been there. I once had a student. His name is Zulkifli. I wonder how he is now…” Syeikh Rushdi Qalam said as he greeted the Negeri Sembilan Fatwa Committee Members who were visiting him at Ishak bin Rahawaih Mosque.

All of those who were present, smiled as they turned to look at the figure standing beside Syeikh. Ustaz Zaidi and Ustaz Labib pointed towards Zulkifli. Zulkifli then said, “Syeikh, I’m Zulkifli.

Syeikh’s face turned red, surprised. He was thrilled and promptly hugged Zulkifli who was beside him. “Ya Salaaaaam. I didn’t recognize you at all. You’re different from when you were studying under me previously!” He added.

The environment in Syria especially in Midan was still peaceful, the same when it was when Zulkifli was studying there. What could ever be more beautiful than a friendly community, cheap groceries and a peaceful environment? With his every step there, it is as though he could hear the songs of the famous singers in Syria, ‘Imad Rami and Sabah Fakhri.

Following his travel to Syria, they continue their journey to Egypt. Several meetings were scheduled together with Dar al-Ifta’ al-Misriyyah, representative of Syeikhul Azhar, representative of the Mufti of the Arab Republic of Egypt, and Negeri Sembilan Children Management Supreme Council. Zulkifli also didn’t miss the opportunity to attend a lecture at al-Azhar University delivered by Prof Dr Muhammad ‘Imarah.

In Islam, there are several paths of thought that we should know.” He said to the students in the lecture hall. Zulkifli was in the middle row and was jotting down notes of the important points conveyed.

He continued his lecture by saying, “There is a line of thought that prompt the development of Islam or it is named as Madrasah Asalah al-Fikriyah fi Syari’atina wa Tasyri’atina. Its leaders are Syeikh Muhammad al-Ghazali, Syeikh Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Syeikh Muhammad ‘Abduh, Syeikh Rashid Rida, Syeikh Mahmud Shaltut, Syeikh Abdullah Darraz, Syeikh Muhammad al-Khudari and Syeikh Muhammad Abu Zahrah. They are the scholars in the modern era.

“Furthermore, there are also other lines of thoughts such as Madrasah al-Ra’y, Madrasah al-‘Asr and Madrasah Muwazanah wa Tarjih where these three lines of thoughts are pioneered by Syeikhul Islam Ibn Taimiyyah and his student Imam Ibn al-Qayyim. Other thoughts emerged in the 13th and 14th centuries of Hijrah which were brought by Imam al-San‘ani, Imam al-Shawkani, Syeikh Sayyid Sabiq, Syeikh Siddiq Khan and Syeikh Nasiruddin al-Albani. They are focused on the talfiq efforts between the opinion in the madhhab and is not solely bound to the fiqh matan.”

After the lecture, Zulkifli was accompanied by Hasrul Nizam, his former student in UNITI College who was continuing his studies in al-Azhar University to enjoy Hamam Masywi at Mat’am Ferhat, in El-Gamaliya, Cairo. That was the first time Zulkifli has ever eaten roasted pigeon stuffed with rice and Kawari’ soup with dhab meat. Scrumptious and delicious.

“Dr Zul, what is the opinion of madhhab Syaife regarding the ruling of eating pigeons?” Ustaz Jamil asked them when they were eating their meal.

Zulkifli smiled and finished chewing his food before replying, “I know you know the answer, you’re just quizzing me for fun, huh. Syafi’iyyah scholars agreed that it is permissible to eat the meat of camel, chicken, storks, bustard birds, quails, ducks, Pterocles, sparrows, bad larks, francolins birds and pigeons.” [1]

What’s important here is that today it’s Ustaz Jamil’s treat. That’s why I’m asking for seconds…” Zulkifli added. Everyone burst into laughter at Zulkifli’s teasing.

After they had finished their meal, Zulkifli turned to Hasrul before saying, “Hasrul, can you look for some wallets for me? Buy 100 wallets for me. Try haggling and get the price to 5 genih for each wallet. Insya-Allah I think you can do it.

It was a seemingly simple and brief request, but Hasrul was anxious as to how he could fulfil his teacher’s wish. “Wallets here cost at least 20 genih. How am I going to get it to 5 genih? Oh, man…” Hasrul whispered to himself. Hasrul then walked by himself to the Khan el-Khalili di Al-Hussein Bazaar, trying to find a store that sells a wallet for the “almost impossible” price of 5 genih.

30 minutes later, Hasrul returned to the hotel where Zulkifli and the delegation of Negeri Sembilan Fatwa Committee members were staying with a cheerful face. “Alhamdulillah, I got it ustaz, wallets with a price of 5 genih each!” Hasrul said lifting a plastic bag filled with wallets.

It has been a habit for Zulkifli to buy souvenirs for his family and friends if he went overseas. Although it may be of little value, rather it is a sign of him remembering them and strengthening the ukhuwwah is what he’s trying to emphasize by doing so.

Before going home, Zulkifli ordered two pairs of black and grey kakula as a memento. It is an outer jubah which is a symbol of al-Azhar other than the famous turban (‘imamah). He has never studied at the historical university but he had learned from teachers who were al-Azhar alumni back in SMAASZA as well as when he was a Masters student. Moreover, al-Azhar manhaj is also close to his heart.


“If you agree, I’d very much hope that you could represent Malaysia to Jakarta, Indonesia. There’s an international conference this 2nd and 3rd October,” Dato’ Wan Mohamad Dato’ Syeikh Abdul Aziz, Head Director of Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) said to Zulkifli during a meeting in his office.

Sure, insya-Allah Dato’,” Zulkifli replied briefly. Maybe because of his position as JAKIM’s Akidah and Syariah panel as well as his other responsibilities in and outside of the university, the Head Director considered him as the suitable candidate to represent Malaysia at the prestigious conference.

The conference was held at Borobudur Hotel, Jakarta and Zulkifli will be presenting his paperwork titled The Role of Hajj in Improving the Muslim World Cooperation.

The majority of the audience were from Jakarta itself and Iran. Some of the presenters chose to present in Indonesian while the rest in English and Arabic. When it was approaching noon, it has started to slow down for most of the attendees are tired due to the non-stop presentations from the morning. Or maybe because the majority of the presenters in the session were delivering their presentation in Indonesian and English which is hard to be understood by foreign attendees. The organizers begin to serve lunch and everyone listen to the presentation while eating their meal.

When it was time for Zulkifli to present, all the audience were busy having lunch.

I would like to first apologize for I’m unable to speak Indonesian although I’m from a neighbouring country, Malaysia. Insya-Allah, I’ll be presenting my paperwork regarding The Role of Hajj in Improving the Muslim World Cooperation in Arabic.

Most of the participants from Iran raised their heads interested. Most of them were wearing white turbans, a symbol that they were scholars of whom not from Ahlul Bait a belief in the tradition of Syiah. Ayatullah Muhammad Ali Tashkiri – wearing a white turban – who was sitting near the stage places his cutleries by his plate. He sat upright and turned his focus, listening intently to every word Zulkifli is saying. The hall turned quiet. Only Zulkifli’s voice can be heard as he presented his paperwork.

After his presentation, he was surrounded by the delegations from Iran. It was very surprising. They were congratulating him and praising him asking for his name card. “Dr Zulkifli, please do come to Iran one day!” One of the mullah said giving him his name card.

Zulkifli smiled and thanked the great response he’s getting from them.

While Zulkifli was answering one by one the questions from the participants from Iran who were surrounding his table, his hand was pulled gently. Ustaz Abdul Aziz, the Religious Attaché of the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta signalled to Zulkifli asking him to leave the Borobudur Hotel.

If you entertain each and every one, it will never end. Hehe…Let’s go out and eat. I’ll treat you to some Arabian rice and avocado juice. In Malaysia, the concept of Arabian restaurants isn’t popular yet, but there are numerous choices in Indonesia,” Ustaz Abdul Aziz whispered as they were walking out of the hotel.

Alhamdulillah, thank you so much for your hospitality. You treat me so well that I can’t thank you enough. Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to work together in the future.” Zulkifli replied while he was in the official vehicle of the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta.

Ustaz Abdul Aziz laughed and said: “All Malaysians who came here are my guests. Especially, people like you, Dr. I have to treat you properly. Insya-Allah, I also hope we can cooperate in the future. Amin…


[1] Al-Majmu’ Sharh al-Muhazzab, 9/21.

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