Spring is in the Air! Beamed the promotion posters. It falls on the Golden Week holidays. Golden Week in Japan usually consists of a week of holidays. Fast approaching my final year here, I prepared to make the journey again. The last journey perhaps. Questions often asked to me, why do I make those long journeys again and again to learn about my religion? It is worth it?
No matter where we come from, what languages we speak or what color our skin is, we are all unique in special ways. We all share the same desire and hunger to succeed and most importantly to love and to be loved. Many have argued that love is only a feeling and cannot bring wealth or success but deep inside, we all know that love is the greatest motivation that a person can have. But where or what is the true meaning of love?
The electronic board on the platform shone amidst the darkness indicating that it was time for the train to depart. Squeezing through a sea of people, I breathe a sigh of relief. Relieved to be on my way at last. A journey that’s going to take me hours and hours to reach the final destination. This year, I am very excited to join a program that is being held in Yamanashi-Ken. Before that it was Nara-Ken, Toyama-Ken and so on. All are very far away land from where I’m studying to say the least. As I stood there my mind started to wander off, thinking of the questions posed to me by a Japanese friend earlier on the day.
It was first said in a joking tone but as I started to think about it, it made more and more sense for me to find what was the answer behind it. He asked me, “Why is it that you are willing to spend so much money and time going there for more lectures on religion? Aren’t the lectures during classes not enough? You can easily search for it on the Internet cant you? Furthermore, we as teenagers should have fun and enjoy while we are still young.” It didn’t bother me much then to answer his question then. But throughout the day, I can’t seem to ignore those questions anymore.
My heart was racing and my mind was buzzing searching for the elusive answer. I started to trace back memories that I had had during those programs in the past. I must admit the answer was there all along in front of my eyes yet I struggle to realize it at first. What was the main purpose of these programs? It is to instill a sense of love not just purely for oneself but also towards God, our prophet and also as important towards our brother and sisters in Islam. Though it is seldom discussed and many would scratch their heads in finding the connection between love and Islam. But through these programs I personally have experienced the wonders of these connections with one another. Most of the times, we would meet as strangers and would go our own ways two or three days later as great friends to say the least. It is hard to describe but, love as brothers and sisters are etched in our hearts forever.
“No two men love one another, but the better of them is the one whose love for his brother is greater.” [Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad]
When Muslims regardless if you know the other person or not, they all greet with a special greeting. A greeting of “Assalamu`alaikum” which ‘means peace be upon you’. And they repeat these gestures when departing also. These gestures are in reminiscence of the love for the sake of God. Loving your family, your jobs or your artworks is different compared to loving it for the sake of God. The deep feeling is constant regardless of anything else. So, when we meet for the sake of God, that is what makes the bond last forever.
Japan, a land filled with new technologies and is advance in so many different fields is truly a great country. But for me, the nourishment of the soul is also important along with the exterior advancement. Muslims countries are filled with the call of prayer (Azan) reminding all Muslims to convey their love towards God in performing the prayers. In Japan, these Azans are not common among the Muslim societies here due to the different culture and religion. Thus, it is easy for Muslims to falter and lose their way.
There are many Islamic Organization in Japan to provide guidance for those who seek and want to learn about Islam. Malaysian Islamic Society of Japan (IPIJ) being one of the more prominent organizations is dedicated in providing motivational and spiritual nourishments largely for the Malaysian students studying in Japan. IPIJ annually holds two general programs for the students. These programs discusses about the points and way of living as thought in Islam. With these reminders and lectures being used as tools to instill the sense of lovingness towards one another.
Even though my journey is still far, but my heart and mind were at ease. I have found my answer. Why I make take this long and winding road to learn deeper about Islam. For the sake of Gods love, many others like me will make this journey no matter how far or how long it is going to take us, but in the end we will find true peace and love within each other’s arms.
p/s: This article was written originally for the AL-Ummah newspaper on behalf of Malaysian Islamic Society in Japan (IPIJ)