Ramadhan 1442 H/2021 M, and A Little Notes

Unlike the previous Ramadhan month in 1441 H/2020 M, Ramadhan this year seemed to feel a bit different. As many Muslims in the world already believe, they performed and conducted the obligation to do fasting throughout the month of Ramadhan. Three aspects that I observe from my eyes might seem to engage me into something complex from within myself to the way I view the whole world. The three aspects are: 1) from personal to community and society; 2) from the individual self to the community self; 3) from the local area to the whole world.

From Personal to Community and Society

This small observation is started from the way I looked at the definition of community and society. Every individual in the world belongs to a certain community and society at one point in their life. Someone could belong to more than one community. I learned that there is a link between an individual to the community. People who share something in common can make a good community, but it should also be understood that a community might serve good purposes for other communities at large, or it simply stands for what the community needs to claim and do. The obvious community that I have is the Islamic community. Given the fact that I might have a different type of personality from other members of the same community, then other members in the community cannot be represented by me. If members of other communities outside the Islamic community view me, then they should see me as a basic group member of the Islamic community. I do learn and read the Arabic to read the Al-Qur’an, but that does not mean that the Jannah will be promised for me. Allah SWT has the right to allow me to enter Jannah or, scary enough, to push me to jump to the burning fire in Hell. That’s one thing I like about Islam. None can determine where your destiny in the Hereafter will be: Jannah or AnNaar / Hell. As long as I commit something good, there is a promise that I would enter Jannah. There’s a price for that.

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Talking about community and society, I notice that certain labels are existing. These labels sometimes drive you to lose your sense of self. I remember when I worked as an English lecturer at a private college. I stopped working there, not only because I eventually see that it has a toxic culture (not necessarily related to Islam or Minangkabau culture), but it has an obvious scene of being obnoxious. Since I was a student in high school, I often joined competitions. Sometimes I won, and sometimes I lost. Things felt different at a working place. I wish that I could see a working place like home, where I could feel being accepted for who I am, and I could feel being cherished for the work performance that I did and gave to the workplace. As wise words said, “Even in a pool, there are so many fish” Constantly, you end up doing negotiation and negotiation from the person you to the community. Labels hurt at this point. Who would judge on your level? Of course, nobody. However, who would judge you based on your community and society? Yes, every member of the group. I have learned that no matter how good you tried your best, when there is a little fire (gossip and backbiting about you in a false informal peer talk) that turned good attention to you from the community to something bad about you, then you end up having only two choices: losing yourself or losing your community. Losing yourself simply means that you are accepted in the community while losing your community means that you have yourself but you do not have any acknowledgment.

As a Muslim myself, I always believe that,

“Whatever happens, keep doing good. You do good things, some people still do not like you. You do bad things as they want, some people still talk about you behind your back. Just, do good. Allah SWT sees all your deeds, to your community, yourself, and to whoever comes in your way. If they throw you thorns, just wipe them off. Don’t throw the same thorns to them. The world will see, either you as the good side, or the thorns throwers that are bad.”

Syayid Sandi Sukandi

From The Individual Self to the Community Self

There is a video on the TED channel that I watched a few days ago. It talked about, “How not to take something personally” I watched the video and listened attentively. There was a word in my mind after watching the video and taking a lesson from it and the word was: Ignore. As part of a larger community, I am an individual self. Just like you, you bring yourself to the community, or the community invites you to join? In my case, I am the one who brings myself to a community. With one condition, in every community that I join, I always simply be me. That is what I define as the individual self.

On the other side, the community self means that the community in which you join has its colors and a sense of direction. It is good to see that a community has its purposes. However, one thing that should be taken note of at this point is that the individual self that we bring to the community. Will we follow the community standards until we lose our sense of self, or we simply neglect our self just to be accepted in the community? Of course, everyone is given the right to choose which one is better for them to choose. The community self simply means the form of the collective consciousness of the community. Every self in a community consists of an individual self, so each community should have proper guidelines to be used as directions to maintain the existence of the individual self.

From the Local Area to the Whole World

Wherever you are, wherever you live, and wherever you might read my writing, you must be located and situated in a local area. In the place where you live, there are different sets of people, situations, and circumstances. As the wise words said, “the world is just a place, but you and your mind.” I often reflect that sometimes we bring what we have in ourselves to the world. Although we might in London, for instance, things that we have in our local area might somehow relate to things that happen in various places in the world. On the basic level, we run our life simply for good purposes that might not be related from one person to another. However, the local area is the place where things might happen. From the small things to bigger things, it is started from the local area.

In brief, we might agree to say that everything is started with ourselves. When we see the world from our eyes, we begin to see the world we live in. As such, it is important to view that the decision made by a leader will somehow project what and how this world they view. If they view this world as an important place to grow, for everyone to live peacefully, I am sure that leaders will take responsibility within themselves to pursue what is best for everyone. Other than that, we might end up feeling abused and neglected. Everyone shall receive respect, and space to grow better within their capacity and circumstances. It is from ourselves to the nearby community, and then to the world.

Love, Me, Us, and People

The best feeling in the world is when you love yourself, and you share this love to your spouse, family, friends, and colleagues. You project it. You transfer it. You share it to the world.

The best feeling in the world is when you love yourself, and you share this love to your spouse, family, friends, and colleagues. You project it. You transfer it. You share it to the world.

Eventually, a person who talks to you would feel the same that he or she is also loved, and their presence is cherished.

If your heart is filled with love and beautiful gratitude to life that is given to you by the Creator, then, I believe that you wouldn’t have any second in your life to hate other people. You will always begin to see the beautiful side of everyone you meet. Their face, smile, and sound of voice, appearance, laugh, hands, and all things they have in your eyes.

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I have met a guy who is disability, for example, but he has a beautiful smile that you would be happy to stay next to him as friends, sharing laughs and stories together. I had a friend who is a girl, another example. She said, “This is Gothic style.” Do you know which side of her that I see? As beautiful? Her genuine expression. I looked deep in her eyes, her sound of voice, and yes, within that Gothic style, she hides something from people her true color.  

Worshiping God (Allah SWT) alone isn’t enough to be a Muslim. You also need to love your brothers and sisters, and all fellow human beings, regardless of their faith, religion, gender, or even personal condition.

I can say this because … if you know how it feels to be loved, then you know what you should do to make other people happy. Perhaps, through you, they can feel alive. Through you, they learn how to build a better life for themselves and people around them.

I tell you one thing, my friends.

If you see me, you would only see an Asian looking man. I am not that handsome or good looking. Not even ‘hunk’, as other men would have out there. If you search deeply in me, you might just see that I am the same with any other Caucasian, African, Mongoloid, Middle Easterners, or you name it. We, all men, are the same. The different thing is the inner world within each and every one of us… That’s the way how we see the world…

Now I know that the reason of why God created us in so many sizes, races, faces, and places to live: to love and respect one another. That’s it. That’s the only way to have a beautiful life.

Your appearance doesn’t show me who you are…but the way how you treat others, that’s who you really are…and that what makes me to love or respect you as an individual…and God (Allah SWT) cannot be blamed for it.

Be gentle. Be nice. Be lovable. Be likeable. Be sincere. It starts from you…

In the end, if all you did purely from your heart; and it seems that the world is still abandoning you…take a look. It’s actually that you need the love of yourself even more… You don’t need the world. The world actually needs you.

Please try with just simple steps, dear friends. Smile… Be true… And, see what happens.

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“Kok Bisa Dapat Beasiswa Fulbright?”

Apakah hanya setahun dua tahun persiapan saya untuk beasiswa Fulbright? Lalu, apa saja yang sudah saya persiapkan berupa dokumen-dokumen sebelum mengirimkannya ke kantor AMINEF di Jakarta? Bagaimana pengalaman saya selama proses beasiswa Fulbright? Apa sajakah yang diterima pada saat pelaksaan beasiswa Fulbright? Selama di Amerika Serikat, apa sajakah yang telah saya pelajari? Kegiatan seperti apakah yang perlu kita jalani sebagai penerima beasiswa Fulbright?

Sebagai seorang remaja yang tumbuh kembang di kota Padang, saya selalu memiliki cita-cita besar. Sewaktu SMA, saya diprediksi oleh guru saya di Bimbel GAMA Padang bahwa nilai passing grade saya bisa mencapai masuk ke jurusan Hubungan Internasional di Universitas Padjajaran di Bandung. Namun, karena satu dan lain hal, saya akhirnya memilih jurusan Sastra Inggris di Universitas Andalas. Alhamdulillah, saya lulus diterima di universitas tersebut pada tahun 2003. Saya bersyukur bisa berkuliah di Universitas Andalas dan bisa menyelesaikan program studi tingkat sarjana dengan nilai IPK yang Sangat Memuaskan, berikut berbagai prestasi akademis tingkat nasional. Di saat kuliah di Universitas Andalas, saya menerima Bantuan Beasiswa Mahasiswa (selama dua semester di tahun akademik pertama), pernah menerima beasiswa Supersemar, dan beasiswa Peningkatan Prestasi Akademik (PPA) dari tahun ke dua kuliah hingga saya menyelesaikan kuliah di tahun 2007. Sewaktu kuliah di Universitas Andalas, ada keinginan untuk menjadi Dosen. Saya merasa senang dengan dosen-dosen yang ada di jurusan Sastra Inggris – Universitas Andalas. Saya pun terinspirasi untuk studi lanjut ke luar negeri. Waktu itu, saya berpikir bahwa di negara mana saja tidak apa-apa, yang penting luar negeri. Tak terbayang pada akhirnya saya studi lanjut ke Amerika Serikat. Negara yang katanya super power itu. Di sini cerita kehidupan saya selanjutnya menjadi berbeda, namun banyak pembelajaran serta pengalaman yang sangat berharga.

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Mengapa Beasiswa Fulbright?

Keinginan untuk studi lanjut ke luar negeri untuk tingkat magister sebenarnya telah saya pupuk sejak studi di tingkat sarjana. Pada waktu kuliah di Universitas Andalas, saya merasa senang dan cocok dengan kampus tersebut. Akhirnya, saya berhasil meraih prestasi sebagai Mahasiswa Berprestasi Utama kategori Ilmu Pengetahuan Sosial (IPS) yang diseleksi oleh Rektor Universitas Andalas dan Dewan Penyantun Universitas Andalas di tahun 2006. Saya melamar berbagai beasiswa, termasuk AusAid atau ADS (Australian Development Scholarships), beasiswa Dikti, dan beasiswa Fulbright. Pada awalnya, saya kurang begitu yakin diterima di Amerika Serikat, malahan justru saya ingin ke Australia. Ibarat rezeki, sebagai orang Muslim, tentu saya meyakini bahwa rezeki ditentukan oleh Allah SWT. Ternyata, saya berjodoh dengan beasiswa Fulbright.

Dengan demikian, jawaban dari pertanyaan ini adalah bahwa ternyata beasiswa Fulbright adalah beasiswa yang sangat dihormati di negeri Paman Sam tersebut, dan bahkan di seluruh dunia mengenali nama beasiswa Fulbright. Banyak peraih Nobel yang ternyata adalah bagian dari keluarga besar Fulbright. Ada rasa bangga ketika saya dinyatakan lulus untuk menerima beasiswa Fulbright. Apakah hanya setahun dua tahun persiapan saya untuk beasiswa Fulbright? Lalu, apa saja yang sudah saya persiapkan berupa dokumen-dokumen sebelum mengirimkannya ke kantor AMINEF di Jakarta? Bagaimana pengalaman saya selama proses beasiswa Fulbright? Apa sajakah yang diterima pada saat pelaksaan beasiswa Fulbright? Selama di Amerika Serikat, apa sajakah yang telah saya pelajari? Kegiatan seperti apakah yang perlu kita jalani sebagai penerima beasiswa Fulbright? Pertanyaan-pertanyaan ini akan saya jawab melalui tiga video-video yang ada di bawah ini. Silakan disimak ya… Videonya berdurasi cukup lama, yaitu berkisar 1 jam, namun saya yakin akan sangat berguna bagi siapa saja yang juga ingin studi lanjut ke Amerika Serikat.

Berbagi Informasi dan Pengalaman

Part 1 berisi informasi mendasar tentang program beasiswa yang ditawarkan oleh AMINEF (American Indonesian Exchange Foundation).
Part 2 berisi informasi tentang bagaimana mengisi Fulbright Application Form, serta berbagi pengalaman berharga selama berada di USA dalam rangka studi lanjut tingkat magister.
Part 3 berisi informasi tentang apa-apa saja yang telah saya persiapkan di dalam proses seleksi beasiswa Fulbright, berikut beberapa contoh prestasi yang saya miliki untuk memberi nilai tambah ke aplikasi beasiswa saya.


Beasiswa Fulbright pada dasarnya adalah beasiswa dari pemerintah Amerika Serikat. Beasiswa ini sangat dihormati di negeri tersebut. Negara-negara lainnya juga menghargai penerima beasiswa Fulbright ini. Peraih beasiswa Fulbright pada unsur tertentu perlu memiliki keunikan tersendiri, yang berdasarkan panitia seleksi, selain memenuhi persyaratan yang diminta, juga memiliki nilai tambah berupa kepemimpinan, seperti pengalaman organisasi, atau prestasi lainnya di luar studi formal, yang memberi nilai tambah sebagai seorang ilmuwan.

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Bagi siapa saya yang ingin melamar beasiswa Fulbright, perlu diingat bahwa persyaratan perlu dipenuhi, sesuai dengan tingkatan studi yang akan dilamar, atau sesuai dengan program yang akan diikuti. Selain itu, disarankan harus ada nilai tambah yang kita maksudkan di dalam aplikasi lamaran beasiswa kita. Di tahap interview, perlu menjelaskan komponen beasiswa dengan baik serta lugas ke panitia seleksi.

Semoga lamaran beasiswa Anda ke Fulbright bisa sukses dan berhasil. Bila mau berdiskusi atau seandainya ada pertanyaan yang berkaitan dengan pengalaman saya di dalam menerima beasiswa Fulbright, silakan dituliskan pertanyaan atau poin diskusi di bagian komentar di bawah ini. Terima kasih. 🙂

Catatan: Untuk informasi lebih lanjut dan akurat tentang Beasiswa Fulbright, silakan kunjungi situs AMINEF, yang dapat diakses di link berikut ini: https://www.aminef.or.id/

2020 – The Dark Times, or the Enlightenment?

The year 2020 has ended. Many things happened throughout the year that can be taken as lessons and, for some, they can be the gate to a prosperous meaning of the purpose of life as a human on earth. In this post, I share a few of my pondering notes to you to three aspects: 1) early 2020 year; 2) the middle of 2020 year; and 3) the end of 2020. I used to write reflective posts since the end of 2018. This time, I share what is more than just reflective notes. A few social condition and facts are shared in this post to illustrate the whole point of the conflicting views: The Dark Times or The Enlightenment?

The year 2020 has ended. Many things happened throughout the year that can be taken as lessons and, for some, they can be the gate to a prosperous meaning of the purpose of life as a human on earth. In this post, I share a few of my pondering notes to you to three aspects: 1) early 2020 year; 2) the middle of the 2020 year; and 3) the end of 2020. I used to write reflective posts at the end of 2018. This time, I share what is more than just reflective notes. A few social conditions and facts are shared in this post to illustrate the whole point of the conflicting views: The Dark Times or The Enlightenment? Names of people and places are just coincident.

Perhaps, you might notice that this post might sound a bit personal because it is constructed from my experience, but I think that it might not be that bad to share with the world. For the many people out there, I hope that this post might be useful for you. I am a human just like you. It feels good to share with the whole world about our accomplishments, but it is also useful for the world to know about failure after being mistreated.

Early 2020: the Beginning of the Mysterious Year

In the early year of 2020, or on the last day of 2019, I posted Reflections from 2019 in my blog (see in this link: https://syayidss.com/2020/01/18/reflections-from-2019-the-sparkling-notes/). In that post, I shared a few reflective Notes on Life (Family, Friends), Notes on Work, Notes on Social Media, Notes on Arts, Notes on Religion and Faith (Islam – Leveling Up the Faith), and Notes on the World (Expectations & No Expectations). After I lived my life in 2020 year, I would assume that my statement:

I welcome you 2020 and hopefully, the big thing will come soon 

If you paid attention to the phrase: the big thing, then you will notice that there is a code there. I started it with the word: hopefully. The sentence means that I was in the middle of something and wishing that the good thing would come out of it. Unfortunately, what I wished for finally did not happen, and in the end, the superpower of the universe, Allah SWT, seemed to give no permission for the big thing to happen to me. I wished that the big thing was to work and serve my country in a better place.

When things happened beyond our control and logical mind, we might end up being confused. You started to ask questions to yourself, “How could that happen?” When we used to live our lives in a decent lifestyle, we used to think that everything is fine. The life-routine goes like this way. You went to work early in the morning. At noon, you were so busy at work, until you had lunch with meals that you brought with you from home. Occasionally, you had that small chit chat with your colleagues at work. In the afternoon, you paid a visit to see your mother and father have a nice conversation with you, including your siblings. After the sunset, right after the Maghrib prayer, you went back home to see your spouse and child and have a delicious dinner. All were so beautiful, until that day…somewhere in March 2020.

In March 2020, I joined a national test for governmental officials (ASN) selection. I preferred the Ministry of Religious Affairs to be serving as a faculty in an Islamic university in Padang city. The registration procedure was open in November 2019. The additional reason why I joined the test was to help the college where I worked. The pandemic Covid-19 situation was said a condition impacting the college financially. It turned out that it was a silly thing of me to hear such a whisper and trusted it. My intention was to help their condition, in hope that there would be no other bad thing happening. I trusted them that they would keep their words: that nothing would happen to my work status if I registered for the national test to become an ASN – an Indonesian government employee. At least, that was what I heard from the college rulers. Unfortunately, I obtained the second position for the candidates of ASN, and that leads me to, eventually, fail to be accepted as a worker at one of the Islamic universities in Padang. When I searched for information about who passed the test as number one, I found out that the person graduated in 2019. “Still young and a fresh graduate”, I thought. Perhaps, it was a good fortune for the person. I might have been thought that my experience as a lecturer for almost ten years might benefit me to gain that position. “Well, there must be a better position for me, then…Perhaps, working as an ASN isn’t my destiny at the moment”, I said to myself in a sigh.

Deciding to come back to the old college might seem to be a ridiculous idea. The rulers gave me opportunities to decide: remain working in the college with all limited rights on a monthly payment, reduced for about 50%, or applying for the ASN. The first might sound fine, but then I was told that they could not be able to give any more payment. Then, which option I had to take? The latter. It was risky, but I took the challenge, just because I trusted them. The condition was that it was not in certainty yet. For better for worst, I applied to work as ASN, to help the rulers. Today, I realize that I was fooled. I realize that it was the rulers’ intention to make me go, to be far away from doing what I love the most to do as a scholar: learning, teaching, and writing. Since June 2020, I never came back to college. Allah SWT, God of the Almighty, knows exactly the details and why…

Of course, I would not share too many details about the above experience in this post. Some of my blog readers are friends, while perhaps, some readers are the fault seeker: always finding statements that can be reported to give trouble to the statement maker. However, one thing that I certainly notice was that having money is a luxury, but having no money is misery. In the year 2020, I would call it a mysterious year. As a Muslim myself and I practice it on daily basis here in Indonesia, I realized that the only thing that can destroy human life is humans themselves: that is between them. The only thing that can help humans is humans themselves. We certainly can help ourselves, but in some conditions, we need to help each other. God, or Allah SWT, has never made any mistakes in the universe, but human does. It was not God’s mistake to let me be in this misery. It was actually my fault: to believe in humans who were unworthy of being believed. I asked myself. Have you considered that the bad thing that happened in your life was because of yourself? Have you ever pondered deeply in your mind that you had done the very best thing you could, still, bad things still happen in your life?

My answers would be two items: 1) bad things happened because of the decision of yourself; 2) bad things happened to you because Allah SWT wants to test you and your patience in life through conditions beyond your control.

Sounds religious? It does. Patience is felt heavy in the heart for the first time. You were born alone, and you will die alone, too. In life, we live together. That’s how life works.

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Throughout the year 2020, I had left the job, although, in fact, the drama taking place in the job among the rulers made me seen and regarded as if it was me who decided to leave. In such a horrible situation, especially in the middle of the Covid-19 situation impacting almost everyone in different countries, I opened the Al-Qur’an. Searching for an answer. Where would I have to find an answer, then, as a Muslim? The following verses were what I found. Reading the verses calmed me down, so I could survive facing all the miserable conflict happening throughout the year 2020.

The first verse is about the meaning of surrender to Allah SWT.

Dan barangsiapa berserah diri kepada Allah, sedang dia orang yang berbuat kebaikan, maka sesungguhnya dia telah berpegang kepada buhul (tali) yang kokoh. Hanya kepada Allah kesudahan segala urusan

Al-Qur’an, Luqman: 22

Just as an illustrative point, I really knew exactly what it felt like after studying hard to answer the questions in the examination of a course in your school, you only ended up being in the second place. The first place went to the son of your school teacher. Have you experienced this? I had. Does it happen within your control? It did not. There are things that cannot be controlled within your capability, although you did your best.

In 2020, I felt that it was the year to surrender to the Will of Allah SWT. We know pretty sure when we do good deeds and we applied kindness to everyone around us without asking anything in return from the people that we helped. I still hold it tight: the rope to Allah SWT. As the verse said, all matters will be rest and decided by Him, so I surrender everything to the Willingness of Allah SWT. My tasks would be doing the best I could in life: to be the best version of myself and to be a human who worships Allah SWT, just like many other religious followers who worship their God. This consciousness is what I know as Hablumminallah. As the connection to God, I believe that Allah SWT never does any harm to humans. It is the human themselves who break out the natural ruling system.

Between humans, I know the term: Habluminannaas. It means that humans build a peaceful social life among themselves. There might be situations or conditions where we are treated in an unfair situation, or that we were considered as outsiders just because we are so active in giving opinions or judgments over social issues. We did that, simply, because we care. It turned out that we had been treated unlawfully. You may take what happened to me during this 2020 year as an example. The following quote is simple, but it means a lot, in this matter.

Hanya dua sikapmu untuk yang menjahatimu: 1) Abaikan; 2) Maafkan, lalu abaikan

Mario Teguh

Mario Teguh said that we had two feedback to be given when we were mistreated by others: either we ignore what happened and move forward, or we can forgive what they did, ignore what happened, and move forward. Going back to the verse above, Luqman : 22, then it is a wiser idea to just let it go: ignore what happened and move forward. Forgive? I give it the rest to Allah SWT, as the Best Decision Maker. As a human, I already forgave them. What had happened, happened. There is nothing we could change about it. The best attitude to give when mistreatment given to us is to forgive and let it go. It happened, and Allah SWT knows. However, when circumstances deal with laws and crimes that had been mistreated to us, perhaps, the story might be a little bit different. You tried to speak and tell the truth to the government. Once you did it, let all the rest belongs to Allah SWT. All matters will be His, as the God of all the Most Fairest of all.

The Middle of 2020: the Dark Times … or the Enlightenment?

As many Muslims in the world believe, life itself consists of two realms: 1) this worldly life at present; 2) the life of the hereafter after Judgment Day. As I pondered myself, after a few years back with tremendous access to accomplishments and travels to many different places, I then realized that the purpose of life is not the life itself. The purpose of life is what we get after this life because this life ends with death, one day. Death is a certain phenomenon. The logic of humans is to compete on this only one and shared planet. Well, if everything is done with such an honest attitude, I would not mind at all to compete. When I know that winners could win in competition by cheating with the jurors, bribing them, or paying the judge in court, for example, competing is just a fairy tale. You actually win, but you are not going to be the winner. Most of them think that those who could control everyone and master the economic power will rule the inhabitants on earth. To my surprise, Al-Qur’an teaches how to live life in balance between the World and the goal for the Hereafter.

The following verse speaks to me clearly about how important it is to be balance in life.

Barangsiapa menghendaki kehidupan sekarang (duniawi), maka Kami segerakan baginya di (dunia) ini apa yang Kami kehendaki bagi orang yang Kami kehendaki. Kemudian Kami sediakan baginya (di akhirat) neraka Jahannam; dia akan memasukinya dalam keadaan tercela dan terusir (18) Dan barangsiapa menghendaki kehidupan akhirat dan berusaha ke arah itu dengan sungguh-sungguh, sedangkan dia beriman, maka mereka itulah orang yang usahanya dibalas dengan baik (19). Kepada masing-masing (golongan) baik (golongan) ini (yang menginginkan dunia) maupun (golongan) itu (yang menginginkan akhirat) Kami berikan bantuan dari kemurahan Tuhanmu. Dan kemurahan Tuhanmu tidak dapat dihalangi (20). Perhatikanlah bagaimana Kami melebihkan sebagian mereka atas sebagian (yang lain), Dan kehidupan akhirat lebih tinggi derajatnya dan lebih besar keutamaannya (21). Janganlah engkau mengadakan Tuhan yang lain di samping Allah, nanti engkau menjadi tercela dan terhina (22)

Al-Qur’an, Al-Isra: 18-22

Allah SWT seems like proclaiming that those, humans, who want the prosperous life on earth and in this world, they can get it, if Allah SWT permits, they will gain more (Muslims and non-Muslims alike), but there is no chance for them to enter Heaven at all in the Hereafter (Muslims and non-Muslims alike). Humans who change or subsidize their destiny to be in Heaven to material life in the world will enter Hell easily. About the material life in this world, or being rich, is indeed the destiny given by Allah SWT for whom He wills (Muslims and non-Muslims alike). If He wills, a human can be rich, even with small businesses. Even if a human did their best to be rich with all he could if Allah SWT does not permit that, then being wealthy in this material world will not happen. However, as a reward, if the people who do not get this worldly life are patience, then they will get theirs in the Hereafter, in the form of Heaven. The best prayer, indeed, is that we wish that we receive enough needs in this worldly life and we enter Heaven with such a feeling of fulfillment. At this point, it makes sense, to me.

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I also try to remind friends of mine that the phrase of worldly life is like a trap. Islamic preachers, or ustadz, such as Aa Gym, Adi Hidayat, Abdul Somad, Basalamah brothers, Ali Jabber, and many others, such as Yusuf Estes, Ahmad Deedat, Zakir Naik, taught that the purpose of life of Muslims in this world is to live their life peacefully, to connect what is in this world of what they do intentionally to what they would reach in the Hereafter. If they do good in Life, they will earn well in the Hereafter. If humans focus merely on the worldly life, then they would slip off into the act of corruption, collusion, and nepotism. For this aspect, it has nothing to do with religion. If the purpose of life of humans is simply being wealthy, then what is the use of the wealth itself after we gain it? Well, if one day, I am wealthy, I will use the wealthiness to create a greater good. We should start with protecting ourselves first, then we could save others around us, but what does it mean with the word enough? The more money I have, the more responsibility that Allah SWT will ask me on Judgment Day about where I obtained the money and to what purposes I spent it. My question is that what does it mean to you the enough of the worldly life? So far, I only received income from monthly salaries and functional support payments before May 2020. Starting in June 2020, I did not receive any income. To this day, I certainly believe that all financial income that I received from the first time I worked to this day are from trustworthy sources. I worked and I got paid. I did not intend to earn more by cheating or doing any corruption. All money I have is pure and clean. No wonder, I do not have a house of my own or a car I could drive. I still have the same old motorbike that I purchased in 2010. Does not mean to be thankful, tho’, well, indeed, I am thankful for what Allah SWT has given to me. I just do not want to be greedy, that’s all.

If I could be so selfish to myself, with all of the financial income that I received in the past ten years as an English lecturer in Indonesia, including with my savings when I received the Fulbright scholarship award or payments from many sources, such as being an invited speaker in many international conferences or seminars, I might have been able to purchase a delicate car for myself or build a house on my style. However, I decided not to be that selfish. How would it be like if I enjoy myself with the luxury of life that I could achieve, while my mom-and-dad live their life in such a miserable life for having less financial abilities? I spent a few of my savings for my siblings’ school fees, helping my mother to pay her electricity bills, helping my father to purchase additional items that he needs, and of course, I gave a few of those to my spouse for a simple living at home, as well as providing necessary needs, such as milk, meals, clothes, and toys. What I purchased for my son, like baby clothes, toys, sometimes, are used by my wife’s sister because she has a daughter. She and her husband did not have a decent life. They live their life below the poverty line. Hopefully, they could be more independent in providing items for their daughter. I might not be able to help that much, or, being used that often since what I have been thorough. Now, I asked myself again. Did I have much money with all that? In numbers, definitely, no. Do I have a priority in life as to where I should spend my money? I, in fact, made use of all of my money to the fullest, not just for me. Should I have to tell this to the world? It’s yours to decide. I just want to be a useful person. Starting in 2020, situations are a bit uneasy …

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Did you see the above picture? Yes. That is the picture of a car. A nice and delicate car. Oh, I wish I could have a beautiful car like that. I know that everyone already has a car back in the United States. In the life setting of Indonesia, to me, having a car is still a luxurious thing to have. Corrupt officials make fortune by cheating. Not many of them, but some do. Living standards are different from one country to another. In Indonesia, a car is a luxury, while in the United States, a car might be purchased even at a lower price, excluding the brand. The gas that might be more expensive compared to the gas in Indonesia. What I did was that I traded my income to feed my family and help them to keep going. In turn, yes, as you could see, I own less for myself to pride everyone. I am poor, as the result. My sister went to a university and I paid for her school fees and transportation costs. I helped my brother with supports for entering a state university in Padang. I remember the following verse in the Al-Qur’an that keeps reminding me of the purpose of life.

Dan barangsiapa buta (hatinya) di dunia ini, maka di akhirat dia akan buta dan tersesat jauh dari jalan (yang benar).

Al:Qur’an, Al-Isra’: 72

Allah SWT says that everyone whose heart is blind in this world, they will go deeply blinder later on in the Hereafter from the real and correct paths to Allah SWT. I pondered about this deeply in this year since June 2020. Will I be able to feed my family and their needs in the year of 2021? I still have a bigger hope. Please do pray for me. It’s a hard trust to be the backbone of your family. I know that you might feel it the same way with me, no matter what your religion or faith is.

Due to the drama and conflict happening in the workplace between the rulers, I became one of the victims, simply because I did not pick any side. June 2020 was the month that I did not receive a monthly payment or salary, and onward to the foreseeable future. In many places in the world, including places in Indonesia, people lost their lives due to the Covid-19 virus, some lost their jobs, and quite a few lost their loved ones. I feel that I am not alone. I lost my job. However, there is something in my observance that I knew pretty well that I had my rights for extra payments, but well, yes, like what the verse said, some humans have blocked their hearts to understand the truth, even though you mentioned the truth wholeheartedly. They put hatred before listening or trying to understand one another. I still believe that humans were not created by God to be that senseless character. It is the thing that corrupts their mind that makes them do such false action. Going back to the verse of Al-Isra: 18-22, is it still alright to hunt this material wealthy, while right in front of your eyes you could see people who did all their can, even neglecting the basic part of human: being true to themselves, just to be wealthy? I agree that it is good to be wealthy, but it is never good to be wealthy if you reached it unlawfully and being wealthy by sacrificing other fellow humans. I may be used as one of the examples of the victims. Some people want to be wealthy, but they sacrifice others to reach what they want. How sad.

Well, some people might decide to be atheists. In my case, to whom will you return when none seems to be trustworthy and lack honesty other than giving your trust to God? It’s okay to depend on yourself, but to be alive in the setting where there is no reachable support system seems pretty tough to face. The biggest mistake I did was to give my trust to people who later on became unworthy of my trust. I was betrayed, and that feels so bitter. This is not about religious belief anything at all. It is about humans themselves. When powers are in the wrong hands, good people may become victims of abusive power. Am I wrong to say this? I believe that leaders are seen from difficult situations, while bosses exist only in the moment of a profitable situation. Right at this point, I surrender everything to the Will of Allah SWT. It is beyond my control to deal with humans’ greediness.

What people did to me will be their responsibility in the Day of Judgment, while the fact of the matter is that the doers and the victims will die at one point in their lives, so why is it so important to sacrifice others for the selfish ego? Just a question to ponder, my friends.

The End of 2020: Between Hopes and Prayers

The day when I wrote this post is Wednesday, December 30, 2020. On Friday, there will be a new day for the 2021 year. I have a bigger hope that circumstances in life will get better. Doing the best we can reflect the actions from us as humans, while the good way to do it is to have prayers. Everyone who believes in the magnificent superpower of the universe, Allah SWT, will enhance their prayers for what might still happen in the future.

I remember this verse in Al-Qur’an:

Ketahuilah, sesungguhnya kehidupan dunia itu hanyalah permainan dan senda gurauan, perhiasan dan saling berbangga di antara kamu serta berlomba dalam kekayaan dan anak keturunan, seperti hujan yang tanam-tanamannya mengagumkan para petani; kemudian (tanaman) itu menjadi kering dan kamu lihat warnanya kuning kemudian menjadi hancur. Dan di akhirat (nanti) ada azab yang keras dan ampunan dari Allah serta keridaan-Nya. Dan kehidupan dunia tidak lain hanyalah kesenangan yang palsu.

Al-Qur’an, Al-Hadid: 20

Such a tremendous statement from Allah SWT that the life of this material world is indeed closer to fake fun of shallow happiness. After I think about it, it reflects my mind about something. Everything we do seems to be repetitive. It does not have to be me as Muslims, but it includes all people of faiths: Christianity, Judaism / Jewish, Hinduism, Buddhism, or even Atheism, all do their life in such repetitive fashion. You woke up in the morning, and sleep at night. You were once a child, now you are old. Eating, having a bath, drinking, peeing, going to the toilet, and working, all are done in a repetitive fashion. One thing that is not being repetitive: Death. I have never seen any dead goat can be alive again after being slaughtered in the name of Allah SWT, for instance. Therefore, the purpose of life is to enter Heaven in the Hereafter. If I decided to put the purpose of my life today, only to be rich and wealthy, then I might end up losing everything if one day I realize that Allah SWT does not want me to be rich and wealthy. However, still, praying to Allah SWT to ease our life and bless us with the wealth of this world and use it to kindness just for the sake of Allah SWT, why not? It is good to be wealthy, but it is even better to use it for helping other fellow humans who are less fortunate, so they can be free from the poverty line.

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In spite of all the life tests and difficulties that I experience throughout the year 2020, I read the following verse:

Sungguh, Allah Mengetahui apa yang gaib di langit dan di bumi. Dan Allah Maha Melihat apa yang kamu kerjakan.

Al-Qur’an, Al-Hujurat: 18

With or without even being known by people for all kindness I did, it did not matter much for people to know it. What matters is what Allah SWT sees from me. People can lie to one another like I told you earlier. Alhamdulillah, throughout the year 2020, I could be a blood donor for PMI Padang three times. I am happy to give more when I have what I can give to the world.

2021: The Year of Forgiveness and Moving Forward

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That is true that at one point in our life that we might be offended, hurt, or betrayed by other fellow humans. People who did treat us bad, in fact, are bad in their nature. In dealing with such disappointments, I read this verse:

Allah Mahalembut terhadap hamba-hamba-Nya; Dia memberi rezeki kepada siapa yang Dia kehendaki; dan Dia Mahakuat, Mahaperkasa

Al-Qur’an, Asy-Syura: 19

Then, to whom shall I rest my needs and rezeki other than to Allah SWT?

I have seen the real fact that humans can cheat and steal people’s rights with the unlawful act. Will these people be set free without being charged for committing crime? That might just happen in the life of humans. Once they reach the end of their life, is it worthy of repentance with all destruction that they had caused? I have learned a lesson that to put my trust in people, or in a famous and influential person for that matter, can sometimes be felt bitter, because somehow, it might be easy to break such trust by them. Breaking trust is indeed wrong in Islam, unless you were trapped, like my experience in 2020.

To close this post, now I sincerely answer the question above, as in the title of this post. The answer is that 2020 is the year of both dark times and enlightenment. I am enlightened that humans need themselves, and they can make their life better by themselves due to Covid-19. They should help one another to have such a delightful way of life. It is the greediness over political power that causes the dark times felt even bitter, more than the pandemic Covid-19. Isn’t that what the news had portrayed?

Hoping for the best in 2021, aamiin, insya Allah. I wish that the 2021 year will be a good year for everyone. Aamiin.

Covid-19 and the Reflective Life Experience

Celebrating birthday this year with Covid-19 teaches me two major notes reflectively: the meaning of social status and the expected social care from people to people. What would it mean to have a social status? What does it do with the leaders? The word permanent can also mean non-permanent for some reasons, in an unfair game, or in a solid lies based decision. This year brings real life experience. It keeps me growing from time to time. Please read this post to read the details.

Approaching the date of my birthday this year reminds me of how I should be thankful to Life that is blessed upon me. I have been living on this earth for 35 years old. I am, indeed, growing from time to time. I feel that I am getting older, and I hope that I am getting wiser at times passing by. The year of 2020 signifies two major notes for my reflective post, with a few additional small notes, of course. I write this post in the sense of sharing my perspective. It does not have any relation at all with anyone. It is simply my thoughts. The two major notes relate to meanings of social status and the existence of social care. Within each major note, I add a few facts and examples from what I observed and experience so far, to reach the sense of reflective life experience.

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The first major note deals with the meanings of social status. A person who has a certain social status has also, indeed, a certain degree of responsibility over the social status. As a person who is growing up in Indonesia, I noticed that for the most part, the highest social status can be seen in the form of being a rich person – having the luxury of life. It connects to the notion of American standard, the Western standards in particular. Unfortunately, when the conflicting issues on corruption, collusion, and nepotism arise, I begin to realize that being a rich person is good on the surface. At that point, the degree of responsibility emerges. For example, the case of Edi Tansil – the most wanted corruptor in Indonesia in the past ten years – shows how insignificant it is to be rich while being rich is derived unlawfully. I learned that having a social status is, therefore, about having a certain degree of responsibility and demanding tasks. When such responsibility cannot be met and the tasks were completed in lawfully wrong ways, then the meanings of social status become questionable. It needs to be approached contextually.

Furthermore, the higher a person has the social status, the higher the responsibility that the person has. I have a solid experience in this regard. After eleven years working as a permanent English lecturer since 2009, how would I knew that eventually I was forced “conditionally and situationally” to end up that working in the middle of 2020? Being a lecturer at a college in Indonesia, to me, is a high social status. Everyone recognizes that I am teaching. If I calculated the numbers of students I had taught, it could reach more than 1000 students. Most of them have graduated. Besides, I also published quite many research articles. I also completed community services to nearby communities. Dozens of activities that I enjoyed working. In 2020, I was forced to end it. I stopped my explanation ‘at this point’. How amazing isn’t it to see the word permanent can be changed? When I linked this real life experience to the notion of having social status, I can frankly state that, absolutely, I have accomplished that social status with better service and responsibilities. Perhaps, that will be a sign for me to receive a higher social responsibility later on? I would say, “Thank you, Covid-19! You open the door to see the other side of having social status” I smiled.

Being a leader of a community means that the leader should know the strength of the power of being a leader; at the same time, being a leader also means that recognizing the limits of being a leader is important. The two words, strengths and limits, signify strong awareness to the existence of power. Now, let me bring you to a real life experience of mine. I would replace the word ‘I’ into ‘he.’ He was working as a worker, a teacher to be precise, for eleven years. Unstopped. He worked diligently until he could obtain achievement as one of the best teachers at the college where he worked. One day, the college had disputes with the board of the college. Usually, these two college elements both worked well, until the most respected person in the board passed away. The number of students was getting limited due to Covid-19. Without proper checking and balance, the leaders of the college selected him to be put ‘out side,’ simply because he stood neutral. He knew pretty well that he was a scholar. His main concern was to adjust the scholarship endeavours. He did not pick any side. He stayed in balance. He focused on his work. What condition that he had to pay for being neutral in a conflicting situation? The answer, in fact, lies within the leaders of where he worked. If being a full of achievement teacher does not help him stay to be employed compared to many other teachers, then the question goes to the leaders who make such decisions. Do the leaders know their strengths and the limits of their power? To possess power with too much strengths without having certain limits will end up being dictators. I am sure that nobody loves to work under dictatorship conditions. Or, do you?

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The social status that someone possesses, though it might be temporarily, it needs to be taken seriously to the acceptable normal standards. The normal standards are made in line with the local cultures / local wisdom, but the standards need to be in accordance to the legal law and constitution. In my case, I completed my tasks as an English lecturer well. Evidence and related documents were available. There is a two sided story at this point. My perspective as a worker and the perspective of the leaders. Both sides would claim that they are right. Under the regulation of law, especially laws that govern the scholars and academia of Indonesia, there should be fair and balanced decision. Since I completed my work before I was forced to leave ‘conditionally and situationally’; thus, I could argue that for my part, I achieved the best work performance to the acceptable normal standards. Financial compensation payment is the key at this point. If Covid-19 is used as a mask to avoid this sort of responsibility from the leaders’ side, then it clearly becomes the evidence that the leaders are unfair. Therefore, they were not serious to achieve the acceptable normal standards.

The Covid-19 pandemic season shows a vivid lesson of how significant a social status is, but the pandemic season also teaches how far a leader may make a rationalistic-and-humane decision. At this point, nobody can live alone in any society. Everyone is connected in many layers and through many forms. However, someone needs to be aware of the existence of others. For example, the case of reducing the number of lecturers at a private college. When such decision was taken without any legal jurisdiction, then the social status of the leaders could be provoked to a lower level. Covid-19 has shown clearly about which type of leadership that lasts in this difficult times and which leadership that may fall onto dictatorship. There is an old saying, ‘there is always a positive side in every situation.’ That might be true, but that exists only in stories, full of imagined life situation. Today, someone may be rich. One day, that someone may lose the rich. If being rich is the only social status to be prevailed, then everyone must have to be rich. Thus, the rationalistic-and-humane decision can only be achieved when the leaders pay attention to the rules governing all aspects of social life to be with one purpose: fair and balanced.

The second major note of this post is the form of ideas on the existence of social care. Social care is the system that works to protect everyone during the difficult times, such as this Covid-19 pandemic season. The best plan to have for the future, for any society in the world, is to have some preparation to face different challenges in the future. Social care is the legal concern from the government. Its purpose is to care for members of the society. For example, Jiwasraya insurance is a well-known insurance in Indonesia. Since 2012, I was entitled to this insurance by the board and college where I worked. My salary was deducted Rp. 50.000 / month. It is equal to $5, if $1 is Rp. 10.000. I thought that everything would be fine. At the end of 2019, I proposed a claim to withdraw the insurance money. After working as a lecturer for eleven years, it’s time to take mine, but the reality shows the contrary. It will be transferred to my bank account, but the time is unpredictable. That kind of situation, therefore, needs a valid and obvious action in the form of social care.

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Social care is linked to providing social protection to people. In a corrupt working environment, social protection to the workers is a rare condition to exist. Following what I have informed earlier, social protection for lecturers can be in the form of providing compensation money after leaving job without self willingness. Corrupt leaders may try to find excuses and reasons in order to show public that they make sensible reasons and decisions. The authorities at this point need to track the chronological event to break out the truth of what is actually going on in the workplace. When money is too powerful to feed on the hungry officials as the authorities, then it might not be called as corrupt environment any longer. It is called as failed working environment. Social protection is a deserved thing for everyone. My mind goes back to the case of black Americans in the United States. There are heated conversation taking place. The answer to the dillemma of the United States is, indeed, social protection, that everyone is equally protected in the eyes of law and fair government.

A society that has lack of social protection for its members seems to having a lack of quality leadership. Everyone might agree that leadership means to have actions to lead people. If the leaders are only capable of giving directions, and subconsciously, pointing fingers at their employees, then it might be true to say that demanding social protection is a dream comes true within this sort of leadership. Leaders who are easily to be offended when the employees make a few statements to criticize their leaders’ decision concerning the employees’ life existence, for instance, may be subject to be called as dictators. In many different parts of the world and even in many literature, the good leaders who protect their members of society and the fair-and-balanced leaders who make rationalistic-and-humane decisions are always wanted by any type of society, regardless the place and area of where it may be located. “I may continue to live my life”, as one might say after being mistreated or trapped in the workplace. “I have to continue my life, perhaps by working in a better college or university?”, says someone who still have hopes for a better future. When there is no financial compensation, no social support to protection as a worker’s rights to earn his or her dignity after giving the best s/he can, then that workplace is, in fact, deserved to be labelled as a mentally corrupt working environment. If one day this sort of workplace finally decided to give the worker’s rights, it actually has not erased the earlier unfair decision.

From my description, or a little argument above, I conclude that social status is a valid key to see someone’s success in the society, but that can only be seen from what the person is doing to the society itself. Meanwhile, the existence of social care needs to be seen as the strong foundation for the society to provide relevant care and protection to its civilians. Social care can be given in the form of social protection to all members of the society. The social status and social care are connected both ways. Leaders of a particular society determine their social status and, as a matter fact, their success can be measured from the social care they provide and construct for the society. To say fair and balanced as well as justice above all is easy, but to put them into practice is another story. To be the villain or to be the heroes is, indeed, our decision to make. To be the chronological victim, a victim that is really a victim due to the abusive power of the leaders, is never an option for everyone who is morally sensible, beyond religion or faith. The meaning of social status lies within ourselves: what have I done as a member of my society? my community? my family? is it fair for them? is it morally good for everyone? is it kind to people? if I believe in God, is God looking at what I did as good? Covid-19 pandemic seasons has indeed provided real life experience to another dimension.


Notes: 1) pictures above are used for illustrating the explanation and arguments; 2) the featured image, in the upper part of this blogpost), is Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Photo from Pixabay.com

Happy Birthday 🎈🎂 to myself. Turning 35 years old. ☕ Where would be the next journey? Wallahu’alam bishawab.

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