Monday, April 12, 2010

The Collapse of Our Surau

Once upon a time, in the world hereafter, Allah was examining people who had returned to Him. The angels were at duty at His side. In their hands were lists of sins and rewards for human beings. There were many people to be examined. It was understandable since there were wars everywhere. Among those to be examined was a man known on earth as Haji Saleh. He smiled continuously because he was sure that he would be sent to Heaven. He stood with his chest puffed out and his arm akimbo, his nose in the air. When he saw people being sent to Hell, his lips twisted in derision. And seeing people in their way to Heaven, he waved his hand as if to say “I’ll see you latter.” The long queues seemed to have no end. As the front of the line moved, the back filed in. And Allah examined the waiting people with all His Might. Finally Haji Saleh’s turn came. Smiling proudly, he knelt before Allah. Then Allah put forward His first question:


“I am Saleh. But because I have been to Mecca, I am called Haji Saleh.”

“I did not ask for names. Names for me are insignificant. Names are only for you on earth."

“Yes, my Lord.”

“What did you do on earth?”

“I worshipped You always, my Allah.”

“Anything else?”

“Every day, every night, indeed all the time, I mentioned Your name.”

“Anything else?”

“I followed Your instructions. I never did anything sinful, although the earth was full of sins spread by the cursed devils.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes, my Lord. There was nothing I did but pray and kneel before You, mentioning Your name. even when I was ill, Your name was all my lips uttered. I prayed that the generosity of Your heart would convince Your people.”

“Anything else?”

Haji Saleh could not think of anything else to say. He had told Him everything he did. However, he realized that Allah’s question was not a casual one. There must be something else he had not mentioned. But to the best of his knowledge, he had told everything. He did not know what else to say. He was silent and bowed his head. The fire of Hell suddenly blew its slow heat all over his body. He cried, but each tear drop was dried by the hot air of Hell.

“Anything else?” Allah asked.

“I have told You everything, O Allah the Almighty, the Merciful, the Just, and the All-Knowing.” Haji Saleh, who was now frightened tried the tactic of humbling himself and exalting Allah, hoping that He would be more gentle and would not pursue this line of questioning. But Allah asked again:

“There is nothing else?”

“Oh, oh, yes, my Lord. I always read Your Book…”

“Anything else?”

“I have told you everything. Oh, my Allah. But if there is anything left out, I am thankful because it proves that You are the Omniscient.”

“Are you sure that there is nothing else you did on earth except the things you have just told Me?”

“That was all, my Allah.”

“Get in there!”

And the angels took hold of his ear and quickly dragged Haji Saleh to Hell. He did not know why. He did not understand what Allah expected of him, and yet he believed that Allah could do no wrong.

How stunned Haji Saleh was when he saw that many of his earth friends were roasting in Hell, groaning with pain. He became more perplexed when he realized that all the people he recognized in hell were no less religious than he was. There was even one man who had been to Mecca fourteen times and gained the title of Sheikh. Haji Saleh approached them and asked why they were in Hell. But like Haji Saleh, they did not know either.

“What’s happening to our Allah?” asked Haji Saleh later. “Weren’t we supposed to be constantly pious, firm in our belief? And we were! But now we have been thrown to Hell.”

“Yes, we agree with you. Look at those people! They’re all from our country, and they were no less faithful in their religion.”

“This is really an injustice.”

“Indeed injustice,” echoed the peoples.

“If so, we must request evidence of our guilt. We must remind Allah just in case He inadvertently made a mistake when He put us in the Hell.”

“Right. Right. Right.” Haji Saleh’s idea was applauded.

“What if Allah is not willing to acknowledge His mistake?” a high pitched voice asked from the crowd.
“We protest. We make a resolution,” said Haji Saleh.

“Shall we stage a revolution, too?” asked another voice, apparently someone who was a leader of a revolutionary movement.

“That depends on the circumstances,” replied Haji Saleh. “What’s important now is that we must stage a demonstration in order to meet with Allah.”

“Wonderful. On earth we achieved a lot just by having demonstration,” one voice put in.

“Agreed. Agreed. Agreed.” They applauded noisily and then departed.

When they came before Him, Allah asked: “What can I do for you?”

As leader and spokesman, Haji Saleh stepped forward. With trembling voice and beautiful rhythm, he begin his speech. “Oh, Allah, our Great Lord, We who are now in front of You are Your most devout followers, faithfully worshipping You. We are the people who always mention Your name, adore Your greatness, tell of Your justice, etc. We know Your book backward and forward. We read it and miss nothing. But Almighty Lord, when You summoned us to came here, You then sent us to Hell. Before anything terrible happens, on behalf of the people who love You, we ask that the punishment You have meted out to us be reconsidered, and that we be placed in Heaven in accordance with Your promise in Your book…”

“Where did you all live on earth?” asked Allah.

“We are Your follower who lived in Indonesia, Lord…”

“Oh, in that country with fertile land?”

“Yes, that’s right, Lord.”

“The soil is extremely rich, full of metal, oil, and other minerals, isn’t it?”

“Yes. Yes. Yes. That’s our country.”

“The country that was enslaved for a long time?”

“Yes, Allah. The colonialist was indeed accursed.”

“And the products of your land, it was they who scraped and took them to their own country, is that correct?”

“Correct, my Lord. We have nothing left. They were indeed cursed.’

“The country that is constantly troubled, where you are always fighting each other while someone else steals the products of your land. Is that true?”

 “Yes, Allah. But worldly things are not our concern. What is important for us is to kneel and worship You…”

“You do not mind to be perpetually poor, do you?”

“True. Not at all, Allah.”

“Because of your not minding it, your children and grandchildren with also remain poor, right?”

“Although our descendants are poor, they all read the holy Books. They learn Your books by hearts.”

“Just as with you, none of what they read goes into their hearts, isn’t that right?”

“No, it is in their hearts.”

“If that is the case, why did you allow yourselves to be poor and all your children and grandchildren to suffer, while letting others take away your wealth for their own children? And you prefer to fight each other, deceiving and hurting each other. I gave you an extremely rich country, but you are lazy. You prefer to pray, because praying does not take sweat or hard work. You all know that I asked you to do good deeds besides carrying out the religious practice. How can you do good deeds if you are poor? You think that I am fond of adoration, wanting only worship, so you did nothing but adore and worship me. No, you must all be sent to Hell, Here, angels, drive these peoples back to Hell. Put them at the very bottom…”

Everyone grew pale, not daring to say another word. Now they understood the course of the action on earth that Allah approved. Haji Saleh still wanted to know if what he done was right or wrong, but he lacked the courage to asked Allah, so he just asked the angels who were herding them along.

“In your opinion, is it wrong if on earth we worship Allah?”

“No. What was wrong with you was that you were too selfish. You were afraid of ending up in Hell, so you did nothing but pray. But in so doing you forgot about your people, forgot the welfare of your family, and they ended up neglected. That was your big mistake; too egotistical, even while knowing that you had friends and relatives that depending on you, you did not care for them at all.”

In the Surau edited by Soenjono Dardjowidjojo & Florence Lamoureux 1983

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