My journey to this cause
When I first looked through the prospectus of Dallas College of Cape Town in 2005 to enroll as a tertiary student, what attracted me to the course was one particular subject in the syllabus entitled Islamic Economics/Finance or whatever that name was which my memory now fails me to remember. I had already learnt about the enormity of the sin of Riba and that paper money or rather fiat currency, to be more accurate, is Riba in itself and therefore the use of which is Haram in Islam, all through my dear teacher Maulana Imran Nazar Hosein. For some inexplicable reason I was unable to enroll at the college that very year – I was later to realise that destiny, the act of Allah, was preparing me for some other role – and hence could only commence my studies at the beginning of the next academic year. When I finally landed at the college in 2006 I immediately realised much to my dismay that the very subject that had created in me the curiosity to enroll at the college had been removed from the syllabus after just one year of classes and Shaykh Umar Vadillo who was at that time Dean of the college and Professor on that very subject had to leave that vital pedagogic role to engage earnestly and urgently in a higher cause of establishing some matters indispensable to the revival of the use of Dinar and Dirham as currency and the re-establishment of the fallen pillars essential to revive the lost fiqh of mu’amalah. He travelled frequently and was not seen in Cape Town for a long time.
The heartfelt yearning for that knowledge gradually decreased to a hidden corner of my still perturbed heart for the next two years. A year after my enrolment I met Shaykh Umar for the first time at the weekly intensive Saturday night dhikr gatherings conducted under the presence and permission of the grand Shaykh of instruction, possessor of the knowledge of Allah, defender of the Deen of Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam and reviver of the pillar of zakat, Shaykh Abdal Qadir As-Sufi, may Allah preserve his secrets. The constant privilege and opportunity to either only see or at many times also listen to the Shaykh weekly, at the jumu’ah salat, more than occasionally at the college and once a month at the tomb of the great wali of Allah, Shaykh Matibi Shah of Cape Town for the recitation of Dua an Nasiri, was all too overwhelming and unbelievable for me to bring to mind that I still had hidden in my heart the yearning to meet Shaykh Umar and learn the subject of Riba, Mu’amalah, Dinar and Dirham, money and all the other indispensable string of subjects related to them. Because Shaykh Umar was only present at rare intermittent nights for the weekly dhikr gatherings, the yearning still only laid hidden.
It was not until one day sometime in the spring of 2008, if my memory does not fail me yet again, that I had an unforgettable private coffee sitting with Shaykh Umar and another gentleman at our college garden after lunch, which moment still stays vividly in my memory this time. I served him afternoon coffee with the pride of a third-year Dallas student who should have by now learnt the proper etiquettes of serving at a table since that was also part of the syllabus. He spoke to me about looking at the world differently and to take advantage of the current situation that puts us under oppression at one look but which is led by the most foolish kuffar and therefore the tables may be easily turned at another look. In that respect he illustrated the point with two examples – one on paper money vis-à-vis dinar and dirham and the other on homosexuality vis-à-vis polygamy.
The aroma of the coffee and his terse, reverberating and highly intellectual discourse jointly delivered a sharp thrust of energy that instantly re-awakened that hidden yearning in me. With his composed self he ended the discourse with a strong dose of the Nietzschean laughing lion analogy to elaborate a couple of other things. That transported me to a different kind of state for the next few days longing to serve Allah in establishing His Deen and defending the shari’ah of Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam and doing this with no fear but only as complete submission and sujud to Allah. From then I preserved the yearning in me and kept it warm awaiting the moment of destiny to begin this journey on the path to obey Him and serve Him through taking up the bullfight against Riba directly by its horns.
I met him next at the same year at the annual fiqh conference in Cape Town some time later while the year was still in spring. His talk there on the reconstruction of the pillars of mu’amalah gave me such certainty in my heart to travel after graduation and meet him in Kelantan to which place he invited everyone present at the conference during his talk, to come and witness and to engage in real action together with him to practically experience this momentous change that had begun to occur in Nusantara.
Immediately thereafter came exams that I graced through due to a whole year’s hard work of reading and writing under midnight oil, and then finally the graduation. On that emotional day, I received the best student award. Shaykh Abdal Qadir As-Sufi, may Allah guard him and his secrets and increase him in stations of ma’rifah, had given Dr. Ali, my professor and mentor, a one-ounce German silver coin to be given to the best student for the year. While Dr. Ali was handing it to me the Shaykh with an added touch of humour announced loud across the room to Dr. Ali to tell me – though everyone in the room could hear what he said and though he could tell me directly – that the coin was equivalent to about eight dirhams. When I received the coin, I was overjoyed but puzzled for a while but as soon as I recovered, some of the Shaykh’s words during his talk earlier imprinted on my heart and still resounds in me till today. He said:
In the great days of the past the best Muslim was the faqeer, but in the future, the best Muslim will be like Sultan Timur sweeping across territories, establishing mosques and markets, trading in gold and silver.
I felt a strong and almost fiery urge to meet Shaykh Umar again. The yearning and turmoil I went through was inexpressible but only produced the sound of boiling water in my heart. I had reached boiling point by now. I had to control the energy flow thenceforth for I feared I might do something rash and unwise with my highly enthusiastic adrenaline rush to do what I knew I had no choice but to do. I had to do other things to reduce the fire to bring down the water in me from boiling point to begin the process of cooking that is only done in low fire. This low fire I kept closely guarded until I returned to Singapore in April 2009.
Due to a number of other travel obligationsto Germany, Spain and Trinidad and Tobago, I could not travel to Kuala Lumpur to meet until the year 2010, the low fire nevertheless still alive throughout. Finally I went to Kuala Lumpur to attempt to at least just meet Shaykh Umar if not to begin a practical Heideggerian learning journey with him. But in yet another switch of destiny, I could not meet him at all even after multiple attempts until I almost gave up.
Just then my elder brother and I had a new privilege to travel to Jakarta and stay with Amir Zaim Saidi and his Wazir Pak Abdarrahman Rachadi for ten days. Amir Zaim had also spent a year at Dallas college as a special post-graduate research fellow directly under Shaykh Umar. I already knew him and his family because of his stay in Cape Town but little did I know that it would come as great benefit in the year 2010. During that ten-day stay in Jakarta with Amir Zaim and his ardent community working fee sabeelillah to establish Allah’s Deen in Indonesia, my brother and I learnt all the basic knowledge that is necessary to begin active practical work in this cause. We did not sit with textbooks in classrooms. We learnt practically by using the Dinar and Dirham and speaking to traders and looking at how markets were organised in Jakarta, etc. After our return to Singapore serous work began.
After much patience and teaching for a number of months what my brother and I had acquired after the last seven years or more to small groups of fine men and women came the first opening from Allah – the historical state launch of the Dinar and Dirham as zakat currency and halal currency for commercial transactions in Kelantan by Tuan Guru Nik Aziz and his party (PAS). Both Shaykh Umar and Amir Zaim spoke at the launch. It was the second day of Ramadan and a few other notable and credible scholars ad activists spoke too. It was on that journey that I developed a strong bond with my brother in Islam, Muhammad Noor Deros, who was the only courageous fresh Al-Azhar graduate I met at that time daring enough to change and struggle out of the quagmire of a dichotomy between conservatism and modernism into the renewing blue waters of genuine Islam – that is, to genuinely obey Allah and His Messenger sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. I had only once met him before to arrange our travel to Kelantan and I had only spoken to him a couple of times on the phone. He had come to Kelantan for the launch with two other fine gentlemen and I had gone with three more, one of them my younger brother.
That night after Iftar, I finally met with Shaykh Umar at the hotel lobby though only briefly. He told me not to underestimate the matters of the unseen occurring in that place. I requested him to meet with the Singapore delegation whenever he is free while we were all in Kelantan and I was enraptured as he agreed to sit with us right after the Taraweeh salat that very night. That historical and highly spiritual meeting lasted for close to four hours and from then on until now there has only been eruption after eruption in our hearts. Shaykh Ghazali, my brother, has always been guiding us in this matter as he always did point directions to me as an elder brother since I was very young. Tumasik Trade Network is the result of all of this.
This journey to Allah is the best of all sciences and those who stay away from it have absolutely not the tiniest drop of an idea no matter how much they engage their engines of imagination to run, of what they miss!