Friday, 19 August 2011
ZIARAH NAJJAR ABDUL-MUSSAWIR - FROM A PRISON CELL TO A MOSQUE IN KUALA KANGSAR
When I took a picture of Najjar praying in the serene and sublime prayer hall under the majestic dome of the iconic Ubuddiyah mosque of Kuala Kangsar, I had to hold by breath. I had to restrain my tears (or perhaps, macho'ness').
There he was, a man who used to shoot someone on the head and went to a prison for it, submitting to a faith that had saved him and allowed him to reclaim his life.
That sad episode was more than 20 years ago. Najjar is now an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, USA. He is also a respected and internationally-acclaimed visual artist who has exhibited his works in many countries, including recently in Malaysia. He has four daughters and a loving wife, and a life blessed with wonderful friends. In short, he has done good.
I recalled the time I spent with him in the USA about 20 years ago, when I used to tell him, "you should come to Malaysia brother. I'll bring you to some of the most beautiful mosques that you could be praying in".
To witness him bowing and 'sujud' in one of the most beautiful mosques here in Malaysia, is beyond words.
Despite losing contact for almost 20 years, the friendship has been etched forever in my heart.
Fate has brought us back together. Initially, circumstances that lead him back to me were never short of intrigues. I have to note Taufik Abdullah for this. He posted a picture of Najjar and I when we were in Carbondale on his blog. And Najjar, out of chance, stumbled upon it when he was google'ing'. Another friend, Ilias Yamani, also found out via the cyber world about Najjar looking for me.
The fate was finally sealed when Najjar finally managed to call me (which many would know by now, most of the time is impossible). I almost jumped out of my chair (in joy) when I heard his voice (and his slang). It was like a long lost music to my ears.
Immediately we arranged for his travel to Malaysia for 3 weeks. But the whole thing alone took nearly a year to turn into a reality.
Najjar is the better person to narrate on this, especially what he went through in order to be in Malaysia. On my side, I had to face my fair share of challenges as well, mostly financial aid. Instead of worrying too much, I persisted and then let-Go(d), or rather, dance with the Will of Allah.
When the time comes for Najjar to step onto Malaysian soil, Allah provides. Everything went well. He spent his 3 weeks, but it was a time well-spent, especially when his 'residency' spilled into the holy month of Ramadhan as well. It was a blessing. Najjar's presence came at the right timing. He re-energized me (and others as well) with his loving, passionate, jovial and loud personality. I savor every moment as a precious gift from Allah.
Certainly, I didn't want to wait for another 20 years to see him again. So, we made several plans to make sure that we stay connected.
Najjar would be the best person to narrate his 'ziarah' or visiting experience. For that, we have to wait for his report. Other than him, my close brother (in spirit), Shamsul Bahari (who became his companion throughout his residency) would also be the better person to write about it. Another person would be Aizuan Azmi, who provided his house in the rustic Pulau Betong for Najjar to use as his 'personal resident'.
My story of Najjar would be through pictures in these following links at
Media coverage :
Najjar's journey has brought him to Malaysia, allowing him to connect with several blessed souls who are vibrating the Malaysian visual art scene.
Beyond that, his journey has brought me back to the meaning of friendship beyond form, beyond time and space. In a quantum sense, distant is a mere illusion. We are all connected.
Home is where the heart is. Unconditional love, through prayer and doa, connect people, regardless of what kind of superficial tagging one may label oneself (or 'others') with.
May the spirit of Ramadhan bless us all and return us back to our true nature (fitrah), the 'nature of unconditional love' (Kasih tak bersyarat).
People who are close to us, that we love so dearly, are the epitomes or manifestations or shadows or signs of the Ultimate Origin or Giver of Love (Yang Maha Pengasih, Yang Maha Penyayang), where all belong to. We breath that love in and out as we exhale and inhale, or experience life.
No matter what our actions (they are mere shadows anyway) are, such love is what matters most.
I am blessed to experience even a glimpse of such love through my parents, my wife Rozana, my kids Adeela, Amira and Ainina, my family, friends, students....and of course, recently, my old lost friend, Najjar Abdul-Musawwir.