All praise is for Allah Ta'ala. We praise Him and seek help from Him. We believe in Him and have complete trust in Him. There can be none to misguide the person whom Allah Ta'ala has guided and there can be none to guide the person whom Allah Ta'ala has caused to go astray.
"Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, 'We believe', and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false." (Qur'an 29: 2-3)
I had been working in a large organisation in a position enviously admired and cherished by many people. I had my own room as a work-station which was on level 9 of a building with great comforting view facing a golf course with man-made lake. I also had a great opportunity of career advancement ahead of me.
In October 1999, I began to seriously think about spending my time for 40 days in the path of Allah for the advancement of my dakwah and tabligh effort. However, on numerous occasions I shoved off the thought, telling myself that it was not possible for the organization I work for to entertain such request for leave, even if it was for unpaid leave. For quite some time, it was the tug-of-warlike feeling within me - part of me urged me to promptly apply for leave and another part told me not to, putting negative thought on the amount of pay that I might have to forego and the scary thought of losing my job and subsequently losing the comfort of life. It was just like fighting within my inner self in an amateur boxing fight when sometime you are at the blue corner and sometime you are at the red corner, taking and throwing punches.
My boss was a Malaysian Indian self-proclaimed atheist. I've never met anyone before who was boastful about following no religion and godless. Before I started the job, my former boss did warn me of him since they knew each other from the legal practice field. I had been warned about his outburst at his previous legal firm between him and other partners of the firm. He then moved into corporate world. But I was too naived to understand the message that my former boss tried to relay to me.
When I joined the corporation, quite frequently I had been asked to join him for lunches. I was introduced to many senior managers within the organisation, most of them Muslim Malays. I do not want to remember most of them. They shamelessly could not care less where they eat and what they eat and drink. They behaved like they were the elite of the society. I suppose they expect me to blend well into their circles but soon enough I learnt to give excuses whenever he asked me out for lunch.
Anyway, as I said after more than two years working in the corporation and constantly spending my time for 3 days every month in jamaat, I had a strong urge of going out in the path of Allah for 40 days for my rectification of faith. One day I finally resolved to submit my application for unpaid leave for 40 days. I gave the reason of indepth learning of Deen to be a better person.
As soon as he received the application, my boss then called me in his office. He asked me for an explaination behind my application for unpaid leave and I explained to him the importance for me to learn Deen and eventually to become a better person and better employee. He told me he would consult certain people first. It was good enough for me. I would just have to wait for his decision.
I waited. And I waited. And I waited. One month passed by. And two months passed by.
On the third month I decided to re-submit my application for unpaid leave for 40 days, telling myself that it was his discretionary right whether to approve or to reject my application but equally it was my right to submit the application for leave.
Soon I found myself facing off with him. He began to intimidatingly question my purpose of taking leave. "I've asked the HR and some Muslim staff here and they said that what you intend to do (taking leave for 40 days in the path of Allah) is not required from a Muslim and is not part of Islamic teaching", he said. "There are many practises that are required for a Muslim to be steadfast in practising them but many Muslims neglected them. If many Muslims neglected them it does mean they are not part of the practise of Islam," I answered. "Such as what?" he asked. I said, "Such as the five times daily prayer which should be performed in congregation in the masjid or surau where the call for prayer is being made. Many Muslims are neglecting it but it will remain part of Islamic teaching." He spun his chair around and took a book on his rear shelf and slammed the book down on his desk. "Tell me! Where it says in here that a Muslim must pray five times a day in congregation!?" he retorted. I glanced at the thick hard-cover English book with the title "Muhammad" on his desk. Someone must have given him the book or he might have gotten the book from somewhere and put it on display on the shelf behind him for some reason. Strangely, up to that point of time, I had never noticed the book in his room all those while.
I went to my room and returned immediately with a copy of English translated Fadha'il Aamal kitaab. I flipped over pages on the chapter of the importance of solah in congregation for him to read. "Jesus Christ!" he exclaimed, "All the while I thought that H (the Managing Director) is a pious Muslim and yet he prays alone in his room!"
Little did I realise that very soon my time in office would turn hard against me into intimidation and fault findings by certain officials breathing on my neck.