Humbling Experience One

In this holy month of Ramadhan, I intend to improve myself further. I need to remind myself about my mistakes and learn not to repeat the same mistakes in the future. I also need to remain humble.

I know that I’ve wronged myself and others a lot in the past, so I want to remind myself how lowly of a person I am, and I shouldn’t be too overboard.

I have to always stay on the ground because I don’t know when I will go underground. I should not be too enthusiastic to think higher than I should be, as I know how insignificant I am comparing to others. I have already accepted the fact that I am insignificant long ago.

I remember when I first started working as a part-time operator at a factory in Bangi. I was waiting for the SPM result at that time. It was hard work, but the experience had taught me how vital are friendship, teamwork, and “respecting each other” in our lives. As a part-timer, I enjoyed learning new skills from the seniors, even if they were all about collecting garbage and cleaning the floors.

But, I had to choose between wanting to grow or remain in the comfort zone. I was fortunate that soon after, I got the opportunity to further my studies in Japan, so I chose to grow exponentially. I continued working as a part-timer (or arubaito) whenever the opportunities arise, without neglecting my studies, of course!

Fast forward; around early 2000s, I was asked to return home and started my professional career at a reputable multinational O&G company based in Kuala Lumpur. I was 25 at that time.
Five years later, I got married, not knowing that the decision I made five years before had resulted me taking unpaid leave to accompany my wife, who had to complete her studies in the UK. At that time, I already had two kids, one year and a half son and a months-old daughter.

At that juncture, I tried to visualize and see my future self in the next 20-30 years. Perhaps I could become successful too in achieving my dreams? So I tried my luck by applying for an MBA studentship at the University of Sheffield, and luckily, I got a place there but not the scholarship.

Despite the situation, I now regret that I was not noticing and went overboard by asking my employer for a “sponsorship.” It was that moment of truth when I realized the actual value of myself at that time, in the eyes of my employer. Indeed, it was a devastating moment in my life, and I ended up losing a lot of my confidence, doubting myself ever since.

Now, looking back at the events that unfolded since that time, I thought maybe it was a real turning point for me. I believed that Allah SWT wanted to send His signals to me, to improve myself, and become a humble person instead. What’s more important, as a father and a husband, I must return to reality and be steadfast in regaining my faith.

But I was so determined to prove still that my “wishful thinking” was within grasp. I then applied for an executive position in London, as if I thought that they needed someone like me there. I was wrong, and soon, it was proven that the reality didn’t match my imagination. They instead selected a junior executive to fill up the position, and my heart sunk; while my feelings crumbled. So then, I began seeing the whole situation differently.

In the end, I settled with a full year leave without pay from my employer, doing nothing during the first few months until I was almost broke. I was still searching for a contract job as a marketer, salesperson or trader there, but I then realized that without a proper visa, or work-permit, and also as an unpaid leaver, I should not be aiming for higher than just the odd jobs.

I began to admit my weaknesses and accepted the situation I was in. It was 2008, and the European economy was not performing that well either. I started looking for odd jobs, and soon, luckily, I found work as a cleaner with a cleaning service provider there. I started my first job cleaning shopping complexes and primary schools, especially their toilets. That was when I realized, how Allah SWT wanted me to return to Him alone and start to be humble again. I learned how lowly of a person I was; even till now. I must admit, that I am just a mere dirty piece of cloth, only comparable to any of your foot mats.

I remember when I cried for the first time after many years because I had to clean up others’ impurities on the floor when I, too, remembered how impure I was and still am. That was the moment when I realized how Allah SWT wanted me to return to Him. And since then, I began my journey searching for my soul, looking for any tiny bits of blessings from the Lord of The Worlds, who is the Most Forgiving, The Most Merciful.

The world created by Allah SWT is indeed vast and immense. I traveled a lot, trying to understand the world better. I went to many places in the UK and Europe, and many parts of the world. When I traveled, I realized that people around me are looking at my status and my possession. A few instances when I visited the mosques whenever I traveled to perform prayers; there, I met sincere people with good hearts, offering pure smiles and help. I realized that, purity can only be found in purely holy places.

It is easier to share gratitude with others, especially the neediest, when you have purified your heart. I will never forget how I was treated as a cleaner, and that has taught me a lot, how to be grateful and (how to) be gentle and pleasant to others. Also, how to remain humble, and knowing that I am just a mere servant of Allah SWT, full of impurities, whilst trying my best to purify myself towards His blessings and Rahmah.

In 2009, when I came back from a one-year leave, people were shocked seeing me as a “transformed individual“. I was not so impressed with myself, though, despite the new principles I embraced at that time, and many others believed the same. They thought it was normal for a person to change during one year away from work, where moments will come when I would be doing again all those impurities. Nothing was impossible at that time; even Barrack Obama won the presidency using the slogan “Yes We Can” and “Change.

When I told some of my friends why I changed, they said that nothing’s so strange about cleaning public toilets! They said (that) they clean their bathrooms at home too, and so? That was not a big deal for them? I thought, yes, me neither. I changed because I wanted to, and it is for Allah’s sake and not for others’ approval. Became a cleaner is just a turning point in my life, nothing so special about it.

I understand that it is not really about telling my experience to my friends or anyone. It doesn’t matter whether people know I have changed or not. What matters the most is that I have grown mature, in the process of becoming a better person: like wanting to be a wiser father, a caring husband, a loving son, and a responsible eldest brother to my nine other siblings. At least, I wanted to have one, if not all, of these as my attributes.

As a result, since I returned home in 2009, I stopped making a lot of negative habits. In turn, I tried to create new positive habits, like growing my knowledge and observing my obligations towards my family. So, I decided to enroll in an MBA program at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) which is closer to home, regardless of its standing in the eyes of society. I studied there not because of pride but because I wanted to learn and improve my skills and knowledge. I paid for the program from my savings because no one will bother thinking about my progress, except for myself. Even if I obtained the certificate or degree from any other institution, what’s more important is how the knowledge I acquired can help the nation, people, and the organization I work for, achieve their goals. Not really about how it can bring benefits to me.

I continued to work hard; I tried to be a better person by learning new knowledge, unlearn bad habits or understandings, and relearn. I know that I am just a mediocre person who is still insignificant, requiring little or no recognition from anyone. It is now a new habit of me, who will remind myself about my past mistakes and the consequences of being overboard. I will keep bemoaning or repent for my past mistakes and all the wrong things that had happened to myself and others around me. God Willing.

I now realized that I have written quite a lengthy write-up. So, let’s stop this article at this. InshaAllah, I will share the other experience I have again next time, such as working as an odd-job worker at OCS and as packer at Amazon’s warehouse in Glasgow, Scotland, between 2014 till 2018. Or perhaps about selling Takoyaki or developing new digital AI applications for the future. And how those experiences had helped me understand the true meaning of friendship, teamwork, and survival.

I hope that this year’s Ramadhan is better than last year’s for all of us. Thank you and all the best. Take care and be safe!