Jonah.

Jonah. (Yunus in Arabic).

The Prophet who got stuck in the whale for a long period of time until finally, he got out of it by saying the tasbeeh.

Subhanallah. Walhamdulillah. Walailahaillallah. Wallahuakbar.

He recited it repeatedly, praying to God countless times, to have mercy on him and to forgive him for giving up easily.

He was supposed to spread Islam to his community but he had given up due to their responses. He got upset. And he was not willing to continue. Until he was thrown out of the boat he was in and landed in the whale’s stomach. The wet, disgusting, smelly, fishy, slimy, stomach of a whale.

That’s who I’d like to meet. One of the days we shall, sit under a tree in Jannah and have a little chat about his experience InsyaAllah.

It’s about “How I Survived Being inside the Whale’s Stomach.”

And if Allah should touch you with adversity, there is no remover of it except Him; and if He intends for you good, then there is no repeller of His bounty. He causes it to reach whom He wills of His servants. And He is the Forgiving, the Merciful. – Yunus, 107

It reminds me that when we’re stuck, feeling like there is no other way out, recite the tasbeeh. And repeat.

Glory be to God. Thank You Allah. There is no God but Allah. Allah is the Most Great.

And if Allah permits, I’d like to meet the perfect man, Muhammad. And courageous Moses, cool Jesus, handsome Yusuf, and the rest of the Prophets too.

InsyaAllah, Ameen.

Inspired by Daily Prompt: It Builds Character.

How to Cope (and Heal) with the Grief of Losing a Parent

Grief.

What a short five letter word, but which carries a huge burden of emotions.

On 23 December 2006, I lost my father due to an unexpected heart attack. I was 19, and it was my final year studying in Nanyang Polytechnic. As he left very suddenly, my family did not have any time to prepare mentally for his passing as compared to if he had been suffering from any major illnesses. Death is like that. When your time on Earth is up, your time is up. As Muslims, Allah teaches us that death is inevitable for every human being and it has been written in the Book of Records (Lauh Mahfuz) the age that we will die and leave this Earth to move on to the Hereafter.

“Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere,”Al-Baqarah, 155

Accepting his death was manageable, but it was dealing with his loss that was difficult. To accept and redha with Allah’s qada’ and qadar is the key to dealing with the grief of a loved one’s passing. It is only then can you be at peace with the loss. But how does one actually accept and redha, and overcome this huge grief, all the while filled with the pain of knowing that you will never see this person again, ever..?

I’m sure everyone who has gone through a similar experience has their own ways of dealing and managing grief, but these were some of my ways of coping, grieving and healing as well as the lessons I’ve learned along the way:

1. Realize that death is NOT the end. It is only the beginning to Hereafter, and that you WILL meet them in Jannah, InsyaAllah.

We have been put on Earth to worship God and collect pahala, or rewards, and then return back to Jannah, our permanent dwelling place. So death is just the opening to that world, the place where we truly belong. The place where we came from. Heaven. Eventually, we will all meet in Jannah one day, so don’t worry about not being able to meet them anymore because you will, insyaAllah. This thought has comforted me a great deal especially at times when I miss my father so much. My father was a gift to me, but now Allah had taken back this beautiful gift because truly it had belonged to Him in the first place. Who am I to complain?

“So glory to Him in Whose hands is the dominion of all things: and to Him will ye be all brought back.”Yasin, 83

2. Don’t shut off from the world completely. Keep your support system close; even if you do not feel like talking to anyone.

I had a healthy social life but there were many times when I just wanted to be alone. I wanted friends to stop asking me how am I? I wanted to say, of course I AM NOT OK. But I didn’t want to be looked at pitifully as I already was. I didn’t want people to think I am weak. So I would say I’m OK and flash a smile. What I had done was put on a mask instead of being honest with myself and other people. What I should have said was,

“I’m not OK, but I do need to be left alone at this moment. Thank you so much for checking with me, I truly appreciate your concern. But at this moment, even I don’t know how to exactly cope with this so do give me space to figure it all out. I know I can always contact you if I need your help.”

I’ve come to understand that people will understand it if you are honest with them. After all, they just wanted to help even if they may not know how. Let them help you, in their own ways.

3. Don’t be afraid to get help. There is nothing wrong with you if you seek help for grieving. You are NOT mental.

Two years after his passing, I was at the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was the eldest of my siblings and I was feeling very stressed with the added responsibilities. I felt that I had to do something about it. I had a family friend who was a counselor, and without anyone knowing at that time, I requested to see her. She recommended me to her friend, a psychologist and counselor from overseas who would be coming to town that weekend, arranged for our meet-up and even booked a place for the consultation. The psychologist, Hani, had me do some exercises which were very useful and listened to me objectively. Hani was such a warm person to begin with. I didn’t know how much she was going to charge me for it, knowing how much these sessions usually cost, I just left it to God and prayed,

“Dear God, I want to be a better person and be redha with your plans but it is so difficult now. Please make it easy for me.”

And MashaAllah, at the end of the session, she told me that I didn’t need to pay a single cent! Wow, truly Allah is the Best of All Planners.

4. Throw away your guilt and regrets. Nothing happened because of you, and no amount of “if only I had…” will help you with anything.

When my father came back home from work the day that he passed away, I was in the room using the computer and did not go out and salam him like I usually do. I can’t remember why but I must have been busy with something. Moments later, the Angel of Death had taken him away. I felt guilty and regretted not salam-ing him afterwards. But no amount of “if only I had..” will help you with anything. Realize that these are just the whispers of syaitan who aim to make you feel guilty and regret so that you are so consumed with grief that you forget about God. Do not succumb to the devil’s whispers!

5. Listen to Yasmin Mogahed’s videos and read this amazing article; “Why Do People Have to Leave Each Other?

Do not attach yourself to dunya. It is very easy to say that but Yasmin Mogahed has a such a beautiful way of expressing and articulating this. Reading the article, listening to her videos and audios really helped me lot in my healing process, Alhamdulillah.

6. Realize that your mother is going through this for the first time and sometimes, she will not know what to do.

What happens when you lose a father? You start to discover your mother at a whole new level. Allah says in Surah Al-Baqarah, 187, that husband and wives are garments of each other. They are tag team players in their marriage institution, they are supporters of each other, they complement each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, they cover each others’ shortcomings. So when one of them is gone, the children start to see things in the other parent that they normally do not see because the other parent, now gone, does such a good job of being an excellent partner who covers up for the other. It was through this experience that I can see how truly what Allah means in the verse, MashaAllah. It is only natural that when you lose a partner, you will feel lost doing things alone.

7. Ask Allah to make you and your family strong. Allah is the Almighty. True strength only comes from Him.

This may sound simple, but many times we forget to ask God because it is so simple. Prior to losing my father, my mother lost her mother one month before that. Imagine the “bomb” she had to go through. Imagine the devastation that she would have felt. But Alhamdulillah, Allah gave her strength to carry the tests and overcome it in a matter of years.

8. Take time to grief, do not rush the process. Do not compare your grieving period with others because it differs and that’s okay.

I eventually took three years to overcome my father’s death, but it was only after three years that I could admit that it had taken me three years to do so. Previously, I had been in denial and thought that I didn’t need to grieve. It varies from person to person on the time it takes to overcome grief after the passing of a loved one, and the grieving process should not be rushed.

9. Your family will surprise you. They need to heal too, and they are what they are – human beings designed to feel.

I’ve always seen my aunts as “my aunt”, my uncle as “my uncle” and my grandmother as “my grandmother”. My father was the eldest among his siblings of five. He was the leader of the pack, always the organizer of events, the jovial person in the family, the one who would lead the prayer in family events. So when he was gone, even his siblings were at a loss and needed time to heal. My two uncles, sibling number 4 and 5, now had to step up and lead the prayers. My first aunt, the second out of five now became the eldest sibling. My grandmother, who had relied on my father for many things, now had to cope with losing her first son. As she was approaching the 80s, she was also sad that her son went before her. Through this experience, I could see them as siblings going through the loss of an older brother, and a mother going through the loss of her first son.

10. Keep the Quran close to you all the time. The Quran is a Healer, take time to read, understand and reflect on it.

Last but not least, never underestimate the healing powers of the Quran. It is Allah’s love letters to you, your Creator who knows every single thing about you regardless of whether you show or hide it. Surely, His words will heal you. He presents you with tests and He also presents you with the tools to help you pass the test. It is not his wish to see you sad without a purpose, but to make you stronger in faith. I shall end this article with one of my favorite verse, a beautiful verse from Surah An-Nur. Remember that grief, a time of darkness, is only temporary. Allah will get you out of this dark times and into His Light, InsyaAllah.

“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.”An-Nur, 35

There is Something to Be Grateful for Everyday

5 Things I’m Thankful for Today:

1. These kiwi and starfruit muffins I made today! Recipe from here, but as the recipe called for two kiwis and I only had one kiwi I added up starfruit instead. Yumz.

img1382626469066-1

2. My awesome 11-months younger brother who is my wali for the wedding. He’ll be sitting beside the kadi during my solemnization and although my wedding hasn’t happened yet, I’m just so proud of him now.

3. For having money. Just yesterday I after I bought a meal with my sister, I was left with no more cash notes. My brother then came to join us and jokingly (or not jokingly) asked me to buy him a meal. I immediately said, “I have no money” when in fact I should have said, “I have no cash right now (so I can’t treat you)”. He reminded me that if you don’t have cash, don’t say you have no money because God has indeed given you money, Alhamdulillah. Saying you have no money is like saying you are not thankful for the sustenance God has given you. Alhamdulillah for the timely reminder.

4. Applied for our marriage through ROMM website yesterday. Wow this makes it really real.

5. Last but not least, getting our preferred kadi to solemnize our marriage. Alhamdulillah. ūüôā

My Kinabalu Story: Chapter 3 – Summit & Descend

We woke up at 12 am and proceeded to the canteen to gather and start our climb to the summit. It was really cold by then and I had 4 layers of clothing Рthermal wear, 2 layers of outerwear plus my adidas windbreaker-like jacket and gloves. Wore thermal leggings as well and then proper track pants. For my headscarf I had 3 layers of outerwear; a knitted inner, a ninja (so my neck is extra protected as well), and my thick pashmina shawl. Alhamdulillah, all this layering paid off because it kept me warm. Temperature was minus 3 degrees! Since we would be climbing in the dark we had to wear a headlight as you can see below. All set to go!

gear up for summit

Something funny happened after this though. Our group was supposed to gather at Gunting Lagadan hut before we all leave together to start climbing, but silly me had followed this Japanese group in front of me and missed the path to Gunting Lagadan hut! Slenger seh. After a while something seemed amiss as I knew I was supposed to stop somewhere first, but somehow as it was dark and I was not sure where the hut was plus I was too scared to turn back, I continued on…

guys at gunting lagadan hut

My group at Gunting Lagadan Hut – with the exception of me who had unabashedly started climbing without them. I promise it was completely unintentional. At all. Starting with them would have been more comforting (I mean like D-U-H, although in hindsight having a headstart might have prevented me from suffering from AMS and disallowed me to deal with any nervousness or anxieties while waiting to start). But no worries, I soon caught up with some of them especially Bai and Wan, the 2 fastest climbers in the team.

sampai gate

Taken during the day, but this is the gate near Gunting Lagadan hut that starts the climb to the summit. The one that I missed while climbing up at night… So once you see this gate on the way down, you know rest is near!

path to summit

The steep uphill path towards the summit (taken after I descended and managed to take a breather). No more walking or hiking here, but climbing, bouldering, however way you can think to navigate your way up. This part was truly mental strength 80%, physical strength 20%.

me at summit

Finally reached the summit of Low’s Peak at about 6+ am Alhamdulillah. It was no longer very dark and the sun had started to appear. Felt extremely thankful Allah allowed me to climb His mountain and reach His summit. The sun had already risen by the time we reached, so we could not sit down and see the sunrise. Which was absolutely fine with us! The view was just breathtaking. Magical that is Allah’s creations.

mus ez me sg flag

Whose “brilliant” idea was this?! (note: sarcasm) There, that guy on the left. Funnily enough, a Caucasion climber saw and said to us, “Hey you guys from Singapore! Cool!” Ya must tell the whole world right Ezriel? Haha. Malu seh.

south peak

View of the beautiful South Peak. Subhanallah. Simply amazing.

sunrise mt k

A glimpse of the sunrise from afar. A contradiction of man-made creation, fading away and God’s creations standing tall and magnificent.

the other side

The other side of the summit, where some climbers sat to enjoy the view and take a break from a night’s worth of climbing.

Descend.

This was the exact route we walked and climbed, in the dark… Lucky thing we climbed in the dark, so we could not see the steepness of the boulder!

night climb morning view

We started to descend from the summit after about 30-45 minutes. It was still chilly (still had my gloves on) and also had to give other climbers the chance for space. The temperature was starting to rise and although it was still chilly, it started to get warmer bit by bit.

najib and duo uncle man to summit

Saw some of my group members coming up while we were climbing down. I started to take more photos and climbed down leisurely while the two brothers, who had patiently waited for me during the hike up zoomed on and left me alone started to descend quickly. Since I couldn’t take pictures during the hike up due to the darkness, I relished this opportunity to snap away! Furthermore, my toes were starting to hurt wearing the rubber shoes…

me and kasree

With Kasree, one of our senior guides. He’s very experienced this guy and told me to stick closely to the rope. He shared with me that Kinabalu weather can be very unpredictable, one moment it can be sunny and the next it may start being really foggy, start to rain heavily or become very windy. That’s why we are encouraged to climb with windbreakers on. Alhamdulillah and fortunately, we had good weather throughout our journey although Abang Amirul did mention the possibility of rain seeing that it rained the day before we started our climb.

me between peaks

Yeah and then I asked Kasree to take a photo of me in between two peaks…

sayat sayat check point

Sayat Sayat Check Point, which is the final checkpoint before the summit. Here, there is an officer-in-charge inside the booth and he will record all the names of the climbers as well as check their name tags. This is for the certificate and for tracking and safety purposes.

nenek japan

Super amazed and inspired with this lady from Japan. She was much faster than me all the way climbing down, I felt like a weakling… She and her climbing partners continued leisurely climbing down while chatting in Japanese. I was trailing along behind them when I did not feel like walking alone and also nobody else was behind me! I enjoyed their company, even if I could not understand a single word they said…

timpohon gate

Reaching soon! Halfway there…

me at timpohon

Finally arrived at the end of our climb. Yes InsyaAllah, if God wills I will definitely come again ūüôā

terima kasih sudi datang lagi

(Signboard says, “Thank You Please Come Again” in Malay).

mardmood: This¬†post is part of the series ‚ÄúMy Kinabalu Story‚ÄĚ based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‚ÄėKinabalu Khronicles‚Äô in the Categories section.

Ten Things Off the Wedding To-Do List!

Today allow me to toot my own horn a little as I list down the things I’ve managed to settle these past few weeks in my never-ending wedding-related TO-DO list, Alhamdulillah.

  1. Recce-ed Nanyang Polytechnic for outdoor post-wedding photoshoot
  2. Booked solemnization venue at my preferred mosque, Masjid Alkaff Kampung Melayu
  3. Confirmed the color theme for my family’s outfits
  4. Contacted Nani@artsygeekchic to design a mock-up of invitation cards
  5. Settled wedding photographer
  6. Settled groom’s outfits with Kak Nonie
  7. Booked flights for NZ, Alhamdulillah
  8. Sent bridal evening gowns for drycleaning
  9. Got started on wedding day(s) itinerary
  10. Obtained my wali and saksi/witness details (full name and I/C numbers)

Alhamdulillah for these completed tasks. There’s more to come, I’m very sure of that. Fellow BTBs have reminded me that the TO-DO list gets longer as The Big Day gets nearer, MashaAllah. This week, I aim to settle my solemnization and traditional outfits, apply for marriage at ROMM website and settle NZ accommodation InsyaAllah. May Allah ease my affairs and put blessings in my days, InsyaAllah. Please make du’a for me and my husband-to-be ūüôā

It’s Hajj Season & A Reminisce of My Umrah in 2009

makkah

Today is 6th of Zulhijjah which means we are only 4 days away from Eid’ul ‘Adha! We are in the first ten days of the month of Zulhijjah, the month of Hajj MashaAllah. And during the month of Hajj, Masjidil Haram in Makkah is truly that crowded (picture) and more. Muslims from all over the world gather to perform the¬†5th¬†pillar of Islam, performing the deed called Hajj, loosely translated as pilgrimage.

I might not be going to Hajj anytime soon now (there’s a long waiting list and you also need a lot of time to prepare physically and mentally, as well as the stability of finances – unless someone happens to sponsor you, which is MashaAllah, ah-ma-zing) but praises be to God for allowing me to have stepped into the Haramain lands 4 years ago for my umrah, or mini pilgrimage.

For Hajj, you have to go during a certain period of time and there are more specific actions to do but for an umrah, you can go anytime and there are not as many specific actions to do as compared to Hajj.

In 2009,¬†I went to Makkah and Madinah with my mother and my male cousin.¬†I was in my second year in uni during that time and we went after my exams during my semester holidays. It came as an epiphany to my mum who felt that it was the “right time” to perform umrah, without knowing exactly why.¬†Surprisingly, I actually¬†felt the same way.

Prior to the trip,¬†I was feeling depressed over several things. Also, about 2 years had passed since my father’s death and I was still grieving over his passing (they say it¬†gets better after a while but the¬†first few years are always the hardest). I wanted¬†these issues to go away.¬†I wanted to go away to somewhere,¬†so when the¬†opportunity came¬†to go to the lands¬†of Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings¬†be upon him) who had to go through¬†more¬†depressing moments in his life but who was always smiling all the time, I thought “this is it”. Turns out it wasn’t¬†about me going away, but going back to Allah…

Madinah

Masjid-al-Nabawi

We arrived at Jeddah International Airport in the wee hours of the morning and proceeded to Madinah. Our journey was to spend 3 days in Madinah and 10 days in Makkah, making it a total of 13 days. When the bus first stepped into Madinah, I felt overwhelmed with emotions knowing that the Prophet had been here, to step into a land he has stepped on, to finally be here in Madinah. Furthermore, the hotel that we stayed in, Dar Iman Intercontinental, was located directly in front of Masjid Nabawi. I was swept with a feeling of calmness and tranquillity being in the mosque. Marble flooring, gold-plated accessories, oriental carpeting…materialistic description aside, it was being in the space itself that was beautiful. After making my prayers for the first time there, a rush of calm swept over me. Every ounce of misery and depression that I had melted away. The feeling was just indescribable.

sign
Just a stone’s throw away from the hotel.

We visited Raudhah at night, the area where¬†the Prophet¬†used to live with his wife Siti ‘Aishah. At this spot prayers are accepted so¬†my mother and me as well as the rest of our group prayed 2 rakaats of the tahiyyatul masid prayer along with other supplications. Outside, the temperature in Madinah was 45 degrees celcius. I had never felt that kind of heat ever before, no matter how hot and humid Singapore is. However, the magical thing about the heat was that even though it can be blistering hot ‘if-you-don‚Äôt-wear-sunglasses-you-can-hurt-your-eyes-hot’, it‚Äôs not humid and it‚Äôs always breezy.

masjid-nabawi-dalam2
The inside of Masjid Nabawi

Even though I wear the hijab, I had a bit of a culture shock seeing the sight of many Muslim women decked out in their black abayas, some with their niqabs and burqas. Honestly at first it kind of scared me, but after going into the mosque and discovering that the ladies were super nice and pretty and gorgeously beautiful I realized the niqabs and burqas were really just on the outside. After that onwards I started to appreciate the beauty of wearing the abaya, jubah and actually, that is one of the things I miss most about being in Madinah and Makkah.

In front of Masjid Quba, which was the first mosque that the Prophet built upon reaching Madinah after 13 years in Makkah.
In front of Masjid Quba, which was the first mosque that the Prophet built upon reaching Madinah after 13 years in Makkah.

The three days that we had in Madinah¬†were spent mostly going to Masjid Nabawi, exploring the area including some shopping for books and abaya. Even though we had a lovely hotel room, it was such a waste to stay in! Another thing that shocked me was the fact that 5 ‚Äď 10 mins before every obligatory prayer time everyone would rush to the mosque to get a space to pray and to be there in time for prayer. It was such a surprise to me because as soon as the Azan calls, the mosque would have been full house and that is why you have to come earlier. Praying in Masjid Nabawi gets you 100 times more pahala than usual, furthermore praying in congregation multiples it by 27 times. MashaAllah no wonder every prayer time is like an event over at the 2 holiest mosques! Now if only we can treat our home mosques and our prayers that way. Talk about the power of place.

date trees 2
Visiting a date farm! Unripe dates still hanging on date palm trees.
dates
Ripe dates all decked out for selection.
We also stopped by Mount Uhud, where the second battle took place.
We also stopped by Mount Uhud, where the second battle took place.

When it came to time to leave Madinah, it was such a sad feeling. 3 days was simply too short. But, looking at the bright side we were off to Makkah, to the Kaabah, to Baitullah! We were encouraged to wear white and guys would wear the ihram (although ladies, not a good choice to wear white unless you are completely sure your garment is not sheer at all) and off we went in our bus to Makkah.

Makkah

me in front of masjidil haram
Me in front of Masjidil Haram

We reached Makkah at night when it was already dark. There was a traffic jam nearing the Masjidil Haram so our bus was constantly stopping and braking. Suddenly however, as we were very near the mosque, the bus broke down. So even though we were tired from the journey, we proceeded to walk to get to our hotel, which fortunately was located near the mosque, along with our bags.

view from hotel
View from our hotel

But once we reached the mosque, all the tiredness and the efforts were so worth it. Again I was overwhelmed with emotion of finally being in the mosque where the Prophet and his companions had once been. Being in the places where Islam first began and thinking of their struggles, MashaAllah may Allah bless all their efforts and make us more steadfast in our faiths.

One of the best things about being¬†at both mosques¬†was the continuous supply of the waters of zam-zam. There would be tumblers of zam-zam waters¬†in several sections of the mosque, along with plastic cups provided. Anyone can take them and drink from these tumblers. Some, like me, would fill up their bottles with them. So can you imagine, to wake up and drink air zam-zam only for 13 days? SubhanAllah. We were also told that it was not safe to drink water from the hotel taps so we turned to the best source ‚Äď zam-zam water!

mount rahmah
Mount Rahmah, which means mount of Mercy, was where Prophet Adam met Hawa on Earth after being separated in Paradise.

In Masjidil Haram we performed the¬†tawaf; circumambulating 7 times around the Ka’abah in an anti-clockwise direction¬†and saie; walking back and forth Mount¬†Safa and Marwa 7 times in commemoration of¬†Siti¬†Hajar when she did that years ago in search of¬†water for her son Ismail.

We also went to visit more historical places such as Mount Nur, the place of the first revelation from God to Prophet Muhammad via the angel Gabriel. Not wanting to miss this opportunity, I joined some of the team in climbing up this mountain. We started our climb at 3am and even though it was still dark and the mount was treacherous, we could navigate our way up because the light, or nur, that came from the moon allowed us to do so. that’s why it’s called Jabal Nur, or Mount of Light. One of my favourite moments was when it was time for Subuh, we could hear the call of prayer from the many mosques nearby collectively. It was truly an amazing moment.

mount nur gua hira mount nur

Next we went to the museum which displayed historical items used in the history of Islam in Makkah.

kaabah fabric manual

On our last day we went to the floating mosque at the Red Sea to perform our prayers, and then we had a little walkabout exploring the area…¬†before going back to the bus for our departure to the airport and back home.

floating mosque

May Allah give me and us all the opportunity to perform our Hajj and Umrah InsyaAllah.

Photo credits: Most of the photos are from me, except for the first photo of Masjidil Haram, Masjidil Nabawi (exterior) and the inside of Masjidil Nabawi.

My Kinabalu Story: Chapter 1 – Connecting the Dots

Starting off Travel Tuesday with more of Kinabalu but in detail. Ready, set, GO! The first chapter.

Introducing: The Team

First and foremost, introducing the team. The team comprised of 5 Singaporeans and 13 Malaysians.¬†Team captain was Abang Amirul who is Musaddiq’s cousin. Abang Amirul is a seasoned mountaineer who has been to Mount Kinabalu twice prior to this trip. This time, he opened the expedition to his Petronas colleagues and as fate has it, we came into the picture – literally.

sg team big grp pix

The Singapore team’s Overnight Flight

On Wednesday night, we departed from Singapore via Air Asia to Sabah at 5.40pm, reaching Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI) at about 8.05pm. We took a cab from BKI to our hotel at KK Central, settled down and went out for dinner. After walking around for about 15 minutes we found a place called Stesen Ikan Bakar, a pretty chillax place selling all kinds of grilled fish. You name it, they have it. After dinner, we went back to the hotel to have a good night’s rest before starting the day full swing and meeting the Malaysian team tomorrow.

stesen ikan bakar ikan dan sotong bakar

Soaking our feet (and body) at Poring Hot Springs

Thursday morning, we headed off to go to Poring Hot Spring. Why hot springs first before the climb? For 2 reasons – it was along the way to Kinabalu National Park and, going on weekdays surpasses the weekend crowd. I remembered coming to this place on a weekend with my family and saw some families settling down their picnic spot with their own pot of rice.

3 hours later we reached Poring Hot Spring, which is in Ranau. It only takes 1 hour from Ranau to the base of Mount Kinabalu. Amazing scenery greets us along our journey.

mountain view

We stopped by some shops and markets on our way to have lunch, get some necessities, and meet the Malaysian team.

corn stick

Remember those old skool keropok jagung in the shiny plastic wrappers with 3 corn sticks inside? These are them! In less glamorous packaging but delicious nonetheless.

sabah houses

On our way we passed by many of¬†these houses. I always wonder how these people’s way of lives are. They literally live amidst the mountains. And they don’t seem to don any thermal wear, I guess their bodies already adapted to the weather there. Most of them are also very fair-skinned, due to the cold weather. Reminds me of Adira, the singer who originates from Sabah and her snow white skin (or “putih melepak” in Malay).

hot spring sign

A little bit about the hot spring: Hot sulphur spring water is formed by the less violent manifestation of volcanic areas. Even where the volcanoes are no longer active. Many hot springs contain carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide in varying proportions and mineral salt are always dissolved in thermal spring water. Thus you have sulphur in the hot spring.

The left pipe contains hot spring water¬†that flows continuously – it’s really boiling hot, while the right pipe contains cold tap water.¬†You have to mix the two to get your desired temperature.

two pipes

Or if you’re too lazy¬†to wait for the water to flow, you can always go straight to the medium-sized tub which is already filled with hot spring water.¬†You need to let your body¬†acclimatize to the temperature though, because it’s not as warm as it looks – it is really hot at first!

tub spring

The water in here is too hot for any soaking as it is above boiling point, hence entry is prohibited. It’s so amazing how Allah makes water of different kinds of temperatures and they all exist for a reason. SubhanAllah.

dilarang masuk

Hot water vapour from the restricted areas of the hot spring. After a long day of travelling and relaxing, we headed off to Mesilau, our place of stay for the overnight rest before starting the climb. Yes, we were going to start from Mesilau Trail instead of the Timpohon Gate which is normally used by first-time climbers.

hot vapour

Arriving at Mesilau Nature Resort

We reached Mesilau Nature Resort at about 7pm. Upon stepping out of our vehicle, the coldness of high altitude greeted us. Mesilau trail is situated at approximately 2,700 m above sea level while the other entrance start point, Timpohon Gate starts at 1,688 m in altitude. So it was already more challenging as we would be dealing with possibilities of AMS, which starts from 2,400 m onwards.

mesilau nature resort tea without sugar winter melon soup dinner

We were welcomed with a cup of hot tea (without sugar) upon our arrival. Our dinner started off with winter melon soup and an array of dishes. Delicious food Alhamdulilah. What we observed was that the dishes contained a lot of ginger. Ginger being a natural remedy to warm up our bodies was a perfect ingredient to be included in the dishes since we were at such cooling temperature, so perfect MashaAllah how everything is provided by God.

stairs

Our chalet is a double story but level 1 and 2 is only separated by a small flight of stairs. There’s a heater in every room, hooray! A mini fridge and other usual amenities were also provided. Actually from what we had been informed earlier, we were expecting a less comfy bunk bed type of place, which would have been totally fine with me. But Alhamdulillah we were surprised to arrive to a comfy place with comfy beds.¬†Happiness… till the next day, when we were to start our climb…

mardmood: This¬†post is part of the series ‚ÄúMy Kinabalu Story‚ÄĚ based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section.

One Last Salam

The night my dad passed away, I was using the computer in my brother’s room.

I heard the usual turn of keys at the door lock, and¬†my¬†dad entering the house.¬†It was 11pm and he’d just came back from work.¬†Usually I would go out and salam his hand¬†(kind of like a handshake, but an informal one,¬†something you do out of respect and something I’ve always done with my parents) but that night, for some reason I did not. I continued using the computer. I can’t even remember if I acknowledged him or not.

A couple of minutes (or maybe more) later, in a panicked voice, my mum called me and both of my siblings.

I went into my parents’ room to find my father in his last few moments of life.

He’d had a sudden heart attack and the impact was immediate. He was 47 and does not have a history of heart illness.¬†But he was, a smoker. And several years ago, my granddad too had¬†passed¬†on due to the same cause of sudden heart attack at 63 years old. When something is meant to happen, nothing can¬†stop it from happening.

It has been seven years since his passing. I miss him everyday.

If time were to have stood still, I would rewind it to the moments before God took him back.¬†I would get my butt out of my computer chair, out of my brother’s room and salam his hand.¬†Or maybe give him a hug. Who knew it would have been the last one¬†I would ever¬†have?

For now.

I’ve grieved enough Alhamdulillah and I can honestly say I don’t regret or feel guilty about it. Regret and guilt¬†is something no one should ever have to live with. I don’t wish for things to be different, but I do think about it sometimes. Those everyday moments we tend to take for granted.

Till then, I look forward to the day I meet him in Paradise where I’ll run up to my father excitedly, salam his hand and embrace him with a¬†big, long¬†hug. I am thankful for this life is not permanent and a better life awaits us.¬†Perhaps in Paradise, insyaAllah. If God wills. Janji Allah itu pasti.

“Is not He Who created the heavens and the earth able to¬† create the like thereof?” – Yea, indeed! for He is the Creator Supreme, of skill and knowledge (infinite)! Verily, when He intends a thing, His Command is, “be”, and it¬†is! So glory to Him in Whose hands is the dominion of all things:¬† and to Him will ye be all brought back.” Surah Yaseen, 81 – 83

Inspired by today’s Daily Prompt:¬†Standstill

Summit. (Weekly Writing Challenge: Dialogue)

‚ÄúWhere are you?‚ÄĚ I asked Khadijah, my sole female climbing buddy for the Mount Kinabalu expedition.

‚ÄúI¬†couldn’t¬†make it up,‚ÄĚ Khadijah replied.

‚ÄúWhat do you mean?‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúThe altitude sickness got to me and I had to climb down halfway. I‚Äôll meet you guys back at the start point.‚ÄĚ

My heart sank. Five of us had reached Laban Rata, the mid-point rest house where we were to rest for the night before climbing up to the summit. We were now waiting for the rest of our team members and I was on the phone with her, separated by an altitude of 2,000 metres.

Khadijah went on to explain that she was having breathing problems and felt nauseous at 4 km onwards, and as much as she wanted to continue on, the rangers had advised her to stop. There have been been several cases of climbers meeting a fatal death due to the decreasing oxygen in the increasing altitude so I was thankful that Khadijah was okay.

But this would mean I had to continue the rest of the climb up to the summit without her, as the only girl in my team. I felt upset, scared, and somewhat, alone.

Girlfriend company

Khadijah, or Dja as she is affectionately called, and I first met during a rockclimbing gathering with some friends. She was a friend of a friend, and our similar interest in adventure brought us together. This expedition was our first trip to the mountains together so we had developed a sisterly bond through our trainings.

There were only 2 girls in the team, which meant I depended on Dja for girlfriend company.¬†Our 18-men team had consisted of 13 Malaysians, all guys, and 5 Singaporeans, consisting of Ezriel (who is also Dja’s fiance), Musaddiq, as well as his uncle, affectionately known as Uncle Man. Team captain was Abang Amirul from the Malaysian team.

At the start of Mesilau trail, we had positioned ourselves at different points for safety reasons, seeing that we were outnumbered by the number of guys in the team – me at the front and she at the back. So I was not aware of what was happening until I reached Laban Rata,¬†3,272 meters up in altitude. By then, there was nothing I could do but wait till the next day when we would reach Timpohon Gate, the end point…

Strength

After finding out about the news, I conveyed it to the rest of my team who was as shocked as I was. Later on I found out from Ezriel that Dja would be spending the night at a place near base camp, alone. I tried to gather as much strength as possible afterwards.

I prayed to God to keep both of us safe, in two different places. I prayed to God to keep me warm enough as the temperature had dropped and it was almost freezing. I prayed to God to protect me from altitude sickness as we were going to be in higher grounds. I prayed to God to give me strength to reach the summit and the wisdom to be OK if indeed reaching the summit was not meant to be for me.

Night Climb

At 12am we started our climb up to the summit. Coupled with our headlights, thermal wear, jackets and windbreakers, we headed off in the dark and cold night into the dark, always mysterious forest. There were many climbers from various countries and nationalities, but in the night only their accents differentiated them out as quiet chatter filled the air.

It is this same air, silently thinning as we go up, that threatened the breaths of several climbers. As we go along, some people had thrown up due to nausea from altitude sickness. It was scary to hear this in the silent night as every sound was magnified. I made a silent prayer for them to be okay. Also, I found myself getting breathless and so sipped my hydration pack of water more frequently than usual.

Lost…

My group had planned to gather at Gunting Lagadan hut, where some of us stayed, before proceeding to the gate leading to the start of the summit climb. However, in the darkness of the night I had unfortunately lost my sight of the hut and by the time I realized this I was already several steps ahead.

Fearing being lost of the tracks in the dark and ending up not knowing where I was, I did not turn back but instead continued on following a group of Japanese climbers in front of me. Ironically, I found comfort with their presence as it indicated that I was going the right way, and that I was not lost.

…and Found

Halfway through, I stopped an sat on a big-sized boulder to take a break and drank some water. Few minutes later, I saw 2 of my team members, Ridzwan and Baizuri, the fastest guys in my team. At that moment, the sight of them had never been so comforting. I had been climbing on my own with a different group and now, seeing them meant I was in familiar ground again. Perhaps God wanted me to feel this way so that I could appreciate the struggle. As happy as I was climbing alone, I was of course, happier climbing with my group. There is nothing like familiar territory to make you feel comforted.

This familiar territory then went on to question me, wondering why in the world did I start the summit climb without them. Umm, sorry guys. Totally didn’t mean to. And then another 2 of my team mates Musaddiq and Ezrieal appeared, wondering the same thing. You can question me all you want, I thought, I’m just glad I was found. At that point, they were my family for the expedition, and you know how families can be. They annoy you but you love them anyway. I must add that they were also happy to see me as they had been wondering where I had been all those while. Thanks, guys!

Step by Step

By now the terrain had gradually changed from dirt tracks to steep boulder-like tracks. It was more difficult because boulders can be slippery. Hence due to the absence of trees and easily accessible branches, there were strategically placed ropes at certain spots and these really helped me navigate my way up. It was also getting harder to breathe as per normal, and we had to stop every now and then to catch our breaths and drink up. I just went step by step because at some points, I just did not have the strength to speed up. It was all mental from then on.

The last checkpoint we stopped by was the Sayat-Sayat Hut, which contained a small office where the rangers would record your name by checking your tag as you go through this checkpoint. This was for the certificate that you had indeed summited Mount Kinabalu. On the way down, the rangers would double-check again with the climbers to make sure who reached the summit and who did not. Every climber would get a certificate regardless of reaching the summit or not, but the difference would lie in the color (summit in color, non-summit in black & white) and of course, the text. After a brief rest at this hut, we continued on.

I swear this last¬†few moments¬†to the summit felt like the longest journey ever. The summit was just right in front of me, but it was not. Every time I get close to it,¬†I’m not freaking there yet. It was so frustrating and¬†the mental¬†aspect¬†of it was excruciatingly painful. Trying not to think of my tiredness, as well as accompanied by¬†my team mates who¬†put their strength and ego aside¬†to wait for me, I tried with all my might to just¬†put one foot forward and go.

Finally, the summit!

After an excruciating and very slow climb, finally the summit, the real one, was now in sight. It was already daybreak and we had been climbing for almost 6 hours. But there was one last obstacle. The terrain here was an all-kinds-of-sizes-boulders, vertical uphill climb. The good thing was that even though it was uphill, it was not as steep as the previous terrain and there were a lot of literally climbing up with your whole body, hands and all, to get up. Again, all mental from now on. 80% mental strength and 20% physical strength.

When I finally, finally reached the summit, Alhamdulillah, all thanks to God, I was just…speechless. Just in awe of the smallness of myself against God’s majestic mountains. And the view, it was tremendously awesomely amazing beyond words can ever describe. As I stood at the summit point, thinking of Dja, thinking of¬†my late adventure-loving dad, thinking of my upcoming wedding, and then everything else that happened prior to this expedition which almost did not happen, I thought, it’s not about reaching¬†the summit. It was about many things, but it was never about the summit to begin with.

Out of the many things it was, one word was what it was to me: Humility.

Weekly Writing Challenge

mardmood: This¬†post is also part of the series ‚ÄúMy Kinabalu Story‚ÄĚ based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section.