My experience of the MKA 2nd National Tarbiyati Camp (Naosheyrvaan Nasir)

The initial thought process

Pre-Jalsa, during Jalsa and post-Jalsa I see this freestanding banner which is telling me about this Tarbiyati or religiously educational camp. Truth is, I wasn’t too excited to go as past experience had told me otherwise. Sloppy curry and lessons hardly being learnt. What was the point? I looked at the dates and the camp spanned for five days. Not bad.

What turned the tables quite violently was the fact that Imam Kamran Sahib approached me personally on my days of Waqf-e-Arzi (dedication of time) and told me that this was an opportunity not to be missed. I looked at him in the eye and was like “really?”

“It’ll be good for you and your writing skills as the topics you’ll cover will enhance your knowledge and enable you to respond to allegations more efficiently (Inshallah). You’ll learn topics such as finality of Prophethood, the death of Jesus Christas and lots more” he stated to refute my stare.

“Finally, some good topics”

This reply came in as more a reflexive response rather than just a natural one as it clearly wasn’t an answer I was expecting.

The journey

Lower-back pain and glute pain is my one and the only description I would give to any doctor who asked about the journey. There is no other way to put it. Leaving Sydney at half-past four in the latter part of the day, caffeine, sugar, fats and oil made up the staple if not the whole of our diet of the twenty-hour drive.

Wise words of wisdom from Respected Ameer Sahib ensured that our hearts and minds were filled with prayers for those who were suffering, at risk of suffering and in general for the victory of Islam, Ahmadiyyat.

Arriving at our destination at around half-past midday, we were greeted by the locals including the bearded man with his black cap from Sydney, Penrith himself Imam Kamran Mubashir. The start of the camp was on the seventeenth of January and we arrived a day early so we had plenty of time to unwind, adjust to the climate and relax.

Genius!

At every camp or event organised by the Jama’at, there is an introductory session in which the surrounding environment was introduced to all those old and new. Usually, at an event like this where Islamic education is the key phrase, I’m used to seeing multiple Imams going from place to place. The majority of the time all they ever do is shake people’s hands and surrender with a few words of peace and then move on. Yet this time only one Imam was present. One! You know how unusual that is?

Anyways the “unofficial” opening session took place in which Imam Kamran Mubashir  introduced himself and his team to all the Khuddam that were present. Just like any other introductory speech, the well-wishes was given and the purpose of the camp was explained.

Yet what hit me hard on the head was the fact that Tahajjud prayers were to be individually offered instead of in congregation. The reason was to create a personal relationship with Allah the Almighty. You were allowed to offer as many Rakat’s as you want and spend as long as you want in praying to your Lord. The only thing that will test your determination is whether you have enough strength to wake yourself up in the morning and offer the Tahajjud prayer. All the obligatory prayers will be prayed at their proper times and in the congregation. That initiative is work of a true genius! Finally! An introductory speech that is worth listening to. Instantly my level of self-esteem went off the charts as I heard these words come out of his mouth.

One-man management or South Australian attitude?

Throughout the camp, there were people from each group who were designated their duties and put on a roster. But what made my impression was on the first night. The hosts were serving as groups were to be made when camp commenced. They handed out dinner in the traditional Ahmadi style of serving bowls accompanied with plates and utensils. And when the time for dessert came round, they handed each and every brother his share of the dessert. I was amazed. In Sydney, this type of service only ever happened when there was a peace symposium or anything of the kind. Again, this is either the result of one Imam management or South Australian attitude? I can’t decide.

Classrooms?

The setup of this camp is by far the most professional I’ve ever seen. It’s like high school but inverted. Each group or class has their own room and the teachers go from class to class teaching us various topics. In total, there were five subjects: Salat, Qur’an, Kalam (responding to allegations), Islamic history and Islamic knowledge.

The classrooms weren’t just crammed spaces with chairs and perhaps a whiteboard but they were neatly aligned rows of chairs in their own separate enclosure with their own fully functioning whiteboard.

The reality of class.

Honestly speaking, I thought the classes would be like the previous camp where we all gathered in the hall and wrote our notes based on the lectures that the team of men in beards with straight caps gave us. This time, however, there were teachers who could actually speak English (not that I blame the previous teachers or anything, it’s just that I am referring to the level of fluency in the language). They gave us worksheets and wrote on the whiteboard and did all those things that a qualified teacher is paid to do. Even the exams were set out logically and in an orderly fashion. The seriousness of the papers actually made them look like proper exams that were worth having a headache for!

Salat

I had a feeling that this subject would be one of the five as it wouldn’t make sense for a religious camp to prove its point if it didn’t teach its fundamental ritual. Stereotypically speaking, this is the subject that is usually looked down up as we do it again and again but what prevented me from going into boredom in this class was the teacher. I’m pretty sure the teacher for that class is a professional secondary school teacher so that was a good move from management. The thing that I find hardest is the translation of prayer which is something that you just have to force feed yourself. There is just no more of an efficient way with the timetable we had at the camp. The way that this class was taught was interesting. It was like learning a new concept at school. Even though we know how to pray and the prayers to be recited, the teacher started with the philosophy of salat so we knew the context that salat was developed for. Then came the different types of prayers and their prescribed timings which concluded with its etiquettes and all other things of the like. That I believe is what made this subject better than its stereotypical status that it has. I reckon if you teach a subject by starting off with its nature, context and its philosophy, only then will the student begin to appreciate the subject and learn it with more enthusiasm. That is the way I felt when the traditional approach of who knows simple salat with or without translation was avoided. It really gave me something to write and something to learn.

Kalam

This subject is the reason that actually made me want to come here in the first place…only to find that we would have the Secretary Class aka Chief teach it to us as Murabi Sahib Imtiaz Naveed Sb said that our class wasn’t good enough. Then again, the Humble Servant formally known as Imam Kamran Mubashir did serve us for one lesson in which we didn’t hear a narrator’s voice. This subject was all about the allegations made against Islam such as the finality of Prophethood, death of Jesus Christas and the prophecy of the founder of Islam in the bible. There isn’t much to say about this class except for the fact that I broke the suspense which the Humble Servant so cleverly started off by stating that “that prophet” was none other than the Holy Prophet Muhammadsaw.

Islamic knowledge

This lesson was interesting as it talked about the philosophy of the teachings of Islam. The greatest thing was that we got taught the gist of the book in one lesson which means that I don’t even have to read the book. Actually, now that I mention it I might want to give up a little read to see if the astrophysicist who still doesn’t own a telescope missed out on a point. But then again, great teacher equals great class equals quality education.

Islamic history

This again was revision as it was a life sketch of the Holy Prophetsaw which is all stuff that we, for the most part, we have naturally over the years. The only thing I learnt was the exact dates of particular events that happened throughout The Holy Prophetsaw’s life. I must say, it was good to know those dates.

The Holy Qur’an

Half of this subject was revision again as it introduced the authorship, setup, preservation and modern day appearance. The prophecies that we got to know of however were news to me. I’ve heard of the Qur’an prophesizing many a thing but never did I know that its wording would be as accurate as it is. I thought the prophecies would be broad in their meaning but some of them were quite easy to make their meanings out of. I must admit though that having previous knowledge of the prophecies the only thing I successfully took away from this subject was the accuracy of the book’s predictions to their linked events.

The Holy Qur’an and the Bible- Masterclass

This class was a masterclass and was taken by none other than the Respected Ameer Sahib himself. Mate, if any class was worth it, it was his. That is the only reason which made me write the heading in my book as “The Holy Qur’an- Masterclass”. It is either his skill or his experience or a combination of the two that makes this class stand out from the rest. He taught us why we have the signs that invade the letters and words of the Qur’an for our benefit. The systematic order, preservation in detail and the attitude given to it by Muslims was all taught to us (the entire cohort took his class at the same time) by him and him only.

When it came to learning how to prove the Bible’s inferiority over the Holy Qur’an, he claimed that he could make us scholars within one and a half days of intense bible study. As a result, I most certainly take his word for fact. For a man with thirty-three and a half years’ worth of experience in the United States of America and attending and speaking at countless conferences and debates, this man’s lesson is one not to be missed. It only makes sense as to the amount of respect they pay him.

Please, no more biryani!

I’m so sick and tired of being sick and tired of eating biryani and other such related curries on a regular basis. I only ever like it if I’m at home because my mum makes it. It makes me sleepy and the heat just makes your taste buds burn but there are times when I’m devastated and my stomach starts speaking on my behalf and so I don’t care about the heatwaves.

To my surprise, there was a minority of curry and a majority of food worth eating. These things included burgers, chips, fish and KFC style chicken if not the real thing. Stuff I would’ve never imagined the Jama’at to cook up. They even came in take away packs so they were easy to distribute and everyone got a fair share. Only once or twice there was curry to eat which was at the beginning of the camp and the end of the camp which was a pretty decent way of setting out the menu.

Sports time? I don’t think so

I’m not always the most enthusiastic or eager about sport especially when there is no basketball. I mean I get it, the traditional sports of soccer and cricket will always be family favourites but what about the leftovers? Anyways, I found out that the water balloon fight that everyone was gearing up for turned out to be a game of patience.

And so instead, I turned my “sports” time into socialising with friends and getting a decent shower. It is a blessing in disguise that majority of all Khuddam love either soccer or cricket as I can get a spot in one of the four showers available on site. The quantitative amount of showers is double the amount that we have on the site back at home. Even still, the water temperature was controllable i.e. hot water was actually available, unlike the luck I have to possess back home. This showering time soon became a norm throughout the entire camp and enabled me to keep clean without making a hole in the wall.

Accusations made against me!

Every time I was within reach of the naked eye of a fellow Khadim and I was writing, he would accuse me of studying. Well, the truth is that he would enquire as to whether I was studying and that would usually make me mad though I would never express it and show humbleness to the best of my ability.

I knew for a fact that there would be an exam, but I never engaged myself in formal study. I may have read through my notes and memorised a few things, but I never claim to have engaged in what I would call study. The reason being was that one the only time I would find it right to study would either be sports or at bedtime. Now I didn’t want to do it at the former time because I wanted to socialise with people and get to know them a bit more. If I had done it at the latter time then I would be facing more sleep deprivation than I already had which would explain the reason as to why my eyes would become quite sore and filled with the colour red. But then again I managed to attain 87.7 percentile as a total of the five subjects which I was happy with and that is the bottom line; to be satisfied with your achievements.

Field trip…

Before I knew it, we were on a field trip. This trip took us to three places. One of religious importance, one of historical and geographical importance and one of social importance.

The religious field trip took us to the heart of Adelaide city to a mosque which claimed to be Australia’s first ever mosque. It had like four or five skinny minarets and a tiny hall surrounded by a compound which the mosque owned. It was interesting to see a non-Ahmadi mosque for the first time and understand why the non-Ahmadi Muslim population is currently in turmoil. The number of worshippers was not very many and there was no partition to separate the males and the females. We went inside the mosque in small bunches as there were so many of us. It was very beautiful with all its interior architecture and its setting. That trip ended pretty quickly with a good read of a notice that simply said that ‘non-Muslims’ were not permitted in the mosque compound. “And exactly how did that stop us from coming?” remarked Sadr Sahib Majlis MKA once he read it.

The historical and geographical field trip took us to the heart of Adelaide city right adjacent to Adelaide Oval. Colloquially amongst from our Sydney brothers, this place quickly became known as another Parramatta due to its small size and its really small buildings. It was a Friday night and it was empty! Can you believe it? A major Australian city and absolutely no South Australian in sight. There were a few walking their dogs and jogging their legs but besides that, it was a ghost town. In Parramatta, a Friday night is stampeded with fans if there is an NRL match going on but this was just mind blowing. I would also like to point out that the tram network made the city look a little cute in the sense that the city is small and you have this toy railway network running through the city.

Last but not least, the most spectacular of them all, the beach. I know the name of the place is a bit cliché but the beach does live up to its name i.e. Silver Sands beach. People here back at home (NSW) are colonising the beaches faster than the Eureka Stockade and this beach in Adelaide seems to be undiscovered. As per always, the traditional war cries of soccer and cricket were raised and their armies were assembled. I, however, happened to be an independent as I am a fan of neither of those sports.

And so as a result of my defiance I started collecting sea shells by the sea shore. I intended to make a sign or a bunch of words using the organic materials and get MTA to get a record of it but there weren’t as many shells as there were pebbles. I then had another light bulb moment where I could draw a pattern with the sand using my fingers and some pointed rocks. So I settled to draw a pattern which started off with five curved lines (going off in different directions) drawn from a common centre. Those five lines were symbols of the five Khulafa-e-Ahmadiyyat. I was then going to branch off each end with five more spokes coming out of the end (again the spokes would curve in different directions) and would just continue that pattern until it was to become quite large and noticeable.

Little did I know that Sadr Sahib had pulled me over and set a bunch of wandering Khuddam like myself with two games that were either played in Pakistan or just something he came up with on the spot. The first game was a mix between softball and bulrush. Basically, a team would be batting (with a stick) and another team would be fielding. The pitcher would stand directly in front of the batsman (at a distance of a foot or so) and toss the ball to the receiver in the style that the latter preferred. If he missed, then he would step back into a large square as a safe zone where the pitcher (who belongs to the fielding team) couldn’t tag him with the ball. At any reasonable shot that was played, the batsmen and any other players in the square have the option to run past the defenders without being caught out or being tagged (any runner could be tagged). Once a catch was caught or a runner was tagged, the teams switched sides and the whole process began over again. The aim of the game was to stay in the longest.

This seaside session was probably one where I learnt something about myself. The fact that when I eat a quarter of an orange that was cut up by the Langhar Khana team (special thank you to them for their outstanding hospitality), I was able to eat its skin as well. The thought crashed into me when I finished eating the juicy bit of the orange that people do eat the skin of fruits that would otherwise be discarded. Strangely enough, I took one small bite…and it didn’t taste too bad. Honestly, I then just nibbled my way through the entire piece of orange skin until there was nothing left of it. it was an amazing experience. You have to try it!

The second game that Sadr Sahib and this time Qaid Sahib Kaleem Ahmad Sb setup was some game that also resembled bulrush but with a little more skill. It was about running past defenders who had a threshold and once you left that threshold, you were safe until you reached the next defender’s threshold. The idea was to get past the defenders without getting tagged.

However, I didn’t jump on the bandwagon like everyone else did and started my own mission. I started off as a sole trader with a contract from the South Australian Shore. At first, my nails hurt immensely but as time grew older so did the pain. Digging to a certain depth in the sand I had made the entrance to my first tunnel in what was to be tunnel network. Tourists came round my ‘pit’ was being exhibited at a financial loss. Only one person ever got the fact right that I was digging a tunnel because every time a question was raised about my project, they would always enquire as to why I was digging a hole or a pit. I was delighted when the one kid asked if I was boring a tunnel as he was the only one to get it right.

Once the first tunnel was made I started at the opposite end with its exit. With this, I had one intern who came in to help as he researched my work many a time before the second tunnel and ultimately volunteered to help out. As sad as it is to say he left as he lost interest (truth hurts). For my perseverance, I was rewarded from the Almighty with two employees and one other former employee who started his own project but kept his love for other things.

Needless to say, I had fun… after bringing back the injury on the right hand by slamming it against the beach volleyball. Don’t worry about that too much. I took some time out from the game and later joined back in as the pain eased away. And for your information, beach volleyball is NOT a traditional sport so don’t tell me I followed the bandwagon like everyone else.

I hope to see you forcing your eyes to read another one of my literary pieces again because they’re obviously exhausted.

Until next time

Wasalam

Khaksar

Naosheyrvaan Nasir

P.S:

If it comes straight from the heart, then nothing can stop you (from pleasing Allah).
– Imam Kamran Mubashir aka The Humble Servant