About a week ago, I embarked on my first flight alone. To me, this is MAJOR. You see, I’ve never travelled by myself before. My previous trips have been with my family or friends for holidays. There was always someone to take care of me. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would take a trip solo, let alone move to Saudi Arabia unaccompanied. Besides that, I’m terrified of going through immigration. I have no idea how I cultivated this fear of getting caught. It sounds silly, I know. I’m as law-abiding as one can be (I don’t even jaywalk) but doubt niggles at the back of my mind.
So there I was, on my seat. Well, my seats. It was the non-peak season so I had a whole row to myself. There were only 15 people onboard! I remember thinking ‘Whoa, I’m really on my own this time.’ Before departure, Saudia showed a dua that Prophet Muhammad Saw used to recite before traveling – “Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar. Glory is to Him Who has provided this for us though we could never have had it by our efforts. Surely, unto our Lord we are returning. O Allah, we ask You on this our journey for goodness and piety, and for works that are pleasing to You. O Allah, lighten this journey for us and make its distance easy for us. O Allah, You are our Companion on the road and the One in Whose care we leave our family. O Allah, I seek refuge in You from this journey’s hardships, and from the wicked sights in store and from finding our family and property in misfortune upon returning.” Subḥān Allāh. Exquisite, isn’t it? My heart was touched. ‘Aamiin Ya Rabb.’ The plane started to taxi to a runway. Its engine fired up noisily. ‘This is IT, Alia!’ I knew what to do. I’ve done this so many times. I just had to breathe deeply and brace myself for takeoff. Easy. Then… The plane didn’t move. I’m serious. Not even an inch.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we apologize for the delay. There is a technical issue and we are going back to the gate.”
What?! I immediately whipped out my phone to call Mama and Papa.
“Technical issue? What does that mean? Are you going to change planes?”
“I don’t know. They didn’t elaborate.”
“What?!? You have to update us every step of the way, okay?”
I stayed on the phone with them, seeking support and being manja. After 2 whole hours, the plane took off. I breathed a great sigh of relief. I can savour the in-flight meals now, Alhamdulillah! Priorities, seekers. Priorities. 😛 Soon after, I reclined my seat and fell asleep.
Suddenly, I was awoken by violent shaking. The plane plunged down and soared up again. The uncontrollable shaking and loud rattling distressed me. The seat belt instantly flashed. I gritted my teeth as I felt my stomach sink. It was like I was on a roller coaster. I was absolutely terrified. The last time I experienced turbulence, I buried my head in my sister’s shoulder. This time, I couldn’t turn to anyone. I was suspended in mid-air with no control at all. Who’s going to comfort me this time?
Then, it hit me. It’s always easy to claim to have faith when things are going smoothly or when I’m on the ground feeling secure. How about when I’m in a hovering plane in the sky? Would I soldier on or end up in despair and doubt? What’s the point of listening to the dua at the start of my journey then? I am never alone. Allah is with me every step of the way. Why would I need anyone when I have Him? Indeed, Allah is Ya Qawiyy. When Allah wills anything, His only command is to say “Be!” and it is. Travelling alone may be tough but it’s definitely a huge blessing. By removing people from my journey, He’s reminding me of the only one who matters – Allah. People may fail me but He never will. In this test, I didn’t even have to choose. Knowing that my phone no longer had reception, I didn’t ring my parents. Out of His mercy and compassion, he had already given me the correct answer. He sent everyone away so that it’s only me and Him. La ilaha illa Anta Subhanaka inni kuntu minaz-zalimin.
Seek help through sabr and prayer. I only learnt recently from Ustaz Saif-ur-Rahman of Alchemy of Hippieness that sabr is not only patience. It’s also endurance, forbearance and steadfastness. It’s how Prophet Yunus persevered when he was stuck in the belly of a whale. It’s how Prophet Yusuf restrained himself when he was seduced by a minister’s wife. It’s how Maryam gathered strength to obey Allah and remain silent, while the villagers were disparaging her and her baby. Sabr is not about passively waiting. Sabr is actively surrendering to the will of Allah. Hasbunallahu ni’mal wakeel. Allah (Alone) is Sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs. Everything besides Allah is replaceable. If you lose Allah, you lose everything. I closed my eyes and wept. I thanked Allah for His unconditional love and unmatched wisdom. I pleaded for forgiveness for my mistakes. I surrendered my apprehension and anxiety to Allah.
I landed safely that day. You know what? The people at King Abdulaziz International Airport were extremely kind. Honestly, they surpassed all of my expectations. As soon as they saw me and noticed that I was alone, they helped me as much as they could. They directed me to a KAUST Government Affairs Representative who was waiting for me. He immediately got me through Immigration Control and Customs and assisted me with my luggage. It was such a painless process. When I reunited with Firdaus, he exclaimed, “Alhamdulillah! You got through customs in less than 15 minutes!”
Allah really has a purpose for each experience. Ibn Ata’ illah once said, “Deprivation only hurts you because of your incomprehension of God in it”. There are no oversights when it comes to Allah. Nothing is random. Every moment is preparing us for what is to come. What’s beautiful is that all is good, no matter how painful it may be. Alhamdulillah ‘ala kulli Haal. Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar.