Tuesday March 12, 2013
Ustaz Harun on a mission
CERITALAH BY KARIM RASLAN
JELI-based Ustaz Harun is 83 years old and just over five feet tall. When he sits at the front seat of his Daihatsu Feroza, you can barely see his head over the top of the steering wheel.
The diminutive religious teacher makes an unlikely anti-drug crusader but this pensioner, with his ready wit and open heart, is very much on the front-line trying to win back some of the souls who have been overwhelmed by the tsunami of drugs deluging even our smallest communities.
With heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, memphetamines and the ominously named pil-kuda (some kind of generic veterinary prescription) flooding our towns, kampung and even our schools, the man’s willingness to go to battle is also a reflection of the way in which society is beginning to place different demands on the ulama, an age-old and seemingly unchanging institution.
As he explains in his broad, and to me, near incomprehensible Kelantanese brogue: “In the future, ustaz like myself will have to be more involved in giving pastoral care and guidance to the young and the needy. We need to step in and help our people.”
With 10 children and 12 grandchildren of his own, the Pasir Mas-born retiree has accumulated a lot of experience in dealing with the younger generation.
For starters, he’s dismayed at the lackadaisical approach of most present day parents.
“They’ve washed their hands of the children. They don’t keep an eye on what they’re doing and who they’re spending time with. When problems happen, they have no idea on what to do.”
But unlike most 80-year-olds, Ustaz Harun doesn’t just moan. Instead, he’s very much committed to the community, leading a very hectic existence.
For example, once a week and on every Wednesday morning, he teaches farduain, ibadah at the Cure and Care Rehabilitation Centre (CCRC) in Jeli.
In the past, the CCRC was known as Pusat Serenti. It was a dreaded dead-end place for drug addicts.
Now, with a new and more inclusive approach, the CCRC seeks to de-stigmatise the inmates, now called “clients”, and enable them to be returned to society more easily.
It’s a bold reinvention that should be commended, especially given the extent to which drug addiction has become such an endemic social problem – and one that appears to bedevil the Malay community in particular.
Ustaz Harun’s programme every Wednesday morning (there are 10 other ustaz who participate) is part of an attempt to use faith-based solutions to strengthen the capacity of the “clients” to withstand both the allure of drugs and the harsh reality of the outside world.
To gauge Ustaz Harun’s relative success as well as to get a sense of the challenges faced by the CCRC’s “clients”, I met with one of the young men from his dakwah group.
Ahmad (not his real name) is a dark-skinned and intense 33-year-old from Pontian in Johor. He taught at a Sekolah Agama for 11 years and married a primary school teacher.
Interestingly, he stressed that her higher pay was the source of tension in the marriage.
“It always hurt me, that as the man of the family I wasn’t earning a higher income to support my family.”
Given the extraordinary imbalance in our colleges and universities between male and female enrolment and indeed academic success, Ahmad’s personal crisis reveals the way social realities create unexpected inter-personal stresses.
Marital relations got much worse when his wife miscarried what was to be their second child.
Both parents sought to blame one another for the tragedy which was linked to the mother’s lack of folic acid, a critical factor for the development of the brain.
“I felt angry, frustrated and broken-hearted. Although there were many people around me doing drugs at the time, I’d managed to stay away because of my faith. When the problems became worse, I started drifting away from religion and started taking drugs like heroin. My wife asked for a divorce and I lost my job.
“I have another three months to go at the CCRC and I’m very lucky because even though my wife left me, my parents have rallied around.”
Listening to Ahmad’s relatively humdrum but disturbing story and his description of the way drugs are so omnipresent in even the smallest communities (“the dealers will deliver heroin or whatever you want straight to your house wherever it is”), you cannot help but pray that the younger generation of ulama follow in Ustaz Harun’s footsteps.