Alhamdulillah, The Sacred Path of Love Retreat has entered it’s 3rd year. It’s been a long journey and I am thankful to God that this retreat has survived, although I didn’t imagine it would. The idea to have a retreat actually started because my husband and I wanted to organize an event which touches on the true meaning of spirituality, and it so happens that we have a few scholars in mind. We did not have much money at hand, and knowing that the cost would be quite high, it was a worry. After much thought, we decided to proceed as we received a positive sign and I’m thinking I could save some money somehow. We spent quite a lot of time thinking about what topics would be relevant to the participants, and it covered issues from marriage, education to spirituality. Finally, after arguing back and forth on the name of the retreat, we decided on “The Sacred Path of Love”, as we believe everything goes back to love. The theme chosen was “Finding God in times of tribulations” as we wanted to address the issue of how Muslims can find inner strength despite challenges they face.
Finding God In Times Of Tribulations
Now, we would never have thought that we would begin facing a lot of tribulations. Murphy’s Law lurked its head and everything that can go wrong, did go wrong. We faced quite a few problems confirming the speakers and arranging their visit here. In the midst of all this, my beloved mother fell ill suddenly and was hospitalized. All work on the event stopped. I went to the hospital everyday; she was unconscious and I spent every moment praying for her. Within a week, she passed away, right before the month of Ramadhan. I used to wonder how I’m ever going to let her go when the time comes, yet nothing prepared me for the sudden passing. Following that, my family faced various challenges adjusting to her passing. It was one problem after another, yet we have to continue work on the retreat. We really learnt the reality of tawakkal (putting trust in God), as various other problems started arising. We couldn’t contact one of the scholars, and another scholar couldn’t come due to technical issues. We knew we just had to forge ahead. We had four local scholars and three scholars from overseas – Shaykh Mahy Cisse (Senegal), Dr Afifi Al-Akiti (Malaysia) and Shaykh Afeefuddin (Iraq). Just four days before the retreat, we received news that various airports in the United KIngdom had closed due to bad weather. Dr Afifi would be flying from UK, and there was nothing we could do but pray. Indeed, it was a trial for us, but by God’s Will, the only airport which was open was Heathrow Airport, and that was where Dr Afifi was supposed to leave from.
The moment the scholars came, we barely slept as there were a lot of work to be done. With the help of the volunteers, we had made preparations for the retreat, but of course, there were last minute changes to the plan which we had to attend to. On the day itself, we had more tribulations – one of the invited speakers (a brother who wanted to share his experience) had an accident. Thankfully, he was not critically injured. Then, the food arrived late because the caterer also had an accident. On the second day, we received news that my mother-in-law was hospitalized. It was yet another challenge, but perhaps Allah swt has decreed that we too need to find strength in facing tribulations.
The first year was a sweet memory to both of us. We managed to spend time with the scholars, and they gave us invaluable advice. We couldn’t have pulled through without the help from so many people. Some kind souls helped us cover the cost, and many others came to help in other ways. What seemed impossible at first became possible. Although we went through a lot of tribulations during that period as both of us lost our mothers, God has blessed us with so many things. Meeting Shaykh Mahy made us forget everything. Seeing Dr Afifi’s energy inspired us. Talking to the participants and getting to know them motivated us. We realised that some participants have never really attended any religious events before and they found the retreat an eye-opener. There were others who had misconceptions on Islamic spirituality but changed their perceptions after the retreat. Alhamdulillah.
Above all, what we learnt that year was most important – that it is important to let go and let God. We had to let go of so many things as we faced circumstances which were beyond our control. Everything happens by the Will of God, and we had to place complete trust in Him. I remembered Shaykh Mahy’s words, “Everything is difficult in the beginning but it gets easier over time. May Allah swt enable you to help others, insyaAllah.”
Gateway to Gratitude
Work on the 2nd Sacred Path of Love Retreat began just 1 month later. We had to start confirming speakers and arranging administrative tasks. That is how much work is needed to actually prepare for a 2-day retreat. The 2nd year was much easier for us as we met a few people who shared our beliefs, and they were able to contribute in significant ways. They have a passion in serving the community and they are driven. One of the wonders of organising events is that you get to make friends and meet people from all walks of life. Friendships are forged and you can truly feel the blessing from the ukhuwwah (brotherhood).
Throughout the year, there were many meetings, as we discussed matters from logistics and administration to content and itenary. The theme for the 2nd year was “Gateway to Gratitude”, and it seemed to resonate in our hearts, as we felt really grateful that year since things seem to be going more smoothly and by God’s Will, we were able to proceed. Yes, there were some challenges, but it was not as tough as the first year. It reminded me of our Beloved Prophet’s year of sadness, which was followed by the Isra’ Mikraj. In the Holy Quran, Allah says, “Verily with every difficulty, there is relief.” Despite facing the loss of our beloved mothers, we can only thank God for the blessings of meeting the Shaykh, and receiving invaluable advice and guidance.
Alhamdulillah, it was a full-house event in the second year. We had to turn down quite a number of people who wanted to purchase the tickets a few days before the event. We had participants from overseas as well.
The week before the retreat was a very busy time for us as we had to prepare the notes, administration etc. On the first day of the retreat, we had to come as early as 7am to prepare. That year, we were blessed to know more of the participants. We had one ex-prisoner who said the retreat changed his life, and we had one unwed mother who said she benefitted a lot from the retreat and it has helped her made an important decision in her life. We are thankful that God has guided them to attend the spiritual retreat because when we started The Sacred Path of Love, we hoped that the community would really benefit from it. Verily, guidance is from God, and for us, we welcome anyone from any background. Come as you are.
We were also blessed yet again, to be able to sit down with the scholars to get their advice on what is good for the community in terms of seeking knowledge and progressing.
Meaning of Servanthood
Finally, we will be coming to the 3rd year of the retreat. Why do we choose to address servanthood? Because we need to understand who we are to understand who God is. We often take material things as our Lord, and we revolve our lives around worldly luxuries. Not many of us actually stop to think of the purpose of life.
Some people said they just can’t commit for 2 days because they have weddings to attend to, or they have families. Some say they’re not ready to learn deeper stuff in Islam, and some say it’s too expensive. A shaykh once said to us that we should never use “not enough time” as an excuse. If you focus and set your priorities, you will have time to do anything. In fact, if you truly work hard enough, you can overcome any problems. In the first year, we had a Malaysian who came by bus from Kuala Lumpur, and because he arrived early on Saturday morning, he had nowhere to go. He slept on one of the benches found at the side of the road while waiting for Subuh. He came all the way because he really wanted to seek knowledge. He came even though he didn’t have any place to stay. In the second year, we had a 72 year-old man from Penang and age was not a barrier to him. We had people who were in financial difficulties, and because they were sincerely seeking knowledge, they came to us and we worked out a way for them to attend.
So, really – if you truly believe that knowledge is important, and you want to know what your purpose in life is, or you want to know who God is, then the Sacred Path of Love retreat is a good start. We can’t promise that you will find your answers but the speakers we have lined up, insyallah, are those who have embarked on the path to knowing God, and will be able to share their knowledge. Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jailani says, “Anyone who seeks God will surely find Him.” If we take that first step with sincerity, insyaAllah, we will find Him. This retreat is not just for a special few with a certain degree of understanding, it is not just for a special few who wants motivation to earn a million dollars, it is not just for a special few who are religious. It is for anyone who seeks God. InsyaAllah.