Every moslem is obliged to perform Friday prayer collectively in a masjid whereever he is. That Friday afternoon, everybody was sitting inside the small Masjid in a small town near Vientiane, Laos. I was there among the audience, waiting for the sermon (khutbah) to happen. After quite some times, there was no indication that the preacher (Khatib) was about to come, while the time of sermon was approaching. The waiting situation went on until last minutes before the Khutbah time. Everybody wondered and began to worry about.
Until the time came, the Khotib everybody had been waiting for was still not coming yet. It seemed he coouldn’t make it which was pretty much very unsual. However, the prayer should be going on and the Khutbah should commence with or without the expected Khotib. Someone among us should, therefore, come up to the podium, to deliver the Khutbah. It was a bit intricate since nobody would dare to propose anyone. No single word even voiced out unless they just gazed to each other.
I had been in this country for about one year. I noticed that it was the only masjid had existed so far in the country with not more than twenty worshipers living nearby. Other than that, the rest, Lao people are mostly budhist. All muslim worshipers relied very much on the only Khotib they had, Mr. Muhamad Vina, a cambodian origin and a former military officer. He was assumed the most knowledgable person in Islamic teachings. Nobody else was. So, it was not so shocking that they had no idea who could replace the Khotib in delivering the sermon. This kind of situation had never happened before.
Unfortunately, Everybody began to stare at me. They thought I was capable and nowledgable enough to carry out the khutbah. Head of the local Moslem Community, Mr. Yahya, finally asked, “Please Mr. Djatmiko, you should perform. Everybody is waiting and the prayer must continue.” I was speechless. What should I do when I was not convinced myself. I was in such a big dilemma. On one hand, honestly, I felt incompetent to do it, but on the other hand, this situation should be taken as an amanah (mandate) coming from Allah Swt, the Almighty. “Allah does not burden you with something you are not capable of..” I remembered that verse as the source of my daily motivating spirit.
Gradually, there was a growing confidence and self-motivated in me. So therefore, by saying bismillaah, I stood up and go to the podium. Firstly, I began the khutbah by greeting everyone with Assalamu’akaykum before being seated. Afterwards someone did the Adzan. At that point in time, I still didn’t know what topic I should convey and how to do it. I was thinking, praying dan asking for the help from Allah Swt the Almighty. I was prety sure that Allah would guide me in that emergency situation.
While sitting, I opened a drawer in the podium up and saw that there was an old, obsolete and odd printed book writen in Bahasa Indonesia inside, entitled “Kumpulan Khubah Jumat”. I took and read it very quickly and found that many various topics were available. I was a bit discharged on the topic. So, there was one question left, which on language. As of a matter of fact, I didn’t speak Lao language (phasa Lao) and they didn’t speak English. Certainly, neither English nor phasa Lao would be usable.
In the end, what I did was reciting and reading only the Arabic sentences out. It’s acceptable, I beleived, as long as the rule and manner of conveying khutbah are fullfiled. Allah be praised, alhamdulillaah, finally I could make it without any difficulty. I was very happy and satisfied for being a problem solver. All the tragedy of being a Khotib was over, I thought. What a terrifying experience I had.
Regrettably that was not the end of my tragedy. On the contrary, it was only the beginning. Since that day, I had been performing the acting preacher for another one year every Friday. Mr. Vina the Khotib had not still been back to Laos and nobody knew until when. Conseqeuntly, I didn’t believe it. And still, I don’t believe all the time that I had ever been an accidental Preacher. In every sermon I conveyed, I always asked audience to collectively pray for the coming back of Mr. Vina. At the end of every Khutbah, I always hoped that it was the last khutbah I delivered because I kept the believe that Mr. Vina would be back on the following week.
The situation had not met my hope to witness the return of Mr. Vina in Laos until the heartbreaking moment came. It was the moment when I had to leave Laos for another posting in Tokyo, Japan. Two days before my departure, along with my wife, I went to the masjid to meet my moslem brothers and sisters there. We had a chat, a warm chat as usual although we chated not in the same language. The situation was suddenly very queit and soundless when Mr. Yahya, Head of the local Moslem Community, explained to the audience in phasa Lao that I and my family would be leaving Laos for good. Everybody then looked at me and my wife with dissapointment and regret. An unexpectedly everybody commented with an upsetting tone.
Then, I gave my farewell words with a gloomy expression and hopes that evrybody would still be okay and to keep their faith forever. In the end, I shook their hands one by one and gave almost everybody my big hugh. The shocking one was when I found that some of them were crying for us. So, I learned by myself that to say goodbye is really something miserable.
What I worried most was about who would replace me in delivering khutbah every Friday. I couldn’t get the answer until I heard a voice coming from my heart telling me not to worry about. The voice heard like. “Give and surrender all the problems and questions you have to Allah, because He is the only owner of as well as the only solution for..”
Yes. I felt released and convinced to just leave everything to the Creator, the Almighty. One last thing remained in my mind was the hope that there would be someone could take the place of my position as an acting preacher, in the absence of the real Khotib, Mr. Vina.
I didn’t know what had been going on every Friday since that time. I had no idea whether Mr. Vina had been back to Laos performing his duty as regular khotib for Friday prayer. I never tried to get the answer. Until one day, abut two months ago (in September 2014), I watched a television program about the information on moslem Community lifestyles living in non moslem countries. In that program, there was, among others, information and description about our moslem brothers and sisters living in Laos, a community that I missed for so long. It showed the masjid with a small crowd of moslems people surrounding whom everybody is famiiar to me.
That program reminded me of being together with them 18 years ago. All the memories came one by one until it was stuck with the question whether Mr. Vina had been back there performing his regular duty every Friday. To my surprise, my question was in a straight line answered. The program on TV showed an interview with Mr. Vina. Alhamdulillaah, I smilled, contendedly smile while looking at his face on TV. “Alhamdulillaah.. May Allah always bless you Mr. Vina in your lifetime.. You are really a good and devoted person I admired..”
(Jakarta, 3 Desember 2014)