Of being stuck and making the world a better place.

“Verily, the believers are like a structure, each part strengthening the other,” – Prophet Muhammad S.A.W

As I am writing this, I am scrolling through pictures of my days in UIA during the Movement Control Order. I can still feel certain muscles reacting to certain pictures in protest, but my heart feels content.

On the first couple of days when MCO was announced, I waved goodbyes happily to my friends who were going back home. And gave my shoulder to those who couldn’t, “rilek lah, 2 minggu je” boy was I wrong. I actually planned to go back a few days after the “lockdown” began, hoping to see things settle down (ie cafe operations, students SOPs, PICs) but a few days later, the university decided to locked it’s gates and the government began a strict travel restriction, thus beginning my experience.

The first couple of days were normal, I was having fun with my (only) roomate that did not went back, he was my biggest support system throughout MCO. STADD and RSD started rolling out forms after forms, looking for data, to help everyone. I remember, we came across a person who hasn’t ate for 2 days, his cage was closed and he had no money on him, I cried, I later found out he was my roomate from my foundation days, I cried even harder. That night I slept with guilt.

Along the earlier weeks, I was also called for duty through the establishment of IIUM Students Taskforce for COVID-19. It was a team of not more than 20, with a few officers from ODRSDCE and STADD, the rest were mostly student leaders from various societies and members of Student Union, there were only 2 Presidents of MRC/ members of MRCC, and I was the chair, I remembered when I was called up, I smiled, at least I had something to do.

The days with the taskforce was the most memorable and enjoyable days, I wore 2 hats in specific:

1) as MRCC Chair, with the help of Mahallah Principals, I had to monitor and supervise the free food distribution in all 17 Mahallahs. Each Mahallah had 8 Volunteers, food was 3 times per day.

2) as Taskforce member, I joined in usual work of maintaining the foodbank and receiving stocks from outside, looking for people who need help, and answering questions (a lot of them) we were also tasked in planning and giving opinions on what the University was doing.

From these two main roles, there are a few anecdotes I would like to share:

– There were times when we received items in high bulk, with no storage room to use, requiring us to deliver it on the same day, we encountered this twice, a truckload of 300 boxes of 1.5L Mineral Water, and another truckload of 3000kg of Honeydew from FAMA.

 – Every night I would sleep at 2am answering questions from residents, everytime a problem arises, the questions were discussed and a solution is reached quickly. It was phonecalls after texts after phonecalls and phonecalls, I worked closely with COPS, RSD, STADD, OSEM and all necessary offices in pulling this off.

 – Work never stopped, for 40 days, I believe I only had 2 days off, and that was because I had a fever, all members of the taskforce, has had a fever at least once during their time working. It was due to fatigue.

I can probably write 10 more of these anecdotes, but I would prefer to cut it short. we worked tirelessly, the people I worked with was admirably amazing,  and I was tired, but the spirits were high, I can never speak about these people without being amazed.

After a month, the work finally caught up, my stress limits were reached, and I was one of the lucky ones, I had permanent work, I had reasons to go outside, I had a roomate. Some of our students, were in basically “solitary confinement” them wanting to go out was justified. And the University was pushing hard on it.

Then came OPS Hantar Pulang Pelajar (whoever came out with this name from KPT needs to update their Android version) we prefer calling it OPS Pulang. I was only 41.4km away from home, but that turned out to be the longest 41.4km I had to endure. I can opt to go back early, my mum told me to come back soon, but duty called, and I answered.

It was the most tiring week of my life. We had to handle thousands of students not only from UIA to go back, we had problems with the SOP by the Ministry, with listings and logistics, I remember shutting down right after one session. The craziest one was from UIA to the Eastern Zone, we started at 9pm, we ended at 7am. It was Ramadhan.

I can write about all these challenges, all these problems, and all these obstacles we had. I can write (longer) about what I felt and what it meant to stay in campus for 50 days, what social media had to say about it, and how I reacted. But I think, I would prefer to write about how this journey left a mark on me.

For those of you who know me, they would probably know that I have been to many office in UIA, from my Mahallah, to my Kulliyyah, and to even the biggest ones in the Rectory. I dealt with admins multiple times officially and unofficially. I never enjoyed the experience. To me they are the Bourgeoisie of the University, on their throne without understanding what students wanted. That opinion changed quickly.

From the days of my usual work during MCO, Dr Sufian (Chairman of COPS) has been extremely helpful, he was always one phone call away. My Principal, Dr Khaizuran, came almost daily to check up on us even if he is off campus. Dr Zulkifli Hasan, from ODRSDCE, comes and visits us occasionally, even helping us lift boxes and asking us what we needed.

The real climax happened during OPS Pulang, I got to know Dr Harmi, from OCAP, and Dr Faris, from ISC. Along the names mentioned above, more admins from STADD and the rest of the Principals also needs a mention, they were all there during OPS Pulang, overseeing us, helping us, guiding us. We worked together like a family. Like a community, and I understood what IIUM wanted when they told us to call each other Brothers and Sisters, I felt the connection that brought us together, and it took a pandemic to bring out the best of us.

My highest appreciation goes to the Rector, Prof Dzul, who came to assure ask his commitment in helping us, he heard our concerns over ERTL, and he taught me a lot about humanity, about education, and about making education humane. I learnt about his vision for this University, and I got excited that his plans were more than I could expect.

If you ask me, no one ever asked for a pandemic, but in times of crisis, I witnessed how the community stood up and looked out for each other, regardless of roles and position, the goal was there, and everyone helped out. I understood the meaning of Leading The Way, and that it cannot be done alone.

I understood that every decision we’ve been angry about, every policies and every steps they took all were done with the same goals as us, on making the community better, be it to achieve zero plastic usage, or in helping out students in need. I will today be gladly vouching for these people. The main problem that we usually encounter is communication and understanding each other, like all relationships, if we do not talk it out, we will never know what the other side wants. But the current IIUM is different, the Rector told me his doors are always open, if I have something to say, I should say it to him. The administration believes in community engagement, where University should no longer be a factory of degree holders, but the axis of a better world, this truly encapsulates the spirit of #LeadingTheWay moving the motto to something beyond a cool hashtag.

In the bigger picture of things, some people have lost faith on this planet, faith that cannot be restored through pictures of cats being nice to their kittens. We are dealing with a lot, and our voices have always called for change. From my journey, I believe we cannot simply call and demand for change, we must be that change we want. In any way possible, from the smallest roles to policy makers, we must help each other.

In conclusion, if we truly identify ourselves as the Khalifah of this modern world, in our active pursue of making the world a better place, we need to be together, we need to start communicating and we need to push forward as a community and no longer alone. And that is how we can lead the way. The torchbearers of the ummah will no longer be a rhetoric, as we show how things can be done together.

Throughout the MCO, I received help from everyone, from the smallest volunteer recruitment, to a national operation. Those who stood up when needed, are the reason the world can be made a better place, together. Because only together we are stronger.

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