SUARA FROM THE GULF
by Gamson Jr Mawallil Quijano
For a Muslim Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) like me to be working in a Muslim country like Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and State of Qatar is gratifying and a great blessing from Allāh. Simply because these are Muslim countries and I’m a Muslim. In these countries, I find it so convenient to practice my way of life as a believer of the Islamic faith.
The truly Islamic environment that warmly welcomed me makes me feel so grateful and elated when I arrived in Riyadh, KSA then Qatar to work as a Radiologic Technologist. I knew I was in the right place and I felt secure knowing that the lifestyle in this country corresponded to my belief.
Everywhere I go such as shopping centres, parks, recreational areas, name it, there are always Masājid or Musalla which can be easily found. In my workplace, there’s a Masjid nearby. Not to mention the Musalla on all the hospital floors. Place of worship for prayer has never become my problem there and even here in Qatar. The Masjid or Musalla hold a special place in every Muslim’s heart. Praying five times every day is an integral part of every Muslim’s life because it is one of the pillars of Islam.
One of the most beautiful things about working in KSA is that it is so easy to do Umrah and even Hajj because you are perfectly in the country where the place to do Umrah and Hajj is located. Even if a Muslim expatriate posted in other locations across the Kingdom, reaching Makkah and Madina either traveling by land or air would still be convenient. Sometimes there are philanthropic groups who want to sponsor Umrah and Hajj to Muslim expatriates.
It is worth mentioning that even those Muslim OFWs from other GCC countries can also easily travel by land to KSA to perform Umrah. Although in this case, an Umrah visa is already required. Previously, the Mindanao Organization of Overseas Muslim Workers (OMMOW) based in Qatar was known for organizing an Umrah for Muslim OFWs in Qatar every year. I hope and pray when situations warrant, this OMMOW activity will resume again.
Abdurahman Habi Bugtong, an OFW in Makkah, Al Mukarramah is blessed enough because aside from earning financially from his work, he can also render services to the guests of Allāh during Hajj in which he considered as a rewarding experience. He is grateful to Allāh to be able to do the 5th pillar of Islam which is the Hajj. Visiting Al Masjid Al Harām on a regular basis to enjoy the goodness of the place while he is there is one of his favorites.
Moreover, Friday is the first day of the weekend here in the Middle East and most OFWs on this day are off from work. With this, attending the Friday congressional prayer for Muslim men would be more hassle-free because it’s an off day. For those with work on Friday morning, like in the hospital, there is Masjid inside or outside the hospital premises where they can attend the Friday congressional prayer.
In addition, during Ramadhān, Muslim employees of these countries benefitted from reduced hours of work. As for us here in Qatar, from 8 hours a day to only 5 hours a day since we are fasting. Ma shā Allāh, this considerate law during Ramadhān are highly commendable. Likewise, when we have a duty during the time for breaking of the fast or pre-dawn meal, no need for us to worry about what food to eat because it will be provided by our employer for gratis.
“My most unforgettable experience working here in KSA is when I had the chance to perform Hajj, the 5th pillar of Islam and an ultimate dream of every Muslim. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” shares Karina-Isha Tulawie Y. Said, Tausug OFW in Madina, KSA. She is also one of the COVID-19 OFW toughest frontliners.
Being born in Madina, the blessed city of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon Him), Karina believes the kind of environment she lives in today really matters to her because at times our (her) faith becomes high and low. She do appreciates all people there as how they valued the time of 5x obligatory prayers.
“I remember when I entered the bus on our way to Arafat during Hajj, my tears suddenly fell down when I saw everyone wearing Ihram clothing and uttering the words of Tawhid, the Talbiya for Hajj,” Karina reminisces.
Just like many Muslim expatriates working in KSA, Mohammad Shah Ahid, an OFW-Nurse based in Makkah, KSA, is forever grateful that he was able to perform Hajj for gratis. Likewise, whenever he is available, he can always perform Umrah because he is living just within the sanctuary of Haram. “Being chosen to work inside the sanctuary of Haram is a great honor because Al Masjid Al Haraam is easily accessible to me. I can go there anytime I’m free,” narrated Mohammad Shah.
In these countries, we have also the great chance of studying Islamic education for free. Although in other Islamic universities, you need to pay for enrollment.
During the old normal days, when it’s weekend here in Qatar, there were some free Islamic classes organized by some Filipino groups in collaboration with the local authorities here. Through it, you’ll be able to learn more about Islam because numerous subjects were being taught by some OFW volunteers who had the sound knowledge about Islam. Similarly, in KSA, there are many Islamic centers where Muslim OFWs can enroll for free to learn the beautiful teachings of Islam. During these classes, it is a great opportunity for everyone to also meet new friends and other “Kababayan” who belong to the same tribe. Today, as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, courses are held virtually.
“I feel blessed to be working in a Muslim country like Qatar for so many reasons. The simultaneous and beautiful adhan (call to prayer) you hear when it’s time to pray is a perfect example. It reminds me of my obligation as a Muslim and that’s something big for me, that even I am at work, at the mall or gym or even stuck at the traffic, that beautiful sound reminds me that this is all dunya and there’s something more significant we have to be minful for,” marveled Aldhakeel Amjad Tulawie, Tausug OFW in Qatar. From Qatar, Aldhakeel had a chance to visit KSA to perform Umrah.
Indeed, working in these countries would not only be beneficial for our worldly affairs but most importantly for our hereafter. Likewise, our fellow non-Muslim OFWs benefitted from these countries the other way around such as here in Qatar, a Muslim country, they are working in a country considered as one of the safest countries in the world.