Poetry on faith, from self-discoveries to documenting soulful writings – this is what the author of Syafakallah, May Allah SWT Heal You and La Taqlaq, Do Not Worry shares about in his books 😊 Going by his pen-name, The Vespa Rider, he shares with us what inspired him to write these things! Read on to find out more 👇🏽
1. Tell us a bit about yourself!
A struggling soul who seeks to observe life to its details while remembering the certainty of death in the uncertainty of time; what have I done to fulfil the rights of the Creator (Glorified and Exalted be He), the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him), my family, self and others to be able to meet death with a safe smile, God-Willing. I am no different from any other man, and we all are born to lead inspiring lives in our own ways. I only chose to speak to others bits and pieces about mine, documenting memories, hoping someone after myself would take heed.
“The goal isn’t to appeal to the masses, the goal is to awaken.” – Dulce Ruby
2. How did you come up with your pen-name ‘The Vespa Rider’?
Through the calmness and tranquility that I realised a mosque can fill this soul, it moved my heart to go mosque-hopping with my ever-faithful Vespa. The antique Vespa by itself teaches and reminds me the values of gratitude and humility in some way or another.
Furthermore, it holds a deep sentimental value due to its service for me in my own personal journey of ‘hijrah’, being the most vital mean in my journey of solitude. If you’d ask for one worldly and material thing that I love, my Vespa would be the answer without any doubt, for how it has actually assisted me in my travels towards Allah.
When my book was launched I realised that I needed a pen-name to uphold my choice of being anonymous as much as I can, due to various reasons. So The Vespa Rider it is, till today alhamdulillah.
3. What inspired you to write ‘Syafakallah’?
Every single one of the reasons why I wrote Syafakallah were summarized by the verse in the Quran explained by Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) and sayings of Nabi Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon Him).
“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” Ar-Ra’d 13:11
“Remember more often the destroyer of pleasures – death.” Hadith Tirmidhi
“When a man dies, his good deeds come to an end except three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge and a righteous son who will pray for him.” Hadith Muslim
Do you see the flow and relation of these three verses? I have always been a man who observes, wonders and questions why the world and all that is within acts the way it does down to its minute details; accepting and rejecting opinions and certain practices in my head through the observations I made. And at the end of the day I realised that the world can never be changed until I change what is within me. Every minute death draws closer and what have I done or accomplished to meet it with a safe smile.
Another reason is that I wanted something physical for my future children or generations to look through, learn from, and improve on, or the least, to understand the life of one of their ancestors briefly. Not to leave a legacy or to be recognized by many, but more of a beneficial reminder for self and another.
4. Do you have any advice for writers who’d like to write a book on poetry or travelling?
Write for all the beneficial unseen values you wish to build within yourselves, before it is meant to benefit another, which explains the second point – never write to please another creation but write only to please the Creator. Ask yourself having written every word, would the Creator approve this? Write in a state of gratitude and humility, and it can never be derived without sincere worship. Aside worship, give with sincerity, for example be it ten cents or ten minutes for a homeless man, and you’ll be given abundantly. Who knows, one of the endless increase of sustenance by Allah might just come in a form of wisdom in writing.
Travel for the right reasons and know that every moment or observation holds a deep lesson to be told, so hold a notebook and a pen everywhere you go. Let not the scribbling and mistakes end for editing can be done later but inspirations are often easily forgotten.
Lastly, be discreet in your ‘success’, to stay away from the naysayers that could diminish your fire or the praisers who could bring about arrogance in this weak heart of ours.
5. Describe your ideal writing environment!
The note-taking of observances and moments could come from anywhere and anytime, but I usually piece my words together while I am in a mosque at night. Most of my final editing and reflections will then be done on my bed before I go to sleep or when everyone else is asleep. Moments of solitude usually craves for an enlightened mind.
6. In your book, you mentioned that you were on a 13-month service in Brunei. How did your time in Brunei changed how you see the world now?
Moments of solitude were plenty and like I said before, these moments yearn for reflections. The life there allows endless introspection through observances. Hardships and basic living were habitual. Not many choices were laid out either, so we were built to survive according to the environment.
Unknowingly, these moments strengthens the physical body and cleanses the soul – in which I mean the mind is granted clarity, the heart is instilled wisdom and the physical body is built to be forbearing.
So I came home a different man – a man with purpose.
7. What’s your favourite verse/poem from your book and what inspired you to write it?
Unfortunately I don’t have a favourite poem for I hold each of them close to my heart. And every single one of them lies in it a unique memory, experience and lesson as a reminder for myself. To have a favourite would mean having one above the other, but I’d prefer to see it as everyone needed the other to make me who I am today.
8. Amidst all the chaos in the world, do you have something to say to other Muslim travellers who are unsure if they should travel at all?
Travel and trade were the main reasons how Islam expanded, and came to where we are today, so you realise how important it is to human/spiritual/intellectual development? Travel does not necessarily mean only going overseas, travelling from mosques to mosques, or mosque –hopping as people usually call it as an option too. However, do note that it is better not to travel if the reason and intention is twisted (example: to have nice Instagram photos to show off to others) for travelling is just a mean, enlightenment is the goal.
9. Do you have a favourite travel photo? If yes, why is it significant to you?
My favourite travel photo or photos would have to be the ones I took during my stint in Brunei. They held extremely unique and bittersweet memories that brought me to where I am today. On a lighter note, I was at my best shape back then too!
10. Fill in the blank:
My hope for the world is… that we perfect our own moral character first and to leave what does not concern us.