Brunei students grateful to be home

Lyna Mohamad & Hakim Hayat

Muhammad Haneesuddin bin Sakdon, a 4th year Islamic Jurisprudence and Legislation student at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, is one of the 236 students of the first rescue flight from Egypt on March 28.

Speaking from his isolation room, Muhammad Haneesuddin praised Allah the Almighty and expressed gratitude to the Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, and the COVID-19 volunteers for the warm welcome back in the country.

“Everything ran smoothly – from the airport management up to our arrival at our isolation centres. We were provided all the daily essentials for our 14-day isolation,” Muhammad Haneesuddin said, adding that he has never been prouder to be a Bruneian.

“As a Muslim, daily prayers and Al-Quran recitations should not be forgotten. In fact, supplications in this time of hardship should be increased. After all our efforts to combat this pandemic, one should always return to Allah the Almight and ask Him to protect us and our beloved country against any harm.”

Waqiyuddin bin Damit is equally thankful to the Brunei Government for flying the students home in the wake of the global pandemic.

“I had mixed feelings about having to undergo self-isolation, because my family is so close, yet so far. I haven’t seen them in a while. As soon as I landed in Brunei, I could not see or hug them. But Alhamdulillah, I feel really happy because I am back in my home country. It is better to be in your homeland than on foreign soil during this outbreak.

“We have been well taken care of and are provided with three meals a day. The frontliners check up on us twice daily to monitor if we are showing COVID-19 symptoms. This shows just how much the government cares about us,” he added.

ABOVE & BELOW: Muhammad Haneesuddin bin Sakdon; Waqiyuddin bin Damit; Ida Faizah binti Haji Ibrahim; Norfaten binti Alizan and Nurhazimah Kamal binti Haji Brahim

“During my self-isolation, other than studying, I also do cardio to calm my mind and stay mentally strong. My friends and I also plan to complete reading 30 verses of Al-Quran during this period in hopes for the pandemic to end soon, and for Brunei to always be under Allah the Almighty’s protection,” Waqiyuddin said.

Waqiyuddin, who is pursuing the Takhassus Al-Quran Wal Qiraat course at Ma’had Qiraat Shoubra, Al-Azhar University, said 16 students from his batch are self-isolating. They will return home on April 11.

Ida Faizah binti Haji Ibrahim, a third-year student majoring in Usuluddin Hadith, began her self-isolation at The Empire Brunei on March 29.

Being in isolation made her realise all the things she had taken for granted, and has taught her to be more appreciative.

“The Brunei Government has been nothing but generous to us, providing us a place to be isolated at with three meals a day and daily necessities, as well as having someone to check on us every day. I am truly beyond grateful for the love and compassion the Brunei Government has been showing us,” she said.

Praying, reading Al-Quran and practicing mindfulness meditation through yoga is how she spends her days in isolation, on top of having a positive attitude.

There are 367 students who are isolated at accommodations prepared by the government, 29 of whom opted to be isolated at their own homes and six undergoing self-isolation at The Empire Brunei.

Of the six, two students are covered by BIBD ALAF (Advocating Life-Long Learning for an Aspiring Future) programme, while the remaining four are staying at The Empire Brunei at their own expenses.

First Year student Norfaten binti Alizan, who is pursuing an Usuluddin course at Al-Azhar University, was on the second Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) rescue flight which arrived on March 29.

She is undergoing her isolation period at the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha Girls Arabic Religious Secondary School (SUAMPRIPAHS) hostel in Kampong Katok.

Norfaten expressed gratitude to the Brunei Government and is relieved to be back in the Sultanate.

Until she is able to reunite with her family, it will have to be video calls and phone calls for now.

Norfaten is also thankful for the good treatment afforded them by the Brunei officials attached in Cairo, RB cabin crew and the ground staff who welcomed them at the Brunei International Airport.

Alhamdulillah, the isolation venue and facilities provided are also good. We are given complimentary meals three times a day, well treated by staff and volunteers, provided complimentary WiFi and daily necessities and also received food from family and friends.

“This has strengthened the bonds with our families, who drive long distances just to bring us things. All these are beyond expectations, and the most beautiful part is that the isolation places are comfortable for us to carry out our religious obligations.

“I thank our beloved monarch and the government for all the assistance given to us. I take pride in being a Bruneian as we have a ruler who is not only caring and concerned for his subjects, but also generous to give a helping hand to our neighbouring countries. May Allah the Almighty always shower His Majesty with His blessings.”

Meanwhile, Nurhazimah Kamal binti Haji Brahim who is self-isolating at Mangrove Hotel in Kota Batu, shared that getting the swab test at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital (where she met the rest of her friends from another hotel) was the first real interaction she had since she got back.

She said, in the initial stage, isolation involves a lot of eating.

“During my first few days, I definitely was spoilt for choice in terms of food from my family. But other than eating, honestly, I had nothing else to do.” After adjusting, she fills her days with productive activities such as reading, drawings and working out.

“I also tried the #KhatamChallenge by a fellow BruCairo student, which focusses more on spending our time reciting Al-Quran. The rule is to finish reading nine pages after each prayer daily. I saw it being posted somewhere, I thought it was brilliant and decided to give it a try. If we can watch dramas for hours, why can’t we find the time to read Al-Quran. We need balance in life,” she said.

She also lauded authorities caring for them, noting, “They would call us at 8am and 8pm daily to ask about our health progression. They served us three courses of meal. They would walk all the way from the reception desk to our chalet to send us our things.”

She expressed gratitude to His Majesty and the Government for bringing them back and keeping them safe.

“To all frontliners and people in uniform, volunteers and everyone lending a hand to combat this virus from spreading, thank you so much for you courage, for your hard work and services. You are the heroes, the backbone the country needs the most. Thank you for all you are doing, for your bravery and selfless sacrifices in this challenging situation. We owe you a debt of gratitude. Words and actions cannot describe how thankful we are. You are in our thoughts and prayers. May Allah the Almighty bless you all.”