Towards strengthening faith, morals

Lyna Mohammad

Belia Muallaf as-Syahadah (as-Syahadah Muallaf Youth) is an initiative that initially started as Kelab Belia Muallaf, when it was set up in 2016 under the roof of the Islamic Dakwah Centre (PDI) with several youth converts and volunteers from several fields formed as the working committee to conduct the first youth convert programme called ‘Program Pemantapan Belia Muallaf’ in February 2017.

The programme led to the formation of a club committee that conducted activities aimed at gathering youth to make them more proactive in learning about Islam, strengthening bonds, and producing exemplary youth who are not only successful in the religious field, but also in other areas.

On November 30, 2017, the club was made official by Minister of Religious Affairs Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Haji Awang Othman, and assumed the name Belia Muallaf as-Syahadah.

The forming of the group is targetted towards being a platform for youth converts to come forward to mingle and share experiences; to help strengthen faith and morals; and upgrade their knowledge on and appreciation of Islam.

As-Syahadah Muallaf Youth Vice President Nur Fadilah Fakhriah binti Haji Yunos pointed out that the establishment of the group is also to guide and support converts and their families in all aspects, including economy and health, as well as to help clear misunderstandings on the faith among converts and non-converts alike.

Participants of the Iftar Mahabbah 1.0 at Jame’ ‘Asr Hassanil Bolkiah. PHOTOS: AS-SYAHADAH MUALLAF YOUTH
Women look at items at a Ramadhan Flee Market
Mosque tour before breaking fast together at Jame’ ‘Asr Hassanil Bolkiah

The group is run by 30 committee members, while activities carried out have seen the participation of 150 youths made up of Muslims, converts and non-converts.

“Aside from our official appointed committee members and members, we also continuously open to volunteers and participants when we run public programmes, hence the number isn’t fixed. There are several activities we carry out as annual events and this is when we have volunteers and participants giving us a helping hand.”

The annual activities cover team building for the committee members, organising fundraisers such as badminton tournaments, the Belia Muallaf Prihatin programme, mosque tours as well as Iftar Mahabbah, which is also a mosque tour but done specifically during Ramadhan, where visitors perform their Iftar with the mosque congregants.

A Hari Raya open house with the committee’s parents and siblings is also part of the annual activities as well as Qiamullail, done through Instagram Live.

“We have new programmes in the pipeline, however, we are still in the midst of discussions and planning, hence we are unable to share them just yet.”

Elaborating on Belia Muallaf Prihatin, she shared that it is their community outreach programme, where with their previous events, they organised space for the public to donate and brought the donations to Temburong.

The group collaborated with the Temburong Dakwah Unit to organise an event to handover the donations, and engage in recreational activities and sports with recipients.

As for the badminton and netball tournaments, it is their effort to raise funds for the organisation. These events are held at least twice a year, with participating teams being supportive and competitive.

These two sports are chosen because of their popularity among Bruneians, and because the committee has some experience in organising such tournaments.

Nur Fadilah said the COVID-19 travel restrictions had disrupted their plans to establish networks with new converts from neighbouring countries. The most recent plan was a trip to Kota Kinabalu last December.

“I hoped for this group to continue to be a strong support system for our committee and for more new converts to join and feel a sense of belonging. We welcome and hope to get to know more converts, expanding our options in terms of language proficiency and variety of programmes that we all may find beneficial.”

At the moment, the committee collectively can converse fluently in Malay, English, Dusun dialect, Iban dialect, Mandarin and Hokkien, and some considerably understandable Korean.

The vice president had written a thesis on support services for Muallaf and did a comparative study between PDI and a government-patronised organisation in Malaysia before becoming a committee member and is continuing her research at doctorate level, hopefully to come up with more concrete ideas to help the converts ease into the religion.

She said, for now they don’t need a specific office to operate from. Their access to facilities like classrooms, halls and hostels is quite easy as they are a government-patronised organisation under the Youth Religious Programme (PKB), which is under PDI.

Activities, on the other hand, are held in collaboration with PKB, mostly financed by the centre. Occasionally, they get sponsorship from companies in kind. For example, a Quranic Learning Centre once sponsored a classroom of new converts to learn how to read Al-Quran for three months, and then partially sponsored for a further three months.

“In this case, our organisation helped to find interested and committed participants. We have had similar offers for this kind of collaboration over the years and we hope to continue to be the bridge between educational services and the new converts,” Nur Fadilah added.