ACTNews, SOUTH CENTRAL TIMOR – There’s no place like home. This idiom describes the life of Ustaz Ahmad Talan. He is a preacher on one of Indonesia's peripheral islands.
Born and raised in South Central Timor, he decided to go back home after studying at an Islamic Boarding School in Pasuruan, East Java, for almost five years.
He declined an offer to become a teacher to serve in his hometown in Nono Hamlet, Napi Village, Kie District, South Central Timor Regency, East Nusa Tenggara.
Napi Village is located in the hills. The access to the village is nothing but a dirt road that becomes full of holes during the rainy season. Although the access is difficult, it does not dampen Ustaz Ahmad's intention to return home.
He is worried that the faith of the Muslims in his home village would decrease because there was no preacher. There are only eight Muslim families in the village. The closest mosque is in the neighboring Oenai Village located 8.3 kilometers from his place.
“I teach children Quran recitation at Al-Qasim Oenai Mosque because there is no Quran teacher here. The adults come to the mosque only for praying, then they are immediately back home. There are only a few Muslims and Mosques in East Nusa Tenggara. That's why I make Islamic activities here in this mosque to maintain it so it won't get deserted," said Ahmad, Thursday (6/10/2021).
Ahmad said the Muslims in his area became a minority. In one village, there are often fewer than 20 Muslim families. Not every village has a mosque. Even if there is a mosque, it is usually built from a donation, not from their own resources.
“The people here work as agricultural farmers and animal farmers. Most of the houses are made of wood. It is rare to see houses made of brick. Most of them are underprivileged people and find it difficult to meet daily food needs. Hence, no mosque is built from their own money. If the mosque is far from their houses, they will pray in their respective houses,” explained the father of three children.
Apart from teaching the Quran and preaching in Al-Aqsam Oenai Mosque, Ustaz Ahmad also serves the Muslims at the Naileu Mosque and Belle Mosque, which are 14.1 kilometers and 17.1 kilometers from his house in Napi Village respectively. Despite the long-distance and poor road access, Ustaz Ahmad is persistent in preaching.
Ustaz Ahmad is also from a poor family. He works as a farmer and motorcycle taxi driver. The motorbike he uses is old and often breaks down when he travels long distances. He hopes to have a new vehicle for preaching so he can arrive at the mosque on time.
“I did not study at Islamic Boarding school for my own sake but for the community. Moreover, my parents want me to return to my hometown to live and preach here. Hence, there is someone who will guide the Muslims here. I go around to preach using a used motorbike. It often breaks down, so I am late to arrive at the mosque. The children often have to wait a long time, but I have no choice,” he said.