"Why with the sad face?" I asked a friend of mine one day at a mamak stall.
He did not respond immediately, instead he took some time to answer.
"I don't know where my life is heading," he said. His breath consisted a big frustration.
"I have no possession. My salary is just enough. I drive my parent's car. I still live in that hut ---"
"Now, I am a father of three. Next year, the oldest one starts schooling. My wife is not working ---"
I listened to him with patience. He looked older than his age. He was depressed, I thought.
He was not a failure. He was a bright bloke. He excelled in studies and I always envy his achievement back then. If fate had not slipped, he might be in well position in big jaw-dropping company.
Obviously, I was not a perfect person to ask for a fortune cookie. In fact, I was worse than him -- physically, spiritually, financially, or even in planning my future.
I lived in debts and the universe was against me whenever I started something. Somehow, I found that I had no grudge since I stopped doing anything.
He was drooling waiting for my reply.
"What is your biggest fear?" I asked him after awhile.
He pulled out another cigarette and hanged it between his lips. There was no more expensive nicotine pack on the table. It seemed like everyone is switching to contra-band brand and pretending to smoke the best tobacco on earth.
"I am not living my life as I should. I am screwed up ---"
"I have no saving. I don't own a house. My car is a wreck ---"
"My kids are growing up and start demanding. If anything happens to me, they will surely suffer more ---"
"What if I die...?"
He started to whine and compare with our peer group. His life has turned bitter, he said. He wanted to be like others. He wished he could join the race.
He fancied the idea of being a real man -- law abiding citizen, good job and steady income, big clean house with maid and yard, comfortable vehicles to move around, mortgage, insurance, health plan and health care, abroad vacation, smooth and swift life path, retirement scheme, investment in real estate, low cholesterol, tax payer, first class of education, full of love, etc etc -- a picture of normal in most people imagination, or television, or commercial advertisement.
To say that I understood and felt all his worries and anxieties was not an honest answer. To say that I endured the same thing was also not an absolute truth. Apparently, we were on the same boat going to the same destination, it just, he had brought another four extra baggages.
"If this is His plan, I hope He had a better plan ---," he whispered.
"My friend," I said, "God has saved you!"
He rolled his eyes and said, "I don't get it."
"Do you think God is wrong, and He is not listening to you?" I asked.
"I would like very much to agree, but it is a matter of faith," he replied, giggled.
"My dear friend, God is saving you!"
"I really don't get it!"
"If you think much deeper, it is really-really great to have nothing in this world, in this system," I said.
"I really-really don't get it. Are you drunk or on something?"
It is not surprising to realize how far we had been misguided. The life as we knew and went for, is not the life which God has established.
"To acquire most of the things you ever dream of, you must get involved in one of major sins."
"Nowadays, many people don't give a damn about our monetary and banking system. They embrace them as norm, standard, and acceptable. But it is not."
"To finance the car, the house, the loan, the business, banks usually practice riba', usury or interest. That is how they make profit. That is how they survive."
"Allah has declared war on those who give, take, or even the one who write interest."
"Qur'an deals with riba' in 12 verses, the word appearing eight times in total. God treats riba with severe punishment, with enourmous rage, not like any other sins after shirk. Can you imagine that?"
"Are you suggesting we are all going to hell? How can I own a property without the system?" asked my friend.
"It is not for me to answer, it is not for you to decide, but when you have a strong faith, what is wrong is wrong. Buy with cash!"
"How about the Islamic banking system?"
"Would you like Allah, The Almighty, to wage war against you after He has made it abundantly clear that riba' is haram?"
"But isn't it more transparent in Islamic banking, I mean, we have everything in details -- where the money goes, where they invest and all?"
"You cannot simply change the name and put an Islamic name to it to make it halal. A pig is still a pig even it wears a cow's outfit. And it is not about where the money, or the fund goes, it is the riba'! It is the interest, the system!"
"And remember, the devil always in the details."
It was quite a tensed session. There was too many questions and too much arguments. We did not share the same view and understanding and I was happy because it reminded me of the past.
"I am not going to be religious or something. But I thanked God because He has saved me from this heinous and poisonous system, and excluded me from His wrath."
"That is why I said, you should be grateful earlier. Can't you see how much He loves you?"
"Everytime, God knows better, He is The Most Graceful, and it is not because of you cannot afford to commit the repayment schedule, but, He chooses you and picks you out from this great, great sin, this evil temptation."
"How does it feel to be the chosen one?"
"You are always good with words!"
"And you are always good in arguing!"