Mission Possible: My life-changing journey 30th December, 2014
For some odd reason, I couldn’t sleep. My heart was racing and I could just feel that something wasn’t right. Pin drop silence. Where were the birds? Nothing to be heard from anywhere. The phone rang and my heart dropped. I don’t know why. After hearing the phone fall to the floor, it hit me. He’s gone.
As soon as my mother opened the door, her eyes welled up with tears, nodding her head. I didn’t want to believe it. The only words she uttered were ‘I’m sorry’. I turned my back towards her thinking if I went back to sleep maybe it’ll go away. How could my cousin, my best friend of 15 years, be gone?
My true mission started in 2010 when I and another cousin decided to do something in his memory. The floods had recently hit Pakistan and we had the perfect cause to raise money for. We decided on organising a football tournament but were stuck on which charity to work with.
A friend recommended Islamic Help and on the first meeting with its fundraisers it became evident this charity was the perfect match. After the football tournament we were invited to the GPU (Global Peace and Unity) conference in London to join Islamic Help and its volunteers in raising money for valuable causes.
We worked hard serving food to over 100,000 people and created a reputation for ourselves in the charity.
Not long after that we were told about Mission Possible and were invited along to introductory meeting. The first obstacle that came to mind was the £5,000 that had to be raised. How can an 18 year-old who’s never seen £5,000 in his life raise that kind of money?
We played it off for as long as we could until the staff member in charge of the programme put his foot down and said we had no choice and they would do whatever it took to get us to Africa. We all sat down and decided to raise the money by organising a family fun day. The organising of the event was intense and took a lot of hard work and dedication but Alhamdulillah we raised £10,000 which allowed both me and my cousin to take part in Mission Possible.
There were many ideas and goals I had in mind in terms of the journey I was about to set off on. I believed it was my duty to do as much as I could in the time I had there to help the people in need. I truly stood firm on the fact that I was chosen to help people who are in a position in which they cannot help themselves.
Stepping off the plane and having the African heat hit me made it all feel so much more real. As I stared through the windows of the airport I realised I was halfway across the world and had left behind all I’d known, all I was comfortable with, and all that was recognisable to me.
When we arrived at Mafia Island, the locals were gathered at the entrance of the airport. The looks on their faces were of hope and excitement. It was at this stage that I truly felt like I had come to deliver that hope. It was not in the way of pride by any means, as this journey was not for me but for the memory of my late cousin. The journey was underway long before my arrival on the island, but it was only once I arrived that it began to feel real.
The emotional rollercoaster one goes through while taking part in the 10-day deployment is hard to put in words. It’s not something that can be explained or, I feel, will even help you make your decision if you’re thinking of going.
Every individual has their own emotions. Two people can have the same journey, do the same activities, but the emotions and lessons they will learn will be completely different. Because of that, I can focus only on the lessons I learnt on my journey and how it shaped my life.
Once it was over and the tears had stopped, I could truly reflect on what had just taken place and a lot of things became very apparent, very quickly. Some things began to sink in while on the deployment, others took years, and today I am still figuring things out and trying to make sense of them.
One thing that became apparent near the end of the deployment was that this journey was not for the people we were going to help, but rather for the individuals, the volunteers on deployment.
Although you do help a lot and change many lives, you shape your own future and vision on life that much more. That was a realisation that hit me as I reflected on the experience. To this day though, I still do not know whether this is the whole reason for Mission Possible or just a beautiful side-effect of the journey.
The journey shatters the concept of wealth that western culture has built up in our minds. What does being rich mean? Is the man with everything who feels he needs more, richer than the man with nothing who feels he has it all?
This question takes deep understanding and acceptance to understand. Wealth is not a thing of material but a spiritual measure of how content with life one is.
The people of Africa who would walk out of a mud hut, within which their large family resides, would proclaim that they believe they only need the necessities in life such as water, food and health and they will be amongst the happiest of people. Maybe that is why our beloved Prophet SAW always told us to keep company with the poor.
‘Peace is not the absence of war, peace is a feeling that can only come from remembering your Lord’ – Boona Mohammed.
Lying under the stars after an emotional work-filled day, hearing the crash of the waves and the scuttling of crabs on the sand, makes you think deeper about life than ever before. Why is all this here?
"And He has subjected for you the night and day and the sun and the moon, and the stars are subjected by His command. Indeed in that are Signs for a people who reason." [Qur’an 16:12].
I only came to truly understand these words at that precise moment. Doing the work The Most Merciful loves, while living in a country that shows His beauty and magnificence like I’ve never seen before, increased my heart’s eagerness to find Him ever so more.
My final night on the Mission felt as if I was a mother who had no choice but to leave a hungry child behind. The pain that was in my heart, asking myself, will I ever see this place again? Eyes welled up with tears, unable to speak. The group’s whole focus shifted from ‘let’s help the people of Africa’ to ‘Thank you to everyone here for helping us’.
I walked away from that place not only with lessons that I can take with me through the rest of my life, but also a group of people I now refer to as my family. A place I can call home.
In life we come across many obstacles, and Allah, the Almighty, tests us in so many ways that in every day we live there is a lesson to be learnt. This Mission made me realise that even opportunities we receive are tests, and we need to dig deep and find the answers the Lord has provided for us.
Be steadfast in our approach to things, but at the same time never be negligent. Approach matters with an open heart and watch Allah fill it with love, Insha’Allah.
As the Holy Qur’an says "Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?" [55:38].
Aqib is now a member of staff on the Mission Possible programme. Change your life – sign up for Mission Possible