In June 2011, Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) blessed me to undertake a memorable and life-changing adventure, to the highest point in Africa: Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. This 6-day trek tested me physically, mentally and emotionally, and truly taught me about the human potential.
Before describing the trek and lessons learnt, I must confess that I’m not an adventurous guy, and definitely not a hiking or mountain-climbing guy. I do a reasonable amount of sports in the safe compounds of a gym within an eye distance from a professional trainer. Perhaps the wildest thing I’ve done sports-wise is deep sea diving, which lasted less than a year after almost getting lost in the Indian Ocean (but that’s a whole other story in itself!). While I agreed promptly upon receiving the e-mail invitation from Muslim Hands to join their Kilimanjaro Charity Challenge for 2011 , it was nonetheless a big decision for me to undertake this journey.
To make sure I don’t back down from this Charity Challenge, I made a public pledge to all the ProductiveMuslim Facebook fans that I’ll make this trek and take the ProductiveMuslim logo to the top of Kilimanjaro. Trust me, all logical trains of thought seemed to tell me to stop – what was I getting myself into? But something in my heart was saying, “keep going!”
Faced with the reality of the climb, I had to make all sorts of preparations. I looked online for any mountain training exercise program to strengthen the muscles I’ll mostly need for the climb. Alhamdulillah, I found a great website (aptly called): MountainAthlete.com. More importantly, I started preparing my mind mentally for the challenge by imagining myself at the top of the mountain each day and strengthening my resolve to make it to the top.
But regardless of all the physical and mental preparation I made, deep down inside I knew that I can only make it to the top if Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) allowed me to. This realization got me to start making dua day and night that this journey becomes successful. I don’t exactly know why, but for some reason this journey became so important to me that I desperately wanted it to go well, and desperately wanted to reach the top. It meant a lot to me, and my sincere prayers were a desperate plea to Allah to make every step of this journey easy for myself and the group I was with.
So how did it go?
Well, my good friend David Jinks from Fridge Productions took a video diary of me for each day of the climb. The videos plus some excerpts from my personal journal during the climb are found below:
“6 days of a life changing trip about to begin. Not sure what to expect or what I’ll learn, but I remain curious”
“Today was a long 8 hour trek from the Mandara huts at 2700m to Horombo huts at 3700m. I’ve got to admit, I’m loving the trek! Just walking amongst Allah’s creation, remembering Allah. No past to worry about, no future to be anxious about, just walking.. I never felt so peaceful and connected to Allah’s creation like this before.”
“It’s weird, it’s been 3 days since we started the trek and I’ve lost all sense of time and space, feel closer to my Lord, feel more dependent on Him and His Mercy. I feel that I need Him with every step, every climb, every second of the day, that’s all that matters to me.”
“On the way to Uhuru, I was overwhelmed with tears, I couldn’t believe it. All those prayers, all that preparation, all that climb and hard work, came to bear fruit! Reaching Uhuru was a symbolic goal to me, it meant so much to me, what I prayed so hard for I ended up achieving, all I could think of is how Merciful Allah is to me and how thankful I am to Him that He blessed me with this achievement, Al-hamdulillah!”
As you can see from the videos and excerpts above, this trip truly became a spiritual journey for me, a discovery of my human potential. I realised that I had more inside me than I thought I had and that with Allah’s Help, anything can be achieved. I want to share a few life lessons that I picked up along the way:
1. “Pole Pole”
This is the swahili phrase for “slowly, slowly”. The porters and guides kept reminding us throughout our climb that we need to walk “pole pole”. If we walked too fast, we’d be overcome by altitude sickness and forced to descend. A lesson in life was learnt here: to reach the top in anything in life, you need to go slowly. Don’t rush it, but be consistent and you’ll make it inshaAllah.
2. “It’s easy to climb a mountain but it’s hard to stay on top of it for a long time..”
I remember this quote from my 4th grade teacher when I failed a few exams after I was A student for all my school years. This advice took on a literal meaning during this journey; after reaching the Uhuru peak (the highest point in Africa), we were not allowed to stay there for more than 15-20 minutes due to fear that we would be overcome by altitude sickness. This is the Wisdom of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala), and it’s a strong lesson that no triumph in this world lasts forever and nothing remains high and on top except for He, Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala.
3. To reach your potential, have a clear/defined goal.
On this trip, reaching Uhuru peak was the ultimate goal for me. Having this aim and defined goal in mind made me more determined and helped me during the times when I thought I couldn’t make it or I should turn back. (Ps. Don’t be surprised if once you reach your goal, it feels like it doesn’t matter anymore. That’s how I felt when I reached Uhuru, and then I suddenly realized that it wasn’t Uhuru that was the goal, but the whole journey was truly important).
4. To achieve in life, you need:
a. Physical ability
I’m not saying that if you are disabled you won’t reach your full potential; there are many examples of disabled personalities that have achieved far more than fully abled people. However, by physical ability, I mean that you have the ability to force yourbody to go beyond its comfort zone and reach its full potential. As I said to you early, I’m not an adventurous guy or a trek guy, so my body was not accustomed too extreme conditions, but I forced it and tried not to listen to the voices that said “I’m too tired.”
b. Mental Will
Never underestimate the power of will in all your endeavours. This muscle in our mind, if it’s strengthened, is the key to huge success in this life and the Hereafter. Strong mental will is saying “I can” when all those around you say “you can’t!” It’s about overpowering your physical inability and finding ways to reach your full potential. Call it ‘hard-headed’ if you like but it works and it’s very important to be determined to reach your full potential.
c. Divine assistance
Most people mention to you the first 2 qualities as the key to reaching your full potential, but I truly could not have reached the top of Kilimanjaro or even step foot on the mountain if Allah had not allowed me or helped me. Asking Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) for help throughout the journey was my spiritual booster. Divine assistance works in mysterious and amazing ways and you need to be conscious totake notice; journey distances are shortened, you feel strong physically and mentally, it’s amazing.
5. Never underestimate the power of family and friends
A laugh, a cry, a hug, a du’a, or a smile are all boosters that each of us need from family and friends on our journey to reach our full human potential. (This is a special shoutout to my trek buddies who endured the Kilimanjaro journey with me and were there with me to the top of the mountain! You guys are wonderful, thank you for a wonderful experience!)
I can carry on with many more lessons and thoughts from the trip, but I’ll leave that for another time inshaAllah. A special thank you to all of you for your support to raise funds for Muslim Hands as part of this Charity Climb ; alhamdulillah we exceeded the minimum target and I pray that Allah accept your donations and all our efforts. Ameen.