I had one good Imam who taught in my school. His name was Abu Bakar. He was very strict–always carrying a rattan, both hands behind his back, and looking straight past you without smiling as he walked. Everyone was scared of him, including me. But he was well-respected by everyone. Any time we had a funeral service, his name would be the first chosen to read the tahlil. At weddings, he had a reputation for giving advice before marrying the new couple. It was the same with divorce cases or any other Muslim festivals for that matter.
My parents loved him. They told me to obey whatever Imam Abu Bakar said. They wanted me to be just like him–pray five times a day, fast everyday in the holy month, and hopefully someday when I earned enough money, I would be able to go on a pilgrimage or study in Mecca, just like him. And I agreed…. up until something bad happened that changed everything.
It was 6.00am on Friday, the thirteenth. I still remember people making a big fuss connecting that day with hantu or ghastly horrors or murders or even the undead. I didn’t believe any of that. My main reason was because I have never seen a ghost before. And besides, this was the month of Ramadhan, the fasting month for all Muslims. It was the month where Satan and other devils were chained and kept far away from humans to help us remain devoted to Allah without distractions or temptations. So if they were chained or kept away from us, logically how could they still mess around and disturb people, right?
I put my hair cream on earlier that morning. Usually, I just used coconut oil but that day, I felt like dressing up a little nicer on my way to school. I put my white shirt on before tucking it into my long, blue pants. And then I pulled on my socks, which had a hole on both sides of the toes, and looked at myself in the broken pieces of my mirror and smiled. My mom screamed from the kitchen, “don’t forget your flashlight!” When she saw me putting on my white shoes at the front door. My house was so remote and very far from our nearest neighbors. There were no streetlights along the small lane connecting our house with the main road, so a flashlight was a necessity for my family.
I always sang Allah’s ninety-nine names while walking to school. It was the first song that Imam Abu Bakar thaught me in class. Honestly, that song helped to distract me from other things and pass the time. I played memory games by singing the names in order, and if I forgot one or got them mixed up, I made myself start over from the beginning. It seemed tedious, but it actually helped me to remember them all.
“Assalamualaikum!” I heard as someone stopped me from behind. It was Imam Abu Bakar. I didn’t know where he came from. That was the first time I saw him smiling as he asked me, “going to school?”
“Yes sir,” I answered, smiling too.
“I’m on my way there too. Do you want to come along with me? I parked my car around the corner there. It’s a bit of a detour, but if you don’t mind walking with me, you will get there much faster than walking. Plus, you shoudn’t walk alone in the dark. It’s dangerous.”
“Yes sir,” I answered as I said to myself “that’s why I have my flashlight with me.”
“So are you coming?”
I nodded my head and followed him.
Forty-eight hours later, my face was plastered on flyers attached to every electric pole, tree, and phone booth. I believed that my father lodged a police report when my principal and teachers told him that I didn’t turn up to school that day. My mother wouldn’t lose hope either. She would talk to my friends, schoolmates, neighbors, and try to find me in cyber cafes, video game arcades, cinemas, and karaoke boxes all around town center. She would just want to know that I was still alive.
I was not. My body was buried under a large, old tree in the jungle not too far from my house. Imam Abu Bakar put me there. I’m sure he didn’t plan for that to happen. It all started when he tried to kiss my neck on our way to his car that day. I told him to stop, but he was persistent. When I tried to run away, he grabbed my arm, smacked my face, and told me to shut up. I managed to land a square kick in all the chaos, but that was a mistake because it made him very angry. He clobbered my head with a big tree branch. My body instantly felt very weak and the next thing I knew, well…I was dead.
So here I am now. Dead under a large, old tree in the jungle not too far from my house. My luck too…I am right next to a small anthill. Am I a hantu already? I don’t think so. I haven’t been chained or locked far away. I also don’t go around haunting people or drinking their blood. That’s not what hantu do. A real hantu does much more than that. A real hantu could be anyone we know. It could be our family members, our teachers, or even our friends. We just don’t know.
I imagine that my parents will invite someone to my house to recite a yassin to help them find my body. They will seek Allah’s help to find me, no matter where I am. Can you guess who will be the head of the service?