Man Jadda Wajada

The second book I read is an English edition of “Negeri 5 Menara”: The Land of Five Towers.

Man jadda wajada. He who gives his all, will surely succeed

Inspired by a true story, the book’s main message is one thing: that He who gives his all will surely succeed, or if you give it everything you’ve got you will surely succeed.

The story has it that Alif had never set foot outside of West Sumatra. He passed his childhood days searching for fallen durian fruit in the jungle, playing soccer on rice paddies, and swimming in the blue waters of Lake Maninjau. His mother wants him to attend an Islamic boarding school, a pesantren, while he dreams of public high school. Halfheartedly, he follows his mother’s wishes. He finds himself on a grueling three-day bus ride from Sumatra to Madani Pesantren (MP) in a remote village on Java.

On his first day at MP, Alif is captivated by the powerful phrase man jadda wajada. He who gives his all will surely succeed. United by punishment, he quickly becomes friends with five boys from across the archipelago, and together they become known as the Fellowship of the Manara. Beneath the mosque’s minaret, the boys gaze at the clouds on the horizon, seeing in them their individual dreams of far-away lands, like America and Europe. Where would these dreams take them? They didn’t know. What they did know was: never underestimate dreams, no matter how high they may be. God truly is The Listener.

The Land of 5 Towers is the first book in a trilogy written by A. Fuadi—a former TEMPO & VOA reporter, photography buff, and a social entrepreneur. He went to George Washington University and Royal Holloway, University of London for his masters. A portion of the royalties from the trilogy are intended to build Komunitas Menara, a volunteer-based social organization which aims to provide free schools, libraries, clinics and soup kitchens for the less fortunate.

At many points, I have reflections on the book as some of my life experiences proved that man jadda wajada:

– I was forced out of university taking sick leave for one semester due to sick after an expedition in Ujung Kulon National Park, 1995. Skipping one semester means that I must wait in some subjects to next year to complete certain subjects as they are interdependent: you can’t take one subject unles you pass pre-requisite subject. Then, I decided to focus on study (chemical engineering), to keep minimal extracurricular activities, and to catch up others. Finally I could graduate in due time, 4.5 years, with cum laude!

– I pursued my master degree in National University of Singapore. Although I got scholarship, all of my family expenses were relied on/supported only through my own savings that probably barely enough for 2 years. Given this tight financial situation I forced my self to complete master program in only 1 year (instead of 1.5 years for normal full time student). With all hardships, at the end, one year and good GPA were the results. Man jadda wajada.

Do you have the similar experiences?

* the book is now filmed under the same title. See on Youtube:*