Lesson from Short Story: A Speaking Bird

Lesson from Short Story: A Speaking Bird

I read a fiction story on a website. I got a great lesson about wisdom from this story. So that's why I share it here. The story is written in Bahasa Indonesia on the website Cerpen Mu, written by Miftahul Anam. What a great story, it is a fiction story but gives me a great lesson of wisdom. It’s a story about a speaking bird that belongs to a Kyai (Islamic Cleric/The leader and owner of pesantren). The bird was taken care of by his student who devoted himself to serve Kyai.

The setting in this story is in Pesantren, the tradisional Islamic Boarding School. Pesantren actually derived from Hindu’s terminology but has been adapted to Islamic culture in Indonesia. Pesantren belongs to a family. The man is called Kyai, his wife is called Nyai, and their son is called Gus in Javanese terminology or Lora in Madurese terminology, while their daughters are called Neng Javanese terminology or Nyai in Madurese terminology.

This boarding school is an Islamic school, which means the students study Islamic Sciences, but it’s not only focused on the cognitive aspect, for them moral teaching is more important than knowledge. So the students (They're called Santri) are living in this boarding school to learn how to live their life by copying the way Kyai live.

A long ago, there was no standard of the fee the students should pay. It was even free. The students live independently at pesantren, they washed their clothes, they cooked, they did everything by themselves. Even at some Pesntren, the students build their own housing using wood and bamboo. They shared one housing with some friends. However, many people visited Kyai asking for advice or help for the solution to every life problem they got, and they gave Kyai some money, but it wasn't obliged for them to pay Kyai, it was optional. From this most Kyai earned money. Kyai sometimes helped them just by giving them advice, or pray for them, and also with magical power. Yeah, you can read many explanations about pesantren in other resources.

Back to the story, in this story, one student became a Khadam, a student who serves kyai or the servant or kyai. They believed that by helping kyai and teachers they will get barakah/blessing. Everything we have is useless without barakah. In this story, Kyai got a new speaking bird from his friend. Then kyai taught the bird some dhikrs. His Khadam knew it. One day when the bird mastered the highest level of dhikr: Kalimah tawhid: lā ilāha illā llāh, kyai invited all students to express gratitude by praying together, reciting Quran surah yaasiin and reciting some dhikr, then eating together. While they were eating something happened, a cat attacked the bird. A few minutes later, the bird died.

Kyai got inside his house and closed the door. His khadam didn’t see him for days. He thought kyai was very sad because of losing his beloved speaking bird. Then the khadam proposed an idea to his friends to share money and bought a new speaking bird for kyai. They all agreed and bought a new speaking bird. When they gave this bird to kyai, kyai was smiling and said, “I’m sad not because my speaking died, but I had been teaching my bird reciting shahada for weeks, and he had mastered it. But, he died without reciting it,” all students were silent bowing their heads. “I’m afraid, every knowledge we have gained not leading us to a good end of our lives.” For Muslims reciting shahadah before death is a dream of all Muslims. Because one who recites shahadah before death will enter paradise directly.

What a great teaching of wisdom. It's not about birds anymore, it's about education. This story reminds us to reflect on all knowledge we have mastered. What's the impact on our lives? What changes we have made with the knowledge we have? 

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