In 2010, Islamic scholar Wahyudianto left his hometown of Madiun, in Indonesia’s East Java province, to study in Yemen.
The experience brought him closer to God. But then sectarian conflict and recent suicide bombings claimed by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group caused him to flee the Arabian Peninsula and bring his family home to safety.
In an interview at his home in Madiun, Wahyudianto shared with BenarNews his experience in Yemen and the bloodshed that he witnessed there.
I went to Yemen in August 2010. I wanted to deepen my knowledge of Islam ahlussunnah waljamaah – pure Islamic teachings, as taught and practiced by the Prophet Muhammad.
I knew that the time studying in Yemen would be quite long, so I brought my wife and children with me. During our stay in Yemen, we lived in a former mosque building in South Sanaa.
The first several years of our stay in Yemen were like heaven for us. The Middle East has always been my ideal learning location. I really wanted to get closer to Allah.
And this place gave me that feeling. I saw the beauty and majesty of God in Yemen before the sectarian conflict occurred and militants began to destroy everything....
It was Friday, March 20. Like other Muslims, I was ready to go to the mosque for Friday prayers. Muslims are ready to worship no matter whether they are Sunni or Shia on the holy day.
During the prayers, we suddenly heard a loud explosion. A suicide bomber had entered the Badr Mosque in South Sanaa.
We headed to the scene soon after Friday prayers to find out what happened and see if we could help. Arriving at the mosque, it was already chaotic. I was stunned, not knowing what was going on.
I witnessed the screams, pain, horrible smell, and the smoke that made it difficult to breathe.
It turned out that two suicide bombers had entered the mosque. One even used a stick for the handicapped to conceal the bomb he was carrying. The other suicide bomber was outside the mosque.
I was shocked. For the first time, I saw many dead bodies, among the ruins of the mosque. Police, military, and aid workers soon filled the place to provide assistance.
It turned out that not long after that, two other suicide bombers entered Al-Hashoosh Mosque in north Sanaa.
I went to see my teachers and other friends to help by donating blood….
One hundred and thirty-seven people died that day.
It was the last number that I know was officially announced by the Yemeni government. More than 350 people were injured….
I felt a sense of fury and sadness at the same time.
I am angry because the act of killing is not in accordance with the teachings of our religion. Everything I’ve learned about Islam is faith, trust, and tolerance. Therefore, I believe that IS is not a true representation of Islam.
Ash from the explosion reached all the way to the place we were living….
Near the end of our stay in Yemen, we experienced terrible moments when bombs, rockets and mortars passed over the building where we lived. Every time there was an attack, we took refuge in a bunker under the building. It was the only safe place.
As the conflict spread, we were relying on canned food to feed our family.
I relied on my wife to go out shopping. It was safer for women to go out of the house at certain hours. Men could be arrested and imprisoned or killed because the two conflicting groups don’t trust anyone.
After I heard about the evacuation by the Indonesian government, we immediately signed up, and we came home today.
I want to teach students in Madiun about the truth of Islam that I learned in Yemen, which is a tolerant Islam that opposes killing and destroying.
I requested the Indonesian Embassy to send 400 books about Islam that I had in Yemen, but they’re still at the embassy.
I struggled mightily to save those books. My colleagues and I who made it home safely are willing to pay dearly for the shipping costs.
My message for Indonesians who want to join IS is, don’t throw your life away. You can preach Islam and practice your religion here. Do good in accordance with the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad.