Uzair Ahmad, Czech Republic
My admission to medical school happened quite late in the summer, leaving me with insufficient time to apply for a long-term student visa before leaving Canada. The university administration advised me that it shouldn’t be an issue, since Canadians get an automatic 90-day Schengen tourist visa, on which I could enter the Czech Republic, and then I would simply submit the application for the long-term visa from there.
It sounded simple enough, yet it ended up being anything but that. After arriving and settling in, I started trying to figure out how to apply for a long-term visa. I first found out that I couldn’t just walk down the street to a local government office to submit my visa application; I had to go to a Czech embassy in another country and submit the application there. Maybe someone who wasn’t an absolute novice in foreign relocation would know these things, but it was my first time actually living abroad.
I figured I’d send an email to the Czech embassy in Vienna, Austria; as that was only a couple of hours away. In Canada, the amount of time it would take me to commute to university from my home—both ways—was enough to end up in a new country here in Central Europe. So, I thought I would just continue my European adventure, see another city in the process, and casually resolve this issue. The response I got from the embassy though, put a pretty quick end to my wanderlust daydreams.
I was told that the earliest available appointment was in 60 days. Even then, once I had submitted my application at the appointment, it was another 60-day approval process before I would get the long-term visa. That would amount to 120 days. I was there only on a 90-day tourist visa. The consequence of overstaying a visa even by a day, I quickly learned through a search through the internet, was to be potentially restricted from entering the area again in the future.
The gravity of the situation slowly dawning on me, I frantically emailed every nearby country’s Czech embassy to see if I could get an earlier appointment: Berlin, Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest, even London. They all replied with wait-times as long as or even longer than the embassy in Vienna. I soon started hearing that several students had faced a similar issue in previous years, and they all had to either terminate their studies, or delay them by a whole year.
Not having foreseen this issue at all, I anxiously fell into prayer. Moving abroad is itself a vulnerable process, so to face a challenge that blindsided me was particularly anxiety-inducing. I expressed to Allah that I had arrived here seeking solely His support through my journey, so it was only He Who could continue to be my Helper.
That very night, I saw a dream that completely dissipated any sense of fear or anxiety that I had. I saw the Fifth Caliph and worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), sitting at his chair in his office, with the gentlest smile on his blessed face, with my prayer mat, folded neatly, sitting in his lap.
Seeing that smile on beloved Huzoor’s (aba) face, whether in person or in a dream, is enough to alleviate any concern. I took this dream to mean, very clearly, that the prayer I had offered had been accepted, and the issue would be resolved neatly, as it was now in Huzoor’s (aba) lap.
This is exactly what happened. Over the next few days, a plan started coming to mind that I couldn’t confirm would work based on any information I looked for online.
So, I went to see the university advisor for the first time, who was already acquainted with my situation. Though renowned in the university community as an incredibly sweet and caring person, her opening remark might have made anyone else pass out. Honestly, I might have too, had I not been strengthened by the dream I had seen.
She opened the conversation by saying that as tragic as my situation was, the most she could do was wave the admission exam for me when I returned next year. She had already accepted it as the obvious, foregone conclusion that nothing could be done for my situation but to delay my studies for a year.
I lightly laughed and said that I don’t think it’ll come to that, I have hope that we can still resolve this. She made a concerted effort to be polite in saying that hope is a nice thing, but we really need to be realistic here.
I took particular care to emphasize my hope because I knew that my prayer had already been accepted, and I wanted her to be a witness to it when it was fulfilled.
I explained my idea. The point to understand is that once the embassy in Vienna even approved the visa, I would have to pick it up in person for it to be valid. I proposed that I use up 87 out of the 90 days of my visa to ensure I can attend as many classes as possible. And then I go home to Canada for winter break early, missing about 2.5 weeks of class. Then, at the end of the break, I use the 3 days left on my visa to fly back and re-enter the Schengen area, and go to Vienna to pick up the approved visa.
She was very doubtful whether this was legal, and even if it was, my plan was riddled with logistical issues. She had worked as an advisor for multiple years, encountering numerous students with visa issues, and none of them had been able to resolve it like this.
On my insistence, she decided to call the foreign police office to ask if there was any chance of this working. The officer himself did several minutes of research, and then as he confirmed that it could technically work, my advisor literally let out a shriek of glee. She hurriedly called a second officer to really be sure, who also took their time but confirmed that it could work.
She got off the phone in disbelief and expressed her bewilderment to me that your hope really worked! I had eyed a copy of ‘The Life of Muhammad’ published by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, sitting on her desk, figuring that another Ahmadi student must have gifted it to her. I said, indicating towards the green-covered book, yes, hope and belief in God are what this man taught.
The situation ultimately played out as smoothly as it was planned, and the issue was resolved as neatly as I had seen my prayer mat folded in Huzoor’s (aba) lap. Allah the Almighty had accepted my prayer, and the prayers of Huzoor (aba) to whom I had written multiple times throughout this process, humbly requesting his prayers.
Such experiences make it clear why Islam places such emphasis on regarding human sentiments as deeply sacred and on taking care of each other. The reason being that this is God’s own practice. Whenever you’re overwhelmed, no one recognizes your anguish like God, and no one responds with the gentleness, understanding, and intimacy that He always does. May God keep blessing us all with these glimpses of His love. Ameen.
About the Author: Uzair Ahmed is a medical student in the Czech Republic, where he also serves as the National Secretary of Outreach for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community as well as the National President of the Youth branch. He is an official member of ‘The Existence Project’ team.