The World Federation is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations
Vision Statement

The World Federation exists to achieve the pleasure of Allah SWT by developing spiritual and vibrant communities serving humanity
Mission Statement

The World Federation enables its member institutions to promote the values and practices of the Islamic Shia Ithna Asheri Faith for the spiritual and material well being of humanity at large
Madinah al-Ilm and Bab al-Ilm Summer Short Courses - Daily Updates

Day 22 - Sunday 10th August 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click 
here for photos)

Anisa Rajbhai, student-helper for Madinah al-Ilm, writes:
No words will ever be able to describe the feelings and emotions that we have all experienced throughout the past three weeks.  Yet, the Madinatul Ilm summer camp 2008 will be one that no-one will ever forget and the effects of which will inshAllah remain in our lives forever.

Living in the blessed city of Qum and in particular, at Jamiatuz Zahra, the inspirational lectures and the sisters with whom we shared each and every experience have added to the realisation that we are all extremely lucky at being given the opportunity to attend this summer camp.  Whilst living in the West, it is sometimes too easy to not have Islam as our main priority in life and throughout this whole trip, our wonderful religion has been at the forefront of everything that we do.  The peace and serenity that we felt, the time available to simply contemplate and the strengthened relationship with Our Creator have provided us with the strong foundations that we require to be able to come home and implement those much needed changes in our lives. 

Arriving back at Heathrow on Sunday created a range of mixed feelings.  We felt happy to be able to come back home to our family yet at the same time, sadness as we said our final farewells to those who had become our sisters.  Not knowing when we would meet again, we pray to Allah (SWT) that he unites us all in the army of Imam Mahdi (AJFS).  

The spiritual high and the motivation to better ourselves as Muslims are feelings which will inshAllah remain with us for a very long time after this trip.  The closeness to Allah (SWT), the constant remembrance of our living Imam, Imam Mahdi (AJFS) and Islam being at the centre of our daily lives are aspects of life in Iran that we will inshAllah try to implement now that we are back home. 

I pray to Allah (SWT) that He grants us all the strength that we require to implement the much needed changes in our lives to better ourselves as Muslims and also to give us the opportunity to inshAllah visit our 8th Imam, Imam Ridha (AS) and Bibi Masuma (AS) very soon.

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Coming soon ...

Day 15 -  Sunday 10th August 2008

Bab al-Ilm - Sisters (Click 
here for photos)

Laila Habib of Africa, writes:
We were enjoying ourselves to the utmost, so much so that we didnt realize how fast time flew by. We had just 2-3 hours left with our European sisters before we all went our separate ways. As they say: “All’s well that ends well,” this phrase surely was an expression of this trip that left behind imprints of friendships and sisterhood with the hope to re-unite as the time to depart neared.

“This place is like home to us now and we are like a family and it is not easy departing but Inshallah we will meet again. This trip was one of the best experiences of our lives which will never be forgotten.” This was a heartfelt statement by one of the African sisters as she bid farewell to the others.

The time for good-byes was a very emotional moment for all of us, as we were saddened by the idea of not knowing when we would see each other again. However, as they say: “All good things come to an end” and sadly this was one of them as they left. The Madinah girls joining us to go to Africa arrived.

As we approached the haram, we were all hoping to get a chance to visit the holy shrine once again soon as this was the last time during our trip that we would be visiting this sacred place. We were all immensely thankful for getting this opportunity. I personally managed to touch the zari after several attempts made previously. We left the haram at about 5:00 pm as we had to be back at the hotel to freshen up and leave for the airport. As we left, we experienced being separated from a piece of ourselves, it was as though we were leaving a part of us behind.

Time passed us by so quickly and soon we were at the lobby ready to leave for the airport. After arriving at the airport, we had some snacks and checked in to leave for Tehran. This was an hours flight, and connected to the next flight home which was at 6:00 am the next morning.

Bab al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Kumail Remtulla, student-helper for Madinah al-Ilm writes:

As the Madinah-al-Ilm camp draws to a close, with the final flight remaining, it is very hard to find the words to describe the emotions of how the last three weeks have been for all the participants. Mesmerising, Inspiring, and Refreshing are only hitting at the tip of the iceberg concerning what has probably been one of the best experiences a youth can have. The after effects of this trip are what we hope will remain with us for ever.

Living at the Madressa Imam Khomeini whilst in Qum was an experience of its own. Attending classes on Aqaid and Qur’anic Principles helped maintain and solidify our belief in Tawheed (The Oneness of Allah), a key part of our religion; and gave us a new insight as to the benefits and power the words of the Qur’an can play in our day to day life respectively. The visits to the Ayatollahs were an inspiration to all, with their advices being relevant to how we can better lead our lives. Whilst living at the Madressa, one will never forget praying jamaat namaaz at the masjid and the recitation of the Rajab Dua, which makes our hairs stand up and hearts tremble in yearning for nearness to Allah (SWT).

The visit to Esfahan, where we admired the scenery and the architecture of prominent historical personalities made us appreciate what Allah has and continues to provide for us. Our trip to visit the shrine of Imam Khomeini (RA) in Tehran allowed for an appreciation for such a personality. Reflecting on what he did during his life serves as an inspiration to one and all. The feeling of praying Juma Namaaz in the 3rd row of Jamaat at Tehran University was one that will be felt internally, but will be hard to describe.

The final trip to Mashhad gave us a fresh understanding on who our 8th Imam was, with the trip to Nishapour giving us an insight as to what the Imam did during his life. Performing his ziyarat at his shrine gave us all a feeling of serenity between us and the Imam.

On the whole, the knowledge gained cannot be measured by any means, the friendships made cannot be broken by any means, the memories gained cannot be forgotten by any means, and the spirituality obtained will be remembered and stay for a lifetime.

Our arrival back to the airport brought a range of mixed emotions. It is sad to leave those who have become your new brothers. However, the longing of seeing and reuniting with the ones who raised and took care of you when you were young can never be taken away. Whilst you may never see your new friends again, Allah works in mysterious ways to find solutions to your wishes. As we all know, “We plan, and Allah plans. Surely Allah is the best of planners”.

Of all the knowledge and experiences obtained, we hope that each participant will have learnt at least one new thing about how they can better live their life using the Imam and Bibi Masuma (AS) as a source of inspiration, whilst preparing themselves for the coming of Imam Mehdi (ATF).

As a final note, I pray that Allah (SWT) gives us the strength to maintain the spirituality that we got over the last 3 weeks, and to lead lives that will make him pleased with us, for surely, “we have come from Him, and to Him we shall indeed return.”

Day 21 - Saturday 9th August 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

This diary has been written by Aliya Datoo, student-helper for Madinah al-Ilm:

‘Chetor khudahafizi begam? Ay dilam, nami khaham az tu juda besham’
How can I say farewell to you O loved one!  I don’t want to separate from you.

The hardest part of this trip had finally dawned upon us, saying our final farewells to the great personality for whom we had made the intention to come and meet.  This whole trip was for his love and wanting to meet him.  We knew throughout our journey that the climax of our trip was to arrive at the haram of Imam Redha (as) and be able to talk to him, pray to him and ask through him.  And yet the time period seemed so short and it was now time to say goodbye.  Saying goodbye to a family member or friend is hard, but saying farewell to your Imam is something which can only be felt by the heart and not described by the mouth.  We had lived in this holy city under his vicinity.  What an amazing host he had been and it was due to him that this whole trip had spiritually moved and transformed so many of us. 

As we completed our last fajr salah in the haram of Imam Redha (as) and made our way upstairs to address our Imam for  the final time, it seemed like we were leaving behind someone so beloved, someone who we had known so well and felt so comfortable being around. As we made our niyyah for the last ziyarat of widaa, we could not stop the uncontrollable tears which rolled down our cheeks. It was hard to believe that out of all those shias who were present around the world, Imam had decided to choose us and invite us to visit him; and now that visit had come to an end.  How was I going to thank the host who had paved and arranged the way for my coming, and who had looked after me so well for these three weeks. Most importantly how would I be able to leave him?  The separation was going to be just too hard. Going back to an environment which was so challenging and unislamic and yet here my heart found so much peace and tranquillity beside him.  But as we recitied the ziyarat of widaa, what did bring some consolation to us, was the fact that in the ziyarat we ask the Imam not to make this our final ziyarat and to call us back again. This was the only thing which kept us going and we lived in the hope that this dua would be accepted by the Imam for another invitation very soon.

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Kumail Remtulla, student-helper for Madinah al-Ilm writes:

Our trip to Mashhad began on Monday, after we had flown into Mashhad from Tehran Airport. Upon arrival, being the night of the 3rd of Shaban, there was an immediate feeling of peace and tranquillity amongst the participants. May this last for the duration of the Mashhad trip, and beyond!

The next day was our first Ziyarat at the Imam’s shrine, in addition to some shopping, but the highlight of the day was the recitation of Dua Tawassul at the Haram of our beloved 8th Imam. It was such a soul-moving recitation that left numbers of people in tears, having pleaded with their hearts and souls for the infallibles to intercede on their behalf to Allah, for forgiveness of sins and for the fulfilment of other wishes and desires.

We are mid-way through our trip to Mashhad and despite being unstructured, the schedule has been hectic. Between the frequent trips to the Haram of Imam and the Bazaar of Shopping which is Khiyabane Imam Raza (AS), the participants took a break today and went on a trip to Neishapour.

The bus headed out around mid-morning and after passing through the dusty scenery of the rugged Khorasan-e-Razavi province, we arrived at the Qadam Gah where the feet imprints of our dear Imam (AS) were preserved. We paid our respects and drank from Chashma-e-Hazrat - the abundant spring that came about as a miracle by the Imam (AS). With assistance from Shaykh Nadir and Sayyid Kaviani, the participants were able to relate the footprints and the spring water to the Ziyarat of Imam Raza (AS) as the Warith (inheritor) of P.Ibrahim and Ismaeel (AS).

Next stop was lunch and as usual we couldn’t help but savour the Jooje Kebabs! Having energized ourselves, we headed to the blessed shrine of Bibi Shuteita. The status of the great lady is such that she was buried by Imam Kadhim (AS) and she was granted his shirt as a Kafan, all for the purity of her love for the Ahlul Bayt and her sincere faith in them. Lastly, we visited the tombs and we paid our respects at two Imam Zadegan (children of Aimma (AS)).

The bus finally speeded towards Mashhad as we mentally and spiritually prepared for our last Dua-e-Kumail in Iran. The atmosphere at the Haram was pumped as people trickled into the Sacred place from all parts of not only Mashhad but the World. Tears flowed, prayers for forgiveness were asked and the Imam’s intercession sought as we prepared to transplant the spiritual lessons learned over the three weeks into our lives back home.

In the midst of the spiritual atmosphere, the boys went to a Water park for some fun. At noon, everyone started preparing for our final Salaat al-Jumuah in Iran. It was heartening for us to be blessed with lunch from Imam Raza (AS)’s dastarkhan.

The last and final day of the trip has finally passed. It was indeed a day of truly mixed feelings. There was sorrow at leaving the Holy cities of Mashhad and Qum, contentment for being blessed with the Ziyarat of the centres of the Almighty’s Grace and finally happiness for….yes and this is a first… one of the brothers’ Nikah ceremony at the Haram late last night. Surely the atmosphere was pumped as we all proceeded for our final Ziyarats and with the recitation of Ankahtu and Zawajtu, one of the participants entered into the longest Ibadat of his life – Marriage.

A participant describes their mixed feelings in words below:

"The last day was a very emotional one. The past week has been one of reflection on our lives and has allowed us to reach a certain level when it comes to serving the Ahlul-Bayt. Upon arrival in Mashhad, the spirits were high, and being in such a city for the big Khushalis added spice to our trip. The trip to Naishapour was an eye-opener and was very inspiring. With the recitation of Dua-e-Tawassul and Dua-e-Kumail taking us to a spiritual high, capping the trip off with the sunnah of the prophet in the form of a nikah ceremony gave the trip a very fruitful ending to what has been the trip of a lifetime. Bonds between participants were built, experiences were shared, and the memories will remain. I pray that the Imam and Bibi Masuma accepts the Ziyarat of those who were part of the trip, and grants those willing to go to such a place a chance to do so. Ameen."

With tears and tributes to the Imam, we step onto the last leg of our journey (for most) towards Tehran and Qum. It is indeed a great blessing to shuttle back and forth between the two dear infallible siblings, performing our farewell Ziyarat and also to be able to communicate the Salaam of one to the other.

May the Almighty (SWT) accept our Ziyarat and count us amongst the True Shi’as of the Ahlal Bayt (AS) and imbibe our hearts with the utmost in love for them and through them grant us His Proximity.

Day 14 -  Saturday 9th August 2008

Bab al-Ilm - Sisters (Click 
here for photos)

Mehjabeen Somji , student-helper for Bab al-Ilm writes:

“All good things always come to an end.”  Isn’t that the way the saying goes?  But today I ask, on behalf of myself as well as all the curious ones out there, why??  Why does it always have to come to an end? Why is it only the good things? Why?

August 9th 2008, was the day this saying played a role in all our lives. It was the day that brought tears to everyone’s eyes.  We were told to be downstairs in the lobby of Tehran Hotel in Mashad, ready and packed by exactly 11 o'clock.  Knowing it was the last day we’d ever see the girls from Kenya again, we rushed as fast as we could to be on time.  We had an hour before us North American and European girls had to catch our flight heading back to Tehran.  The hour was used to cry and say good-bye to all of our Kenyan friends not knowing when we’d meet or see each other again. It’s truly amazing how these friends we’ve made in such a short amount of time, are probably the truest friends we’ll ever have.  It is by the grace and will of Allah (S.W.T) that our bonds grew stronger with every moment of our trip.  Saying khudafiz to our friends was hard enough and still there was one more left to say.  “I am saying khudafiz to you Ya Imam-e-Ali Ridha, not because I want to, but because I have to.  But please Oh Imam, call me back with my family so that I can visit you once again” – Aliya Datoo (London)

Sheikh Khalfan had told all of us that those who leave Mashad on a Saturday, always return back to visit him.  Inshallah we shall all have this opportunity to return back to do the ziyarat of our beloved 8th Imam. 

Upon arrival to the airport, we prayed our Zuhrain salaat and later sat down for lunch while waiting for the Madina group to arrive.  Having a burger in Iran was a far better treat then anything else.  It was quite an unusual taste compared to our daily rice dishes and yet so delectably good. 

After check-in, there was an announcement made declaring our 2 hour flight delay.  There was only one thing to say, “Welcome to Iran everybody!” –Sr. Farzana Khimji. Or as the Irani’s always say “well-come.”  The flight delay gave us all a chance to reflect on our weeks in Iran.  It gave us the opportunity to think about all the changes that we have made and inshallah, will make in our daily lives.  These changes shall all inshallah increase our faith, knowledge and spirituality.       

Besides the burger, being back in Qum was also a treat.  All us Bab and Madina girls, headed back ‘home’ also known as the Jamiya, to rest.  Our last day was indeed full of treats and when our mentors surprised us with fried chicken and ‘chips’ or ‘fries’ for dinner.  Once freshened up, we boarded the Jamiya bus one last time to say our final good-bye to the sister of our 8th Imam.  After reciting ziyarat, we were once again given the chance to reflect and ask for our hajaats. 

After a long day, we got back to the Jamiya to rest, or for most, pack! Our last fajr namaaz was recited at the Jamiya before going to Imam Khomeini Airport to check-in for our flight back to London Heathrow.   How 7 hours flew by, no one really knows.  All we know was that it just wasn’t enough time to get through to ourselves that the time was coming to say good-bye.  But the time did come, and we did say our good-byes, hoping we’d meet again.  Although it wasn’t easy, we had to do it, because whoever said “all good things always come to an end,” was unfortunately very right.                                                                                                             

Bab al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Mohamed Zamin Alidina, student-helper for Bab al-Ilm, writes:

That time had now come which everyone had been dreading – it was time to say farewell to our great host, Imam al-Ridha (as). The brothers were reminded that although it might have been time to physically depart from his great presence, the Imam is with us wherever we may be and this made saying farewell slightly easier to cope with. As Rumi, the great mystic and poet, writes in his Mathnawi: “I am at home wherever I am…” Nevertheless, while performing the final Ziyarah, tears helplessly flowed down the cheeks of all the brothers. Oh Lord, grant us the strength to bear this separation…

After returning back to the hotel, it was now time to say farewell to our two African brothers, Abdulrasul Alidina and Mehdi Karim and our brother from Dubai, Mohammad Jawad Murji, who’s flight back home was later in the day. It was truly amazing to see how close the boys had become in the two weeks that they had the blessing to spend together. The brothers from UK and Canada then made their way into the bus which headed for the Mashhad airport for our short flight to Tehran, followed by the coach ride back to Qum.

After relaxing for a few hours and having their last meal together in the camp, reminiscing all the funny moments they shared together, the brothers made their way to the Haram of Sayyida Ma’suma [‘a] for their farewell Ziyarat before departing back home to London. Oh beloved sister of our Imam, accept our pitiful Ziyarah, forgive us for our many shortcomings in your sacred presence and call us again quickly to the city of the Ahl al-Bayt! 


Day 20 - Friday 8th August 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Sabiha Kassam of Stanmore, UK, writes:

As I opened my eyes at 3.45am, it suddenly hit me that this was our last full day in Mashad, and that we would be going home soon. A wave of sadness came over me, and I made sure that I cherished these last hours. I rushed to the Haram for Fajr, bumping into a few other girls after Namaaz. We eagerly awaited the recitation of Dua Nudba at 6am, many of us being lucky to find space inside where the actual recitation was taking place. We really felt the powerful atmosphere of supplicants yearning for the reappearance 12th Imam (AS) and lamenting his absence.                                  

Most of the girls who went to the Haram for Fajr had a nap before Juma, others went shopping in the Bazaar before shops closed for Namaz time. Juma namaz in the courtyard of the Haram was quite an experience! Sitting through the Khutba in the scorching heat showed the dedication of the believers, and though we acquired a good tan in those couple of hours sitting there, it was well worth it; there was such a wonderful sense of unity praying under the bright blue sky with thousands of other Shia Muslims.

After Juma namaz we headed back to the hotel and rested as we waited for lunch. Though this was not just any lunch; we were waiting for lunch from Imam Ridha (a.s) himself. Our fantastic group leaders had organized Niyaz from the Haram to be brought over to our hotel so we could eat the blessed food. Imam Ridha (a.s) kept his own money aside for his Zawwar (visitors) and since his time the government have invested and added to this money, so we were eating from the Imam’s money. How fortunate we were! Alhamdulillah the food was delicious (we don’t expect anything less from our Imam who has been such a fantastic host so far!).

At 6.30pm we had a session with Sheikh Khalfan who inspired us, as always, with his pearls of wisdom. He gave us some useful tips for preparing for and utilising the month of Ramadhan, as well as some thoughts to ponder upon as we said our farewell (Wida) to the Imam. Straight after the talk, some girls went straight to the Haram for Maghrib, others went up to their rooms to do our last ghusl before our final visit to the Imam. Many of us were preparing ourself to spend the last night in the Haram so we ate dinner (left over from Niyaz and delicious Shawarma), and packed our bags with a few dua books.

At about 11.30pm our mentor Aliya gets a call from Agha Nadir: ‘One of the brothers has decided to have their Nikah recited tonight in the Haram!’ (the bride to be was in Pakistan). Shrieks of excitement echoed through the hotel room as Anisa (our other mentor) shouts, ‘Coloured Shellas everyone!’- as this was the most we could do to prepare for this wedding! Even wearing Irani Chadors, some of us girls managed to be slightly late for the program but Alhamdulillah we were all present for this blessed ceremony. This trip has continuously been blessed with such spontaneous happenings, we don’t even know how to begin to thank Allah (swt) for everything. All of us asked for our hajaats in front of the Shrine of Imam while Nikah was being recited; the atmosphere was beautiful. 

After the Nikah, Agha Nadir took a few of the girls on a quick tour of some of the graves of some great Ulema in the courtyard of the Haram. Once again, Agha Nadir blessed us with his wise words, and reminded us that it is quality not quantity that is important. On our last night, it was not necessary to sit and force ourselves to recite dua after dua if we did not feel connected. What was essential, however, was to contemplate and simply talk to the Imam, say our goodbye like we would to our loved ones, and pray that we have the opportunity to come back soon.

So, taking this piece of advice to heart, we headed towards the zaree room and prepared ourselves for a night of contemplation and deep connection with our beloved Imam. Many of us were lucky to touch the Shrine of Imam, though the rush was sometimes unbearable to be trapped in, Alhamdulillah our Imam helped us and we were able to touch the shrine without too much injury! Some girls then headed towards the basement of the zaree, which opened for ladies at 3am. Here, we had time to contemplate and recite our last ziyarat to the Imam. We prayed Fajr Jamat namaz here, and slowly, and with heavy heart, we headed towards the exit of the haram.

As we stood facing the golden dome at Baab-ur-Ridha (our regular entrance to the Haram), we touched our chests, bowed our head and said our last salaams and KhudaHafiz to Imam. We kissed the floor of the Courtyard where we prayed many Jamat namazes, and prayed to Allah (swt) to give us the opportunity to return soon.

This last night was truly blessed. The power and connection we felt was astonishing, Inshallah, Imam will call us to his Shrine again soon.

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Coming soon ...

Day 13 -  Friday 8th August 2008

Bab al-Ilm - Sisters (Click 
here for photos)

Zahida Alidina of Bujumbura, Burundi:

We started the day with a cold ice cream at 1am to wake us up for the Q and A session with brother Imran at the haram. Surprisingly the girls were quite awake and had many questions prepared for the brother. One by one Brother Imraan answered all our questions until the tilawaat of the holy Quran in preparation for Namaz e Fajr. But the gilrs did not want to end the session so quickly.

We proceeded to the Azadi courtyard for fajr namaz and some of the girls stayed for Dua Nudba while the others went home to rest. When we woke up most of us went shopping.

In the afternoon we prepared ourselves for the closing ceremony.  Mehjabeen Somji gave a speech on behalf of the sisters.  It was very touching especially at the end when we presented the gifts to the mentors.

Sister Asma Mohamed AP from Mombasa, Kenya gave us her thought on the closing ceremony: 'we will never meet was like that occasion really told me that thats it... its all over. and then i realised how quick time flew.. i mean one day we are flying to iran. And its like the next minute we are gettin ready to go back.'

We all received a certificate and a Quran on behalf of the World Federation.  Just after the ceremony we proceeded to the Madinah girls apartments to listen to Sheikh Mohammed Khalfans lecture on how to utilise the month of Ramadhan and how to perform the farewell Ziyarat of Imam Ridha (As).

Afterwards we went back to the hotel so we could rest before spending the last night at the haram.

Bab al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Mohamed Zamin Alidina, student-helper for Bab al-Ilm, writes:

Friday being the day of our living master, Imam al-Mahdi, the group made special effort to be in the Haram for the Fajr prayers so that they could also catch the Dua Ahad and Dua Nudba which followed the prayers. In a discussion amongst the brothers, the great importance of incorporating these duas into our lives during the occultation of our Imam was emphasised. In a tradition from Imam al-Sadiq [‘a] regarding the merit of Dua Ahad, we are told the following:

“Whoever calls to Allah [SWT], the Exalted, for forty mornings will this oath will be from among the helpers of the one who will rise, (Imam al-Mahdi [‘a]). And if he [‘a] dies before him, Allah – the Exalted, will raise him from his grave and give him for every word one thousand blessings and erase from him one thousand misdeeds.”

Another scene that really drummed into us how active preparation was taking place for the imminent reappearance of the Master of the Age [‘a], was the Minbar (which lay in the same hall in which the duas were being recited in the Haram) put together for the Imam [‘a] which he would use to address the public after his reappearance. One of the brothers commented: “The advent of the saviour will definitely take place, the real question is however, what are we individually doing to hasten that day? Will we be amongst those who will be ready to receive him? It is truly a daunting feeling knowing that the time of the reappearance of Imam [‘a] lies on us and there are certain sins that the Shias of the Ahl al Bayt commit, which cause the reappearance to be further delayed.”

Later in the morning, the boys were given a treat and taken to the newly-opened water park in Mashhad. To our surprise, this place was far better than anyone had anticipated; fully packed with all sorts of different slides, wave pools, Jacuzzis and saunas.

In the afternoon, we had the closing ceremony at the hotel. The program started with a talk by Syd Kaviani, who gave us a lot of food for thought. Just a little while ago we were on the plane to Iran anticipating how the trip would turnout and now we had already reached the end of the camp – a true lesson on the nature of the life of this world, yesterday we were brought into this transient world and very soon we will be brought back to our Lord [SWT], so it should not be that we are amongst those who will be biting their hands on that grand day in sorrow of how they wasted their short stay in this world.

“Say: ‘Shall we tell you of those who lose most in respect of their deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, while they thought that they were acquiring good by their works?’" [Holy Qur’an 18:103-104]

Following Syd Kaviani, Shaykh Nadir Jaffer and Brother Muhammad Yasin Devji also gave short farewell speeches to the brothers and sisters. Then, one student representative from the brothers and sisters camps spoke for few minutes on how they had found the camp. From the brothers side, Bilal Sheikh from Birmingham stood up to speak. Among the many great things he mentioned, he said something which summarised the great bond that had formed between the brothers in the past couple of weeks: “In this camp, I didn’t make friends, I made brothers…”

Day 19 - Thursday 7th August 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

This diary has been written by Zahra Bachoo, Stanmore Jamaat, U.K:

We boarded our coach in the early hours of the morning for our trip to Nishapur, the place where our 8th Holy Imam stopped on his way to Mashhad to narrate the Hadithe Silsilatuz Dhabiya. We reached there in the midday heat, finding the place to be packed with zawwar, and prepared for Zohrain prayers in the nearby mosque.

After salaat, we visited the place where Imam Ridha (a.s) caused a spring to appear so that he could do wudhu. We filled up bottles with spring water to take back home as it has shifa (healing) properties.

We then went to see the stone with the footsteps of Imam Ridha (a.s.) – these were made when Imam stopped to narrate the Hadith Silsilatuz Dhabiya. The small building was packed with zawwar, but we managed to catch a glimpse of the footprints. We all felt honoured to have the opportunity to tread the land on which our holy Imam had come.

After a traditional Iranian lunch of chelo kebab, we visited the grave of Bibi Shatita. Hearing the story of how she gave 2 dirhams of her savings for Khums, even though the amounts that others gave were much greater was a deeply humbling experience. The Imam sent her a kafan, and when she passed away, he came himself to bury her. This story shows us that it is your intention and the quality of your actions that counts.

The highlight of the evening was participating in Maghribain prayers and Dua Kumail at the haram of Imam Ridha. Everyone found this to be a very spiritual experience.

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Coming soon ...

Day 12 -  Thursday 7th August 2008

Bab al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Ziana Hasham of Mombasa, Kenya, writes:

The day started with a rare luxury for us all. A lie in till 9.30am. Once awake and refreshed we set off to Turab Street well known for the vast amount of shops selling mantos (women's long tops).  It is obvious how the next few hours passed.  Trying on new styles and practising our limited farsi whilst attempting to bargain with the shop keepers, we spent all of two hours on this street.

We returned back to the hotel for lunch and salaat and 3pm then saw us back in bazaar e reza buying gifts for families and friends and once again enjoying the opportunity to haggle.

After an early trip to the haram to ensure that we could secure a place in the packed courtyard for Maghribain namaz we discovered that we were praying behind Ayatulla Makarim Shirazi.  One of the sisters said ' I feel so lucky and excited to be praying behind such a great personality'.

This was followed by our last Dua Kumayl In Iran which was very moving and I dont think there was on single dry eye in our group. Unfortunately although we had planned to stay in the haram all night this turned out to be impossible. Heading back to the hotel for a quick dinner and rest, we recharged our battieries in order to be fresh for our Q and A session with Brother Imran at 2am the following morning. This was very intresting. We had a chance to put our minds at rest on many issues.

Finally we prayed fajr with jamaat and for some of us including myself we waited at the haram for Dua Nudba.

Bab al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Mohamed Zamin Alidina, student-helper for Bab al-Ilm, writes:

Thursday was another free day, where the boys were allowed to go to the Haram and bazaar whenever they so wished and for as long as they wished. This gesture was much appreciated and they all planned their day accordingly. This relaxed schedule also allowed the mentors to hold many essential informal discussion circles with the boys – Thursday’s topic was on how to achieve concentration in prayers.

In the evening, we all went to the Haram for Dua Kumayl together. To our great honour, the prayer leader at the grand Sahane Razawy was none other than Ayatullah Makarem Shirazi, who had also come to Mashhad for the summer. Following the prayers was the moment everyone had been greatly anticipating the whole day – Dua Kumayl in the Haram of Imam al-Ridha on the blessed night of the wiladat of his grandfather Imam Zayn al-Abideen!

After the dua, the group headed back to the hotel to have dinner. After this, the group was free to head back to the Haram as per their own schedules – some headed straight back to spend the night there, while others rested for few hours before heading back late night.

Day 18 - Wednesday 6th August 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click  here for photos)

This diary has been written by Mohaddisa Jaffer, Peterborough, UK

Waking up in Mashad once again was pure bliss as many of the sisters hurried to Fajr salaat at the blessed Haram. Being the wiladat of Hazrat Abbas (a.s), the haram was buzzing with groups from many different nationalities, commemorating the day in their own unique way. However, this wasn’t the kind of celebration that we were used to back home where we would perhaps show our face at mosque for a couple of hours, listening to the odd munajaat. No, here in the haram all that could be heard was the mournful sound of bitter tears for the love of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s), with emotional ‘saf’ matam happening in many of the courtyards, puzzling many of the sisters. However, on reflection we realised that the slogan “Every day is Ashura, every land is Kerbala” is truly put to practice here and is never tucked away for the sake of keeping up traditions.
The majority of our time in Mashad is made up of ‘free time’. However, we were lucky enough to have two lectures planned for us today and although they were optional, there was a full attendance to both by the Madinah sisters. Sheikh Khalfaan spoke to us in detail about the process of cleansing our soul, reminding us of the stages ‘Takhliya’, ‘Tahliya’ and ‘Tajliya’ as well as the importance of contentment and faith on the path to become a perfect manifestation of the attributes of Allah (s.w.t). A long awaited Q&A session took place which lasted right until Zohr at which point there was a stampede of chadors rushing to salaatul jamaat. Free time followed once again whereby sisters either stayed in the haram or ventured out into the streets of Mashad to try haggling with exaggerated gesticulation! Our second lecture was with Syed Kazami and he spoke with his usual enthusiasm about Judeo-Christian relations with Islam in the historical sense.

As the sun set, he recited the Ziyarat of Imam Reza (a.s) beautifully and the atmosphere was complete with the intense beating of drums that could be heard from the courtyard. It was now the wiladat of Imam Sajjad (a.s) after Maghrib, the haram was once again lit up beautifully.

To celebrate, the group was taken to a restaurant just outside of Mashad which was about an hour away.   Although it took quite a while to get there, the area was beautiful and after dinner we were able to spend time to catch up with our Baab sisters, who we hadn’t seen much of in Mashad and also appreciate the amazing beauty of the place. 

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Coming soon ...

Day 11 -  Wednesday 6th August 2008

Bab al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Fatema Kalyan of Mombasa, Kenya, writes:

Day 12 of our amazing trip so far began with everyone up and about, buzzing with loads of excitement, all because our lovely organizers chose the perfect destination, the water park.

By 8am we were all seated in the bus and had to drive a long while and when we reached we had to patiently wait for about two hours to get tickets to enter (although this gave us to catch up on sleep) and after this came the most frustrating bit, the security check! Nevertheless all the fun and enjoyment we had was well worth the frustration we had to go through.  To top it up our long but fun-filled morning was made even better with delicious pizzas for lunch.  I think it tasted even better because of our hunger after the swim. 

Late afternoon we had a very enlightening question and answer session with Sayyid Kaviani then our mentors told us we had to get seated in the bus again for our dinner.  At first we were hesitant and wanted to go back to our rooms to rest but after our long ride we changed our minds because the restaurant was absolutely beautiful and the scenery added to the surreal environment.  There were streams flowing past, statues and sculptures that seemed to be staring at us but the best part was that there was lovely ice cream!  All in all we had a great and enjoyable day.

Bab al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Mohamed Zamin Alidina, student-helper for Bab al-Ilm, writes:

Among the activities of this day was a question and answer session with Sayyed Kaviani in one of our rooms in the hotel. Sayyed is the principle of Madressa al-Mahdi which is a pre-Hawza for foreign students where they learn Farsi and have foundation classes in their first year, before entering a proper Hawza. It was a great blessing to have him accompany us to Mashhad and for the group to have opportunities to hold sessions with him. Alhamdulillah, the response from the boys was very positive and each of them had prepared some burning questions to ask Sayyed.

In the evening, being the wiladat of Hazrat Abbas, the group was taken to a grand restaurant just outside Mashhad for some tasty BBQ. The journey took about an hour, but since the brothers from the Madinah al-Ilm group had also joined us in the coach, time quickly flew past as the boys shared their experiences of the camp so far with their older brothers. The mentors cherished this time to engage in various fruitful discussions with the group. The restaurant was very unique, with streams flowing past, fountains and all sorts of different sculptures.  

Day 17 - Tuesday 5th August 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

This diary has been written by Swaleha Karim of Florida, USA, and Tahira Kassamali, London, UK:

After a long and tiring night of travelling, we started the day late with breakfast at 10:45 am, refreshed ourselves and then headed to the Haram for our first salaams to Imam Reza (A.S).

Cleansing ourselves and walking slowly and respectfully, with dignity, modesty and humility, brought about the realisation of who we were going to meet and just how lucky we were to meet our 8th Imam, Imam Reza (AS).  Before entering this holy place, we had to follow the ritual of the security check, after which we were able to finally recite the izne dukhul, which is taking permission to enter this sacred haram. Since namaaz time had already set in, we first recited our Salaah before going in for our ziyarat. On completing our salaah, excitement flared in each of us to see the zarih of the Imam (AS), only to be taken back by the massive crowd inside. In following the ahadith of the Imams (AS) on not hurting their zawaars, we pulled each other out of the crowd and paid our respects from the hallway nearby, keeping in mind that the Imam (AS) was with us and watching wherever we are.

One sister described her feelings on completing the ziyarat of Imam Reza (A.S) for the first time:

“A feeling of utter bliss and tranquillity ran through my body on completion of the ziyarat of Imam Reza (A.S), I could feel the presence of the Imam and this brought a sense of humility.”

The afternoon was later topped off with the authentic Iranian meal, Chelu Kabab!

The evening was enlightened by an inspiring lecture by Sheikh Kazmi who discussed the different references of where the Holy Prophet (SAW) and his arrival were mentioned in the New Testament of the Bible. The lecture was followed by an amazing recitation of Ziyarat e Aminullah. This Ziyarat is highly recommended to recite during pilgrimages to the shrines of the Holy Infallibles.

As the time for Maghrib approached, we headed back to the Haram, where we were lucky enough to pray behind such a well known honourable and pious personality, Ayatollah Makarim Shirazi. After Namaz, there was a lecture and Iranian style qasidas in honour of Hazrat Abbas (A.S), whose birthday we were celebrating. Although it was all in Farsi, a language we couldn’t understand, we could feel the love and passion for Hazrat Abbas (A.S) in our hearts.

As it was Tuesday, Dua-e-Tawassul was recited in the Haram. This was to be our last ever Dua e Tawassul in Iran together as a group and after spending the last two Tuesdays in Jamkaran, the atmosphere in the haram in Mashad was completely different and unique to that which we had previously experienced.  After this, we ended the night with pizza and chips! 

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Coming soon ...

Day 10 -  Tuesday 5th August 2008

Bab al-Ilm - Sisters (Click 
here for photos)

Asma Mohamed AP from Mombasa, Kenya writes:

Arriving at hotel Tehran in Mashad in the early hours of the morning, us east-african girls together with our mentors walked into our assigned rooms to find our western room  mates fast asleep.  Within minutes we had joined them; the journey had definitely taken its toll on us.

Eight hours later, we woke only to discover that some of our friends had already visited Imam Ali Redha's haram for fajr prayers.

‘It was beautiful.  When I first set my eyes upon the haram, I truly felt the Imam's presence.  I knew he had called me to his rowza himself and that made the experience even more amazing.’ said Sister Sumaira from Regina, Canada (one of the lucky few).  However we were soon to follow.

At 12 pm we set out from our hotel for zohr and asr jamaat prayers.  Unaccustomed to the immense crowds, our walk was very eventful, with vast amounts of people all walking towards the haram for the same reason.  Unfortunately we never managed to make it inside, so we ended up praying our noon prayers under the scorching sun.  By the grace of Allah (swt) and the prayers of our 8th Imam, Imam Redha (as), none of the girls were discomforted.

Lunch-Chicken and chips awaited us at the hotel.  This was easily devoured, however we have still not mastered the art of finishing a whole Iranian portion.  Following this was a treat we had all been waiting for SHOPPING!! Imam Redha (as)’s bazaar was a totally new experience for us all.  The hustle and bustle overwhelmed us as we were showered with cries from various shop owners.

A trusted jewelry store was first on the list.  Many of us purchased several types of rings for ourselves and our loved ones.  We walked out of the bazaar with heavy shopping bags, but at the same time a lighter pocket!

Since tonight was the wiladat of Hazrat Abbas (as) we were blessed with the grand opportunity to visit the haram once again.  But jut as before we never got a chance to enter it due to the neverending crowds, so maghrib and isha prayers were prayed in jamaat in one of the many courtyards of the haram.  However, luck was on our side when we got the honour of getting Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi to be our imam for our night prayers. ALHAMDULILLAH.

This was soon followed by a real touching and well recited dua e tawwasul that really engrossed us as we asked the masoomeens for intercession.

Finally we needed some sleep, so we headed back to the hotel for dinner and a good nights rest!

Bab al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Mohamed Zamin Alidina, student-helper for Bab al-Ilm, writes:

We arrived in Mashhad early morning on Tuesday. After setting foot on this Holy land, all signs of fatigue quickly disappeared and the boys eagerly prepared themselves for their first Ziyarah of Imam Ridha. As we headed for the Haram, mixed feelings could be felt – what an honour it was to go visit the Wali of Allah, but what had we to show for ourselves in his sacred presence? Being the 3rd of Sha’ban, the birthday of our beloved Imam Husayn, the Haram was packed with zawaar from all over the world who had all come to share this auspicious night with Imam Ridha and it was also decorated with beautiful lights in all the courtyards. As we stood at the entrance of the courtyard and sought permission to enter the sacred precincts of one of the houses of the Holy Prophet, we could feel the Imam reaching out to us sinners and welcoming us in with open arms. After quickly familiarising ourselves with the main areas of the Haram, we set a meeting time and place and slowly made our own way into the Dharee room, recited our Ziyarah and spent some quality time in the presence of our Imam.

In the afternoon, all the organisers, mentors and participants gathered in one of the rooms in the hotel for lunch. As soon as the boys entered the room, large smiles quickly overtook their faces as they laid eyes on the sufro laid down with large portions of chicken and chips.

Following lunch, the group headed for the famous Bazaar-e-Imam Reza to get some shopping done for their families and for themselves. The boys split up into groups of threes and fours along with a mentor to help them haggle with the prices and then made their way into the bazaar. It was a moment of great inspiration and happiness seeing our next generation enthusiastically buying rings, tasbeehs and kaffans for themselves and we pray that these gifts act as waseelahs for them in their journeys to Allah [SWT]. As we have been taught by the infallibles, among the signs of a believer is that he is one who wears an Aqeeq ring on his right hand.

Day 16 - Monday 4th August 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Mohaddisa Jaffer of Peterborough, UK, writes:
We always knew that this day would come, but we could have never imagined that two beautiful weeks would pass so quickly. Our morning began arguably like any other; waking up at the crack of dawn to make our way to the Haram of Bibi Fatima Masuma (a.s). However, the knowledge of this being ‘Ziyarat-e-Widaa’ for many of the sisters gave us an immense feeling of grief. Our levels of spirituality and tranquillity have risen beyond our expectation and now, in our last moments in Qum, restless questions echoed through the minds of the sisters; how are we going continue on this perfect path laid down by the Ahlul Bayt (a.s) whilst living under the influence of the West? Have we taken full advantage of this priceless opportunity to last us in our everyday lives? Will we ever be invited here by our Bibi again? We recited the beautiful Ziyarat in the blessed haram with one phrase highlighted in particular; Ya Fatimatu-sh fa’ili fil Jannah! Oh Fatima, intercede for us so that we can enter Jannah! `

After some extremely rushed last minute packing, we went to the brothers’ centre for the closing ceremony. The building was the exactly same as it was at the opening ceremony, as was the company present. However, an immense sense of sisterhood could be felt as we filed into the hall for the last time, exchanging glances, smirks and sighs in the knowledge of all that we had experienced in the last two weeks. The sisters’ speech followed the initial introduction and was done by Sister Sukaina Bandali from Birmingham and Sister Swaleha Karim from Florida, both of whom perfectly encapsulated our collective thoughts and feelings about the trip. As well as reminding us of certain hilarious incidences some of us would perhaps rather forget, the sisters eloquently spoke about the specific personalities and monuments we have been blessed to visit.

Bibi Masuma (a.s), the sister of our Holy 8th Imam (a.s) was our host in this city and her influence over Jihad-e-Qalam, which is incumbent upon every Muslim, has made Qum the fountain of knowledge that it is today. The sisters’ also shared their thoughts over both out visits to Masjid-e-Jamkaran on the consecutive Tuesday evenings. The fact that Imam -al-Asr (May Allah (s.w.t) hasten his reappearance) was within our vicinity, looking at us directly and waiting for his followers to be ready for him was a very emotional experience. The speech ended with thanking all of the organisers and contributors to the camp and this is something we really can’t do enough; they have made this Ziyarat even more amazing and we pray that the Almighty grants them all their hajaat, Ameen. The brothers’ speech and the prize giving session followed and we finally left the hall with one thought on our mind; ‘I can’t believe we have to do an exam now!’

Alhamdulillah, the exam wasn’t too rough and after completing it in our dorms, we zipped up our suitcases and headed towards the Jami’a exit with our hearts heavy. This was the house of Bibi Fatima Zahra (a.s) so it was no wonder that the environment was a major contributing factor to our spirituality and attitude. The 'Madars' had always been hospitable to us and as we left, they held the Glorious Qur’an over our heads and prayed for our safe journey. We had recently received the good news that the Europeans would be returning for a few hours but for the African sisters’, this was a final farewell.

The airport and plane journey was relatively uneventful, with a slight delay by the airline we had grown to love! Many of us managed to fit in some precious sleep, although some of us couldn’t control our excitement to be going to Mashad to visit our blessed Imam Al-Reza (a.s). How is it that we, sinning human beings, have been called to be in the presence of a holy Ma’soom, a chosen one of Allah (s.w.t) whose every action was illuminated by the Seal of Prophethood? We hear about the Imams so many times in Majalis back home and because our own Imam is in ghaybat, we almost forget that they were real, tangible human beings whose every breath was a testament to Allah (s.w.t). Their lives were so painful and testing so that we could recognise Islam and Shiaism as it should be recognised. We landed in Mashad, with many of the sisters in tears of joy, disbelief and repentance.

We were exhausted. It was after midnight when we reached our hotel and we had had an extremely long day. However, the view of the illuminated golden dome from our minibus (and a few glucose tablets) fuelled us on to freshen up as quickly as possible and head out into the streets of Mashhad. It was the night of Imam Hussain (a.s)’s wiladat therefore the Haram and the streets were lit up even more than usual. This also meant that it was far fuller than usual giving an atmosphere of pure submission and devotion to Allah (s.w.t). It was so full in fact, that for about 4 meters around the blessed haram in all directions, it was impossible to penetrate into the crowds of people who were all determined to be near the blessed Imam (a.s). The sisters were by no means disheartened by this and we knew that our Imam would be more pleased with us if we avoided hurting people purely to get near the haram. Alhamdulillah we got an amazing view of it though, and we recited ziyarat right in front of the zari - it was truly overwhelming. We arrived at the hotel close to 2am and slept reluctantly as our hearts and souls still ached to be near perfection.

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Coming soon ...

Day 9 -  Monday 4th August 2008

Bab al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Hanna Leila of Birmingham, UK, writes:

Today was the day we were leaving Jamia for good.  On our departure the ladies made us kiss the Quran as we ducked underneath, to pass.  This act of nature was very benevolent and kind.  ‘I didn’t want to leave Jamia, I really liked it there’ said Leila from Mombasa. 

The day started off hectic as we packed ready to leave Qum and journey on to Mashad.  Our flight was supposed to be at 3.50 pm, however due to the usual delays we boarded the plane 3 hours and 10 minutes later, but thankfully we were provided with a snack of Kebab Burgers not long after.

Just before the plane landed the sightings outside the window were breathtaking.  Mashad was filled with bright chromatic lights which made the city dazzle. A crescent appeared just above the city and was visible amongst the clouds.

Our next stop was at Hotel Tehran.  One of my friends first reactions to the hotel was that she was speechless and quite surprised at the grand and modern facilities. WE WERE MOST CERTAINLY SATISFIED!

Bab al-Ilm - Brothers (Click 

here for photos)

Coming soon ....

Day 15 - Sunday 3rd August 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Alina tarbhai of Toronto, Canada, writes:

After spending the entire night in supplication and prayer at the Haram of Bibi Masuma-e-Qum (a.s.), we arrived back at Jamiah for a much deserved morning of rest.

After waking up for Zohr namaaz and lunch, we were pleasantly surprised with a question and answer session with Sister Sabikaa, a sister studying at the hawza. Having our many questions answered in a relaxed atmosphere made us realize just how blessed we were to have met and to have interacted with such intelligent and inspirational people.

Sheikh Khalfan is one of our most favourite teachers, and we were all eager to hear him speak on the etiquette of the ziyarat of Imam Al-Rida (a.s.), and we weren’t disappointed.  The entire hall was quiet in reflection as Sheikh Khalfan talked of how we should aspire to unite with our 8th Imam (a.s.) 

One of the activities that we had anticipated the most was visiting the Marashi Najafi Library. Unfortunately, due to renovations, we were unable to do so. However, we were able to pay our respects to Ayatullah Najafi, the founder of the library. Ayatullah Najafi was a simple man who used his meagre income to purchase a large number of books. From his collection of written and purchased works, he managed to build the third most renowned Islamic library in the world.

Sister Zamina Walji of Tanga Jamaat, Tanzania commented, “It really touched my heart to hear of this man who dedicated his life to educate the youth of his generation and of generations to come.”

We then proceeded to a small bazaar to do some shopping. Though we had some difficulty in terms of language barriers, all the girls left pleased with their purchases.

In the evening, we had the pleasure of having a lecture with Syed Mahmood Kaviani at Dar-e-Zahra.  Syed Kaviani is a very intelligent man, who is extremely patient as he is wise. It was a special lecture in that it was conducted by candlelight, due to the power going off suddenly. As Tehseen Rajpar of Trollhattan Jamaat, Sweden, said, “Though the room was pitch black, the knowledge radiated from the Sheikh, and it was as if the room was brightly lit.”

After a quick dinner of burgers and fries, we headed home to Jamiah, stuffed both physically and intellectually. Though we were all exhausted, our day wasn’t over. We all had to clean our rooms and pack our bags for we were to leave the holy city of Qum the next day to visit the blessed city of Mashad.

We are all sad to leave our Jamia, as it had now become home. But at the same time, we are all eager to visit Mashad, and to give our salaams to Imam Ali Al-Rida (a.s.). The second stage of our spiritual journey is about to begin, and we can barely contain our excitement.

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click 

here for photos)

Kumail Remtulla, student-helper for Madinah al-Ilm, writes:

The day before our trip to Mashhad was preceded by an all-night Ibadah programme at the Haram of Bibi Masuma (AS). Not knowing when we would be given the chance to visit her again in Qum, there was an emotional feeling that captured our hearts. We pray that our Amaals on this night are accepted by Allah (SWT).

We were given the best preparation before our trip to Mashhad tomorrow, which was a lecture / discussion on the Etiquettes of Ziyarat by Sheikh Muhammad Khalfan. He took us through a number of benefits of visiting the shrine of the Imam and narrated to us a few miracles that have taken place at the haram. He also took us through methods of preparing ourselves for visiting the zari of such a personality and how to unite our link with him. The session was very interactive with participants asking questions in order to benefit from the knowledge that the Sheikh possessed.

We ended the day relaxing in our rooms, and preparing for the next phase of our spiritual journey to Mashhad, which will be a nice end to a very spiritually energizing trip.

Day 8 - Sunday 3rd August 2008

Bab al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Suraiya Nanji of Nairobi, Kenya, writes:

We were blessed to start off our day with fajr prayers in the haram of Bibi Masuma e Qum.  We then went to Ansariyan bookstore to get Islamic books.  It was amazing to see how much we could learn from the vast number of books.  There are so many great authors who have written great books that could change our lives.  After picking books we went to the haram again to pray zohr and asr prayers in jamaat.  It was absolutely amazing.

After resting till 4pm we made our way to the Imam Khomeini Howza for a lecture by Sheikh Mohammed Khalfaan.  This was followed by a Question and Answer session which was good as many of us had a few questions especially after leaving the bookstore.

We visited the famous graveyard in Qum Gulzar e Shoohada, where I learnt how these great people stood up for Islam, us and most importantly their service Allah swt.  I felt indebted to these shaheeds who gave us a chance to be shias today.

Today dinner was different as we had been invited to Sheikh Yasin Devji's house.  We prayed Maghrib namaz on the roof of the apartments.  There was an amazing view.  On one side we could see the haram and on the other side was mount khizr.  After namaz we recited nasheeds and then this was followed on by a discussion on Ziyarats by Sister Salma Khalfaan and an open question answer session.

Dinner was pizza and pasta and Sister Farzana had kindly prepared fruit for us for dessert with an option of ice cream.

Our last day in Qum has already arrived and is over.  The sadness throughout the group can be felt.  When we first came we already wanted to go back but know we want to stay here.  Tomorrow inshallah we are leaving for Mashad.

Bab al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Coming soon ....

Day 14 - Saturday 2nd August 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Shabisan Peera from Arusha Jamaat, Tanzania and Sukaina Bandali from Birmingham Jamaat, UK

Another blessed morning in the Holy City of Qum.  The city of knowledge, the city of Sayyeda Fatema Masuma (AS).  We had the privilege to go for the tour of the haram of Sayyeda Masuma (AS) and we were able to pay our respects on the graves of learned scholars and marajas such as Ayatullah Burujardi, Allamah Tabatabai, Ayatullah Gulpaygani, Ayatullah Hayri (who is the founder of the howza ilmiya in Qum) , Ayatullah Lankarani, Ayatullah Tabrizi, Ayatullah Mishkini and Ayatullah Murtaza Mutahhari.

This visit revived the realisation and appreciation of such great scholars who did everything and anything for us.  It is their hard work with the help of Allah (SWT) and the Ahlul Bayt that we are able to gain Islamic Knowledge.  It also reminds me of a saying that ‘the death of an alim is the death of a nation’.  At this moment, we pray from the bottom of our hearts that Allah (SWT) protect and give long life to our scholars and maraje.

The tour was followed by Salatul Zohr in the haram.  Praying namaz e jamaat gave us a sense of unity and peace in our hearts and this has also helped us increase our concentration in Salaat.  One thing that we have truly realised praying jamaat salaat is the importance and how we in our fast and busy lives overlook its significance.  However, as the saying goes, ‘its never too late’ and we sincerely thank Allah (SWT) for this eye opener and continue asking for his strength and help.

After lunch, we were fortunate enough to have a session with Sister Sabika and she reminded us of our first and foremost duty and that every act has to be done only for the sake of Allah (SWT) and not for any other reason.  This reminds us of another saying which states that ‘every action depends on one’s intention’.

In the evening, we paid a visit to Ansariyan bookshop.  This is one of the most well known bookstores across Iran and also across the world.  The sisters were amazed at the number and variety of books that were available and although everyone had a hard time choosing books, they all left with books that they desired.  Sister Alina Tarbhai from Toronto Jamaat, Canada said:

‘As a book person, I love to read.  Going to Ansariyan Bookshop was like being home.  There were so many books that I could spend just browsing but Alhamdullilah, the few books that I have purchased will keep me satisfied until  inshAllah next time I return.  JazakAllah to the owner who was so patient and kind with us when we were having difficulty picking the books.  Many thanks to him for providing such services.'

A group of sisters were then lucky enough to be able to spend the night in the haram of Bibi Masuma (AS). The atmosphere was such that it was peaceful and serene, so much so that it felt that the gates of heaven were opened and blessings were being showered down.  It gave us the opportunity to open our hearts to actually talk to Bibi Masuma (AS).

Qum has been a city of blessings for us and this is a special gift from the Holy Lady for which we are very grateful.  We pray to The Almighty to keep us under the shade of this Great Lady (our mother) and to bestow more and more knowledge on us.   

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Irfan Moosa, of Stanmore, UK, writes today’s diary:

We woke up recovered from the tiredness from the Tehran trip. Amongst the brothers there were a couple of us that were really looking forward to cupping. We therefore had breakfast and tried getting ready as soon as possible so we could make it on time. We reached the cupping centre and it was so convincing for us to get it done when we saw that they had ahadith from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Imam Ali (A.S) regarding cupping.

Later on the in the day the group went to visit Shaykhan Graveyard. After salaat we all met up near masjide ‘Adham. A couple of minutes later, just before leaving we heard that there was a great personality sitting inside that masjid. It was Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini. He is the author of a very renowned book ‘Self Building’ that has inspired a lot of individuals.

We went inside and saw him sitting on a chair and everyone was surrounding him asking him questions. By the grace of Allah (SWT) we were allowed to speak to him for some time and we also found another ‘Aalim who was willing to translate his advice to us for us.

One of the brothers asked him to give us advise on how we could spend our lives in the west. He gave us a couple of points on what we could do. Some points of advise he gave us were:

  • Prepare yourself here for your challenge there (ie – in the west)
  • Gain knowledge of Aqaid, philosophy and Quran. Learn it yourself and teach others.
  • Nowadays the need of the youth is ethics and spirituality. You need to find proofs for yourself and others
  • Youth are thirsty for Islam. Be a prophet/teacher because you connect better with the other youth and can help them.

We were lucky enough for being allowed to take a picture with him. We finished the day with having a discussion at Shaykh Nadir’s house with Syed Mahmood Kaviani on Thanking Allah, which was inspirational and thought provoking.

Day 7 - Saturday 2nd August 2008

Bab al-Ilm - Sisters (Click 
here for photos)

Tahera Rashid of Africa, writes:

5 am began a new journey of the Baab-ul-ilm summer camp.  Our bus stopped just outside one of the tallest mountains in Tehran called the Darband Mountains.  Our adventure began when we climbed up to the top in our hard to handle Iranian chadors, uncomfortable shoes and bags full of our valuables banging on our shoulders! We had our breakfast in the restaurant that was built half way up the mountain.

As our journey continued we went to pay our respects to two of our very great personalities of Islam.  One of them was sheikh Sudug And the other was Sheikh Rajabali Khayat.  Our next privledge was the honour to give our salutations to three of our great descendants in Islam.  They were the son of our 4th Imam, son of the 7th Imam and the great grandson of the 2nd Imam.

After a hectic and tiring day we finally got one of the best meals we have ever got in Iran ‘burgers and fries’.  As we were having our lunch in the park we saw a huge blue truck reverse under a fountain where children were playing in their bathing suit.  The children moved aside just so that the truck could get washed, and our group laughed and some of us said ‘WELCOME TO IRAN’.

Bab al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Syed Imran Hyder, helper for Bab al-Ilm, writes:

After a good nights sleep, the day began with Namaz e Fajr. The boys were eagerly ready for their expedition, and all headed to the bus for Dar band. Dar band is one of the mountains situated in the north of Tehran, an exquisite tourist resort and a mountain range with attractions for both residents and visiting hikers. With some stops on the way the boys make it close to the top and enjoy the majesty of Allah's creation. When going up on the mountain, it makes one think of how small he is in relation with other creations but yet is the most dignified. One may find himself cut off from the busy world for a while, but will make time to contemplate and reflect on the many issues affecting him and his surroundings. Maybe this had been the main reason for the Prophet to cut off from the society of Mecca for a while, to ponder upon the majesty of Allah’s brilliance. Each of the students was granted sometime of solitude to re-evaluate their priorities and ambitions in life.

With this done, breakfast was served in a restaurant situated on top of the mountain. When the campers had re-fueled, it was time to head back.

“Tiring but interesting, good to see Allah’s beauty, good to go in a team, people actually lived in those areas. But then makes you realize how poor people live, and we live in proper houses.” Baqir Khaki – Stanmore, UK

Once off the mountain range, the boys were on a bus to visit the graves of The Great A’alim Sheikh Sadouq and the great mystic Rajab Ali Khayyat. The campers were briefed on both the personalities and were accounted upon the services they had offered Islam.

The group was escorted to the Shrine of Shah Abd A’zeem el Hasani, the great grandson of Imam Hasan (a.s). Namaz e Zuhrain was offered here, and the ziyarat was recited. The shrine also had the graves of Sayyid Hamza the son of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s), and Sayyid Tahir the son of Imam Musa Kazim (a.s)

“We were briefed about the history of the haram by the mentor, we prayed our namaz they were three shrines, we recited ziyarat, after paying our respect and asked them to be our intercessors on the day of qayamah.” Mohammed Jawad Murji - UAE

By the time the boys were done with their ziyarat, it was time for lunch. The group was treated with burger(s) from Hardees, which were gladly welcomed.

The boys very tired from the hiking had their siesta on the ride to Qom.

After unpacking and washing up, the boys were ready for a last trip of the day. The Ansarian bookshop is famous for publishing books in several different languages, and has many English language customers. The group shopped around for books, and was properly advised on what material to be sought for, depending on their interest.

“A great unique experience, to be able to see all the variety of books from different topics. Books from different languages were also available. I enjoyed the experience.” Muhammed Faraz Tarbhai – UK

The day ended with shopping. Gifts for families and friends were available for the boys to choose from with very reasonable prices. On the way back home the boys were catered with fresh juices to recharge their energy, till the time they get home. Upon arrival dinner was served and the boys were tucked in for a good night's sleep.

Day 13 - Friday 1st August 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click 
here for photos)

By Sajida Bandali (Milton Keynes Jamaat, UK) and Masuma Naqavi (Birmingham Jamaat, UK)

Dawn signalled our time for departure from Qum, for Tehran was awaiting us. We had eagerly anticipated the exploration of the capital city, particularly because of its known western influence; a different ambience to that of Qum. 

Tehran welcomed us with a sea of soldiers as they escorted us during the procession to the shrine of the prestigious Imam Khomeini. As Islamic revolutionary music echoed around its four walls, images of Imam Khomeini’s famous return flashed through our minds, as wells as his victory over the tyrannical Shah. He illuminated the light of khuloos, and was staunch in his stand against oppression. Thus we clung to his shrine in hope for inspiration and aspiration for benevolence.

His jihad against the tyranny of oppression could not have been successful without the millions who gave their blood towards the establishment of a Shia Republic. This was illustrated by our visit to Basht-e-Zahra. As sorrowful as it was, nothing was as heartbreaking as seeing tombstones on which there were photos of 13-14 year olds who had had their whole lives ahead of them, who sacrificed their lives to establish the very essence of Shiaism amongst us. We thus sent our condolences in the form of Sura-e-Fateha to all the shaheed: the 72 members of government who lost their lives to a bomb attack, the 300 committed pilgrims who had been embarking on Hajj, and the millions of strong willed lovers of the Ahlul-Bayt who fought in the Iraq-Iran war.

Zamina Walji of Tanga Jamaat, Tanzania, described it as “unimaginable how indebted we are to them.” 

Torture, oppression and cruelty under the Shah’s reign were only aspects of prison life we had read about, but seeing the recreation of methods of torture in the Savakh prison was something else. How humans could have the heart to authorise and partake in such inhumane and undignified pain on others was something we struggled to digest.

We found ourselves in a coliseum-like-building, five floors high, dingy high lit cells, lining seemingly never ending corridors. We were transported to a world in which men and women who tortured mercilessly until they were physically numb, blood striking their bodies, in which their only hope, faith, salvation lay in “La Ila ilallah”. The realisation hit us that whilst these esteemed personalities had spent their lives devoted to fighting for the cause of Allah (s.w.t), we spent each insignificant day of our own lives ideally watching the world going up, the principle of ‘Not in my Back Yard’ dominating our views on mankind.  It was a huge wake up call in that we realised how important it is to learn from these exalted beings by way of purifying our hearts and souls and so that our only intention is Qurbatan Illalah in order to establish a firm connection with our creator.

For zohrain prayers, we were accordingly invited as V.I.P  guests to the University of Tehran for Salatul Juma. Not forgetting Allah (s.w.t)’s command to remember him during calamities, we recited Namaz-e-Ayyat on the news that there was a solar eclipse.

Our last visit of Tehran was Rey City, which held the shrines of many personalities such as Sheikh Suduk, a son of the 7th Imam and a son of the 4th Imam. Shabana Walji, of Peterborough Jamaat, UK, reflected on the beautiful view as the sun set in Rey City. “As I watched the soft and subtle tones of gold layered atop pinks and purples sweeping the sky, I reflected on all I had seen and learnt that day. I requested Allah (s.w.t) to help me in increasing my faith to ensure that the efforts and sacrifices of the Shuhada were not in vain.”

The two hour ride back to Qum instigated time for deep reflection. The day paved the way for inspiration for the thousands upon thousands who in every way strived for the revival of Shiasim and so on the day of reckoning they can, with pride, say to our Lord, “I did my part.” We pray to Allah (s.w.t.) to give us the strength and inspiration to fight against oppression and injustice against the Shahs of today. Imam Khomeini is the forte of this, and on breathing his last, he epitomised the inner reward for Jihad-ul-Akber. “With a heart full of peace and a heart full of assurance, I leave you, my brothers and sisters, by the grace of Allah (s.w.t) to go towards my Lord.”

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Today’s entry has been written by Mohammad Panju of Stanmore, UK, Syed Uzair Ahmed of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, and Rizwan Kermali from Hyderi, UK:

Mohammad Panju describes our first two activities of the day in Tehran:

Our Journey to Tehran quickly went underway with the first stop being the Imam Khomeini Shrine. The sheer size of the mosque quickly captured our imagination. Waiting in anticipation outside the shrine, we lined up ready for a formal march into the Mosque led by the guard of honour. Walking in, we were welcomed with the presence of the Iranian public all eager to get a glimpse of the event taking place. This only added to how special and important we felt on the day. Taking our time at the Shrine, a recitation of the Ziyaraat was followed by a brief history of the important persons buried at the mosque such as the son of Imam Khomeini – Mustafa Khomeini. Recovering from the excitement of the previous  visit, we reached our second destination Behesht-e-Zahra. This was the place where the martyrs of the Iran Iraq war were buried. The huge number of graves packed close together reminded us all of the brutal war that took place. This was further enhanced as we walked passed the graves adhering to the family photos of each individual buried.

Praying Juma Namaaz at Tehran University and praying Namaaz-e-Ayat has been discussed by Syed Uzair Ahmed of Regina, Saskatchewan.

What captured my attention the most when I first heard about this trip – apart from the Haram of Imam Raza and Bibi Masuma (AS) – was the prospect of attending Jumma prayers at Tehran University. Because of their historical significance, in my opinion the prayers are the most potent symbol of the Islamic Revolution, and to attend this congregation, meant participating personally in the great event. To add to this, we were treated as special guests of the Islamic Republic and in a congregation of two million people, were seated in the third row! It seemed all of downtown Tehran was closed off to traffic, and the walk through the empty streets towards the University – the city completely silent except for the pre-Khutba lecture in the background – was all anticipation, culminating in the arrival to the auditorium. We were whisked inside through the VIP entrance, and after numerous security clearances and searches seated in a reserved section just behind the dignitaries. It was disappointing that Ayatullah Khamanaei was not leading the prayers but Ayatollah Jannati delivered an excellent Khutba, discussing the month of Shaban, and the sin of back-biting. The mood after the prayers was joyous, and even though the security conditions meant that cameras weren’t present to capture the memory, I am quite sure that none of us will forget this event for a long time.
Since a partial solar eclipse was to happen on Friday, Namaz-e-Ayat had become wajib for us and after lunch, we headed to a beautiful park nearby. It seemed appropriate that we should offer this prayer under the open sky and in a natural setting, and it helped us achieve a sense of tranquillity and oneness with our surroundings.

Rizwan Kermali tells us about our trip to the Prison of those tortured before the revolution and the visit to Shah Abdul Azim

We then went to the prisons were the Shah’s Secret Service known as SAVAK who detained Iranian revolutionists and submitted them to horrible tortures.  In fact, the gentleman who was describing the vicious treatment that the inmates were subjected to was himself a prisoner there for three months.
Out of more than 70 different types of tortures that the guards inflicted, the gentleman described only a few.  Some revolutionaries were chained to the iron fences as if they were crucified, other prisoners had their heads submerged under water for prolonged periods, whilst one man was chained to a metal bed for 165 days.  Our distressed faces then looked on to the photographs of some of the key figures of the uprising, where we saw Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his two brothers as well as Ayatollah Rafsanjani.

We then spent the final part of our day at the shrine of Shah Abdul Azim Al Hassani. 

We performed the Ziyarat of these prominent figures in three groups, as there was such a lot of rush.  Even then we still lost members of the group who subsequently rejoined the group at the beautiful fountains outside the shrines as we had previously arranged.  This was just a taste of the crowding that we would see at Mashad while performing the Ziyarat of Imam Ali Reza.  After prayers, we headed back to the coach for our trip back to Qum, physically exhausted, spiritually revived and not to mention hungry too!

The day itself was also a mix of extreme emotions. The guard of honour was a source of pride and humbleness at the same time as the soldiers saluted us in the shrine of Imam Khomeini.  The graveyards were a spring of sadness, where we witnessed the bravery of the people who drew inspiration from Imam Hussain’s plight and died fighting for their country.  The prisons only scarred our faces with horror as we realised that animals like Shimr and Hurmullah aren’t reserved just for history books.  In the end, the message that we had drilled into our heads was summed up by a patch of graffiti on one of the prison walls that simply stated: Freedom is not Free.

Day 6 - Friday 1st August 2008

Bab al-Ilm - Sisters  (Click here for photos)

Fatimah Jessa of London, UK:

At 5 in the morning both Madinatul ilm and Baabul ilm girls sat inside the Jamia waiting impatiently for their coaches to arrive.  During the following hours journey all the girls were sound asleep only to be woken up by the voices of their mentors telling them it was time for their 'breakfast in the park'- more like in the middle of a roundabout!!!  The menu consisted of coco pops which brought back memories of home for us all.

Although we had been warned by our mentors that a visit to Imam Khomeini's shrine was planned we were unaware that our arrival would be celebrated in the form of a procession.  Walking in-between two lines of marching soldiers, it was hard for most of us to keep a straight face at their sombre expressions and rather unusual choice of footwear.

This VIP treatment continued throughout, at our next stop, the University of Tehran.  Many people shuffled up to allow us to sit in the first few lines of Juma prayers.  Furthermore we were offered a glass of cold water upon being seated.  Some of us were also presented with gifts from neighbours, khaak e shafa tasbeehs, mohrs and sweets.

Next we visited the graves of men who were under the command of Imam Khomeini.  It was a very emotional moment for all of us as we knew everyone of these 5000 men and women (and many others whose bodies had remained nameless) had died to ensure that the Muslim generations to come would safely be able to visit the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The busy day continued with a solar eclipse at 2.40pm so we prayed namaz e ayat in congregation in a .... park.  The breathtaking scenery made it impossible for us to walk away without taking some pictures.  Afterwards we headed off to our first Iranian restaurant were we were served a timeless Persian speciality, chello kebab!

The time came to say farewell to the Madina sisters and head of down south to the Shah's palace.  He was a man who used corruption to encourage the downfall of Islam.  The Shah's palace covered 5000 sq feet and was built within 4 years.  It was no average sized house that's for sure.  During the tour we learnt much about the Shah's life style.

After exploring the palace in depth it was time for a break i.e. ice cream.  The grounds were even more phenomenal than the actual palace itself.  Sitting by fountains we took in the beauty of the surrounding area. Our enjoyment increased by the fact that the weather was relatively cool.

Exhausted we travelled to the musafar khana, an entirely new experience for many of us.  We all ate Pakistani biryani side by side with travellers from far across Iran and different countries.  We exchanged smiles and attempted at conversations.

A quick shower before we could collapse onto our make shift beds.

Bab al-Ilm - Brothers (Click 
here for photos)

Zamin Alidina, student-helper for Bab al-Ilm writes:

The start of our journey to Tehran! After Salaat al-Fajr, the boys got their bags ready, the coach was loaded up and off we went!

STOP 1 - The group arrived in Tehran in the early hours of the day and breakfast was set up in a beautiful park. Mohammad Baqir Khaki from the UK had this to say:

"After a 2 hours journey from Qum to Tehran, it was a very pleasant surprise to stop at a park for breakfast, especially since the Madinah al-Ilm brothers decided to meet up with us. It was an amazing feeling to see all the brothers sitting together in 1 long row, all sharing the food together and joking with each other as if we knew each other for years! On top of that, the weather was quite cool and the view was refreshing."

STOP 2 - Following the breakfast in the park, the group was in for yet another surprise. Hassan Ali Hussein from Toronto lets us in on what happened:

"We were taken to the shrine of Imam Khomeini, where there was a grand ceremony to be held by the Iranian military in memory of Imam Khomeini, but one thing we weren’t told beforehand…we were the VIP guests!! All the participants lined up into 4 lines as we headed for the Ziyarah and we had the Iranian military lined up on either side of us…it was very professional! They really made us feel special! It was remarkable to see the extent of respect the Iranian people have for Imam Khomeini."

STOP 3 - Beheshte Zahra cemetery. Muhammed Faraz Tarbhai of Toronto shares his experience:

"It is hard to express in words the feeling of being surrounded on all sides with martyrs, who have such an elevated status in Islam. Indeed, they are the ones who are truly living and we are the dead ones! We were taken to the grave of a thirteen years old martyr in the Iran – Iraq war. His grave would constantly give out a sweet scent, which made the whole agonizing episode of Ashura flash through my mind. Another highlight was visiting the grave of a man whose sole responsibility in the war was to provide water to the soldiers. It is said that he would never drink the water himself; instead, he would always pass it on to others to drink. Unsurprisingly, since the day of his burial to the present day, his grave constantly gives out water! SubhanAllah…may Allah [swt] also allow us to die the death of martyrs."

STOP 4 -  Salaat al-Jumu’a at Tehran University. Mohammed Jawad Murji shares his thoughts:

"After the heavy security checks, we stepped in to the massive congregation of thousands of fellow Muslims. Similar to the morning, we were once again treated as VIPs. They very respectfully offered us seats right at the front of the Jamaat and even gave us headsets for live translation of the khutbas! And if that wasn’t enough, at the end of salaah, they even announced that there was international presence at the congregation referring to us. I felt that this was a lesson on hospitality for all of us!"

After the Friday prayers, the group proceeded to have lunch in a restaurant where they each ate the famous Iranian dish, Chelo kebab, to their full. Now was the time for the last visit for the day. The brothers were taken to see the Shah’s palace with the aim of showing them first hand, the type of lifestyle he used to live. Mehdi Karim from Mwanza:

"This was truly something you would call a palace. It was filled with all sorts of luxuries, with expensive items from different cultures. It was quite an enlightening experience to witness the difference in the lifestyle of the Shah and Imam Khomeini when the latter became the Rahbar."

Finally, after a packed day of activities, the campers headed to their accommodation where they rested for the night, anxiously awaiting the next day’s trips.

Day 12 - Thursday 31st July 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Sabiha Kassam and Alina Tarbhai:

It’s dawning upon us that these are our last few days in Qum. As blessed and excited as we feel about visiting Imam Al-Ridha (a.s) in Mashad, we can’t help but feel sadness at the thought of leaving our wonderful home. Jamiah Al Zahra has been the best home and Bibi Fatema Zahra (a.s), the best host.

Our last Thursday in Qum started with a few devoted girls praying Namaz-e-Shab in the Haram of Bibi Masooma-e-Qum (a.s). One of the girls expressed her feelings about this:

“Even though we woke up at 3.30am, praying Namaz-e-Shab in the Haram surrounded by devoted worshippers was a refreshing experience. While we are used to praying Namaz-e-Shab on our own, this morning made me realise that so many people sacrifice their sleep for Allah (s.w.t). Starting my day with this thought was spiritually uplifting.”

Today our lecture topic was Fiqh and Usool. We were taught by the knowledgeable Sheikh Nadir Jaffer, who clarified many confusions we had about Fiqh and certain aspects regarding Taqleed. We have been lucky to have had many lectures by Sheikh Nadir before, and each time he leaves us amazed at the vastness of his knowledge.

After Dhuhr Namaz and lunch, we were fortunate to visit Sheikh Mohammad Khalfan at his home for a question and answer session. We got a bit lost on the way in midst of the narrow alleys of Qum, but Alhamdulillah we arrived safely at his home. We were welcomed and sat comfortably in his library feeling privileged to have the opportunity to speak to this man. Our sister Sukaina Bandali from Birmingham Jamaat, UK, says:

“Though we hadn’t known Sheikh Khalfan for a long time, we felt very at home with him and his approachable manner made asking questions very easy. We touched on many topics that were on our minds, often referring to the Qu’ran, as the Sheikh has great knowledge about the Holy Book. Out of all the topics that came up, the issue of what is preached to us in regards to the events of Kerbala and what is so easily accepted by us, was elaborated upon. This reinforced to us that we are on the right track to question and to seek out our knowledge, which is often classed as taboo in our communities. Sheikh Khalfan’s humble nature and vast knowledge made two hours pass by like mere seconds and we have all become great fans!”

As it was the last Thursday of Rajab, we went to give our Salaams to Bibi Masooma (a.s.) at the Haram and to recite Dua Kumayl. To see so many people come together at this Holy Shrine was both powerful and moving, making us realise the strength of the Shia Muslims. Our sister Mohadissa Jaffer from Peterborough Jamaat, UK, quotes:

“Being in the illuminated presence of Bibi Masooma (a.s) on the last Thursday night of Rajab caused tears to well in our eyes before Dua Kumayl had even begun. The gentle humming of Istighfar could be heard throughout the moonlit courtyard as thousands of hopeful slaves turned towards The Almighty, arms raised, in pure devotion.”

We pray through Bibi Masooma (a.s) and Bibi Fatema Zahra (a.s) that we are able to come back to Qum and InshAllah spend many more Thursday nights in this Holy City.

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Kumail Remtulla, student-helper for Madinah al-Ilm, writes:

Upon rising this morning for Fajr Namaaz, the after effects of yesterday's Mab’ath and Me’raj programme carried on into today. It is through truly knowing, believing, and acting on the message of our Holy Prophet (SWT) when hearts find peace.

This day is our last Thursday in the Holy City of Qum. We started off the day with the final class on Qur’anic Principles by Sheikh Muhammad Khalfan. This was a very interesting session, with sheikh also offering advice on marriage in Islam.

We then went to the Ansariyan Bookstore where a number of brothers bought a number of books in English. After this, we all proceeded for what would be our last Dua Kumail at the Haram of Bibi Masuma (AS).

One of our Bosnian brothers, explains his experience:

"The recitation of Dua Kumail made me feel very happy and allowed me to fulfil my obligation to Hazrat Masuma (AS). The atmosphere was very vibrant and engaging and I have never experienced such a recitation of Dua Kumail before. The meaning of the Dua is very deep and emotional. This allows me to reflect on my life and identify ways in which I can strengthen my connection with the Almighty. Upon leaving the haram I was feeling a sense of sadness as I am not sure when I will be able to listen and recite Dua Kumail in the manner it was recited. I hope and pray that I am given the opportunity to visit the shrine of Hazrat Masuma for Dua Kumail again."

On a final note, the Dua Kumail recitation was one that was very unique and powerful. It will also be one that will be hard to forget, but will be used Inshallah to help us all reach closer to Allah, fulfilling one of the important objectives of the trip.

Day 5 - Thursday 31st July 2008

Bab al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Anisa Kassamali of Stanmore, UK, writes:
Disregarding our exhaustion from the previous day we made a unanimous decision to go to the haram for namaz-e-shab. A choice that none of us will regret - the Haram was beautiful. Although this was our second visit, our surroundings did not fail to astound us once again. Even more breathtaking than the intricate decorations (the walls glittered with thousands of mirrors) was the sense of peace that overwhelmed us from the moment of our arrival. It has to be said that our lingering drowsiness was an advantage in this case; too tired for conversation we devoted our thoughts to our prayers and Bibi Masuma-e-Qum.

Eventually we had to pay for our early morning combined with a late night.  9:20am saw fourteen girls haphazardly making coffee and power drinks in an attempt to survive the upcoming lessons! Luckily these precautions turned out to be unnecessary; our lessons, taught by Batool Arustu and Sheikh Shomali, were stimulating and interesting. Batool Arustu imparted her knowledge about the arrival of the 12th Imam followed by Sheikh Shomali’s analysis of a common Rajab dua. 

Then-free time, i.e. a nap! Refreshed we then headed off to Bait ul Noor, the place in which Bibi Mausuma-e-Qum spent her final moments praying to Allah. After that back to the Haram for Namaz and dua Kumayl; the perfect end to our fourth day in Iran. 

‘Dua Kumayl honestly touched me today.  I’ve never sat with such a large congregation recting the same prayer.  This was a truly unique experience.’ Fatimah Jessa, Stanmore.

Bab al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Sayyed Imran Hyder, helper for Bab al-Ilm writes:

The brothers started their day with the fajr namaz as they have been doing for the last few days. After the namaz e jama’at one of the campers recited dua e ahd. All of the soldiers of the Imam (a.s) recited together. By doing so, they swore allegiance to the Imam of the age, and asked Allah to be granted permission and power to assist their Imam (a.s) in his stage of occultation and after his re-appearance.

Today was the last class held by Mrs. Batool Arastu - after explaining the existence of Allah, and also going through the stages of prophethood, the last class was aimed at the understanding of imamate and more importantly Imam-e-Zamana (a.s). Today’s session was a hit with the boys, because the topic was up to date, explaining all the motives of the Imam and his passage of revolution after his re-appearance. How the Sufyani was to be identified and how the people would swear allegiance, was all graphically presented on a map which was very well illustrated.

After a period of refreshment, the boys were back in gear for a class of Quran with Shaykh Shomali. The class lasted for an hour which only seemed to be no more than a few minutes. As the saying goes: ‘When having fun, time flies’, so it did! The children were fascinated by the great knowledge of Shaykh Shomali, and of all the things that he said. Not many of the things were new to the listeners but when regular text is accompanied by a good teacher, it’s like a brush in an expert artist’s hand. After the open-minded session with Shaykh Shomali the boys prepared to leave for the Haram for their Zuharain prayers.

At the Haram for namaz and ziyarat of Bibi Masooma (s.a), the boys gathered together to enter the hall of the Zari. After reciting the Statement of permission [Izn e Dukhool] the students entered the great hall and were absorbed by the majesty of the abode.  After the Ziyarat was read the boys met up at the pickup point to come back home for lunch.

Lunch came as a surprise for many, having missed pizza for so long, the boys were finely treated with their favorite slices and went back for rest satisfied.

As planned, a trip to Bayt Noor [House of Light] was arranged where they visited the historical place of the temporary residence of Bibi Masooma (s.a). 2 rak’at namaz was performed and a marsiya was also recited to honor the dignified station of the Masooma (s.a).

"To feel that Lady Masooma was actually there, this is the place where she passed away and actually visiting the place and listening to the story of her life was just amazing – Mehdi Karim." (Tanzania)

We also visited Syed Musavi Lari’s residence, where the campers met with the Syed and were offered invaluable advices. The Syed also gifted two books each to all of his visitors and gave them his blessings wishing them success in this world and the hereafter.

The day ended with a visit to the Mountain of Prophet Kidhr (a.s). Dua e Kumail was recited by the volunteers and the campers cherished the moment of solitude away from the hassle of everyday life.

"We understand how the Urafa enjoyed going up mountains, maybe it was when they felt leaving the world behind them and climbing the heights of closeness to Allah (s.w.t). Praying there was a very spiritual experience." Kazim Habib (Canada)

Dinner was served and bags packed for a big day ahead in the capital tomorrow.

Day 11 - Wednesday 30th July 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Swaleha Karim (Orlando, Florida) and Tahira Kassamali (London, UK):

Our day began with a workshop on Family Ethics. This two and a half hour session particularly concentrated on the topic of spouse selection. This was extremely interesting as it provided us with food for thought as well as useful advice on how to prepare oneself for a successful marriage.  With guidance supported by The Qur’an and narrations from the Ahlul Bayt, it was both informative and eye opening and ended with a healthy question and answer session. One of our sisters commented:

“The workshop held by Sheikh Ali Azim Shirazi on spouse selection was very informative. It gave us guidelines on what to look for in a spouse in order to have a successful marriage. We pray to the Almighty Allah (SWT) to guide us when we take this important step in our life.”

We returned to our rooms for Zohr prayer and then got ready to go swimming. All the girls enjoyed this trip and the swim was quite an experience as we had to follow the Iranians rules and regulations of using the swimming pool, which was somewhat new to us. Zahra Valji, from Essex Jamaat, UK, said:

“After many days of constant hustle and bustle of lessons and visits, relaxing in the pool was extremely refreshing and an exhilarating experience!”

Later in the evening, we were fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to meet a student of Ayatollah Behjat, which was followed by Namaaz and the Meraj celebration programme. Ayatollah Behjat’s student’s lecture was very inspiring as he talked about the Prophet (SAW) and the high status that this great personality holds amongst the Shias.  The most inspirational thing about this scholar was that he was so learned and this was proved through the question and answer session. 

The Meraj program started off with Qur’an recitation followed by kasidas. An enlightening speech on the duty of shias living in the west was delivered by Ayatollah Mahdi Hadavi Tehrani. He also placed great emphasis on the role of tableegh.  Being given the opportunity to spend Mer’aj in Qum has been a truly unique experience and one which is definitely different to that at home.  We thank Allah (SWT) for giving us all this opportunity to be in Iran during the blessed months of Rajab and Shabaan.

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Kumail Remtulla, student-helper for Madinah al-Ilm, writes:

As we woke up this morning, Jamkaran was still fresh in our minds. May the euphoria and energy from the visit last for the longest time possible! It was also the day of Mab'ath and Meraj.

We started the day with a lecture on Aqaid by Sheikh Nadir, and on Qur’anic principles by Sheikh Muhammad Khalfan. We then had a visit by Ayatullah Tahriri and finished with the Khushali programme at the Qum Office.

Najaf Shah of Watford, UK discusses Sh. Khalfan’s class today and the visit by Ayatullah Tahriri:

"The day started with a class conducted by Sheikh Khalfan, on Qur’anic principles. The sheikh gave a very enlightening and informative session and answered any questions we had. He also gave us practical advice that we could implement in our everyday life. In the evening we had an audience with Ayatullah Tahriri. He gave a short introduction after which he opened the floor for questions and answered them. This man has been a student of many great teachers and enlightened us with his words, by speaking about the creation of man, irfan and spirituality."

Asif Hashmani of Stanmore, UK talks us through the Mer’aj programme:

"Our evening programme was held at Dar-e-Zahra (World Federation Office). As it was the day of Mab’ath a special programme was organised by the Qum World Federation Office for both the Madinatul-Ilm and Babul-Ilm students, as well as the local community. The programme commenced in the traditional manner of recitation of the Holy Qura’an followed by recitation of Qasidas by a few Madinatul-Ilm students. The main speech was delivered by a renowned scholar; Ayatullah Hadawi Tehrani. He discussed Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) role in spreading the message of Islam and how this has helped keep our religion alive. For example, the Qur’an has never been changed, and so is therefore something that has been preserved through the coming of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) The opportunity of socialising with the local community made the evening more interesting."

Alhamdulillah the day went smoothly and the participants enjoyed the lessons, Ayatullah visit, and the Mab’ath programme.

Day 4 - Wednesday 30th July 2008

Bab al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Fatema Khimji, student-helper for Bab al-Ilm, writes:

We were finally able to visit Hazrat Masuma's shrine for the first time in this trip. The experience was absolutely amazing. Before arriving I was aware of the great lady's high status but didn’t not expect the profound impact she would have on me.  I soon learned that Hazrat Masuma shared many similarities with the lady of light, Hazrat Fatema.  Whilst sitting infront of the zari and sharing my hajaats with this pure lady, I realized that I had developed an intense love for her.  Who cannot love her after learning of her astounding character?

I found myself wanting to stay in the shrine for the rest of the day, but unfortunately we had to leave.  However the little time we spent in the haram had an unbelievable effect.  Inshallah we will visit her shrine again tomorrow for salat ul layl.

Today we also went swimming and to Dar al-Zahra where the World Federation office is located.  We were really happy with the cooldown we got in the pool, especially since we don’t get this opportunity in the west.  We did not expect that the pool officials would check us even more thorougly than airport security guards, making sure we were wearing proper swimming suits.

In Dar ul Zahra we celebrated the auspicious occasion of Maba’ath.  Overall today was one of the best days of the trip so far.

Bab al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Zamin Alidina, student-helper for Bab al-Ilm, writes:
The brothers woke up for Namaz e Fajr which took place at the Haram of Hazrat e Masooma (s.a) where they prayed and sat down for their Quran class. They were delighted by the presence of Dr. Shomali who spoke about the city of Qom, and the Holy Haram and also mentioned a brief history on the life of Bibi Masooma (‘a).

When arriving back at home from the Ziyarat, breakfast was ready and waiting to be served, the boys were surprised to find cereals familiar to ones from home; the lot had a good time and a hefty brunch.

Sister Batool Arastu delivered an enlightening Aqaid class, teaching them new ways on freely thinking about their faith and securing it. With the majority of their questions solved and having a clear idea on the Shi’a belief they were served refreshments to relax and prepare for their next class which would be on jurisprudence - Fiqh.

The Fiqh class proved enjoyable and was received well. The class was conducted by Syed Imran Haider who held a very interactive class, with many questions answered.

Hasan Ali Hussain of Canada:

"The ahkam class was fun and very informative."

Bilal Sheikh of UK:

"Usually the fiqh classes are rather boring and the boys tend to doze off in class, but since the teacher made it fun with jokes and answered most of the questions, it was very helpful."

The campers were then taken for swimming in the Hawza sports complex in Qom, where they had a fun time, the mentors, supervisors and the organizers all accompanied the children for their excursion, which opened more room for the children to feel relaxed around their elders.

Muhammed Faraz Tarbhai of Canada:

"The experience allowed the kids to interact, not only as Muslims but as friends."

After returning from the sports complex the boys got ready for the khushhali at night, which was to be held the WF office in Qom. Ayatullah Tahriri was generous enough to meet with all the boys and answer their queries relating to their spiritual selves. Ayatollah Tahriri is one of the most renowned mystics of this time and also a student of the late Allamah Tabatabai. Maghribain namaz was held at the office of The World Federation, and after namaz, Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani joined us and spoke for the Mab’ath night. 

Mohammed Baqir Khaki of UK:

"A variety of things were nice, the questions and answers were very helpful, in the limited time, and the qasidas were good."

Lights were out at 12:00 and boys went to rest and be ready for the next day.

Day 10 - Tuesday 29th July 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click 
here for photos)

This diary is from Mohadissa Jaffer, Peterborough, UK, and Zahra Valji, Essex, UK:

After being inspired by Agha Shomali in the late hours of the night, ten exhausted sisters gathered the energy to make their way to the Harem of Bibi Masuma-e-Qum (a.s) for Salaatul Layl on the wafaat of Hazrat Abu Talib (a.s). The journey to the blessed shrine was silent, with all sisters deep in contemplation; we have been blessed to get the opportunity to come here, but how will we continue this spirituality and connection with Allah (swt) when we return home? As we entered the now familiar courtyard of this holy place, the sharp contrast between the jet black sky and the light which emanated from the dome struck us afresh. In the midst of corruption, the city of Qum stands out as being a haven for the Shi’as of the world, particularly as the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a.s) dawns ever closer. It is no coincidence that Bibi Masooma (a.s) chose to be buried here; she has made Qum into a city of love, knowledge and spirituality and we suddenly realised the great responsibility we have in maintaining this relationship as we enter the second week of our journey.

A few hours of precious sleep back at the Jamia was followed by our first workshop style lesson with Sheikh Ali Azim Shirazi on the vast topic of self recognition. The aim was to make us reflect on our very existence; goals, characteristics and aspirations, all of which shape our behavior and actions in this world. We found that this lecture beautifully summed up our reasons for coming to Iran using a modern and very appealing method. Nobody walked out of the classroom without a clear set of objectives with the common hope of bringing ourselves closer to Allah (swt) inshaAllah in the footsteps of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s).

"Surprisingly, we had a lot of free time in which we prayed, ate and even managed to have an appreciated afternoon siesta. We were told to meet in the salon for an informal lecture with a sister from Los Angeles who is currently studying at the Jamia. We really didn’t know what to expect, but the charge and emotion in the words of Sister Sabeeka shook us all to the very core. The materialistic monotony of every day life makes it so easy to forget about the Akhirah. However, in His infinite Mercy and Wisdom, Allah (swt) has bestowed upon us three sacred months in which to purify ourselves. Mahe Rajab is the month of istaghfar in which we can cleanse our hearts after which we can fill our hearts with the noor of Ahlul Bayt (a.s) comes in the form of Mahe Shabaan which is the month of our Holy Prophet. The importance of Mahe Ramadhan is infamous; we have the blessed opportunity to find our true essence through self-discipline and supplication. As the Holy Prophet (s.a.w) has said: “It is the month, whose beginning is mercy, its middle, forgiveness and its end, emancipation from the fire (of hell).”

Sister Sabeeka then went on to educate us on the Iran-Iraq war and its martyrs, whose sacrifices make up the foundation of what Iran is today. We learned of specific stories and heroes and we were privileged to visit an inspiring room which Sabeeha Kassam from Stanmore Jamaat describes:

“A tour of the memorial room helped us truly connect to the shaheeds. From photos to sandbags, the display was fantastic; the students of Jamiah tuz zahra had put an immense effort into depicting the war.  After our tour of the room, we recited Ziyaart-e-Ashura for the thawaab of the shaheeds, it was one of the little things we could do for them.
"The Ziyaarat was led by Zainub, a Saudi Arabian sister. Mashallah her recitation was so powerful, her voice echoed throught the room touching our hearts. Tears running, heads bowed, we remembered the sacrifice of Imam Hussein (as) and the brave shaheeds of the war, making us proud to be Shi’a and truly blessed to be here in Iran.”

In the evening, we made the journey for Masjid-e-Jamkiran for Du’a Tawassul. Our hearts ached with the knowledge that this would be our final visit to the holy station of Imam-al-Asr (a.s). As our rickety bus rolled down the streets of Qum towards the Mosque, the invocations to our Lord to hasten the reappearance of our Imam (a.s) touched our souls and caused our eyes to fill with tears as some sisters recited;

Madad Kijeye Ya Imaam-e-Zamaana,
Help us O Imam-e-Zamana!

Hata Dijiye Ghaibat ka, Pardah Khudara
O Allah! Lift up our veils to be able to see our Imam during his occultation. Ameen.

Sukaina Bandali from Birmingham Jamat describes her experience:

“The privilege of being here tonight and having the opportunity to be in the presence of our Imam (a.s) floods our hearts with immense love. This makes us realise how much we need to give up before the Imam (a.s) can stop waiting and come to guide us.”

As the bus departed, we saw the last glimpse of the radiant dome and clear green flag. However, as Sister Sabeeka reminded us, our individual jihad is still going on just as the red flag on the shrine of Imam Hussain (a.s) is ever strong.

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Kumail Remtulla, student-helper for Madinah al-Ilm, writes:

The main highlight of today was our last visit to Jamkaran where we performed A’maal and listened to Dua-e-Tawassul. Bearing in mind how powerful the atmosphere is at this place, it gave participants time for reflection as to how they can best use their last chance of the trip at this place.

In addition to the visit to Jamkaran, our Aqaid class today with Sheikh Nadir proved to be thoughtful and enlightening.

Muhammad Panju of Stanmore, UK discusses his learnings:

"The Aqaid lesson consisted of one of the most fundamental topics directly affecting mankind: the existence of God. Sheikh Nadir played the role of an atheist allowing a fully interactive session discussing the existence of God. Philosophical ideas were considered as well as the many signs of God in everything we see and do. The perfection of creation, the perfection of the human being, and the harmony in which the Earth moves amongst its surroundings all helped strengthen the support for an almighty creator. The debate ended in agreement on the fact that it is beneficial to both parties to believe in the existence of God and to lead the life of a believer in order to avoid punishment and have the possibility of obtaining paradise."

Heading towards Jamkaran for Amaal and Dua Tawassul allowed all of the participants to ponder over their lives and how they can use today to get closer to Allah through the Ahlul-Bayt. With the 12th Imam physically present and bearing that in mind, the dua becomes different to any ordinary recitation elsewhere.

Sajjad Panju of Kenya describes his experience:

"Masjid-e-Jamkaran- the land where one can get closest to our Holy Imam. Thanks to Sheikh Nadir who gave us some vital tips on how to prepare for our last visit to this sacred place. His tips prepared us mentally and spiritually such that everyone was quiet and kept to themselves in the bus, for actually the first time during this trip! Upon reaching the sacred place and after meeting with the Bab al-Ilm students we went to get arizas we had a few minutes before Maghrib time. The atmosphere was just unique! Thousands of people moving around rushing for prayers, others praying to the almighty Lord and others silently seated and contemplating. Even the birds were praying and calling upon the Imam. Alhamdulillah, almost all of us got the chance to pray our Maghribain prayers inside the mosque after which we prayed the 4 rakaat namaaz of Imam Mehdi (ATF). Reciting Dua-e-Tawassul together with hundreds of thousands of people was something I’ve never experienced before! It was something really special. At this point I sincerely thank the Almighty Allah SWT for granting me this opportunity for coming to Iran.
"After Dua-e-Tawassul we recited Dua-e-Nudba, whereby one calls upon the Imam asking him; where is he and praying for his safety and quick occultation. We then recited Dua Ahad and finished off with Ziyarat-e-Aale Yasin.
"It was then time to time. I felt a sense of belonging to this sacred place and didn’t really want to leave. It was certainly a tearful departure! Inshallah I pray to the Almighty to bless us with the opportunity to come back together in the near future. Ameen!"

The final trip to Jamkaran was a very emotional one for a number of participants. The attraction of the place was so profound that a number of participants had a hard time parting from the place and getting on the bus. There is always the question of whether one will be back again at this mosque of the Living Imam (ATFS). However, we do pray that Allah SWT inshallah grants everyone wishing to visit an opportunity to do so. Amen.

Preparation is underway for the celebration of Mab’ath and Meraj....

Day 3 - Tuesday 29th July 2008

Bab al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Aamena Hussein, Canada, writes:

Today was the start of our classes and our trip to Masjid e Jamkaran.  We woke up, ate breakfast and went for classes. We were very excited as it was a step further in making the atmosphere even better. Unsure of what to expect we tolerated the heat under our chadors and enjoyed the never ending ‘honking’ that went on around us whilst we were traveling in our bus.

Our first class was on Aqaid by Sister Batul Arastu which was amazing.  She went further into the basics of which we already knew based on the topic of Usul e Deen.  This was put together very nicely.  Our next class was Ahkam (Practical laws) where we learnt about Taharat.  Once again some of it was stuff that we already knew but it was enlightening because we watched a movie on taharat and having that bit of visual in class was nice.

When we returned back to Jamia we were exhausted as we didn’t really have a successful night of sleeping due to the mingling that was going on between the groups of new friends we all had made.

After praying namaz e jamaat we had a moving session on the stories of the shohoda with Sister Sabeeka who studies at Jamia.  We heard about the 12 year olds who went to war during the revolution because they felt it was their duty. That made us all feel so ignorant because we are all 14 + , and when we were 12 we would have thought much differently.  The session was then followed on by the most heartfelt and moving Ziyarat e Ashura which was recited for us by an Arab student studying at Jamia too.  There was so much emotion in the ladies voice, it was unbelievable.

The evening program was held at Jamkaran where we prayed Maghribain prayers.  But we prayed these in the courtyard because the sacred place was so busy being a Tuesday, Rajab and the night of Mab’ath and Meraj.  We listened to a Farsi majlis which was given by one of the best teachers in Jamia tuz Zahra and was graciously translated by one of our mentors. Finally we ended the evening by listening to ‘ an amazingly full of emotion’ dua e tawasul.  You could not listen to it without being brought to tears.  What made this experience even more special was that we were aware that the 12th Imam was there on the same piece of land and we all felt his presence.   Overall this trip so far has been an amazing experience.

Bab al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Zamin Alidina, student-helper for Bab al-Ilm, writes:

Participants woke up early and prepared to pray Salaat al-Jamaat in the courtyard of our residence - and what an experience it turned out to be! The sky was still dark and the cool morning breeze swept past our faces. At a time when most of the world would be fast asleep, the Mu’mineen in a small city of the Islamic Republic awoke to the cries of the angels.

Following the prayers, the group sat down in a circle ready for our daily morning Qur’an recitation class. Each one of us took turns to recite some verses from the Holy scripture and we were given advice on how to improve our recitation. Sayyed Imran Hyder ended the session by giving a brief explanation of the messages of the Surah.

In the afternoon, the group set out for Salaat al-Dhuhr in the Haram, where we were blessed with the opportunity to pray behind Ayatullah Ja’fer Subhani and following the prayers, he even humbly agreed to address any questions we might have. The group then set out for their Ziyarah of Lady Ma’suma (as). The brothers were also given a tour of the Haram and introduced to our great ‘ulama and ‘urafa who are buried in the Holy Sanctuary.

In the evening, with the aim of renewing their covenant with the Master of the Age (aj), the group set out for the grand mosque built under the instructions of the Holy Imam (as) himself - Masjid e Jamkaran. Mohammad Jawad Murji of Dubai recollects his memories of the night:

"There were two events lined up for the campers tonight, Shabe Mab’ath and Dua Tawassul at Jamkaran. We reached Jamkaran approximately 1 hour before Salaat al-Maghrib, perfect time to witness the sunset at this Holy mosque. The organisers set up a beautiful place of prayer under the open sky.  The helpers briefed us on the mosque and what special prayers had to be recited. We were encouraged to spend some time by ourselves in self-reflection, a time I cherished and which helped me focus on my goals for the days coming.  As prayers finished, the mosque started to flood with believers all rushing in and finding a space under the sky. I felt like a drop in the ocean – humble  by myself, but unstoppable after joining hands with fellow soldiers of the Imam [‘a] from all over the world!  After writing the Areezas and putting them in the well, hoping the Imam [‘a] gets it and listens to our Haajaat, we proceeded to the meeting place and got ready for dua Tawassul. This was one of the nights that the campers won’t forget – that is, it was an experience of a lifetime. We hope Allah [swt] accepts our A’maal and we pray for the reappearance of our 12th Holy Imam [‘a]."

Day 9 - Monday 28th July 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

This diary has been sent by Tehseen Rajpar of Trollhatten, Sweden, and Ma’asuma Naqvi, Birmingham, UK: 

On the shahadaat of our 7th Imam, Imam Musa-Kadhim (AS), we would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to the Imam of Our Time (ATFS) and all the shias around the world. 
After an adventurous weekend in Isfahan, we began Monday morning with Fajr Salaat at Jamia. At midday, we got ready to go to the Imam Khomeini Madressa where we had the opportunity to listen to and meet a young and talented hafiz of Quran, Nahjul Balagha and Sahifa Sajjadiya. We were able to ask him questions about the Quran and were enlightened by the steps he recommended to take in order to acquire the same abilities that he possessed.  We also recited a verse from the Quran and were amazed by how he was able to tell us its ayat number and the Surah in which it could be found. Two of our sisters shared their views on meeting this talented personality.

Shabana Walji, Peterborough Jamaat, U.K:

I was in awe of this youth who, at only 15, had such vast amounts of knowledge at his fingertips. It was impossible for a person such as myself with such little ilm to even begin to comprehend the powers of the mind of one who to me was a child prodigy. His abilities in being able to identify the chapter, surah, and page number in which ayats of not only the Quran, but also Najhul Balagha and Sahifate Sajjadiya were found, was simply astounding. It served as a reminder to myself that what would seem to be the impossible was indeed possible when coupled together with the support of Allah (SWT)”

Zainab Ladha, Trollhattan Jamaat, Sweden:

“I’ve heard of many people who have memorised the Holy Quran by heart but to actually meet one of these hafiz was truly inspiring. Sitting there listening to him give answers to question after question involving different Quranic passages made me understand the great position of Bibi Fizza (AS) who was so pious, that she only spoke through ayats of the Quran. The hafiz  is a role model for all of us and we should aspire to learn from this learned individual”

We returned to Jamia for Zuhr and Asr salaat and as it was the shahadaat of the 7th Imam (AS), we visited the haram of Bibi Masuma (AS) to pay our respects to the daughter of this holy Imam.

After returning from our visit to the haram, we had the chance to pray Maghribain Salaat in jamaat behind Sheikh Shomali after which we sat down for a discussion with him about Bibi Masuma (AS).  The lecture was truly inspirational and we learnt many great lessons on how we could improve ourselves and follow in her footsteps.  This short lecture was then followed by a question and answer session.  One of our campers conveyed her views on this session:

Shabistan Peera, Arusha Jamaat, Tanzania

“I feel extremely blessed to be given the chance to meet such a great scholar.  Sheikh Shomali was inspirational and was able keep our attention throughout the whole session.  Furthermore, he was able to answer all the questions that we had which was Alhamdullilah extremely beneficial."

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

The day after our Isfahan trip was action packed, with the most important highlights being the trip to the Astronomy centre in Qum, in addition to an informal group discussion / question & answer session with Sh. Shamili.

Ali Asgher Ladak from Stanmore, UK, and Kazim Sajan from Birmingham, UK describe their experiences at the astronomy centre.

Ali Asgher Ladak:

"Our visit to the Astronomy Centre commenced with an introduction to space and all that within by the resident Alim and astronomer of the centre. Such fine and precise details surrounding our home planet grabbed even the least receptive of the physicists amongst the audience! In awe and wonderment we absorbed the presentation coming to realise the miniscule spec of our being in the full glory of the Lord's creation. The very number of moons for each of the nine planets of our own galaxy itself mesmurised our minds, let alone the sheer volume of other such bodies, circulating the heavens and worshipping the Almighty. This dawned upon us the majestic work of such a creator, whereby every one of us found space for contemplation and appreciation. Our very own existence and purpose was put to question along with imaginative and ambitious possibilities of our life on earth coexisting with other extraterrestrial forms. With the setting of the sun and the loom of the starry sky, we unifyingly acknowledged the call of prayer."

Kazim Sajan:

"At the Astronomy Centre we were led up several flights of stairs to the eagerly anticipated telescope. Once we were on the roof, it was explained to us that just with one’s naked eye, one is able to see Jupiter as well as the Star of Scorpio. It was also explained how one may calculate the direction of Qibla as well as the position of the equator in relation to the country we were in. The Shaikh then went on to explain Ayatullah Sistani’s theory of differing horizons used to calculate everyone’s favourite event; Eid!
"After this, we were led up a further flight of stairs in groups of five to look at Jupiter through a telescope, where we could see also four of the planets moons. This practical and more hand’s on activity received much appreciation from all campers.
"All in all, while our visit to the astronomy centre had not been the most action-packed so far, it definitely made us appreciate the huge amounts of work being done to ensure our namaaz timetables are correct, our Islamic months begin and end on the correct days and we face the correct direction when praying Namaaz wherever we are on earth."

Shozebali Ebrahim from Peterborough, UK, relates the happenings of the informal gathering with Sheikh Shamili.

"After visiting the astronomy centre, we arrived at the park where we awaited falafil, shawarmas, drinks, and Sheikh Shameli himself. When he arrived we asked his permission to take a picture. He asked a question … “what is a picture?” This blew all of us away until he said a picture “is like shooting an arrow in the heart of history”. When hearing this personally I felt like he was on another spiritual level to think of a simple thing like a picture in that way. After his short but heart warming introduction on how the Shias are known by other sects as the Rejected, I felt that all the Shia’s in the world have a duty to be part of the Army of the 12th Imam. Sheikh Shameli touched all of our hearts and when he had to leave due to time constraints we felt that a million questions that Sheikh could have answered had to be kept for another day."

We now await the second and final trip to Jamkaran…

Day 2 - Monday 28th July 2008

Bab al-Ilm - Sisters (Click 
here for photos)

Sumaira Ahmed from Canada writes this diary:
Jamia is such a beautiful place. The people are wonderful ---- the mentors, my room mates and all the other campers alike.  These are people I can truly relate to, as we all have been blessed with the immense privilege to attend this trip as campers.

Today was a very lethargic day.  Our jet lag prevented us from doing anything other than dazedly noticing the beauty around us and then promptly falling fast asleep as soon as we were introduced to our beds.  After about four blissful hours of sleep, we were woken up, and our journey found its beginning.  We were given an Iranian chador each, as a gracious gift.  I already feel indebted to those wonderful people who look after us so carefully.  After a short briefing about the facilities and other general guidelines we were given a few hours to rest.  Then it was time for the organizers (World Federation) to welcome us formally at our opening ceremony that was held at the Imaam Khomeini Howza.

Three speakers delivered their well spoken words of welcome to help us better understand the purpose of this trip.  In reference to the discomforts we as westerners are bound to face in a third world country, one speaker said ‘only with difficulties comes ease’.  This jewel of knowledge truly inspired me.  All my previous anxieties were eased out of my mind with every reassuring word.

At night time, we performed maghribain salaat as jamaat behind Sheikh Shomali which was followed by a lecture/question-answer session outside beneath the starlit sky.  Sheikh Shomali provided us with a wonderful insight on a number of topics which included family relations, Lady Fatema Masooma's status, striving to become one of the Imams children spiritually, achieving heaven by believing in Tawheed, and the importance of unfaltering imaan.  His inspirational words made it impossible for anyone to walk away from the lecture unaffected. 

Anisa and Fatima Jessa from Stanmore, UK, commented:

‘This speech provided us with incredible insight about the wonders of the places we will be visiting on this trip.’ 

Jamia has worked its wonders on me within this one profound day I have spent here.  It is not an unfamiliar place, nor are these people strangers.  These are my sisters, and this is home.

Bab al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Coming soon ...
Day 8 - Sunday 27th July 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click
here for photos)

Zamina Walji from Tanga Jamaat, Tanzania, and Zainab Ladha from Trollhattan Jamaat, Sweden, write this diary:

Our stay at the Azadi Persian hotel was pleasant and relaxing. After getting up for Fajr Salaah, we got ready and had a healthy breakfast at the hotel.

We began our day at 11:00 am when we went to the Isfahan Bird Garden. It was a sunny morning and ice cream made it a perfect start to the day. At the Bird Garden, Agha Nadir gave us an insight into how the peacock represents the attributes of Allah (SWT), one of which is ‘Al - Jamil’, the beautiful.

It was impressive and astonishing to see the many different types of birds, their different colors, and the sounds they made. The time spent at this garden gave us the time to meditate about the creation of Allah (SWT) and praise Him. Some of the birds we saw were peacocks, flamingos, ostriches and lovebirds. We then prayed Zohr and Asr Salaah at the centre before moving on to another location. 

Shabana Walji from Peterborough, UK shares her thoughts on the Bird Garden:

“After listening to the words of Agha Nadir, I truly began to appreciate the sheer beauty of Allah’s (SWT) creation. The bird that attracted the most attention, of course, was the peacock. As I took in the mishmash of vibrant colors highlighting its elegantly sleek body, I made a mental note to myself to ensure that I read the sermon of Imam Ali (AS) in Nahjul Balagha based on this beautiful creature. With that, I smiled, reflecting on the very little we humans understand about our Lord (SWT) and His powers.”

At lunch, we had Iranian Biryani which was delicious and very different to that of Khoja style biryani! At 4:00 pm we went to a square at the centre of Isfahan, which had three mosques and a big bazaar. One of the mosques was called Ali Apu Palace. It had two floors with beautiful architecture and paintings, which made us reflect on how Allah (SWT) showers His mercy on His followers. Looking at this, we realised that we cannot accomplish anything in our lives without the guidance and mercy of Allah (SWT). The other mosque was called Imam Mosque, and the unique feature of this mosque was the echoing sounds made due to the hollows in the walls. We were blessed to be able to recite the Dua of Imam-e- Zamana (AS) and the echoing of our voices gave us a sense of his presence.  Arabic calligraphy (nask) intricately lined the walls, narrating hadith and verses of the Ahlul Bait in bright colors. 

Shabistan Peera from Arusha Jamaat shared her feelings:

“We visited three mosques and each mosques had its own unique beauty and architecture that made me realize  how much we had to thank The Almighty (SWT) for the abilities He has given us to be able to construct such amazing structures. These places also had an amazing atmosphere of peace and tranquility.”

At 7:00 pm we were all exhausted and ready to go back to Jamia. Having spent only five days in Qum, we already felt spiritually and mentally attached. We are thankful to Allah (SWT) and Bibi Masuma (AS) for having invited us as their guests to stay in such a scared and holy place. However, we were sad leaving Isfahan, as it was a city full of rich art and complexly designed mosques.

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Kumail Remtulla, student-helper for Madinah al-Ilm writes:

The weekend excursion to Isfahan was a well deserved break. The scenery on the way to Isfahan was extremely breathtaking and inspirational to say the least. The highlights of the trip were the visits to the Shaking Minarets, Naqshajahan and the shrine of Allama Majlisi.

Syed Uzair Ahmed of Regina, Canada had the following to share:

"The visit to Naqshajahan Square was the highlight of the trip to Isfahan. The beautiful square does indeed represent a map of the world. For me, the tour of the indescribable Imam Mosque was the most memorable part. The architecture, scale, and decoration, all combined to leave us all in a sense of awe, and after some frustration, I finally put my camera to rest, unable to capture the magnificence. The rest of the square was a spectacle as well, with the great balcony of Ali Qapu Palace offering a great vantage point over the square. The entire square consisted of a grand bazaar of tourist merchandise – slightly overpriced, but still beautiful. We were briefed regarding the significance of the layout of the square; with the palace on one side representing worldly affairs, the shops and the gardens representing worldly pleasures, and the three mosques representing the ultimate goal – the Hereafter – which one must reach after passing through the world and fighting off its temptations.
"The Central Mosque, connected to the Naqshajahan Square through a series of bazaars contains the tomb of Allama Majlisi, the scholar who spent ten years working essentially without any sleep to finish the Bihar-ul-Anwar, one of the greatest treasures of Shiite scholarship. This will Inshallah be a great source of inspiration to us all, as we try to cope with the lack of sleep on this trip!"

The trip to the shaking minarets has been described by Abdallah Machi of Mombasa, Kenya:

"Apart from being the centre of Shi’ite faith, the Islamic republic of Iran has proved to be the centre of Islamic beauty and architecture. A trip around the country has revealed amazing forms of architecture in the country. Among the cities which depict this beauty, is Esfahan. The city has one of the oldest proofs of Islamic civilisations in the country. Great mosques and buildings attract every visitor’s  attention with their fascinating appearances. The shaking minarets is among the wonders of Islamic architecture. This unique structure outlines the great contributions of Muslims to modern architecture. The unique mechanism of its construction mesmerises anybody who comes across it. Being one of those amazed by this feature, I came to the conclusion that we Muslims can contribute significantly to the developments of the world. The great number of people who visit the Shaking Minarets every day proves of its unique appearance and design. This encourages other Muslims to contribute further to other disciplines. Its my hope and pleasure that everybody enjoys the rest of the trip while exploring the beauty of the Islamic Republic."

On the whole, the trip to Esfahan has been very relaxing. It will definitely be a trip to remember for all the participants.

Day 1 - Sunday 27th July 2008

Bab al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Mehjabeen Somji of Toronto, Canada, delivers this diary:

The day has finally arrived! Seven girls and seven boys left from London Heathrow to our destination:  Iran!!!

We all met at the multi-faith prayer room where we checked in with our mentors and prayed our afternoon salaah.  After long line-ups and hard core security we finally made it onto Iran Air.  However, our already prolonged wait was made even longer when our captain announced an hours delay.  On the bright side this time allowed us to introduce ourselves and make friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime.  6 hours later, our flight landed at Imam Khomeini Airport - we were exhausted by the cries of countless crying babies, yet still excited for the experiences ahead. 

Our first adventure began with the 2 hour bus ride from Tehran to Qum, dropping the boys at their accommodation, then leading us to Jamiya tuz Zahra, where all the girls would spend their free time in between the awaiting adventures.

‘Its beautiful, we are so lucky to be here!’  were the first words spoken by Sumaira Ahmed from Canada when laying her eyes on the howza for the first time. 

‘Gorgeous, and totally unexpected’  was a reaction agreed upon by every one of us.

As we all explored the beauty of the Jamiya, we also agreed upon the feeling of peace and tranquility that had hit us from such an environment.  The thought of being called by Imam Reza (a.s), sounded unrealistic at first, yet this now makes sense and gives me goose bumps.  I feel lucky and extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to experience the wonders we are about to face.  Our adventures have hardly begun and yet the feeling of being in such an atmosphere has already given us joy that cannot be found in anything or anyone.

I look forward to the days ahead and memories to be made.

Bab al-Ilm - Brothers  (Click here for photos)

Zamin Alidina, student-helper for Bab al-Ilm, writes:

After setting foot on the soil of the Holy city of Qum in the early hours of Monday morning, the brothers were given a free afternoon to rest and freshen up. In the evening, the group headed for the opening ceremony run by the World Federation's Qum Office at Madressa Imam Khomeini, where Shaykh Nadir briefed the participants on the spirituality of the camp. Now in the right frame of mind, the group headed for their first visit to the Purified Haram on Bibi Ma’suma (as).

Brother Bilal Sheikh from Birmingham shares his experience:

“As our coach approached the Haram of Bibi Ma’suma [‘a], the golden dome captured my heart. Brother Mohamed Zamin gave a short speech on the etiquettes and state mind that we should be in before we enter the magnificent and immaculate Haram. Once entering the Haram, just the sight of the Zaree reinforced the strength of my faith in the Ahl al-Bayt. We were dropped off near the main gate of the Haram and we all gathered at the entrance to the sanctuary. As one of us was reciting the Idhn al-Dukhool aloud, in my heart I beseeched Bibi (as) to grant me permission to enter into her sacred presence. No words can express the sheer tranquillity that I experienced upon arrival to the Shrine. While walking back, I thanked Allah [swt] for granting us this opportunity to do the Ziyarat...”

Following the Ziyarah, in order to wind down for the day, the group headed for a Fun Fair. Brother Hassan-Ali Hussein from Toronto had the following to say:

"After our first visit to the Haram, the mentors and organizers decided to treat us campers by going as a group to the local Iranian fun fair. Honestly, it was a blast. When we arrived there was this ride that swung us in a loop like motion, the excitement by all of us was immense and so all of us (organizers includedJ) went on this ride. When we were being swung back and forth, my feet were less than one foot away from the pole that holds up the ride, not exactly what I was accustomed to experiencing at Canada’s Wonderland but frankly it was exhilarating. The rest of the night was spent in more rides and we ended up arriving to our house at 1am!”

All in all, the first day of the trip really did allow the participants to get to know each other and prepare themselves for the greatly beneficial days to come.

Day 7 - Saturday 26th July 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click 
here for photos)

Zahra Bachoo, (Stanmore, UK) and Salma Alimohammed, (Mombasa, Kenya) sends this diary:
We left what now feels like our ‘home’ at Jamia at a very early 6:30 am to begin our journey to Isfahan, one of the former capital cities of Iran. Most of us took advantage of the coach journey to catch up on sleep, and woke up for breakfast at a roadside park.

We reached our destination at 1 pm and offered zohrain prayers at the 500 year old Jamia (central) mosque of Isfahan.

Sister Mohaddisa Jaffer of Peterborough Jamaat, UK gave us her thoughts:

“After having visited so many grand and elaborate mosques, the humble intricacy of masjid – e – jamia put many of us into a state of self evaluation. The sun’s heat was at its peak and the bare courtyard was illuminated with a scorching glow, serving as a harsh reminder of what inevitably awaits us on the Day of Judgement.
"We come into this world aware of its temporal nature yet, we somehow find ourselves infatuated with its allurements. As we raised our hands in takbir at the start of namaz, we symbolically pushed away this attachment, yearning only for Allah’s Rahma.”

We were then introduced to our tour guide, Agha Karim, who showed us Allama Majlisi’s shrine, which is attached to the mosque. It humbled us to have the opportunity to pay our respects to such a great Alim.

Shabistan Peera, of Arusha Jamaat, Tanzania made the following comments:

“We felt honored and privileged to visit the shrine of such a well known scholar. As we stood there reflecting we remembered the story of the Ulema being guided by the 12th Imam (AS). His shrine reminded us that our 12th Imam (AS) is here with us to help and guide us in our lives.”

We then had a delicious traditional lunch of chelo kebab which was followed by a visit to the famous 'shaking minaret' mosque. We arrived just in time to see a man shaking the right hand minaret causing the vibrations to pass to the left hand minaret and down the mosque. As the mosque is entirely made of clay and wood, this shaking is considered to be an architectural phenomenon.

We returned to our hotel for magribain salaat followed by our first taste of Iranian pizza. Isfahan is well known for its numerous bridges, therefore we also took the opportunity to have a leisurely stroll across a well known bridge in the city. We then relaxed at a riverside park and after playing a game of Chinese whispers (on hadiths to increase our knowledge on some of the wise sayings of our Prophet (SAW) and the Imams (AS)), we feasted on a dinner of shawarma and chips.

It is said that ‘Isfahan nisfe jahaan’ which means that Isfahan is half of the world.

Sister Sukaina Bandali, Birmingham jamaat, UK commented:

“After spending a day in Isfahan, I can truly see that it does contain half of the wonders of the world, however I feel that Qum has a special spirituality and atmosphere which can never be mirrored."

Day 6 - Friday 25th July 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Sukaina Bandali (Birmingham, UK) and Shabistan Peera (Arusha, Tanzania) pen this diary:

“Where is the investigator of the blood of the martyrs of Kerbala?”  Dua- e- Nudba

Another morning dawns upon us except this time it is the day of Juma. On this auspicious day, we are blessed to also attend the recitation of Dua e Nudba in the early hours just after Fajr namaaz at the holy haram of Bibi Masuma Qum (AS).

“The power of such a beautiful dua pierced my heart and I could feel horrid plaques of my sins slowly decreasing. I am very thankful to my Lord (SWT) that I am able to experience some ruhaniat (spirituality) which is lacking in the west.”
Sister Masuma Naqvi (Birmingham Jamaat, UK)

The dua was recited beautifully; the entire atmosphere was in awe of the moving words. I remember hearing voices humming throughout the Mosque in response to the recitation of this truly moving dua. All voices added to the beauty of the meaning and brought us all back to the hardships faced by our masters and confirmed a sense of solidarity in being the Shia of Imam Ali (A.S). There was an overhaul of moaning and weeping however this was not overshadowed by a grey cloud, this was in plead with our Twelfth Imam, Imam Al- Mahdi (A.T.F.S) to reappear.

Our Ziyarat went well and we all received the opportunity to spend some quality time with Bibi Masuma Qum (AS).

Some things we have learned from our classes so far:

“Our actions are our retributions”- Quranic Principles
“God created fear and dangers so that we could avoid taking the wrong path and attain perfection”- Aqaid

Our official last lectures with Sheikh Khalfan and Brother Ali Aqib Jaffery was quite disheartening as we had learned so much from them. We would like to express our gratitude for the knowledge we have acquired through these extremely talented and educated scholars.

We were very lucky to get the chance to pray namaaz- e- Juma in the haram of Sayyeda Fatima Masuma (AS). The holy shrine was packed with zawaar and gave us a special feeling of being one of those among the hundreds present. The dua e Hujjat after the salaat, created a special essence of the presence of our Imam Al Mahdi (A.T.F.S). Eyes were overtaken with tears of apprehension.

“I experienced a real sense of unity amongst all those in the haram and the atmosphere was very spiritual.”
Sister Zainab Ladha (Trollhattan Jamaat, Sweden)

“And to which the mountains made submission”   Dua Al-Samaat

To all those back home: Picture this … A Friday evening by sunset reciting dua Al-Samaat whilst sitting on a top of the sacred mountain of Nabi Khizr, looking over the entire world, like we are our true selves away from the world. Contemplating the possibility of missing this opportunity flooded our hearts and eyes as we experienced a feeling of sheer entirety of Allah (SWT).

“The journey of climbing up the mountain was not just a physical elevation but a spiritual one.”
Sister Swaleha Karim (Orlando Jamaat, Florida) and Tahira Kassamali (Stanmore Jamaat, UK)

A warming introduction by Sheikh Nadir Jaffer gave us the insight and realization of the support which Nabi Khizr gives our beloved Imam al-Asr (A.T.F.S). Jamkaraan mosque is in clear parallel view of this mosque at the top of the world which has allowed many learned scholars to attain a state of Irfan. We were lucky to experience only a minute of this phenomenon.

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Kumail Remtulla, student-helper for Madinah a-Ilm, wrote:
Today we had an interesting variety of activities. They included:

  1. Visit to Mountain Khidr where we recited Dua Nudba, Dua Ahad, and Ziyarat.

  2. Namaz e Juma at the haram of Bibi Masuma (as)
  3. Discussion with Sheikh Safiullah on 'Racism and Islam'
  4. Congregation and discussion at a park with Sheikh Safiullah about 20 km from Qum

Irfan Moosa from Stanmore, UK, explains his thoughts of the visit to Mount Khidr and Juma Namaaz at the haram:

“We all woke up early in the morning set and ready to climb mount Khizr. As soon as we reached there the beautiful scenes of nature touched everyone’s heart and everyone was busy taking pictures. We didn’t know that there was an even better moment to come when we reached the peak of the mountain. We set off climbing the mountain in the scorching heat but didn’t realise the tiredness because of all the jokes we were having between the brothers. We got at the peak and the view from there was breathtaking. We all sat down facing qibla and we all raised our hands praising the almighty, entreating him to bestow his blessings and mercy on us. Most importantly, asking him to hasten the reappearance of our 12th imam with the supplication of Nudbah and renewing our allegiance with Imam Mahdi (atfs) by reciting the supplication of ‘Ahad. We ended by reciting the ziarat of Imame Zamana for Fridays.  Reciting these two Duas and the Ziarat was heart touching.
"We prayed a two rakat namaaz of tahiyyate masjid in the mosque and made our way back down for breakfast. We visited the place where the shohadaa were buried and made our way back home. Later on in the day we attended Salaatul Juma in the haram of Syeda Fatema Ma’sooma which made us feel really honourable as we got the chance to accomplish a highly recommended act in the haram of this great lady.”

The experience of our lesson with Sheikh Safiullah and a gathering with Sheikh at the park is summarised by Muhammad Panju of Stanmore, UK, who has the following to share:

“Just before Namaaze Juma we had our scheduled visit with Sheikh Safiullah which involved a highly interactive discussion on racism in Islam. Sheikh Safiullah is a young South African convert, who has been studying in Egypt and Qum for more than 10 years. He is a Hafiz e Quran and learned to memorise the Quran in the space of 2 years. Sheikh had a unique method of teaching, which quickly gave way to a full class discussion. The key points taken away from the lesson were that there was only one race: the human race and that without the cultural diversities this world would be very boring indeed. Thus there needs to be mutual respect between different cultures in order to fully appreciate the human race. The inferiority complex was also analysed in order help explain the different reasons why racism exists.
"After Juma Namaaz we, alongside Sheikh Safiullah, headed towards Gardens situated approximately 20km from Qum to have lunch and network between the Brothers. The Lunch consisted of rice and chicken kebab which was washed down with a variety of drinks such as Cherry juice and Coca Cola. The lunch was then rounded off with a mouth watering Water Melon which the brothers happily shared between them. The informal environment allowed us to personally talk to Sheikh Safiullah and get the answers to any burning questions we had. Sheikh, a highly intelligent yet humble individual, was patient in answering questions and encouraging in his advice on learning and understanding the holy Quran.
"Overall, the day involved a good mixture of events and experiences from the recitation of Dua Nudba to the mass congregation at Juma Namaaz, together with an interesting and informative lesson and discussion with Sheikh Safiullah. This was another one of those days which is constantly reminding us of how fortunate we are to be in Iran and how delighted we are to meet senior lecturers in order to gain knowledge and to implement this into our daily lives.” 

Thoughts from the helpers:

The spirituality of reciting Dua Ahad, Nudba, and Ziyarat whilst at Mountain Khidr allowed all of us to reflect upon these duas, whilst admiring the beautiful scenery. Being in the presence of Sheikh Safiullah, for a classroom session and at an informal gathering has proven to be very useful. In addition, Sheikh Safiullah, being a Hafiz of Qur’an turned out to be an inspiration to the participants. As we now proceed to Esfahan for the weekend, the group are in high sprits and are looking forward to a short break away from the holy city of Qum.

Day 5 - Thursday 24th July 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Shabana Walji (Peterborough, UK) and Sajida Bandali (Milton Keynes, UK) pen this diary:

The ambience with which we were met at the haram of Bibi Masuma Qum (AS) at dawn was surreal in that the sky was pitch black, only illuminated by the light of the masjid. This additional opportunity enabled us to personally offer her our condolences on her martyrdom, bearing in mind her prominence in the eyes of Allah (SWT), asking for her intercession for the acceptance of our du’as and fulfilment of our hajaat.

9.30 a.m. saw a flurry of chaadors being worn and safetypinned into place, as we readied ourselves for the first lecture of the morning. Throwing a glance outside the window, the beauty of Jamia stuck us once again for what must have been the hundredth time, and with this, and the idea of the close connection between Jamia and Sayyeda Fatima (AS). It is with these thoughts that we entered the class of Brother Ali Aqib Jaffery. Though the majority of us were physically exhausted, our faces were alert and all sisters were standing (or sitting, atleast!) to attention. The demanding nature of the discussion meant that the thinking modes of the sisters had been geared up a notch, and soon many were firing questions and were instigating a debate with Brother Ali Aqib Jaffer, challenging the various views on the subject of Aq’aid. Thereafter, we participated in a fascinating discussion based on Qur’anic principles. Sheikh Muhammad Khalfan, with his personal anecdotes and sense of humour ensured that we were engrossed in his lesson. It takes a good teacher to impart his knowledge to his students, but a great man to inspire his class to gain that spiritual upliftment, such is this man.

“The very point that we were allowed and encouraged to not only question but openly approach doubts about God as an independent being was not only liberating but also refreshing.” Sukaina Bandali, Birmingham Jamaat, UK."

Kneeling beneath a black canvas of open sky dotted with few stars, the supplication of Dua e Kumail began, and as the Arabic reverberated in the night air, we gradually soaked them up, sensing the change in our states of mind. The reciter’s commentary, though we were unable to understand his humble words, caused us to reflect on the great importance given to this du’a, which could only have been written by Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS) himself. It would make one ponder on the irony of how we acknowledge our love for Allah (SWT) and yet we continue to allow our souls to succumb to worldly desires and to commit recurring sins.

Reciting Ziyaarat e Waaritha in unison in the courtyards of Jamia, we were blessed with Allah’s infinite mercy along with a few drops of rain, providing us with the unique opportunity for the granting of our legitimate desires. InshaAllah we are remembering you all in our du’as.

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Kumail Remtulla, student-helper for Madinah al-Ilm, writes:

A number of participants woke up to pray Salaatul Layl at the haram of Bibi Masuma (AS) today. Being the first namaz e shab prayed at the haram, it was an experience that was cherished by all.

Today's class was conducted by Sheikh Nadir Jaffer, who talked about an Introduction to Usool and Fiqh in Islam. Participants found the session very interesting, informative, and issues were discussed from a very practical perspective.

We then paid a visit to Ayatullah Sistani’s representative in Qum; this was a great experience for the participants. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves and asked a variety of questions pertaining to fiqh rules and laws. At the end, their questions were answered and they left satisfied and with a clear mind.

Uzair Ahmed, from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, states his experience:

“It was absolutely incredible to share tea and have a thoroughly informal and enjoyable session with this personality, who indulged our questions with pleasure for almost two hours, simultaneously answering his multiple phones which literally rung every minute! It struck me as a great honour to have my questions – some of them bordering on the comical – answered by someone who is the final authority on all questions diverted towards Ayatullah Sistani, and who holds the official stamp of authority of the Marja’. His humility in this interaction was also inspirational.”

The most heart wrenching part of the trip today was the recitation of Dua Kumail at the haram of Bibi Masuma (AS). The sheer aura from every lover of Bibi Masuma set up a brilliant atmosphere. The voice of the reciter whilst reciting the masaib of Imam Husayn in the beginning set the tone, and the recitation of the dua brought tears into our eyes that kept flowing throughout the night.

Najaf Ali Shah of Watford, UK:

"The experience of spending Thursday night at the haram and listening to the dua of kumail was something I will never forget. The atmosphere of the place was of lovers sitting beseeching their lord for forgiveness. The pain in the reciters voice was of was something that added to the experience. The place was packed as the dua was being recited people where some people were reading along, some were crying while others held they hands high up in dua. Whilst sitting there I decided to read the translation of the dua and this made my heart tremble. Every word and sentence makes you cry as you read it you realise how small and weak you are.  But never be in doubt because your sins can never be greater than Allah's mercy."

Thoughts from the student-helpers:

Sheikh Nadir Jaffer’s lesson was very interesting and the participants learnt a lot.

One of the best experiences so far in this camp has been the Dua Kumail recitation. It touched most if not all the participants due to its poetic and pure nature.

We pray that our Dua is accepted by Allah SWT and this experience leads us to developing and improving ourselves further in religion and in life, as such inspirations at the shine of Hazrat Masuma-e-Qum come when you need them most.

Day 4 - Wednesday 23rd July 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Swaleha Karim (Orlando, Florida) and Tahira Kassamali (London, UK):

We started afresh with the recitation of Salatul Layl and Fajr on the grass in the beautiful gardens of the Jamia. This simple action in a different location changed the way we felt while praying the Salaah - praying on the fresh dew gave us a feeling of utmost humility in speaking to our Lord.

After a short nap, we were enlightened by Brother Ali Aqib Jaffery and later on by Sheikh Mohammad Khalfan with lectures on Aqaid and Quranic principles respectively. Both lectures were thought provoking and inspiring leaving everyone delighted and inspired by the knowledge that had just been showered upon us. Thereafter, it was time for Zohrain Salaat and lunch was served after.

Due to the severe heat in the afternoon we’re recommended to stay indoors and possibly rest if needed so we are refreshed for our evening visits. Our first stop of the evening was a visit to the office of Ayatollah Musavi Lari. Our sister, Mohaddisa Jaffer from Peterborough Jamaat, UK, shared her thoughts on the experience:

“We sat down in a simple room, unsure of what to expect. Ayatollah Lari soon entered with grace and manners which were unknown to us. He spoke carefully and quietly, but every word he uttered was so full of beauty and kindness. Alhamdulillah, we were given the opportunity to ask questions, most of which were centered on our role as youth living in the west. In reply, we were given eloquent answers explaining how our constant jihad strengthens our faith and increases our piety in the eyes of our Creator.
"Before politely asking permission to take his leave, he told us how proud he is of us. These words gave us determination to live up to our potential.”

We were back on the bus heading towards Bayt ul Noor (the house of radiance), which is the place where Bibi Fatima Masuma e Qum (AS) spent the last few days of her life. On arrival we all eagerly shuffled inside and were fortunate enough to be enlightened by Sheikh Nadir Jaffer on a briefing of the last few days of the life of Bibi Masuma (AS). Having been separated from her beloved brother, Imam Reza (AS), she was yearning for their reunion and therefore she embarked on a journey to the holy city of Qum. On this journey she became ill and on hearing this tragic news, the Shias of Qum invited Lady Masuma (AS) to their city. On reaching Qum, Lady Masuma (AS) was housed by a companion of Imam Reza (AS), Musa ibn Khazraj ibn Sa’d Ash’ari and it was in this house where this noble Lady spent hours of her last days worshiping Allah (SWT). 

As an Islamic ritual, on visiting holy shrines, one is recommended to recite Salaah in the vicinity. Sukaina Bandali of Birmingham Jamaat, UK, expressed her feelings on reciting Salaah in this holy place:

“Being able to pray namaaz and offer my respect at the place where Bibi Masuma (AS) prayed namaaz for the last part of her life was genuinely an overwhelmingly happy and content feeling. I left feeling unconditional happiness and contentment; an experience one rarely has the opportunity to undergo when living in the west.”

We finished the day off with Ziyarat-e-Ashura in the gardens of Jamia.  Sajida Bandali of Milton Keynes Jamaat, UK, reflected on this. 

“My heart succumbs with sorrow each time the words of Ziyarat-e- Ashura are recited. The very essence of this ziyarat containing the narrations of the injustices in Karbala is a constant reminder for me of the current injustices faced by our innocent brothers and sisters in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.
"When we lament together of the tragedy in Karbala and call out to Imam Hussein (A.S) of how we would have stood valiantly by his side had we been there, we make a promise to our 12th Imam (AS)  to speak out rather than silently witness the persecutions and injustices showered upon our fellow Muslims across the world. Our pledges today were sincere “ini silmun liman salamelan wa harbu liman harabalain” and our tears were truly heartfelt. We take a stance to strive together against the tyrants of today so that we are prepared to answer the calling of The Mahdi (AS) and join his army against the enemies of Allah inshAllah.”

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Kumail Remtulla, student-helper for Madinah al-Ilm, writes this diary:

The day began with the participants making their way to Fajr prayers at the haram. Following breakfast, the participants had a lecture from Shiekh Ali Azim Shirazi on Spouse Selection. Our next activity was a visit to meet Ayatullah Mujtaba Musawi Lari who is a prolific author, especially on Aqaid. The Noor that he possessed was enough to inspire every participant on this trip of the calibre that such personalities possess.

Mustafa Merali of Stanmore, UK, shared his experiences:

"Following on from Jamkaran yesterday, we were all spiritually uplifted and were waiting in anticipation to see what was in store for us today. Everyone was eager to attend the “Spouse Selection” lesson by Sheikh Ali Azim Shirazi. This proved to be a truly amazing lesson which covered a lot of the grey areas that we had. Numerous points were discussed, such as intention of marriage, rewards of marriage, and reasons for marriage. He also touched upon the importance of solving problems within a marriage. The only reason problems occur is because of a lack of preparation. Most surely, it is sufficient to say that, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Hearing these words of knowledge from the Sheikh made us connect with the reality that soon we will all be getting married and the preparation should be underway for all of us. Upon request from some of the boys, he also mentioned and discussed the concept of Mut’a and the criterion and permissibility of this act in Islam.
"Later on in the day, we attended the house of Ayatullah Mujtaba Musawa Lari. Alhamdulillah, the experience was one that we all really cherished. I was fortunate enough to be sitting right next to this great personality. I could actually feel the presence of a learned scholar who has dedicated his life to Islam right next to me. He began by praising us for attending such a course in Qum, and one thing that really touched my heart was that he referred to all of us as “his children”. Many questions were asked and inspirational answers were given. A token of his generosity was displayed at the end, as he allowed each of us to take two books of our choice from his library. When saying our khudafiz, we were blessed to kiss his hand and have him kiss our head. Inshallah we pray to Allah (swt) to grant him a long life and that we can benefit even a pennys-worth from the wisdom of Ayatullah. We now await a great day tomorrow. Until then, Shab be kair (Goodbye in Farsi)."

The next step of the day was to visit bayt al-Noor, the place where Hazrat Masuma (AS) used to worship Allah till the day she passed away. Shiekh Nadir Jaffer gave us a history of the centre and discussed a lot about the life that Bibi Masuma (AS) led and how important she is in the history of our faith.

Husain al-Baldawi from Bosnia, and Abdullah Machi from Kenya tell us their thoughts following our visit to this place: Husain al-Baldawi from Bosnia:

"Upon entering Bayt al-Noor today, and viewing the beautiful environment, I was reminded of a verse in the Qur’an which talks about how all creation will testify on the Day of Judgement. With regards to this verse, Allama Tabatabi states that everything in creation has a capacity to memorise things, such as your body, skin, eyes, ears, etc. Taking the example of a pub, where alcohol is served, if you enter it, your body and the place will testify to this and you will see this act in Barzakh on the day of Judgement in its true form. In addition, Allah will withdraw some of his mercy from you because of the action. Can you compare this to the place where Hazrat Masuma used to pray all day and night? Every atom in this place is full of noor because of how great her personality was. We should constantly be thinking about this in our day to day life.
"It has been a dream come true for me to have visited such a place. I pray that Allah accepts everyone’s Ziyarat and raises us all up with noor on the Day of Judgement. Ameen."

Abdullah Machi, from Kenya:

"When I think of the Ahlul-bayt, one thing that comes to my mind is the mercy of Allah to mankind. The Ahlul-bayt have set a pure path for every Muslim believer who wishes to acquire the mercy of Allah. As a result, it is a duty of every believer to show love and affection to the Holy progeny of the prophet. One of the ways is to visit places associated with them. The sight of Bayt al Noor reminds everybody of the suffering, sacrifice, and dedication of the Ahlul bayt to ensure that the shia faith is spread to every part of the world. A look at the shrine brings a feeling of spiritual closeness to me because of Allah’s mercy. Prayers in this shrine are automatically better than prayers in other places because this is where one of the great ladies of Islam used to pray. This is a gesture towards our ummah that ladies can also play a part in defending Islam. It is also an encouraging act to all Muslims to devout to prayers in times of hardship, persecution, and when struggling to defend Islamic values. I pray to Allah to shower his blessings to the Ahlul-bayt and to hasten the reapparance of Imam Mahdi (AS) so that he can save the muslims from the current tragedies. May Allah accept the duas of everybody who prays inside Bayt al-Noor."

Our day ended with a very informal and spirtual discussion through a question and answer session with Sheikh Shomali at a local park nearby to our accommodation.

Mohammed Panju of Watford, UK, describes his experience as follows:

"The evening event involved a dinner and discussion with Sheikh Shomali. The park, full of men, women and children created a vibrant and cosy atmosphere for us to sit in a group, share ideas, and gain knowledge. As Shawarma and coke were passed around, a discussion between the brothers was quickly underway. This was further enhanced by the arrival of Sheikh Shomali who enlightened us all through a question and answer session with his wisdom and knowledge tackling hot topics such as Irfan and spiritual cleansing. Throughout the evening, Brother Mohsin, our camera man, was quick to reach for his camera in order to capture the active and lively mood of the evening. As the discussion came to an apparent end, the words of Sheikh Shomali on spirituality were unravelling in our hearts and minds: “Speech is Silver, silence is Gold."
Student-Helper thoughts and comments:

This day was truly an inspiration for the participants. The concept of marriage as covered by Shiekh Ali Azim Shirazi was very relevant to the western society and was something the participants could all relate to.
The inspiration Ayatullah Lari gave the participants was immense that some people started to read some of his books whilst on the bus travelling between places.
The experience at Bayt al-Noor was an eye opener about how such a great personality dedicated her life to the servitude of Allah.
Finally, the discussion at the park beautifully capped off a very reflective and inspiring day.

We are extremely greateful to Allah SWT for giving us so many opportunites to obtain maximum benefit from the Holy City of Qum. The only way we can use this to our benefit is by practicing what we learn and by dedicating our lives to a personalites such as Bibi Masuma (AS) for surely people like her are the ones chosen by Allah to be sources of inspiration for us in this world and in the hereafter.

Day 3 - Tuesday 22nd July 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Sabiha Kassam of Stanmore, UK, and Alina Tarbhai of Toronto, Canada, wrote:

Our morning began with the blessed opportunity of visiting the haram of Bibi Masuma (a.s.) after praying Fajr namaaz at Jamia. We took advantage of the few people that were there at this time and having recited the ziyaarat of Bibi Masuma (a.s.) together, we visited the zari for the first time.

Tehseen Rajpar, from Trollhattan Jamaat, Sweden, says, “It was the first time I felt complete and utter peace and tranquility and that moment will stay with me forever. At that time, I felt total serenity and all my worries were no longer of any concern”. 

Although none of us knew what to expect from our first day of lessons, we all left having gained a deeper insight into the topics of Aqaid (concentrating in particular on Tawheed)  and Qur’anic Principles. Our classes involved mind stimulating discussions from learned scholars, namely Brother Ali Aqib Jaffry and Sheikh Mohammed Khalfan. We look forward to inshAllah increasing our knowledge in the days to come.

Our sister, Shabana Walji, from Peterborough, UK, epitomizes our feelings on visiting Masjid-e-Jamkaran:

“In the moments before the very first words of the highly anticipated Dua-e-Tawassul are uttered, an exhilarating and unidentifiable feeling courses through my veins, beginning to warm me from within.
"The sounds are so familiar, yet these emotions so unfamiliar, and as the dua progresses, I am solely aware of the Imam’s voice piercing the night air, together with the humming of all those around me. Gazing in wonder at the mosque before me, I sense the presence of my Holy Imam (a.s.) and, tears streaming down my face, I realize how truly blessed I am to be here.”

We are thankful for the blessings that allow us to be here, and by the grace of Allah (s.w.t.), we hope our duas are answered and that we can inshAllah utilise the knowledge gained to be better Muslims.

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Assad Dharsi, student-helper for Madinah al-Ilm, wrote:

The third day of the camp primarily focused on building and developing a dynamic connection wth the Imam of the Time. Since Fajr namaz, which we prayed for the first time in the Haram, we recited Dua al-Ahad under the open sky at the Hawza. As the day progressed and the time ticked, the anticipation and hope of meeting the Imam from the participants became apparent as we moved towards Masjid-e-Jamkaran.

While posing for a group picture at Jamkaran, we were approached by the National Media which a took a huge interest in the fact that we had travelled continents to send our personal 'Salaams' to the Imam that day. They where impressed by what they saw and interviewed Mustafa Merali (from Stanmore, UK) with the help of our translator.

Mashal Kara of Toronto, Canada, shares his thoughts:

"The night before we all slept really late after coming back from the Haram. In the morning four of us decided to wake up for Salat-ul Layl. Together we were able to wake up and pray the night prayers. It was a great feeling to see that already after only one day together we had developed a great sense of brotherhood as if we knew each other from before. After Salat ul Layl the entire group went to the Haram for Fajr prayers - it was a great atmosphere and the energy present at the Haram was something I had never felt before. On the way back to our dorms, we all sat together and read Dua e Ahad in memory of the 12th Imam (atfs). Reading the Dua was great preparation for our evening trip to Masjid Jamkaran as we all started to mentally prepare ourselves to potentially meet the Imam of our time. In the afternoon we went to visit Ayatullah Mar’ashee Najafi’s library; I was amazed to hear that it is said he fasted everyday of his life. Through his life he was able to build the richest Islamic library yet he himself was unable to perform the pilgrimage of Hajj because he was too poor. It is still fascinating how the Haram is very well maintained and only the best of material are considered suitable for this holy shrine. Yet around the city it is hard to find a building which is not in need of some massive repairs. It seems that the entire city of Qum’s spirit lives in the Haram and its people are willing to sacrifice all their worldly wealth in order to preserve the beauty and presence of the shrine. Coming from the West, it is hard for me to imagine being humble to that point yet admire, respect and sometimes even envy those who do.
In the evening we went to Masjid Jamkaran, the mosque of the 12th Imam(atfs), the mosque were he has been seen over and over again, the mosque that was built from a miracle. As we arrived at the mosque for salaat ul Marghrib, there were people everywhere. People seemed to be coming from far and near to be able to pray in the holy mosque in hopes of maybe meeting the Imam of our time. After namaz we all performed our Amaal and then sat down to recite Dua-e-Tawassul. This was by far the most emotional Dua I have ever heard in my life, the reciter as well as all the people present were filled with passion and were praying with their hearts. It seems that even though they are present every week their passion and energy does not fade with time but gets reinforced.
Over the last 2 days, I have witnessed the strong faith of the inhabitants of Qum which allows them to completely detach themselves from the worldly pleasures and to focus their lives for the pleasure of Allah swt. Inshallah we too will reach such levels."

Rizwan Kermali from Hyderi Jamaat (South London, UK) commented:
"This morning after showering I was fresh, ready and buzzing with energy.
After managing to squeeze five passengers into the taxi, we were dropped off right outside of Lady Masooma’s haram.  The atmosphere at that time is breathtaking, and the amazing thing is that you feel it every morning.
We prayed our Fajr namaz together in congregation and afterwards, I paired up with one of the brothers to recite Dua Ahad.  I had never known the importance of this dua, so it was a new experience for me.  I felt I had made a new connection with Imam Mehdi (atfs).
We then proceeded to the actual shrine, seeking the special permission before entering the main area.  I recited the Ziarat and then went to recite Sura Al Fateha for Lady Masooma.  I had the names of all my family members on one of the pages in my notebook so that I could remember to ask for their duas by name, retail, not wholesale!
We went back to the howza, but it so happened that the mentor who had the keys to our rooms had gone to the market with some of the other brothers to show them the shops and what kind of gifts were on sale.  We complained a little, but brother Assad suggested we go out into the courtyard as it was cooler and the morning breeze was fresh.
"While we waited, we took the opportunity to collectively recite Dua Ahad and we also recited the translation.  After fulfilling our oath to Imam Mehdi, we did a short ziarat and then thankfully the brother with the keys arrived.
"This was an example of the mentors showing us how to make the most out of every situation.  We could have just carried on complaining about the lack of keys, but instead we took the opportunity to get even closer to our Imam and strengthen our love for him.  It is these kind of moments that bring everyone closer and bolster the spirit of brotherhood, which is what the camp is all about.
After a short nap, we had our first breakfast in the hauza and then went to our first lesson with Sheikh Ali Azim Shirazi.  The topic was self-recognition and contemplation about ourselves, our goals and our priorities.  It was essentially a soul searching exercise.  In our hectic lives we never get a chance to truly reflect and ask the big questions about ourselves and our identity, so again this was a fresh experience for me.
Lunch followed, and then another short nap. We then set off to pay a visit to the library and the tomb of Ayatollah Marashi Najafi.  Sheikh Nadir Jaffer gave us a brief history about this noble man, how he spent his entire life devoted to building one of the most comprehensive Islamic libraries in the world.
"We then proceeded to Masjid Jamkaran.  On the way there were talked about the miraculous nature of the founding of the mosque, the dreams, the goat, the nails and chains.  It was clear that we were going to a special place.  After namaz we all performed the amaal that had been explained to us before.  Then it was time for Dua Tawassul.  It was simply amazing.  One of the most spiritual experiences I have ever had in my life.  The reciter’s voice was filled with emotion and it shook my heart.  People were visibly moved by the Dua, tears flowed as they begged with open arms for the shafaa of Imam Husain and Lady Fatema.  Inshallah, our duas will be accepted and we will get the opportunity to come back to this mesmerizing place."

Husain Walji of Dubai, UAE, states:

"Jamkaran: quite a spectacle. Mind boggling, to tell you the truth. The aura coming out from this place was quite exceptional. The people, the place, namaz, amaal, and the Dua-e-Tawassul. Really kept me light hearted and at ease. I just cannot wait till next week. when we visit again."


From the student-helpers:

The day wrapped up with the participants achieving a deeper understanding (Ma’arifat) of Imam-e-Zamana. The ultimate aim of meeting the Imam, though didn’t occur physically, the spiritual bond which was kindled will Inshallah sustain forever. As we walked back to the bus, we gathered solace from the Hadith of Imam Reza (AS), which states that when we mention the name al-Qaim, the attention of the Imam is directed towards us - thus the need to rise and place our hand over the head. We hope our hearts were sincere enough for Imam to have blessed us with his attention.

Day 2 - Monday 21st July 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Sister Anisa Rajbhai, student-helper for Madinah al-Ilm, wrote:

After arriving at Jamia in the early hours of Monday morning, we all decided to rest for a few hours until namaz time to catch up on some much needed sleep.  Everyone was extremely excited and honoured to be given such a unique opportunity of being able to spend three weeks in the blessed cities of Qum and Mashad. 

In the afternoon, after having the chance to meet all the other participants and getting to know each other better, we went to the hawza of Imam Khomeini for the opening ceremony of our short course.  Listening to all the interesting activities and lessons that we would participate in made us extremely excited. It is going to be a life-changing experience that will inshAllah stay with us for the rest of our lives. We are truly blessed to be chosen by Imam Ali Al-Raza (a.s.) and Hazrat Masuma-e-Qum (a.s.).

Shabistan Peera from Arusha Jamaat, Tanzania, says, “I feel very lucky to be here, especially during the month of Rajab, and feel very special to be one of the few people picked from 182 applicants."

We then made our way to the haram of Bibi Masuma (a.s.) and for many of the campers, this was their very first visit to this Holy Shrine.  Words cannot even describe the feelings and emotions that many of the campers felt.  Zahra Bachoo from Stanmore Jamaat, UK, had the following to say about her first visit to the haram:

“Being a part of Jamaat namaz for the first time in the haram of Bibi Masuma (a.s.) was an amazing experience. It was only after entering her mosque and praying Maghrib and Isha salaat for the first time that I truly felt I had arrived in the Holy city of Qum. I could really feel the presence of Bibi Masuma (a.s.) and the blessed atmosphere of the mosque could definitely be felt”.

Even though we have only been together for a day, we have already become one family and Jamia has now become our new home.

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Kumail Remtulla, student-helper for Madinah al-Ilm, wrote:

The second day of the trip began with the opening ceremony of the camp. There was a speech by Sheikh Nadir Jaffer of The World Federation's Qum Office who spoke about the camp expectations and our schedules followed by a small inspiring speech given by one of the helpers.

Then came the most moving part of the trip so far: the first visit to the haram of Bibi Masuma (AS) for her Ziyarat. This experience was a first for a number of participants. This is how some of them expressed their thoughts:

Najaf Shah from London, UK, commented:

“After our long journey from the UK, we were shown to our rooms and around the Hawza. Mashallah what a great place. I appreciated its architecture and paintings and there’s something about the gardens that seems mystical and spiritual. We had plenty of time to rest and freshen up, after which we attended the opening ceremony, where we were introduced to Shaykh Nadir Jaffer, who gave us background knowledge about the Ziyarat. Mashallah he gave a very inspirational speech.
"Time for Maghrib prayers approached and this was the moment I had been waiting for since landing in Iran. We set off on a coach and after a few minutes of travelling we approached a turn and as we did we could see the magnificent view of Bibi Masuma (AS)’s haram. Once you are there, you can feel something touch your heart as you look at the golden dome.
"As we walked inside it was like being transported into a different world. As I approached the Zareeh, I could feel the presence of a great personality. Being there standing in front of the Zareeh, I felt spiritually uplifted. We recited the Ziyarat as a group led by Br. Assad Dharsi, our helper from Canada.
"To try and describe the place or how I felt, it would be doing injustice. However, all I can say is that it felt like heaven on earth.”

Asif Hashmani from London, UK, described his experience as follows:

“The haram looked beautiful and had recently been refurbished. The haram has a huge courtyard with a rectangular pond in the middle for wudhoo. Whilst at the shrine, I witnessed people grabbing on the railing reciting duas and behind them people were standing with books in hand reciting ziyarats. Every few minutes, people would recite a loud salawat. We then went to pray namaz. After namaz, we got the chance to do our own personal duas. I went walking around and was amazed at the sheer size of the place. After this, we all met at the monument grave of Ayatullah Khomeini’s teacher [Ayatullah Bouroujerdi]. We took taxis back to the hawza where we had burger and chips for dinner.”

Our Sri Lankan brother, Ashroff Jallil shared the following thoughts:

“This is my first time visiting Iran. I did not know what to expect on this trip although I have always been looking forward to performing the Ziyarats. Firstly we had the opening ceromeny and then we went to Bibi Masuma’s haram to perform our first ziyarat and the experience there was unexplainable by words. It was a tremendous feeling that I encountered and it was a relieving feeling that gave peace to my heart. This was the first time I saw so many people in a mosque and this gave a tremendous experience to our first day.”

Sajjad Panju of London, UK, had the following to say:

“Words cannot really describe my experience, but it was simply breathtaking!!! I felt a real sense of peace from within.  Just looking at the shrine of Bibi’s Masuma got me shaking as I could somehow feel her presence.
"Upon entering the Haraam, we recited the dua of entering the shrine, and then proceeded to the sacred shrine where I just stood still and stared! It was an indescribable feeling just looking at Bibi’s Shrine. Everyone was praying, reciting ziaraat and chanting salwaat every minute.
"Praying Jamaat namaaz with thousands of our Shia brothers and reciting the duas together filled me with a deep sense of unity and brotherhood. It was something totally unique in its own way and gave me a level of achievement.
"Inshallah I pray that may the Almighty accept our Ziyaraat and fulfill our wishes, Ameen.”

Alhamdulillah all the brothers had a fantastic experience performing the ziyarat, with some sharing their thoughts and experiences with us. This experience will inshAllah remain with them for a long time, if not for the rest of their lives. It truly goes to show that visiting the haram and shrine of Bibi Masuma (AS) is an experience that is one to be cherished by all. The amount of reflection it forces you to perform is immense, and this can only be of a positive outcome, as we identify how we can improve as human beings for the betterment of our souls and of creation.

Now we are eagerly awaiting the trip to Jamkaran…

Day 1 - Sunday 20th July 2008

Madinah al-Ilm - Sisters (Click here for photos)

Sister Anisa Rajbhai, student-helper for Madinah al-Ilm wrote:

On the 20th of July 2008, we began the journey of a lifetime to the blessed city of Qum.  We feel extremely privileged to be given the opportunity to go to Iran and in particular, being able to go as helpers, thereby serving the guests of our Imam (AS). 

Our journey began at Heathrow airport where we recited Jamaat namaz in the prayer room at terminal three.  This brought about a great sense of community spirit within the participants who were embarking on this trip as well as with family members who came to say their farewells. 

The feeling of excitement and nervousness were just a couple of the many emotions that were going through the minds of the participants as we left Heathrow Airport.  Mohaddisa Jaffer of Peterborough Jamaat, UK, shares her views:

‘As we began our journey to Iran, I felt anticipation and excitement beyond description!  The thought that somewhere under the blanket of the night is a blessed land to which each and every one of us has been summoned by the mercy of Allah (SWT) is simply awe inspiring.  I feel an eagerness to lay eyes upon the holy shrines of the Ahlul Bayt (AS) as well as feeling extremely honoured at being given the opportunity to stay at Jamiatuz Zahra within the vicinity of Bibi Masuma (AS) and other prestigious personalities.  I’ve always heard Iran being described as Jannah on earth in which prayers are never left unanswered and sins never unforgiven.  Now, through the grace of The Creator, the passengers of flight IR710 will be able to experience this first hand!!

After finally leaving London (the flight was delayed by an hour which many of you will know is not uncommon for Iran Air!) we arrived five hours later at Imam Khomeini Airport, Tehran, where we were welcomed by the volunteers of The World Federation's Qum Office.  We then prayed fajr namaz at the airport after which we left for Jamiatuz Zahra in Qum - our new home for the next three weeks.  Zahra Valji from Essex Jamaat, UK, describes her feelings when first entering Jamiatuz Zahra:

‘The feeling of peace and serenity were overwhelming.  I can now understand what people mean when they say that they have seen a piece of heaven on earth.  The idea that this institution represents the freedom and education of so many young Muslim women is amazing and has been extremely inspirational for us all’.

The Majestic Jamia al-Zahra

We pray to Allah (SWT) that He grants us the strength to make the most out of this journey towards Him, the patience to better ourselves as Muslims, and to help prepare us for the coming of our 12th Imam (AS).

Madinah al-Ilm - Brothers (Click here for photos)

Kumail Remtulla, student-helper for Madinah al-Ilm wrote:

The Madinah al-Ilm Summer Short Course camp is finally underway! After the participants left London, they landed at the Imam Khomeini Airport upon which they took a coach ride to Qum where they unpacked and settled at the Imam Khomeini Madressa. 

Below are experiences from two of the participants so far:

Shozebali Ebrahim, Peterborough, UK: "My expectations for this Iran camp are to gain spiritual awareness about the Holy shrines of Bibi Masuma e Qum and Imam Ali Raza (a.s) and also of the sacred city of Qum. I believe that this camp will benefit all who take part. I hope the lessons will allow its students to increase their knowledge of Islam and its ethics.  As we have come for a set amount of time, it is vital that all students take all the opportunities that arise as this trip is a once in a lifetime chance, this is because Bibi Masuma e Qum is our host and we have to treat her with the respect and honour this beloved Lady deserves."  

Sunrise on entering Qum

Sunrise taken by Shozebali and shows Masjid-e-Ahlulbayt on the way to Qum witnessing our first (of many) spectacular sunrises

Zain Ahmed, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada: "The first day here in Iran has been quite an adventure already. We arrived at the Tehran airport in the morning near Fajr time so we prayed right at the airport. The brilliant thing about this trip is that it makes one pray on time as so much emphasis is given to praying. After that we took an air-conditioned bus (it gets extremely hot here) to the Holy city of Qum. On the journey to Qum I experienced the most beautiful sunrise of my life."

After about an hour on the bus we reached the Hawza and were showed to our air-conditioned rooms. One thing that might worry you is that there are no beds in the rooms. We are provided with some blankets, which we spread on the carpet and went to sleep. Surprisingly this was one of the best sleeps I have had in a long time, maybe because I was incredibly tired because of the travelling. We woke up a few hours later and went for Zuhr and Asr prayers. After that we went to the cafeteria and had lunch where the food was decent. We got a tour of the facility and some time to rest after that. That was a recap of the first day here. One thing that I failed to mention is about the brothers that are in this program. They are absolutely amazing. They share, take care of one another and the best thing of all: they are very enthusiastic about learning about Islam and visiting the shrines.

Alhamdulillah, as the first day comes to a close, everyone is settling in and having a good time. The brothers are bonding well together and are very much looking forward to the course, as well as the trips to Imam Reza (AS) haram and performing the Ziyarat of Bibi Masuma-e-Qum.

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