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Madinah al-Ilm and Bab al-Ilm short summer courses 2012 – Boys' diaries

Day 20 – Friday 3 August 2012

By Mujtaba Somji, from Dar es Salaam Jamaat (Tanzania) and Abbas N. Ali from ISI Jamaat of Toronto (Canada)

As the last day approaches, we are starting to realize how much we will miss the past three weeks. From all the new people we've met, to the amazing experiences in Qum, Kashan, Nishapour, Tehran and Mashad, it will definitely stay in our memories for a very, very long time.

We had an early start to the last Friday in the Holy City of Mashad with a discussion on Marriage by Br. Miqdad at 2am. A few students attended and learned valuable lessons on how to get the process of marriage started. We then headed to the haram for Fajr Salaat. Knowing this will be the last opportunity to pray Fajr at the haram of the 8th Imam (as), many of the students took advantage of making the walk down the road to the haram.

After a short, but sweet sleep we made our way to the haram once again for Salaat ul Juma. Despite the burning sun, we still had the heart to listen to the khutbah which we did not understand. We felt blessed to simply have the chance of praying Salaat ul Juma at the Haram of Imam Raza (as) while others pray for the opportunity.

Next we headed back to the hotel for our last lunch together in Mashad before we started preparation for our journey home. It was another moment to cherish the company of all the participants and mentors who we have become so accustomed to over the past three weeks.
We then went for the final shopping of our trip. We were all rushing and time was against us as the closing ceremony was at 5 pm but yet many of us were able to buy a lot of things for our families back home.

The time which none of us wanted to witness had finally come as we were preparing for the closing ceremony. Unfortunately we were not blessed with the presence of Sheikh Komail Rajani and Sheikh Safdar Razi, both of who had left us earlier. However, we were blessed to have Sheikh Shabbar Mahershah.
Mixed emotions existed among the participants at the camp, as the last day approached. A feeling of sadness at leaving the Imam (as) as well as his sister (sa) and the friends who we made in these 3 weeks, coincided with feelings of joy at the thought of returning to family members. We had to bid farewell and express our gratitude to our mentors; Qasim Baleh, Qasim Liakat and Rahbar Miqdad, as well as Agha Mustafa, Agha Noori and Syed Muhammad who had been fundamental in this course.

As the clocked ticked down on the final night at Mashhad, eager anticipation encompassed the participants. Most of us were awake the whole night to ensure that our bags are not overloaded, listening to the advice of Br. Ammar Suleman (Dubai Jamaat) when he said, "O you who believe, travel light or you may find yourself overweight!"

At 3 am, we prepared to go to the Haram of Imam (as) to pay our last respect. Tears were flowing down as we did not want to leave him but unfortunately the time had come to say Fiamanillah.

Sleep overtook us after praying Subh namaaz until 7am when we got knocks on our doors to ensure that we were awake and packing our bags after which we had gone for our last breakfast in the hotel.

Finally the journey to our homes began as we departed at 9.30 am from our hotels to go to the airport which was estimated to be around a 14 hours ride. No one wanted to get on the bus as we were all filled with grief for leaving the holy cities. It's been a memorable, unforgettable, exhilarating, action-packed, spectacular, spiritual, mind-blowing, AMMMAAZING three weeks; an experience that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. We thank Allah (SWT) for giving us this unique opportunity and ask for another chance in the not too distant future. Ameen.

Day 19 – Thursday 2 August 2012

Written by Imran Fazal from Nakuru Jamaat (Kenya)

The day started with fajr namaz at the haram of Imam Ridha (as). It is always amazing to pray alongside thousands of fellow muslims who have the same beliefs as you, in our Holy Imam's mosque. About an hour before fajr a few of us went to touch the shrine of our Holy Imam (as), thinking that there would not be too many people at this hour. But, to no real surprise, the shrine was surrounded by hundreds, all passionately trying to achieve the same goal, shedding tears and imploring to our beloved Imam Al-Ridha (as). After fajr prayers as we were walking out of the haram, we noticed the full moon, clear as it can ever be. At this point one of the fellow students, brother Mohsin Jan said "this is truly a magical city", and this beautiful sight was proof of that.

We had a few hours of sleep before we headed for the museum of Azhabout Tadhahour, or as we could relate to "miracles of the Holy Quran". This museum consisted of large rooms, each with an ayat of the Holy Quran attached onto the wall. The contents of the room described what the ayat meant and how it took place in history. The tour started with Nabi Adam and the forbidden fruit, and then moved on to Prophet Nooh's ark. The two-story room resembled what the ark looked like when it was built, with some sculptures of the various animals and birds that once occupied the ark. One room depicted Nabi Musa's miracle of splitting the seas while another described the miracle of the birth of Prophet Issa (as). The sculptures and statues used to describe these stories were very impressive, with sound effects giving us a good picture of what actually happened during the time of these miracles. Other rooms illustrated the event of Ghadeer, the tragedy of Karbala and revolutionary sermon of Bibi Zainab (sa) in Yazid's Palace. This tour refreshed our memories of what we had once been taught in madrassa, but this time with a 3-dimensional effect!

The tour ended in an area of the museum which had recently been built, which portrayed the Iranian revolution and the attempted invasion of Iran by Iraq. Part of this included the victory speech by Imam Khomeini at Behisht e Zahra, which we visited the day before in our trip to Nishapur. From the museum we headed back to the hotel.

Our next event of the day was the evening classes by Sheikh Shabbar and Sheikh Behrooz. Sheikh Shabbar completed his three-part lecture on our 8th Imam (as) and Sheikh Behrooz, an Iranian scholar, talked about Our 12th Imam (ajfs). After these informative talks, we had a short question and answer session with Sheikh Kumail, who is the main organizer of this camp. After a few wise words by the sheikh, we all bid a hearty farewell to him as he left for India a short while later. 

We had our evening prayers at the haram, which followed by dinner at the hotel, then back to haram to experience a beautiful recitation of Dua kumail. This camp may be called 'a short summer course', but the number of places we visited and things we've accomplished have been incredible. I don't want this experience to come to an end, and I don't feel like leaving this blessed city and country... I pray that Allah (SWT) gives all the participants the Iman to put everything we have learnt into action in our daily lives. Ameen.

Day 18 – Wednesday 1 August 2012

Written by Mujtaba Parekh from Dar es Salaam Jamaat (Tanzania) and Rahman Ali Hemani from Toronto Jamaat (Canada)

Our day started when we woke up for Fajr namaaz at 4:00am. After namaaz we slept for 4 more hours and woke up at 8:00am to a delicious buffet breakfast which included boiled eggs, omelette, watermelon, naan, and orange juice. After having a quick breakfast we boarded the bus and travelled for two hours to Nishapur.  The first stop was Qadamghar, where the footprints of our Holy 8th Imam (as) were imprinted in stone. Syed Shabbar narrated the story of how the Imam (as) miraculously found a spring which to this day supplies the whole town with water. It was a really powerful speech and gave us all the buzz of feeling how great this Imam (as) really was. He also told us that some scientists had tested the particle content of the water and found that it had the exact same composition as the holy water of Zamzam water in Mecca. Qassim Mawjee from Hyderi Jamaat (UK) said “It was an amazing experience. We were really privileged to see the footprints and get a real feeling of how the Imam (as) is still helping the city of Nishapur till this day.”

We then went to visit a noble lady named Bibi Shateeta. Syed Shabbar told us the story of when a companion of the 8th Imam (as) went to collect Khums money. Bibi Shateeta was poor, so the amount of Khums that she gave the companion was very little. The companion felt bad for her, but fulfilled his duty, and delivered her money, along with the khums of all the other people in the area, to the Imam (as). The Imam (as) told the companion to give him only the money that Bibi Shateeta had given and rejected all of the other money because he knew through his divine wisdom that it was mixed with haraam money. 

 We then prayed jamaat namaaz right next to her grave. After this we went back to the bus and drove for 10 minutes to visit the graves of other lmam Zadahs (children of Imams).

Syed Shabbar then held an enlightening class on the life of the 8th Imam (as) as well as a short but informative Q&A session. After that we went outside to have our lunch as we were not fasting. After we had our lunch, we went to buy rings the famous Firoz and Aqeeq rings of Nishapur. After spending 30 minutes shopping for rings we went back to the bus and drove to visit the Imamzadeh Mahrook.

After this inspirational trip, we visited the grave of a companion of the 8th Imam (as) - Fayz Ibn Shazan. We went back to the bus and drove back to Mashad.  After we reached, we went straight to our Akhlaq class where we learned the 21 Steps to Become a Good Muslim. I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say it was really informative and the Syed gave us practical tips on how to improve ourselves.

We ended the day with going to the Haram of Imam Ridha (as) for Maghrib Salaah, after which we went shopping in the famous Imam Ridha (as) Bazaar.

Day 17 – Tuesday 31 July 2012

Written by Zaheerabbas Khimji from Birmingham Jamaat (UK)

After our flight yesterday from Tehran to Mashad, we were all exhausted.  We went to our hotels (very luxurious and modern by the way!) and all showered, prayed and headed out for dinner. After eating fries and pizza, some went to sleep, whilst others chose to go shopping or to the Haram of Imam-e-Ridha (as). I chose to go and see the Haram. It was absolutely mind blowing and so huge! It was very crowded around the Roza even though we went in the early hours or the morning and we were lucky to be able to touch the Roza.  However, we couldn't hold it for long! We then decided to go to the hotel, where we got lost on our way back because of how big the haram was! Alhamdullilah, after reaching the hotel, we rested for a short while.

We woke up around 12.30pm to go to the Haram for Zohrain prayers and Ziyarat. After that we decided to go shopping as there are a lot of bazaars in Mashad around the Haram. At 5pm we went with the bus to another place for classes. Our first class was from Sheikh Shabbar, where he explained the life of our Holy 8th Imam (as). Our second class was from Sheikh Kazmi . He taught us about achieving Taqwaa in the Holy month of Ramadan.

In the bus we got a very nice surprise from our mentors. They really do now how to surprise us! We got to hear we were going to a waterpark! We enjoyed ourselves so much with all the different pools, huge slides, Jacuzzi and sauna. Mujtaba Somji from Dar es Salaam Jamaat (Tanzania) described it as "Sensational! Never thought Iran would have something like this!"

Even though I am having an amazing time in Iran, the countdown has begun. I miss my beloved ones and I miss home. 4 days to go - I am however going to make the most of it here!

Day 16 – Tuesday 31 July 2012

Written by Salman Fazal from Dar es Salaam Jamaat (Tanzania)

After a two-hour nap, our day started with sehri/dakoo at 4:00am when we had an Iranian dish called Qurme Sabzi which everyone liked. This was the most exhausting day we have had since the start of the trip for everyone! After some assessments and the closing ceremony, we were told to use our free time to start our packing and at this moment everyone wished they had their mom with them to do it all for them!
Early morning after sehri and fajr prayers, we left for Tehran to do the ziyarats and to visit a few places of cultural interest. The drive was around an hour long to Tehran. The first place we went to visit was the grave of a highly respected personality: Shah Abdul Azim. It is narrated that whoever visits the shrine of Shah Abdul Azim will get the thawaab similar to that of visiting the shrine of Imam Hussein (as). Soon after we went to the shrine of Imam Khomeini (RA) which was being renovated. Imam Khomeini is buried next to his son who was martyred. And right next to his shrine his wife, daughter in law and two aalims who were working for him were also buried. Before the zohrain prayers we also went to Bahisht-e-Zahra, which is a graveyard where those who were slain in the Islamic revolution and the Iran-Iraq war are buried. This place is massive and hundreds of martyrs are buried here. This shook our hearts after hearing about the many young brave warriors, some of whom were less than 15 years of age, who went to fight.

As soon as we were about to leave the cemetery, we were given an amazing surprise that we were going to pray behind the supreme leader of Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khamenei! We were amazed and were very eager to pray the afternoon prayers.  As we got there, we ran off the bus to enter the mosque. We had to cross 4 Checkpoints for the safety of the Ayatollah. We entered the masjid half an hour before adhaan yet it was already half full! We hurried to get a place in front and waited for the adhaan, during this time there was Quran recitation by great reciters. A few minutes after the recitation was over, the Ayatollah entered the mosque and hundreds of people rushed to the front just to see him, the same thing happened after the prayers were over. Alhamdulillah most of us were able to see him and this was the best part of the day!!!

Shortly after, we went to Savak, which was a prison where tens of thousands of people were tortured. We watched a few clips of how people were tortured which made most of us shed tears, it was really heart touching. The son of Imam Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei were also ones who were captured. From thousands of people, just few survived and most of the others either died in the prison or were taken to the court and were sentenced to death. This was an insightful place for us to visit and will definitely be memorable.

Abbas Ali from Toronto Jamaat, Canada said "It was heart wrenching to see the types of torture used by the Shah on the innocent Iranians."

We then had lunch after leaving for the airport to Mashad.  My experiences of this day were astonishing. It was simply AMAZING!! Praying behind Ayatollah Khamenei, the cemetery we visited, the prison...however, not only this day, but our whole trip in Qum has so far been remarkable.......

Day 15 – Sunday 29 July 2012

Written by Mohammed Raza Lokhandwala from Dubai Jamaat (UAE)

The time has come to say goodbye to the holy city of Qum. It has been the city of attraction for many of the mo'mineen around the world. The splendid shrine of the holy lady herself, the miraculous masjid of Jamkaran, the graveyards of famous personalities and the amazing trip to Kaashan. We will cherish these wonderful memories for the rest of our lives.

After returning to our hawza from the amazing Iftar at Bama and then the ice cream treat, we made our way to the prayer room for another movie night. '313', a film of a teenager who finds his way towards Imam Mehdi(ATFS) after overcoming his evil habits. We then had our sehri, prayed our namaz and went to sleep.

Our last day in Qum and our last fast in Iran too!! We had this thought in the back of our minds as we made our way to the classes. Today was different from the rest of the days. We had a very interesting Q & A session with Sheikh Khalfan, which we all had been waiting for. Sheikh Aqib Jaffry also had a different approach to the class. He showed us a documentary in which an athiest was questioning the existence of God and religion with his 'illogical' arguments.

I would like to thank these amazing teachers whom we have had throughout the course including Sheikh Khalfan, Sheikh Aqib Jaffry and not to forget Sheikh Safdar Razi who shared with us their knowledge and inspired us with their amazing teachings.

As we were informed earlier, Al-Mustafa University wanted to organise a closing ceremony in our honour and we immediately made our way downstairs soon after the second session. It commenced with Quran recitation by Bro. Kumail.  This was followed by a beautiful speech by Shiekh Baraati on the month of Ramadhan and its importance. He advised us to recite the Dua of Wida of Ramadhan so that we understand the importance of this month and try to act accordingly before we regret. We were also given a token of appreciation by the Institute. Finally, Sheikh Kumail expressed his gratitude to the institute for their hospitality.

After this we had a test given to us by Sheikh Safdar Razi about what we had learnt during the course, since this was pretty much the last class of the whole course.  The classes in Mashad will inshAllah be very different to those which we have had in Qum. 

We then rested till 7 o'clock, after which we departed for our farewell ziyaraat of Bibi Masuma (sa). We bid her farewell through our ziyarat and then offered our final prayers at the holy Shrine.

As we were returning, I had mixed feelings: there was a sense of sadness at parting away from one of the most noble ladies on the earth, but I was also excited that we would be going to Tehran and then to Mashad to do the Ziyaraat of our 8th holy Imam(as) the next day.

Brother Mohsin Jan, from Leeds Jamaat (UK) was quoted saying several times: "I can't wait to get to Mashad!"

This was the expression of excitement that we were going through and none of us can wait to do the ziyaraat of Imam Reza(AS).

Day 14 –Saturday 28 July

Written by Imran Fazal from Nakuru Jamaat (Kenya)

The day started a short while after midnight with an informal question and answer session with Sheikh Safdar Razi . We're now two weeks into the course and the students know what they are looking for from such a gathering. One of the very important questions that came about is "how can we prove the Holy Quran is the book of Allah". A little while into this session, Sheikh Kumail Rajani joined us.  As the discussion continued, this Q&A session turned into a heated discussion. Answers were soon termed as opinions, with everyone having their own.  It went on till sehri time. We did find our answers, which are from the Holy Book itself. 

In the morning we had our normal classes until 4pm. Every class has been beneficial to us, and every lecturer's passion has been inspiring.  We had some free time after that, which we more commonly refer to as 'sleeping time'.

In the evening we headed out of the hawza for a short trip. Our first stop was at bayt-an-noor. This is a very special mosque as it was the place of worship of our beloved Bibi Masuma (sa). Our next destination was Chehel Akhtharaan graveyard, which means "40 stars". This is because 40 of the people buried here were from the household of our 9th and 10th Imams (as), all of which were scholars and narrators of the teachings of Islam.  In this graveyard is the shrine of one of the direct sons of our beloved Imam Mohammed Al-Jawad (AS), namely Musa Al Mubarkha. The title of 'Al-Mubarkha' came about because of his very good looks, to which he had to wear a barkha (veil) on his face to avoid too many looks from the non-mahrams. He passed away at the age of 82 years. From here we went to another graveyard known as Gulzar-e-Shuhadaa, which means 'rose-garden of martyrs'. Here we saw the graves of hundreds of martyrs during the Iran-Iraq war. We paid our respects and moved on to the Haram of Bibi Masuma (sa) for Maghrib and Isha salaat.

This was followed by one of the more special iftars of our trip. We had shawarma rolls and fries at the famous Bama restaurant! This was followed with dessert at falake bastanee ice-cream shop. 

Abbas N. Ali from ISIJ Jamaat, Toronto said, "The amount of ice cream flavours was completely mind-blasting!"

The days are passing by very fast, but one of the important things I have learnt from this trip is to attain knowledge at every opportunity we get, and this will remain my main objective for the rest of the trip.

Day 13 – Friday 27 July 2012

Written by Taha Dharamsi from Dar es Salaam (Tanzania)

"Oh Allah I beseech thee by Thy mercy which encompasses all things and by the power which thou overcomes all things"
(Dua E Kumail, Narrated to Kumail Ibne Ziyad by Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib)

Tears rolled down our eyes as we listened to the beautiful recitation of Dua E Kumail by Sheikh Ali Hussain Najad in the Haram of Bibi Fatima Masuma (sa). The whole night we had dedicated to stay in the Haram of the Holy Lady and this indeed was one of the most memorable moments of the trip. After an amazing time at the haram we returned back to the Hawza where we had traditional Indian food for sehri, minced meat and rice. After praying salatul Fajr, all of us were tired and went to sleep as there was a hectic day ahead.

After the well needed sleep, we went to the Jumah Khutba at the Haram of the Holy Lady, the khutba was lead by Ayatullah Bushehri (may Allah protect him). The Ayatullah discussed a hadith by Imam Ali (as) in the first part of the khutba and in the second part the Ayatollah talked about the current situation around the world.  After the Namaz and Khutba of Jumah we all stayed to in the Haram to participate in the Quran Khani in which the recitation of the Holy Quran was recited by the some of the best Qaris of the Holy Quran. The Quran Khani went on until 4:00 PM after which we returned back to the hawza. 

At 7:00pm we had a discussion with Sheikh Assad Dharsi, a student of the Hawza who is originally from Canada.  We discussed how we can be better Muslims living in our own countries.  We discussed how we need to perfect our akhlaq just as the Prophet (saw) did so to spread the religion of Islam inshAllah.

After the discussion the most awaited event of the day was ahead, swimming! After praying Maghribain and breaking our fast with snacks we headed to the swimming pool.  The swimming pool was remarkable; the pool was heated and had modern features such as a gym, steam room, cold bath and a mini pool on the side. Here at the pool we were joined by another youth group, The Al-Asr group from the UK who were very pleased to meet and bond with us.  During our time in the swimming pool we had races amongst ourselves and also had friendly chicken fights against each other.  After the enjoyable swim we were all tired and hungry thus we rushed back to the hawza and enjoyed the meal that was prepared for us.

Brother Ali-Asad Esmail from Dar es Salaam Jamaat, summed up the day by saying "What a Day, A Night at the Haram of the Holy Lady, Quran Khani by the best reciters and swimming with our fellow brothers from around the world"

Day 12 – Thursday 26 July 2012

Written by Mohsin Jan from Leeds Jamaat (UK)

It was around 2:30AM where we all gathered in the namaz room to watch the film of Imam Ali (as). Everyone bought snacks and some guys brought their blankets and pillows and the atmosphere was brilliant. As we were watching the movie Sh. Safdar was telling us in detail why such incident happened. I had seen the movie before but I wanted to watch it again because of the influence it had on me.  Some of the guys fell asleep and some of us were enjoying watching Imam Ali (as) triumphing over his enemies in the battle of Khandaq, and Khayber.

By the time the movie finished we had a few minutes before Sehri. So some of us started to recite the Quran, and once this was ready, Sehri started and we all filled our stomachs.  We prayed our Fajr namaz and some of us ran to go to bed, as we were all very tired.

We woke up at 11:30AM for our classes, as normal we had our first class about the beauty and the essence of Ayatul Kursi. Once this class finished it was time for Zohr namaz. We prayed our namaz with jamat and we went to our second class. This class was very interesting and has been since we are trying to prove the existence of God. The question for today was "Can God create a stone and he himself cannot lift it?" This was very interesting as we threw so many questions and arguments to Sh. Jaffrey and at the end we got to the bottom. Then we had our last class of the day with Sh. Safdar about the Ruh (Soul). We talked about dreams and different interpretations of dreams and how our Ruh goes to the other world.

Later on in the evening we are going to have a debate on a very topical issue. This is to stimulate debate and encourage a vibrant discussion amongst the boys.

After the debate we will be going to the haram of Bibi Masuma (sa) and we will be there all night for Dua-e-Kumayl.  We will also have free time to spend at the haram on our own. I cannot wait for this and what a great opportunity it is for me to be in the haram for this dua. The atmosphere, the words, and emotions will take charge as we turn to Allah (swt) to forgive our sins and to help us and guide us to the path of his Prophet and his family (peace and blessings be upon them all).

Day 11 – Tuesday 24 July 2012 (Madinah boys)

Written by Mujtaba Somji from Dar e salaam Jamaat (Tanzania)

After coming back from Jamkaran mosque and experiencing a heart-touching Du’a Tawassul recitation, our day began with the normal tafseer session by Sheikh Safdar Razi who gave a beautiful explanation on the event of Fadak. It really gave us an insight into what happened to the Lady of Light (a.s), and what responsibilities we have towards this great lady.

We then listened to a Du’a Iftetah recitation by Abather al-Halawaji followed by a nice sehri dish, scrambled eggs with Iranian Naan. The food was really amazing and it could be seen by how the boys filled their stomachs and drinking lovely Indian tea made by Agha Noori, one of the organizers. Right after that we prayed Fajr Salaah led by Sheikh Safdar Razi, we then rushed to our beds knowing that we have to wake up at 11.30am for the classes.

Our first class was with Sheikh Mohammed Khalfan who continued his tafseer lessons on Ayatul Kursi. In this lesson, we learnt how unworthy as humans we are and that we are nothing without Allah (s.w.t). Whatever we have belongs only to Him and we don’t have anything of our own.

Time for Zohr prayers arrived and we rushed downstairs to the prayer room for this great act of worship. The prayers were led by a local scholar of the Al-Mustafa Hawza. Soon after that we had to go for the other two classes.

Sheikh Aqib Jafari was the next scholar to drill our brains with amazing theological lessons where we kept on discussing about the existence of God, but we ended up staying in suspense as time was a constraint.  The last class was with Sheikh Razi where we were given the proofs of the humans accepting the test from God. Brother Ammar Suleman from Dubai Jamaat, had an amazing answer to one of the questions by Sheikh who said, “Ammar, take the podium. I am done. MashaAllah.”

At this point, we were tired as our stomachs were empty and we had minimum energy and so we went to our beds with the aim of recharging our batteries.

At 6 pm, we all left for an outside trip whereby we visited the shrine of Ayatullah Marashi, a great scholar who has written plenty of books on Islam and has left us with treasures. Our journey continued when we went to buy some souvenirs for our families and/or friends. We then proceeded to the amazing Ansariyan Publications Store which had lots of Islamic books. I was really amazed to see the passion and hunger that the youths have for knowledge when they bought lots of books which can be categorized as theology, self-development, biographies of the Imams (a.s), Ahadeeth, Qur’anic resources and many more.

After this eventful and fun time outside, we came back with our hungry stomachs and thirsty throats with the hope of breaking our fasts but only after we fulfilled our obligations of prayers. We then rushed to the dinner hall for a very delicious Iftaar meal of boneless chicken and Iranian Naan. We then had a special celebration which marked the 18th birthday of Brother Zia Safdar from Portsmouth Jamaat, UK.

After having a good rest, we started our Farsi classes by Brother Miqdad Rajabali who taught us some basic words, and we must say, “Khayle Mamnoon.”

Day 10 – Tuesday 24 July 2012 (Bab course)

Written by Hasnain Valli of Birmingham Jamaat (UK) and Ali-asad Esmail from Dar es Salaam Jamaat (Tanzania)

 “O Allah, Thou has given me permission to invoke Thee and beseech Thee…” Dua Iftitah, the Dua taught by the 12th Imam (Imam Mohammed Mehdi (ATFJ)).

The day began with the normal daily routine i.e. sehri, namaaz and then waking up for 4 hours of intense learning. The day was not very harsh on us, in that fasting seemed relatively easy, even though Iran reached approximately 40 degrees Celsius at one part of the day. After the classes, we had the pleasure of meeting with Ayatullah Amini (a great scholar in Akhlaq and Spirituality), followed by a tour of what Hawza life would be like if we were to join in the future (InshaAllah). At night, we took a trip to Masjid-e-Jamkaran where we wrote our Arizas and had the chance of listening to an emotional Dua e Tawassul.

The night before most of us had stayed up all night reciting Quran, having Tafseer classes with Sheikh Safdar Razi, reciting Dua Iftitah along with some other short Duas, eating Sehri at 3:30am and finally Salatul Fajr at 4:30am led by a pious scholar at the Hawza campus. So you shouldn’t be surprised when I say that the mentors had a very tough job in waking us up at 12pm for one of our three intense classes of the day. However, in my personal opinion, life in Qum is like paradise. No worries, tensions or any such sort of issues as we are away from all this. I must say though, the “no phones rule” does get annoying at times!

A brief summary on the classes we’ve been having; “Journey of the Soul- The theory of Alame Dharr”, by Sheikh Safdar Razi, “The purpose of creation”, by Sheikh Ali Zaidi and “Mahdawiyah”, by Sheikh Safar Razi. We usually have 15 minute Q & A sessions after every class. Overall though, we have benfited a lot from this course.

Going on with the day, Masjid-e-Jamkaran was very emotional and this was because this was the final day that we could step into the mosque of our 12th Imam (atf). Masjid-e-Jamkaran is a place where nothing matters except the communication with the Imam of our time (atf). The tears falling down from our eyes was a sign that our prayers had been accepted. There are three ways of communicating with our 12th Imam (atf), as we have learnt in Mahdawiyah. These are; writing, verbally and telepathically. In this trip to Jamkaran, we had done all three (ie. Ariza for writing, Dua Iftitah for verbally and the third one is our personal duas and thoughts). If anybody knows about Imam Mahdi (atf), he will know that the Imam will most probably be present as his actual self and not just in spirit. The night at Jamkaran made us feel the presence of Imam Mahdi (atf)

Overall, the day turned out to be an amazing one as we had the pleasure of meeting with a great scholar (Ayatullah Amini), visiting Masjid-e-Jamkaran and more… after all the hard work and effort we put in, we should always know that the effort will pay off somehow either in this world or the Akhira, or both. InshaAllah, we will have the pleasure of going to Iran once again and InshAllah everybody at home or work reading this will be able to renew their pledge to Imam Mahdi (atf).

Day 10 – Tuesday 24 July 2012 (Madinah course)

Written by Abbas N. Ali from ISIJ of Toronto (Canada)

And so we have reached the halfway point of our trip. After getting through the first few days full of rules, getting used to the new surroundings and trying to remember everyone's names, it seems we have finally been able to make this our home, away from home at least for these three weeks.

With the continuation of the Holy month of Ramadhan we continued with our nightly programs, consisting of Quran Khani and tafseer by Sh. Safdar Razi followed by the nightly duas for the month of Ramadhan. This took us to the time of Sehri, where fish and rice was waiting for us. This continued the huge variety of food that we have received over the past 10 days, and I got to give a huge thanks to all the organizers for that.  After helping ourselves to Sehri, we headed for Fajr Salaat after which everyone quickly went to sleep.

At Noon we made our way to our first class of the day with Sh. Khalfan, continuing our tafseer of Ayat ul Kursi. With many of us still thinking about more sleep, it seemed fitting that we had reached the part of Ayat ul Kursi where it mentions that Allah does not get overtaken by slumber, nor sleep. We continued with a discussion on how sleep can display the weakness and lack of independence of a person. Upon hearing the Adhan of Zohr echoing throughout the Hawza, we made our way down to the prayer hall to join various other hawza students and teachers for salaat.

We then moved on to our next class with Sh. Jafferi about Proving the Existence of God. In my opinion this class has definitely been the most interesting, and eye-opening class of the trip so far. Sh. Jafferi has helped us all in clearing and proving the existence of one independent being God. "The proofs provided by Sh. Jafferi were so strong, and yet so simple and logical" said Zaigham Hussein Khimji (CoEJ) The last class of the day was the continuation of the Journey of the Soul by Sh. Safdar Razi where he explained the creation of the first human being on earth; Prophet Adam.

After a well deserved 2 hour break, we headed off to meet Agha Amini, a respected scholar focusing on Akhlaq and personal spirituality. He started off by welcoming us and continued by emphasizing the importance of respecting one's parents, and always listening to them. What really made me realize his state of Ilm and spirituality was the manner in which he answered all the questions that were posed. After attentively listening to the question translated to him in Farsi, Agha Amini would take a minute to ponder over how he will answer. He would not say an answer right away, but would think and take his time in doing so. This made me understand the importance of managing and controlling your words, and always thinking before one speaks.

Following a delicious iftaar consisting of rice, kebab and plenty of fruits, our next stop was Jamkaran. With it being a Tuesday, we could not miss the beautiful recitation of Dua Tawassul on the holy land of Jamkaran.

I took this time to ponder where I was and why I was here. I knew I had to take full advantage of this night, as it was our last time in Jamkaran before we head to Mashhad. We ask Allah (swt) to grant us another chance to visit Jamkaran again.

Day 9 – Monday 23 July 2012 (Bab course)

Written by Sajjadali Hasnain Virjee from Dar es Salaam Jamaat (Tanzania)

Our day started by the recitation of Quran at 1:30am and followed by the Tafsir of a few ayahs by Sheikh Safdar Razi - this benefitted us to understand the secrets behind every verse. After the recitation of Quran we had the recitation of Dua e Iftetah, this dua made us understand the importance of the holy month of Ramadan.

We had a 10 minute break before we had sehri at 3:30am, which included a nice chicken pilau, a variety of cereals, juice, tea and many other delicious Iranian delicacies. This was followed by the fajr prayers lead by an Imam from the hawza. After  a whole night of ibadah we decided to do some more as I and many others felt at the peak of spirituality, So we napped till 12 noon!(it is ibadah to sleep in the month of Ramadan so we have to take full advantage!) .

Waking up at 12 somehow sleepy, we rushed to the classroom to attend our first class of the day. This class was about MAHDAWIYAT, taught by Sheikh Safdar Razi.  We learnt how Allah (swt) has put in place certain conditions that we as the followers of the 12th Imam (ajfs) need to look out for in preparation of our Imam (ajfs).

Right after the first class which finished at 1pm, we went to attend the zohrain salaat. As the prayers finished, we took a 5 minute break and went to attend the second class at 2pm.This second class was taught by a new teacher called Sheikh Ali Zaidi. He is a great teacher, very friendly and very learned. He introduced a discussion by questioning the purpose of Allah (swt) creating us. It was a very interesting discussion as most of the students contributed their answers by asking questions to each other. By this discussion we found new and varied answers and views of each other. As said by one of our mentors, Br.Qassim Mawjee “It was a great discussion and there are many practical arguments that we can take back home and imply in our life”.

The second class ended at 3pm, as the third class started at about 3:15pm.This third class was again taught by Sheikh Safdar Razi, It was on the topic called ‘The journey of the soul’. The discussion was a continuation of the lesson we learnt yesterday.

Finally after a great iftar and salaat and some duas, Sheikh Kumail Rajani had organised for us a game of football at the local astroturf. It was a good way to end a long day with some time to relax. One point to note was that I had scored  a good goal to make our team reach a penalty shoot-out but unfortunately I missed the crucial one, after our mentor Qassim Mawjee and Assad slotted it home - it was all a bit of fun so I didn’t mind coming second place as it was an overall good team performance!

Day 9 – Monday 23 July 2012 (Madinah course)

Written by Muddaththir Walji from Stanmore Jamaat (UK)

I was expecting everyone to wake up with excitement due to the suspense Sheikh Jafferi left us with in his previous class, on how to prove the existence of God. However, it took Qasim (our mentor) a good 20 minutes of continuous nagging, which went something like this "GUYS! Wake up its nearly lesson time!" Last night's duas and ibadat left us all tired, even after a good five-hour sleep. Sheikh Khalfan; our teacher for the first lesson had to experience our drowsiness. In his lesson we carried on learning about the different virtues and benefits of reciting Ayat al kursi and what the verses actually mean. During the end of the lesson, we were discussing on how to prove the entity of God, Sheikh had some good answers thrown at him But Mujtaba Somji (from Dar es Salaam Jamaat, Tanzania) finished the discussion with a brilliant answer "if we prove that God exists then we do not need to prove his eternity because He is not dependant on existence as He is All Powerful, Therefore you are limiting Him."

Our next two classes were also very interesting, we learnt more about proving God’s existence in Sheikh Jafferi's class and carried on the discussion about the journey of the soul in Sheikh Safdar's class.

After prayers and the classes, I do not remember much till around 6:00pm as all of us were literally knocked out on our beds, once again we were woken up by our mentor to find out we were going to the park to take in some sun and to discuss how we should involve Islam in our university life and marriage. This was led by Br Miqdad, it was very interesting as us Madinah boys could relate to everything which was brought up in the discussion.

We made our way back to the accommodation, prayed our salaat and opened our fasts with delicious spaghetti and lemon sherbet - juicy watermelons were also served which truly hit the spot.

Soon after iftaar we all jumped on the coach to make our way to the football pitch - What a great way to finish off a long day!

Day 8 - Sunday 22 July 2012

Written by Mohamedraza Lokhandwala of from Dubai Jamaat (UAE)

After unpacking our belongings at our new lodging, some of us went on tour of the Al-Mustafa University. Even after having visited the university on the second day of our arrival to Qum, we thought that we were seeing it for the first time. The Masjid was just amazing and as we entered it our hearts sunk in the remembrance of Allah (swt) and we wished we could come back later for night prayers. The library opposite had a huge collection of books and internet facilities.

At around 1:30 am, to our surprise, alhamdulillah our sincere wish came true and we came back to the prayer room for our first Quran khaani of the holy month. Sheikh Safdar Razi enlightened us with the Tafsir of the 25th Ayat of Surah Baqarah. He mentioned the eternity of the fruits of heaven. We recited the night duas of the month of Ramadhan and performed the night prayers. After having our wonderful sehri, we prayed our Fajr prayers and then retired to our beds.

After having the much needed sleep, we had our first class with Sheikh Khalfan, who briefed us about the merits of Ayatul Kursi. After the Zohrain prayers, we had our most awaited session by Sheikh Jaffari, who posed a few more questions about the existence of God. The third class of the day was by led by Sheikh Safdar Razi, who detailed us about how the descendents of Prophet Adam (AS) came about.

In the evening we had our rest and later the reflection session.

After Namaz e Magribain and our delicious Iftaar, we departed at 10pm for the Haram of the Holy Lady of Qum, Bibi Masooma (sa) to recite Dua-e-Iftitah. The beautiful dua was recited by Syed Ali Hussaini Najad, in his wonderful and heart touching voice.

Sitting near the shrine of the holy personality and contemplating on the second day of the month of Ramadhan, Brother Mujtaba Somji from Dar es Salaam Jamaat, Tanzania was quoted as saying:
"Being in the Haram for Du'a Iftetah was a wonderful blessing. It just makes us feel that we really are the guests of Allah (s.w.t) and his blessings are constantly flowing in for us, SubhanAllah."

After our return from the haram we got back to our scheduled Quran Khaani and are looking forward for the next fast as well as the upcoming spiritual and eventful week, InshAllah.

Day 7 – Saturday 21 July 2012

Written by Zaheerabbas Khimji of Birmingham Jamaat (UK)

We were all excited that it was the first night of the holy month of Ramadan.  Most of us stayed up all night, had sehri, prayed fajr and then went to bed. After fajr prayers there was a short Q & A with Sheikh Razi and an opportunity for those who wanted to recite Quran, to do so.

We woke up around 11.30am in the morning for our first class. However, as we went to freshen up, we were all lined up to go the washroom inside the building. Normally our washrooms were outside but due to a construction issue next to our Hawza, we were unable to access these outside.

Our first class was by Sheikh Khalfan. He gave us an introduction on the tafseer of the Quran, which he took to a very high level.

After Zohr namaz, we had our second and third lessons of the day.  Sheikh Jaffari discussed theology and the existence of Allah (swt), whereas Sheikh Razi discussed a TED-talk by an atheist.  Both were extremely interesting and we learnt a lot from them.  Lessons such as these really make us question our belief with a view of making them stronger inshAllah.  I look forward to the lessons tomorrow!

At 4pm we had some free time to relax as we are fasting. We were supposed to rest till 6pm and then go on a cultural visit.  However, as we were all enjoying our free time, we were suddenly told at 5pm that as a precaution we had to evacuate from our Hawza. This was due to a nearby construction issue. Out of precaution, we left our Hawza, after we had prayed Maghrib and Isha prayer and had our Iftar. We packed with our stomachs full, loaded our luggage on the buses, and took off to our next destination, the main campus of the very same Hawza. Arriving here at 11pm, we were overwhelmed by the luxury: TV’s, western toilets, comfortable beds, air conditioning, lifts in the building. The next 8 days here are going to be great inshAllah!

Day 6 – Friday 20 July 2012

Written by Mujtaba Somji from Dar es Salaam Jamaat (Tanzania)

Having come back from the Haram of Bibi Masuma (sa) last night after witnessing an amazing Du'a Kumayl recitation, we were looking forward to go back there for Du'a Nudba in the morning, after Fajr prayers. A small group of boys went to the Haram of Bibi Masuma (sa) and this is what Brother Ammar Suleman from Dubai Jamaat, U.A.E from the Bab course had to say about this mesmerising experience:

"I felt really blessed to be amongst thousands of people who are eagerly waiting for the re-appearance of the Awaited Saviour. It was a really touching experience with not enough words to describe the feeling."

After the morning prayers, we went to bed early as our day started at 9 am when we woke up for breakfast and got ready for Sheikh Razi's lesson on 'Communication with Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s).' We then had the recitation of Du'a Nudba, which was recited by three of the boys from the group; Aliasad Ismail, Kumeil Nasser and myself.

Sheikh Razi was still enlightening us by having a Q&A session with us on Laws of Fasting. It was an interesting class where by we were taught about some important Fiqh rulings.

At around 12.30 pm, we all left for the important deed on Friday i.e. Juma prayers. We were blessed to be in the presence of Ayatollah Ibrahim Amini who gave the Khutba where he talked about the importance of purifying oneself and also the importance of Mahe Ramadhan and fasting. Although the Khutba was in the Farsi language, one of the mentors, Brother Miqdad Rajabali, had a session after Juma where he explained to us what Ayatollah Amini talked about. His words were truly inspiring.

Later in the afternoon, we played an exciting game, Islamic Articulate, which was organised by the mentors. There were 5 groups and each of them had to guess the word that the narrator from their group was describing about. This was to be done within a span of 1 minute!

In the evening, we were on our way to Mount Khidhr, which is 6 Kilometres away from our accommodation. This was probably the most memorable event on this course so far. We all had to climb the Mount, and the task seemed difficult when we just arrived. However, Alhamdulillah, the climb was a very calm and easy one. When we reached the top, I realized just how beautiful the creation of Allah (s.w.t) is. The scene from up there was just amazing with mountains all over and the whole city was visible from that very spot. Sheikh Razi gave a talk on Moon sighting, as we wanted to see the new moon with our own eyes. However, although we were unfortunately unable to witness the moon, it was the 30th of Shaaban in Iran and so Mahe Ramadhan was declared. Sheikh Razi then led the Jamaat Prayers and we recited the daily Ramadhan Du’as, which brought about the feeling of this auspicious and blessed month.

Our fellow student, Brother Imran Fazal from Nakuru Jamaat, Kenya said, "Allah (s.w.t) has showed us that just like His mercy, this earth's beauty is unlimited."

The last thing on our schedule was playing soccer on an Astroturf pitch, which was just superb. The captains included the three mentors; Brother Miqdad Rajabali, Brother Qassim Mawji and Brother Qassm Gulamhussein, as well as myself. Brother Miqdad Rajabali's team ended up winning the final against a heartbroken team of Brother Qasim Gulamhussein. We all enjoyed the soccer a lot by letting ourselves get healthier rather than the normal schedules.

The night ended with one of the best well-known meals of our community, Biryani! It was a very tasty and delicious dish prepared by the Iranians. We really thank all of the organisers for this wonderful food.

Day 5 – Thursday 19 July 2012 (Bab course)

Written by Muhammadabbas Peera from Arusha Jamaat (Tanzania)

Qasr Salah! ."Samahani sana bana but today marked the last of our qasr salah," said Sheikh Safder Razi, which did upset some boys a little. Personally, I think that the presence of holy people, shrines, and the atmosphere in the holy city of Qum makes us realise how important our prayers are, and so praying full salah is more of a blessing.

With little sleep, we were woken up by our mentors to begin our day with Fajr salah...

An hour after fajr, we left for Kashan. Most of us fell asleep on the coach, while others decided to entertain themselves in a few deep discussions.

After a two hour long coach journey, in which the presence of beautiful scenery was astounding, we headed out into the city of Kashan. We found ourselves parked outside one of Iran’s biggest car factories which had the reputation of creating car bases, engines, dashboards etc. priced at only around $5,500... it was concluded that the cars were not as efficient as the usual BMW or Mercedes! Typical Iranian eh? Forgive me, but I’m pretty sure I saw a run-down Iranian truck with a Ferrari logo... nice!

Anyways, the tour guides were proud to mention that the factory was over 1,000 square meters, as well as a few other facts which we struggled to find interesting. However, the most captivating procedures were the cries of Allahu-akbar from the enthusiastic workers.  Apart from this whimsical ‘theory’, the rest of the factory contained some electric displays and robotic movements which were surprisingly impressive.

After the informative visit of the car factory we decided to have a history lesson, where we went to certain places like The Garden of Fin, the grave of on eof the Imam's children, Abbasiyan House and last but not least a 200 year old mosque. During this short period of time, we learnt a lot of history on the various places of interest in Kashan.  We learnt many interesting facts such as the garden of fin having fountains which does not involve a single pipe to elevate the water, but only by the use of mathematics the water is supplied throughout the mansion, the abbasiyan house featured two knocks, one for the male and one for the ladies and it also had different rooms for different seasons and the mosque which was a beautiful sight like all the other mosques, only to see that this particular mosque featured a historical value.

The highlight of the day featured both the Madinah and Bab groups sprinting downhill to stand on a piece of rock that had ice cold waterfalls coming out of it. The waterfall was amazing and not only because of the water, but also because we saw a magnificent view of mountains and villages. The boys enjoyed playing and throwing water on each other, most of the boys were soaked in water and waited outside the bus for some sunshine. The waterfalls in the area made us see how Allah (swt) has made us as humans more God conscious than any other creation.

Finally, to conclude we had reached the place where the Grandson of Imam Muhammad Baqir (as) was buried and also the descendents of Imam Musa Al Kadhim (as) - Imam Muhammad Baqir (as)’s grandson was brutally attacked and beheaded by the obnoxious and self-centred ruler at that time.

As we arrived back to the Hawza some of the boys were really tired and stayed back and others went to the haram of Bibi Masuma (sa) where we heard the beautiful recitation of Dua Kumail.  The experience was amazing, and it enhanced the boys’ connection with Bibi Masuma (sa) further.

Overall, this was an amazing day not only because of some parts of the day being so entertaining, but also because of the historical lessons that we learnt. This day was meant for an outing but instead we got a fantastic day full of knowledge. This was one of the best days in the course so far!

Day 5 – Thursday 19 July 2012 (Madinah course)

Written by Zaighamhusein Khimji of Birmingham Jamaat (UK)

The morning started as normal with Fajr salaat and a short talk by Sheikh Safdar Razi.  It was an early start as we left for the nearby city of Kashaan. 

During our visit, we learnt a lot about the city of Kashaan and Iranian culture.  We were told many interesting facts, including Kashaan being known for its door knocks which are used to differentiate between whether the person knocking a door is either male or female.

We were also fortunate to visit a car factory.  Here, they worked on assembling the outer framework of cars to producing the final product for sale to individuals.  It was an interesting experience!

However, one of the most beautiful places we visited today was the Garden of Fee.

After praying Zohr namaz, we went to have lunch at a restaurant where we ate delicious kebabs, scrumptious rice and naan.

After the delicious lunch that we all whole-heartedly enjoyed, we went on to a waterfall that was located in a beautiful village outside the city of Kashaan - the waterfall was a breathtaking scene. Everybody enjoyed it so much that more then half of the group were soaked by the beautiful waterfalls.  Due to the hot weather, it wasn’t long before we dried off!

We also visited the grave of the son of our 5th Beloved Imam, Imam Mohammed Baqir (as) where we prayed ziyarat and left.

After arriving back to at the howza, half of the group decided to go to the haram of Bibi Masuma (sa) for Dua Kumail.  Qassim Mawjee, a mentor on the Bab boys course from Hyderi Jamaat, UK described it as a "heartfelt, energising recitation after a long day of sightseeing"

Tomorrow is the final day of the month of Shabaan and our first Juma on this trip - I can't wait!

Day 4 – Wednesday 18th July (Bab course)

Written by Zia Safdari from Wessex Jamaat (UK)

Our day started with Namaz-e- Shab after which our mentor, Brother Miqdad recited a beautiful and touching dua in English. After this, the fajr salat was led by Sheikh Safdar Razi, who also enlightened us with an inspiring talk about the month of Ramadan. It helped us appreciate how blessed we are to spend the first few days of the month of Ramadan in Qum.

Our morning then started with our first class with Sheikh Safdar Razi. This was on the “Journey of the Spirit: from Creation to Eternity”. This lesson helped us to understand more about the theories relating to the creation of the soul. The next lesson was taught by Sheikh Ali Arastu, which discussed “steps towards success and communication”, where we learnt about the importance of thankfulness and gratitude towards Allah (swt) in addition to how to communicate in respectful ways with other people. Our final class on Mahdaviyat encouraged us to reflect on how we are preparing for the reappearance of the 12th Imam (ajfs).

Later on the day we had a short reflection session with our mentors. We had a stimulating group discussion on the experiences of the first week of the course.  The interesting discussion inspired us, motivated us, and encouraged us to work harder to get closer to Allah (swt).

It was a busy day and before Maghrib namaz, we went to visit the grave of Sheikh Ibrahim Qummi, who was one of the companions of the 10th and 11th Imams (as). We then moved on to a cemetery to pay our respect to those killed in the Iran-Iraq war, Iranian Revolution and two highly valued personalities. One was the father of Sheikh Sadooq and the other was Zakariya Ibn Adam.

Soon after, we went to visit one of the oldest hawza in the holy city of Qum where Imam Khomeini (ra) studied. We were given a brief history of his life and the revolution, and the impact he had on Iran and its people. After the short visit of the holy individuals, we were delighted to spend some time shopping! As salaat time approached, we rushed to the haram of Bibi Masuma (sa). The salat was led by Ayatullah Ibrahim Ameeni, who we were alhamdullilah fortunate to meet.  He gave us advice on how to build our inner self to that which the 12th Imam (ajfs) would expects from us.

Today taught us a lot and left us with many questions on which we all had to ponder.  The main question for me was are we ready for the return of the 12th Imam (ajfs)?

Day 4 – Wednesday 18 July 2012 (Madinah course)

Written by Imran Fazal from Nakuru Jamaat (Kenya)

As we returned from Masjid e Jamkaran on Tuesday night, there was this positive energy that could be seen within the group.  This was now our third night in the hawza, and this energy led many of us to pray Namaz-e-Shab.  We all gathered in one room and prayed the night prayer individually. It had been a long day and it was already 2am, however nobody was tired! Instead, we were all inspired! After completing the prayers, one of our mentors, Brother Miqdad Rajabali led the group with a beautiful dua that he recited in English – the dua related directly to our position in this life and our purpose on this course. Although, I had already visited the shrine of Bibi Masuma (sa) and Masjid – e - Jamkaran, it was during this dua that I shed my first tears on this trip. The atmosphere amongst the group after this recitation was so different, especially with tears in the eyes of participants after this thought-provoking dua. I felt humbled! After this, some of us went to sleep, while others stayed awake until fajr.

After Fajr, we all had some much needed sleep. In the morning, we had our usual classes until Zohr time. Zohr and Asr prayers were followed by a rather special lunch, as we were honoured by the presence of Sheikh Safdar Razi and Sheikh Abbas Ismail. This took place in the room of the Madinah boys and we did not let the opportunity pass by. We asked the two Sheikhs many questions as we all took advantage of this opportunity to learn more and to gain answers to the many questions that we had.  We alhamdullilah received extremely informative answers. I remember clearly from the previous night one of my fellow students, Brother Zaighamhusein Khimji (CoEJ) said "I have a craving for discussion". During this lunch his wish was granted very generously, as the discussion went on for over an hour after we completed our meal.

Soon after this, after some free time for sport and relaxation, we had our first reflective session. In this session, our mentor for Madinah boys, Brother Qasim Gulamhusein, questioned us about what we had learnt from the morning classes. This reflective session soon turned into another discussion with contributions from everyone.

This was followed by a bus trip in which we were dropped next to the Haram of Bibi Masuma (sa).  After entering a shopping bazaar, many of us thought we were going shopping! However, instead we kept walking through the bazaar and came across a beautiful shrine. The shrine was surrounded by sayings in Arabic and I thought to myself that this must be a very special person. It was here that we were explained that it was the shrine of one of the companions of our 11th Imam (as), namely Ali-ibne Ibrahim al-Qummi. We paid our respects and moved on. The next shrine we visited was of Baba Wai, more renown as father of Sheikh Sadooq, who was born as the result of the dua of our 12th Imam (ajfs).

Our next stop was to the Shaykhan graveyard, which amongst the many who areburied there is the grave of Zakariyah ibne Adam, one of the trustworthy companions of Imam Ridha (as). This graveyard also holds the grave of Muhaqiqe-Qummi, a great scholar whose books have been taught in the hawzas for over a thousand years!

We then prayed our Maghrib and Isha prayers in the Holy shrine of Bibi Masuma (sa), which were led by Ayatullah Amini. After the prayer, many of us went to greet him.  We were grateful that he took the time to speak to us and he gave us some pieces of advice.  He said that he understood how it is tough to live in non-Islamic countries and urged us to keep practicing our faith. He also praised the Khoja community for how organised we were!

After the short meeting with Ayatullah Amini, we went back to our accommodation for an extra special dinner of friend chicken, pizza and chips!

I’m really looking forward to what the next few weeks will bring inshAllah!

Day 3 –  Tuesday 17 July 2012
(Madinah course)

Written by Mohsin Jan from Leeds Jamaat (UK)

Our day started with the recitation of Fajr prayer after which Sheikh Safdar Razi gave a short speech about the duas for each individual day.  It made me realise how lucky we are that Allah (swt) loves us so much that he has blessed us with duas for specific days.

As everyone went back to sleep for a few hours, I could not sleep. I was so inspired and spiritually uplifted by my first ziyarat at the haram of Bibi Masuma (sa)!  What I saw yesterday was absolutely amazing and I could not get the picture of Bibi Masuma (sa)’s haram out of my mind.

After breakfast in the morning, we went to Al-Mustafa International University.  Here, we were welcomed by two learned scholars who gave us speeches on the Institute.  It was a great honour for me to listen to them and I learnt a lot.

After returning from Al-Mustafa University, we started our first of three classes for the day. The topics for our three lessons were "Journey of the Soul", "Akhlaq", and "Steps Towards Success". These topics helped me gain an understanding of my own soul - where did it come from? How was it made? What do our scholars say about this etc.  I also learnt about how I can improve my Akhlaq and what steps we need to take in our life to become successful and close to Allah (swt).

The afternoon was free time – after praying Zohr and Asr salaat and playing football, I had the opportunity to speak to my family in the UK.  It was an emotional moment as I spoke to my mum about Bibi Masuma (sa).  I was telling her how lucky I am to be here, and that there is so much knowledge to learn and seek from each other!

In the evening, we made our way to Masjid-e-Jamkaran - the mosque of Imam Mahdi (ajfs). It is narrated that the Imam (ajfs) visits here every Tuesday, but it is not always possible to see him with our naked eye. I was so excited, yet anxious to see the mosque. When we got there and after seeing what I saw, I have no words to describe what I felt. I was gobsmacked as I thought of the bounties that Allah (swt) has given us in this world.
I remember Muddaththir Walji from Stanmore Jamaat, UK commenting: "I felt at peace and in my own world as I prayed Salaat Haajaat".

I couldn’t take my eyes off what was around me as the sun set behind the dome of the mosque.

We all took group photos of this beautiful place and Sheikh Safdar Razi then gave a short speech about the history of Masjid-e-Jamkaran. I remember as I was taking short steps towards the mosque, tears were flowing down my eyes as I thanked Allah (swt) that he has chosen me to visit here. The masjid was packed with thousands of people - it was truly unbelievable!

Whilst I prayed my namaz at the masjid, I felt at home.  I felt peace, it felt like I had no connection with the outside world. It was like this was my home - this is where I was meant to be and after so many years, I had finally arrived home.

The namaz that I prayed in this mosque was one of the most moving prayers I have ever prayed in my entire life. I understood every word I was saying, my actions were humble and at the time of dua, I just let all my feelings and hajaats out to the Imam (ajfs). Again, tears were flowing and I know that the Imam of our time listens to everyone’s prayers.

As Dua-e-Tawassul started, tears began to flow when the names of the masumeen were being recited. As the name of Aba Abdillah was mentioned, tears would not stop for him as my love for him kept growing in my heart. Towards the end of the dua, the name Imam-e-Zamana (ajfs) made me cry more and my love for him grew even further. Although, it was quite late at night, people still kept coming and coming. After paying my utmost respect to the Imam of our time (ajfs), we returned back to the hawza to rest before what I am sure will be yet another eventful day...

Day 3 – Tuesday 17 July
2012 (Bab course) 

Written by Ammar Mohamed of Dubai Jamaat (UAE)

The day started fairly normally with fajr namaaz led by Sheikh Safdar Razi. The exhausted yawns of the jetlegged students echoed through the dorms as they hurried down for salaat. After a hearty recitation of Quran, the students sleepily wandered back into their beds to get the few precious hours of sleep that they would need for the long day ahead.

7:00 - 9:50 AM
Mentors Miqdaad Rajabali and Qassim Mawjee bustled around the hawza while the students simultaneously ate and got dressed. The first excursion the students would participate in, was a trip to the Jamiatul-Mustafa al Ilmia, the umbrella organisation for all for non-iranian hawza students. At the hawza the students were lectured by hujjat ul Islam wal muslimeen, Sheikh Baraati and Syed Mas'udi. We were truly inspired by the wise words of these two great aalims.

10:00 - 12:50 PM
Upon arrival back to the accommodation, we immediately rushed to our classes, where we studied, the in depth concepts of alame dharr, accomplishing success and Mahdiviat.

2:30-7:00 PM
After namaaz and a satisfying lunch, we proceeded to engage in some physical activity. An exciting 4-a-side football tournament ensued. After freshening up with a quick shower, we were enlightened by a solid 45 minute reflective session by our respective mentors before the highly anticipated Jamkaran trip.

7:00 - 12:00 PM
Finally - Jamkaran!
As we all approached the grand gates of the Jamkaran mosque, there was an aura of awe amongst the group. Approaching the main entrance, many of the students reported a feeling of insignificance overcome them Ali-Asad Esmail, from Dar es Salaam Jamaat, Tanzania comments:

"The fact that the Imam (ajfs) was amongst us and could possibly be any one of the thousands of people walking by, was in itself an amazing prospect"

As the bright light of the blue dome reflected off the faces of the  students who were deep in thought, Sheikh Kumayl recalls the following:

"It was great to see the youths in Jamkaran building a relationship with the Imam of our time (ajfs) with the hope of getting a chance to be with him when he returns inshAllah"

Day 2 – Monday 16 July 2012

Written by Abbas N. Ali from ISIJ of Toronto (Canada)

Before coming on this Short Course to Iran we were constantly told by the organisers that this was going to be an action-packed three weeks. The organizers definitely got that part spot-on. The moment we met our mentors, Br. Qassim Mawjee, Br. Qasim Gulamhusein, and Br. Miqdad Rajabali at the airport, we were rushed into cars to make our way to the accommodation in Qum.

On this car ride, at 1am in the morning was when I realised that this was the start of a journey of a lifetime. The time had finally come, and I was just a few hours away from the Shrine of Bibi Fatima Masuma (sa). The feelings of anxiousness, excitement, and nervousness were reaching a high point. All the preparation, and the excitement was to come down to the next three weeks, and I couldn't wait to get started.

After the arrivals of all the other participants from Africa, Dubai and Europe, we had some much needed rest to get our batteries recharged after gruelling flights from all over the world.  The day started off at Zohr time followed by lunch; our first experience with the world-famous Iranian Cuisine. After a short break, we had an introductory session with our mentors, Sh. Kumail Rajani, and Sh. Safdar, outlining the expectations, and general rules we have to adhere to during our stay in Qum. The busy day continued with a short icebreaker session, right before the much anticipated first visit to the Haram of Bibi Masuma (sa).

As the bus arrived, the excitement was building among us for the visit to the Haram. We eagerly boarded the bus and headed for the Shrine. At this moment I simply had no words to explain what I was feeling. With the Golden Dome of the shrine finally meeting our eyes, I could feel a sudden peace coming through my body, with my mind being clearer than ever towards my goal of reaching closer proximity to Allah (SWT). With Sh. Safdar as our guide, we made our way through the Haram. As we reached the entrance of the haram, after making our way through the courtyard, we stopped to read the Ziyarat of Bibi Masuma (sa) altogether, lead by Br. Miqdad. After each of us had visited the Zari, we continued on to look around at the various scholars who had been given the special privilege to be buried in the close proximity of the Zari of Bibi Masuma (sa).  During this time, everyone had few words to say, but those few words perfectly explained how they felt as they finally visited the sister of our 8th Holy Imam (as).

Br. Mohamedraza Haiderali Lokhandwala, from Dubai Jamaat, UAE  was caught in few words as the only words that came to mind were, "It's just so beautiful, " as he looked around at each of the intricate details that lined the walls and ceilings of the haram. After getting the group back together, and reciting the Hadiya salaat, we made our way out, to Inshallah come back to visit many, many more times over the next three weeks and beyond.

Our last stop of the day was Dar-ul Zahra, where the World Federation Qum office is based.  Here, we attended the opening ceremony. After beautiful recitations of Quran, and a Qasida by fellow participants, the ceremony continued with welcome speeches from Sheikh Kumail, Sheikh Safdar, and two of the mentors, Br. Qasim Gulamhusein and Sr. Azmina Mawjee. We were lucky to have a few of the Hawza students join us for the ceremony, whom we were able to have great discussions with during dinner.

Br. Qasim Mawjee from Hyderi Jamaat, UK summed up the day beautifully when he said, "It was an amazing day, with two emotional lectures by Sh. Safdar Razi which were both very inspiring. It inspired me to pull through the rest of the day despite a hectic schedule." 


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