Stay tuned here to read all about our participant's daily blogs of their experience.
Day 4 - Sunday 15th April
We started the day with a very awakening lecture by Sh. Nadir.
This lecture has been heavily discussed today and will be for a long time. Spiritual awakening is a lecture I wish all my friends could hear and benefit from.
We learned about the Noors and the different steps of the wayfarer.
Ended the lecture with something that really woke us up: The story about the horizontal and the vertical dead.
We continued to the library and we were amazed by not only the books they have but also the knowledge and skills of their personnel.
After lunch we made ourself ready for Hijamah. After a short taxi ride, we come to a very peaceful room overlooking Mount Khiddr. It was a mind blowing experience.
We bonded as brothers as well.
After the session we ended the day with Salaat in the local mosque where we felt at home. One can only wish for such a nice friend as Brother Afshar.
Day 3 - Saturday 14th April
We started the day with a session with the honourable Sr. Raziya Najafi. We were all awe-struck by her radiating and positive spiritual energy. An amazing woman who really had a profound effect upon us.
The second session was about Prophetic medicine. A very interesting and vast subject which really sheds light upon the fact that every disease is sent with it's cure.
The holy lady Masooma Al-kareema's presence is felt throughout the city. We have come to realise how utterly blessed the people who live in the city of knowledge of Qom are Subhanallah, with tens of Maraje living in this one place.
It's only been a few days but within this short time Allah SWT has already created beautiful brotherly and sisterly bonds between us. Caring and taking care of one another and basically becoming like family Mashallah. I've been able to strengthen existing friendships as well create new ones Alhamdulillah. Maulana Sabzwary who takes the yearly Al-Asr group to Iran and Iraq said a few lines to us many years ago that still resonate in my mind. He said that we should nurture our relationships with our Shia brothers and sisters as these friendships last for eternity.
We were also blessed with a visit to Imam Khomeini's house. Our respected Sheikh Nader explained the greatness of this man in a wonderful setting by a pond in the garden outside. Imam Khomeini's sheer dedication, devotion and reliance on Allah (SWT) is mesmerising. His strength, power and access to special guidance really shows us what a great man he really was. 21 years have passed since I stepped foot in the humble residence of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution. I recount the young adolescent that I was and how much I've changed as a person but more importantly how many changes I need to make in my life on the path to Allah SWT.
Of course the beauty of the reality is that the path is never-ending as there is always room for improvement.
We then hiked up to the masjid in the name of Nabi Khidr (as) at sunset. The majestic view was completely breathtaking!
Hiking is a pastime that both I and my family enjoy however I was slightly apprehensive as I have (Inshallah temporarily) heel and forefoot pain due to a poor choice of shoes these last few years. I was unsure whether the climb would worsen the inflammation I'm currently experiencing, but Alhamdulillah, my husband was of assistance during the hike. I took into consideration the beautiful title of Allah SWT, Ya Qawiyyu, as Sheikh Nader narrated.
We also paid our respects to the young Shuhada that are buried at the base of this mountain. What really struck a cord within me was hearing that the mothers of these Shuhada have learnt sabr, strength and resilience from the mothers of the Shuhada-e-Karbala.
The evening ended at a lovely restaurant where we had the opportunity to grill our own food at the table. A lovely evening shared with lovely sisters was a perfect end to the day.
We are so thankful to our dearest Sheikh Nader and The World Federation for all their efforts and I'm sure I speak on behalf of the group when I say that words won't suffice to express the gratitude the group is feeling.
We started of the day with a very inspiring lecture about responsibilities of husband and wife by Sister Razia Najafi. We got so much positive energy to take with us to our relationships and back home with us.
The day continues with Prophetic medicine session which was very interesting. It was very uplifting for us. We are very indoctrinated in the medical practice in the west and have been blind for alternatives.
We had a beautiful jamat salah together and then a joint lunch were we continued some discussions and reflections.
After lunch we went to Imam Khomeini's house and then to mount Khiddr. Mount Khiddr was very nice and we all needed to walk after all the nice food we had. After prayers at the top of the mountain we went down to the graves of the Martyrs and Sheikh gave us a very nice lecture which also other people around us appreciated.
Ended the evening with some joint BBQ and nice atmosphere.
Day 2 - Friday 13th April
The second day starts with the illness of a few group members... Subhanallah it's a reminder of our vulnerability as human beings; we go from fit to bedridden in one day! This makes me appreciate my health and Allah's (swt) power.
The first lecture of the day by Sheikh Khalfan is very deep and abstract; focusing on how we can know Allah (swt) and through which avenues. Some of His names are discussed and I can't stop thinking about Rahmah; His abundant and ever existing Mercy. I cannot comprehend how much my Creator loves me, my limited and finite brain cannot grasp the depth of His Mercy! The more we learn about our creator the more we love Him and the more we want to associate only with Him. He is our ultimate goal.
The second lecture had a very interesting approach to marriage. Sheikh Sekaleshfaar discussed how everything exists in pairs and also the human being. The women portray more of Allah's (swt) beautiful attributes such as nurturer and men more of his majestetic attributes such as provider. Spiritually men and women through their innate attributes, find their identity and through this finally their role in the family and society. We had an interesting discussion about how these Godly attributes can be suppressed and their negative effect on spirituality. One example of this is Sweden where women have an immense pressure to have a professional career, and it's potential effects on family dynamics and spirituality.
Tonight is 27 Rajab; the day the Holy Prophet (saw) had his heavenly ascension and announced his Prophethood. The streets are decorated and sweets are distributed. I feel honored to be in a society that has embraced Ahlulbayt (as) fully and incorporated them in their daily life. This is something I deeply miss living in the West.
Alhamdulillah we had the opportunity to visit Bayt Al-Noor and had the respected Sheikh Shabbar give a detailed commentary on the auspiciousness of the Lady Masoomeh of Qom. We then paid our respects to the 40 stars (the sadaats) in the nearby vicinity before and even heard the beautiful recitation of Dua Samaat be played on loudspeaker. We then attended the evening prayer at the Haram.
I was blessed to witness the ceremony of trumpets at sunset in the Holy Shrine and its beautiful! This makes me humble and impressed by how different and unique the Shia culture is expressed in each country.
I felt in awe of all the respected personalities we paid tribute to and realise the blessing of living in such a holy City!
By Sumana Ladha
Day 1 - Thursday 12th April
Tonight is the night of Shahadat of Imam Al-Kadhim (as). He is also known as "Babul Hawaej" (as) the Door of Hajaah (wishes). It is such a wonderful opportunity that we were able to spend this night on the Haram of Her Beloved Daughter Fatima Al-Massuma (sa).
Being a Thursday night we also got the chance to hear the Dua Kumail inside the Holy Shrine in an unique and exceptional way.
We are presenting our sincere condolences to Bibi Massuma (sa), Imam Al-Redha (as) and Imam Al-Mahdi (as). We pray that May Allah (swt) accept our Ziarah and give us the Tawfeeq to bring a real change within ourselves.
By Zamin Raza and Sabera from India
Immediately when you enter Iran you notice the dress code; in a world that attacks Islam for oppressing women, I feel free and dignified wearing the black chador. It reminds me of my status in the eyes of God.
Iran is a country in the spotlight of the western world but one has to come and experience the country for oneself... Being in Iran I'm constantly reminded about the occultation of our 12 th Imam (aj) and this is incorporated in our daily lives. The love of our Imam (aj) is fed to you all the time during your presence in Iran and it makes me aware of how negligent I've been of the Imam (aj) of our time.
After a warm welcome at the airport, we are welcomed as dear old friends rather than strangers in this country ; a sim card is provided to us so that we can stay in touch with our loved ones.
Entering the Holy City of Qom the excitement is building up to see the Holy Shrine...I feel Fatema Masooma (sa) is the most important woman in Iran and only second to her brother Imam Reza (as) in status in this country. She's the epicenter of Qom and the hawza students refer to her as their "mother". The first visit to the Holy Shrine is emotional, but most of all a very humbling experience... I realized how small and insignificant I am, standing in front of a woman who passed away at age of 18 but has left a legacy behind and current this city of knowledge and illumination is under her patronage. When you sit for some time and observe, you see people of all ages, cultural backgrounds. They've all come because of their love for the Ahlulbayt (as) and they have left their trubbles behind and come with open arms to pray and connect to Allah (swt) through the connection of this Holy Lady.
We are welcomed for introduction in the WF Office and I'm struck by the fact that 17 000 foreign are currently studying in Qom, people from over 80 countries that have dedicated their lives for Islam!
Our first Shab Juma (Thursday night) in Iran is in the Holy Shrine. This also coincides with martyrdom of her Holy Father Imam Kazim (as). I feel a strong sense of unity seeing all the people and feel humbled to be invited and be part of this. Dua Kumayl is recited beautifully with emotions and passion.
The first day ends with a beautiful procession we witness in memory of the martyrdom and subhanllah I experience different ways of grieving than what I grew up with. The grief of the martyrdom of Imam Kazim (as) is deeply felt as I stand in front of his Holy daughter's Shrine.
By Sumanah Ladha
At the World Federation office, I was pleasantly surprised that it was Alhaj Gulam Virji Esmail (SukuSuku) who had donated the building for the blessing of his Marhum father's soul whose picture was on the wall. I met Gulam Virji in Dubai and he is known to be a generous person doing charitable activities in developing countries.
Sheikh Nadir Jaffer spoke about Ayatollah Hassanzadeh Amoli and his advice/inspiration before embarking on hajj / ziyarat pilgrimage where the Ayatollah said 'get lost and don't come back again'!!
At first when I heard this I thought that it is unlikely that Sheikh Nadir would speak ill about a respectable scholar of Islam. There must be a hidden message.
However after relaying this to one of the Ayatollahs students, he said that the philosophy of the entire hajj/spiritual journey was summarised in that single sentence. "Get lost and don't come back again" means that one should not come back the same way as prior to embarking on the journey. One should be a new person after experiencing such a journey with a new vision/goal. When I reflect back on this it makes me think that I have to make an effort to change after this Ziyarat trip. A hadith says about the person doing Hajj and the ziyaraat of our Imam that it is as if the person is newly born from the womb of his mother. And to know if Ziyarat has been accepted is to see if a person changes after it or not.
After our introduction session at the World Federation office, we met the oldest living marja, grand Ayatollah Lutfollah Safi Golpaygani. The first thing that struck me was his old age. He walked very slowly with a cane and he had a long white beard. It made me feel so ignorant in the presence of such a great marja. He was a treasure of knowledge because he had spent almost his entire life studying Islam.
As I heard his words of wisdom, it made me emotional and tears began rolling down my cheeks particularly when he talked about the importance of raising children in an Islamic way. He referred to a young girl sitting in the room wearing the hijab. He praised the way her parents have brought her up. How much honour and pride it gives to the religion of Islam. When reflecting back on this, I cannot ignore the difficulties of raising children in the west in a non-muslim environment. It is as if the kids have to swim against the tide and as parents, we constantly have to battle the evil forces. We have to ensure that our kids are surrounded by good pious friends who keep them away from alcohol, drugs, illicit relationships, foul language, bad behaviour towards parents and teachers. If we as adults get affected by our environment how can we expect small children to be immune from it?
Perhaps relocating to a Muslim country such as Iran would help? It is a pity that one cannot stay in this country forever. Yes, we do have a good quality of life in the west but if we are judged based on our deeds do we not sometimes have our priorities mixed up? What's the point of having faithless children with huge mansions and luxurious cars?
The Ayatollah was so humble because he said that it was his honour to be in our presence. I thought about how unfortunate it is that we tend to have music or sports role models in the west instead of these real role models. Perhaps I could have pictures of them (marjas) in my daughter's room? That would have a positive influence on her. I wanted to sit right in front of the Ayatollah but was a little disappointed because I was told to sit in the corner of the room. I tried to focus on looking at his face because I remembered that we get sawab just for doing that. I also reminded myself of the purpose of sitting in such gathering (gaining more knowledge of Islam and doing it for Allah's sake). I felt so fortunate to have seen the oldest living marja of our time but at the same time I reminded myself not to show off about it by telling others.
The Ayatollah said that he prays that there will be muwadda & rahma between husbands and wives as mentioned in the Holy Quran and that we are successful in our marriage. He also mentioned that it does not matter whether you are sayyid or non sayyid, anyone who is Shia, we are all lovers of the Ahlul-Bayt and connected to them. As Shias of Imam Ali (a. s) the next day should be better than the previous one. This is because of the pure milk drunk from the mother. He quoted a hadith saying no one is given permission on the day of judgment to be on the sirat except through the permission of Amir al momineen. A sister asked if he had any advice on raising children in the west to which he replied: Our first responsibility is to gain knowledge in aqaeed, aqhlaq, fiqh from the Ahlul-Bayt and then learn how to implement it. He gave his salaams to everyone back home. Someone asked how do you make sure that your actions are purely for the sake of Allah SWT (ikhlas)? He answered that the very intention(determination) to make it sincere for the sake of Allah SWT will result in Him making it sincere. Its two dimensional, one comes from you and the other comes from Allah SWT.
In the evening we attended a lecture by Sheikh Kazim Bhojani. An interesting part of his lecture was when he spoke about how we should divide our day as a believer? Imam Musa al kadhim (a.s) says to try to divide your day into 4 portions (doesn't have to be equal). 1st) munajat with the Lord to strengthen your connection with Him. 2nd) earning halaal income (for students it means studying and for women at home, it means taking care of their duties at home) 3rd) time spent with brothers/sisters in faith 4th) halaal entertainment. You do the 4th part to refresh your soul so that you can do the first 3 parts. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that our Imam would talk about entertainment instead of focusing on mainly ibadat. After reflecting back on this I started to think that perhaps this is one of the reasons why in true essence, our religion is known to be a moderate one. This was also a wake up call because I needed to devote more time and effort on 2 out of 4 parts in my day to day activities.
Day 0 - Wednesday 11th April
Our participants are on their way to Iran. We wish them a safe and a successful journey to Iran.
Stay tuned for daily updates.