Wessex Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat hosted participants of the Diocesan Inspire Course at Al Mahdi Centre for a round table conversation. The Co-ordinator Marion Syms has penned the following report of this visit:
Its 11am here now and the temperature is at 40°. I have had a 5 hour sleep which should be good enough to get me going for what is my D Day today.
I come out of the tent and see people all dressed in white, some performing their wudhoo whilst some praying despite the intense heat. The Adhaan is then heard and everyone rushes to their tents to perform their prayers. Thereafter the whole place goes quiet.
I sit in my tent waiting for the amaal to begin- the sight was similar to that of a prisoner awaiting the judge to appear so the trial can continue. Sheikh Alidina and Sheikh Jalala shed some light on the day of Arafah and amaal then begins- an hour later; the dua of Imam Husayn is recited.
This is now me reading out my side of the story to the judge, I begin by praising him and acknowledging him of his support throughout the trial, I then call upon my witness only to find out he never turned up. I was left alone in the courtyard having to defend myself. I therefore try to seek witnesses within the court room, no one helped. I turned to look for help- suddenly I see five witnesses who could help; only to realise that they had already been summoned before me.
I stand here alone, amongst two million people, two hundred of whom know me and have been with me throughout my trial, either as visitors or guides. I had no choice but to confess myself- I cited how I was misled, how I performed every sin not worried about the law, and I then finally admitted guilty to the charges against me.
Two hundred people watched as I wept continuously, my emotions overtook me and my guilt was biting me- I broke down into tears and slapped myself for my ignorance.
It is here when the court room went quiet- and I was given a chance to defend myself for which I did not waste any time.
I cited how the judge had been merciful to many other wrongdoers before me, how the judge claimed in his book that if anyone did call upon him then he would surely answer them. I told the court room of the highly things I had heard about the judge and how merciful he was to the people- I ended my defence with the following:
Here I am now, between Your hands, O my Master, submissive, humble, helpless, and worthless. I am now lacking neither justification to apologise nor power to support myself, nor excuse to advance as a plea, nor can I claim not committing and not acting badly. How can denial, if I deny, O my Master, serve me? How and in what manner can I do so, while all my organs are witnesses for what I did? I know for sure and without doubt that You will interrogate me about these grand matters, You are the Just Judge Who never wrongs, Your justice will ruin me, and from Your all justice I flee. If You, O my God, chastise me, then it is because of my sins after Your claim against me; and if You pardon me, then it is on account of Your forbearance, magnanimity, and generosity.
The court room went quiet again, I stood there head bowed down in shame, legs shaking in fear and my eyes pale- My fate was a few seconds away.
I then suddenly hear a voice:
"We will forgive you your wrongs and give more to those who do good (to others)." (2:58)
I could not believe what I had just heard, the Judge has stated in his book that he shall forgive! It is here where the light of freedom started to appear; up until someone in the court room said:
According to one of the most learned and greatest people to live on this earth- Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) - "The greatest sin of a person who goes to Arafat and then leaves is to think that he has not been forgiven of his sins".
Booom! The jury had some strong backing when it came to forgiving me- this was clear evidence that I am now free!
I smiled as I stood up and ran outside- put my head in prostration and wept continuously. I was finally free from every sin, I was no longer convicted of any crime and was set free by the Judge!
I waited for a few minutes before I once again read out a passage thanking the judge for his mercy and kindness (Sahifa Sajjadiya Dua no 55) and promised to better myself and return here the following year- free from commiting the alleged crimes (Dua Taubah)
I made my way to the bus which then took us to Muzdalifa- the final day of physical activity on the mountains as a prisoner. We spent the night on the streets before proceeding towards Mina- a place where our prison clothes would be stripped off from us, a new identity shall be given and the land where a new era of change shall begin!
I need some rest now and I shall update you accordingly regarding my new identity and the feeling of being a free man after way too long!
I sit here right now in the open sky in Arafah, in two pieces of cloth, heat waves coming my way, and the clock is ticking for sunrise.
This night feels like the last night of a prisoner who is about to be convicted, one who awaits his judgement.
I write this with tears flowing from my eyes and a heart broken into pieces- today I have come to my Lord after years of sinning, false promises and caused tons of mischief in the world.
I am due to be summoned tomorrow, in front of two million people, my fate will be known and my secrets will be revealed.
I am due a conviction; but then I know the Judge. He claims to love me more than my Mother, he claims to be closer to me than my own jugular vein, apparently he knows what's best for me- so I place my hope in him. For I have heard- he never turns down anyone; and is the listener to the voiceless.
I await my fate which is in the hands of my greatest friend, but my witness and prosecutor is his greatest enemy.
I fear and wonder- am I safe?
It was 4.30am when we arrived at our hotel in Mecca after a long journey and being in the state of Ehram meant that we needed to be careful of our talks and actions for around six hours. Funny how two pieces of cloth and a $127 kaffara bill can change a man's state of being.
In the evening, we all gathered downstairs after dinner and began our journey to visit the house of God. Everyone dressed in white, with a small bag hanging around their necks/shoulders/back as we stood in a straight line waiting to board the bus.
A scene similar to that of prisoners awaiting their numbers to be called out so they can board the van to the court. Meanwhile, I overheard a conversation between two colleagues, where one of them said "Don't fill up your bag, its going to be too heavy and doing Tawaaf will be difficult".
He was right, but then I recalled the lectures on life after death- on the day of Qiyamah, our sins will be hanging around the neck, all of us dressed in white, heading to the Lord. Is this a replica version of Judgement Day?
We got into the bus and made our way to the Kaaba. It was jam packed, but we finally managed to make our way in.
I took the escalator and headed downstairs to the tawaaf area, every step I took I felt I was nearing death, death for me meant meeting my Lord. As I got closer to the Kaaba, I stopped and thought of going back, I wasn't ready for this. How can I, who has sinned all my life, made false promises to God about not sinning again. How can one who ruined lives of people and caused inconvenience to many; be ready to meet his Lord? This was the point where I lost belief in myself. I am here next to God and he knows everything I do, the people around me seem happy to be in Hajj and give me a strange look as to why am standing in between the crowd, but if only they knew of me what God knows- they would perhaps kick me and run away from me.
I started walking towards the Kaaba with my head bowing down in shame, every step I took made me feel nervous and then I came to a stand still. I hear the chants of Allah Akbar, Takbir! I raise my head up and I see the most beautiful thing on earth- the Kaaba was in front of my eyes. I was not in awe, I did not cry, I was shocked. Am I seeing this really? I felt there was something wrong with me, because almost everyone in my group cried or shed a tear. I on the other hand had no emotion.
We began the tawaf, and it was on the sixth round that when I started reciting duas- and when I read a passage from Dua Kumayl-.I got emotional. Tears started flowing from my eyes and I rushed to Kaaba. I held the wall so tight, and put my cheeks on it- tears flowing from my eyes. I could not utter a word, nor a thought crossed my mind-- this was the station where the purest of people stood. Ibrahim, Muhammad, Fatima bint Asad, Ali- and here I was a sinner- am I really worth it?
"This is the station of him whose sins have passed from hand to hand.
Offenses rein have led him on, and Satan has gained mastery over him.
He fell short of what Thou commanded through neglect and he pursued what Thou hast prohibited in delusion"
I finished my Tawaf and prayed the two rakah salaah, headed towards Safa and Marwah- the two mountains, and finally did Taqseer. I had just completed my Umra Tamatto and it was time to leave the Kaaba and head to the hotel.
Seeing the Kaaba was not the most emotional moment in my life- perhaps because I do not deserve to be here or maybe because no host would like to welcome a crying guest.
I feel privileged to be the guest of God, but I am now worried- I need to make sure I do not disappoint the host anymore. But can I do this?
My next post will be on Arafah- something I am eager and excited to write about.
You all are in my prayers....
So we all went to our rooms, and everyone started taking their ihrams, some made their way to perform ghusl and the rest were packing their bags. I sat on the side and watched. I looked at my colleague who had worn the Ehram; it looked simple and everyonr around was now preparing themselves.
The mood changed in the hotel, tensed serious yet nervous looking faces appeared in the meeting room where Sheikh Alidina was about to brief us. We all sat down in a circle whilst Sheikh addrssed us, something that blew our minds and made us think:
Are we really ready for this?
But then I thought to myself: look at me today, in a two piece cloth, worried whether it is worn properly and should not fall off, I look at others around me- I ask myself am I doing it right?
What will people think of my appearance in an ihram? Would people want to be near me when they get the smell of a man who is restricted from perfuming himself?
And I then recalled the lecture on Qiyamah: Man will be ashamed of oneself and their sins will cause an odor from their body which will result in people running away from each other.
If only I asked myself this question everyday: Am I doing this right? If only, if only I worried about my actions like I worry about my Ehram.
But then My Lord, accept me in the simplest of states that you have ordered me to come in, do not reject me for there is none for a sinner but the forgiver.
Here I am, en route Mecca saying Labbayk allahhumma Labbayk! Here I am My Lord! Here I am!! Summon me but don't deprive me of your mercy...
I write this with tears flowing from my eyes, en route to Masjid Shajarah for Meeqat before we make our way to Mecca
It did not surprise me to see that Baqi and Masjid Nabawi were literally a few steps away, after all there is no love stronger than the love of a father to his daughter.
Remember the green dome I wrote about a few days ago? I am now standing right in front of it. Having seen plenty of domes in my life, there was something different and unique about this. I looked through the pictures on my phone and found all domes to be covered in gold; this one however was Green. I was confused, why that difference? Not that green is the most attractive color anyway.
Any sane man would fall in love with the design and exterior of this mosque, its massive, classy and posseses an aura of that resembling a kingdom. I have been told that the view of this mosque is breathtaking at night. I guess we all know where I will be spending my nights.
Entering a shrine is one of those instances in life whereby your emotions describe your feelings and thoughts of the place and the personality you are visiting. No matter how many a times you enter, every entrance has the same impact or more.
I have a different feeling about this one though, I dont seem to be emotional at all- and this is worrying. Am I not invited or am I just not emotionally attached to the Prophet like I am to the other infallibles? I let it go, took off my shoes and started walking towards Baab as Salaam (The door of peace). This mosque has quite a few entrances and each door has been named after a famous incident at that particular spot.
So how do I best describe this moment?
Football lovers- this is you walking through a crowd to collect your Ballon D'Or.
Movie lovers- this is your moment of winning the oscar award.
The short walk to the entrance was a great feeling, it was that red carpet feeling, perhaps the only walk towards a shrine that had me smiling and very very excited!
Did I question myself again regarding my state of mind? Obviously not! I am now standing at the door of the most elite person to have ever lived in this world, the man who single handedly changed the world because of his morals! I was on the verge of entering the Kingdom of Muhammad (pbuh)- the man God describes as the mercy to the mankind!
Suddenly I feel a spark within me, I lift my head straight up, hands on the side, straightened back and a big smile on my face. I felt like I was going to meet a great personality. I put my right foot in followed by my left and when I looked around- I was absolutely astonished! The scenes were unbelievable; there were people everywhere with only smiles on their faces, praying, reading the Quran, discusson circles and all of this was happening simultaneously.
I then took a small tour around the mosque and I can admit that this is perhaps the biggest yet most exclusive looking mosque I have ever visited. Kudos to the architect and the brain behind this for a job well done!
I was however quite excited to see that a portion of the mosque had the names of the 12 Imams on the pillars- each to its own. Who could have ever thought eh?
Anyway, I have never been to a palace before, but I can now tell my family and friends of my visit to a palace- the palace of Muhammad- the man who changed the face of humanity in this world.
As I am about to exit this grand mosque, I come across the grand pulpit of the Prophet Muhammad, the platform on which Bilal used to stand up and proclaim the adhan, the houses of the Prophet and Imam Ali (pbuh) and then finally the grave of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
There exists a portion between the pulpit and the grave of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) which the Prophet once proclaimed it to be a piece of heaven.
One can not touch or stand near the shrine of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the authorities here consider it as a major sin to cry and weep over the dead. Therefore a quick glimpse and an offer of salutations marks the end of my visit to this great noble man!
Here is something I intend to leave you with:
Entering a palace is not something everyone can do, and for those who do visit they are limited to what they can do within the vicinity of the area and the person they are visiting. This palace is different in every way possible-
No dress code
No racism or sexism involved
But most of all- the man you are visiting is not there to only listen to your problems - but here is a personality who promises to solve them and also answer your prayers. What else would one want from their official state visit?
But to end today and to prepare for what is my final day/night in this city- today has been one of those days where you feel more special than the rest and I fully believe to have right to do so; simply because I visited the man who inspired the world not with his money but his morals and actions.
Today I visited a King to be knighted...
Knighted I am by him at whose palace every prayer is accepted...
Watch out for my next post which describes my experience of wearing the Ihram for the first time and how it feels heading to Mecca....
Its 5.15am and I am wide awake! I don't recall the last time I was excited to be awake so early after three hours sleep.
I jump off the bed, get dressed and offer my morning prayers. I then make my way downstairs where everyone had gathered to go visit Baqi and the mosque of the Prophet.
So here is a few interesting rather strange things you need to know about Baqi
- Open for gents only
- Opening times: After Fajr- 7am. 4pm-5pm.
- The daughter of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is buried there alongside her son Hasan (pbuh) and her two grandchildren Zainulabideen (pbuh) and his son Mohammedbaqir (pbuh).
- Also buried there is the only son of the Prophet Muhammad by the name of Ibrahim.
- In one corner is buried the mother of Abbas- Ummul Baneen.
A ten minute walk under the scorching sun with a few colleagues sharing their experiences of Baqi is all it takes to get there and as we draw closer, a huge fenced wall greets us. As we reach the entrance. I step aside to prepare myself to see the grave of the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the mother of the heroes of Karbala and the wife to the warrior of Allah, Ali.
Having visited Iraq quite a few times, every time I prepare to enter the shrines of Imam Hussain and Abal Fadhl I seem to experience an adrenalin rush, my heart beats faster, I am overcome with emotions and as I start walking into the shrine, tears flow from my cheeks as I see thousands making their way to pay their respects.
But then this is not the war torn Iraq though, this is Medina; this is not Hussain nor Abbas, this is their mother- Fatema; the daughter of the greatest man to have lived on earth, this is the best of the women to have ever lived! So I expect an influx of emotions from the crowd.
To my surprise, I walk into the graveyard with silence filled in the air. The crowd of people who were trying to get a glimpse have now gone, a fresh group of people comes in. I make my way through the crowd and suddenly bump into a barrier with chains tied to it. I am then face to face with a man wearing a white dishdash, a red checkered scarf on his head and his dark long beard completing a fierce looking in his face. My colleague then explains to me who the graves belong to and I was shocked! This is absolutely heartbreaking to watch. You can not shed a tear because the sounds of bidda'h fill the crowd, you can't stand and recite any ziyarah because your books will be snatched and thrown away and it doesn't take long before you get shoo-ed away and told to make your way out.
I try taking a few pictures but get told to stop and move away, a few security guards stood in front of my camera to ensure I never got a good view of the graves. I make a move and walk around the graveyard, which has a comfortable and elegant pathway leading you to the exit.
I finally exit Baqi with a heavy heart and head towards the mosque of the Prophet, to not only pay my respect but also to offer my condolences as to how his daughter has been treated in the hands of the muslims.
This was perhaps my shortest visit to a graveyard. Even visiting the grave of my loved ones in the cemetery back home takes an approximate half an hour. This ended in literally ten minutes! Can you believe that? Thats an average of two minutes a grave!
I keep asking myself- is this really fair? How can she who was born in the house of the Prophet, fed by the mother of the muslims (Lady Khadijah), married to the Lion of Allah (Ali), mother of the guardians of the doors of heaven (Hassan and Hussein) be left alone, isolated, abandoned by the same people for whom her father spent sleepless nights, days of hunger and the wealth of his wife?
Wasn't the oppression and injustice done to her during her life enough of a torture for her that it had to continue after her death?
Ah the land of Karbala- hide away from Baqi, for it is Fatema's greatest nightmare.
Millions do you host every year, yet Fatema remains alone.
I now head to the mosque of the Prophet, emotionally drained and out of words. So excuse me if my description of Nabawi does not excite you.
I leave you to think of how it feels when you finally get to see what you have been waiting for but then cant own or touch it.
But let me tell you what consoled me, I witnessed my first Medina sunrise today and it was breathtaking; not only the picture but the way it happened. The sun rose from Baqi and sets behind Nabawi. Even the sun seeks permission from Fatema before it rises to illuminate the world.
Forgive us O Prophet of ours for we have failed you...
The journey of a lifetime....
Friday the 11th of September 2015, aboard Gulf Air flight number GF189 I embarked on a journey to fulfil one of the obligations in Islam- The Hajj.
After approximately nine of hours of flying and a three hour stop over in Bahrain, I had reached the land where the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the last Prophet of Islam is buried in. Having cleared immigration I was then en route to my hotel where my colleagues and the rest of the group were.
A 20 minute drive was filled with plenty of scenery; there were almost 8 mosques on the way to our hotel, whilst the mountains of Uhud could be seen from far away. There was one sight that caught my eye- a green tomb glimmering through a sand storm. This was the mosque where the Prophet Muhammad was buried, famously known as Masjid Nabawi.
I reached the hotel and got to my room, had a quick shower followed by lunch and made my way to the outskirt Ziyarah which involved visiting famous places such as Masjid Qiblatayn, the mountains of Uhud, Masjid Cuba and the plains of Khandaq.
These names were not new to me, every time I heard these names they would remind me of my time at Madrasah sitting there in one corner amidst a group of twenty other students learning the history behind these famous places and admiring a black and white print of it.
The journey began with an entourage of three mega buses heading towards the outskirts- but our first stop was Uhud! Sheikh Hemedi Jalala gave an insightful and emotional talk about the battle and how the Muslims lost it because of disobeying the commands of the Prophet. I have written a short description below regarding the places we visited.
The Mountains Of Uhud:
Uhud is the place where the second battle in the history of Islam took place. The area is full of hills and mountans. Whilst it ia the first battle where the Muslims lost, it is remembered most for the tragic death of Hamza- the friend and cousin of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Hamza was killed by Wahshi (A warrior hired by Hindh) and his body was then cut wide open. Hindh then removed his liver and chewed it whilst also cutting off his ears and then wearing them as an ornament.
For more details on this battle please visit http://www.al-islam.org/articles/battle-uhud-shaykh-muhammad-jawad-chirri
We got into the buses and headed towards Masjid Qiblatayn. Now when I was growing up, the incident of the change of Qibla was discussed quite often- I would try picturing this incident on my mind and it was quite fascinating with what I came up with. However, when I walked into the mosque and looked at its beauty and the glamour it possessed, I was amazed to see how far apart the two directions were from each other- on mathematical terms (not that I have the best geometric skills) it was a 180° turn. We then offered our Magrib prayers- in congregation with the Sunnis and other sects at the mosque. This gave me a glimpse of the most talked about aspect of Hajj; Unity.
This is the mosque where a very historic incident took place. It is here where the verse from the Holy Quran (2:142) was revealed commanding the Prophet Muhammad to change his direction of prayer from his current direction (Facing towarsa Baytul Muqaddas) and face towards the Holy Kaaba. A very historical moment indeed!
It was almost 7pm when we decided to make our way to Masjid Cuba- our final destination for the day. We got into our respective buses and headed towards the mosque.
This is the first mosque that was built by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) when he moved/migrated from Mecca to Medina. It is quite big and has an interesting story behind its opening day- the disbelievers planned to assassinate the Prophet however, Allah had different plans.
Having mentioned the concept of Unity, as we reached Masjid Cuba it was time for Isha. However, we had already prayed in Masjid Qiblatayn; yet we decided to join in and lead the way to unity amongst us Muslims.
We then made our way to the buses and headed back to the hotel had our dinner and most of us went to sleep, I however decided against it. I wanted reality to sink in, to sit down on the side and get myself to accept the fact that I was in Medina!
Anyway, two sleepless nights and a twelve hour journey is taking its toll and I am finally making my way to dreamland... But before I go to sleep, here is what I have fallen in love with on day 1:
The call to prayer being proclaimed by beautiful voices across the city and the heart warming and mesmerising recitation of the Holy Quran filling the air.
I now head to sleep, and quite excited to go visit Baqi and the mosque of the Prophet tomorrow morning!
Wish me luck in waking up in less than three hours....
The World Federation of KSIMC in collaboration with the Holy Shrine of Imam Al-Redha (as) held a live show on: The Real "Beauty" seen in Arbaeen without religious boundaries. Click here to read about the report.
The time between the moment you decide to go to Hajj and the day you actually leave requires a lot of planning and preparation.