Wednesday 12th August 2015
As the final day approached, the atmosphere changed, everybody remishing and honouring the last day before we would part. Whether it was staying overnight at the Haram, doing last minute shopping or resting before the busy day ahead of us, the early hours of the morning were not wasted. With such little time and so much to do, we all gathered at the Haram for Fajr Namaz and a chance to receive the petals from Imam Redha's grave. We were lucky enough to stay until sunrise and reflect, which I can honestly say was an amazing opportunity as reflection is a form of worship and the time of dusk is so blessed!
We were given the opportunity to sit and contemplate in the Haram of Imam Redha (as) upon whose guest heaven is made obligatory upon. As the sun rose, we made our way back to the hotel to rest before some of us would have to do Ziyarat-e-Widaa , go ring shopping and pack before our journey to Tehran. As our final moments with the Imam (as) approached, it was almost impossible to stop the tears from falling. Though it had only been a few days that we had been given the honour to be the guests of Imam Redha (as), many of us have made a lifelong connection with him. With heavy hearts we gathered on the coaches that would take us to the airport. As we boarded the plane, the atmosphere was heavy, these were our last physical moments with the Imam.
After an hour's journey, we once again found ourselves in the city of Tehran. As we approached our accommodation for the night, we were overjoyed to find that we would be staying next to the Shrine of Imam Komeini, which itself was an honour. We went to sleep with heavy hearts knowing that though we were no longer with the Imam physically, however, we were with him spiritually.
Written by: Maryam Farwa and Kainaat Fatima from Birmingham
Bab al-Ilm participants
Tuesday 11th August 2015
Our day started off as our hands rose together in Takbeer as we began Salatul Fajr in the Haram of Imam Ali Ar-Redha (as). The feeling of praying Salah in congregation in the Holy Haram was indescribable. In that moment we were all equal, regardless of our differences. After Salatul Fajr, we returned to the accommodation and rested. In the evening, we departed from the accommodation, and made our way towards the Haram. We were to be given a tour of the Holy Shrine, but due to the large crowds, we were unable to be taken on a physical tour. Instead, we sat down in a large area where Shaykh Nadir enlightened us about the various Holy graves present in the Haram.
The first personality he spoke about was Jaffer Mujtahidi. This great man climbed Mount Khidr on the 20th of Shaban and remained there for 40 days until Eid ul Fitr. During these days of worship, he was provided food by Lady Fatima (as) every day. This made me think about how we must take some time to disconnect and detach ourselves from this materialistic world and how we should take some time alone dedicated to improving ourselves and worshipping our Lord. Shaykh Nadir then spoke about the Sehen of Ismail Tala which was a khadam of Imam Reza (as), and served water to the pilgrims of Imam Redha (as). Shaykh Nadir then told us about his own personal experience. He then mentioned that it was better to enter from this Sehen due to the fact that it faced the feet of Imam Redha (as).
Shaykh Nadir then moved on to tell us about another great personality buried in this Haram named Ayatollah Isfahani. This man gave out small chickpeas to the visitors of Imam Redha (as) in order for their sick to gain cure. This made me reflect upon the fact that this man was so close to Allah that he was able to cure the sick with one chickpea. It made me think about how far I have gotten in my religion and how much further I have left to go. Shaykh Nadir reminded us that we have 3 enemies: Shaytan, our nafs and this dunya. To our surprise, our nafs was our biggest enemy and not Shaytan. This made me fear because now I had to fear my own self and not just Shaytan. The dunya is also a difficult enemy to defeat since our subconscious mind can get influenced very easily by it in our everyday lives. Once, Ayatollah Khomeini asked Ayatollah Isfahani to teach him alchemy. Ayatollah Isfahani advised him if he had enough control over his nafs for this. The reply was a negative. Then, Ayatollah Isfahani advised him to pray a specific dua after every wajib Salah which is much more valuable. He said: Recite Ayatul Kursi until 'Al Alee Al Azeem'. After that, recite the Tasbeeh of Lady Fatima (as) and then recite Surah Ikhlas thrice and with that the 2nd and 3rd ayah of Surat at-Talaq should be recited to complete this dua. The recitation of this dua makes you extremely successful in life and protects you from poverty.
Shaykh Hurre Amuli is also buried there. He compiled a book called Wassail Shia from 119 books. Shaykh Bahaee is also buried in the haram of Imam Redha (as). This man was one of the main scholars of Islam since he had studied Islam, medicine, astronomy, physics, and architecture. He designed both the haram of Imam Reza and Imam Ali in Najaf. He was another man who had an amazing experience with Imam Reza.
In the Haram of Imam Redha (as), twin domes are present. One is golden, which is the dome of Imam’s and the other is a turquoise dome which is the masjid of Gohar-Shad. The mimbar present inside this masjid is extremely large and resembles the mimbar of the Holy Prophet (swt) in Madinah. It is specifically made for the Imam of Our time (afs).
Following this lecture, we prayed Salatul Maghrib and Isha and ended the day with a beautiful recitation of Dua-e-Tawassul. Since it was the Shahadat day of Imam Jaffer Sadiq (as), lamentations were recited to commemorate this day, bringing an end to this memorable day.
Written by: Zoya Merchant
Bab al- Ilm participant
Monday 10th August 2015 - coming soon
Sunday 9th August 2015
We arrived in the Holy city of Mashhad in the early hours of the morning. Upon receiving our bags, we moved into our hotel rooms and finally got good rest after a long day.
At noontime we headed towards the Haram of Imam Reza (as). For many it was their first time and for a couple their first ziyarat of an Imam (as). As we reached closer to the Haram everyone’s eyes were glued to the majestic golden dome of the 8th star of Wilayah asking for their needs.
As we stood at Bab Ar Ridha, all of us had tears in our eyes while we recited Izne Dukhul, asking for permission to enter the Haram. Inside we prayed Namaz e Dhuhrain and performed our first ziyarah. In the evening we had a talk by sister Najiya who enlightened us a bit on Imam Reza (as) and what a great personality he is. One point that caught my attention was when she said that the reward of doing Ziyarat of Imam Reza is much more than of Imam Husayn. This is because all those who come for the Ziyarat of Imam Reza are followers of the 12 Imams which mean that as they do salaam to the eighth Imam, at that moment they are simultaneously doing Salam to our living Imam (atfs).
After praying Salatul Maghribain we were lucky enough to get the opportunity to meet Ayatullah Safi Gulpaygani. He was a student of Ayatullah Burujerdi. Ayatullah told us how happy he was to meet us and was so proud of us regarding the hijaab we wear. He concluded his talk with a dua for us. Looking at him was inspiring as it showed us how humble he was and that even at the age of 104 yrs old he still had this charisma in him and his face was full of noor mashallah.
Written by: Sayyeda Rajani from AFED
Bab al- Ilm participant
Saturday 8th August 2015
The day we had all dreaded had finally arrived. It was time to bid farewell to the place we had grown to call home... Jamiatuz Zahra. As we reluctantly dragged our suitcases out of our dorms, we cast longing glances at the beautiful scenery before us. Our journey to Tehran was finally a reality.
The first stop on our road trip was the Shrine of Imam Khomeini. Our curiosity heightened at the level of security enforced on entry, leaving us confused but when we entered the mosque itself, our thoughts were immediately captured by the tranquil atmosphere around us. The walls of the mosque radiated with a deep golden glow, an embodiment of Imam Khomeini’s warmth and compassion towards the people he cared for. As we began to take in the surroundings, brother Amin took us through the life of Imam Khomeini, and it was then that we understood the significance of the heightened security earlier on. We realised that the impact of Imam Khomeini’s influence extended beyond his lifetime, and was an inspiration even after his death. We understood Imam Khomeini’s true values and realised that he wasn't just a religious and political figure, rather he recognised the importance of a balance between his duties towards his religion and towards those he cared for.
Another pearl of wisdom we gained from Brother Amin's lecture was the simplicity of Imam Khomeini’s life - his detachment from the materialistic world and establishment of a strong connection with the hereafter. The strength of this message echoed throughout Iran, and the proof behind it was found at our next stop. The message of the simplicity and living for the hereafter was seen in the Shuhada of the Gulf War, as many young men sacrificed their lives to achieve paradise. We visited many of the graves today but to us, one grave stood out in particular, which had a unique fragrance and an even more, unique story. Not only did it make us realise how highly the Shuhada are regarded, but it was a miracle we could still experience, strengthening our belief in our religion.
Following on from that, we stopped for lunch to enjoy some authentic Persian food, after which we headed to the Sawak prisons. During the time of the Shah, these were used to torture anyone who could be linked to Imam Khomeini. As we were being shown around the gloomy and sorrowful prisons, we realised that our tour guides were actually few of the many thousands tortured in those very cells. Tears were shed when we heard their stories and what they went through to protect our religion.
Once we completed the tour of the prisons, we went to the airport and within a few hours we were in the Holy city of Mashhad. Stepping down onto the earth, we felt spiritual satisfaction as we were finally given the chance to visit our Imam (as). We settled in for the night eagerly awaiting our first visit to the Haram the next morning...
Written by: Zahra Merali & Sana Pirmohamed from London
Bab al- Ilm participants
Friday 7th August 2015
Yesterday was our last day in Qum and our last Friday at Masjide Jamkaran with the recitation of the beautiful Dua e Nudba. It was a bitter sweet experience that no words can describe at all!
We also had the closing ceremony and I couldn't understand how fast time flies as we were sitting in the same hall for the opening a few days ago. The speeches made me tearful and ponder about my time in Qum. It was also our last farewell of Bibi Masuma (sa). Everyone was shedding tears in the Haram and we all didn't want to leave the Haram but at the same time, we were excited to go to Mashhad to visit the Shrine of Imam Reza (as).
Leaving Qum feels like I am losing something precious in my life. This city has helped me realise my strengths and weaknesses and I hope to follow all the knowledge that I have learned over the past few days, InshAllah! The melancholy feeling stays while I pack and set my things in order but I know there is something better in store for us in Mashhad with Imam Reza (as).
Written by: Zainab Ali Al Murshidi from London
Madinah al-Ilm participant
Thursday 6th August 2015
Today we enjoyed one of our last days in Qum with smiles on our faces and tears in our eyes. We can't believe that our time here has passed so quickly yet our circle of friends has grown unimaginably. We began our day waking up for Fajr in the morning and many of us chose to watch the beautiful sunrise in the garden of the Jamia and pondered the beauty of Allah's creations.
Afterwards, we proceeded to our classes where we were blessed with the presence of Brother Ameen, Shaykh Ali, Shaykh Nadir, Sister Sajida, Sister Batool, and Sister Najia. Their classes enlightened us and the extent of knowledge that they shared with us is unimaginable. Although it was our last day of class, we made sure to appreciate our teachers as they managed to fit seas of knowledge into our parched lacking minds.
When we came back, we were delighted to see that the fountain in the courtyard had come to life. As soon as we finished praying our Namaz and eating lunch with one another, we got ready to leave for Noor Softwares. At first, we were a bit apprehensive about going, but after experiencing and watching a demo software, we were mesmorised by what they were capable of doing. We watched the speakers in admiration and were lucky to have a fellow sister translate his passionate words from Farsi to English. We have to admit that we were exhausted upon arriving at the Jamiah, so we decided as a group to cool off by jumping into the refreshing water of the fountain. We can gladly say that we created memories that will remain with us forever.
At the end of the day, we began preparing to leave for the Haram and because it was a Thursday night, we had the pleasure of listening to the beautiful recitation of Dua Kumail and Ziyarat Jamiah Kabeera. As our eyes skimmed the meaning, we came to the realisation that we were not ready to leave the holy city of Qum and our beloved Bibi Masuma (as) behind. By midnight we said our Salam and performed one of our last Ziyarats.
After everything we learned so far, one thing did stand out; the Haram is not just a place to go and recite one more dua. Rather, it is a place to find a friend, a sister and a mother. It is a place to go when you need someone to talk to or just to share some happiness. It is the place where you find Bibi Masuma (sa), our role model.
Written by: Saiqa Pirmohamed from London and Azra Wazir from Chicago
Bab al-Ilm participants
Wednesday 5th August 2015
We commenced the day with an inspiring Aqaed class regarding how to prove the existence of God. The class opened our minds to the means of truly understanding God and getting these ideas across to other people. This was followed by Akhlaq class during which we were enlightened on ways one must wake up and open their eyes so as to realise the reality of this world and achieve the understanding of Tawheed. Lastly, we had Fiqh class where we reviewed some important Fiqh rules.
In the afternoon, we got the opportunity to go swimming. The swimming session gave us the chance to freely enjoy ourselves and bond with other people. Thereafter we did some shopping and finally we went to the Haram of Bibi Masuma (AS) for Maghrib Salaat. Reciting Salaat at the Haram gives one a sense of spiritual uplifting, closeness to God, and unity with the rest of the Muslim world. It was beautiful to see so many people praying to God in the same mannar at the same time. We concluded the day with a friendly gathering where we discussed the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, and the Shuhada who gave their lives to support this great man’s movement. As our days in Qum come to an end, I am looking forward to our visit to Mashad to meet our 8th Imam, Imam Ali Ar-Redha (a.s.).
Written by: Fatema Khimji from Toronto
Madinah al-Ilm participant
Tuesday 4th August 2015
We woke up early in the morning and first went to the Haram to pray Salaatul Layl and Fajr Namaz. After Salah we headed to the Shaykayn graveyard for a twilight programme where we reflected about death. It was an awakening experience just after dawn to realize the importance of death and our final destination and how we should prepare for our own graves.
In the early evening we went to visit the house of Imam Khomeini. It was inspiring to see the simplicity of his house and the large amount of books he owned. We were told and learnt about the beautiful relationship he shared with his family. For example the respect he gave to his wife even though he had a high status and was the man of the house, they lived in equality and he valued her wishes. We also learnt that he always took out time to be affectionate and loving with his grandchildren despite his heavy responsibilities. This teaches us his good manners and Akhlaq and rights of how you should treat your family.
Later that evening, we went to Masjid e Jamkaran, this was our second time visiting the Masjid, it was as peaceful and beautiful as the first time we had visited. We waited for Maghrib and Dua e Tawassul, reading it together brings a sense of unity and made the presence of the Imam feel more real, it helped make you think about the duties and responsibilities as individuals for the Imam (a.s) in this community.
Written by: Anisah Shah and Fatema Sadak from London
Bab al-Ilm participants
Monday 3rd August 2015
It is now our 13th day in Iran and what a wonderful experience it has been so far! In the morning, we attended an insightful workshop on the impact of Media and Corruption on the Subconscious Mind. The lecture informed us on how different types of media outlets can impact our worldview and ideology, influencing us highly on certain topics and changing our most fundamental concepts such as our political views. The session also raised awareness on how kids have become the most dominant and leading consumers of today with more than 3000 commercials per day aimed at them. For that reason, we learnt the solution was to try and become aware and not allow everything to enter the subconscious mind, as our main focus should solely be on God.
Later that day, we visited the Ansariyan bookshop where we had time to indulge oneself in a world full of knowledge, which included a variety of books ranging from different tafseers of the Holy Quran to books such as "Then I was guided". This allowed us to take home specific books that could help us to build on our own personal development and expand our knowledge of Islam and the journey of reaching closeness to God. Once we finished our shopping session, we headed to the beautiful Haram of Lady Fatima Al-Masuma (as) for Maghribain Salaat. The feeling that comes from being able to visit a place such as this is a unique one with an atmosphere that is undeniable, and nothing holds in comparison. It allows us to release all our worldly desires and leave behind our materialistic issues and focus on our relationship with God and the Ahlul Bayt (as). I now eagerly await our visit to Mashhad to the Haram of Imam Ridha (as)
Written by: Sakina Govani from London
Madinah al-Ilm participant
Sunday 2nd August 2015
Today we woke up in a new place and a new morning in Hamadan, surrounded by beautiful scenery and amazing people who are like our family now. Our excursion for the day was at Ali Sadr cave, as we walked our breath was taken away in amazement, admiring Allah's creation.
To explore the cave we had to take a boat, and as we were floating around we reflected on Allah's creation! We got to experience the tightness of our grave as we walked through the narrow parts of the cave, which made us self – reflect and remember death.
Soon after we were guided around the cave and were even more in awe at Allah (swt)’s creation. During the guided tour we noticed the rock above us spelt "Allah". It was amazing that creations like rocks can even manifest Allah's beauty. Over all the day was inspiring and humbling.
Written By: Zahra Khalfan and Sabika Rizvi
Bab al-Ilm participants
Saturday 1st August 2015
Early this morning, with Sister Najiyah we spent time discussing current issues that youth may face living in this society. The discussions were very thought provoking and inspiring, and encouraged us to ponder upon our own lives and how we can reflect on these issues. Knowing we were going to Hamedan after Fajr, most of us couldn't sleep because of our excitement. Those who slept and were awake were alerted of the nearing time of Fajr by the Munajat of Imam Ali (as) being played on the speakers. This recitation made me realize that every time I hear it, I gain new awareness and realizations about Allah (swt) and His creations. This time, whilst looking out on to the lawns of Jamia, the line "You are the Creator and I am the created, and who can help the created except the Creator" really struck a chord with me. I was suddenly aware of how perfectly everything has been created. Allah doesn't have any discrepancies or inconsistencies in His creation, and though this seems cliche and is something most are aware of, somehow, this morning, it felt different.
After Fajr, we boarded the bus and headed to Hamedan. Though we were all excited, we all fell asleep almost immediately.
In almost every direction and for miles on end, all we could see was mountains against the quickly changing sky. I remember thinking at one point, that there are so many 'i's and 'me's all looking up at the same sky made by the same Creator, yet each person has their own problems and their own relationship with Allah (swt) and the Ahlulbayt. I learnt recently that someone else having a larger problem than you doesn't in any way undermine or lessen your own suffering; Allah (swt) only gives us the burdens we can bear, and I often wonder if those who have bigger problems are in that situation because they have more to learn. Despite all of this, as I looked up at the sky, I realized how small and insignificant I and all my thoughts are, yet Allah (swt) in His infinite mercy still helps us in even the smallest matters, even when we don't ask for it; if it weren't for His Help, we wouldn't even be able to take a single breath alone.
When we arrived in Hamedan, we first visited the Natural History Museum. Honestly, I've never been fond of museums, and wasn't looking forward to this at all. To my surprise, there was a small aquarium which amazed me greatly; I'm glad we went.
After this, we had a lunch of kebab and naan, a meal we all thoroughly enjoyed. After this, we all travelled on cable cars through the mountains. The view was beautiful and again I was reminded of the line from this mornings' Munajat. Having taken plenty of photos, we travelled back down to the bottom and proceeded to walk to a waterfall in the mountains. Whilst we were climbing up to get closer to the water, as I looked around at all of us working together to get to the top, I felt immensely happy that we had all become such good friends, and this exercise of climbing up together was the manifestation of this. As we grow together on this trip and as we learn more about ourselves and others, I hope we become even closer friends.
We came to our rooms for the night and after all the excited screaming at how pretty everything is, we exhaustedly prayed Salah together.
Written by: Marium - Madinah al-Ilm participant
Friday 31st July 2015
After staying overnight at the shrine of Sayyeda Fatima Masuma (sa), we started our day by praying Fajr salaam in Jama'at. The experience was spiritually uplifting, and I will always treasure the hours I was able to spend with Sayeda Fatima Masuma (sa). A personal highlight was the recitation of Ziyarat Jamia Kabeer, as it is a ziyarat that has helped me gain an understanding of the greatness of the Imams (as). Spending time at the haram has been a constant reminder of our awaited Imam (ajtf). The hadith that likens the ziyarat of Sayeda Fatima Masuma (sa) to the ziyarat of Sayeda Fatima Al-Zahra (sa) has remained at the forefront of my mind, and it is our Imam(ajfs) that will reveal the location of her grave. Furthermore, this hadith has allowed me to appreciate the status of Sayeda Masuma (sa) and her closeness to Allah (swt), and the importance of her ziyarah in comparison to that of Sayeda Fatima Al-Zahra (sa), the leader of all women.
Following an informative workshop on spouse selection and much needed rest, we left Jamiat al Zahra for the haram. Prior to Maghribain salat, we visited the graveyards of martyrs and influential figures, such as the father of Sheikh Sadooq . I felt extremely privileged to be able to read the letter of Imam Al Askari (as), and the closeness to the Imam (as) that the Sheikh reached. This provided yet another opportunity for reflection. I'm extremely humbled by this unique experience and will remember it for the rest of my life.
Written by: Batoul Al-Kaaby from London
Madinah al-Ilm participant
Thursday 30th July 2015
Our day in Qum started off earlier than most. Today we had a twilight session on Mount Khidr. After praying Salatul-Fajr and and reciting a surah Fateha for the Shuhada buried there, Sheikh Nadir gave us some spiritual insight about the stage of Barzakh and the afterlife. He referred to the city below us as Level 1, the hill we were standing on as Level 2, and the mountain above us as Level 3. He then asked us to reflect on what these 3 levels could mean in relation to the Barzakh. After pondering for some time, we came up with quite a few answers. One of the answers was that the city below us was the materialistic life, and the level that we were standing on was the stage of Barzakh. The level above us signified the afterlife which is unknown to us.
The bus ride home was pretty quiet, as were the hallways in Jamiatuz Zahra when we arrived. They didn't stay like that for long though. Within a few hours, they were filled with girls quickly putting on their chadors and scarves, or grabbing a bite to eat. My first class was Aqaid, in which we already covered the topics of Tawheed and Adalat, and were learning about Nabuwwat and Imamat in depth. Fiqh was next and we discussed all aspects of Hijab. Finally came Akhlaq, finishing off the day with the topic of social media, including how to use it, and its impact on us over a period of time. Today's classes were filled with outstanding knowledge as usual, and I can't wait for more!
A few hours after classes, we got ready once again and hopped onto the bus for a quick ride to Darul Zahra. The presentation was astounding, with Sheikh Khalfan talking about the signs of the 12th Imam (atfs), and what will happen when he reappears. I was mesmerized! Once we had finished dinner and Salah, we hurried to the bus which took us to Bibi Masuma-e-Qum's haram. My goal was to listen to Dua-e-Kumail and then stay the whole night, which I was able to do. Sitting in the haram, I realized how privileged we are to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I pray that each and every one of you get the opportunity to do the Ziyarat of Bibi Masuma-e-Qum (as), and Imam Ali-ar-Ridha (as). Ameen!
Written by: Asiyah Zainab Bhallo from USA
Bab al-Ilm participant
Wednesday 29th July 2015
It's hard to believe that an entire week at the Madinah and Bab course is almost over! To ask oneself what we have gained so far - it is definitely not an understatement to say- 'I have gotten the insight of how ignorant we are'.
The day began with Fajr prayers and after breakfast, we headed to our classes, something that I personally look forward to: Aqaed, Akhlaq and Fiqh. The foremost is my undisputed favourite. What an exhilarating jog our grey cells get! It was a 50 mins of a delightful blend of hard core logic, emotions and stories-and todays were no exception.
Not knowing Farsi and formal Arabic language is an unfortunate disadvantage but our teacher, Sister Naajiya manages to get all the points across amazingly. Akhlaq class taught by Shaykh Nadir Jaffer came next, where he compared the entire life to a bubble in an ocean, and the concept of self-humility was reiterated. In our Fiqh class taught by Sister Sajida, we have been reviewing the rules of interactions with non-Mahram. All the topics are really brain tickling.
After Salatul Dhuhrain, a traditional Irani lunch and a relaxing afternoon, we all went out to do shopping. Souvenirs, montos, lockets and sweetmeats were the highlights. As Maghrib time set in and the call of Adhaan echoed, it was pleasantly surprising to see the shoppers rush to the Haram to pray Namaz. Ziyarat was followed by an hour of quality time in the Haram of the Holy Lady. The following are two heartfelt quotes from two of my fellow campers:
"No recitation, but just the mere sitting in the blessed courtyard of Bibi Masuma (as), staring up at her dome filled me with a sense of tranquillity I have never sensed before-what a stark contrast to the busy marketplace and talkative customers!"
"Just as the golden dome of Bibi Masuma (as) lightens up the sky, the prayers in the shrine of my Sayyeda illuminated my heart too!"
Soon we all gathered back into the bus to head back to the Jamiah eager for our hot pizzas. All in all it was a really satisfying day that was still bubbling with the potential to achieve much more in the Holy city of Qum.
Written by: Sara Fatema Z. Tejani from Oman
Madinah al-Ilm participant
Tuesday 28th July 2015
The melodious call of Adhaan echoed through the Jamiah as all the girls slowly opened their eyes, freshened up and proceeded to start their day with the morning prayers, Fajr. It was beautiful to see us girls, all raising our hands in Takbeer despite our exhaustion from the busy and fun filled schedule the night before.
We rested for a bit again until we awoke for breakfast. Thereafter, we rushed to our classes; notebooks in hand, as our chadors trailed behind us. Our first Aqaed class of the day was with the highly intellectual Br. Ali Hemani. We discussed and understood the concept regarding the existence of God using the infinity loop and theory of motion Br. Ali Hemani gave excellent examples and explained it in such a way that compressed all the complex information we learned into simple terms. This class was extremely beneficial because it allowed us students to learn about a fundamental concept in our own faith; so much in depth and clear, that we developed strong skills to defend our faith and explain it, as well as counter argue the many hard and stumping questions of today's society.
After our philosophical session, we moved onto our Fiqh class with Sr. Batool Arastu. She went over the rules of Wudhu and cleared up the misconceptions and confusions that we commonly have in regards to it. It was a great lesson and really helped us girls gain confidence in performing our Wudhu with more understanding and clarity.
Lastly, we had Akhlaq class with Br. Amin who beautifully explained the architecture of Imam Ridha (a.s)'s Haram. The stories he narrated to us increased our excitement to visit the Imam and brought back memories of the stunning and spiritually powerful city of Mashhad. We then returned to the Jamiah for Dhuhrain prayers and spent a while resting and bonding with each other - our new family.
Later during the day, Sr. Razia Najafi came and enlightened us all with her inspiring knowledge. It was great to be able to ask questions in an open and welcoming forum. We then quickly rushed onto the bus as we made our way to the 12th Imam (as) breath-taking mosque, Masjid-e-Jamkaran. We were filled with excitement as we approached this Holy Mosque. Br. Amin gave an amazing lecture that shook our hearts as we all sat outside the mosque in reflection with heavy hearts; praying to the Imam (afs) of our time.
I sat there staring at the gorgeous dome of Imam e Zamana (a.s) while the recitation of the Qur'an beautifully rang in my ears. I felt safe. Although being in a foreign country, I felt the presence of Imam (a.s) and the connection with him here. It was peaceful and provided a great time to reflect upon myself. I thought about what the Imam (a.s) wants from me and how I can, or what I can do, to InshAllah better myself enough become a warrior for the king that this great mosque Jamkaraan is dedicated to.
We then had dinner and recited Dua e Tawassil, after which we proceeded back to the Jamiah. All in all, the day was filled with great knowledge, amazing memories with friends, and a memorable spiritual experience.
Written by: Zaynab Dhalla from Toronto
Bab al-Ilm participant
Monday 27th July 2015
To start the begining of your day by reciting Fajr Prayers in the Haraam of Bibi Masuma (AS) is an enchanting and spiritual experience that sets a positive mood for the entire day. A different environment is observed when comparing the Maghrib to the Fajr Prayers in the Haraam. There is an evident contrast between the hustle and energy present at Maghrib to the calm and serene setting at Fajr.
In addition to the beautiful scene, the Twilight Program conducted at the Holy Site by Sister Razia Batool Najafi was inspiring and educational to us all. She has a passion to convey knowledge and her love for preaching Islam can be seen in her logical approach towards us. The academic aspect of the trip is as imporant as the spirtual aspect and by having various classes on the topics of Aqaid, Akhlaq, and Fiqh, my understanding and fascination towards Islam is growing stronger everyday. It feels like the days are moving at a rapid pace as each day is full of various activities, experiences, and memories for us.
Today, there was a special surprise for us as we visited the Zari structure of Imam Al-Hadi and Imam Hasan Al-Askari (AS) which will Inshallah be transported to Samarra soon. Several mixed feelings were at play but in the end I was more honoured and found myself to be lucky to be visiting such a site in the Holy City of Qum.
It is said that Qum is the City of Awakening and I have found that to be true in my case. By visiting the Holy Shrines, graveyards, and the various other significant places, I have found myself to be more concious and appreciating towards my own lifestyle. The City of Qum is helping me to discover my own self in an exquisite manner thorugh the blessings of the Holy Lady, Bibi Masuma Qum (AS). The knowledge passed on by inspirational speakers such as Shaykh Hakim Elahi and Shaykh Nadir Jaffer helps us to better understand the history and message behind the places visited. I pray to Allah (swt) that the rest of the journey continues in the same postive and jovial manner and Inshallah that we take full benefit of the time we spend in Iran with these beautiful personalities.
Written by: Sana Kauser from Canada
Madinah al-Ilm participant
Sunday 26th July 2015
We started the day with Salatul Fajr at the Masjid in the Jamia. This was an enlightening experience as I got to see how dedicated some of the students were as they were praying for a long time both before and after fajr. I felt humbled by their dedication, commitment and sincerity.
After some time to rest, we went to attend our daily lessons. The amount of knowledge and Taqwa that our teachers possess is truly remarkable and inspirational!
We ended the day by going to Ziyarah of Sayyeda Fatema al Masuma (sa). The environment there is very spiritual and it makes it easy for one to feel a connection with God. We were allowed to explore the haram and I soon learnt that there are lots of different facilities and services. This was inspiring as it shows the importance of always trying to help others.
Overall, I learnt a lot and I started to understand what it might be like to be a student in the holy city of Qum.
Written by: Kawthar Al Kaaby from London
Bab al-Ilm participant
Saturday 25th July 2015
Today was day three. Alhamdulillah, the day began with Fajr prayers at the Jamia. The serenity that was felt was awestriking. As the sun rose, I was able to recite Surah Yasin with the morning breeze coming through the room, it was an amazing opportunity to connect with the Almighty. You could feel the serenity within the Jamia walls. Shortly after we enjoyed a light breakfast, we went to attend the classes of Aqaed, Fiqh and Akhlaq which I thoroughly enjoyed.
We had interacting session with our mentor and room-mates in the early afternoon, to know each other better, but why lie! I already knew all of them in just two days and it felt like I knew them for forever. So we just cracked jokes and related all these funny situations we went through.
We had the opportunity to perform outside Ziyarat in the evening. The first place we visited was Bayt An-Noor. This is the place where Lady Fatima Masuma (a) spent her last days in worship. The atmosphere was very calming being able to stand where she once stood gave me chills but also led me to a sea of pondering.
Second we visited the Chehel Akhtaran ( 40 stars) where the descendants of our Holy Imam (as) are buried. The graveyard is very significant and has three shrines of Hazrat Musa al Mubarqa who was the son of Imam Jawad (as), Chehel Akhtaran and Imam Zadeh Zayd (One of the descendants of Imam Sajjad (as).
Lastly we had the great chance to visit the Gulzar-e-Shohada (The Rose Garden of the Martyrs). This place contained the graves of all the young men who lost their lives during the revolution and the Iran-Iraq war and this left me in tears. The feeling is indescribable in words, it's one of those times when you feel that connection which leaves you reflecting upon yourself.
After the ziyarats, we headed to the Haram for Maghribain prayers then to Dar uz Zahra to commemorate Yaumul Gham with an enlightening lecture by Shaykh M Shomali.
Written by: Madinah and Bab girls
Friday 24th July 2015
Today we started our morning with Jamaat prayers at the Haram after which we had a beautiful recitation of Dua e Nudba. Although the session included Farsi commentary, we connected on a spiritual level which was enough to bring us to tears.
After getting some rest we attended the Jumah prayers and the powerful recitation pierced our hearts. The experience of being in the Haram on a Friday with so many devotees to the Noble Lady Masuma (sa) was just one beyond words. In the evening, we made our way to Mount Khidr where we had a small talk by Sheikh Nadir. We then proceeded to climb Mount khidr which took a toll on us physically but sent us on a different spiritual level. The view above was like no other, on the far right side we could see Masjid Jamkaran and the whole of the city of Qum was lit up. It was a beautiful experience to have the recitation of Dua Simaat and Maghrib prayers at the top of the mountain after which we climbed back down taking in the spectacular view and lots of photos.
We then had a Q and A session with sister Najia on some important aspects of life and Islamic history.
Even though we had a tiring but fun day we learned an important lesson; The more spiritually elevated you get, the smaller worldly things seem to be.
Written by: Fatema Maysam Khimji from East Africa and Nida Fatima Ajani from India
Thursday 23rd July 2015
After almost 3 days of travelling (from north america) we are still awake and have just finished a long first day. The NASIMCO participants arrived early morning and the AFED group arrived shortly afterwards. We dropped our baggage and went straight to a seamstresses' house to get fitted into our chadors, still awake we went back to eat breakfast and get settled in our accommodations.
After meeting other participants from Africa and Dubai we gathered to go to the opening ceremony with the brothers. We felt exhausted but excited to
start this journey we were embarking on for the next three weeks.
Written by: Fatimah Hamam from Canada