Thursday, December 29, 2005

Fundraiser for the Rihla

Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I am writing to let you all know about this Friday's dinner with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf in Toronto, which is a joint fundraiser for Ihya Foundation and Deen Intensive Foundation. I know many of you through working with Deen Intensive, and having attended the DIs in 96, 97 and 99 in Toronto, and in 00 and 01 in Florida, as well as Rihlas in 97 in Nottingham, 98 in Fez, 00 in Spain, 01 in Hayward, 02 in New Mexico, and 05 in Madinah, alhamdulillah, I have had the opportunity to see with my own eyes the impact that these programs have had on the students, and having kept touch with many of you, I know that you have taken what you have learned and have benefitted others by it in your own communities. For over 10 years now, programs sponsored by both Ihya Foundation and Deen Intensive Foundation have helped make the teachers and teachings of traditional Islam accessible to local communities in North America, and around the world.

Now we are asking for your support.

Last summer, Deen Intensive Foundation held its annual 3-week Rihla, or Sacred Journey, to Madinah al-Munawwarah, The City of The Beloved, may Allah shower him with Blessings and Peace. Over 220 attendees, both young and old, made the journey from all parts of the world, including North America, Europe, mainland Asia, and the Middle East. It was my first time being there, and the first thing that I noticed was the magnetic quality of the city, and of the mosque, which your heart is immediately drawn towards. By the grace of Allah, our group was given many openings and blessings, the pinnacle of which was the private opening of the Rawdah, the Garden of the Prophet for us, not once, not twice, but three times. I encourage all of you to go to and read for yourselves the testimonials and journal entries of attendees of the program. This program, along with all of the other programs these two organizations sponsor do not go without cost. Insha'allah, Shaykh Hamza will speak about our experience in Madinah, and about the City itself and it's most Beloved treasure, the Messenger of Allah.

Insha'Allah, the Deen Intensive plans another Rihla to the City of the Messenger of Allah in the summer of 2006. In order to do this, and other programs, we need your help and support.

This letter is my appeal to all of you both living in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), where this program is being held, and those outside the GTA as well, who may not be able to attend physically.

For those of you who are in the GTA and can attend, please go to, and purchase a ticket online for you, your family, your parents, your friends and/or your loved ones. If you can get a group of 10 together to buy a table, we will reserve a table for you close to the front. You can also help by forwarding this email to your friends and other lists, and inviting them to support this noble cause.

For those of you outside the GTA, you can also help by forwarding this message on to others you may know in the GTA or to other lists, etc. You can of course donate without attending, and anyone who is interested can email me directly at

Donors can be issued a tax-receipt upon request. Also, we have a babysitting service at a reasonable cost - $5/child - at the dinner for parents of young children who might otherwise not be able to attend.

You may find more information about the program on

I hope to see you on Friday, take care,
Ahson Ahmad

Saturday, December 24, 2005

An enduring memory

Photo: Stallholder and her sons outside Masjid Nabawi. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

How do I describe what I feel when I hear “Medinah”? Or, what I feel knowing that I am unable to attend Shaykh Hamza’s lecture on “A Sacred Journey to the Radiant Medinah” in Brampton (Canada) and that there is nothing I can do to change that? Most of all, how do I explain how desperately I long to go for hajj this year and how I wish to pray one more prayer in the Mosque of our Nabi (صلي الله عليه و سلم)? Not a day passed in the last 5 months when Medinah was not on my mind. Sometimes in my thoughts, other times in my dreams. Some days, I had this sudden urge to write to my close friend (who I was fortunate enough to share the Rihla experience with) and recall our mutual experiences from our journeys through Medinah and Makkah. I often wonder if I will ever revisit. If Allah (swt) will deem me worthy enough to return. If I will walk on the blessed streets of Medinah again and speak to the beautiful, gentle people who neighbour our Master (صلي الله عليه و سلم). One of my last memories in Medinah, before our departure for Umrah, was at the money exchange, a few feet away from the gates of the Prophet’s Mosque. By that point in our trip, the local shop owners were aware of the lucky “American group” and recognized many of us by face. The elder gentleman behind the counter asked me to pray for him in Makkah. I asked him to pray for me, always. He had what I will probably never have – constant proximity to our Beloved (صلي الله عليه و سلم). As we embarked our bus and made our way to Makkah, and as we chanted “Labbayk”, tears streamed down our faces. We were preparing for our pilgrimage and were ready to be at Allah (swt)’s service, but we were also leaving our Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). I miss him (صلي الله عليه و سلم) so much. I dread the idea of ever forgetting the images of Medinah and of ever becoming insensitive and numb to the memories of this vibrant city- a city that is as alive today as it was yesterday. If our deeds don’t weigh heavily enough on that Day, may our love for him (صلي الله عليه و سلم) and his city protect us and shield us.

- Anonymous

A Mirror in Medina

Photo: Worshippers hurry to the Prophet's (saw) mosque for Maghrib prayer. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

I realize that it has been months since we returned from our stirring journey through the two holy cities, but I sit here knowing that I am still writing this too soon. I had no idea that we had started a blog until I returned to America and began sifting through the plethora of emails I had received in the time I was gone. I sit assured that no time will ever come when I will feel like I am ready to talk about the tumultuous journey my heart followed during our Rihla.

We were one of the last groups there. The arrival was sudden and overwhelming. I had not left the states since I was three, and, specifically, I had imagined for so long what it would be like to visit the blessed city of my Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). Sure, I had so often shuffled through the poetry so that I could let my mind wander to what the streets the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) walked down, and what the trees he (صلي الله عليه و سلم) sat under. Nothing in the world could prepare me for what I was about to get into, which is something I realized much later. When we arrived there, it was straight to a cab, and on the cab ride to the hotel – I saw the minarets in the distance. SubhanAllah. I was left speechless, breathless, and filled with awe. I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t smile; I was completely outside of myself. For some reason, my brain could not comprehend where I was. I kept telling myself – this is what you came here for, to see the beautiful vision of the light that comes from the Prophet’s صلي الله عليه و سلم masjid.

There I was and it was different. To be honest with you, I couldn’t explain it then, and I really can’t even do it now. As we started taking the field trips, it became impossible for me to deal with everything. It was immensely intense to imagine that these roads that I dare put my unworthy shoes on, or that my unworthy forehead prostrate on were the same roads that the blessed foot of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) tread in his daily life. Suddenly, all those stories I had collected during my childhood, and my teenage years, and even in college were coming to life. I have been blessed to be able to attend the Seerah classes of Dr. Sherman Jackson at the ALIM program, and while Dr. Jackson did an amazing job of humanizing the seerah in the classroom, I relived the entire class, and Dr. Jackson came with me everywhere. His booming voice resounding in my head as I walked through the tranquil city.

Each day I would come home at night to our hotel room, having no idea how to handle this. I have had my share of tests in my life, and I have been through emotional situations, but nothing of this caliber. I slowly let the intensity build up, and as the intensity increased my capability to handle myself was diminishing. Finally, at the end of the first week, I couldn’t take it anymore. Suddenly, the city had turned into an enormous microscope that allowed me to look at myself. My insides hung all over the town, and suddenly it seemed all my weaknesses had been revealed to me. That Friday, I broke down, and I was scared out of my mind. I had never felt so alone and so scared. I knew that I had been taken apart, I was unwoven, and I knew that all I had left to do was put myself back together.

The day I broke down was the first time I went to the Rawda and subhanAllah, because I could not bring myself to feel okay within the beautiful garden of the Rawdah. There were so many things that just made me realize that I was not worthy of this, and that there were so many people in the world that were more deserving of such a visit. I could not imagine bringing my face in front of the grave of my beloved Rasul (صلي الله عليه و سلم), but I had to. The man led us through the du’a to read in front of the grave, and after a list of salawat and salaams, he ordered us to say the most important thing I have ever said. There I was, standing in the middle of the city of the Prophet Muhammad (صلي الله عليه و سلم), son of Abdullah, and it was over 1425 years ago that someone was here, saying it for the first time. My lips barely spilled the words: Ashhadu an La ilaha illa Allah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan rasul Allah. That was it.

It didn’t matter how many times in my life that I had said those words, but I just bore witness at the grave of the man who brought me the message that guided my life, the message that meant more to me than anything else which the Lord of the worlds created. Every other time I said it would be so secondary to the idea of bearing witness before the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم), because I knew then, that I could never betray those words. When I say betray, I don’t mean by worshipping a Lord besides Allah, or that the love I have for the Rasul (صلي الله عليه و سلم) will diminish, because those things are in the hands of Allah, and I pray they are never taken away from me. My fear, which makes me tremble with every fiber in my being, is that I betray this with action. I fear I will not be actively preserving the message that our Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) sent. I fear that I will betray the message the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) sent forth, and that I will not be the person I should be or that I can be. That one action of mine will be in contradiction to the declaration I made that day, and then I will be counted as someone who lied to the Prophet of Allah (صلي الله عليه و سلم).

I could spend a lifetime telling you about the beauty of the city of Medina, and the marvelous person the Prophet of Allah صلي الله عليه و سلم was, but you have so many sources for that, all of which can relate to you these things in a much more articulate and beautiful manner. Instead, I can tell you what happened to me when I tried to wrap my head around these sources, because something inside me tells me that I was never alone in my desperation. That the troubles I have are troubles of the heart, and that someone somewhere battles the same troubles. And the thought of the words I write reassuring someone somewhere that indeed, these problems are a test for many, is my principle motivation.

The image of everything that occurred in those twenty-one days is emblazoned in my mind. There is a light that forever shines within, which reminds me of the warm glow of the Prophet’s صلي الله عليه و سلم mosque. There is a shade of gray that reminds me of the cosmic building the Sacred Mosque is. There is a smell, which I never hope to get rid of, that reminds me of the greatest human to have walked this earth. Each time I see a black sheet, I immediately remember the feel of the House of our Lord. When I see a crowd, I can’t help but be reminded of the rush on Fridays at the Prophet’s mosque صلي الله عليه و سلم, or the constant crowd surrounding the Ka’ba. Most of all though, each time I look in a mirror, I know that I am nothing but a small being, who once stood before the greatest man ever created (صلي الله عليه و سلم), and repented for all that I have done, and all that I will do. I am a small being, capable of enormous misdeeds. I am a small being, created by a Lord no one will ever comprehend. I am a small being, who has been given the greatest gift a human can receive. For that, this small being, wishes she could show enough gratitude, but I know in my heart of hearts, that it is a blessing I will never be fully grateful for. And for that, I repent again.

Lubna Grewal

Sunday, November 27, 2005

My henna-ed hands

The night before Eid, as I laid out my hands to get my henna done, I noticed that at the very tips of my fingernails there was a slight hint of orange coloring at the tips. I soon recalled that I had put that henna on my nails for the first night that we went into the rawdah! As I sat getting the elaborate and intricate designs on my palms, I couldn’t help but think how that simple plain circle I had put on right before going to the rawdah was the grandest piece of art ever on my palms. As I sat patiently, I began to think of all I had done with those hands with henna. I bought a tasbeeh with beads so small that I had to put in an effort to move the beads around. I prayed with those hands at the mosque of the prophet. I hugged a number of sisters from different places in the world with those hands. I did wudu with zam-zam water with those hands. I did sajda with those hands in the rawdah.
My henna-ed hands.

- Anonymous

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A journey that began with uncertainty

I start in the name of Allah the most gracious the most merciful and peace and blessings be on our beloved prophet Muhammad.

The most important thing I wrote whilst at High School was in the front cover of my English book. It read:

Four things come not back:

(1) The spoken word;
(2) The sped arrow;
(3) Time past
(5) The neglected opportunity

Why am I stating this? As I sit here in a tranquil park gazing across a valley over a month after coming back from the Rihla with a pen in my hand trying to write down my physical and spiritual experiences but finding that words to describe what I went through elude me, my thoughts turn back five months and how I nearly neglected the opportunity to take a journey that would change my life forever.

Thanks to the constant encouragement and support of my family especially my aunt and my uncle and with the immense mercy and blessings of Allah, I was after eight long years, once again preparing to visit the holy cities of Makkah al Mukarramah and Medina al Munawwarah. Unbeknown to me then, Allah had shown tremendous courage in me as I was one of a select and privileged few to have been chosen by Him to visit His house and our Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) from numerous others who I have no doubt would have fulfilled the rights of the two holy sanctuaries much better than I ever could. For this I can not thank Allah enough.

Medina. How can I put into words the emotions I went through when entering the city of our beloved Prophet Muhammed (صلي الله عليه و سلم), and on seeing the minarets that seem to touch the sky and the green dome that is so simple yet so beautiful. No words can fully do justice to the ethereal quality that the illuminated city has. I could only express my joy at being here once again from the tears that rolled down my face, the same tears that so many others have shed upon entering the city, the same tears that are such a noble and humble companion for the duroods that flowed from my tongue and the same tears that I will shed many a time before I leave.

So many times one can not express his true feelings of hope, gratitude and joy due to the fear of opening ones heart – the most sacred of places – and relaying emotions that no words can fathom. It is easy to leave what is in ones heart between him and his Lord, but with Allah’s guidance we try our utmost in expressing our thoughts so insha’allah others can take inspiration and courage. For me this is one of those times.

The most poignant part of my journey was the farewell visit to the Rawdah. Standing in the lobby of the hotel, my heart fluttering and smiling but tinged with sadness, knowing that very soon it will see its Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) again but wary that with every breath and every step its time in the illuminated city was ebbing away. The courtyard passes by where so many people are supplicating and so many young, innocent children are playing seemingly unaware of the beautiful mosque that is their backdrop. Everything is so peaceful as I enter the mosque. The mosque is quiet. My heart has never felt safer as I walk towards the Rawdah. Praying peacefully behind every pillar that I can, I feel so privileged.

The time has come. I walk slowly and stand humbly before my prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). I am here standing in front of the best of creation, the one who spent night after night weeping for forgiveness for his Ummah and I am standing in front of Him knowing I am not worthy of this moment, knowing I have done nothing, sacrificed nothing for my religion but still Allah has seen something in me to bring me thousands of miles from my home and stand me in front of the one he loves the most. I am truly fortunate. My heart prays, prays that the prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) would just glance at me for a millisecond and acknowledge my presence and my heart would be content. Before a word even crosses my lips tears stream down my face and nothing matters to me at that time for I am in front of my prophet praying for salvation, doing the exact same thing that millions of people have done before me and millions will do after me, praying that with his intercession I will cross the bridge of sirat, praying that with his hands I will drink the sweet water of Hawdhe Kawthar and praying I will see him again.

As I walk back wiping the tears from my face I feel happy and immensely privileged to be part of a group that had an opportunity to be so close to the prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). As a group we experienced so much that we can only thank Allah for choosing us.

My journey that started five months ago with uncertainty ends with happiness on a rain lashed landing strip at Heathrow Airport or, has my journey to eternal bliss only just begun? Only Allah knows.

Finally I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the shuyookh, Sheikh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qadi and Sheikh Jamal for their guidance, knowledge and inspiration and to all the Rihla participants for their kindness and patience. To the friends I made at the Rihla and to one friend who said I should try and write a podcast (you all know who you are), jazakamullahu khair for putting up with me and giving me the most unforgettable three weeks of my life. I miss you all. Insha’allah we will all meet once more in the city of our beloved prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم).


Monday, September 19, 2005

By the gate of your generosity stands a sinner

Photo: Shaykh Abdallah Al-Kadi and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

To be invited to Madina is indeed a great blessing, and, truth be told, it is sufficient as a blessing. But Allah is wonderfully Generous. Not only were we present in Madina, we were there with some of the most gifted Shuyukh of our time, luminaries on the path to God. Among them, a direct descendent of he who came to illuminate the hearts of men and to take humanity out of darkness into light like the dazzling full moon on a black night. It was a truly humbling experience to sit at the feet of Shaykh Muhammad al Yaqoubi, who taught us the Shama’il of Imam Tirmidhi. Shaykh Muhammad is truly awe-inspiring, explained in part, by him being from the blessed progeny of the Beloved of God, peace be upon him.

A description of Shaykh Muhammad here is but laconic; there is little chance of doing justice to him in such few words. Just by looking at him, it instils in you a thirst for knowledge about our Nabi, peace be upon him.

He is in the room but I’m convinced he isn’t. As some brothers mentioned, it’s like he’s from a different era. Throughout his classes I was mesmerised by his deep insight and candour. His joy at discussing all the different aspects of Rasoolullah’s (صلي الله عليه و سلم) life is a joy to behold. It made me think at some points that he didn’t need any of us there. He would get the same joy at just teaching to an empty room – such is the love that he has for his grandfather, the Messenger of Allah, صلي الله عليه و سلم. How could I be grateful enough to the Prophet of Islam, صلي الله عليه و سلم, when I was still benefiting from that which he left behind?

The study of the Shama’il was nicely complimented by the class taught by Shaykh Abdullah al –Kadi, which was titled Buyut an-Nabi: ‘Houses of the Prophet’, صلي الله عليه و سلم. I had never met or even heard of the Shaykh prior to this trip, so it was a gift from the Rihla organisers to unite us here in Madina. It was Shaykh Abdullah who had facilitated for us most of our trips around the Holy cities, and he worked around the clock to ensure our stay was comfortable and enjoyable. Shaykh Abdullah warms the heart with his amazing personality. He narrated inspiring and moving stories about our Nabi’s (صلي الله عليه و سلم) relationship with his wives. His (صلي الله عليه و سلم) undying love for Khadija, may God be pleased with her, her sacrifices for him (صلي الله عليه و سلم), and the deen of Allah, her belief in him as a Messenger of God (صلي الله عليه و سلم); we were taught that their relationship is a time-honoured template for those looking for success. We covered all of the wives of the Prophet – raised by Allah with the title Umm al Mu’mineen: Mothers of the Believers. The class on his (صلي الله عليه و سلم) relationship with A’isha, may God be pleased with her, was particularly memorable as it highlighted the everyday matters of relationships and some of the hardships that he (صلي الله عليه و سلم) experienced. But it was constantly peppered with insights into the Prophets’ character and kindness. ‘I am no longer concerned about death because I know you will be my wife in Jannah’ he used to say to A’isha.
On another occasion we learnt of his (صلي الله عليه و سلم) tenderness with Saffiyya, may God be pleased with her. He (صلي الله عليه و سلم) wiped away her tears with his thobe because she had become upset at being called a Jew by the other wives. He (صلي الله عليه و سلم) told her ‘Say to them: My husband is a Prophet, my father is a Prophet [Aaron] and my uncle is a Prophet [Moses], whereas only your husband is a Prophet.’

Shaykh Abdullah – himself from the blessed family of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) – advised us throughout to be gentle with our spouses, to resolve disputes in the best of ways and to have excellent character when dealing with one another. A beautiful class taught by a beautiful teacher.

In the blessed company of Shaykh Jamal Zahabi, a hanafi scholar, we covered the fiqh of Umrah. Shaykh Jamal would often mix with the brothers at meal times and his patience and good humour really left a mark on me. And who could forget his heart-stirring voice? His rendition of ‘Ya Imam al-Rusli’ brought tears to the eye, joy to the soul and cultivated the seeds of love for the Best of Creation, peace be upon him.

And, of course, inspiring us with his very presence was Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. The inimitable Shaykh Hamza, under whose guidance and leadership this sacred journey came to fruition. I’ve been deeply moved by Shaykh Hamza ever since I came across his lectures and writings and the Rihla proved I’m not alone. If I was to write about every person whose life he has touched I would need to write a few volumes and that would just be brushing the surface. During the three weeks, I saw glimpses of what makes him the man he is. Anyone who observes, with a clear mind, will see a man lost in the love of the Prophet, صلي الله عليه و سلم. Shaykh Hamza carries with him the spirit of Islam: deeply sincere, magnanimous in nature and a truly selfless soul. On one of the nights we went to visit the Rawdah, he made a plea to the brothers not to elongate their Nawafil prayers at the various places of worship and to give other brothers and sisters the chance to pray there. He said, ‘that is where the reward is, to think of your brother before you think of yourself.’

Shaykh Hamza taught from the Reflections of Pearls dua’a book and although we never managed to complete it, what we did cover was sufficient. Mainly, that if we take up the sunnahs of the Messenger, صلي الله عليه و سلم, we will find barakah in our lives and the road to paradise becomes smooth, God Willing. Commentating on the dua’a for the market place, Shaykh Hamza reminded us, ‘God purchased your soul for your life and against it is paradise. That is the souk of the Akhira.’

Along the way we celebrated the life of the Prophet, صلي الله عليه و سلم, by visiting the many places he visited, masajid he prayed at, wells he drank from, streets he walked by, battlefields he negotiated, and the sites of historic speeches he gave, صلي الله عليه و سلم. It was surreal. This is where it all began. One man (صلي الله عليه و سلم) with a small band of followers. They gave their lives so we could live to say ‘La ilaha ilallah.’ What a legacy they left behind. At masjid-e Aqabah, where the first Muslims from Madina came to pledge their allegiance to the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم), I felt as though we had been moved back to that very time; such was the spirit of chivalry, brotherhood and sacrifice that still emanates from within those four walls.

The moments spent in the Rawda of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم), were moments from another world. Spending time in his company (صلي الله عليه و سلم). Tears flowed naturally here, hard hearts melted; arrogance wilted. Minutes seemed like days. Everyone longs for their beloved. I was at home here. Shaykh Muhammad reminded us: ‘We go to him, peace be upon him, with no knowledge and no claims – except with the claim that we love him, peace be upon him.’ My feelings are conveyed far more eloquently than I ever could in the poem of the great scholar Shaykh Ibn Hajar Al-‘Asqalani:

By the gate of your generosity stands a sinner, who is mad with love,
O best of mankind in radiance of face and countenance!
Through you he seeks a means [tawassala], hoping for Allah’s forgiveness of slips;
from fear of Him, his eyelid is wet with pouring tears.
Although his genealogy attributes him to a stone [hajar],
how often tears have flowed, sweet, pure and fresh!
Praise of you does not do you justice, but perhaps,
In eternity, its verses will be transformed into mansions.
My praise of you shall continue for as long as I live,
For I see nothing that could ever deflect me from your praise.

- G. H.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

His Presence Never Fails Me

Photo: A young female worshipper inside a mosque on the way to Taif. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

Finally, after a long journey, we landed and excitement took over. I was yearning to go to Masjid Nabawi but I had to be patient. I was so close yet so far away. On our way to the hotel, I was hoping to get a glance of the masjid. I saw bits and pieces but not the whole thing.

Arriving at the hotel, we unloaded our luggage and got the keys to our rooms. I wanted to drop everything and go. Soon, fajr came in. I got up and walked to the Masjid of our Beloved (صلي الله عليه و سلم). I couldn’t believe I was actually there. There I was in the city where the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) once walked.

Days passed and I still didn’t get the chance to visit the rawdah. The desire began to accumulate and I could no longer be patient. I had to end this wait. I had to find a way, since it was my first time ever I didn’t know where the rawdah was, so I was told that you can say salaam outside the green dome and its no different. So there I was under the hot blazing sun staring at the green dome. I thought SubhanAllah, I am staring at the original part of the Masjid, all these years passed and there it proudly stands. This is where the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) once prayed, once lived, and once got his revelations, and there I was standing. SubhanAllah. As I made my salaam, I felt peace overpower me and the strong presence of our Rasool (صلي الله عليه و سلم).

Without a doubt, the best experience I had in Medina was actually being in the rawdah. Standing, prostrating, and making dua next to the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) is a feeling I can’t describe. Visiting all the historical sites, and being able to go places many people can't, made me realise how fortunate I was. Out of the six billion people on the face of the earth I was chosen, by Allah, to experience and be where the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) once was.

Something interesting happened the day we left Madinah. I was sitting in the bus when I noticed rain drops. Shocked and surprised, I thought to myself, rain is a blessing from Allah Taala - did this have to do with anything of us leaving? Excited to go to the House of Allah Taala, I was also sad leaving the city of Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) not knowing if I’ll ever come back.

- Anonymous

Thursday, September 01, 2005

A Meeting of Kindred

Photo: Shaykh Yaqoubi greets students after a Shama'il session. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.


To be invited to the holy cities is an immense blessing from Allah, and to tread on the very same soil that our beloved and most noble Master Muhammad (صلي الله عليه و سلم) also trod, we must undoubtedly count ourselves fortunate beyond what one can ever imagine. To have been selected amongst hundreds of brothers and sisters much better than ourselves to be a part of the Rihla to Madinah the Radiant we were blessed in so many ways.

One of the most unique aspects of the Rihla was that we were given the opportunity of connecting to our Most Beloved Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) through the recitation and commentary on the Shama’il of Imaam Tirmidhi (also known as Shama’il E Muhammadiyah) with an unbroken chain. This noble task was supremely conveyed to us by our eminent and erudite scholar Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi Al-Hasani may Allah increase him. So many students on the Rihla made the same assertion, that to be taught the Shama’il in Madinah by Shaykh Muhammad was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Every class was a savoured moment in time, the mental image of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) being built up in our minds, his Sunnah being brought to life by his grandson. We look back now remembering how Shaykh Muhammad showed us how most eloquently the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) would lick his fingers after a meal, how he would sit and how he would walk with vigour and determination. I remember the description of his illuminated face (صلي الله عليه و سلم) and how a companion came to the conclusion that it was indeed more beautiful than the full moon and his hair that he would care for by placing olive oil in it. Some days we would meet friends and comment on how we saw traits of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) in people we knew and saw, not a moment would pass by that our attention wouldn’t be brought back to the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) through a deed or spoken word. In studying the Shama’il we all felt so much more connected to the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) and our stay in his city was brought to life.

We were also blessed with Shaykh Muhammad’s presence when we visited the Rawdha, we observed the etiquette with which the Shaykh conducted himself in this, the most holiest of places. I guess it’s difficult for us to understand or even comprehend the manner with which the people who are close to Allah and his Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) make their salutations, after all, they are the true seekers, true heirs. Like Shaykh Hamza Yusuf said, these precious moments will either count for us or against us on the Day of Account. Being sat in the Rawdha was surreal, it was calm and serene, brothers and sisters supplicating, taking stock of the occasion and being mindful to pray in the exact points where the forehead of our Blessed Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) touched, we pray that those days count in our favour. As our gaze wondered, we saw Shaykh Muhammad looking into the Holy enclosure, later amongst friends we spoke about the meeting of the grandson with his Grandfather (صلي الله عليه و سلم). That night we were fortunate enough to witness a meeting of kindred, a meeting like no other.

We sat with him, sang with him, laughed with him and shed tears with him, for this and so much more we are indebted to Shaykh Muhammad for blessing us with his presence physically and spiritually during the Rihla to Madinah.

- Z.Z. & A.Q.P.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

His Signs

Photo © Sana Siddiqi. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

Spiritual experiences in life often evade the abilities of expression and can very rarely be successfully imparted to others. Yet, still we try our best to articulate feelings that often we ourselves don’t fully understand, and we do so to remind ourselves of His Blessings and pay heed to His reality.

My journey to Madinah perhaps started similar to those of others, one initiating with a longing, beginning with a hope, and ending in yet a greater longing.

It was a cold March this year, and the city of New York made room for another event. I sat in one of Hammerstein’s gilded ballrooms listening to Sheikh Abdul Sattar. His message was of the compassionate relationship between the Messenger of Allah (صلي الله عليه و سلم) and his daughter, Fatima (RA). He spoke of a daughter like no other, and of a father like no other; a father that relayed the message of Islam to his (صلي الله عليه و سلم) daughter and asked her to accept, a daughter who, then a mere a child, looked at her father and offered her heart in belief. And one day, when all grown up, this daughter returned to her father (صلي الله عليه و سلم) in tire and weakness, seeking his help.

As Sheikh Abdul Sattar went on, my tears continued. That evening, alone in a hard to come by space in the city, I gathered myself around my faith and cried the cry of an emotion-filled child. I longed for the father of Fatima (ra), the Messenger of Allah. In my despair, I cried out a request to present myself before him, so that I could share with him my sorrows, my afflictions, my shame, so that I could have even a moment of his attention - a mere second in that third of the day that he offered to all who came to seek his help. It was a sincere and intense plea, a plea that perhaps granted me His Mercy that faithful day.

It was the 15th of Rabi Awwal that I learned of my acceptance into this year’s Rihla program. That late afternoon, I was blessed with a sign that only my memories can try to understand the depths of. I saw the name of our Lord in the sky and in awe, felt an invitation in my heart.

Upon entering The City, tears rolled down my face as I recalled his seerah. Walking on the ground of Madinah, a strange sense of self-detachment came about, and my concerns became an only concern. Our first night in the Rawdah, I was neither here or there. As I prayed aside from his (صلي الله عليه و سلم) resting place, a heavy consciousness took over and shades of shame lowered my gaze as we said our salaam. I forgot everything that night. All I could think of was that I was in heaven on earth and that I longed only for this heaven in the hereafter.

And even at Aqabah, as we sat together in a place heavy with trust, the belief in the Messenger of Allah and the Message he imparted was the only thing I could think of. Seeing all of us sitting around the shayukh, hanging on to every word, my heart filled a sense of joy as I recalled the first migrants who came to pay their allegiance to our Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). As I looked toward the door of that masjid, I truly felt that it was just by a very small amount of time, perhaps a mere day, that we missed his presence there. Although, we were not at the level of those that came to this place not too long ago, we too were blessed to sit on an earth that bore witness to a trust. Perhaps we too succeeded in making the devil cry again upon that near hill.

I am back to life here and reflect day after day at the weight of my experience. Although, I never did ask our Rasul (صلي الله عليه و سلم) what concerned me that evening in New York, I now pay closer attention to the advice he (صلي الله عليه و سلم) gave his daughter when she beseeched him for help - "Remain at your place…. Shall I teach you a thing which is better than what you have asked me? When you go to bed, say, 'Allahu-Akbar' thirty-four times, and 'Subhan Allah thirty-three times, and 'Alhamdu-lillah thirty-three times.”

This Rihla has taught me to remain in my place.

This was my personal experience that I wanted to convey with the picture I took above. Insh’Allah, we should continue to reflect on His Signs, and we’ll see that, often, they are very apparent, if not blatant.

- Sana Siddiqi

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A palace from Paradise, home to the best of creation

Photo: Worshippers stroll to the Prophet's (saw) mosque for Asr prayer. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

The plane lands. The wait is over. I am finally in Madina. The exhaustion and impatience evaporates; I put all my effort into concentrating on the fact that I am in the City of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). During the drive to the hotel, with my head bowed low, I increase my invocations upon the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). I think to myself, “Alhamdulilah, I’ve made it.” My heart is at peace.

After reaching the hotel, I prepare myself to visit the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). I hear the call for tahajjud being made,Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar!” In haste, not wanting to miss a moment with the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم), I put on clean clothing and a nice scent and hurry to the Masjid An-Nabawi. As I anxiously walk towards the Mosque of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) (heart beating at dangerous speeds), I realize why Madina is called “The Illuminated.” The light emanating from the pillars of the Masjid An-Nabawi seems to reach all corners of the blessed city. I am awe-struck by the sheer magnificence of the Masjid. It is like a palace from Paradise, home to the Best of Creation (صلي الله عليه و سلم).

Overwhelmed, I walk into the Masjid repeating, “Allahuma Sali wa sallim ‘ala Sayyidina Muhammad.” I can swear I am dreaming. It doesn’t feel real. Every step I take takes me closer to the Messenger of Allah (صلي الله عليه و سلم). I clear my mind of everything. “Allahuma Sali wa sallim ‘ala Sayyidina Muhammad.” I reach the Ottoman section of the Masjid An-Nabawi. I take a step into that section and I feel an alteration in my surroundings. My senses are heightened. My hearing, my sight, it’s all very different. I feel goose bumps and electricity all over my body. I look around the Holy Sanctuary: the carpet; the walls with their intricate designs; the ceiling; the colors – the deep reds, greens, and gold; then I look upon the Rawda; the beautiful Arabic calligraphy everywhere states, “Muhammad Rasool Allah.”

That one step from the new section of the Masjid into the old one is a gateway into a different realm. I don’t know what it is, but this section of the Masjid transports me somewhere. Like a faded memory that belongs to a different person, I suddenly remember the life I live – my neighborhood, my school, my friends, my hopes, my fears, my attachments – they all mean nothing at this one moment. I am no longer in the world. I keep walking deeper into the Mosque until I can walk no further. I make a left turn.

And there is the Prophet of Allah.

As I look upon the golden gate to the resting place of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) my pulse quickens. I look at the sign above his blessed resting place, “Here is the Messenger of Allah.” It is like being struck with a hammer. I am overwhelmed with a plethora of emotions. Bliss. Love. Longing. Safety. Shame. Hope. Lots of hope. Here I stand and send greetings and salutations upon the Beloved of Allah (صلي الله عليه و سلم). Every moment before the golden gates seems like an eternity. I speak intimately to the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). My feelings begin to release themselves from my chest in the same manner that a flood destroys a dam. I beg for his love, for his (صلي الله عليه و سلم) intercession, and for nearness to him (صلي الله عليه و سلم) on the Day of Reckoning.

After what seems like hours, I realize that the time for the Fajr prayer approaches. I want to be there forever, but I painfully realise that I must leave. I gently excuse myself from my Beloved’s side (صلي الله عليه و سلم) and prepare to pray. I leave the Beloved’s (صلي الله عليه و سلم) side transformed. I smile as I look forward to the days ahead spent at his side (صلي الله عليه و سلم), may Allah’s peace and blessing everlastingly shower upon him (صلي الله عليه و سلم).

- Amjad Tarsin

Friday, August 26, 2005

Saintly Places

Photo: Rihla participants gather in the mosque built over the spot where the companions of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) pledged their allegiance to him (saw).© Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

I read this poem Saintly Places by Sidi Abdal Hayy Moore and it summed up my feelings about the Rihla experience. I don’t know how Sidi Abdal Hayy does it but he always amazes me with his saintly words.

- Ayaz Hyder

Saintly Places
by Daniel Abdal Hayy Moore

We need to stand in saintly places
the way our body needs food to not topple over

We need to go there and find nearness there
even just a rude rock-strewn place where something

saintly took place or is taking place
tombs in giant sepulchers or a rude

rock-strewn place you can feel under your
feet or at the base of the heart the

non-physical saintliness of a real person in whom
God was by that person’s pleasing pleased

and stand there in its crystal waters rushing
past our ears and bathing our limbs the way

careful mothers of all creatures bathe their young
in the same way really we need to

find and stand in saintly places in this world
or stand with saintly ones and

stand with them for a time or for all time
and once found not ever leave their sainted precincts

in time or out of time
but stand with them

in their saintly places or those
who have gone before whose places are still

palpably alive the way even other live places
are not but these places are refuges and

refueling places not known anywhere
else on earth or with any other practitioners

and to stand in the bounty of a saintly place is
indescribable but evident if not then

then now in its great effect and the continuous affect
it has on us to

stand just once or have stood for even a small time
in space

in saintly places

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

When the candle goes out, all goes dark...

Photo: Worshippers hurry to the Prophet's (صلي الله عليه و سلم) mosque for Maghrib prayer. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

Upon visiting the Prophet’s (صلي الله عليه و سلم) grave the Quranic statement that kept returning to my mind was: “Muhammad is no more than a Messenger: many were the Messengers that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will ye then turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah.” (The Holy Quran, 3:144) I realized how the Sahabah must have felt on the day of Uhud when this ayah was revealed after the spread of the rumor of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) being killed. Imagine, the state of these people, in the heat of battle, defending their beloved Prophet, hearing news that he (صلي الله عليه و سلم) is killed. Not having anything to live for, many turned back, stopped fighting, struck deeply by this statement. Some simply put down their weapons and sat down, loosing all drive to continue the struggle.

I imagined the state of Medina at the time when the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) died. Although going through difficulty and hardship, through hunger and pain, bearing the loss of loved ones and fortunes, there was none in comparison to this for the Sahaba. The revelation from the heavens had been cut off. Their lifelong guide had departed. Life felt like it could not continue without his presence. Umar (RA), the man who’s positions would be supported by revelations. The man who the Prophet said: “If there were to be a prophet after me it would be Umar.” The man who would unsheathe his sword at moments notice upon the Prophet being insulted. The man who when everyone made hijra secretly under the protection of the night, went to the Ka’ba in broad daylight and announced his intention to migrate, threatening anyone who would follow in pursuit. This fearless Umar could not bear the news and threatened to kill all who confirmed it.

This was truly a test of perseverance for the inhabitants of Medina, at this point, when it seemed that all was lost, Abu Bakr stood up. Swallowing his sorrow, knowing that he did not have the luxury to grieve like the others. The stakes were too high. All that their Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) had worked for risked being lost. At this moment of trial, the only companion who’s companionship was confirmed in by the Quran, gathered the people and proclaimed: “Muhammad is no more than a Messenger: many were the Messengers that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will ye then turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah.” (The Holy Quran, 3:144)

After spending a few weeks within the sacred boundaries of the harem under the guidance of dear scholars, the difficultly of leaving is only compounded. A place so beloved to Allah (swt) that he sent His beloved Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) to honor it with his footsteps and his sujood. A land so protected that when enemy armies invade they are warded off by raining stones or when volcanoes erupt they are diverted to the surprise of geologist. Take note of this nauseating feeling one gets leaving this land of constant dhikr, cities closing upon the athan, and Muslims from every corner of this planet. Now imagine the feeling of those Companions whose love of the Prophet we cannot even fathom let alone hope to achieve. Leaving the side of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) to go out upon his command to spread the Call to humanity. Imagine being these Sahaba, knowing that they most probably will never see his (صلي الله عليه و سلم) beloved face, never hence on pray behind him in congregational prayer, never again defend him against his enemies. How can we even grasp the pain? They, however, were taught in the best of schools, under the best teacher known to mankind. Their love for the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) didn’t result simply in yearning for his physical presence but rather to seek his pleasure, thus providing them with drive, causing them to leave his company, going out to further his cause. They knew that for this man, the cause was above all, even himself. For him (صلي الله عليه و سلم), the burden of the responsibility placed upon him of guiding humanity to their Lord was of utmost importance. We claim to love the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). Aren’t we then responsible to ease his load, play our part in delivering his message? The companions not only understood vision, but placed their lives, wealth, and families at ransom for its realization. Take heed from this example. Long for the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) in private, walk in his footsteps even if you walk alone.

- Saif Omar

Friday, August 19, 2005

Hanging onto Medina

Photo: Rihla participants look through digital photographs as the group prepares to leave a banquet hosted by the Governor of Madinah.
© Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

I rushed home tonight in order to make it back on time to break my voluntary fast. Only 40 minutes until maghrib remained and I still had to help my mother prepare food and clean up the house. As the sun settled in and maghrib approached, my thoughts drifted back to Medina.

“I miss the adhan of Medina” I told my mom.

“It feels weird without it, doesn’t it?” my mother sympathized, reflecting back to her own childhood days in the Muslim world when the beautiful call to prayer would fill the skies and each person would leave whatever busied them and would quickly respond to the call for prayer.

“But it isn’t only the adhan”, I thought, “it’s the people, the shayukh, praying in his masjid (صلي الله عليه و سلم), being in the rawdah during the night hours - it’s everything and anything about Medina that I miss so much”.

I do everything I can to carefully recreate those moments for myself - from reading my litanies in the same order as I did in Medina to praying on the same prayer mat. Each day since I received the 2000 photographs DVD, I go through as many as I can with myself. After developing my favourite 50 photographs I placed them in my purse to be with me at all times, without exception. Throughout the day as I travel the buses and perform my daily routines, each time I run into a friend or an acquaintance I quickly pull out my photographs and offer to go through them with a short history lesson accompanying each photograph. It fails to tire me. I repeat the same stories, each time with equal, if not more, excitement and vigour. But sometimes the photographs are just not enough. Sometimes my memories of kissing the Blackstone and hanging on the multazam are not enough. Even tears are not enough because they won’t take me back.

People say that as the days go by the memories will fade and “things will return back to normal”. I irk each time I hear that because I just don’t want to go “back to normal”. In the end, our prayers will have to be enough. May He (swt) always keep these memories alive and may we all return again, soon, inshaAllah.

- Anonymous

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

To You, my Lord, I complain of my weakness...

Photo: The mosque built next to the grave of Adaas, a Christian slave who became Muslim after he served the Prophet (saw) grapes in Taif. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

Where to begin? To encapsulate a beautiful dream in a few words would be to squeeze a camel through the eye of a needle…

‘To You, my Lord,
I complain of my weakness,
lack of support and the humiliation I am made to receive.
Most Compassionate and Merciful!
You are the Lord of the weak,
and you are my Lord.
To whom do You leave me?
To a distant person who receives me with hostility?
Or to an enemy You have given power over me?
As long as you are not displeased with me,
I do not care what I face.
I would, however,
be much happier with Your mercy.
I seek refuge in the light of Your face by which all darkness is dispelled and both this life and the life to come are put in their right course against incurring your wrath or being the subject of your anger.
To You I submit,
until I earn Your pleasure.
Everything is powerless without your support.’

Bleeding and shaken, our Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) invokes his Lord; how? He first identifies himself with ‘the weak,’ a humble being who is all too aware that he is subject to his Lord’s mercy, He it is who has the power to leave his own chosen one wherever He wills; even in the hands of his enemies.

He (صلي الله عليه و سلم) complains to his Lord; why? He has been stoned out of Taif, where he went with a peaceful message, seeking refuge from persecution, all to be pushed back from whence he came; to be returned to where he received insults and foul language, where his path was laid with thorns, his holy body was smeared with intestines…

Exiled and humiliated, our Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) craves for his Lord’s pleasure. ‘As long as [He] is not displeased’ nothing matters. Our Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) is agitated and perplexed, he (صلي الله عليه و سلم) is disturbed…why? Although his Lord has forgiven his sins, chosen him above mankind, revealed to him the Holy Book, brought him near to Him like none other, placed his name alongside His own, our Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) is concerned that perchance his Lord is angry with him (صلي الله عليه و سلم).

Humiliated and powerless, our Holy Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) seeks refuge in The Light of the heavens and earth, he submits his entire being to Him. Eleven years later, in the eighth year of Hijrah the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) returns to Makkah as the most modest of conquerors, having achieved the greatest victory for Islam.

The link between Taif and the Fath cannot be overstated. His complete turning to, and trust in Allah was eventually rewarded. If in the twenty-first century we share the Prophet's (صلي الله عليه و سلم) feelings at this time in his life, then we must turn to Him as he did, with the same level of conviction, and in the same desperate manner. The power of this dua cannot be overstated; the fruits which it bore are clear for the eye to behold. Our beloved Shaykh Hamza could not hold back his tears when relating this event.

You may ask why I have blogged about the darker side of a trip that was Alhamdulillah full of smiles and joy; why have I touched upon the low point of the Prophet’s (صلي الله عليه و سلم) life? I sincerely believe that the solution we are yearning for lies in this dua. Don’t you think that our Ummah is in no better a state than he (صلي الله عليه و سلم) was when making this Dua? Where is our guaranteed forgiveness for past and future sins? Where is our promised seat in Jannah? Our status is miles below his (صلي الله عليه و سلم) yet despite our sorry condition we fail collectively to turn to Him as he (صلي الله عليه و سلم) did. Insha-Allah this dua will inspire all and insha-Allah through following his (صلي الله عليه و سلم) example we will reach out from the depths of darkness into Light.

May Allah reward our beloved Shuyookh who guided us through the Rihla as well as the wonderful organisers, who through their hard work and dedication made the Rihla a magnificent experience. Ameen. I am still failing to push the camel through the needle’s eye…this beautiful dream can never be described in its entirety, it is impossible to render into words the enrapture of mind, body, heart and soul when standing before the greatest of creation (صلي الله عليه و سلم) and before the house of The Greatest.

- Anonymous

Battle of Khandaq

Photo: Shaykh Hamza briefs the students on the Battle of Khandaq. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

At the Battle of Khandaq the Muslims had established their largest army to date – they were 3000 men strong. Our blessed prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) was seeking suggestions on how to prevent defeat and it was Salman (radi Allahu anhu) who proposed building a trench. He explained that in Persia when they feared attack they would create trenches. His brilliant idea was received with great enthusiasm even though it was a foreign technique unused in Arabia. Each set of 10 men was responsible for digging a fixed portion of the trench. Together they worked endlessly and in 6 days achieved a 5 km long trench – a very difficult and quite a miraculous task given that the dimensions of the trench were 7 m wide and 4 m deep, the tools were primitive and the terrain was extremely rough. Although the trench no longer exists, we walked upon the very roads where it once stood. Thereafter, we prayed two rakats in the modest Masjid Al Fat’h, which was the site of the control centre for the battle.

Photo: Students climb the small hill to reach Masjid Fath which was built over what was the Prophet's (saw) command centre. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

We were told of Jabir Ibn Abdullah (radi allahu anhu) who was one of the companions working hard at building the trench. His pangs of hunger led him to our master (صلي الله عليه و سلم). It was customary in those days to tie rocks to one’s stomach in order to alleviate the pain resulting from prolonged hunger. Jabir (radi allahu anhu) had done so as well and he showed our blessed prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa salaam) his rock. As Jabir (radi allahu an) would now learn, he (صلي الله عليه و سلم) had not one, but two rocks tied to his own stomach! Realizing how much more intense the prophet’s hunger must have been, Jabir (radi allahu anhu) and his wife invited him to join them for whatever little food they had in their dwelling. He accepted their invitation and brought along with him his other fellow companions. Worry overcame Jabir’s wife (radi allah anha) because she knew the food was not ample enough for two people – let alone 10! Our prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) blessed the food with the name of Allah and covered the pot. He then began serving his companions ten at a time. Each time ten men had eaten their fill, they were replaced by another ten until 1,600 men had eaten. The prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) then served himself and the food in the pot remained as it originally was. Shaykh Hamza and Shaykh Abdullah took us to Masjid Bani Haram where this miraculous incident took place. We remained in awe as we stood at the very spot where this incredible meal was eaten and where Allah had demonstrated his Magnanimous Power. (It was also here that the children from the neighborhood gathered to greet Shaykh Hamza because they recognized him from T.V J)

And yes, this is the same Jabir (radi allahu anhu) whose father was the first martyr at Uhud. He(صلي الله عليه و سلم) told Jabir (radi allahu anhu) that his father was in paradise and that he was asked by Allah The Almighty what he would liked. He wished for nothing more than to die again for His sake. But Allah (SWT) said that would not be granted. So he asked to simply let the people know of his elevated state in the heavens.

Photo: A blind old man makes dhikr in the masjid while the rihla brothers pray. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

As the companions continued excavating, their tools were unable to penetrate one very stubborn rock. With no other options left, they suggested diverting the trench around the rock. Upon inspecting the situation himself, the prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) raised his axe in the name of Allah and struck the rock. One third of the rock broke off, creating a great light. The prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) then raised the pickax and gave it a second strike and another third of the rock broke. The prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) struck the rock a final time. The entire rock then shattered and glittering light was emitted and seen in the skies. He told his companions that at the first light, Allah (swt) promised him Yemen; at the second he was promised Shaam; and at the third he was promised Persia. Salman (radi allahu anhu) saw this prophecy fulfilled and witnessed the great capitals of Persia, Rome, Syria, Egypt, Iraq being ruled by Muslims. He himself became the governor of Persia. Masjid Al Raya was in the vicinity of where these promises were made. It also served as the first control centre for the battle (it was later moved to Masjid Al Fat’h) and we had the honour of praying within its walls and stepping foot on where our noble prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) may have stepped.

Photo: The female participants perform their two rakaat's nafl prayer. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

The battle ended with the nonbelievers camping outside the city for 24 days with no food. Allah sent upon them cool wind and a dust cloud. They were weakened and their camels began to die. Hopelessness overtook them and they retreated before they even began to fight. Allah granted victory to our prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) and his companions.

- Anonymous

Friday, August 12, 2005

Camels and quad bikes on Arafat

© Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

As the coaches made their way through the plains of Arafat, my companion who had performed Hajj, explained that during the season, the whole area would be filled with the white shrouds of pigrims. The mind boggled as how 2 million people performed their rites together and to imagine the whole expanse being filled with worshippers.... subhanallah.

As we approached the mount where our Beloved Messenger (صلي الله عليه و سلم) gave his last sermon, we were surrounded by a herd of brightly decorated camels and their keepers - "rides and polaroid photos for a fee!" were on offer. Amongst these were a few quad bikes zooming around the sand with young boys cheering.

All I could think of was the irony and madness of it all.... that on the plains on which we would be resurrected for judgement, there were camel rides and quad-biking! It just seemed so odd.

In a panic I searched for Shaykh Hamza and Shaykh Abdullah who I thought were on a camel ride somewhere in the distance.... but of course, they had walked past all the pomp, ascended the mount and delivered a beautiful briefing about the Prophet's (صلي الله عليه و سلم) last sermon.

By the time most of us discovered this, the shayukh were done and it was too late to partake in the briefing. Talk about being distracted by dunia!

- Atif Ghaffar

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Date Palms: "Words have all but left me..."

© Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

Words have all but left me

there is nothing more to say
I’m one of the broken-hearted
who was once so far astray

With hardened heart and lost soul
by Allah’s invitation I did arrive
to the land of my Beloved
where I truly became alive

To the city of Medinah
I came with nothing to share
only tears could I shed
and my lonely soul did I bare

My heart was cracked open
as my Beloved came to me
through the light of Shaykh Ya’qubi
my eyes began to see

The palms pregnant with dates
gave life to us all
nourishing minds and bodies
when upon us exhaustion would fall

Our beloved shuyukh
so patient and kind
transported us with love
beyond all space and time

The kindness of those
whom I was honored to know
have planted seeds of love
for my heart to nourish and grow

Never shall I be worthy
of this journey I have made
my Beloved called me to Him
for this my life I would gladly trade

This servant had nothing
to offer her Master
other than a broken heart
and a longing for the hereafter

May Allah help us all
as we must wade through this life
continuing to struggle
with our nufs’ bitter strife

This sweet sadness I feel
and the longing of my heart
leaves me alone with the despair
of wanting never to be apart

May we forever keep our vow
which will never grow old
if on the sirat should we falter
that there may be a hand to hold
- Shannon Dwyer (Umm Iman)

صلي الله عليه و سلم

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The first glance of the Kaaba

© Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

My wife and I decided to get a taxi to Makkah (with Zeshan and Hena) so our journey would be a little quicker and (hopefully) easier. Our driver was a rather hurried and casual young man from "Balosh" (donning T-shirt, jeans and a baseball cap) who had a knack for avoiding the traffic cops whilst making haste on the highway. We stopped at the miqat about 30 minutes away from Medina where we had the blessed good fortune of meeting Shaykh Hamza and his family briefly.

Then the journey continued, much of which was spent discussing the arrival of the Dajjal and the Mehdi. As we approached Maghrib, the weather took a turn for the worse - dark clouds building up and frantic surges of lightening could be seen illuminating the horizon. I was still in a daze contemplating the prophecies of the Imam Mehdi. This weather only enhanced my imagination.

As we entered Makkah, we were amazed at the rugged landscape and harsh mountains surrounding ourselves - during our descent through the numerous tunnels, Zeshan mentioned a hadith of the Messenger of Allah (صلي الله عليه و سلم) which described Makkah's belly being opened up!

The contrast of the trees and sakina of Medina to the harsh mountains and humidity of Makkah was stark. It really did feel that we were approaching the House of Allah to beg his forgiveness.

After we reached our hotel and sorted out the rooms, we set off quickly to begin performing the rites of Umra at the Haram, continually chanting Labayk Allahuma Labbayk. On entering the gate of Baba Salaam, we steadily approached the entrance pillars to the Kaaba. As soon as our eyes caught sight of it, we began making repentance and the tears began to flow - as if they themselves were called by Allah's command - and I felt an aching sensation in the depths of my heart as it were begging to be cleansed.

- Atif Ghaffar
On our way to Makkah. Apprx 5pm

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Poem: Would that winds of the hijaz...

Photo: A lone worshipper sleeps between 'isha and tahajjud at the foot of the Prophet's green dome. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

Would that winds of the hijaz,
Still haunted my sleep,
Bidding me to awake and visit the one,
By whose generosity I exist.

O would that this dead heart,
Could flee back to Medina,
And bow down once again,
Where his blessed feet led prayers.

O pillar of the palm-trunk,
Elevated in station for eternity,
I still hear your weeping in the night,
As it is joined by my own.

Yet while my body drowns in sin,
My soul flies back to the Safe Haven.
Holding on to the rope of Allah,
I find myself in front of his blessed face.

- Faqir e ajam

صلي الله عليه و سلم

Reflections of Pearls

Book: Reflections of Pearls, the superb little book of duas which Rihla participants studied with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. The book is now a close companion of many. © White Thread Press.

One of the many blessings at the Rihla was the opportunity to be seated before our shayukh to study a text and listen to them eloquently speak. With Shaykh Hamza, we journeyed through the text Reflections of Pearls – a collection of daily dua’a, salutations upon our Nabi (صلي الله عليه و سلم), the 99 Names of Allah, and other comprehensive dua’a from the Quran and ahadeeth. I have since made this short text my close companion and can bear witness, with absolute certainty, to the barakah I have gained in my time, worship, and daily routines. Amongst my personal favorites are calling upon Allah through his 99 names, sending blessings upon Habib Allah (صلي الله عليه و سلم) in the quiet moments after Fajr and the authentic dua’a:

O Allah, I beg of You Your love and the love of those who love You and I ask of You such deeds which will bring me Your Love (Tirmidhi).

In our opening session for this class, we were reminded about the need to call upon Allah. By making dua’a, we are in fact inviting Allah to be present with us. In the words of our Lord, we are told, “I am the companion of the one who remembers Me”.

Photo: Class with Shaykh Abdallah Al-Qadi and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

Our Master Muhammad (صلي الله عليه و سلم) instructed us that “prayer is the weapon of the believer”. Physically articulating a prayer, however, is not enough. We must, as well, pay heed to the etiquettes of making dua’a and pray with sincerity, conviction, and concentration. Our beloved Shaykh Hamza recounted the tale of Ibrahim bin Adham from Al Basra (Iraq) and how people complained to him that despite calling on Allah, they did not receive what they asked for. He explained that it was because their hearts were dead due to the following 10 factors:

1) You know Allah (SWT), yet you do not fulfill His rights
2) You read the Qura’an, yet you do not follow it.
3) You claim to love the Prophet (Sal Allah Alayhi Wa Salaam), yet you do not act upon the sunnah.
4) You claim the devil is your enemy, yet you agree with him.
5) You claim to love Paradise, yet you do nothing to earn it.
6) You claim to hate the Fire, but you do nothing to flee from it.
7) You claim that death is real, yet you do not prepare for it.
8) You are preoccupied with the faults of others, yet you do not think of your own faults.
9) You eat the blessings of Allah, yet do not thank Him (SWT).
10) We bury the dead, yet take no lesson from it.

May we return to Allah (swt) with a sound heart and remember Him (swt) in every moment of our lives. "Truly, it is by the Remembrance of Allah that hearts find rest." [Qura'an, 13.28]

- Anonymous

How do I begin to speak of my internal rihla?

Photo: Class with Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

All praises belong to Allah, the Most Merciful and Generous, and may the best of blessings and peace be upon our Master and Beloved Rasulullah and his families and companions, and those who follow them until the end of time.

It has been almost two weeks since I returned from the Rihla, and I’m still struggling to recover from the ‘Rihla Fever’… Like other participants, I’ve been bombarded with many questions about the Rihla.Unfortunately, I can only talk about my ‘external’ Rihla… The amazing lectures, field trips, the great hospitality, the feasts, the physical beauty and structures of the mosques, the destruction of the holy places and historical sites and so on.

For some reason, I’m having great difficulty talking about my ‘internal’ Rihla. I've resorted reading the stories and reflections written by fellow Rihla-mates on this wonderful blog to soothe my sick heart and search for some answers…

As I reflect on the other posts, I’m slowly beginning to realize what is happening to me… I feel very lost and disheartened because I left my heart and soul in the Haramain, Makkah and Madinah. Ya Allah! How do I retrieve them now? When I was there, I felt like I was on seventh heaven and I was going to stay there forever… How do I bring that heart back to earth again? How do you explain these experiences in words or any human language? Ya Allah!

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but one thing I know for sure is that I must strive harder and harder to improve my state – ‘cause going back to my old habits and routine is going to cause me more and more pain and grief. I also pray that my Lord, the Most Merciful and Generous, will not leave me alone wandering aimlessly after bringing me this far… Ya Allah!!!

I must continue to learn how to increase and carry my love and devotion for Allah ‘Azza wa Jjal and His Beloved Prophet, many blessings and peace be upon him, whatever I do and wherever I go…

According to a Hadith, we will not be truly grateful to Allah unless we show our deep gratitude to the people whom Allah chose to send His blessings upon us. So I would like to take this opportunity in my first post at this blog to thank all our beloved shuyukh and their blessed families, the organisrs and their blessed families, our tour guides, our hosts, our bus drivers, and all those who served us and tried to make our stay in the blessed cities a very pleasant one. May Allah subhanahu waTa’ala preserve them and immensely reward them in Dunya and Akhirah, and join us all with our Beloved in Janatul Firdous. Ameen!

I would also like to thank all the aunties, uncles, brothers and the sisters who blessed us with their company at the Rihla, including the children (our little angels :), for their wonderful companionship. I learned a lot from you all…

Last but not least, how can I forget all our families, friends and supports from all over the world. It was because of your constant support and du’a that we were able to experience what we’ve experienced at the Rihla. Jazakumu Allah kulail khair!

O our Lord, grant us the best in this life (Dunya) and the best in the next life (Akhira), and protect us from the punishment of the Fire.

May Allah Subhanahu waTa’ala grant us all with many Rihalaat to return back to Him again and again, before our final Rihla to Him. Ameen!

- Your Sister-in-Islam