Saturday, August 06, 2005

"You can't talk to a dead man"

Photo: Rihla students visit the library that has been built over the site where Sayyida Amina (ra) gave birth to the Prophet (saw). It is reported that the entire heavens were revealed to her at the moment of his (saw) birth.
Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

After the earlier blog on Talking to the Prophet, someone said, "You're forgetting the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) is dead. It's shirk to try and talk to a dead man."

Astagfirullah... Kill the memory of the man who was sent as a mercy to mankind, why don't you?

Our generation is being robbed of an immense opportunity for salvation by those who try and downplay the role of the Prophet(صلي الله عليه و سلم). Don't let them tell you the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم)can't hear you. Don't let them tell you these is no such thing as intercession. If you do, you will be poorer for it.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Sh Ya‘qubi: "If I should not make it across the sirat"

Photo: Shaykh Mohammad Yaqoubi completes teaching the Shama'il.
© Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

I just missed the 8:46am train into downtown Chicago. Sitting here on the station platform, waiting for the next train to arrive, it hits me how far from Madinah I’ve truly come. It’s been a full week since I’ve returned, and though I tried my best to remain in at least a semi-khalwa state in order to preserve the emotions, there’s only so long one can avoid the dunya, especially living here in this “great metropolis.”

But Madinah in fact is not so far away after all. In my bag I have with me the latest copy of Q-News, and as I flip it open, I come directly upon a shining, glorious portrait of our beloved Shaykh Muhammad al-Ya‘qubi, hafidhahullah. Suddenly, all the moments of our rihla come flooding back, as near as ever before my eyes…

Those of us who have sat with Shaykh Muhammad know how beautiful he is, and how he seems to exist simultaneously in parallel universes — one here with us in this dunya and another in a different plane which we can only perhaps experience through reading hikayat and stories of scholars past.

But at this Rihla, in the tranquil city of Shaykh Ya‘qubi’s blessed ancestor (صلي الله عليه و سلم), the other-worldly aura surrounding the shaykh was electric, almost tangible. He is a home in this town; he doesn’t just feel the presence of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم), he walks with it. How many times did I sit in class and wish that I too could see through his eyes, feel through his heart. We know Shaykh Ya‘qubi experiences Madinah at a different level, but we can only hope to imagine what those openings are…

When I look at Shaykh Ya‘qubi, I’m reminded of the hayba they say Imam Malik possessed — an absolute awe-inspiringness that dares anyone to utter a single extraneous word. Shaykh Ya‘qubi possesses such hayba, and so, when he describes and physically demonstrates with utter humility and love the way our Beloved Rasul (صلي الله عليه و سلم) would grasp a morsel with his fingers, and the way he would bring the morsel to his lips; the way the Prophet would wear his sandals, and what these sandals looked like; the way the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) would walk with a determined pace, and the way he would sit when he ate; seeing all of these things demonstrated with the seriousness and humility of Shaykh Ya‘qubi made us pay attention all the more. This was because reading the Shama’il with Shaykh Ya‘qubi was not like simply hearing a description of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). It was in fact like hearing a first-hand account. He was not just relaying narrations he’d read in the sacred texts; he was saying to us “Pay attention! This is what my beloved grandfather (صلي الله عليه و سلم) used to do, and this is how he would do it…”

Shaykh Muhammad conveyed the knowledge of the Shama’il with great seriousness, but this does not mean that he was in any way stone-faced or cold. He was alive with the meanings of this text: sometimes somber, sometimes joking lightly with us, and sometimes breaking out into spontaneous song, out of love and longing for the Rasul (صلي الله عليه و سلم). It was not until the khatm of the text approached that I began to somewhat fully understand the immensity of this blessing: here we were, simpletons, Westerners, many of us embarking on the path to sacred knowledge for the first time, hearing this mubarak text of the Shama’il of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) in his (صلي الله عليه و سلم) own city, through the mouth of his own direct descendant…

Photo: Students sob as Shaykh Yaqoubi pleads they help him across the sirat on the Last Day if he should not make it as he promises to do the same for them. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

So on the day of the khatm, when our beloved Shaykh al-Sayyid Muhammad al-Ya‘qubi, begged us to please grab his hand if he faltered on the Bridge (sirat), to please grab his hand if we passed the Fire and saw him in it, these words pierced our hearts like daggers and there wasn't a dry eye in the room. If Shaykh Ya‘qubi had fear of such an outcome for himself, what could we expect? It is only by the light of faces such as his that we even hope to get by…

Now that I am back at home, it is difficult to even keep in mind the brilliance of his light. I struggle to maintain before my eyes the illumined faces of our beloved shuyukh, and to not forget the radiance of Madinah, al-Munawarrah (The Radiant). But tall buildings surround me, blocking my vision, and the quick, hurried paces of downtown pedestrians beckon with the illusion of other “important” preoccupations. As I speed off in the dark underground subway tunnels of my busy hometown, I can only clutch my masbaha and beg Allah to please, please not let me forget…

- Anonymous

Do you see the reflection of the green dome in my eyes?

Shaykh Hamza speaks of the Prophet's (saw) final khutbah on the very spot where it was first delivered. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

I smile at the thought of being branded Majnun of Madinah. If only I was as pure as the pigeons of that blessed city, inhaling and circling the air surrounding the most perfectly shaped green dome, the elevated mound of earth within which rests my Most Beloved (صلي الله عليه و سلم), Allah's (swt) Most Beloved.

As I relayed my experiences to a friend on my return from the Rihla, she asked, "Was there anything missing in your life? Were you unhappy in your job? Did you want to go away? Were you in search of a soulmate?"

"I'm going home. I'm going back to my source. I'm going to Madinah," I replied.

"That is the only significant thing in my life that is missing," I thought to myself as we tread where our Beloved (صلي الله عليه و سلم) once tread.

But blessed are those who don't even have to travel to Makkah and Madinah physically. They have their voids filled by Him who knows them best.

On my return, I feel I have moved to another station in my life, may Allah (swt) in His Grace and Mercy never return to my previous posts except under His Guidance and Protection.

Do you see the reflection of the green dome in my eyes? Can you hear the resonance of the salawat in my soul? Can you smell the musk of Madinah even ..... around my shadows? Do you recognise the zam-zam flowing from the windows of my heart? Can you feel the traces of tawaaf on the soles (souls) of my feet? Can you sense the veils of the of the Kaaba in the mirror of my self and the echoes of Labaik, O Allah humma Labaik in the depths of the "Abd..."?

SOULS .... do you hear the outpouring of the lost pleading to be found? the begging of the sick to be cured? the groaning of the starving to be nourished? the exposed to be sheltered and shaded? the fallen to be raised?

- Sister in Clouds

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

When Allah opens a way for you

Photo © Munawar Ali. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

I thought this summed up what we all went through on the Rihla:

When He opens a way for you and makes Himself known to you, then do not worry about your lack of deeds. He only opened the way for you because He desired to make Himself known to you. Do you not see that while He grants gnosis of Himself to you, you have only deeds to offer Him? What He brings you - What you bring Him - What a difference there is between them!

Sheikh Ibn Ata'llah from his book Al Hikam. The Wisdoms.

- Munawar Ali

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The highest expectations of our Creator

The Prophet's (صلي الله عليه و سلم) mosque between Maghrib and Isha.
© Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

My mind keeps wandering to Madinah. I have to stop. I am in my office now and need to work. The holy mosque is so far away. The peace and tranquillity found there is so unique to the city of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم).

It has been a special journey for me. Last year, when I was performing umrah I prayed to Allah that He must make the impossible possible for me. Being a woman, I never had any chance to visit the Rawdah and pay my humble salams to our beloved Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). Still I was asking Allah to make it happen for me as anything is possible for Him.

When Shaykh Hamza announced that the group was going to visit the Rawda, my heart was in a state of ecstasy. My prayer during a tawaf was now being answered one year later during this rihla. I was going to stand right in front of the resting place of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) and say my salams.

My body was shaking when I was praying at the mimbar of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). How could I stand there and pray at the exact same spot where the purest of all mankind stood and prayed 14 centuries ago? A mix of extreme joy and gratitude was running through me while I tried to concentrate on my prayers.

Walking from the mimbar to the front side of the Rawdah was like walking on Heaven. The feeling cannot be describedwith mere words. I was one of the lucky women who got this unique opportunity and I kept on remembering the eagerness of my duas during my tawaf last year.

Not only did I feel the closeness of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم), I realized that Allah actually does listen to our prayers and there is always a certain time of the answering of the prayers. What is needed is our eagerness and will to ask Allah for everything even though we might think that we are asking for the impossible.

From now on, I am going to ask for even more and inshaAllah, these prayers will also be answered when the right time comes!



Monday, August 01, 2005

Yogurt and hot bread - the best of times

Shaykh Jamal Zahabi, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and the Rihla participants climb Mount Uhud, of which our Beloved Prophet (saw) said, “Uhud is a mountain that we love and it loves us.” © Farhan Syed. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

Each moment of the Rihla has imprinted in my mind the fondest of deep memories. Each of these memories will take at least a lifetime to recount. When my friends and family ask me the generic question, “How was it?”, how do I explain my inability to summarise the multitude of feelings and lessons that I have felt and learnt in the past month?

Amongst the dearest of times was the second trip to “Masjids and Wells”. Our relatively smaller group of the day was led by Shaykh Hamza and Shaykh Abdullah and we began as Masjid Istijaba. What followed for the remaining of the morning were visitations to twelve different significant locations in the life of our noble Nabi (صلي الله عليه و سلم).

Amongst other places, we saw sites of wahi (revelation), we prayed in the Masjid of Banu Unaif upon the hot sand, we were greeted by a group of children at Masjid Bani Haram and were told there resided in close proximity an elder woman who was a faqih in the Maliki tradition and knew all 7 qirat (recitations) of the Holy Qur’an.

We also climbed Jabl Uhud, of which our Beloved (صلي الله عليه و سلم) said “Uhud is a mountain that we love and it loves us”.

Before returning to the hotel, we were taken by Shaykh Mahir Ali to the house of his late Shaykh Muhammad Zakarriya (rahimullah) and were served yogurt and hot bread. In the serenity of his noble abode we enjoyed one another’s company, cooled down from the heat of the afternoon, and listened to Shaykh Hamza and Shaykh Jamal sing qasidahs.

We then returned to Dallah Taiba Hotel and prepared for prayer in the Masjid of our Messenger(صلي الله عليه و سلم).

SubhanAllah, how can we ever complain about anything?


Sunday, July 31, 2005

I didn't deserve all this

Shaykh Jamal Zahabi and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

I have never met better people. This was the best experience I have ever had in my life.

From the very beginning, as I got off the airplane in Madinah airport, I felt that I was at home in the city of my Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). I felt that his (صلي الله عليه و سلم) home was my home. I never felt as serene and secure as I felt when I was in the Madinah. You feel as though that is your homeland. All the places we visited held so many stories that it would take us hours to reflect on. Nevertheless, every time I would go into the Prophet's (صلي الله عليه و سلم) mosque I would experience an amazing phenomenon that is indescribable by the human tongue. It is something that only your soul can describe.

In Makkah, you visit the House of your Lord. That is more than enough to describe the emotions that overflow your veins every time you see the Kaaba and walk into the Haram. You feel that you are there with your whole family (the Islamic Ummah) and you are all just there to praise Allah (subhana wa talaa) and beg Him for His forgiveness because you have come with a enormous amount of sins.

I don't believe there was one minute in the whole trip where I felt that it wasn't incredibly brilliant to its last second. I feel that I will never be able to thank Allah, the Most Generous and Most Merciful, for His extraordinary blessings.

I just know that I didn't deserve all this and will never be able to come close to praising Allah (subhana wa talaa) enough for his Magnificence. I just pray that Allah accepts everything we all did over there and that Allah wills the trip for all the people who wished they could go and didn't go.

I truly think someone else deserved my spot and believe that Allah wills only what is best for us and always at the best time. Ok, I will stop typing. I know this is so long. I am sorry if I was irritating and forgive if I was. One more thing, I want to thank everyone, including the shuyukh, who had anything to do with making this all happen. I wish the best for every one, inshaAllah, and I hope to meet you all in paradise, inshaAllah with the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم).

Salam Alikem.


The best of company, the best of memories

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

While in the Holy Cities, despite my desire to tell the world about what I was experiencing, I could never manage to put anything into words. This was quite disturbing as I am known for spending long hours writing and revising personal journals and stories. I was told "the world is waiting to hear your story", but how do you write a story when there are no words that truly describe what is happening?

All I can say is that something in my heart has definitely turned, and I am not the same as I was before I left. Ever since I landed in New York, I’ve put myself in semi-seclusion in a last ditch effort to preserve the warmth and inspiration that has entered my heart. It’s almost as if I had the sweetest dream, and I’m lying still in my bed, trying to savor it before everything is snatched away by my waking consciousness. I woke up after my first night at home to despair over the fact that Masjid Al-Nabawi was not across the street, the Kaaba wasn’t a bus ride away, and my newly made sister-friends were not just down the hall. Part of me fears that despite all the pictures, blogs, websites, and friends made, what I experienced in Mecca and Medina will fade away. Now I make du’a that Allah (swt) will allow my memories to stay as strong as they are at this moment.

Most of my fellow Rihla participants have written about the Islamic aspect of this journey. I would just like to take a moment to mention the human aspect that moved me almost as deeply as seeing the Kaaba or visiting the Rawdah. Not only was I in the company of our Beloved Nabi (صلي الله عليه و سلم), but I was in the company of some of the best Muslims I have ever met.

As someone who was not born into a Muslim family, it’s often hard for me to "fit in" with Muslim community. But I was so well received by the other sisters, that often forget to label myself as "the convert". I remember the sister who went from bus to bus in the pre-Asr sun, looking for a candy bar when my blood sugar dropped, making me feel ill.

I remember the sister who comforted me by holding my hand in the Rawdah as we walked out, even though I later learned she was suffering, and that it should have been me comforting her.

I remember the sister who allowed me to pick my favorite surahs and recited them for me as I listened, enjoying the rare sound of a woman reading the Holy Qur’an.

I remember the sisters who listened to my constant whining and worries about marriage and being a convert, and never wavered in patience and tolerance.

I remember the sister who determinately found escorts for me so I wouldn’t have to walk to the infamous call center in Makkah by myself.

And I remember so many more sisters (and a few brothers) who were so kind to me that it totally changed the way I saw Muslims.

Also, I ask that the readers of this blog who could not attend this trip to forgive us for not writing as you may have liked. There was so much emotion and intensity on this trip that it was hard for many of us to express it. Even though some of us tried, many times it came out a bit too personal to share with the world. May Allah increase our iman. Ameen.

Bint Larry

It's weird being back

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

Bismillahir Rahmeen ArRaheem

I have been home for a couple of days alhamdulillah. It's really weird. I'm not sure what to say. One of the biggest duas I made was that Allah would not let me go back to my old ways once returning home and that I constantly grow nearer to Him. This definately takes work on my part. It really is easy to fall back. You get used to the wonderful company. Returning to the dunya is very difficult. Not only do I miss Medina, I miss the company - being with people only for the sake of Allah.

During the whole trip I wondered why I, and the rest of us on the trip, were chosen out of the thousands, nay, probably millions, of people would have given an arm for an oppurtunity like this. I'm not a scholar or a pious worshipper. I'm nothing. But on the last day Shaykh Hamza said it... "This trip is a hujja (proof) against you" and he is very right. This trip will either work for me or against me. I pray that it works for me and all those who were on the trip. I think I'm going to put those words on my wall so I don't forget. :)

May Allah preserve our shuyukh. May Allah make us all steadfast in the struggle against ourselves. Ameen.