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

Monday, August 08, 2005

Complete love and trust for the one who leads

Photo: Shaykh Abdallah Al-Qadi, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Shaykh Mohammad Al-Yaqoubi at the khatm of the Shama'il. © Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

What Did You Learn? A question I have been asked several times since returning.

I find myself in a strange place, unable in many instances to speak at all amidst the usual daily chatter. I cannot tell more than two people at one time of my journey, for it is an intimate tale which must be told in a way that honors that truth.

But the answer to the question is always the same. I came to love our Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) as I never have before, and I came to know why we must love him. I know that I certainly had to be in Madinah in order to know the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) deeply, to connect with him in the depths of my soul. For it is a stubborn soul, and so it had to be at the source in order to be convinced of certain realities.

By the Mercy of Allah, I had already been prepared by being in the company of a beautiful Shaykh, who in his character is a reflection of our Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). This companionship has taught me the essence of the Sunnah as I did not understand it before. My love of my Shaykh was secure before I stepped foot on any airplane, and from that place I was able to be grounded well in the reality which was and is Madinah.

I have returned to tell the people that I know the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) is alive in his grave, that his very essence penetrates all of Madinah, that it penetrated all of us, and that I felt it under my bare feet as I walked the streets. And through coming to know him in this way, I have come to love him more that anyone on this earth, and to love Allah even more for being so merciful to have given us the man as our Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم).

Not only do I love him, but I trust him (صلي الله عليه و سلم). Even in this time, he (صلي الله عليه و سلم) leads the way on the path to Allah for us all. I knew I could entrust my heart to him (صلي الله عليه و سلم) on that path, and that is no minor act. Through this I came to know the why of it - why we must have that love and trust.

The Path to Allah is one which is not easy. Most of us need a great deal of purification as we travel, and Allah often brings about that purification through trial and tribulation. It is a difficult road at times, so difficult sometimes that we might be tempted to give up. To walk straight, Allah has sent us a hand to hold on to, the hand of our Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). But the only way we will never let go of that hand, no matter what trial or difficulty may come, is through complete love and trust for the one who leads. Then we may stay with the journey through all that is difficult, to that which is full of bliss and ease, and on to the next lesson on the road, whatever it may be.

I knew when my heart was firm in its love and trust of our Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) that I would be better able to walk without wavering, insha’Allah. This was my greatest lesson.

I did not leave any part of my soul in Madinah, for I knew it was Allah’s decree that I would return to this place. Instead, I decided I would bring it home with me, to share as best I can. The time-space continuum means little to me now, for I know Allah can bring me whatever I need wherever I may be, and that I can be in the companionship of our Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم) in any place. 1400 years seems little, for I know it is possible to go beyond the restrictions of time and place.

I reside here in America filled with love, and hope, and fear that I will never prove myself deserving of such a blessing. May Allah help us all prove ourselves deserving of what we received, and to only move on a path which brings us nearer to Him.

- Munira von Briesen

"Bury me in this beloved place"

Photo: Sayyida Maimuna's grave, situated, as she desired, on the spot where she spent her wedding night with the Prophet (saw).
© Fareena Alam. Please do not re-use without permission and proper credit.

The grave is situated on the outskirts of Makkah by the side of a highway - it is an isolated area, almost in the middle of nowhere. It's a starkly simple white wall which most people pass, not knowing who is buried there. Sayyida Maimuna, the wife of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم), became ill in Makkah and instead of being buried in the city, she insisted she be buried at this site. Shaykh Hamza explained this was the place where Sayyida Maimuna spent her wedding night with the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم). Out of her intense love for the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم), she chose it to be her final resting place.

- Anonysisters