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