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