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