Sunday, March 31, 2013

Deal with it

Quite often we come across a test or a trial in our lives, sometimes we tend to look beyond it and say "this too will pass", yet mostly, as human beings , we tend to get carried away with our problems. We carry it in our hearts, lose our patience , sleep and even,at times, our temper. Some of these trials try to weaken our faith so much so that we start questioning God why He has posed us with such a test.

Well the answer is quite straightforward and it has been narrated by the Prophet (saw) that "Whoever Allah wants good for him, he puts them to test. He puts them through difficulties. Like a diamond or some metal that has to be burnt and then that which is bad from it is removed so that you have that which is the pure diamond or the pure gold or whatever. Put them to tests, trials and difficulties."

Amazing is it not? The feeling that your Creator wants something good for you and is testing you not because He wants to burden you, rather wants to purify you. A trial may come to us in many forms, the loss of health,loss of a loved one, misconceptions, misunderstandings and sometimes even the loss of wealth.

If you have felt that you went unnoticed or your prayer went answered, remember the words of your Lord who says "And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient" (Al Quran 2:155). In this is a message, the patient slave wins. If one gets agitated, deprived or depressed, then he is failing the test for verily Allah is with the patient.

And if you are patient but still think that you cant handle it or are being pushed too far or being tested greatly, then remember that in Mi'raj (the Ascent to Heaven), The Messenger of Allah (SAW) was given three things: he was given five prayers, he was given the concluding verses of Surat Al-Baqarah and forgiveness of sins for those (of his community) who do not associate partners with Allah (SWT). 

If you have had the time and hopefully you have, then you must know that in the those concluding verses contains a verse that Allah does not charge a soul except with what it can bear. So be rest assured when a calamity strikes you that :
  • Allah means good for you
  • He is purifying you
  • He is with the patient
  • Your soul will never be burdened beyond its capacity
Hopefully this would help some of you who are in distress and In sha Allah it will keep ringing in my ears incessantly.

May all our troubles ease. Aameen

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Umrah - the spiritual journey

I have not blogged in a while and my absence was much due to my preparing and embarking on a spiritual jouurney to the two Holy Cities- Makkah and Madina. I thought I'd pen in something off the pilgrimage firstly for myself, to look back and reflect and for my readership to maybe inspired and walk in my shoes and God willing walk in their own and share their experiences with the rest of us.

For ease of read, I shall omit my days of travel, which were long and tiring but without which the whole journey would not have been possible, but there is a little some learning I cannot resist but share even from the mere travel.

Day One - The old lady

So we were flying to Jeddah and I had secured myself an isle seat after sacrificing my favorite window seat to my cousin for whom it was a fist time on an aircraft. Beside me on the other side of the Isle was a co-pilgrim. An old lady, with a granddaughter of about my age..she had saved up so long for this and it was her first time on aircraft. She was not comfortable with the seat-belt, the toilet lock, the tray table, the little cushion or even sitting so long in one attitude. While I tried to make her comfortable, she tells me she suffers from asthma and the Aircon was not helping, she seemed to love to talk (as I do) so I let her enlighten me on her life. She runs around the village, makes a living by petty odd jobs and her grandson in law had offered to partly sponsor her on the pilgrimage. As for the other part, she had saved up all her life and even sold a few jewels. So much for God and she had to wait for so long to get here, I could not be more thankful to Him for granting me the opportunity at such a young age and from the earnings of my own hands. Alhamdulillah.

Day Two - A little bit of heaven

After hours of travel, we reached Madina in the third part of the night and left to the Prophet SAW's mosque (Masjid un Nabawi) to start our day with the pre dawn prayer. After the morning prayers, we rushed to be part of a massive female populace for the allotted time when they would open up Rowdha (the demarcated part of the grave of Prophet Muhammad SAW and a few of his close companions who were buried with him.) The rush is to both give greetings to the Prophet and his companions and pray in Riad-ul-Jannah or the Garden of Paradise. This extends from the Prophet's (pbuh) grave to his pulpit. Distinguished by a green carpet (yet often referred to as the "white carpet") the area can only accommodate a few hundred people and is a constant struggle between pilgrims to visit and pray for prayers in this area are never rejected. 

Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated that the Prophet (pbuh) said:“Between my house and my pulpit lays a garden from the gardens of Paradise, and my pulpit is upon my fountain.” [Bukhari] 

I was overwhelmed to have the opportunity to pray in this most wanted space twice, once in the morning and once in the night, that, at both times, I lost my family and have to find own way out of the masjid. The masjid is massive and has some fine architecture.. its domes close in when the sun is out and gives shade for those who pray. Alongside the pathways are Zamzam water (holy water from a well in Makkah) that fulfills the purpose for which it is drunk. 

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: "The best water on the surface of the earth is that of Zamzam. In it there is a food for the hungry and a cure for the ill." He also said, "The water of Zamzam is for the purpose for which it is drunk."

Day Three - Serenity in Madina and lessons from Uhud
After losing my way in the Masjid the previous day, I had now mastered the whereabouts of Masjid un Nabawi , the closest vendors around the place and my way back to the Hotel. Amidst this, I had also learnt the virtue of a prayer in the Masjid when a screen flashed in front of me as I was leaving the mosque after a prayer. The screen read "the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “One prayer in my mosque is better than one thousand prayers elsewhere, except the sacred Mosque in Makkah"

After our last prayer in the Prophet's Mosque, we prepared to leave for Makkah and on our way would be paying a visit to the graves of the martyrs of Uhud. Madina in my books,is, the most serene city in the world. One wonders how it could be home in a time-span as short as two days. The peace and ambiance of Madina is indescribable, the attachment is amazing and leaving Madina was an emotional disaster.

Mount Uhud in all its splendour is mighty and majestic. It is common for a man to be humble in a mountain, it shows us how insignificant we are. The mount of Uhud has a noble place in history and was a mount which was loved by the Prophet.

Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Uhud is a mountain which loves us and which we love."

the grave of Hamza RA

In it we also have the story of The battle of Uhud. The crux of which was the adverse effect of disobeying ones leader. Many lives were lost in the battle including that of Prophet's (SAW) uncle; Hamza ibn 'Abdul-Muttalib (Ral).

Day Four -Umrah 

After a long long drive, we entered the state of Ihram in the same masjid (Masjid-Zo-Haleefa) as that in which the Prophert pbuh and his companions adorned the ihram to perform Umrah. Entering the state of Ihram and reciting the talbiya had long been my dream,, I had memorized the talbiya from hajj videos of yesteryear's and this time I was uttering it and meaning every word as I said it until I reached the Holy City of Makkah, where my Prophet (Sal) was born, where the Quran was sent down as a guide for mankind and where Islam was first embraced. With all this excitement, the biggest was yet to come - I was going to see the Kaaba (The House of My Lord, the Most High) with my naked eye- no tv, no YouTube , this was gonna be live, He invited me and I came. There is a notion that any supplication made as soon as one sees the Kaaba would be accepted and I had mentally prepared my supplication list. So we entered the Sacred Masjid Al Haram, eyes down with humility and a short of shiver runs through my spine, I was there in front of the Ka'baa, the House of Allah and as I raised my eyes, it flooded with tears. I was overwhelmed and could hardly believe I was there, it was true and my supplication list came flowing down in bits and pieces but firstly I had to thank my Lord for inviting me to His House on earth and for giving me the means, ability, strength and sanity to oblige to His invitation.
Thereafter we performed Umrah, my first Umrah and its rituals were to:

Perform tawaf , which consists of circling the Kaaba seven times in an anticlockwise direction.
Perform a sa'i , which means rapidly walking seven times back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah. This is a re-enactment of Hajar's frantic search for water. The baby Ishmael cried and hit the ground with his foot (some versions of the story say that an angel scraped his foot or the tip of his wing along the ground), and water miraculously sprang forth. This source of water is today called the Well of Zamzam.
Perform a taqsir which is a partial shortening of the hair.

Day Five -Ka'ba tour
The first umrah was easy on us all,Alhamdulillah! The Ka’aba and Ma’asa were less crowded than we had expected. However, we reserved the little intricacies of touring the Ka’aba , Maqame Ibrahim till after the umrah. So day five was dedicated to touring the Kaaba. The little tour amidst the crowd, we saw the following:

· Maqame Ibrahim- we peeked through the glass walls of the Maqame whilst performing the morning tawaf, and had a close look at the feet of Prophet Ibrahim (alai) etched deeply on the stone which he used as a platform to build the Kaaba with the assistance of his son, also a Prophet, Ismail (alai). Interestingly, someone enlightens me that the difference between us and the Prophets is that our footsteps get imprinted on sand and theirs on stone, hence you find Adam’s peak (the footsteps of our forefather Prophet Adam (alai)),Maqame Ibrahim (the footsteps of Prophet Ibrahim (alai)) etc.Allahu A'lam yet an interesting notion!

It is also reported that the maqame is the point at which Ibrahim alai performed Salaah. It is sunnah to perform salaah after tawaf behind the Maqame Ibrahim.

· Hateem - Thereafter we performed Sunnah rakahs in the Hateem,this is the semi circle adjacent to the Kaaba.Part of it is also known as the ‘Hijr Ismail’ as this was the place where Prophet Ibrahim (alai) constructed a shelter for his infant son Prophet Ismail (alai) and his wife Hajrah (a.s.).
The hateem was crowded and the opportunity to get in there was golden for my family and I. A prayer in the hateem is, according to Hadith as good as praying inside the Ka'aba for the Hateem was previouosly part of the Kaaba. What bliss! To pray in His Holy House. At this point, I also managed to touch kiswah (the cloth of the Kaaba) - I had thought it was velvet all along, the fabric is of a make thaat I felt can neither contract dust nor water, for no matter how dusty the desert or any rainfall on the kaaba, the kaswa remains the same. Attar is sprayed regularly and the hands smells good and the heart feels great as the thought of getting that close to the Kaaba.

Aisha (RA) says, “When I expressed the wish to perform salah within the Ka’bah, the Prophet (SAW) took me by the hand and led me into the Hijr (Hateem) where he said, ‘Perform salah here if you wish to enter the Ka’bah because this is part of the Baytullah.” 

· Ruknul Yamani - The significance of this corner of the Kaaba is that this pillar along with the pillar on which Hajrul Aswad stands were built on the pillars of Prophet Ibrahim.

Unfortunately our Kaaba tour did not extend as far as Hajrul Aswad but we did manage to get close to the door of the Kaaba and Multhazim ( the gap between the Hajrul Aswad and the Kaaba door) and make dua as the Prophet SAW did. Alhamdulillah :)

Day Six - a second Umrah
I shall skip the days of the umrah short, to avoid repetition. Each umra starts with the meeqat and ends with the clipping off the hair, each poses a new set of tests and trials for the pilgrim to test the steadfastness of his faith. Managed to perform it well Alhamdulillah.

Day Seven - Tour of Makkah
Day Seven, the 7th of March was mum's birthday and a fine Sunny day to tour the city that Rasool SAW so ardently loved, his place of birth. We started the tour with Mount Arafat, which we all climbed upto the helm. The mount is one in which the Prophet (Sal) delivered his final sermon. Mount Arafat is of paramount importance during the hajj pilgrimage. However, given the off peak season, the mountain was relatively empty and some pilgrims even managed to performed Salaah on the mountain. After this, we passed Mina and Muzdalifah (which against was empty as were the three white pillars symbolising the devil which is stoned during the hajj pilgrimage). Our next stop was Cave Hira, which we couldn't climb as we were fighting for time.

The mountain is mighty as it could be and the cave is as its helm. The cave signifies the first revelation of the Quran and the point at which Rasool SAW attained Prophethood. The sheer length of the pathway to the Cave amazed me. My Prophet SAW used to walk or possibly on camel back travel to the cave to be in seclusion and His beloved wife Kadhija (RA), Mother of the believers, would actually take his meals regularly to the cave. Subhanallah! What love and devotion.

The tour ended with a visit to Jannatul Mualla where Kadhijah RA is buried along with most of the family members of Rasool SAW including his mother, grandfather and other ancestors.

Day Eight - Jummah at the Haram
My first Jummah is the Holy City of Makkah! I was too excited to sleep the previous night and I took off to the masjid at 9 am though the prayer and sermon were to commence at half past 12. I managed to secure a seat overseeing the Kaaba and spent my time reading the Quran when the cry of a baby girl distracted me. Her name was Fathima and her mother was trying to put her to sleep. She borrowed my bag to use as Fathima's pillow and as the little girl lay sleeping, the mother rested her head on my shoulder and started crying. Muneera was her name, a native of Iran. I waited till she was done and she started explaining why, she had a pain in her chest she said and she pointed at mine and said Allah will grant us relief. The hours and hours of wait were complemented by food and drinks from fellow pilgrims all around. Holy water, dates, nuts, sweets and fruits. And the time for Jummah came, the mimbar was been moved from its secure position to close to thee Kaaba and the sermon was being delivered. The Imam spoke it Arabic and while I am not so conversant with colloquial Arabic, I understood almost everything he said , Alhamdulillah and then we prayed the two Raakahs of Jummah. Unity and solidarity of a Muslim community, a fellowship of Muslims from all over the world, different colour, language, culture and social values yet we share one commonilty. The Islamic Monotheism. Beautiful brotherhood of mine Masha Allah bowing down to the will of God.

Day Nine & Eleven - a third umra
We spent days nine and eleven in performing more Umrahs.May Allah accept them all. Aameen !

Day Ten - Hajrul Aswad
A significant highlight of my journey. I kissed the hajrul Aswad ( the black stone) after many trials and missed turns, a dream come true finally Masha Allah. All that ever was left to fulfil the journey was this and I was so elated that it came through however towards the tail end.

AI-Tirmidhi related on the authority of Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them), that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) said, "The Black Stone descended from Paradise much whiter than milk, but it was turned black by the sins committed by mankind."

It is said that the black stone will be resurrected on the Day of Judgement as a witness to those who touched and kissed it with good faith. May it count my family, myself and all those Ummah who did it with the purest intention among its witnesses. Aameen!
Day Twelve - The final tawaf
After all the deep meditation and worship in the two Holy cities, it was time to say goodbye and end the journey this time around with the intention of returning to it time and time again. The final tawaf I knew would be painstaking to the soul and while mum planned to do it soon after Fajr, none of us wanted to leave, so we kept making excuses and stayed in the masjid watching the Kabah from the 2nd floor. The feeling that came when I saw it for the first time kept flashing in me, the Kaaba now seemed home to me, and my soul was so homesick to the Masjid that no matter how long I procastinate the final tawaf, I knew I'd break down when I was done with the seventh circle. Each round felt like the first and when I left with my eyes firmly affixed on the Kaaba , I knew I would never be the same again.

The detachment is so deeply felt that even write now, a week later, I have not dreamt of anything else but the two sacred mosques and the House of Allah.

I don't know what's left for me and maybe the best is yet to come, but thus far these twelve days were the best days of my life! May He invite us all to His  House of earth and eventually to His Paradise. Aameen!

Photo Credits : Muradh Mohideen and Hafsa Afker